This street is named for John Cornelius Holgate (1828–1868). Born in Ohio, he took the Oregon Trail west in 1847 and explored Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River by canoe in the summer of 1850. (The Seattle Times calls him “the first non-Indian of record to have done so.”) He returned to Oregon afterwards, however, and did not settle in what is now Seattle — specifically, Beacon Hill — until 1853, two years after the Denny Party landed at Alki Point. His mother, Elizabeth; brothers, Lemuel and Milton; and sister, Abigail, along with her husband, Edward Hanford (namesakes of S Hanford Street), soon followed. The Hanfords settled on the hill — known thereafter as Holgate and Hanford Hill until the late 1880s — adjacent to Holgate. (Milton was one of three whites to die in the Battle of Seattle in 1856, and was himself the cause of one of those deaths, having earlier shot Jack Drew, a deserting sailor from the USS Decatur, in a “friendly-fire” incident.)
A gold prospector, Holgate left for Idaho in 1863, and died there in 1868, the first casualty of the War Under the Mountain, a conflict between two rival gold mines in the Owyhee Desert, one of which he was part owner. According to Robert L. Deen, writing for True West magazine, there are conflicting accounts of Holgate’s death. The Owyhee Avalanche reported that:
Desperate fighting ensued during the charge…. John C. Holgate… one of the foremost in the advance, was shot in the head, and must have died instantaneously.
The Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman had a slightly different story:
It appears that J.C. Holgate has been killed, some say assassinated, murdered — not killed in a fight, but shot through the head without provocation.
SW Holgate Street begins in West Seattle just west of 47th Avenue SW and goes ¼ of a mile east to California Avenue SW at Palm Avenue SW. There are two more short segments on the peninsula, between 41st Avenue SW and Arch Avenue SW and between Victoria Avenue SW and Brook Avenue SW. S Holgate Street resumes at Utah Avenue S and goes ¾ of a mile east to an overpass over Interstate 5, where it becomes Beacon Avenue S. There is a one-block stretch between 12th Avenue S and 13th Avenue S on top of the hill, and then Holgate goes a mile from the Beacon Hill Playfield at 14th Avenue S to 31st Avenue S at Colman Park, the half-block east of 16th Avenue S being a stairway and the block between 28th Avenue S and 29th Avenue S being unimproved. There is finally a short stretch east of Lakeside Avenue S at 36th Avenue S that essentially serves as a private driveway; it is a shoreline street end, but one not yet accessible to the public.