Inauguration Day, 1889, Olympia, Washington
This sepia tinted postcard photograph from 1889 shows the inauguration ceremony for the first Governor of the new State of Washington, Elisha Peyre Ferry. The photo was reproduced from the original plate courtesy of Gale Johnson, Olympia, Washington, and Outdoor Photo, Olympia, Washington, published the card. It was one of several historical theme postcards found in the Washington Historical Museum gift shop.
Ferry, who was born in Monroe County, Michigan in 1825, had previously served two terms as Governor of Washington Territory; however, due to ill health he only served one term as Governor of the State. Prior to moving west he had practiced law in Illinois for 23 years and had been the first mayor of Waukegan, Illinois. During the Civil War he helped organize the Illinois regiment, Union Army, and made friends with Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln. He was married to Sarah Brown Kellogg and they had 5 children, Eliza, James, Lincoln, Julia and Pierre. All his children had Peyre, his mother’s maiden name, as a middle name. He was noted for his ethical standards and was a founding member of the Seattle Scottish Rite (Masonic order). In 1869 President Grant appointed him Surveyor General of Washington Territory and then in 1872 President Grant appointed him Territorial Governor. He was involved in the building of the Northern Pacific Railway particularly in the planning of the extension from Tacoma to Olympia. Under his leadership the Territory was almost debt-free by the time he left office. He took a rest from politics and worked in Seattle practicing law and in the banking business. Nominated as a Republican candidate for State Governor in 1889 he was elected with 58% of the vote.
During his tenure as Governor he supervised the rebuilding of Seattle, Ellensburg and Spokane, all had been almost destroyed by fires. His health began to fail and he did not run for a second term. Ferry died just two years later in 1895. Ferry County is named for him.
The photo is historically interesting to me. Olympia was named as the territorial capitol in 1853. The picture shows people in horse drawn wagons or buggies as well as people sitting or standing before what was then the State Capitol Building. There are banners and flags across the front of the building and a white picket fence around the grounds. The building had been a courthouse but was used as the capitol building beginning in 1854 until 1893 when a new building was constructed. That building also became too small and was replaced. The capitol as we know it today has several buildings with the first ones taking about 16 years to complete between 1911 and 1927 or 1928. More buildings and memorials including the Winged Victory statue commemorating World War I by Alonzo Victor Lewis have been added to the capitol since then. Renovations and restoration completed in 2004 have repaired and fixed problems resulting from earthquakes and aging.
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