Seattle Mayor, City Pioneer. Born in Washington County, Maryland, he served two terms as mayor of Seattle, Washington from 1874 to 1875 and from 1885 to 1886. Trained as a carpenter and millwright, he moved to Massillon, Ohio in 1830 where he practiced his trade for the next two decades. In 1851 he traveled to the West Coast working briefly in Oregon and California before arriving in the tiny pioneer settlement of Seattle in 1852. Seeing a great future in the lumber trade, he established the first operational steam sawmill on the shores of Puget Sound the following year, utilizing a mostly Native-American workforce. Quickly befriending the local native inhabitants, he played a pivotal role in preventing several outbreaks of potential hostilities between Indian and white settlers. Active in local politics, he spent several years as a county auditor and commissioner in King County, including one year as a member of the Seattle City Council. As one of Seattle's principal land holders, he lost most of his real estate possessions during the great Seattle fire of June 6, 1889. Undaunted by his personal misfortunes, he played a leading role in the reconstruction of Seattle, providing much needed lumber and building materials from his sawmill. He was a major supporter of the Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad, and was involved in several transportation and water projects. He died in Seattle on December 15, 1892. Today the King County Courthouse in Seattle occupies the site of his previous mansion, and Yesler Way located in downtown Seattle (the original "skid road"), is named in his honor.
Bio by: Nils M. Solsvik Jr.