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National Wildlife Refuge

100 Brown Farm Rd
Olympia, WA   98516 - 2302
E-mail: Glynnis_Nakai@fws.gov
Phone Number: 360-753-9467
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
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Continued . . .

In 1845, the McAllister family settled on Medicine Creek, now McAllister Creek. By 1852, James McAllister had dammed McAllister Creek and built a swamill, which produed some of the first lumber to be exported from Puget Sound to San Francisco.

The refuge is the site of the signing of the first Indian treaty in Washington Territory, in December 1854, at a grove along the east bank of McAllister Creek now known as the Treaty Trees. The treaty reserved certain fishing, hunting, and gathering rights for the tribes. Members of the Nisqually Tribe still exercise these rights, fishing for salmon in refuge waters.

During the late 19th century, many estuarine habitats were lost, including parts of the Nisqually River estuary, as pioneers throughout the Puget Sound area diked and dreained deltas for agriculture. Ditches, dikes, and fence remnants on the tidelands seaward of the main dike indicate past use of some marsh areas, while old pilings and cable in the surge plain forest suggest logging.

In 1904, Alson Brown and his wife purchased 2,350 acres of the Nisqually River estuary. Using a horse-drawn scoop and a crew of 30 men, Brown built the original 4-mile dike, which is now a prominent feature of the refuge. In 1910, the dike was reinforced by a dredge that filled in the remaining sloughs. The fertile river deltas were converted to crop production. The farm also raised chickens and hogs, ran a dairy, and maintained a general store. The foundations of various farm buildings are scattered around the delta. The apple orchard near refuge headquarters is also a remnant of the farm. Structural and landscape elements associated with the Brown Farm have been found eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Although Brown went bankrupt after World War I, the farm continued to operate under subsequent owners, who rebuilt the Brown Farm Dike, higher than the first, as well at the McAllister Cross Dike. They also built the Twin Barns in 1932. These barns were determined ineligible to the NRHP in the 1970s. They were used as an environmental education center, but were severely damaged and have been closed since the 2001 earthquake.

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