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.