Looking back: The story of Riley Hall, pioneer of Lynnwood

Hall Lake looking east. (Photo by Betty Lou Gaeng)

In the early days before the pioneers arrived, the land which is now the bustling city of Lynnwood was a forest of evergreen trees dominated by the stately giants—the Douglas firs, aromatic cedars, as well as the hemlock trees. Mixed in and overshadowed by the huge trees were the scrubby alders.

No rivers ran through the land, only small creeks and a few boggy lakes. This was not the landscape that attracted settlement by the people native to the land. Perhaps the Salish tribes did occasionally travel through the dense forests hunting game, picking the berries that grew profusely over portions of the land, or gathering reeds and the succulent roots of the cattails found near the lakes and streams. However for the most part it appeared that only the occasional call of a wild animal or the whisper of the wind as it ruffled the branches of the trees interrupted the tranquility of the peaceful forests. It would change when the men from further east, the ones with their eyes on the virgin land and the giant trees began arriving.

The logging companies, headed by such men as Cyrus Walker of Puget Mill Company, began tying up large portions of the land in order to harvest the lumber from the trees for their mills in the future. However, it was a lone man who was one of the first to arrive to settle—his name was Riley Hall. Despite the fact that Mr. Hall was one of the earliest to arrive—maybe even the first—and even though his name is still used to this day, few have heard of him.

Mr. Hall was a veteran of the Civil War, and was probably unschooled—he signed his name with an X (his mark). He said that he had no family. By the age of 54, his body was worn out, and his eyesight and hearing failing. He could no longer support himself on his chosen land. He died at the age of 67, with little mention. However, Riley Hall left a legacy to Lynnwood—his surname of Hall is remembered by a small lake located at an area once known as Cedar Valley. Known on maps and official papers as Hall Lake, it has also been called Hall’s Lake or Halls Lake. Located along the north side of 212th Street Southwest, the lake is partially located on what was once Riley Hall’s 160-acre homestead-land. Lynnwood’s 212th Street Southwest was once known as Halls Lake Road, and at times is still called by that name—especially by old-timers in the area. In addition, the creek running south from the lake and draining into Lake Ballinger is officially listed as Hall Creek.

Because Riley Hall served in the U.S. Navy in the Civil War, much of what has been learned about his life has been found because of his naval service. Enlisting at the age of 24 in the United States Navy in 1864 in Evansville, Indiana, Mr. Hall saw service during the latter part of the Civil War aboard the SS Moose, a wood-constructed 155 foot steam-driven stern-wheeled gun boat. With a top speed of six knots, the ship patrolled behind enemy lines on the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. The ship’s main assignment was to block Confederate guerrillas from receiving supplies or any replacement recruits. Both the Civil War gun boat and seaman Riley Hall successfully ended their wartime naval service in Mound City, Indiana in April of 1865.

Evidently, Riley Hall still had a taste for ships and the sea, and in 1867 he re-enlisted in the United States Navy—this time at Boston, Massachusetts. He was then sent to the Portsmouth Navy Yard at Kittery, Maine to rendezvous with the newly recommissioned SS Kearsarge. His duty aboard the ship was listed as a fireman. No photograph of Riley Hall has been found, but his ship’s record gives a physical description for him. He was listed as 5 feet 9-1/2 inches tall; blue-eyed with auburn hair and a sandy complexion—maybe with the name Riley, he was an Irishman.

Originally designated as a sloop-of-war, the 200-foot Kearsarge was powered by both sail and steam, and was another veteran of the Civil War, having taken part in battles with Confederate ships in the Atlantic Ocean, and as far away as Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. Her hull had even been armored with iron for her service in the war. After the war, when Riley Hall served on the ship, he was given the chance to see different parts of the world. The Kearsarge sailed to the South Pacific and operated out of Valparaiso, Chile, mainly assigned to naval patrol duty for the protection of American commercial interests along the coast of South America and the islands in the South Pacific. The ship also called on ports at New Zealand.

After his naval duty was completed, Riley Hall may have been discharged in San Francisco. Wherever his journey began, he traveled to Washington Territory, arriving in May of either 1870 or 1871. He first lived in Thurston County where he homesteaded 30.20 acres of land and received his land patent on July 15, 1878. He gave his occupation as an oysterman and also as a woodcutter. By 1881 he had moved north and was living in south Snohomish County and working as a lumberman.

By 1885, Riley Hall had taken up residence on the east side of the little lake that still carries his name. He filed a homestead claim and a few years later after having cut timber and farmed his land beside the lake in an area first known as Cedar Valley, he was issued a patent in December of 1890 for 160 acres of land located in Sections 21 and 28 in Snohomish County. Riley Hall’s 160-acre homestead property was a long and narrow strip of land which ran on the east side of Hall Lake to today’s 200th Street Southwest and a short distance south of 212th Street Southwest. The smaller section of land south of 212th is now part of Mountlake Terrace. In Lynnwood, the property description of a large portion of Riley Hall’s homestead became known as the Halls Lake Tracts. The photo shown with this article is a recent one of Hall Lake—looking east, the trees in the background on the right show a portion of the homestead of Riley Hall. It is here Eisen’s Resort was located for many years. Following that, it became the campgrounds for the Nazarene Church.

Riley Hall had but a short time to log and farm his land. According to a March 18, 1893 record, Mr. Hall’s health became so poor he could no longer live on his own. He applied for admission to the state-owned Washington Soldiers Home at Orting, Washington. It was from the records of the soldier’s home that finally some information on Riley Hall’s personal background became known. Mr. Hall was born in Warrick County, Indiana on 4 March 1839. The record also showed that he was alone—as he said, he had no living relatives. No record of his life before he entered the Navy and his service during the Civil War was found. The doctor assigned to the soldier’s home diagnosed him as virtually disabled—he was only 54 years old. When his application was approved, Riley Hall moved into the soldier’s home on May 5, 1893. Later his health may have improved a bit, and he took a leave from the home on December 26, 1894 in order to reside with and cut wood for a Mr. Davis at Columbia City, Washington.

However, it must have been a struggle for him, and by October 23, 1901, Mr. Hall was again unable to care for himself and his only income was his $6 per month government pension check. He was once again admitted as a resident at the Washington Soldier’s Home at Orting. The record shows that he was again dropped from the home’s rolls on September 21, 1904, and according to his pension record, Mr. Hall died September 23, 1906. He is buried at the Washington Soldiers Home Cemetery in Orting. Only his name and U.S. Navy are engraved on the simple upright government-issue headstone—no dates for his birth or his death are even given. Mysteriously the name on his headstone reads Rilea Hall, not Riley Hall. Rilea Hall is most likely his correct name, since it is the name shown on the official government records, i.e. his naval and pension records, as well as on his final admittance form to the soldier’s home, and a listing in a Tacoma newspaper showing his death.

With no one to inherit Mr. Hall’s 160-acre homestead land, the state very likely received it in exchange for his stay at the state-owned soldier’s home. Now, Rilea/Riley Hall, a simple and uneducated man, one who had sailed the seas and then came to settle by a little lake in Cedar Valley, can be remembered because of the lake, a creek and his surname on real estate property records.

By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Lou Gaeng is a long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. She researches and writes about the history and the people of both early-day Lynnwood and Edmonds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *