Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground

New Episode Now on Podcast “A Year of Wonderland

Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, Mt. Rainier National Park

Indian Henry’s Grave

Earlier this year I finally made it to Indian Henry’s (Soo-Too-Lick) burial site.

I never realized Indian Henry had been near me where and when I lived in Eatonville all along. He wasn’t that hard to to find either. A 4-H Club had built his monument, a few Eagle Scouts later refurbished and cleaned up his grave, and years later here he lays south of Eatonville along the Nisqually area on the side of the Mashel Prairie Road. There is a small shaker church cemetery where he and only a few others rest.

If you remember from one of my episodes back, Indian Henry had been one of the three only Indian guides who was immortalized by areas of Mt. Rainier being named after them and he probably never fully understood at the time how one person could have such a big impact.

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Indian Henry Soo-Too-Lick
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Indian Henry 1825-1895

Indian Henry came to Western Washington in the 1850s, banished from the village of Simcoe, where my great great uncle was an Indian Sub Agent on the Yakama Indian Reservation at Ft. Simcoe for killing a medicine man. Today I am unsure if their paths had crossed.

Born Soo-Too-Lick in 1825, historians aren’t sure of his tribal origin. He is believed to be of Nisqually, Cowlitz or Klickitat origin. He eventually settled on the Mashel Prairie near present-day Eatonville in 1864 among other Native Americans primarily of Nisqually and Klickitat descent.

According to Edmond Meany, when Henry Winsor, a mail carrier, met Soo-Too-Lick he asked him his name. It was unpronounceable to Winsor prompting him to joke, “that’s no name-your name is Indian Henry,” offering Soo-Too-Lick his “Boston” name. The name stuck. Indian Henry adapted well to this name as he did with many of the customs of the “Boston” settlers. He was equally as comfortable with his Native customs and had little problems living within both of these “worlds.”

Indian Henry wore western style clothing and took up farming on the Mashel Prairie. He raised horses and cows as well as cultivated grains and vegetables. He was fluent in English and several Indian languages. He converted to Christianity. He was hospitable to both natives and non-natives, establishing many friendships and companionships. Many folks who headed to Mount Rainier would stop and stay at Henry’s homestead for a night, purchase supplies from him and use his guide services.

Indian Henry became known as an excellent woodsman and guide. He led several climbing parties to Mount Rainier, but never summited the mountain. Like most area Native Americans, he held the mountain as a sacred place and would not venture onto its glaciers believing to do so would bring bad luck. Some of the notables Henry guided included James Longmire, George Bayley, Philemon Van Trump, and A.C. Ewing. In 1888, Henry guided John Muir and his party to Mount Rainier. Fay Fuller spent the evening at Indian Henry’s place on her way to the mountain for her historical ascent.

Indian Henry Had Three Wives

Indian Henry had three wives as was customary of his people at the time. One story goes that Henry was brought before Judge James Wickersham in Tacoma to explain his marriage to these women.  The judge told him that he would have to give up two of his wives. He kept his first wife which he ended up having five children with including a son he named Wickersham Soo-Too-Lick. Despite the conflict of having to let go of two of his wives, he apparently didn’t harbor any ill will for the judge, naming a son after him. Henry respected that Wickersham had an understanding of native cultures. Henry’s other two wives remained nearby working for him.

Indian Henry became fairly well off. It was believed by many of the area settlers that Henry had a gold mine somewhere on Mount Rainier. He always paid for his supplies at the local mercantile with gold nuggets. Some area settlers looked for this mine around Henry’s favorite hunting grounds but to no avail. Aside from the gold, Henry made a decent living by providing travelers lodging and supplies at his farm.

Despite raising cattle and cultivating crops, Indian Henry often left his farm for periods of time to hunt and gather food for the winter; keeping within his native routines. One of his favorite spots for hunting mountain goats is a beautiful alpine meadow area splotched with sparkling tarns-a beloved place by hikers today known as Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.

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Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground

Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground was one of the first hikes I took my 3 boys on.

Coming up from Kautz Creek, my then husband took our 8 year old twin boys and 6 year son on our first attempt. We started our adventure early in the day but soon the steep hill and large steps were too much for them. We ended up having lunch, treats, snacks, cookies, and just having fun playing in the forest that day.

Years later, my second attempt from Longmire was with my friend Diane. I believe it was around 90 degrees that day. We ran out of water, the bugs ate us alive, and because of the fact there was no way to treat water or filter water on me that day, I ended up jumping into snow banked Mirror Lake to cool down. If I wouldn’t have, I probably would have become so dehydrated, I wouldn’t have made it back the 17 mile round trip.

After that experience, we decided to only go in early or late summer and not during the heat. Diane and I would spend many years hiking in this area between the Nisqually entrance to Paradise and Camp Muir. It was my good fortune to have a friend like her during a difficult and challenging time of my personal life after becoming a newly divorced 40 year old with three teenage boys.

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