Though the word Mukilteo is widely believed to mean "good camping site," the HistoryLink.org site notes that in the Snohomish dialect Muk-wil-teo means “narrow passage,” a reference to the sand spit that formed the original Mukilteo landing. Mukilteo was officially incorporated on May 8, 1947, but the city has a historic role in the development of the Puget Sound. It was at Mukilteo that the Point Elliott Treaty was signed between Governor Isaac Stevens and the chiefs of 22 Puget Sound tribes on January 22, 1855.
The treaty ceded land to the United States from Point Pully (now called Three Tree Point south of Seattle) to the British (Canadian) border in exchange for a variety of benefits, including land, education, health care and hunting and fishing rights. The treaty was signed before more than 2,500 Native Americans.
According to the Mukilteo Historical Society, the town became the first settled by Europeans in 1858 and was the county seat of Snohomish County from 1861 when Snohomish County was created from Island County to 1867, when the city of Snohomish became the county seat. Initially the settlement was called Point Elliott, the name given the location by the Wilkes Expedition in 1841.
In its early years, Mukilteo was a fishing village, trading post, and a port-of-entry. Surrounding wooded hills filled with Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock supported a lumber mill and the town also had a cannery, a brewery, and a gunpowder plant. Traces of the powder mill remain in the name of Powder Mill Gulch, a ravine that is located about one mile (1.6 km) into the city limits of Everett. Japanese Gulch provides rail access from the Mukilteo waterfront to the Boeing's Boeing Everett Factoryat Paine Field.
In 1900, the population was only 350. The next year, the federal Lighthouse Board decided to put a light and fog signal at the point in Mukilteo. The lighthouse, which still stands today, was completed in 1906.
Harbour Pointe is a mixed-use neighborhood at the south end of Mukilteo on land originally owned by Port Gamble Lumber Co. Harbour Pointe is the location of Kamiak High School and Harbour Pointe Middle School. After cutting timber from the area, Port Gamble sold it to Standard Oil of California (now Chevron) in the 1930s with the petroleum company planning to put a refinery on the property.
When the Alaskan oil fields were developed in the 1960s, Standard Oil decided that there was adequate capacity for refining at Anacortes and set aside plans to build a refinery on the property. In a locally-published book, "Picnic Point Pathways," author Sandy Sandborg says that the decision was probably influenced by the environmental battle that Richfield Oil Company had with its planned refinery development at Kayak Point, north of Everett, during the 1960s.
A parcel of 460 acres (1.9 km2) that would become Picnic Point Park, just south of the city's border, was leased to Snohomish County in 1970. Then, in 1977, Standard Oil donated it to the county. Another 2,350 acres (10 km2) were purchased by Harbour Pointe Limited Partnership in the 1980s from Standard Oil. It would become the mixed-used development anchored by Harbour Pointe Golf Club, opened in September, 1989.
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