Llyn De Danaan and Carol McKinley have created a walking tour exploring Olympia’s Gay and Lesbian History. Thank you to them for permitting us to post this on our website.
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For the remainder of 2002, the Olympia Historical Society continued the process of “standing up” its permanent organization while performing its mission and responding to opportunities. Members elected a Board of Directors, who in turn adopted staggered Board terms and elected officers and adopted a budget for the following year. There were three more meetings of the Society, interspersed with two Board meetings.
The June 6 Meeting
Two short news items in The Olympian, for May 28 and June 3, publicized the Society’s next meeting on June 6 at the Thurston County Public Health and Human Services building on Lilly Road. Presiding officer Annamary Fitzgerald called the meeting to order at 7 p.m. Members present were Rebecca Christie, Marilyn Connon, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Susan Goff, Beverly Gunstone, Pat Harper, Rob Harper, Meta Heller, David Kindle, Winnifred Olsen, Shanna Stevenson, Derek Valley, Lanny Weaver.
Treasurer Drew Crooks reported that OHS had joined South Sound Heritage Association for $25. After a $2.00 account fee the Society’ bank balance was $670.28. There were 39 paid members.
Susan Goff reported a request for an image of the ferry Hartstene Two which had operated from the 1930s-‘60s. Referred to the Stretch Island Maritime Museum.
Derek Valley announced an upcoming exhibit for the County Sesquicentennial, “Thurston County Through Artist’s Eyes,” at the State Capitol Museum opening July 2, and distributed cards for the event. There will also be a special Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) exhibit at SCM. He noted the recent ceremony at the Washington State Historical Society where the Robert Gray Medal was presented to Shanna Stevenson.
Discussion RE: the Carnegie Library building, on sale for $1 million. Some interest in it as future site for OHS. Anna Fitzgerald outlined some of the building’s needs, plus a capital fund drive and endowment requirement, which she estimated would bring total project cost to $5 million. Issues identified included partnering, funding, parking, accessibility (building lacks elevator). No consensus about pursuing the project but members would keep informed of developments regarding the building.
Discussion Items from Agenda:
Drew Crooks asked that his Treasurer’s responsibilities be transferred to Lois Fenske because she was better qualified and his expertise in historic preservation could be better utilized. Agreed by consensus.
Annamary Fitzgerald reported that the Locke family had approached the Bigelow House Preservation Association about channeling funds for a proposed Chinese community marker in downtown Olympia. BHPA had been approached due to Ed Echtle’s work on Chinese community history locally and in Seattle. She felt it was more appropriate for OHS to be the channel given its broader mission. This prompted an initial discussion of applying for IRS 501(c)(3) status as contributions would provide tax benefits for the donors. OHS could get publicity for its participation in the project, it was consistent with OHS bylaws while someone else would promote the project and raise the money. Members agreed there should be a memorandum of agreement for the work and to establish an account as a restricted fund.
Fall/Winter meetings would be at the Health Department building. The permanent Board will decide whether Society meetings would be monthly or bi-monthly on the first Saturday at 10 a.m.
Continued discussion of IRS status: Annamary Fitzgerald reported that, depending on group income ($10,000 more or less) the fee would be $150 or $450 and a preliminary ruling would be for six years. Drew Crooks thought OHS should wait a year or two, others suggested the Heritage Resource Center could help with the application. Decision deferred until early 2003 when a permanent Board would be in place.
Lois Fenske agreed to provide information about OHS to The Olympian for its annual “Source Book.”
Education Committee: Drew Crooks reported the committee was working on future OHS programs: Jim Hannum on railroads of the area; Dave Burney on Little Hollywood; Susan Goff on the Ostrander family and the Crosby House; Michael Houser on local 1950s-‘60s architecture; and Ed Echtle on the Olympia Chinese community. Also, the committee would have a booth at the Family History Day August 17 at the State Capitol Museum. Funding needed for exhibit materials and a display board. The display would have information about OHS and historic photos, possible from the recent postcard donation. Derek Valley moved, Marilyn Connon seconded, to allocate $100 for exhibit material. Drew Crooks would consult with OHS officers on display content. Shanna Stevenson will provide a display panel.
Membership Committee: Rebecca Christie suggested printing 250 copies of the membership brochure on 60 lb. Paper, folded. Pat Harper moved, Drew Crooks seconded, to allocate $40 for the brochure.
Nominations Committee: Annamary Fitzgerald will appoint the committee and a slate of nominees for the permanent board would be presented at the August meeting.
Territorial Sesquicentennial: Committee will participate with Olympia Heritage Commission to invite Kent Richards to speak in November 2003 on Isaac Stevens, and help with a possible walking tour of Territorial buildings (sites?) in Olympia.
Program: Eli Sterling presented his “Vision for Capitol Lake.”
The August 1 Meeting
Annamary Fitzgerald called this meeting to order at 7 p.m. at the County Health building. Present were Bob Arnold, Janet Charles, Rebecca Christie, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels, Roger Easton, Edward Echtle, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Mark Foutch, Susan Goff, Beverly Gunstone, Pat Harper, Rob Harper, Genevieve Hupe’, Russ Hupe’, David Kindle, Ron Locke, Brian Miller, Bruce Newman, Winnifred Olsen, Vicki Poitra, Shanna Stevenson, Lanny Weaver.
Treasurer Lois Fenske reported expenses of $38 for P.O. Box annual rent, $35.64 for membership brochures, $2 monthly bank fee, and $8.95 for the website. Two new members paid a total of $50 dues. Balance as of August 1, $640.79.
Eve Johnson announced the AASLH conference in Portland. Annamary Fitzgerald said that some South Sound Heritage Association members would be part of a panel presenting there on September 25.
Rebecca Christie announced that the membership brochures were ready for distribution.
OHS now has community rebate cards from Ralph’s Thriftway grocery which rebates one percent of purchases back to OHS from shoppers presenting the card.
Nominations Committee report: (The minutes do not name members of the committee.) Annamary Fitzgerald announced the slate of candidates for the first permanent Board of Directors election: Lois Fenske, Susan Goff, Roger Easton, Annamary Fitzgerald, Lannny Weaver, Pat Harper, Spencer Daniels, Ed Echltle and Shanna Stevenson. Drew Crooks moved, Rebecca Christie seconded, and the slate was approved for submittal to the membership. OHS members would receive ballots by mail and Email; the ballot directed them to vote for seven of the nine nominees by August 9.
Olympia Chinese Marker: Ed Echtle and Ron Locke presented information about the project. Proposed location is in Heritage Park on the west side of Water Street, site of the last “Chinatown” in Olympia. Winnifred Olsen remembered the site as being more between 5th and 6th on Water since her family’s business was on the corner of 4th. Treasurer Lois Fenske expressed concern about OHS involvement, costs for banking and time for accounting of funds. She asked if funds would pass through OHS’ primary account or a separate account, both of which would bring fiduciary responsibility to OHS, which she opposed. Ed Echtle had assumed that OHS already had IRS 501(c)(3) status. Both Ed Echtle and Annamary Fitzgerald thought OHS could gain recognition from the project. Bob Arnold noted that Olympia’s nonprofit PARC committee associated with the Parks department already had tax-free status and could serve as the pass-through for project funds. This option should be explored with Jane Boubel, City Parks director. After further discussion, an informal vote was taken with 16 of 25 persons attending in favor of pursuing OHS involvement. Ed Echtle said the Chinese Marker group would return with a more detailed proposal. Project timeline might be as long as five years. Annamary Fitzgerald noted the upcoming OHS program by Ed Echtle on Olympia’s Chinese community.
