Samuel Coombs and Rachel Boyd 

By Marilyn Morrison of Poulsbo, Washington

Samuel Fuller and Rachel (Boyd) Coombs, were residents of Puget Sound for more than 45 years.  He was born on his grandfather’s farm in South Thomaston, Maine, April 16, 1831.  His grandfather was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  Asa Coombs, Samuel’s father, was also born on the farm and married Lucretia Mann, a native of Castine, Maine. Asa served in the War of 1812.  At the age of 90, he crossed the continent to visit Samuel in Seattle, where he died October 25, 1888.  He is buried in the Lake View Cemetery there with other members of the Coombs family.

Samuel attended school in Thomaston during the winters and spent his summers on the farm, remaining with his parents until he was 21.  In 1852 he went west and spent the summer with friends in Illinois.  That winter he taught school in Indiana, and in the spring of 1853 returned to Thomaston.  In 1854 he and Rachel Boyd, of St. George, Maine, were married.  On March 2, 1855, Samuel was appointed Justice of the Peace in South Thomaston.

Rachel was born Nov. 22, 1831.  Her father was Capt. Adam Boyd, Jr., about whom little is known.  Her mother was Rachel Kelloch who descended from Finley Kelloch, the first settler of that name in was to become the State of Maine.  Finley served with Colonial New England forces during "King George’s War" and took part in the 1745 capture and garrisoning of the French fortress at Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island.  Rachel’s grandfather David Kelloch was a soldier with Gen. Gates in 1777 and served during the defeat of Gen. Burgoyne at Saratoga, a turning point in the Revolutionary War.  He also served through the War of 1812.

In 1858 Samuel was elected to the Legislature of which James G. Blaine, prospective Presidential nominee, was an honored member.  The next year he went to California by Panama, arriving in San Francisco in October.  After meeting Rachel’s brothers, Captains William and George Boyd who were master mariners sailing the coast between San Francisco and Puget Sound, he came to Port Madison, Washington Territory, in December 1859.  He began work in the lumber mill, but shortly afterward was hired to teach in the village school.  While at Port Madison he attended the County Democratic Convention at Teekalet and joined the first company of Union Guards in the Territory as a Third Sergeant.

In the spring of 1861 Samuel came to Seattle and went to work in Henry Yesler’s store, remaining about 12 years, a part of this time acting as deputy under T.D. Hinkley, the second postmaster and agent for the Wells-Fargo Express Company.  His portrait is on display in the Wells Fargo Center, a major office building in downtown Seattle.  Here is stated, "Samuel F. Coombs, Seattle Merchant and Wells Fargo Agent from 1869 to 1875 (he succeeded Yesler); cultivated a close relationship with the city’s Chinese merchants who frequently used Wells Fargo banking and express services."

Samuel was the first librarian of the University of Washington, elected in 1862.  He never assumed office, however, as there were no books.  In 1862 Rachel and their four children followed him to Puget Sound.  Three of the children died the same year from a diphtheria epidemic.  Arthur S., aged two years and eight months, died March 20; Abbie Frank, aged four years, four months, 16 days, died on April 11; and Anna died June 17, at the age of six years and two months.  Five other sons were born in Seattle. Alfred Hillery Coombs was born April 11, 1866 and died Dec. 8, 1877; George Coombs was born July 12, 1864; and Asa Boyd Coombs was born Sept. 19, 1870.  It is unknown when George and Asa died.  Another child was born to the Coombs, but there is no information available for this child.  Samuel and Rachel had three children who lived to adulthood; Louisa, (Mrs. James H. Watson); William M., a marine engineer, who died Sept. 9, 1934, age 72; and Raphael (Ray), the artist.  He died Sept 13, 1933, at age 65. Louisa died Nov. 17, 1947; her husband, James, lived until Feb. 11, 1951.  Newspaper accounts referred to Louisa as "Seattle’s First Lady," having lived in the city continuously since 1862.

J.A. Costello, author of The Siwash. Their Life, Legends and Tales written in 1895, acknowledged Samuel’s contribution to the book saying he was "one of the few pioneers who has a genuine interest in the preservation of the life and habits and traditions of the aboriginees [sic]" and "who probably has as intimate a knowledge of the early Indians as any one living."  Samuel’s son Raphael was an artist and also contributed to the book.  Costello describes how Samuel took Chief Seattle’s daughter Angeline to view the life-size painting Raphael had done of her father.  "It was her old-time friend Samuel Coombs, the pioneer, who took old Angeline to see the picture of the old chief, painted by Mr. Coombs’ son Raphael for the chamber of commerce of this city."  Samuel had always taken a deep interest in the Indian dialects of the Sound, and revised a Chinook dictionary for general circulation.  He was formerly engaged as reporter on the old Intelligencer, and still wrote for the press on pioneer subjects, particularly relating to incidents and experiences with the Indian tribes.

