David Swinson Maynard

David Swinson Maynard
David Swinson "Doc" Maynard

Doc Maynard, circa 1868
Born March 22, 1808(1808-03-22)
Castleton, Vermont
Died March 13, 1873(1873-03-13)
Seattle, Washington
Occupation pioneer, doctor and businessman
Spouse Lydia A. Rickey; Catherine Troutman Broshears
Children Frances, Henry

David Swinson "Doc" Maynard (March 22, 1808 – March 13, 1873) was an American pioneer and doctor, and one of Seattle's primary founders. He was an effective civic booster and, compared to other white settlers, a relative advocate of Native American rights. His friendship with Chief Seattle was important in the formation of the city of Seattle, and it was he who proposed the city be named for this important chief. Maynard was Seattle's first doctor, merchant prince, second lawyer, Sub-Indian Agent, Justice of the Peace, and Architect of the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855.


Early life

Maynard was born to a family of means near Castleton, Vermont. At the age of 17 he was accepted into Castleton Medical School (which at the time was associated with Middlebury College). He was top in his class and apprenticed to Dr. Theodore Woodward (not to be confused with Dr. Theodore E. Woodward).

In 1828 he married Lydia A. Rickey; they had a daughter, Frances, in 1830 and a son, Henry, in 1834. According to court papers, he discovered in 1841 that she was unfaithful to him but remained with her until 1850.

In 1832, the Maynards moved to Cleveland, Ohio, at the time a town of 500. He made and lost small fortunes in business and political ventures including railroading and a medical school that collapsed in the Panic of 1837. Maynard left Cleveland in 1850, either promising to send for his family when he was settled elsewhere, or giving Lydia the chance to file for divorce on the grounds of desertion; either way, she never actually completed the divorce.

Maynard took the railroad to St. Louis, and from there set out for California. He circulated among several wagon trains fighting cholera, which he had learned about during the 1849 epidemic in Cleveland. When the leader of one small wagon train heading for Oregon Territory died, he assumed leadership and thus ended up on Puget Sound. He and widow Catherine Troutman Broshears (June 19, 1816 - Oct 20, 1906) fell in love during their journey; however her brother, Mike Simmons, refused them permission to marry, perhaps on the grounds that Maynard was still married.

Early ventures in Seattle

Maynard joined in the logging activity at Duwamps (later Seattle), near the mouth of the Duwamish River on Puget Sound. Instead of selling his wood to shippers at $4 a cord, he leased a vessel from Captain Felker, using the wood itself as security, and sold the load in San Francisco at ten times the price. With that money, he bought the fixings for a general store and briefly set up in competition to the only other such store on Puget Sound, which was in Olympia and owned by Catherine's brother. Mike soon agreed to his sister marrying Maynard, apparently on condition that they move the store to Duwamps and do something about that prior marriage.

In April 1852, Maynard built his cabin-and-store in what is now Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood. According to historian Bill Speidel, the land he preferred was the undeveloped southern part of Carson Boren's claim, but while Boren was out of town, Arthur Denny shifted Carson's claim north to make room for Maynard.

Doc Maynard's character and approach to city-building differed from that of his contemporaries William Bell, Arthur Denny, David Denny, Henry Yesler, and Carson Boren. In part, this may have been because he was much older and had already participated in the development of one city. He drank liquor (while the Denny Party were mostly teetotalers) and, with his friend Captain Felker, found someone to start a good brothel in Seattle — the infamous Mother Damnable — believing that vice was essential to the economic success of a frontier town of that time.

Maynard's political skills helped defuse difficult situations with the Indian tribes, in particular between the Duwamish and the more powerful Snohomish, led by Chief Patkanim. As part of his diplomacy, Maynard worked to rename the settlement after the Duwamish's leader, Chief Sealth (or "Seattle") in exchange for an annual payment to Sealth (local legend has it that the tribes believed having one's name spoken after their death would disturb the named one in the afterlife; hence the payoff to Sealth to make up for that in advance). This friendly relationship paid off during the Battle of Seattle (1856) when both Sealth and Patkanim kept their fighters out of the battle.

Maynard's political skills were also helpful in persuading the legislature of the Oregon Territory to support the formation of a separate Washington Territory; in return, the legislature passed an unusual bill granting Maynard a divorce.[1] He married Catherine on January 15, 1853.

Maynard developed many clever ways to improve his property and his city. For example, he obtained the right to host the post office at his store; as a result, everyone had to come to his establishment to get their mail. He sold a lot cheaply to blacksmith Lewis Wyckoff; people needing smithing therefore came to Seattle instead of its rival Port Madison. Perhaps his greatest coup was persuading Henry Yesler to set up a steam sawmill on land sliced from the north part of Maynard's claim and the south part of Boren's. This sawmill helped establish Seattle's economic ascendancy.

Not everything proceeded smoothly. In 1853, when Maynard, Boren, and Denny filed their plats, each oriented the streets according to their stretch of shoreline. Seattle's downtown streets still show awkward bends and jogs where the plats meet. In reference to the disagrement Arthur Denny would go on to comment that "Maynard was king of all he surveyed, and some of what Boren and I surveyed as well." In a study conducted by the City of Seattle in the 1930’s it was determined that Denny has platted his streets in violation of donation land claim law under which the original land claims were filed.

When the only lawyer in Seattle died in a canoeing accident, Maynard studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1856.

Later life

Doc Maynard was known as a friend to the Indians; when Washington became a territory in 1853 Doc Maynard was appointed as the man in charge of Indian relations. During the Seattle Indian war Doc Maynard protected the natives and ensured that they did not starve.

Although Maynard was originally one of the city's largest landholders and strongest boosters, he is considered not to have prospered as well as his contemporaries. Among the reasons given for this are that his friendly relations with Chief Seattle and other natives made him suspect to his fellow settlers. His Democratic politics may have been a disadvantage in an increasingly Republican region and his civic minded gestures helped others who did not always help him in return. Maynard started out much older than his fellow city fathers, and thus died much sooner. Furthermore, the surviving city fathers minimized his role in their reminiscences in response to Maynard's autocratic rule of early Seattle. At any rate, he died in a mansion furnished with every comfort. It is important to note that Maynard's stated purpose was not to get rich but rather to build the greatest city in the world.

Near the end of his life, Maynard's first wife Lydia sold any rights she may have had in Maynard's property to a person who promptly sued Maynard for Lydia's share of Maynard's property in Seattle (claiming that they had never been divorced; while he was still married when he built his fortune, the common law is not entirely clear as to her claim). Lydia arrived penniless in Seattle to testify on Maynard's behalf; he and Catherine let her stay in their mansion on friendly terms. As Bill Speidel has written, Maynard was seen strolling around town, the only man in Seattle with a wife on either arm.

The ultimate result of this land dispute is that the east half of Maynard's claim reverted to public land, as neither of his wives had satisfied their requirements for their share; the legal battle passed through several hands until it was ultimately decided against all the Maynards in the United States Supreme Court case of Maynard v. Hill.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b "MAYNARD v. HILL, 125 U.S. 190 (1888)". United States Supreme Court. 1888. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=125&invol=190. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 

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