Education Committee: Drew Crooks reported on the tabletop display he was preparing for the Family Heritage Festival, featuring views of Old Olympia including some of the recently-donated postcards. The new membership brochures would be available. Members signed up to staff the display.
Membership Committee: Attendees agreed to distribute the new brochures.
Collections Committee: Drew Crooks has been using Lacey Museum’s collections policy for accessioning donations but an OHS policy should be developed. In another development, there might be an opportunity for OHS to acquire the collection of photographs from The Olympian, which might be de-accessioned from the State Capitol Museum and moved to Tacoma. Drew Crooks and Annamary Fitzgerald spoke in favor of investigating the possibility although storage and staffing (for access by researchers?) would be a challenge. Drew Crooks moved, Rebecca Christie seconded a motion to look into requiring that collection and other Olympia-related materials if they become available. Motion passed. Winnifred Olsen and her high school classmates could assist with identification and labeling of the photographs. Members signed up for a committee to pursue this issue.
Territorial Sesquicentennial: As discussed June 6, OHS will participate with the Olympia Heritage Commission to invite Kent Richards to speak in November 2003 on Isaac Stevens with a possible walking tour of Territorial Buildings in Olympia. Shanna Stevenson has now confirmed Kent Richards as the speaker.
Bob Arnold announced that the Hazard Stevens House at 1100 Carlyon Avenue was being renovated, and the Yeager House on E. 10th owned by Rose This would be featured on HGTV’s program “Restore America.”
Program: Dave Burney’s presentation, “Finding Little Hollywood.”
Postscript: In a mail and Email notification August 16, Annamary Fitzgerald informed OHS members that Spencer Daniels, Roger Easton, Ed Echtle, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Susan Goff and Shanna Stevenson had been elected as OHS’ first permanent Board of Directors. The new Directors would now schedule a meeting and elect officers. Members would be notified of the Board meeting.
First OHS Permanent Board of Directors Meeting
This meeting was called to order by Annamary Fitzgerald at 7:05 p.m., September 12, 2002, at the County Health Department Building on Lilly Road. Board members present: Spencer Daniels, Edward Echtle, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Susan Goff. (Apparently absent: Roger Easton and Shanna Stevenson). Also attending: David Kindle.
The Board appointed Annamary Fitzgerald, President; Edward Echtle; Vice President; Shanna Stevenson, Secretary; Lois Fenske, Treasurer. All officer positions are for one-year terms per the Bylaws.
Board member terms were then adjusted to achieve the staggered terms called for in the Bylaws:
One-year term expiring December 2003: Spencer Daniels
Two-year terms expiring December 2004: Edward Echtle, Susan Goff
Three-year terms expiring December 2005: Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Shanna Stevenson
Treasurer’s Report: Lois Fenske clarified requirements for financial reporting. The board suggested reports include a current account balance, overview of expenses and membership total be presented at general membership meetings. Lois noted that expenses paid, either donated by members or reimbursed to them must be tracked for accounting records. Annamary Fitzgerald suggested a form could be used to show what funds were spent for and if cash reimbursement or in-kind donations were involved. Lois Fenske also noted that an annual budget must be approved by the Board by November 30 each year. She will develop a proposed budget to share with the general membership at the October meeting. The Board will approve a final budget at its November meeting.
Board and Membership Meetings: These would alternate month-to-month. A general membership meeting would be Thursday October 3 at 7 p.m., a Board meeting Saturday November 2 at 10 a.m., and a general membership potluck meeting Saturday December 7 at 10 a.m. For 2003, General membership meetings would be in January, March, May, July, September and November; Board meetings in February, April, June, August, October and December.
Membership: Spencer Daniels will coordinate efforts.
Collections: Susan Goff will coordinate as potential collections and physical space become available.
Programs: Drew Crooks will continue developing programs for the general membership meetings.
Newsletter: Lois Fenske reported that the newsletter (concept?) has evolved into a quarterly journal of scholarly research.
Fundraising: Focus first on establishing 501(c)(3) status.
Website: Ed Echtle reported that he would add a bibliography of secondary research sources, links to library and archival resources and minutes of previous Society meetings to the website. The Board discussed adding a “virtual bookstore” to provide more public access to locally published research, but concluded that providing information on where and how to purchase them would be the most appropriate OHS web feature for now. Echtle will document all access information for managing the website for OHS’ records.
Meeting adjourned at 8:37 p.m.
The October 3 General Membership Meeting
President Annamary Fitzgerald called the meeting to order a 7 p.m. at the County Health building. Present: Bob Arnold, Janet Charles, Rebecca Christie, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels, Roger Easton, Edward Echtle, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Mark Foutch, Susan Goff, Beverly Gunstone, Pat Harper, Rob Harper, Genevieve Hupe’, Russ Hupe’, David Kindle, Ron Locke, Brian Miller, Bruce Newman, Winnifred Olsen, Vicki Poitra, Shanna Stevenson, Lanny Miller.
President Fitzgerald formally announced the Board election results, and the September 12 Board actions on staggered Board terms and officer appointments.
Treasurer Lois Fenske reported the usual expenses: Bank fee, website fee and copying. OHS has 43 members and the bank balance is $640.09. She distributed a proposed 2003 budget and a form for reporting expenditures in support of OHS activities whether in-kind or reimbursable. The IRS wants to know in-kind and other contributions, and the information can also be used for grant matches. She reconfirmed that the 501(c)(3) application fee for groups with OHS’ income level would be $150. Members thanked Ms. Fenske for her work. The Board will adopt a 2003 budget at its November meeting ; it will be provided to the membership at the January meeting.
The Olympian photograph collection at the State Capitol Museum: WSHS has moved most of the collection to the Tacoma facility. WSHS has expressed no intention to de-accession the collection. Questions to be referred to WSHS Director David Nicandri. Members acknowledged that the collection was going to a better archival facility with more staff to assist researchers. Drew Crooks remarked that this might be a spur for OHS to develop its own collection housed in Olympia. Alexander Marr (not listed in attendees above) questioned whether St. Martin’s or Evergreen might house collections temporarily. Roger Easton reported that some of the portrait collection from photographers Jeffers and Ron Allen had been purchased from Susan Parish by State Archives. Susan Goff noted that some items, such as a Mottman ashtray she knew about, would not fit with archival storage. Annamary Fitzgerald agreed that OHS’ collection would not be all photographs. Susan Goff noted it would not be wise to locate OHS’ collection in multiple locations. Rebecca Christie reported no response from the Olympia Downtown Association about donated space; this should be followed up.
Family Heritage Day: Drew Crooks reported that the event was not highly attended. WSDOT Photogrammetry had donated some labor, which made the event (OHS’ exhibit?) less expensive to produce. Russ and Genevieve Hupe’ had attended and said they thought people found the exhibit interesting.
