In 1890 King County began building bridges, and taking over maintenance and construction of many private docks. The first county docks on Vashon were at Vashon Landing, Chautauqua, and Quartermaster, each situated at the end of roads petitioned in 1883. The county put in a high bridge over Judd Creek in 1890 and took over the Burton Dock in 1894. In 1900 the county built a dock with road access at Portage, these were the first farm-to-market roads.


ROAD #117


On June 28, 1883, T.D. Soper and sixteen others petitioned a road leading from the center of the Island to the brick yard on the beach near the Phinney logging camp, designated by the county as Road #117, known today as Bank and Soper Roads.


Original petition for Road #117, 1883. Signed by, S.D. Soper, J.A. Banfield, W. Jones, George Jacobs, Edwin Broadway, L. Livesley, J.E. Masters, John Boerstler, Chas. O’Keefe, Robert Ellis, James Pruit, S. Herriott. King County Map Vault



ROAD #117
Road #117 followed the general course of present day Bank and Soper Roads (green), to the dock at Vashon Landing. Road #118, followed the course of present day Vashon Hwy Sw (blue) to present day Sw 216th St. (present day Beall Road, red).




For many years the Phinney logging operation had used a beach on the east side of Vashon as their base camp and transportation hub, tugs would haul logs booms and employees, to the mills. By 1883 there was a brickyard nearby, and soon after a post office. With commercial tug and barge activity occurring in the little cove, settlers in the north-central Vashon area began using it as a spot to hitch rides and flag down passing streamers, this was known as Vashon Landing, it would become the most important farm-to-market dock on the island.


Vashon landing 1913 copy
Vashon Landing dock, 1913. Photo, King County Engineer Bridges and Wharves Files, King County Archive.


The central part of the Island, roughly four miles from Center north to Heights, is generally flat and well suited for farming. Settlers found the soil and climate good for strawberries and fruit trees, which would grow without irrigation. Portions of the Phinney logging tract were sold to settlers like W.L. Livesley and J.T. Blackburn, who subsequently sold portions of their property to other settlers. Vashon Landing was the shipping center for island farmers produce to Seattle.

Two of the roads petitioned in 1883, the north-south Road #118 and the east-west Road #117 went through the Livesley, Blackburn and Ward properties creating a crossroads of the Island’s northern farm roads to Vashon Landing. The town of Vashon began in 1890 when Fred Gorsuch built a store at the crossroads, the same building is now home to the Hardware Store Restaurant.

The SKAGIT CHEIF, a larger stern-wheeler began daily service to the east side and Vashon Landing in 1895, Quartermaster Harbor had daily service to the mainland in Tacoma, but this was the first daily service to the mainland for the central island area. This Burton-Tacoma connection and the Vashon-Seattle connection endures to the present day. 


1892 skagit cheif
Skagit Chief docked at Vashon Landing, 1892. Photo, O.S. Van Olinda, University of Washington Special Collections.


In 1905-06, Island growers formed an association that shipped berries to eastern markets, railroad cars were loaded onto barges and towed to Vashon Landing, the berries were loaded onto the cars and taken to Seattle to be processed.


vash landing 1905
Loading strawberries onto refrigerator rail-cars on a barge at Vashon Landing. Photo, O.S. Van Olinda, 1905. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW 19128


In 1908 the county took over the dock at Vashon Landing and rebuilt it. In 1910 the Landing was buzzing with industry, Marjorie Stanley wrote,

Vashon Landing was one of the main docks, just to the south was Weber’s Brickyard, in 1910 Northwest Canning Co. built a cannery north of the dock and a two story residence with a store was built at the head of the dock.


Vashon Landing 1910
Vashon Landing 1908, looking from the dock to shore, Thorsen store at the head of the dock and Emmick and Keentz sawmill to the north (right), of the dock. In 1910 the Vashon Canning Company cannery took over the sawmill site. Photo, Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association


Vashon Landing was the most important farm-to market dock connection to Seattle on Vashon for many years, Beall Greenhouses used the dock, as did most farmers northeast of Center. Vashon Landing was also an important factor in the growth and dominance of the town of Vashon, at the crossroads of Roads #117 and Road #118, in the era before automobile ferries the traffic to Vashon Landing on these two roads brought customers to the businesses in the growing town.