Samuel was active in politics and civic affairs.  He was elected secretary of the King County Agricultural Society.  The first annual fair was held at Seattle October 21, 1863.  Among the exhibitors of vegetables was Zebedee.M. Keller, another member of the Kalloch family, son of Finley Keller IV, who came to Puget Sound.  The next year Samuel won a prize for beer and porter at the King County Fair, having had the second still in Seattle.  Extant letters to Nathan Bucklin refer to Samuel’s brewery business.

Samuel and Rachel were members of the Pioneer Organization.  He retired from active business in 1888 and died June 17, 1908.  Rachel’s death occurred February 20, 1911.  More about the Coombs family is available at The Kalloch Reunion Association website, (Ken Kalloch, webmaster),

In 1867 the County Commissioners allowed Samuel $2.50 for wine to give to a pauper.  He placed an ad in The Seattle Intelligencer announcing himself as "agent" at Port Madison for small beer.  "Small Beer, Spruce, Sarasparilla [sic], Checkerberry, Lemon, Dandelion, Hop. Beer made from this powder is very cheap and pleasant to drink.  It is also highly esteemed for its medicinal purposes.  Seafaring men can carry it with them and make beer on board their vessels whether at sea or in port. Price $1 a box.  Each box contains sufficient to make from 12-14 gallons of beer."

He was one of the incorporators of the Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad & Transportation Company.  It was said he was a good penman and a handy man in many capacities.  The City Charter of 1869 provided for a Common Council, to consist of members elected at-large to terms of one year.  Samuel served 1871-1872 and 1872-1873.  A brother-in-law, Corliss P. Stone, served between 1869 and 1872.  In 1881 he was elected Justice of the Peace for a number of years, and by the city council elected police judge for two years.  While serving as Justice of the Peace in 1882, the alleged murderers, Payne, Howard and Sullivan, were before him, and after the trial and commitment were taken by an outraged people and hanged near the corner of James Street and Pioneer Place.

In Seattle, Jan. 23, 1874, Samuel served on a "Committee of Arrangements" for The Fourth Annual Grand Fancy Dress Ball.  His daughter, Louisa Coombs, was on a list of masqueraders at the ball representing the Seattle Post Office.

He had been a postmaster of Owl’s Head (Maine) Post Office, in 1855.  On the 30th of April 1856, the store of Samuel F. Coombs, known as Samuel F. Coombs & Co., at Owl’s Head, in which the Post Office was kept, and the upper part occupied by him as a dwelling, was burned, with all its contents, including furniture, records, mail bags, and all, except ten dollars’ worth of postage.  There was a partial insurance according to Eaton’s History of Thomaston, Rockland, and South Thomaston, Maine.

In 1884 President Grover Cleveland named him Warden of the United States penitentiary on McNeil's Island which he served for four years.

Referring to his early life here, Samuel said that soon after his arrival, having a desire to pre-empt a claim, he found a deserted log cabin.  On enquiry of John Carr and Mr. Nagle, the two lone settlers in that vicinity, found that it had been built by George F. Fry, the pre-emptor, but had been abandoned by him.  They gave consent for Samuel to occupy it, which he did, and so pre-empted, but one night’s sleep in the cabin was sufficient for him. Mr. Charles C. Terry gave Samuel one hundred dollars for his right to the 160 acres, then transferred the claim to T.S. Russell, and he in turn had Mr. Bagley enter it as university lands, at $1.50 gold coin per acre.

The same 160 acres cost Mr. Russell four hundred dollars, and Mr. Russell, owing Captain Renton that sum for lumber, forced the Captain to take the land to cover the debt.  This tract of land, in 1903, was called Renton Addition. Many of its lots, 60 x 120 feet, brought from two thousand to four thousand dollars that year.  The Captain, in taking the property, complained that little good timber or logs were on the claim, and the distance too far to haul to salt water. Eighty acres of this tract, aside from buildings, have been recently estimated at $160,000 (1903 figures).


A History of The Puget Sound Country; An Illustrated History of the State of Washington;;
Biography Notes on Pioneers of Puget Sound; History of Seattle; History of Thomaston, Rockland, and South Thomaston;; Index to the War of 1812 Pension Files; Port Madison Washington Territory 1854-1889; Seattle Municipal Archives;; Seattle Times; The Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Vital Statistics of Washington Ty.

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