Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Rock Monument Commemorating the Death of Chief Leschi

I feel so badly that until this week I didn't know who Chief Leschi (pronounced LESH-eye) was.  I had heard his name before because there is school district in Puyallup, WA, that carries his name, and I saw recently that there is a park in Dupont, WA, with his name, plus there are other places in Washington as well that are named for him.  But as to who he was?  I had no idea.

This week that changed when I found a history book on the Puget Sound that used to be my mother-in-law's.  I began reading it and saw the name of Chief Leschi in it.  His name was early in the book for he was alive in the 1800's and played an important part in the history of our state.  I eagerly read to find out his story, and to see what would happen.  He was a chief of the Nisqually Tribe, and reading about him I grew to have respect for him and to feel that he was a noble, good man.  I hoped so much that it would have a happy ending, and I cried when I read that after he was wrongfully accused and convicted of murder -- of a uniformed man during wartime -- and even though there was compelling evidence that Leschi wasn't even at the scene of that occurrence, he was unjustly and wrongfully hanged on February 19, 1858.

Then I found out that it was in Lakewood that it happened. . . he was hung in our city!  There is a rock at the Oakbrook Shopping Center, 8107 Steilacoom Boulevard, commemorating his death.  I go to that shopping center pretty often, and I had no idea it was there.  I had seen the rock, but didn't notice that it had an inscription on it and didn't realize that it stood for something important.  How could I have not realized that this happened in our city?!

I went there today to visit the rock monument sitting on a small grassy place under a garry oak tree. It's such an unassuming place for a monument to be, in front of a parking lot, surrounded by cement sidewalks, near businesses such as The Dollar Tree, Key Bank, a bookstore, a daycare center.   Yet I felt moved to see it, to touch it, to read the inscription.  The inscription reads as follows:

Chief of the Nisquallies
Martyr to the vengeance 
of the unforgiving white man
was hanged 
300 yards S.E. from here
February 19, 1858

Erected 1963 by Pierce County 
Pioneer & Historical Assn.

While reading more of his story online, I was pleased when I found out that justice was finally served when, 146 years later, Chief Leschi was exonerated on December 10, 2004, by a historical court: 
The historical court, led by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, ruled that if Leschi did in fact kill Moses, they were lawful combatants in a time of war, so a murder charge was not justified. source:
Here are some links I found with more information about Chief Leschi:
I'm linking this post to Shadow Shot Sunday.


  1. amazing the things we find out when we start researching the photographs we take.

  2. ... another sad commentary. Interestingly, you just learned this history of your town.

  3. Yes, it seems most of us are not "tourists" in our own cities. I'm sure I need to learn much more about mine.

  4. A true tragedy. I read a book years ago (I think I still have it) written by pioneer Ezra Meeker, called 'The Tragedy of Leschi.' I thought then that it was a travesty of justice and still do today. I did not know though that he was cleared of the charge in 2004, thankful that his name was cleared for his posterity.

  5. History is so full of wrongful deeds...

  6. Thank you all very much for your comments! Madge ~ I'll have to check out that book. Thank you for mentioning it.