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Kitsap County History can be divided into two distinct timeframes, Territorial and Statehood (1857 -1889). The Washington Territorial Legislature created Kitsap County on January 16, 1857. It was originally named Slaughter County in honor of Lt. William Slaughter who died in 1855 during the Indian Wars. However, a few weeks later the county name changed to Kitsap in honor of a local Native American chief whose name means “Brave.”

The Territorial period was marked by a surge in economic development. The San Francisco lumber merchants caught attention of this area because of its unique geographic qualities. The land was surrounded by water, protected harbors, and large stands of virgin trees. Five great lumber mills were established, Apple Tree Cove, Kingston in 1852, Port Gamble in 1853, Port Orchard #1 (Enetai Beach, Bremerton) in 1854 , Seabeck, 1857 and Port Blakely in 1864. In 1854, the Kingston operation moved to Port Madison. Each of these lumber towns supported shipbuilding facilities, around which were built company owned housing, stores, schools, mills and community organizations.

After the lands were logged inland, hordes of homesteaders arrived to farm around the stumps. Ethnic communities developed, the most noticeable, Poulsbo, inhabited almost entirely by Norwegians. Even today Poulsbo's ethnic heritage is evident. The Statehood period in Kitsap County is notable for the growth of the military presence in the area. The US government's search for a harbor suitable for a naval dry-dock facility culminated with the purchase of land on Sinclair Inlet and the development of Bremerton. This was followed by the establishment of Fort Ward (Bainbridge Island) and the opposite shoreline, named Battery Mitchell, at Manchester. Gun batteries were built to protect the entrance of Bremerton. None, however, were placed at Battery Mitchell which is now the site of Manchester State Park.

Prior to W.W.I, the government also established a torpedo station at Keyport, and an ammunition depot at Bangor on Hood Canal. The Bangor facility is now homeport to ten Trident submarines, and is one of two US Trident bases.


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