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  You Are Here: Home: Community: Community Resources: Historical Society



The history of the Bonney Lake plateau figures prominently in the early history of Washington Territory. The Naches Trail, a former Native American path extending from the waters of Puget Sound to the Cascade Mountains and beyond, saw not only the traffic of Native Americans, but also trappers with the Hudson Bay Company and explorers from the 1841 Wilkes United States Exploring Expedition.

Click to view the full 1856 Naches Trail MapWith the establishment of Washington Territory by an act of Congress in 1853, there was increased interest in settling the Puget Sound region. The Donation Land Claim Act served as an enticement for many new immigrants, including our area's first settlers. Michael Connell and James Williamson, former soldiers in the U.S. Army assigned to Fort Steilacoom, built cabins on their claims along the White River. Reuben Ashford Finnell built his cabin and barn a mile to the west on the banks of what is now known as Fennel Creek.

Puget Sound residents were eager to divert the wagon train migration from Oregon Territory to the wilderness of Western Washington in order to increase our population. The quickest way to do this was to create a road over the Cascades, thereby shortening the route by more than 200 miles. The old Naches Trail became known as the Immigrant Road, and the first wagon train to use the still unfinished road crossed the mountains in the fall of 1853, bringing families that became the founders of communities, such as Longmire, Biles, Lane, Himes, Kincaid, and many more.

View our Naches Trail Maps:


Connell's Prairie Historical MarkerFollowing the Medicine Creek Treaty of December 1854, Governor Isaac Stevens relegated the Native Americans to reservations. Once a free roaming people, unrest began building when the Native Americans came to understand how confined they were to be. On October 27, 1855, the Puget Sound Indian War began on Connell’s Prairie when Michael Connell and Lt. James McAllister were ambushed as the road crossed the swamp where the Native Americans waited in thick underbrush, hidden by fallen timber. The following day the Native Americans crossed the White River and killed 9 people and then returned to Connell’s Prairie a few days later to once again ambush unsuspecting victims, Col. A. Benton Moses and Joseph Miles. The Naches Trail - Immigrant Road soon became known as the Military Road providing a more rapid path between Steilacoom and Fort Walla Walla.

Kelly Farm in 1910William B. Kelley arrived in 1864 with his wife, father Nathan, and his siblings. Both William and his father claimed land on the banks of Finnell’s Creek, encompassing the prairie that had originally been settled by Reuben Finnell, which had been abandoned after the Native Americans burned his cabin and barn during the Puget Sound Indian War. Both William and Nathan went on to serve in the Washington Territorial Legislature, and William served as Pierce County Auditor during the 1880’s. 

Kelley Farm TodayKelley also donated land for a one-room school house. Nineteen year old Kelly Lake school teacher Amy Johns Ryan wrote of her keeping a hatchet on her school desk for protection against Native Americans, cougars, and other wildlife when she taught in 1897. Kelley Lake School finally closed its doors in 1963, when it merged with the larger neighboring school districts.

Ken SimmonsIn 1946 Ken Simmons moved his family into the Bonney Lake community. There was no electricity or water available and just a few dirt roads into the area. With Simmons spearheading a cooperative venture, it was just a matter of a few months and electricity was enjoyed by all. The next item that Simmons took on was a good water supply. The best way to achieve that was by incorporating, so on February 28, 1949, the Town of Bonney Lake was incorporated with a population reported at 327. Within a year, Washington’s newest town had its own water system, new roads, expanded electric lines, refuse disposal, and telephone service.

By 1957, there were 12 businesses in Bonney Lake, with several new shopping developments underway. By 1965, the population had increased to 1,280. Between 1942 and 1972, there were a number of attempts to dis-incorporate the community to return to being part of unincorporated Pierce County. The last such attempt was made in 1972.

Today, Bonney Lake is a thriving community with a population of over 17,000 (find more demographics here) and over 500 licensed businesses inside City limits. View our Community & Economic Development pages for information on what the future holds for our City!

Contact the Bonney Lake Historical Society


Thanks to the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society
for the photos and history.


Historical Markers in Bonney Lake

The Bonney Lake Historical Marker Project was the result of a collaboration between the City of Bonney Lake and the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society. Funding was provided through a grant from the Pierce County Historic Preservation Commission with matching funds coming from the City of Bonney Lake. Although many sites could have been eligible for historic marker status, it was determined to highlight the following ten. It is our hope that these markers will serve to educate the community regarding the Bonney Lake Plateau's very rich historic past and also aid in providing a sense of pride and identity to an area that stands as a testament that dreams can, indeed, soar.

Historic Marker MapView the Historic Marker location map

The first ten Historic Markers were placed at various locations around the City in 2009. One marker was dedicated in 2012 and two more were added in 2015. Below is a list of markers; click the image to view the historical information on each marker.


1. Town Hall  

Located at the Bonney Lake Public Safety Building, 18421 Veterans Memorial Drive E 
Town Hall

2. Naches Trail 

Located at Church Lake Rd & Veterans Memorial Dr E

Naches Trail


3. Perfield Hop Farm

Located at 192nd Ave E and Veterans Memorial Dr E


4. Native Gathering Place

Located on 192nd Ave E

Native Gathering Place

5. Kelley Farm 

Located at 20021 Sumner-Buckley Hwy

Kelley Farm

6. Swiss Park 

Located at 9205 198th Ave E

Swiss Park



7. Church of the Nazarene

Located at 7410 Meyers Rd

Church of the Nazarene

8. Ken Simmons' Resort 

Ken Simmons Park, 18200 74th St E
(on Lake Bonney)

Ken Simmons

9. Early Lake Tapps

Located at Allan Yorke Park, 7203 W Tapps Hwy

Lake Tapps

10. Sky Stone

Located in Naches Terrace neighborhood.

Sky Stone

11. Lake Tapps White River Project

Located at the Lake Tapps Powerhouse, 2111 East Valley Hwy

Funded by Cascade Water Alliance for the Lake Tapps White River Project Centennial (1922-2011).

12. Victor Falls

Located at Victor Falls Park
18212 Rhodes Lake Rd E

Victor Falls marker sample image

13. Connell's Cabin

Located at 7111 Barkubein Road E

This marker includes information on the Muckleshoot Tribe, settler Michael Connell, and the first Wagon Train.

Connells Prairie historical marker sample image



Swiss Park, 1970 - Courtesy of Northwest Photography ArchivesWashington State History Links & Resources

Lake Tapps aerial photograph, 1966 (Courtesy of the Northwest Photography Archives)

Contact the Bonney Lake Historical SocietyContacts

The Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society is a non-profit 501(c)3 group. 

Mailing Address: 

Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society
P.O. Box 8288
Bonney Lake, WA 98391


19306 Bonney Lake Blvd, Bonney Lake, WA 98391
(Public Works Center / old City Hall building)

Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 9:00 a.m. to Noon

Meetings: Monthly meetings are held the third Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m.


Email the Historical Society 
GBLHS Facebook Page 

Phone: 253-447-3268 (9am-12 noon, Mon-Wed only)


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