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Mulatto Led First Party of Settlers to Puget Sound
By C.T. Conover - Seattle Times - June 24, 1954

The first party of settlers to reach Puget Sound was led by a mulatto, George Bush.  The group, bound for Oregon included Bush's wife and seven children, Mr. and Mrs. David Kindred and son, Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Jones and three children, Mr. and Mrs. William McAllister and children and three young bachelors, Samuel Crockett, Reuben Crowder and Jesse Ferguson.

After the usual trials and hardships, they reached The Dalles in 1844, where they went into camp for the winter.  There they found that Oregon had a law prohibiting settlement by Negroes.  It was a difficult situation, for the Hudson's Bay Company was in sole possession of what is now the State of Washington and vigorously resisted all colonization, fearing that it would jeopardize the company's profitable monopoly in the fur trade.

Here Bush's experience and resourcefulness came into play.  He managed to smuggle the party through to Tumwater, leaving the 20 wagons behind and carrying only what could be packed on their animals or drawn on crude sleds.  Here they took possession of the land and here Bush, Col. M.T. Simmons and others made the first settlement on Puget Sound.

Bush was a farmer and he settled on a fertile prairie still known as Bush Prairie. Bush had brought along his livestock and immediately began breaking up and cultivating the land. He had chosen it so wisely and understood the art of husbandry so well that his farm became the main source of supply for grain, vegetables and fruit for a large area thereabouts.

While much of the time he was the only man in the country with food for sale, he never took advantage of the situation..  He never raised prices and never allowed anyone to buy more than his reasonable needs required.

Of course there were no grist mills or sawmills north of the Columbia River at that early date.  In the fall of 1845 Bush and Col. Simmons and B.F. Shaw built a little combined sawmill and gristmill at lower Tumwater Falls.

They ran into difficulty obtaining grinding stones.  Finally a great boulder was found on Mud Bay, a branch of Budd Inlet, and a stonecutter named Hamm split it and prepared the parts for millstones.  In 1848 the brig Orbit brought a quantity of supplies for the little community and loaded the first cargo ever exported from Upper Sound - piles and handsawn shingles.

No man of that era was more respected and esteemed than George Bush and one of his sons was a member of the first Legislature.  He also had  the confidence and respect of the Indians and no member of his family ever was molested by the tribes.  Doubtless there are men of his blood still at Bush Prairie.