History at Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls is 268 feet high and undoubtedly had been a stunning sight to the native people since time immemorial. By about the mid 1860's Snoqualmie Falls became quite widely known throughout the local area by the early settlers. This portrait vignette scene of Snoqualmie Falls was made by Boyd and Braas in the early 1890s. William F. Boyd and George H. Braas operated a photography studio at 614 Front Street, in Seattle, from 1890 to 1893. Visible in the background is the railroad main line of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, built only a few years earlier in the late 1880s. The railroad access popularized the falls as a tourist attraction. The Northern Pacific Railroad acquired the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway within about five years after this scene was photographed. Later, from 1898 to 1899, an innovative underground hydroelectric power plant conceived by Charles Hinckley Baker was built by the Snoqualmie Falls Power Company in a cavern-like chamber tunneled inside the cliff beside the south side of the falls. To propel the Pelton waterwheels, direct connected to four three-phase alternating current generators, some water was diverted from above the falls through a vertical 7½-foot diameter penstock to the underground power plant chamber and then returned to the river through a tailrace tunnel extending to beside the base of the falls.

Snoqualmie Falls This historical scene, photographed by about 1908 by E.J. Siegrist, shows Snoqualmie Falls before the construction of Snoqualmie Falls Lodge. The lodge was built in 1919 on the north side of the Snoqualmie River, just above the brink of the falls. Snoqualmie Falls looks much the same today and is now one of the top tourist attractions in Washington State, with over 1.5 million visitors annually. Photographer Edward J. Siegrist, commonly noted as E.J. Siegrist, was from Wisconsin and he became a jeweler and watchmaker at the nearby town of North Bend, Washington. Edward J. Siegrist became the first treasurer of North Bend, when the town was incorporated in 1909. About a year after he became the town treasurer he moved to Concrete, Washington, and worked there as a photographer, jeweler and optician from about 1910–1917.

Samuel Hancock made a trip to Snoqualmie Falls, led there by native guides, presumably in the year 1850. Hancock's memoir does not mention the year that he was guided to the falls, but the year 1850 correlates with some other things mentioned. Edward Dunlop Warbass and Hugh Allen Goldsborough, brother of Rear Admiral Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough, were led by native guides to Snoqualmie Falls in 1851. There they noted the falls height, width, and volume of flow. Hugh A. Goldsborough, using the pen name Elis, wrote an article for the very first issue of the Olympia, Oregon Territory, newspaper The Columbian that included a description of the trip that he and Edward D. Warbass made to Snoqualmie Falls. Since Hugh A. Goldsborough worked on the survey of Olympia, Oregon Territory, his pen name Elis was likely a pseudonym chosen from the ancient Greek region Elis, where Olympia, Greece, is located. The article, titled “Mineral Resources of Northern Oregon,” was published on page 2 of the September 11, 1852, issue of The Columbian (Vol. 1, No. 1). In the newspaper article, Hugh A. Goldsborough (aka Elis) noted that while scouting for coal deposits he and Edward D. Warbass were persuaded to go upriver by the Indians' enthusiastic acclaim for the lofty precipice over which the river plunged. He wrote in the article that “Thirty-six hours of alternate rowing, paddling, and poling, brought our party to the foot of the most magnificent sight which has ever yet blessed the eyes of an Oregonian.” Richard Hyatt Lansdale, an early Whidbey Island settler, also visited Snoqualmie Falls in 1851. Having been told of the falls, by Isaac Neff Ebey, he had native guides take him there. After having reached the falls, Richard H. Lansdale continued onward to explore all the way up to the summit of Snoqualmie Pass.


Andrew Craig Magnuson
Forks, Washington
January 20, 2012

Revised November 20, 2018