At the confluence of the Sultan and Skykomish Rivers, this was formerly a lumber-manufacturing center. It was named for Tseul-tud, a chief of the Snohomish tribe. Ranchers of the vicinity divide their time between the land and near-by logging camps. On weekends the town was often crowded with lumberjacks, mainly single men, who keep the beer taps running on paydays. Reckless, hardy, and high-spirited, for all their periodic spells of joblessness, the loggers were colorful in their woods garb: mackinaws and waist overalls, “staged” at the boot tops; oilskins and tarpaulin trousers, or “tin pants”; red felt hats—worn because they are easily seen in the woods; calked boots that leave a myriad tiny punctures on a wood floor.
In 1870 placer miners found “color” along the Sultan River, and further discoveries in 1876 attracted more fortune hunters. The first settlers were several Chinese, who remained to pan for meager returns in the yellow flakes. In 1880 John Nailor and his Indian wife occupied a claim at the present townsite, their home becoming a stopping place for “mavericks” and “hornspooners” who combed the region. Mining companies hauled in machinery, regulated the industry, and created a boom in 1887. Light-draft river steamers soon pushed up the river with the Mama the first to reach Sultan in 1888. Forests surrounded the settlement, so dense—some have claimed—that lamps were lighted at three o’clock each afternoon. Prosperity lasted through the construction period of the Great Northern Railroad, which in 1891 made Sultan a base for tracklayers west of the Cascades. But shanty towns fringing the settlement, where gambling, drinking, and immorality flourished, demoralized the work and were the scene of several violent deaths. West of Sultan, tour traverses logged-off land, some acres masked by second-growth timber, others partially cleared of stumps and given over to farming.