Olympia School District Sesquicentennial: Shelly Carr from OSD commended OHS for organizing. The first school here was opened in 1852 and the District was planning a two-year celebration. A committee was formed in January and was planning and carrying out events. Lynn Erickson was on the committee, and has played a key part in the oral histories. For example, Wanda Roder, the first woman district administrator (1938-39) for some reason was not part of the established documentary history of the District so her recent oral history was important. Ms. Carr distributed commemorative calendars. Susan Rohrer and Melissa Parr from the State Capital Museum are helping with photo identification. The district newsletter will feature historic information about the district during the two-year celebration. Ms. Carr suggested that OHS could assist this project by helping with oral histories, deciding disposition of tapes and transcriptions, and also helping with Lynn Erickson’s project “The View From Sylvester’s Window.” All school libraries now have copies of “My Backyard History Book” to interest students in community history. TCTV is planning productions that OHS members could help with. Winnifred Olsen suggested that her Olympia High School class recently had its 68th reunion and some of them might be good oral history interviewees. She also offered to assist with PTA history in the District. Shanna Stevenson will be providing information on the Cloverfields Farm for Pioneer School. Ms. Carr said the librarian in each school will be in charge of the school’s history. She is preparing a Resource Book and photo exhibit for the celebration.
Territorial Sesquicentennial: Roger Easton reported that he had been appointed to the Sesquicentennial Commission. He had mentioned to Secretary of State Sam Reed that OHS would be doing a project for the observance. Shanna Stevenson mentioned OHS co-sponsorship with Olympia Heritage Commission of the Kent Richard presentation in November 2003 on Isaac Stevens. Consensus was reached that OHS would work on a special project for the Sesquicentennial.
David Kindle announced that the Capitol Theater and office building was undergoing repair but that additional damage had been discovered.
Annamary Fitzgerald announced the Fall Bulb Sale at the Bigelow House Museum, October 12. Vendors of antiques (plants?) and perennials will be there plus a walking tour of the neighborhood by Lauren Danner. Laura Cannon Robinson will give a garden tour of the Bigelow House and evaluate the BHPA proposal for garden restoration there.
Susan Goff announced National Archives Week beginning in October, featuring special projects and presentations.
Drew Crooks announced an Archaeology Month presentation October 24 at the Lacey Community Center.
City councilmember Mark Foutch noted that the City would be making a decision in November on Public Facility District proposals for a Convention Center. He said Susan Parish had contacted him suggesting a “high tech” permanent local history display in the facility. He suggested it could be pre-wired for AV uses for historical presentations, which might serve as one approach to a local history museum/archive. Sites under consideration are at the head of East Bay and at the Phoenix Inn/Old Yardbirds property. Russ Hupe’ moved, Winnifred Olsen seconded, motion approved, that the Board would explore options for the proposed PFD Convention Center.
Alexander Marr announced an upcoming Celebration of Chinese Music and Culture at The Evergreen State College.
Program: Ed Echtle’s presentation of “Olympia Chinese Community History.”
Wrapping Up 2002: The November 2 Board Meeting
President Annamary Fitzgerald called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m. (minutes say p.m.) at the County Health Building. Board Members Present: Spencer Daniels, Edward Echtle, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Susan Goff, Roger Easton, Shanna Stevenson. Also present: David Kindle.
Treasurer’s Report: Lois Fenske reported an end of year balance of $617.00. She distributed a revised budget for 2003. It now conforms to nonprofit organizations standards for accounting in the cash system. Although the revised budget shows different categories, the amounts are the same as presented at the October general membership meeting. The budget projected an increase to 84 members, total income rising from 2002’s actual of $965 to $3980, attributed to increased member dues, donations and organized fundraising. Expenditures would increase from the current year’s $400.36 to a projected $1667, reflecting growing Society programs such as Outreach Activities, Program Guest Speaker Expense and Travel reimbursement, Publications and Collections, Brochures and Development Activities. Spencer Daniels moved, Ed Echtle seconded, and the Board approved the 2003 Budget.
Membership Management: Membership applications will be received by Treasurer Lois Fenske, who will deposit dues and pass the application forms to Shanna Stevenson who will file the forms and keep a current list of members. Treasurer Fenske will also pass new members’ contact information to President Fitzgerald to add to her list for meeting notifications. Membership renewal requests (reminders?) to be sent by Email with the form available on the website in PFD format. Those without Email will be sent postcards with the forms printed on them.
Collection Issues: Susan Goff will draft a statement of need for suitable physical space for the growing OHS Collection. Ed Echtle and Shanna Stevenson will pursue possible locations and notify Annamary Fitzgerald for the membership to consider at the January meeting. Shanna Stevenson brought up Mark Foutch’s suggestion at the October meeting regarding space for a local history display at the City-proposed PFD funded conference center. President Fitzgerald will draft a letter to the City Council requesting a display cabinet in the facility for quarterly rotating local history displays (similar to Lacey City Hall and Lacey Library). In exchange for this service, OHS would request 400 square feet of storage/office space in the new facility.
Web Update: Ed Echtle will provide a PDF format membership form on the OHS website. He also asked to be informed of upcoming events etc. for the website’s calendar. He reported that web searches for “Olympia History” bring our website up first. He then reported a request to post commercial ads on the website. Board agreed that he would draft a policy for consideration at the next general membership meeting. For now only public or non-profit resources would be posted, with a future possibility of sponsored links.
President Fitzgerald will review IRS requirements for 501(c)(3) status and assign tasks to Board members to complete the application form.
For the Territorial Sesquicentennial display, Roger Easton suggested “Then and Now” photographs. He will work with Ed Echtle on the project. He also noted ongoing projects providing information on early censuses and land records through the State Archives.
David Kindle reported that the Olympic Club in Centralia was being re-done by McMenamins and was due to open.
Members were reminded to submit reimbursement forms to Treasurer Fenske. Annamary Fitzgerald asked for program suggestions for upcoming meetings. Michael Houser from the State Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation will present the January program on local modern architecture.
The November 2, 2002 Board meeting adjourned at noon.
Not quite 13 ½ months after that first letter dated August 19, 2001, the Olympia Historical Society had completed all the organizing tasks called for in its Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. OHS was increasingly recognized as a valuable community resource. Opportunities were constantly appearing which presented the usual practical challenges of “money and time” faced by any volunteer-staffed group. Urgent administrative chores such as building membership and completing the 501(c)(3) application vied for attention as the Society continued to provide interesting and informative programs, displays, responses to inquiries, and web-based resources for its members and the general public. Quite an accomplishment for a group of very talented and dedicated local citizens.
Anne Kilgannon, with thanks to Beth Dubey for background information.
Louis Bettman arrived in Olympia and set up a general merchandise store in 1853. Within a year, two other establishments with Jewish proprietors opened for business in the muddy little village that would become the city of Olympia: Goldman and Rosenblatt’s People’s Emporium and M. Louisson’s shop, filled with goods from San Francisco. They offered the townspeople and local farmers and loggers—and maybe most especially their wives—everything from dress trimmings imported from New York, to violins and groceries. It was the beginning of the end of frontier conditions. Like many of the early Jewish settlers in the west, they came as town dwellers and merchants, not as farmers or workers in the woods or mills.
