anchor link to jump to start of content

The Seattle Times Company NWclassifieds NWsource

Site index

« Local News

Seattle History
· Maps
· Resources
· Photo gallery
· Nominate a historical figure

Monday, July 30, 2001 - 12:00 a.m. Pacific

Descendants of the Terrys: A city father's kin turn up

By Stuart Eskenazi
Seattle Times staff reporter


William H. "Bud" Lewis is the great grandson of Charles Terry, who used this cane and passed it down several generations. Bud says he's not ready to actually use it yet.

We had thought the Terry descendants were either missing or hiding — or maybe just being coy.

The Seattle Times published a story last month introducing readers to descendants of the first settler families who landed at Alki Point on Nov. 13, 1851 — one in a series of articles commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of Seattle. We found current generations of four of the five original families — Denny, Low, Bell and Boren — without any problem.

But our leads for tracking descendants of brothers Charles and Lee Terry, who came to Seattle from New York via Portland, led nowhere. We closed our story with an "Olly, Olly, Oxen Free" in hopes of drawing them out.

It worked.

Several descendants of Charles (but not Lee) Terry contacted us. It turns out they haven't been hiding at all. Many of them are as entrenched in the Pacific Northwest as a flannel shirt. One branch of the family tree, in fact, is linked to a prominent and public Seattle family, the Bullitts.

But first, there is William H. "Bud" Lewis, the great grandson of Charles Terry. First because he can lay claim to 32 Terry descendants as his own — five children, 18 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Lewis says 21 of the 32 still live in the Puget Sound area.

Lewis also should be first because he can recall the sadness he felt as he watched demolition crews tear down the house that his father, Howard T. Lewis, grew up in — a Victorian-style mansion perched on a hill over downtown, a house where his father as a child watched Seattle burn during the Great Fire of 1889.

A house with a Terry Avenue address.

The Northwest always has been home for the 80-year-old Lewis, except for a stint in Italy during World War II when he served in the famed 10th Mountain Division. He grew up in Seattle's Mount Baker neighborhood, attending John Muir Elementary and graduating from Franklin High School in 1938.

Lewis worked 48 years as a wholesale lumber trader in Lynnwood, living in a beachfront home in Kingston for much of that time.

An avid outdoorsman, he says he has caught so many salmon in his lifetime that he can't bear to look one in the face anymore.

"I would never leave the Northwest," says Lewis, who lives in a Des Moines retirement village with wife Eva. "Never."

Lewis enjoys the portrayal of Charles Terry in Bill Speidel's book on early Seattle, "Sons of the Profits." Lee Terry returned to New York six months after arriving at Alki, but Charles Terry stayed, even after fellow pioneers such as Arthur Denny had crossed Elliott Bay to develop a new port city called Seattle.

Speidel wrote that not only did Terry come up with the name Alki, he was Alki. Speidel characterized him as a "personable, free-booting, sharp-trading opportunist" who ran a general store there.

Lewis says Terry was smart enough to figure out the best way to get rich from the Gold Rush was to corner the market on everyday supplies needed by those who had moved west.

"The real money wasn't in mining," he says. "It was in mining the miners."

Lewis says the rambunctious and shrewd ways of Terry are traits that have been lost over the generations. Similarly lost was Terry's financial fortune.

Terry had become quite the land baron by the time he died of tuberculosis at age 37. He and business partner Ed Lander donated a slice of their land in downtown Seattle for the original 10-acre University of Washington campus. Lewis attended a ceremony at the UW that dedicated the Terry Hall dormitory — named to memorialize his great-grandfather.

Terry's massive land holdings were sold off shortly after he died, in an era when land was dirt cheap.

The Bullitt connection

J. Terry Bullitt, an adult-education counselor in Syracuse, N.Y., says she will be cruising the Internet for a bargain air fare to get her to Seattle for the Nov. 13 anniversary. She's got both Terry and Bullitt blood in her, but she lives a humble lifestyle, she says.

The ties between the Terrys and the Bullitts, the family that founded the KING Broadcasting empire, begin with the marriage of Charles Terry's granddaughter, Dorothy Terry, to Keith Bullitt. Keith's brother was A. Scott Bullitt. Dorothy Terry's best friend was Dorothy Stimson.

At the wedding, Scott Bullitt and Dorothy Stimson met, fell in love and the rest is Seattle broadcasting history.

Terry Bullitt's father, Logan Bullitt, moved his family from the East Coast to Seattle and worked a brief time at KING.

Terry Bullitt, named after her great grandmother Jane Terry, is the eldest of three sisters. Mary Bullitt lives in Kingston; Anne Bullitt Kiser in Bremerton. Born in Maine, Terry Bullitt, 58, returned to the East Coast at age 16 after living in the Puget Sound area for about three years. She has only come back for visits.

During one trip, she researched her family history at the University of Washington, where her grandmother had donated many of Charles Terry's personal effects, including a hand-written journal. Terry Bullitt had always heard that her great-great-grandfather was born in New York, but she was never sure where. A UW researcher informed her it was Madison County, which is about 10 miles from where she now lives.

"I guess I had always figured he was from New York City, or somewhere around there," she says. "When they told me Madison, I said, `That's crazy. Are you sure?' I couldn't believe it."

All that traffic

It's easy for descendants of Seattle's pioneer families to get all worked up over their genealogy. Lewis is no different, but he hardly gets mushy when he visits the city his great grandfather helped get off the ground.

"I go to Seattle, see all that goddamn traffic and I feel like I'm in New York," he says.

Stuart Eskenazi can be reached at

Related info:

Related links
Museum of History & Industry
The Washington State Historical Society
National Register of Historic Places
UW archives
Audio links
"Lady Louse Cleans House"   WAV | MP3
"This land is sacred"  
"Chief Seattle"   WAV | MP3
About audio clips home
Home delivery | Contact us | Search archive | Site map | Low-graphic
NWclassifieds | NWsource | Advertising info | The Seattle Times Company


Back to topBack to top