Sappho’s Ghost in Western Washington

Courtesy of WikiCommons
The Poet, as depicted on a wall in Pompeii

Hello! We’re hard at work getting ready for the Sappho episode of the History of Literature podcast, which we’ll release on Monday. Brilliant reader MAM posted this comment:

Did you know that Sappho influenced the name of what is now a ghost town in Western Washington in the late 1800’s?

Whaaaaaat!?

There was a community of people reading Sappho in Western Washington in the 1800s? Not just reading her, but naming their town after her?

I would have guessed Shakespeare or Plato. Maybe even Ovid. Dante, okay, right. The Bible, of course. Homer. Or the nineteenth-century greats: Dickens, Eliot, Austen, Trollope, Thackeray…

But Sappho? Who’d have guessed? This required more investigation!

As it turns out, the guy behind all this is exactly as you’d expect: a little crazy, a little passionate, somewhat charming, somewhat roguish.

The town [of Sappho] was founded by Martin Van Buren Lamoreux, who left St. John, Kansas in 1889 with 8 of his 10 children, his second wife and her 3 children from a prior marriage. Arriving in Seattle, some of the party settled on Lake Union, but Lamoreux, thinking that land worthless, set out for the Olympic Peninsula.

The land around Lake Union was worthless? Okay…he got that one wrong. In a pretty huge way.

But admiring Sappho? He got that one right!

Stop back on Monday to find out why!

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