Battle of Elliott Bay

If the killing of a pig can be called a war then yachtsmen armed with shotguns can be called a battle.

The battle occurred on a Saturday morning in 1909 when members of the Elliott Bay Yacht Club landed in force at the foot of Charles Street, South Seattle. They were opposed by burly lumbermen.

With the substantial help of Hiram Gill, Seattle’s wondrously corrupt mayor, the yacht club had secured a long-term lease on the waterfront lot. The lease was contested by the Erickson Mill Company which actually had buildings on the lot. Possession might normally be nine tenths of the law but in Seattle, Hiram Gill was the law.

Adloph Rohlf’s new yawl Acquilla was pressed into service as a gunboat. Four shotguns were mounted on her gunnels to dissuade the yard employees. The Acquillla arrived on the sunlit morning with decks cleared for action, accompanying a pile driver. The lumbermen tactically withdrew and pile driving began.

The Post-Intelligencer reported that “a pitched battle between a pile-driving crew working for Elliot Bay Yacht Club and employees of the Erickson Mill Company…was narrowly averted yesterday at noon…” The paper failed to mention that the battle was narrowly averted by the threat of deadly force.

The Seattle Yacht Club officially merged with the Elliot Bay Yacht Club later that year, and the battle of Elliott Bay became part of its legacy.

Resources: The Centennial History of the Seattle Yacht Club 1892-1992

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