Document 47: Interview with Esther Mumford

Sandy Moss, Interview with Esther Mumford, 22, 25 April 1975, Acc. BL-KNG 75-2em, Washington State Oral/Aural History Program Records,
1974-1977, Washington State Archives.

Return to Document Index

Interviewee's Name: Sandy A. Moss
Birth Date: June 17, 1899; Died April 1975
Interviewer: Esther H. Mumford
Interview Title: Seventy-five Years in Seattle
Interview Date: April 22 and 25, 1975

Mr. Moss: . . . And then we moved in closer in to Seattle on the south, the north end of Beacon Hill. . .

Mrs. Mumford: Did you move into a house?

Mr. Moss: No. When we first moved to the . . ., my father purchased two lots there on 11th and Charles street, and we lived in a tent, that summer and that winter. The first summer and winter we lived in a tent there. And there was four of us children and that was just like camping to us. 'Cause in the winter time the icicles was out from the edge of the tent to the ground, there was icicles we'd go out and break icicles and put 'em in the pan, and the put 'em near the stove to melt to get water to drink. And the next year, my father, well in that year 1907, was, the next year they started to cut and sluice Dearborn Street through. That was solid ground from Rainer Avenue down to 8th or 9th Avenue there, it was a big hill in there and they sluice and cut that all out and built a bridge over there, and built a bridge that's there. . .no, the first bridge they built was a wooden bridge. And then in later years, 10, 12 years later they built the concrete bridge that, that exists there now. And this house when they were cuttin' this dirt away to make the bridge, why they [where] a lot of houses on both sides of 12th Ave. they had to move those out. Well my father bought one of those houses, was a six room house, and we moved it on our lot at 11th and Charles. And that was our family home, for oh, about the next 15 years. The foundation bed on this hill was blue clay that they used to make bricks with. And there was a brick yard between 12th Avenue and Rainer Avenue and between Weller Street and Dearborn Street. And they got their clay out of this hill and there was tunnel through under where they cut the hill out to put the bridge in and they run little trains in there, narrow gauge it was, a little steam narrow gauge strain to haul the clay to the brick yard. And in mining this clay and diggin' it out, it undermined the west side of Beacon Hill, the Northwest corner of Beacon Hill. And the land in there commenced to, the top soil commenced to slidin', the top soil through there was about 15 to 20 feet. And there was about 25 or 30 houses along through there, on 11th and 10th and 9th Avenue, down to 8th and it got so dangerous that the city condemned all the houses and told us that we have to move out. Well some of the people moved out right away, but my father and some of the other, old timers there, they, we called them, my mother called them the die-hards. They, wouldn't move, the was going to sue the company and sue the city for, and make 'em stop diggin' this dirt out. Well they, it was slidin' so bad that they had stopped diggin' the clay out when they cut through Dearborn to put the bridge in. So heavy in the winter, when it was heavy rains, why then, that's when the earth commenced to movin' there. And it got so bad, that everybody had to move out of their houses. And some of the folks moved their houses away. But my father and half a dozen others wouldn't move their houses. The were, they said they were going to sue the company and the city. But it got so bad we had to move out of the house and we moved a block and a half from there, where our house was [visible], where looking out the window where we did live then. We could look out and see our house. And one morning we looked out there and I run and told my mother that our house was gone. So we walked over to the brink of the hill and looked and the house was three blocks down below, and it was about two hundred feet lower and it was just a bunch of matchwood down there. It was all broke up into, like you would step on a apple box and crush it. And that was . . . well we lost our home all together, we had no furniture in it. But the house was a complete loss. Then the city had condemned all the property, so they taken the property over and those, they eventually, the owners got some out of it, from the city, but not enough to pay for what the homes and the property was worth. . . .

Mrs. Mumford: Would you expand on that and tell us about the changes that you seen.

