Kitsap County      HERITAGE
Seabeck 1912
First Court House, Port Madison, Bainbridge Island
Port Gamble 1902
click to enlarge photos
  The Kitsap Peninsula and the water of Puget Sound which almost completely surrounded it were explored by Captain George Vancouver in 1792 for the English, and in 1841 by Captain Charles Wilkes for the United States of America. Most of our beautiful waterways and landmarks were named by these two explorers, the list of which is to lengthy to mention here. Early explorers traded with the Native Americans, and returned to their home ports extolling the virtues of the Northwest Hinterland, and all its abundance. This attracted many Easterners and Europeans alike to travel to the young and distant west.

     Donation Land Claim Law, which granted 640 acres to a married man, and 320 acres to a single man brought a few sturdy pioneers into the county as early at the 1850's. Documentation of these early pioneers and their "Donation Land Claims" can be seen in the archives of the Kitsap County Historical Society.

     Kitsap County was formed from a section of King County and a section of Jefferson County by the Legislature of Washington Territory on January 16, 1857. Originally named Slaughter County after William Alloway Slaughter, who has been killed in an Indian uprising "somewhere out from Seattle."

     The county name was changed by means of a general election on July 13, 1857. There was a general dislike of the name "Slaughter" thus it did not appear on the ballot. Some of the choices were; Madison, Mill, and Kitsap. The name Kitsap was chosen, in honor of an admirable Native American Chief who graciously received Captain George Vancouver during his early exploration of this area. "Kitsap" means brave or good, according to tribal legend.

   In its early days, Kitsap County had great wealth in it's standing timber, and being nearly surrounded by water, the timber could be easily harvested and rafted to mills with out need for railroads or other major investments in transportation .As such, it became the wealthiest county per capita in the United States for a time. It is said, that citizens from the small town of Seattle took "Mosquito Fleet" ferries to the City of Port Madison on Bainbridge Island, in Kitsap County, for shopping in its modern stores. Four major sawmill communities in the county brought in many loggers and mill hands who soon moved from company houses to small homesteads or stump ranches to begin the agricultural growth of the county.

     Transportation was mostly via the waterways. Little boats and vessels dotted the waters of Puget Sound. This is where the term "Mosquito Fleet' comes from. The Mosquito Fleet was utilized by citizens to travel from town to town. Each vessel had a route and schedule, making regular stops at towns, settlements, and mills. A vestige of the Mosquito Fleet still exists as Horluck Transportation. A passenger only ferry can be caught from Bremerton to port Orchard and back, which run every half hour - everyday. The ferries used are historic - the Carslile II is a floating museum, complete with historic photographs.

    Real incentive to future growth came with the establishment of the Naval Station at Port Orchard (The original name given to Sinclair Inlet by Capt. George Vancouver) in Bremerton. The steady rise of importance of this great Naval Shipyard has become the major reason for the population increase in the county - which exploded the population of Bremerton alone to over 100,000 during WWII. Companion Navy activities include the former Naval Ammunition Depot on Ostrich Bay, where the current Jackson Park Naval Housing is located, as well as Sub Base Bangor, and the Naval installation at Keyport. 

     Kitsap County has a area of 393 square miles and has a population of approximately 90,000. The county has a decidedly rural flavor, with 240 miles of waterfront. Logging is still conducted in remote areas with second and third growth timber. 

Click below
to Visit 
all of the 
Heritage Sites

for a full tour of 
Kitsap Heritage

Bainbridge Island
Port Orchard

Lizzy Ordway
Also be sure to visit
The Kitsap County 
Historical Society

This information was provided by The Kitsap County Historical Society

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