They were part of a wave of German-speaking Jews leaving Europe between 1830 to 1860, seeking economic betterment and escape from the harsh conditions imposed on them by anti-Semitic regimes then dominant in central Europe. They came to the Pacific Northwest often by way of California, lured west by the gold rush. Some of the young men came alone, unmarried and without connections, who by dint of hard work established themselves and only later found wives and set up families. Others were part of far-flung family networks that supported new endeavors in pioneer towns and built upon their connections to establish businesses. Gustave and Bertha Rosenthal setting up a shipping business and dealt in wool, coal and oysters. The Kaufman brothers sold clothing and Isaac Harris stocked all manner of dry goods. Edward Salomon, who had served as a general during the Civil War, notably came to Olympia as the ninth Territorial Governor. Others followed.
This group concentrated on gaining a foothold in the fast-opening societies; they pitched in to build the towns and create the institutions that promoted economic growth and community survival. They were often more intent on assimilation than finding an outlet for religious expression. Having experienced the persecution and discrimination of the Old Countries, they tended to downplay their separate identity and focused on a more shared pioneer experience. For some, like George Jacob Wolff, feelings of gratitude for freedom dominated their emotions and cemented their attachment to their new homes. While they did establish a Jewish cemetery in 1873—one of the first in the Territory, no synagogue or temple was built in Olympia during this period.
The histories of these first Jewish pioneers have been gathered in an outstanding study, Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State, by Molly Cone, Howard Droker and Jacqueline Williams, published by the Washington State Jewish Historical Society and the University of Washington Press, 2003. The authors describe three distinct waves of immigration, the first as described, followed by Yiddish-speaking Jews from eastern Europe who came from 1880 to 1924, and a separate population of Sephardic Jews from Turkey and parts of Greece, coming just after the turn of the century. The thesis of these authors is that these waves of immigrant Jews were not only “strangers” in the communities of the west, but also strangers to each other, with completely different origins, languages, customs, and observances. Their history is one of finding their place in the wider community and learning to help each other and live together.
As with any group of people, there was generosity and misunderstandings, conflict and compassion, friendly helping hands and suspicion. Each community in the Territory and then State carved out its own path within patterns shared and repeated in different locations. Other than in Seattle where a burgeoning population allowed more expression of differences, most Jewish immigrants in Washington struggled to create communities of co-religionists of any stripe. This tension of differences and isolation was an undercurrent that influenced the development of religious institutions in the smaller centers. Family of Strangers traces this complex history through several generations and developments up to the near-present. It helps provide the historical context for understanding and appreciating the achievements of each community’s growth and survival.
The progress of the community in Olympia was marked by the welcome received family by family as more Jewish people found their way here. The Jewish Benevolent Society, founded in 1873, leant a helping hand. The next year, land was dedicated for a Jewish cemetery. The Berkowitz/Bean family came in the early years of the twentieth century. It was in their home that the Torahs were kept, to be brought to the Labor Temple or Eagles Lodge for services on High Holidays. The Cohn and Hollander families added to the community, and many others came in the Thirties: the Goldberg family who opened a furniture store to operate alongside Anna Blom’s bookstore, Eddie Dobrin’s women’s apparel store, M.M. Morris’ Specialty Shop, Joe Jenkin’s dry cleaners, and others, to name only a few business establishments.
Finally, by the late 1930s, a strong group existed who could venture taking the next important step as a community. Centralia and Chehalis had banded together to build a temple in 1930, as had a group in Aberdeen. They shared the architectural plans they had used and supported the Olympia group in their fundraising, headed by Earl Bean. Despite the lingering Depression, the wider community pitched in too, helping with building supplies, purchasing raffle tickets and pledging contributions. Land was cleared on Eighth and Jefferson Street and the venerable Olympia construction firm of Phillips and Newell erected the temple that became the center for religious and community life until 2004. By then the congregation had grown beyond the capacity of the original building and a move was made to the present location.
Temple Beth Hatfiloh was built in time to act as a strong center of activities and refuge as many Jewish people fled Europe in the wake of growing persecution, and then during World War II as a base for families whose members were serving overseas. After the war, although served only by a visiting rabbi for a period, more normal activities and services filled the calendar. A tradition of raising funds for the Olympia-wide charities saw Temple members hosting huge annual rummage sales; in more recent years they have hosted giant book-bagel-and blintz sales. For a time religious education classes had to be offered in Tacoma, but as the Olympia group grew, more could be organized within this community.
With an influx of new families brought to Olympia by the growth of state government and the establishment of Evergreen State College in the 1960s and 1970s, the Temple was assured of a solid foundation and future. Not until the 1980s could the congregation support their own rabbi, at first part-time and then finally full-time. The program for religious education also developed as more families joined. Besides growth in numbers, the congregation has gradually shifted in approach from Orthodox to a mix of Conservative and Reform practices. Eva Goldberg, an early chronicler and leader in the congregation, saw the community as “an extended family” ready to welcome all with open arms and assistance from its earliest days. Something of that spirit still prevails and adds strength and resiliency to this vital Olympia institution.
The Olympia Historical Society congratulates the members of Temple Beth Hatfiloh on the occasion of their seventy-fifth anniversary. They are an integral and important part of the history and growth of Olympia. Their many contributions, energy, success and longevity benefits the whole City.
by Edward Echtle
The Olympia area presents numerous opportunities to learn about the people and places of our past. In rural areas, many historic places survive relatively unchanged from the earliest days of settlement. Museums, historic houses and cabins, archaeological sites and interpretive markers present the curious traveler a varied menu of sights representing the rich history of Washington’s past.
For centuries the Chehalis, Cowlitz, Nisqually, and Squaxin peoples made their homes on the inlets, prairies, and valleys of the South Sound region. Abundant shellfish beds, salmon streams, and edible plants allowed native peoples to prosper and develop a rich cultural heritage with intricate social and economic ties. At the Squaxin Island Museum, visitors can learn about life in the South Sound Country prior to European contact. Cultural artifacts combine with oral history to give visitors a look at the continuity of native life up to the present day. Other museums such a the Lewis County Historical Museum (Chehalis) and the Cowlitz River Valley Historical Society and Old Settlers Museum (Morton) display artifacts of native life collected by early settlers. South of Olympia, the Mima Mounds Natural Preserve invites visitors to walk through a restored example of a prairie ecosystem like those cultivated by natives for centuries. Through periodic controlled burns, natives promoted the growth of camas root and other food and medicinal plants on these prairies.
Contact and Fur Trade
When outsiders first entered of what is now known as Puget Sound, they marveled at the immense old growth forests that blanketed the shorelines and inland valleys. An expedition commanded by British Captain George Vancouver in 1892 was the first documented exploration of the South Sound waterways by Europeans. Lieutenant Peter Puget, who accompanied Vancouver, led a long boat survey party and produced the earliest charts of the area.
By the 1830s, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) established Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River and began scouting a location for an outpost on Puget Sound to conduct trade with the natives. They followed an ancient trade route north, the shortest distance between the Cowlitz River and Puget Sound. This trail became the main north-south trail for travelers in the area, known as the “Cowlitz Trail.” The HBC built the “Nisqually House” trade post adjacent to the village of the Sequalitchew band of the Nisqually people, near what is now the town of Dupont. The Dupont Museum displays artifacts and images relating to the fort.
At Cowlitz Prairie, near present day Toledo, the Hudson’s Bay Co. also established Cowlitz Farms and Mission to solidify their claim to the region and to diversify their business beyond the fur trade toward agriculture. Despite their efforts, the numbers of Americans entering the territory soon outstripped the numbers of HBC employees. Today the site of Cowlitz Mission is still a Catholic Church and its cemetery is the last resting place of many of the earliest Europeans in the area.