Mr. Moss: Oh there's been various changes in land situation in Seattle cause it was, Seattle originally was like . . . camels, humps on a camel. It was peaks and high places and timber just grew all over everything grew right up on the top of these humps and everything. And Broadway street now as it is its been lowered down about 20 feet they just cut the top of the hill right off. And all of this land that they cut off they filled it in around the water front and made that solid land in there now. But that used to be all an pilings and where Milwaukee depot and the Northern Pacific depot is from there out to Sears and Roebucks and over to the packing company, Fry, what is it Seattle Packing company now. But in the olden days it was the Fry Packing company that was all tide land in there and when the tide went out, it was under about 12 feet of water. And then the tide land went out, when the tide went out,. . .

[T]here was several streams of water that came up from Lake Washington . . . well, all the streams that came up as we knew 'em, they came up through and they went into Lake Washington, that is draining from the City of Seattle. And there was one that came through the Arboretum . . then it still does, but it's underground in . . oh a five foot concrete pipe now. And it came up down in through where . . . East Madison, down in East Madison at that time they called it Coon's Hollow. And the reason they called it that, there was a enterprising fellow here name Presto. And he turned himself into a . . . got a job as a land salesman, one of the big companies at the time. And he plotted, the company did, platted this all down in that East Madison district, they plotted that out into lots. That used to be, oh three or four farms down there. And they plotted that out into lots, and he had the job selling those lots. Well, then he went around and knocked on the door of every minority person in Seattle that had a dark face and tried to sell 'em lots down there. And they bought lots and started buying, building houses down there. And the . . so it was 99% minorities lived down there. So the called it Coon's Hollow. And this here stream run up through there and it was quite a little stream. It run up through there, oh, it run up around to where . . . East Union street is now. And the salmon would come up there, and we would go down there with our bicycles, and had a pitch fork and a gunny sack. And we had a little bullseye lantern, the called them bullseye lantern at that time. . . . And it showed a pretty good light, and we would shine that in the water. And we'd see one of these salmon coming along and we'd take the pitch fork and spear 'em and take 'em out on . . and put him in the sack. And when we got four or five of those salmon in the sack, why the we'd . . tie it on to the front of our bicycles and then go on back. Go home. and then there was another stream that went down through Rainer Valley. It started up around, oh, 12th, where 12th and Madison street is now. And it came down right where 13th Avenue would be, right on down and lot of the houses that run between the houses. They'd have little bridges over to go from one lot to the other. And when it got down to Yesler Way, it run under in pipes in Yesler Way, Yesler street. They had the cable car then. And it run in pipes under Yesler Way. And then just pass Yesler Way, passed under the sidewalk it come out on the ground again. And then it went down to. . . 'cross Jackson street and when it cross Jackson street, there was a little bridge in there. That went across on the bridge. The . . . went under the bridge the . . . the stream of water did, and we lived just west of the bridge. And we would go there with our fishing line and fish hooks and catch fish out of there, little minnows four to six inches long. And if mother wasn't home, we'd take 'em home and cook 'em. In later years they put the culverts in there, five inch concrete . . with the dirt and filled it all in, from across 13th Avenue over to 14th. They covered that and took the bridge out of there and made it solid ground, through there. Which is, which is it now. And down in Rainer Valley they . . . on both sides of the street in there it's a little low in places now, but most all have been filled in. But that was garden spot down through there. And they used to call that little Italy. . . . And this here little crick run down 'cross 13th and Jackson, it run down on the East side of Rainer Avenue down where Genessee street is now. And then it turned to Genessee street and run east for about five or six blocks there, and then turned north and run into Lake Union. . . Lake Washington rather. Lake Washington, that is there. And they put that in a five foot culvert it is now and then the covered that all in, down in there it was lower than the street. Both sides of land was lower than the street had been. Rainer was graded through. And they . . it's covered that culvert is covered over with about from about 12 to 14 feet of dirt all through there, from Dearborn street to Genessee street.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest