This street originates in the 1890 plat of the Byron Addition to the City of Seattle, filed by Byron Andrew Young (1845–1926) and his wife, Jane Wetmore Young (1850–1925). It would seem to be named after his wife’s maiden name, she being one of the children of Seymour Wetmore (1828–1897). Whether or not it was named after her or her father (a real possibility, as we’ll see) is unknown. (If her, that puts it in the same category as S Kenny Street, Sturgus Avenue S, Perkins Lane W, Thorndyke Avenue W, and Keen Way N.)
Wetmore “founded Seattle’s first tannery and shoe making business in 1855” with Milton Daniel Woodin (1800–1869), who was the father of his wife, Ann Woodin Wetmore (1829–1886). (Woodinville, located northeast of Seattle along the Sammamish River, was named after the Woodin family.) He homesteaded land in Rainier Valley, which later became the subject of a lawsuit against him by all his children except Jane. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on September 17, 1892,
Seymour Wetmore is an old settler in this section, who took up a government claim of 160 acres of land, which lies across the present line of the Rainier avenue electric railway. With the growth of Seattle Wetmore, by the increase of the values of property, found himself quite a wealthy man.… After the death of his wife her share was divided among the seven children, each of whom received $5,500. The amount that the father has kept for himself is now valued at about $25,000.… Last July a petition was filed… asking for the appointment of a guardian for Seymour Wetmore, on the ground that he was an habitual drunkard and incapable of taking care of himself.… The eldest son… swore to the petition, which set out that the father was addicted to dangerous excess in the use of intoxicating liquors, and was in the habit of going around in the company of lewd women and squandering his money.… [Wetmore] admitted that he drank. He had always been a drinking man and always would be. But he indignantly denied the charges that he associated with lewd women. By his answers he intimated that the… proceedings were due to a desire on the part of the children to tie up his property so that they would be sure of it in case of his death.
Finally, in February 1895, the matter was settled, as the Post-Intelligencer reported on the 28th under the headline ‘Seymour Wetmore Will Be Free to Squander His Wealth — He only yearns to spend it’. The article first recapped the origin of the lawsuit:
He felt as rich as any of the lords of creation, and worked himself up to the intoxication of enjoyment by spending money for the sole pleasure of seeing it go. He went about, his pockets lined with $20 pieces. This sort of thing grew tiresome to his prospective heirs, who became desperate on learning that Wetmore had entered into a deal with Byron Young, of Tacoma, whereby the latter received, in return for a bauble, $8,000 in money and 50 lots in Byron addition.
The case dragged on for a while, but, as it turns out,
Pending the decision of the supreme court the property involved had been transferred and retransferred again and again until an abstract of title would make a formidable document. In consequence the case of [Wetmore’s guardian] vs. Young was dismissed by stipulation in the equity department last Saturday. There is now nothing left to fight over, and the inevitable conclusion is that the aged ward will be found able to take care of himself.
Wetmore Avenue S begins at 30th Avenue S just south of S Hanford Street, crosses S Byron Street, and goes 800 feet southeast to S Walden Street. There is another short segment — around 150 feet long — south of S Estelle Street, which turns into a footpath of about equal length connecting to S Spokane Street.
Born and raised in Seattle, Benjamin Donguk Lukoff had his interest in local history kindled at the age of six, when his father bought him settler granddaughter Sophie Frye Bass’s Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle at the gift shop of the Museum of History and Industry. He studied English, Russian, and linguistics at the University of Washington, and went on to earn his master’s in English linguistics from University College London. His book of rephotography, Seattle Then and Now, was published in 2010. An updated version came out in 2015.