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Before the first European settlers came to the area in the mid-1800’s, Ballard was occupied by the Shilshole Tribe. The Natives depended on the salmon and clams that were in the Shilshole Bay. After European settlers moved to the area and started to develop the railroad, the population began to grow quite rapidly. Captain William Rankin Ballard, joined forces with other developers in the area and gave his name to the then-city.
The city’s reputation for salmon fishing had spread far and wide. A lot of migrants from Scandinavia had settled in the area for this reason, with the Scandinavian influence still evident today.
The city became the second biggest in King County with 17,000 residents in 1907. Sadly Ballard was becoming a victim of its popularity. The water system was less than adequate, actually presenting as a hazard to residents by not being able to provide safe drinking water. When the Supreme Court ruled that the city of Seattle did not have to share its water with the surrounding areas, Ballard had no choice but to vote in favor of annexation and become part of Seattle. This was met with mixed feelings, though, as the Town Hall was draped in black and flag flown at half-mast on the day. There are still people driving around with “Free Ballard!” bumper stickers today!