SoCoCulture Military Road Project

Where is our Military Road?

Ed. note: Last year, South King County-based independent historian Karen Meador published an award-winning pamphlet called “Military Road: A Lasting Legacy” that traces the road as it was originally developed from Fort Steilacoom to Fort Bellingham. This has sparked new interest along the road, and prompted further inquiry into its history. The piece below has been excerpted from the April 8, 2015 edition of the Queen Anne News. Author Michael Herschensohn is president of the Queen Anne Historical Society. by Michael J. Herschensohn, PhD …As documented in Meador’s pamphlet and “Building Washington: A History of Washington State Public Works,” by Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy, published in 1998, Captain W.W. DeLacy began surveying the route in 1858 with a crew of nine, including six Native Americans. Construction began soon after under the supervision of Lt. George H. Mendell and reached Seattle in October 1860. In 1864, the first telegraph line was strung along the route. The pamphlet includes a map of the route and marks contemporary buildings that lie on the Military Road. Discovering Wilson Machine Works, one of Queen Anne’s oldest surviving factories, on the map was great news. Who thought there was a pre-Civil War route crossing Queen Anne? In their texts, Meador and Dorpat and McCoy strand the route through Queen Anne high-and-dry between two sentences. The pair of asterisks in this passage from Meador marks the spot: “Near the present site of Georgetown in south Seattle, the Road crossed the Duwamish River Valley – known today as Boeing Field – to Beacon Hill and from there along the tide flats of a rough, little mill town called Seattle....

The Military Road Telegraph Sesquicentennial Project

In October of 1864, a group of workers was working its way steadily north along Military Road, installing the poles and telegraph wires that would connect Seattle at last to the rest of the world.  Back then, they called it “tied by lightning!” — and everyone was thrilled with the prospect of being able to stay in closer touch with relatives or business associates back East. In October 2014, we celebrated 150 years of the arrival of the telegraph with a series of events along Military Road in South King County. Kevin Saville, president of the Seattle-Tacoma chapter of the Morse Telegraph Club, installed hands-on telegraph demonstration stations in Federal Way, Kent, SeaTac and Tukwila that were be hosted by the local historical societies.   This series of site-specific telegraph demonstrations was made possible with the support of 4Culture.  For more information about this project, contact

Before the “Charge” – Pickett and Military Road

One of the most heavily-used routes through South King County today is also one of the very oldest roads in Washington State, and it was built by men who achieved the pinnacle of national prominence in their day. Four historical societies in South King County to draw attention to the historical significance of Military Road. In April 2013, the Highline Historical Society hosted a presentation of “General George Pickett, His Life & Times” featuring National Park Service interpretive ranger Michael Vouri, who gave a lively, one-man performance of Pickett’s life. Pickett was one of the junior officers sent out to the Pacific Northwest to help build Military Road in the 1850s. Civil War buffs may recognize him as the fellow who, ten years later, led the doomed Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. Other officers who became important figures in the Civil War were surveying and building military routes in Washington Territory at the same time as Pickett – Ulysses Grant, Philip Sheridan and George McClellan, to name a few. And our own Military Road, which stretched from Fort Vancouver to Fort Bellingham, might never have been built had its funding not been championed by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who served in President Franklin Pierce’s Cabinet in the 1850s, and wanted to ensure that settlers in the Northwest were protected from “Indian troubles.” Soldiers who surveyed the Military Road route followed ridgelines to afford the strategic advantage of good visibility. They built “cord roads” of felled timber, and camped and fished at local lakes, including Five Mile Lake in Federal Way and Angle Lake in SeaTac. The section...

Jefferson Davis and the making of Military Road

                        The Pacific Northwest played an often-overlooked role in the Civil War and its continuing legacy through to the Civil Rights Movement.  South King County historian Karen Meador has made several appearances to speak on the topic “An Unlikely Champion: Jefferson Davis and the Pacific Northwest.” She relates the future Confederate President’s considerable role in the settlement of the Pacific Northwest, including the construction of Military Road, right here in South King County. Thanks to editor Mark Klaas and the Kent Reporter for this great story about a program that Karen presented at the Kent Senior Activity Center (under the auspices of the Greater Kent Historical Society) in February, 2013. Click here:

The Civil War in Washington Territory

We’re very excited to announce the first program coming out of the Military Road/Civil War Sesquicentennial Project, a joint undertaking of four local historical societies. On Saturday, October 27, at 11:30 AM, the Historical Society of Federal Way is proud to present Dr. Lorraine McConaghy who will speak on “The Civil War in Washington Territory.” Her talk will take place at the Federal Way Library, 34200 1st Way S, Federal Way. The Civil War was not just about battles, it was about issues, too — and the people of Washington Territory fully participated in the debate. Now, during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, you can learn more about the hot topics of that era — territorial attitudes regarding race and slavery, agitation for northwest secession, and federal suppression of freedom of the press. McConaghy, public instructor for the Museum of History & Industry as well as an instructor at the University of Washington, gives a lively presentation. In addition, Civil War re-enactor Carl Hicks will be on hand, dressed in uniform and displaying items that a Civil War era soldier would have used. Please join us for this free program, which has been generously funded by the Friends of the Federal Way Libraries and the Historical Society of Federal...

Military Road – at the crossroads of history

Four local historical societies are collaborating on a project to draw attention to the remarkable history of a road that is often traveled by many of us who live in South King County.  Did you know that Military Road is one of the very oldest roads in the State of Washington?  And that it was built by some of the people who went on to make names for themselves in the Civil War? Learn more about the work being undertaken by the Historical Society of Federal Way, the Greater Kent Historical Society, the Highline Historical Society and the Tukwila Historical Society to make sure that the significance of this road is not forgotten. Take a peek at the brochure that we are beginning to circulate: That is why, in conjunction with the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War, we are planning programs, exhibits, and other events along the road, and we welcome individuals or businesses who want to sponsor any of these activities.  Contact