By the 1840s, American settlers who traveled the Oregon Trail were pushing northward across the Columbia River. They too followed the Cowlitz Trail, which settlers saw as a northern extension of the Oregon Trail. Among the earliest arrivals in what is now Washington was John R. Jackson, who located just on the prairie just north of Cowlitz Farms. The small cabin, now known as the John R. Jackson House, was an important stop on the Cowlitz Trail and served as the first American courthouse north of the Columbia River.
In 1845 the Simmons-Bush Party were the first Americans to settle on Puget Sound and founded the community of New Market, now Tumwater. Pioneer George Bush, a “mulatto” arrived in Oregon to find that white settlers banned non-whites from locating there to avoid the contentious politics of the slavery issue. Rather than separate, the band of pioneers moved north beyond the reach of the exclusion law. Later, white settlers asked Congress to secure Bush’s claim to his land. The George Bush Historical Marker located on the Bush’s original homestead land tells the story. Other Blacks also settled in the South Sound Country. An early African American homesteader named George Washington settled the area that is now Centralia and platted the town.
The city of Chehalis started life as “Saunders Bottom,” a rather soggy stop along the Cowlitz Trail. Earlier, settlers founded the town of Claquato on the west side of the valley on higher ground and constructed the Claquato Church in 1858, one of the oldest still standing in Washington. When the Northern Pacific Railroad built tracks through Chehalis in 1872, settlers relocated to be nearer the station, leaving the town of Claquato relatively unchanged to the present.
In Centralia the Joseph Borst Home is another of the few surviving structures from the early settlement period. Located at the Cowlitz Trail ford in the Chehalis River, the Borst’s homestead also served as a stop on the trail. Daniel R. Bigelow was another early arrival whose family home survives today as Bigelow House Museum. Bigelow arrived in 1851 after crossing the Oregon Trail fresh from Harvard Law School. His new neighbors immediately solicited his help in organizing the territory of Washington where he served as one of its first legislators. Other early arrivals included Nathaniel Crosby (grandfather of Bing Crosby) who settled in Tumwater in the 1860s and operated a store. The Historic Crosby House ca1860 is now part of the Tumwater Historic Park. Hidden away near Rochester is the site of the 1850s Miller Brewer House, lost to fire in 2017; interpretive signage tell its story. In Lacey, the Jacob Smith House now serves as a community center. All of these give visitors a glimpse of early settler domestic life in the Puget Sound country.
Arriving along with American and European settlers, Chinese immigrants also lived and worked in the area. Despite sparse mention in local histories, they filled an important need for seasonal labor. The Chinese worked as oyster gatherers, road builders, hop-pickers, and in logging camps and lumber mills. Due to the low numbers of women in the early west, they also filled the role of launderers, house servants, and cooks. At Olympia, there was a community of Chinese living in “Chinatown” near the downtown core long before railroad construction began in the area. A marker located at Olympia’s Heritage Park gives details.
In 1854 Isaac Stevens, the first governor of Washington Territory met with native leaders to negotiate secession of their lands to the US. The first meeting was held at Nisqually, at the council grounds on the banks of She Na Nam creek. During the winter of 1855-56 some natives rebelled against the settlers because they had not agreed to the treaty. In response, the settlers formed volunteer militias and constructed a number of forts, including the Borst Blockhouse at Centralia. Monuments mark the location of other forts in the area including Fort Eaton and Chambers Blockhouse near Lacey, Fort Henness near Rochester, and Rutledge Blockhouse south of Tumwater. During the short but violent conflict both sides committed armed combatants to the field and tragedy resulted. In January 1856 natives laid siege to Seattle for an entire day, killing two. In April, volunteer militia forces massacred the entire population of a Nisqually village. The Puget Sound War ended with the capture of Leschi and the surrender of Quiemuth, both Nisqually leaders instrumental in organizing the native resistance. An unknown assailant murdered Quiemuth while he was under guard in Governor Stevens’ office in Olympia; Leschi endured two controversial trials over his role in the conflict. Bent on retribution, settlers convicted Leschi as a murderer despite his status as a combatant in a war. Leschi was hanged near Fort Steilacoom in February 1857, yet his fight for treaty rights and native sovereignty remains an immediate issue to the present. In 2004 a special “Historical Court of Inquiry and Justice” reviewed the facts of the case and found Leschi not guilty of the charges for which he was executed.
From the start, creating an economic industrial base for trade was a priority for settlers. The Deschutes River Falls at Tumwater was the draw for the Simmons-Bush party as a power source for industry. There, settlers built the first American sawmill and gristmill on Puget Sound.
The maritime trades played a critical role in the early development of the South Sound region. Early settlers found overland travel much more arduous than water travel. Most families in the area owned at least one canoe, usually procured from local natives through barter or sale. By the 1850s there was regular trade with the outside world as ships arrived and departed carrying passengers and merchandise. Soon after, steamboats proliferated on Puget Sound, serving as the main form of transportation. At the Mason County Historical Museum you can learn about the early sternwheelers that served Shelton and South Puget Sound.
Among the earliest industry in the area was production of lumber for export. As settlement in the Northwest grew, so did the demand for building materials. Soon, logging operations pushed deep into the forested hills of the South Sound Country. The Lewis County Historical Museum, Mason County Historical Museum, and the Tenino Depot Museum, all display tools, photos, and artifacts tracing this key part of the region’s development.
By the early 1870s, passenger and freight railroad construction was underway in the area. The Northern Pacific built its main line from Kalama on the Columbia River to Tacoma on Puget Sound, closely following the Cowlitz Trail route through the South Sound country. The Lewis County Historical Museum, and the Tenino Depot Museum are both housed in classic depots dating from the heyday of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Each contains artifacts and photos documenting the importance of railroads to the region.
Agriculture was another important industry. At Yelm, citizens formed an irrigation district and built a canal system that provided water to numerous local farms on Yelm Prairie from the 1920s to the 1960s. The Yelm Historical Museum displays information on the impact of this development and information on early settlers and the founding of the community. In Boistfort Valley, west of Chehalis, hop growing became a major economic force as it did in other parts of western Washington in the late 1800s. Hop drying barns still survive, now converted for other uses. Dairy and chicken farming also played a large role in the area’s development. The town of Winlock was once the “Egg Capital of the World” shipping tons of poultry products over the years. Exhibits in the Winlock Historical Museum trace the history.
By the 1890s, sandstone quarries at Tenino provided building material used throughout the American west. Tenino’s distinctive sandstone business district developed as a way to promote the industry and to make the town more fireproof after devastating blazes destroyed the business district. Many buildings in the area use the stone in their construction, including the east wing of the old State Capitol Building in downtown Olympia. However, by the 1920s, poured concrete construction largely replaced Tenino sandstone due to its lower cost.
Early settlers saw public education as a key component of a democratic society and took great pains to provide their youth with education opportunities. One and two-room schoolhouses once dotted the region, serving the children of nearby families in all grades simultaneously. Few examples of these remain today. One very intact example is the Gate City School, near Rochester. Recently, citizens rescued the historic Ticknor School from destruction, relocating it next to the Tenino Depot Museum. Another display at the Joseph Borst Home recreates just such an early schoolhouse. The Lacey Museum and the Winlock Historical Museum also display artifacts, documents and memories of school life in the area. Currently the Rainier Historical Society is refurbishing its historic 1915 school as a community center.
The Twentieth Century
By the early 1900s, new immigrants came by steamships and by train to live and work in the South Sound Country. Scandinavians, Eastern and Southern Europeans, Asians, and others arrived to fill the growing need for labor. Working conditions for these laborers was harsh and wages low. Labor unions such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), also known as “Wobblies” found avid followers among these men who came to America looking to better their situation. The IWW, known for its wildcat strikes and work slowdowns, fought for better conditions and a standard eight-hour work day. Their activities generated a great deal of ill-will toward them by business owners. These tensions erupted into violence in 1919 when WWI veterans raided the Centralia IWW Hall in 1919. The Wobblies shot four veterans and in the ensuing violence a mob lynched IWW member Wesley Everest. A memorial to the dead veterans and a nearby mural commemorating the Wobblies is in Centralia’s George Washington Park.
Planned company-owned towns with homes designed to accommodate families replaced the formerly all-male bunkhouse camps that typified early industry . Despite the loss of industries that created them, towns such as Dupont, and Ryderwood remain relatively intact, containing much of their original character. Other company towns including Bordeaux, (lumber) Tono, (coal) and Vail (lumber) withered when the companies closed their operations. The Dupont factory, founded in 1912, produced explosives for World War I. Ryderwood, built by the Long-Bell Lumber Company, was designed as a model family-friendly community. Driving the magnanimity of companies to create such community however was a desire to subvert the power of the labor unions. Companies such as DuPont and Long-Bell hoped that family men were less likely to strike. The DuPont Museum tells the story of the town and its workers and families.
As the pace of industrial development quickened on Puget Sound so did the call for faster means to transport raw materials to processing. In 1910 the tugboat Sand Man began her long career on Puget Sound as one of the numerous tugs transporting logs, coal, and anything else that needed hauling. Sand Man was one of the first tugs to use a gasoline engine, making her a very modern and fast vessel. Sand Man remained a work boat until only recently, before she was restored in 2002. The Sand Man Foundation maintains the tug at Olympia’s Percival Landing Park for public viewing.
By the early Twentieth Century, many citizens became interested in preserving and marking historical Sites connected to the early settlement era of Washington. Ezra Meeker of Puyallup conducted a much publicized retracing of the Oregon Trail for the purpose of placing historic markers. Meeker traveled west to east, dedicating historic markers along the way.
The Great Depression of the 1930s brought Federal Funding for public works projects. Washington State Parks were among the many beneficiaries of programs such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Millersylvania State Park, Rainbow Falls State Park, and Lewis and Clark State Park all have buildings, roads, trails, bridges, and other structures built by the CCC.
Few events had the impact on the South Sound area as the World Wars. During both World War I and World War II, Americans and immigrants streamed into the area to work in wartime industry. Ship building, logging, agriculture, and numerous other industries switched into high gear, producing record amounts of goods. Most importantly, families threw themselves into the war efforts, by either serving in the military or as home front volunteers. At the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis artifacts, documents and oral histories combine to preserve the memory of the sacrifices of those who served. In Tumwater, the Olympic Flight Museum exhibits aircraft from several conflicts. The airport itself is also historic, having served as a satellite base for nearby McChord Air Field during WWII. The US Air Corps stationed a squadron of P-38 Lightnings here and used the area for air combat training.
The visitor to Washington State’s South Sound Country will find these sites and others relating to the rich history of the area, its people, places, and settlements. Individually, these stories offer an intimate view of family life, business relations, and community involvement. Together, the historic sites in the South Sound Country represent the diverse heritage representative of the larger history of Pacific Northwest, offering a more complete understanding of the origins of today’s communities.
By Mark Derricott, former editor of the OHS Newsletter
I recently re-read a couple of my favorite books: The Histories by Herodotus and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.Aside from realizing that I was much too young when I read them last time, I happened to read those books as my personal life underwent some relatively dramatic turn of events. One repercussion was my leaving the Olympia Historical Society board and turning over the newsletter editorship to someone else (who shall remain nameless until such time as that person steps forward). These developments gave me reason to consider, and here I will relate, some of my thoughts on the three major problems that studying history presents.
As we’re all aware, we don’t have time machines that take us to the place we’re studying and that makes recreating history or even a particular timeline within history extremely problematic. Even though that ideal is impossible, it is the ultimate motivation behind the study of history. Amateur and professional historian alike, it drives the work. Let us turn to this example from the Father of History himself:
“So much for what the Persians and Phoenicians say; and I have no intention of passing judgment on its truth or falsity. I prefer to rely on my own knowledge, and to point out who it was in actual fact that first injured the Greeks; then I will proceed with my history, telling the story as I go along of small cities no less than of great. For most those which were great once are small to-day; and those which used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I shall pay attention to both alike.” (Emphasis added.)
Herodotus here defines my first problem, the historian chooses the story to tell from sometimes unreliable sources. Herodotus describes the delineation of his narrative from the broader fabric of history and he was even kind enough to define the limits of his discretion. He explains what he is going to pay attention to within the sources at his disposal. He clings to the notion of provable facts, while still acknowledging that there are reasons to doubt the veracity of any given source. Of course, he also reveals a general personal worldview of city-states pulsating through the years in declinations and ascensions. Whether that in actual fact occurs we shall not here pass judgment. Suffice it to say that Herodotus was one of the earliest Western historians, and his stories still provide the typical template of telling and re-telling history all the way to our own time. We have embraced subjectivity just like Herodotus’s because over the years we have fallen in love with the spaces between a historian and a storyteller and we can’t help but celebrate the latter’s yarn spinning.
Herodotus’ method of presentation is perhaps his most important legacy. This is the narrative mode of the omniscient narrator. This is the voice that relates everything it sees, and if it were present in your room (as opposed to a book or computer in your lap), it would be able to fill in every single detail that the inquiring mind might have the desire to ask. We see this omniscient narrator often, and particularly in our histories, both in the novel and scholarly form. It’s natural but also powerfully authoritative. Rarely does that narrator betray any deficiency in telling the stories. In history retelling, this is extremely important because who would want to doubt the certainty of someone explaining the story?
The narrative mode appears in the form of Dostoevsky’s narrator in The Brothers Karamazov. How different would the story be without him? Would the story still be a story without the narrator? It certainly would not have been the same story and may not have become the classic that we know it as today. The author, in the voice of the narrator, just as the trial was about to begin explains his method:
“I will say beforehand, and say emphatically, that I am far from considering myself capable of recounting all that took place in court, not only with the proper fullness, but even in the proper order. I keep thinking that if one were to recall everything and explain everything as one ought, it would fill a whole book, even quite a large one. Therefore, let no one grumble if I tell only that which struck me personally and which I have especially remembered. I may have taken secondary things for the most important, and even overlooked the most prominent and necessary features…But anyway I see that it is better not to apologize. I shall do what I can, and my readers will see for themselves that I have done all I could.”
The second problem is people don’t always get it down as it happened and may not remember acurately what they saw. On the more brightly human side, nothing is more lovable but frustrating than the personable historian who might have left out a critical detail, or whose story is derailed by putting salient moments out of order. Those winding and erractic tales make getting to the point all the more exciting as we consumers experience the story. Our narrator apologizes and then recants the apology. Let no one grumble, indeed!