ROAD #116 


In 1883, Edwin Broadway and eighteen others petitioned for a road from the center of the Island to the beach at present day Ellisport, where J. Banfield had a float stop, designated Road #116, today known as Cemetery Road and Vashon Ave. 


Original petition for Road #116, 1883. Signed by, Mason Holmes, S.D. Soper, J. S. Markham, Chas. O’Keefe, J.A. Banfield, W. Jones, Geo. Jacobs, Edwin Broadway, Mrs. L. Livesley, G.E. Masters, Frank Minor and others.


ROAD MAP _edited-1
Road #117 (green) followed the course of present day Cemetery Road and Vashon Ave. to the beach at Ellisport. King County Map Vault.



In 1890 a piling dock was built to the west of the Chautauqua Assembly float dock. During the Chautauqua years the dock was bustling with tourists. The Chautauqua Assembly started a tourist industry that would flourish on Vashon-Maury Islands during the steamer era. Chautauqua events included campfires, excursion cruises, clambakes, concerts in a 1,200 seat pavilion, study groups and outdoor activities.


King County built a piling dock at Chautauqua Dock in 1890. Photo, no date, Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association

ROAD # 844


The Chautauqua dock was situated at the bottom of a high bank, and while it worked well for passengers who could walk the beach trail to Chautauqua it was not accessible to freight wagons. Settlers in-land around Paradise Valley had a long trip to the Ellisport Dock, or north to Vashon Landing, to reach a steamer to Seattle. In 1906 W. M Livesley and others petitioned a road from Paradise Valley, leading to the water in Tramp Harbor. Around the same time Frances Sherman who who had a sawmill in Paradise Valley was awarded a contract to supply the lumber for the Luna Park amusement park on the east side of Alki Point. Sherman hauled the lumber from his Paradise Valley mill to the Ellisport Dock on the new road.



road 844
Original 1906 petition for Road #844, signed by, W.L. Livesley and 50 others. King County Map Vault.


Livesly rd chau
Livesly Road, present day Sw 204th and Sw Ellisport Road (in green), present day Vashon Hwy Sw (blue). King County Map Vault.




In 1906 a new dock was built by the county west of the earlier dock.  The new dock allowed beach level access from the road. Maude Fuller opened a store at the head of the dock, seen in the photo.


ellisport 06
Ellisport Dock, built by King County in 1906. Maude Fuller ran a store at the head of the dock, seen on the right in the background. Photo, King County Archive, Wharves and Bridges files.


In 1912 the area was re-named Ellisport. The dock remained an important farm-to-market dock and tourist hub. There were two greenhouse operations and a lumber mill nearby. Farmers from the central in-land areas also used the dock to ship their produce.


Ellisport Dock circa 1909. Photo, King County Archive, Wharves and Bridges files.



ROAD #118 


Manson Holmes and others petitioned for a road leading south from the north-central part of the island to Quartermaster Harbor. The petition for Road #118 shows the road started at present day Sw Bank Road running south to a terminus near what was known as the “Lumber Landing” which is believed to be on Sherman’s homestead near present day Quartermaster Drive and Monument Road), where passengers boarded Sherman’s steamer, SWAN. Road #118 ran nearly straight north-south along county section lines along the course of present day Vashon Hwy Sw, until reaching the corner south of present day, Sw 216th St. at the top of Morgan Hill, from there it connected to a trail early settlers had created up the hill from the harbor, near the Sherman homestead (along the general course of present day, Dugway Road), this trail/road was designated Road #572. This road connection allowed settlers and farmers from present day Center-north access to steamers to Tacoma at Sherman’s Landing.


Original petition for Road #118, by Mason Holmes. Signed by, J. Banfield, H. Jones, Geo Jacobs, Edwin Broadway, W. L. Livesley, J.E. Masters, Frank Miner, R. Doule, Daniel Price and others. King County Map Vault


#118 copy
Road #118 (green), followed the course of present day Vashon Hwy Sw to Sw 216th, then followed a trail down the hill ( and general course of present day Dugway Road), to Quartermaster Harbor. King County Map Vault.

