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Tumwater (Chinook, “waterfalls”) was the Puget Sound terminus of the northern extension of the Oregon Trail. Here, in 1845, the first American Settlement north of the Columbia River was established. During the following year, the presence of settlers provided American treaty makers with an effective claim for a larger portion of the Pacific Northwestern territory than the British had wished to concede.

Although the settlers hopefully named the settlement Newmarket, the local Native Americans insisted on calling it “Tumwater,” for the drumming sound of the waterfalls on the Deschutes River.

Simmons and his associates went to work quickly; with the Deschutes River supplying water power, a rude gristmill was built in 1846 which ground coarse flour. Michael T. Simmons and George Bush with a group of 30 pioneers, including 18 children, settled on the river in 1845. Simmons and his party built a water-powered sawmill and a gristmill and industry began. An ancient upright iron saw was purchased for 20 cents a pound from the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Clanrick Crosby purchased the sawmill and gristmill from Michael Simmons in 1849. About a decade later, around 1860, Clanrick built a home nearby the river for his nephew, Nathaniel Crosby III, and his new bride. The home is known today as the Crosby House and is one of the many pioneer homes that make up Tumwater’s Nationally Registered Historic District.


Ca. 1946 aerial view of Tumwater and Olympia area.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1909 image of the Olympia Brewing Company in Tumwater and the Deschutes River estuary.

Photo by Asahel Curtis. Source: Washington State Historical Society

1959 view of a historical marker in Tumwater, for the community.

Source: Susan Parish Photograph Collection, 1889-1990, Washington State Archives


Footage of Washington State Department of Transportation workers helping stranded motorists along the Old Highway 99, what is now Interstate 5 with little changing in the way WSDOT helps motorists.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Olympia Brewing Company Plant

Brewer Leopold F. Schmidt started the Capital Brewery on the southeastern shores of Capitol Lake in 1896. In 1902 Capital Brewing Company became the Olympia Brewing Co. and used the slogan “It’s the Water” for their flagship brand, Olympia Beer. In 1906, a six-story, Italianate-style brew house, made with Chehalis brick and Tenino sandstone, replaced the original wooden frame structure. Today, although it is in a sad state of neglect, the building remains one of Tumwater’s best-known landmarks.

Tumwater Falls Park

Tumwater Falls Park, one of the last privately-owned parks in the state of Washington, a 15-acre park situated along the banks of the Deschutes River, has hiking/walking trails, views of the several natural falls along the river, and historic markers that describe this area’s rich historic past. This park also contains the Pioneers Monument, a huge, rough-hewn granite block marking the spot where Colonel Michael T. Simmons and his travel-worn company ended their journey in 1845. A bronze plate on the monument bears the names of the 32 founders of the town.

Nathaniel Crosby House

The Crosby family were early pioneers, who emigrated from Maine to “New Market” as Tumwater was then called. Nathaniel Crosby III built this modest Classic Revival cottage in 1858. The Gothic carpenter eaves and raking trim were added at a later time. One of the last pioneer homes remaining in one of Washington first settlements, it was gifted to the Daughters of the Pioneers in 1947 and spared from the construction of Interstate 5 through the middle of Tumwater in the 1950’s. Today it stands in Tumwater Historical Park and continues to be managed by the Daughters of the Pioneers.

Henderson House

This and the Crosby are all that remains of the original New Market settlement at Deschutes Falls. This austere Queen Anne home was built in 1905 for William Naumann, a German brewmaster employed at the nearby Olympia Brewing Company. It was acquired by the City of Tumwater in 1974 as a museum. Restoration work continues on its exterior.

Upper Custer Way Crossing

This bridge was built in 1956 and passes through the Tumwater Historic District. When built, its concrete open spandrel rib arch span was considered a significant engineering feat. The main concrete arch span and I-beam span at the east is all that remains of the original bridge. It was constructed as part of Primary State Highway 1 (now Interstate 5) and was meant to connect east and west Tumwater, which had been riven by the road construction.

Lower Custer way Crossings

The lower crossing is a three-span Luten arch bridge built in 1915. Luten arches were an engineering innovation from Germany involving bar-reinforcing concrete.

Tumwater Methodist Church

One of the earliest churches built by American settlers when the area was part of the Territory of Washington, this small wood frame building overlooks the original site of New Market. It was built in 1872 as a “union” church, meaning it was shared by other faiths. Alterations occurred in the 1930’s, but it remains remarkably as it was. It is still an operating church.