Community Profile
In 1850, the first settlers arrived in the Bonney Lake area. They traveled across the Naches Trail, following paths made by Native American tribes on their east-west crossing, a route that closely parallels today's Old Sumner-Buckley Highway.

It wasn’t until 1946 that Bonney Lake was established as a town, on a 1,000 acre parcel. Until 1946, there was no electricity or water available. The Simmons family was the driving force for development and incorporation, with Kenneth Simmons serving three terms as Bonney Lake's first mayor.

Incorporation was finally accomplished in 1949, when the city population reached 327. By 1950, the new town had streets, a water system, electricity, telephone lines, refuse disposal, and a blood bank. By 1957, there were 12 businesses in Bonney Lake, with several new shopping developments underway.
Bonney Lake History


Historical Society Logo

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.
Historical Society
GBLHS Facebook Page
Phone: 253-447-3268

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.

With 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:
1856 Naches Trail Map
Current Naches Trail Map

Stone MonumentFollowing 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.

Kelley farm 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 NewKelley 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 Simmons SelfIn 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.

Historical Markers
Historical MarkerThe 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.

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.

Town HallTown Hall- Located at the Bonney Lake Public Safety Building, 18421 Veterans Memorial DR E

Naches Trail- Located at Church Lake Rd & Veterans Naches TrailMemorial DR E

Perfield Hop FarmPerfield Hop Farm- Located at 192nd Ave E and Veterans Memorial DR E

Native Gathering PlaceNative Gathering Place- Located on 192nd AVE E

Kelley FarmKelley Farm- Located at 20021 Sumner-Buckley HWY

Swiss ParkSwiss Park- Located at 9205 198th AVE E

Church of NazareneChurch of the Nazarene- Located at 7410 Meyers RD

Ken Simmons ResortKen Simmons' Resort- Ken Simmons Park, 18200 74th St E (on Lake Bonney)

Early Lake TappsEarly Lake Tapps- Located at Allan Yorke Park, 7203 W Tapps HWY

Sky Stone MonumentSky Stone- Located in Naches Terrace neighborhood.

Lake tapps ProjectLake 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).

Victor FallsVictor Falls- Located at Victor Falls Park, 18212 Rhodes Lake RD E

Connells CabinConnell's Cabin- Located at 7111 Barkubein Road E This marker includes information on the Muckleshoot Tribe, settler Michael Connell, and the first Wagon Train.

Washington State History Links And Resources


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