Hops Farming Boom Still Apparent in the Park
A short-lived hops farming boom in the 1880’s still leaves its impact on the Lake Sammamish State Park. The first to start this commercial crop in the area was the Wold Brothers in 1868. The boom really took off in the 1880s when a European hop blight threatened Britain’s ale supply and homesteaders were able to fill the void. Hops were an ideal cash crop as it yielded a crop the first year and earned an astounding $1 per pound at its peak.
Wearing straw hats and brass badges with their payroll numbers, hop pickers included families with children as young as 5 years old. Women carried infants on their backs in wooden cradleboards. Naturalist John Muir wrote after an 1890 visit, “About a thousand Indians are required at the Snoqualmie Ranch alone, and a lively and merry picture they make in the field, arrayed in bright, showy calicoes, lowering the rustling vine-pillars with incessant song-singing and fun.”
Hop pickers included Native Americans, white homesteaders, and for a short time, Chinese immigrants. Being displaced from their lands, Native Americans found this was a way to hang on in a time of change. White homesteaders worked to earn much needed cash. In the early 1870s, a boatload of Chinese immigrants arrived in Issaquah. They were willing to work for lower wages and provoked resentment among the local pickers. They were driven from the area after a group of five whites and two Snoqualmie fired into Chinese tents at night, killing three and wounding three.
Vines of hops still grow, untended in the park.
Sources: several sources collected by Rich Bensen including: “A Hidden Past” by The Seattle Times; Issaquahhistory.org; The Past At Present by Edwards Fish; Images of America Issaquah Washington by Issaquah Historical Society.