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January 2021 - Living on the tide flats

tide flats

SMA's General Files include an 1884 letter to city leaders from George and Catherine Hill asking to be allowed to remain in their home. The Hills owned two houses on the tide flats at the foot of University Street, one with four rooms that they rented out, and the second with two rooms where they lived with their children. Catherine had lived on this property for seven years, and George had joined her there after they were married. They noted that the area was "unimproved and unused" and that their occupancy was "neither a nuisance to the public nor an obstruction to the highway."

They had learned that the city, "doubtless at the instance of some evil disposed persons, and laboring under a mistakement of the facts, and misinterpretation of the law," had ordered their houses to be razed. The Hills had been told to vacate their property, and the city marshal was directed to forcibly remove them if they refused.

The letter stated that Catherine was "greatly afflicted with the Rheumatism and much of the time helpless and under medical care." George was a longshoreman but "unable to earn much at his uncertain and unsteady trade, even when he can get employment and is able to work at it." Both were around sixty years old, and their main source of income was the rent on the larger house. If they were evicted, they said George would be forced to leave town to find work, and that without his care, Catherine would need to seek support from the city or county.

The Hills reminded city officials that "your Petitioners are citizens, Tax-payers, and bona fide residents of said City, and claim the same right to live in peace and the same opportunity to support and take care of themselves, as best they can, that is guaranteed to other well disposed citizens and inhabitants thereof." They asked to be "left undisturbed in the peaceful possession and quiet enjoyment of their humble home and little property."

The letter was written on March 21 but was not filed with City Council until April 3. Whatever caused the delay, it was costly to the Hills; when the Committee on Streets reported back to the Council on April 4, they noted that "said buildings have all been removed."