WELCOME TO TACOMA
Puget Sound Indian tribes, such as the Puyallup and Nisqually, called the Pierce County area home for centuries before the first European explorers arrived. Primarily a hunting-gathering culture, these indigenous people called Mount Rainier “Tacobet,” meaning “Mother of Waters.” However, “Tacobet” was interpreted by the white man as “Tahoma,” which later became the name of a pioneer city, Tacoma.
Captain George Vancouver was the first white man to sail into Puget Sound in 1792; he named the peak Mount Rainier after one of his friends. He also named the Sound for one of his officers, Peter Puget.
In 1833 the Hudson Bay’s Company arrived to build Fort Nisqually, a fur trading post, three miles north of the Nisqually River (a few miles south of present-day Tacoma).
The first settlers, mainly lumbermen, began arriving in the early 1850s. Nicholas Delin built the first cabin and sawmill in 1852 on the waterfront near what is now downtown Tacoma. In 1864 Job Carr claimed land along Commencement Bay, hoping it would become the western terminus for a transcontinental railroad. Carr didn’t realize that dream, but went on to become Tacoma’s first mayor, postmaster and election officer. “Old Tacoma” (the area now called “Old Town”) was settled in 1865.
Morton M. McCarver arrived in 1868 and purchased most of Carr’s real estate. He then led a successful campaign to convince officials of the Northern Pacific Railroad to designate Tacoma as its western terminus — over the competing towns of Seattle and Olympia.
In September 1873, Tacoma was indeed selected, and building of the railroad began – but with the terminus at the end of Commence Bay, thereby creating “New Tacoma.” Rapid development ensued when Tacoma was linked by rail to the rest of the nation in 1883, and “City of Destiny” became the town’s popular moniker. Lumber and coal from the nearby Cascade foothills were the major rail exports.
The 1880s saw major growth. The population had soared to approximately 5,000 in 1884 when Old Tacoma and New Tacoma agreed to merge and incorporate. By 1890 there were 36,000 people living in Tacoma. Two years later, the population had swelled to 50,000.
Today, Tacoma is Washington state’s third largest city with approximately 205,000 residents and is home to one of the largest West Coast ports in the US.