ROAD #402


In 1896 S.D. Sherman and others petitioned a road leading to the Quartermaster Dock. Road #402 followed the course of present day Monument Road, then went west generally parallel but closer to the water than present day Quartermaster Drive, ending at the Quartermaster Dock, where it connected with Road #265.


road 402 petition
Original petition for Road #402, 1896. Signed by; A. Taylor, A.J. Taylor, J.N. Bovee, P. Randall, W.M. Alexander, Laura Price, Earl Price, L.E. Price, H. Taylor. King County Map Vault.


402 1895 Sherman-24
Road #402 map image from original road petition. King County Map Vault.


Bovee exten
This county road map shows the original course of Road #402 (dotted line) in relation to present day Monument Road and Quartermaster Drive (solid black line). King County Map Vault.


This 1909 photo from the King County Engineers Wharves and Bridges files shows a 144′ trestle bridge on Road #402 at the east side of the s curve on Quartermaster Drive. The bridge, shown here, was located on the beach at what is now known as Back Bay, along Quartermaster Drive. The house in the background once belonging to Frank Bibbins no longer stands. In 1919 the course of the road was changed to present day Quartermaster Drive running back further from the beach near where the house is in the photo. King County Archives.




S.D. Sherman’s SWAN served the early pioneers, frequent visiting steamers like BOB IRVING, OTTER and SEASIDE served the population around Quartermaster Harbor after the SWAN retired. The first actual regular service started when Frank Bibbins and Chauncey Wiman began operating the steamer SOPHIA out of Quartermaster Harbor, starting in 1886.  After S.D. Sherman built his dock in 1889, the SOPHIA used the dock as homeport.


Quartermaster Dock (former S.D. Sherman Dock), 1906. Stanley home and greenhouses, left. Road #411 ran along the fence line seen just above the beach in front of the Stanley home. The present day road, Quartermaster Drive, runs behind the Stanley home, which in 2019 still stands though uninhabited and damaged by fire. The house behind the Stanley house, Mrs. Stone’s boarding house, still stands in 2019. Photo, King County Archive, Wharves and Bridges Files.


In 1890 the SOPHIA began making daily trips to Tacoma from Quartermaster Harbor, starting at Sherman’s Dock, stopping at Hatch’s Sawmill, Dockton Dry Dock, Bleeker’s brick yard and Burrow’s brick yard. By 1892 the SOPHIA was making three trips daily to Tacoma and stopping at Manzanita, Dockton, Sutter’s Landing, Mileta, Mentzer’s Mill, Kingsbury Dock, Quartermaster Dock, and Assembly Point (present day Camp Burton), fares were fifteen cents round trip.  In 1897 Wiman and Bibbins replaced the SOPHIA with the larger NORWOOD.

Bibbins and Wiman eventually had a falling out, each found new partners and built competing steamers on the Quartermaster-Tacoma route. The competition for passengers between Bibbins’ steamer, Burton and Wiman’s steamer, Vashon was intense with each boat racing to be first at the dock, and cutting fares to gain passengers. Bill Rendall recalled the competition,

Even the docks were being continually damaged by the wild race for speed, at most times the steamers come in at full speed. The feeling was as if running into a stone wall. I know of at least one occurrence of a prospective passenger being knocked into the sound from a dock.

Marjorie Stanley who grew up next to the Quartermaster Dock wrote this of her dock memories;

There were a variety of boats over the years, the NORWOOD succeeding the SOPHIA and 1897, and the VASHON coming in 1904, that left the dock by our place at six-fifteen in the morning. It always blew a long shrill twenty minute warning whistle that could be heard all over the bay. Men got up to feed the stock by that whistle, housewives punched down bread and put the kettle on. The crew boarded at the little house across the road from us. It was run by Anna Strone. The men would come out in the early dawn, stroll down the hill with occasional kidding and horseplay, and out onto the dock. There they would jump aboard, and the boat would take off. It touched at innumerable docks , Kingsbury’s, Mileta, Dockton, Burton, Magnolia, Indian Point, Harbor Heights, and across to Manzanita, and Rosehilla, then on to Brown’s Point and thence Tacoma. It came back in the afternoon, and again at night. It was an hours leisurely ride each way… One of my childhood joys was welcoming the boat home on a summer evening. Long before it came into sight I would hear its whistle wafted across the Burton Isthmus. Then I’d watch for it to come around the point. The whistle for home landing would send me running down the dock pigtails flying to watch it back and fill, as the captain’s signal jingled. Once alongside the dock the deckhand tossed the big loop of rope over the pile with expert aim, that is most always he did. Sometimes the aim was a bit off and it caught teetering on the edge of the pile. Then the thrill of a lifetime -“catch her Susie,” Cap Wiman would call out-all little girls were Susie to him, and I would pull the loop over the pile with the assurance of an expert seafaring man. I myself remember only too well the hordes of people that poured off the boats at our Quartermaster landing, to spread out along the beach and leave devastation in their wake during those years. Father fought them with printed signs and verbal furor and an unloaded shotgun, then got up in the midnight hours to fight running brush fires, wind fanned from embers left by careless picnickers. Other places had even worse crowds.


