Native Plants: Western Washington's First Hops Farmers

Native American hop pickers on a farm in Western Washington, which enjoyed a robust harvest in 1889.

Cultivation of hops became important in Western Washington in the early 1880s after blight destroyed much of the crop in Europe. (Kent, Washington, is named after England’s main hop-producing region.) These photographs show Native American hop pickers on a farm in Western Washington, probably in King or Pierce county, which enjoyed a robust harvest in 1889.

According to U.S. Indian Agent Thomas Priestley, “several trainloads [of Native Americans] went to yards on Puget Sound, [where] good pickers made from $1.50 to $2.50 a day.”

In his 1889 report to Commissioner of Indian Affairs Thomas Jefferson Morgan, Priestley called this level of compensation “quite an inducement for them to leave the reserve” because hot weather and lack of water had damaged their own crops and they needed money to buy food.

Blight eventually wiped out hop farmers in Western Washington, too, but Eastern Washington, specifically the Yakima Valley, remains a world leader in hop production today.

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