We adore the narrator who fully acknowledges his inability to capture everything because they remind us of a beloved relative telling us the story we love—the one that gets hazier as the years progress, but is still as wonderful as it was when we were young. The imperfect story-teller forces us to realize that there was more to the story than we’ll ever be able to know. There are angles unseen, sounds unheard, and bits of the events that anyone and everyone else there may have experienced absolutely otherwise. We are left with the product of a single individual for the events that interest us because we don’t usually get panels in the same room to describe these things, (though there are exceptions).
I find Dostoevsky’s apology just before the trial fascinating even more so because I can see in my mind’s eye that all those who were in courtroom then, all of their children, and their grand-children have long since passed away. I imagine that this story and its imperfections have become the only link we have with that trial—the crescendo of a spectacular story of a little town in Russia. If I were to study that trial as a historian I would be filling in the blanks as best I could knowing that the sources are every bit as questionable as those that Herodotus questioned 2500 years ago. That is one of the legacies and tragedies of the historian.
Much earlier in the same book is my favorite example. If you’ll forgive me for being so personal—aside from indulging me in writing about fiction in a historical newsletter—I’d like to present another passage. I have included along with it my reaction in italics last time I read it. I do this because this passage presents the third problem of the historian, to be shortly introduced.
“The house of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov stood far from the center of town, yet not quite on the outskirts.”
A house not far from downtown must be like any house in almost any neighborhood adjoining Olympia’s downtown.
“It was rather decrepit, but had a pleasant appearance: one storied, with an attic, painted a gray color, and with a red iron roof.”
Not too big and decrepit—must be in the Eastside Neighborhood.
“However, it had many good years left, and was roomy and snug. It had all sorts of closets, all sorts of nooks and unexpected little stairways.”
I don’t know of many one-storied houses with “unexpected little stairways”, but nooks are fun.
“There were rats in it, but Fyodor Pavlovich was not altogether angry with them: “Still, it’s not so boring in the evenings when one is alone.” And indeed he had the custom of dismissing the servants to their cottage for the night and locking himself up in the house alone for the night.”
“This cottage stood in the yard. It was spacious and solid; and Fyodor Pavlovich also appointed his kitchen to be there, though there was a kitchen in the main house; he did not like kitchen smells, and food was carried across the yard winter and summer. As a matter of fact, the house had been built for a large family: it could have accommodated five times as many masters and servants.”
Oh, so it’s some kind of mansion! Up until this point in the book, I didn’t get that Fyodor Pavlovich was a wealthy man living in a huge mansion. One storied?
I’ve even spent a considerable amount of time in Russia and this passage still drew a bright line between my experience with the concept of a house in Olympia and upper-class living standards in mid-nineteenth century Provincial Russia. The realization came that this verse actually describes us (the subject) just as much—if not more—than it describes its own object, the house in which Fyodor Pavlovich lived.
Along with questionable sources and stories, along with questionable memories of the sources, there is further the questionable interaction between the historian and the object of her study. These interactions are the moments that have become narratives, pieces of stories, and presentation of circumstances that humanity–across all languages and every other social barrier–has come to love. This is history. And this is the presentation of history. History is not only the object but the subject; and they together are intertwined and wound inextricably. And to grasp a small part of it, we must multiply the millions of objects by the billions of subjects who have ever lived over the ages.
But I am discussing art and historiography should be scientific! What if we adhere to a scientific principle fit for the scholarliest of scholarship? We can, nay we must, do better! Consider if we’re studying cooking methods from ages ago, even if we use the same instruments: the wood for the fires, the pots that they used in the age we’re studying, and the ingredients taken from the most reliable sources; we still cannot replicate the same food because the trees are hundreds of years older, the pans are hundreds of years degraded (or fashioned newly for experimental purposes and never really used for anything else), and the food itself certainly cannot be reproduced as it would have been long ago. Let us not forget our object: the taste of the food would be compared with a subjective palate that has likely experienced McDonald’s and Starbucks. Would the comparative study be useful for us at all?
Just as if an ancient and untouched village whose centuries old traditions remain intact, where the people speak languages the modern world has never heard, was suddenly discovered. As soon as that modern world enters, flooded by those seeking answers to the questions that vexed academics—whether it’s cracking the code of an ancient language, or revealing extinct engineering practices—everything changes. Those objects interact with those subjects and those people then change how life is carried on in the little village. The residents begin to eat Snickers bars and drink Coca-Cola. They wear different clothing and change their ambitions from farming to moving to a city to experience life in a different way. Even if the changes aren’t dramatic enough to be visible, people act differently or at least not authentically. Our mere presence in our fictional village changes the composition in the village. Regardless of how this happens that village can never return to what it was. The same thing happens when we discover an unknown chapter of history to study.
We can talk and even dream about history, but we cannot recreate and cannot re-live it. It’s simply far too personal. One final, personal example: shortly after my father’s sister died a few years ago, I had a conversation with my dad. He began to talk about his father and I started asking him about a specific event of which my dad had no first-hand knowledge. Before he was able to say, “Your aunt would know” we both fell into silence and realized that a particular moment of my own relative’s life literally had been banished to dustbin of history. That banishment happens every hour of every day.
My family’s history is insignificant, but our collective history is made up of millions of individual moments that disappear over time like a beautiful tapestry slowly falling apart. And all that remains in that tapestry are the moments for which the time becomes known, pieced together from whatever shreds remain. Those remains ultimately form the historical narrative that defines the past—the stories of Herodotus and the unreliable tales of someone hastily taking down notes at the trial. Perhaps, we now live during the Gregoire and Inslee eras. Someone will write about that someday and will shed very little light on our time, now darkened by the passing years. It will be defined from the desks of our politicians and other powerful people but our worlds actually revolve very little around whomever those people happen to be, much less the predilections of whoever decides to write about them.
History is so much more, just like our personal lives are so much more. These stories can be captured, preserved, and protected through thousands of little organizations just like ours. This work will be so much more effective—it can only be effective—with your participation both as a consumer but just as importantly as a producer. It was wonderful to have been a part of this one for last few years.
By Mark Foutch, President
Incorporation, Bylaws and Progress
(If the exploratory and organizational meetings of 2001 could be considered “conception” and “birth,” then early in 2002 the Olympia Historical Society was “confirmed” and took its first steps. And suddenly the “toddler” had lots of great ideas. The challenge would be to choose among them and then focus organizational talent and energy to turn them into reality.)
2002: The January 26th Meeting
On January 9, The Olympian ran a notice that “The Olympia Historical Society’s second organizational meeting will be 2 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Thurston County Courthouse…Agenda items include adopting articles of incorporation, electing officers and setting up committees. An additional meeting is planned for 2 p.m. Feb. 23.”
Present were Bob Arnold, Karen Bowen, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels, Roger Easton, Edward Echtle, Lynn Erickson, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald, Gary Foote, Susan Goff, Beverly Gunstone, Jerry Handfield, Pat Harper, Genevieve Hupe’, Russ Hupe’, E.L. Johnson, F. David Kindle, Anne Kilgannon, Bonnie Marie, Charles Roe, Liza Rognas, Ann Shipley, Randolph Stilson, Rae Verhoff, Lanny Weaver and Tom Zahn.