Captain Wiman’s steamboat VASHON. Photo, no date, Williamson Collection.


Bibbins’ steamboat Burton. Photo, no date, origin unknown.


By 1906 the county took control of most island docks. A 1912 wharf inspection report on the condition of the Quartermaster Dock assessed the location of the dock.

All parts of this dock are in good condition. Extreme low tide leaves about 5′ of water at face of dock. This cannot be improved by extending the dock as the bottom has a slope of only about 3″ per 100′ and continues for 600′ out. When more water is required the dock should be moved 1/4 of a mile east of its present location.

The Quartermaster Dock was an important dock early for passengers and freight travel to Tacoma



ROAD #265


M.F. Hatch and city six others petitioned for what was actually two roads in 1890. One branch of the road led west from the Quartermaster Dock to just north of the present day Quartermaster Drive, where it turned south and went over a new high bridge, built by the county 1891, leading to Hatch’s new settlement of Burton. The other branch of the road led west up the hill into the central island following present day Sw 228th St to 107th Ave Sw to Sw 232nd St, then followed present day Old Mill Road, south and west to present day Wax Orchard Road. This road allowed farmers on the plateau west of Burton access to steamer docks in Quartermaster Harbor and easy north south travel over Judd Creek.


Original 1890 petition by M.F. Hatch for Road #265, with fifty five signatures. King County Map Vault.


road #265
Starting at the Quartermaster Dock running west Road #265 then turned south and went over the new Judd Creek bridge and south to Hatch’s town of Burton.The other branch went west and south. Road Map detail, King County Map Vault.



There was a large ravine at the mouth of Judd Creek making north – south travel difficult for settlers, originally a series of floating log bridges made crossing possible. An article in the Tacoma Daily Ledger, October 28, 1890 reports;

The people of Vashon will generally be rejoiced to learn the M. F. Hatch’s mill is now running, and will soon be in a position to supply them with much needed lumber. The contract has been let and the work on the new bridge over Judd’s Creek, is progressing fairly well. It is hoped that it will be completed and ready for the public by Christmas.


judd 1
King County built the high Judd Creek Bridge in 1890, the bridge allowed north-south travel over the large ravine at the mouth of the creek. Photo, 1892, O.S. Van Olinda, University of Washington Library Special Collection



M.F. Hatch had a logging operation and sawmill on the peninsula in Quartermaster Harbor, his homestead and dairy farm was across the harbor at what he called Mileta (a combination of his children names) in the area of the present day golf course. After the Judd Creek bridge was built, allowing easier north-south travel over-land, Hatch developed the town of Burton, named after his wife’s home town in England, and built a two story store building. The same year Hatch conceived building a college in Burton, a mass meeting was held and pledges of land and financial assistance were made. A location on the hill west of the Hatch store was chosen and the first building built. In 1894 Hatch built a steamer dock at Burton on the south side of the peninsula. The Burton Dock was an important dock for farmers within the Road #265 area. The Vashon College expanded and eventually had three major buildings.


Burton Dock, looking south from the Burton Hotel, still standing on the corner above the beach, no date. Post Card, collection of the author.


The main developer and booster of Burton, M.F. Hatch moved away in 1906. Burton was the hub for the south end of the island, with direct transportation to Tacoma and the Vashon College, Burton Hotel, Hatch’s store and post office run by McKintock, Burton Church, and Woodland Workers of the World Lodge. In 1910 a disastrous fire led to the closing of the college this, combined with the loss of booster Hatch, led to Burton being surpassed by the town of Vashon in competition to be the Island’s main town.


