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The Olympic Peninsula, comprising the northwest corner of Washington Territory was the last frontier of continental United State to be tamed. Although by the late 1880's Aberdeen (founded by Samuel Benn 1877) and Hoquiam (settled first by John James in 1858 followed by James Karr in 1859, and Edward Campbell in 1860) had become thriving lumber towns, the territory north to Cape Flattery was largely unexplored.

Jeremiah Walker, grandson of Elkanah and Mary Walker, missionaries to the Spokane Indians, gives a comprehensive picture of early trails of Western Washington:

"Trails have played an important part in the development of our country. Could exploration and settlement of each state be re-enacted, what a network of paths would be revealed ! Game trails, Indian trails, trappers' trails, prospectors' trails, surveyors' trails, settlers' trails, pack trails, and finally great inter-state trails like the Yellowstone, the Pony Express to the Northwest, and the great Oregon Trail whose last marking stone is at Tumwater, near the capitol of our great State.

One of the early trails that extended from Montecello on the Cowlitz, near its junction with the Columbia, to Tumwater, is of unusual interest because over it came the first settlers to locate in that part of the state west of the Cascade mountains. From this, branched trails leading to the Puyallup Valley; and later, by way of the Duwamish, to a connection with trails out from Elliot Bay where Seattle now stands. A trail led off to Fort Steilacoom from Longview.

Soon after the making of this great trail, a more direct route to Walla Walla was sought. It seemed better to the early settlers of the Puget Sound country to avoid the long trip down the Columbia River and across country by way of the Cowlitz, as they themselves had come. They wanted to cut a way across the Cascade mountains that others might come more directly to this part of the country. This was accomlished by going over what is known as the Natches Pass and down the Yakima River to the Columbia below Walla Walla. The Natches Pass was later abandoned for the more favorable route over Snoqualmie Pass in the mountains proper, and then to the Columbia River by the same route."