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Arthur A. Denny

arthur a denny, james a. denny
Arthur Armstrong Denny June 20, 1822 – January 9, 1899 was one of the founders of Seattle, Washington,1 the acknowledged leader of the pioneer Denny Party,12 and later the city's wealthiest citizen and a 9-term member of the territorial legislature1 Seattle's former Denny Hill was named after him; it was flattened in a series of regrading projects and its former site is now known as the Denny Regrade3 The city's Denny Way, however, is named not after Arthur Denny, but after his younger brother David Denny4


  • 1 Indiana, Illinois, and the way West
  • 2 Career
  • 3 Personality and politics
    • 31 Women's suffrage
    • 32 Argument over land
  • 4 Works
  • 5 Notes
  • 6 References

Indiana, Illinois, and the way Westedit

Mary Ann Boren, wife of Arthur A Denny, copied for his book from a daguerreotype The caption was confusing and this might be her sister Louisa Boren See David Denny

Denny was born near Salem, Washington County, Indiana; by the time he was attending school his family had settled in Knox County, Illinois1 Both his parents were of Irish descent5 His father John Denny 1793–1875, fought in the western battles of the War of 18122 and later served in the Illinois state legislature, elected as a Whig He eventually traveled west with the Denny Party, but stayed on in Oregon's Willamette River Valley when Arthur and several others moved north to Puget Sound6 Denny did not have an easy childhood He cared for his invalid mother while attending half-days in a log schoolhouse He learned carpentry, taught school, studied surveying,2 and became a civil engineer and Knox County surveyor starting in 1843 In 1843, he married Mary Ann Boren; together they had six children: Louisa Catherine Frye, Margaret Leona Denny, Rolland Herschell Denny, Orion Orvil Denny, Arthur Wilson Denny, and Charles Latimer Denny1

In 1851, he led the Denny Party west Leaving Illinois in April, they arrived in Portland, Oregon on August 23 In November, he sailed on to Puget Sound, arriving at Alki Point on Elliott Bay on November 13, 1851 It soon became clear that Alki was not the best spot for a settlement The Denny Party relocated to the east shore of Elliott Bay, near what is now Pioneer Square, the original heart of what became the city of Seattle1


Denny Hall, University of Washington

On February 15, 1852, Denny and others filed their claims2 Denny soon established himself selling cargo on commission for ship captains7 In 1854 when he began a general merchandise partnership with Dexter Horton and David Phillips7 In 1855, he volunteered to serve in the Indian War then taking place in Washington Territory7 He served in several political offices7 He was a county commissioner first for Thurston County in what was then still part of the Oregon Territory, and then, after Washington became a separate territory, for King County, where Seattle is located1

He also served as Seattle's first postmaster and in the territorial House of Representatives for nine consecutive terms, including serving a term as speaker7 From 1861 to 1865 he was registrar of the General Land Office7 He served as territorial delegate to the thirty-ninth United States Congress1

Denny soon turned from politics to business He returned to being a partner with Horton and Phillips, this time by taking a half interest in Dexter Horton and Co, the bank founded by Horton and Phillips in 1870,1 which would eventually become Seattle-First National Bank8 He was president of the Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad Company and an investor in the Great Western Iron and Steel Company Later in life, he was active in Society of Washington Pioneers and wrote a memoir, Pioneer Days in Puget Sound1

Among his other achievements, he was involved in founding the University of Washington and donated much of the land for its original site19 On the current UW campus, Denny Hall, the former administration building built 1895 is named in his honor10

Personality and politicsedit

Denny was an ascetic,11 a devout Christian conservative in his religion to the point of opposing a divorce law, and a lifelong teetotaler2 Indeed, he was teetotal to the point where he had the customers of his store buy their liquor direct from visiting ship captains so that he would not be involved in the transactions11 He was a political conservative, and a cautious and conservative businessman and investor2 Denny, in his memoir, described his decision to head north from Portland to Puget Sound as a "desperate venture" Lorraine McConaghy, historian at Seattle's Museum of History and Industry, agrees, but characterizes it further as "the only one he ever undertook"9

Women's suffrageedit

Denny supported the right of women to vote, going so far as to introduce legislation in 1854 to allow white women of 18 years and older the right to vote12 The resolution was voted down12

Argument over landedit

Arthur A Denny home

This dour man is nonetheless remembered for at least one example of his wit Also in his memoir, recounting his failure in 1853 to reach agreement with David Swinson "Doc" Maynard over what was intended to be a joint plat of the town of Seattle, he wrote, "it was found that the doctor, who occasionally stimulated a little, had that day taken enough to cause him to feel that he was not only monarch of all he surveyed, but what Boren and I had surveyed as well"13

It was later shown in a review done by a professional engineering firm on behalf of the city that it was in fact Denny that was wrong about the direction the streets should run and had actually violated the law in his plat of the citycitation needed


  • Pioneer Days on Puget Sound 1888 Text online
  • Pioneer Days on Puget sound, published by The Alice Harriman Company, Seattle, 1908 Online text showing original pages


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Archived copy" Archived from the original on 2008-04-23 Retrieved 2012-02-16 CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown link, Special Collections, Washington State Historical Society WSHS Accessed online 8 March 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e f Junius Rochester, Denny, Arthur Armstrong 1822–1899, HistoryLink, October 28, 1998 Accessed online 8 March 2008
  3. ^ Russ Heinl, Seattle from the Air 2002, Graphic Arts Center Publishing Co, ISBN 1-55868-688-6, p 23
  4. ^ Junius Rochester, Boren, Carson Dobbins 1824–1912, HistoryLink, October 31, 1998 Accessed online 8 March 2008
  5. ^ Jones 1972, p 36
  6. ^ Dorothea Nordstrand, Denny Party on the Oregon Trail, HistoryLink, February 15, 2004 Accessed online 10 March 2008
  7. ^ a b c d e f Washington State Historical Society "Arthur Armstrong Denny" Retrieved 2012-02-16 
  8. ^ Bill Virgin, Come Monday, Seafirst name is historypermanent dead link, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 24, 1999 Accessed online 8 March 2008 Seattle-First National Bank was later named Seafirst Bank and after being purchased was later rebranded as part of Bank of America
  9. ^ a b Debera Carlton Harrell, Getting to know the real Denny, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 23, 2003 Accessed online 8 March 2008
  10. ^ Administration Building now Denny Hall exterior showing northeast side, University of Washington, ca 1897 photo and caption, University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections Accessed online 10 March 2008
  11. ^ a b Roger Sale, Seattle, Past to Present, University of Washington Press, 1978, ISBN 0-295-95615-1, p 25
  12. ^ a b "1854 Womans Suffrage Amendment Introduced by Arthur Denny" Retrieved 2012-02-16 
  13. ^ Arthur Denny, Pioneer Days in Puget Sound 1888 Accessed online 8 March 2008


  • Biography of Arthur A Denny
  • Jones, Nard 1972, Seattle, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-01875-4 
  • The finding guide at the Washington State Historical Society for Arthur A Denny
  • Photo of Denny, 1865
  • Photo of Denny, 1840
  • Photo of sisters Louisa Boren and Mary Boren, wives of Arthur A Denny and his brother David Denny
US House of Representatives
Preceded by
George E Cole
Delegate to the US House of Representatives
from Washington Territory

Succeeded by
Alvan Flanders

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