David Swinson “Doc” Maynard was born March 22, 1808 in Castleton, Vermont.
At the age of 17 he was accepted into the Castleton Medical School where he graduated top in his class.
In 1828, Doc married Lydia Rickey and had one daughter and one son.
In 1832, Doc moved his family to Cleveland, Ohio, then a town of only 500 people.
He discovered in 1841 that his wife had been unfaithful and left her in 1850, first taking the railroad to St. Louis, and then setting out for California.
Doc circulated among several wagon trains treating 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, Doc assumed leadership and thus ended up on Puget Sound.
He fell in love with widow Catherine Troutman Broshears 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
Doc joined in the logging activity at New York-Alki (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 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 Doc, apparently on condition that they move the store to Duwamps and do something about that prior marriage.
In April 1852, Doc claimed a tract of 640 acres in what is now Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, and hired Indians to help him build a combination cabin and store. Doc’s building became a hub of activity when he became King County’s first Justice of the Peace.
Doc Maynard laid out streets on his claim according to the cardinal directions (north/south) but Boren and Denny insisted on orienting the streets according to their stretch of shoreline. Seattle’s downtown still shows awkward bends and jogs where the plats meet, but the rest of King County follows Doc’s original design.
Doc Maynard’s political skills helped defuse difficult situations with the local native tribes, in particular between the Duwamish and the more powerful Snohomish, led by Chief Patkanim.
As part of diplomacy, Doc 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 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 Doc Maynard a divorce. He then married Catherine on January 15, 1853.
Doc 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 negotiated with blacksmith Lewis Wyckoff to set up shop next to him; then when people needed smithing they came to Seattle instead of its rival Port Madison.
Perhaps Doc’s 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.
When the only lawyer in Seattle died from an accident, Doc Maynard studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1856.
In 1857, Doc Maynard traded his “downtown” acreage for Charles C. Terry’s farm in West Seattle, but this new enterprise did not do well.
Doc and Catherine then opened a two-room hospital in what is now Pioneer Square.
This enterprise also failed because a number of settlers refused to use the hospital after the Maynards insisted on caring for both whites and Indians.
Doc Maynard became known as a friend to the Native 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 Doc 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.
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.
Near the end of Maynard’s life, his first wife Lydia sold any rights she may have had to Doc’s property to a person who promptly sued for Lydia’s share of Maynard’s property in Seattle (claiming that they had never been divorced, and that he built his fortune while they were still married).
Lydia soon arrived penniless from Ohio to testify on Doc’s behalf. Catherine let her stay in their mansion on friendly terms.
As historian Bill Speidel has written, Maynard was noted for strolling around town, the only man in Seattle with a wife on either arm.
At any rate, Doc Maynard died March 13, 1873 in a mansion furnished with every comfort. It is important to note that Doc Maynard’s stated purpose was not to get rich but rather to build the greatest city in the world.
The ultimate result of this land dispute was 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.
Now WE know em