ROAD #522 


In 1893 William Cross, a worker at the Tacoma Smelter built a barge and floated it to Vashon Island where he settled above Point Sanford on Colvos Pass. In 1899 Cross petitioned for a road to run to Point Sanford, Road #522, present day north section of the Reddings Beach Loop and Cross Landing Road.


In 1899, W.H. Cross and twenty six others signed the potion for Road #522. King County Map Vault.



522 1905 Cross paradise cove 2-109
Cross Road, 1899, King County MapVault.




At the same time Cross contracted the Rutherford Company of Tacoma to build a dock at Point Sanford, the dock was known as Cross Landing. Cross later became a county road commissioner on Vashon. In 1906 King County built a new dock at the Landing. The following year a dock inspector reported that the dock fell down, with no explanation of why or how the dock fell down. In 1907 a new dock was built, by 1917 dock inspectors were recommending closing the dock due to disrepair and decline in use, noting the Lisabula dock was in good repair and only a short distance away, it is unknown when use of the dock was discontinued.


Photo, 1909, King County Engineer Bridges and Wharves Files, King County Archive.


ROAD #487


In 1898 work was underway for a new county dock at Portage. A dock on the East Passage at Portage gave residents to the west at Quartermaster and further in-land, and south at Burton a closer dock for transportation to Seattle, that was important in an era of transportation by foot, horse and wagon. The same year J. Bovee and others in the Quartermaster area petitioned a road the the dock under construction.


Original petition for Road #487, signed by J. N. Bovee and seventeen others. King County Map Vault.


Bovee 487B copy
Map of survey of Road #487 (green), 1899. King County map Vault


ROAD #154

In his memoir Maury Island pioneer Bill Rendall recalled the first county road on Maury Island:

The first road was laid out on Maury Island in the Summer of 1885, starting at the lighthouse reservation, following section lines west and then diagonally northwesterly to Portage and beyond to Vashon Island to the crossroads at Quartermaster School-house (the old Quartermaster school house still stands as a private residence on the west side of Vashon Hwy Sw at the intersection with Sw 216th St). Though called a county road, the greater part of it was only a trail through the woods. From about 1890 to 1898 many new roads were laid out and opened to traffic, some portions of the various roads laid out in those years have been abandoned, but the fact remains that most of them are still in use, and now constitute the backbone of the Maury Island roads of today.

154 487_edited-1
Road #154 (green), ran from the lighthouse to Road #118 (present day Vashon Hwy Sw, red), and connected to Road #487 (turquoise).



Until the Portage Dock was built there were no steamer docks on the east side of Maury Island for settlers from Point Piner north to the Portage, all steamer transportation on Maury originated in Quartermaster Harbor and went to Tacoma. The Portage Dock was the first dock south of Vashon Landing with service to Seattle, allowing  Maury residents and those to the west and south of Portage on Vashon access to Seattle. In a time of horse and wagon travel it also offers many a shorter distance to off island transportation.


portage copy
Portage Dock looking west, no date. The original Portage store building seen here was builtin 1903 dating this photo as sometime after. Francis Sherman’s hotel building can be seen on the left. In back of the store building was the actual Portage opening, by this date already mostly filled in. Photo, O.S. Van Olinda, University of Washington Library Special Collection.


Portage Dock looking west 1909, the new Portage store building can be seen on the right. King County Engineer Bridges and Wharves files, King County Archive.






Roads #118, #117, #116 created the backbone of the island’s farm-to-market roads and docks transportation system. The docks connected to these roads; Vashon Landing, Ellisport Dock, and the Quartermaster Dock were the most important farm-to-market and passenger docks throughout the steamer era. Soon after Road #2655 and the Judd Creek bridge allowed north-south travel over the creek and extended to the south central part of the island allowing residents access to both the Quartermaster and Burton Docks. Road #522 and Cross Landing was the first farm-to-market connection for the west side of Vashon. Roads #154 and 487 allowed residents south of Vashon Landing a steamer connection to Seattle. The county began a program of developing more road and dock connections in 1906 adding six new docks, and many private docks were built between 906 and 1916. The next section will cover this period of expansion.

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Blogging about Vashon Island past and present. I'm a 4th generation Vashon Islander, artist, dad and grandfather