Two projects focusing on the historical significance of Military Road (see map below) have received site-specific project funding from 4Culture, the cultural services agency that provides arts and heritage funding throughout King County.
The Seattle-Tacoma Morse Telegraph Club is planning activities for October 2014 to commemorate the installation 150 years ago of telegraph wires along Military Road and into Seattle. The arrival of the telegraph in 1864 meant that Washington pioneers who previously had had to wait for weeks or even months to get the news from back East suddenly could contact family and business associates much more quickly and follow the events of the Civil War almost as they happened.
Next October, the Morse Telegraph Club will be installing temporary telegraph stations along the stretch of Military Road that runs through Federal Way, Kent, SeaTac and Tukwila so that people can witness the transmission of Civil War-era telegrams on authentic equipment, and send messages of their own up and down the line.
The other project to receive funding is a proposal by Des Moines filmmaker Steve Edmiston (“The Maury Island Incident,” “The Day My Parents Became Cool”) to develop the first phase of a historical/cultural film series titled “Tales of Adventure From Old Military Road.”
One of the oldest roads in the state, Military Road was designed to stretch border-to-border in Washington Territory, from Fort Vancouver to Fort Bellingham. It was funded during the Franklin Pierce administration at the request of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, an expansionist who wanted to protect American settlers following the 1855 Indian Wars. Road surveyors were instructed to follow high ground to keep an eye on Native American movements, and in the Puget Sound region to blaze a course inland, beyond the artillery range of British warships.
A few years later, Davis would leave the Union to become president of the Confederate States of America, and junior officers who had been stationed at forts along the Road, including Ulysses Grant and George Pickett, also made their way back East to fight on opposite sides of the Civil War.
Four local historical societies from Tukwila, Highline, Kent and Federal Way will assist in the execution of these site-specific projects. For the past two years, they have been working together under the auspices of SoCoCulture, the umbrella organization for arts and heritage groups in South King County, to draw attention to Military Road.
For more information, visit http://sococulture.org/category/military-road-project/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.