Temporary Chair Annamary Fitzgerald opened the meeting with an announcement on meeting etiquette: “No one will be allowed to speak for more than 3 minutes before yielding the floor to another member.” Apparently the past meeting’s experience had caused this measure to be felt necessary.
The proposed Articles of Incorporation passed after a few amendments. Article I confirmed the group’s official name as “Olympia Historical Society.” Article II specified that the period of existence of the new corporation was to be “perpetual.” Article III laid out OHS’ “business and purpose,” drawn from the drafts considered at earlier meetings. Article IV gave the group’s location as “Olympia, Washington.” Article V listed Annamary Fitzgerald as the Initial Registered Agent. Article IV listed her address for the record
Article VII specified that the Board of Directors would number not less than three but that the final number, methods of election or appointment, and term of office, would be further specified in the Bylaws. Article VIII said that classes of membership, qualifications, rights, and method of acceptance for each class would also be specified in the Bylaws.
Article IX listed the Incorporators as: President Annamary Fitzgerald; Vice President Rebecca Christie; Secretary Spencer Daniels; Treasurer Shanna Stevenson; Board Member Drew Crooks. Article X directed that, if/when the Corporation were to be dissolved, its assets would be distributed to “another 501(c)(3) or nonprofit groups with similar purposes and objects,” and exempt from U.S. taxes, or to the Federal , State or local government for “a public purpose.” Any assets not so distributed would be disposed of by a Court. And Article XI allowed amendments to the Articles of Incorporation only by a general or special meeting of the membership.
Bob Arnold then moved approval of the draft Bylaws and Lois Fenske seconded. After five amendments were approved, Bob Arnold again moved approval, Drew Crooks seconded, and the Bylaws were adopted:
Article I dealt with membership and dues (not raised until 10 years later). Article II dealt with scheduling of meetings and quorum requirements. Article III established requirements for the Board of Directors, including a minimum number of seven. Article IV laid out duties of Officers and Directors. Article V established committees: Organization, Collections, Publications, Educational Programs and Outreach, Membership, Finance and Fundraising. All committees were to have no fewer than three members and chairs would serve one-year terms. Committees would submit quarterly reports to the Board. And other committees or subcommittees could be appointed by the Board or by a general vote of the members. Article VI dealt with Financial Provisions and Article VII, controlled acceptance of Gifts and Donations and called for a formal collections policy. Article VIII, Ethical Behavior, prohibited conflicts of interest by Directors in employment or contracting with/by the Society during a term of office or 12 months thereafter. Article IX controlled use of the Society’s name and image. Article X prescribed Robert’s Rules of Order for conducting Board general meetings. Article XI was the standard indemnity and hold harmless clause. (There seemed to be no Article XII.) Article XIII made the Bylaws effective upon adoption, except for Article III. Election of Directors by the membership would take place after six months or until the membership numbered 50 persons. Article XIV allowed amendments to the Bylaws only by a vote of the members at a general or special meeting.
The interim officers continued to manage the Society’s business until the conditions in Article XIII were satisfied. Meanwhile the Society continued with initial administrative tasks and began to explore program topics and other heritage-related activities.
The February 23rd Meeting
This meeting recorded lots of follow-up actions by committees. Attending were Bob Arnold, Ralph Blankenship, Rebecca Christie, Marilyn Connon, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels, Roger Easton, Edward Echtle, Lois Fenske, Susan Goff, Genevieve Hupe’, Russ Hupe’, Anne Kilgannon, David Kindle, Duane King, E.L.Johnson, Mark Johnson, Bruce Newman, Shanna Stevenson, Lanny Weaver, and Derek Valley.
Treasurer Drew Crooks reported that an account had been opened at South Sound Bank with a $100 deposit.
Organization Committee chair Rebecca Christie reported that the Articles of Incorporation had been filed with the Secretary of State for Washington State.
Also, a Post Office Box had been established and OHS’ official address was now P.O. Box 6064, Olympia, WA 98507.
Finance Committee chair Drew Crooks reported that he and Lois Fenske were working out the details to reimburse those who had advanced funds to organize the Society.
Education, Programs and Outreach Committee chair Drew Crooks reported the committee was looking for programs and speakers. He also stated that the Olympia School District would be celebrating its Sesquicentennial in the 2002-3 school year; Lynn Erickson was on a district committee for that event.
For the Society’s first program, Lanny Weaver suggested Lynn Erickson present her project, “The View From Sylvester’s Window.”
Lois Fenske said that South Puget Sound Community College was celebrating its 40th anniversary in September. Genevieve Hupe’ moved that OHS support the Olympia School District for their Sesquicentenial celebration; Duane King suggested OHS give financial support. Drew Crooks responded that financial support was impractical but that other support would be desirable, so Duane King withdrew his suggestion. Mark Johnson moved that OHS support the OSD effort with suggestions from the Education Committee. Drew Crooks seconded; motion carried.
For more program suggestions Drew Crooks also recommended Lynn Erickson’s “Sylvester’s Window,” OSD make a presentation, also the 75th anniversary of the Capitol Building (Legislative Building). Rebecca Christie asked if OHS could cooperate with State Capitol Museum evens and Derek Valley said yes.
Lois Fenske asked what geographical area of interest was OHS’; Rebecca Christie replied that the bylaws did not limit those to the city limits only.
Other program suggestions: Les Eldridge on maritime history; Ed Echtle for Chinese history; Lisa Rognas’ students from Evergreen; Lois Fenske on SPSCC; Eli Sterling on Heritage Park proposals.
Collections Committee chair Susan Goff had met with Bev Gunstone and Pat Harper. A Mission Statement should be developed and geographical boundaries set for collectios. Example: Lacey Museum had set North Thurston school district boundaries for their area of interest. OHS collection policy can be fine-tuned without changing the bylaws.
Webpage chair Ed Echtle reported that a web presence could be secured for about $100 per year, free of advertisements. Price included an Email address for the officers. He had drafted a covenant for the webmaster to access the OHS bank account to debit the account to pay for the web. The Board would discuss that after the meeting. Anne Kilgannon noted that web access would be a great tool to publicize the Society. Ed Echtle clarified that the cost would be $15 to start and about $9 monthly and that the URL www.olympiahistory.org was available.
Logo committee chair Roger Easton joked that it should be the “Loco Committee” because of all the possible logo options including two of the “oyster” versions, showing the old Capitol and the current Capitol buildings. Bruce Newman suggested the oyster logo would connect with Native American history. Marilyn Connon asked about the Lacey and Tumwater society’s logos. Members agreed “the simpler, the better.” After a suggestion to adopt an interim logo, Drew Crooks moved and Spencer Daniels seconded to approve an oyster logo in concept and have the committee bring back a refined version. The motion carried 13-5.
Rebecca Christie brought up the issue of a contact telephone number for the Society. Ed Echtle said Qwest offered a voice mail service to organizations and he would check into it. Spencer Daniels cautioned that someone must be willing to monitor the voice mail on a regular basis.
Regarding meeting times and locations, Rebecca Christie had polled many members and suggested that for those members who did not wish to drive at night the group continue to meet on Saturdays in the winter and in summer on the first Thursday of the month. She had also researched locations including the Library, Coach House, Women’s Club, Fire Department training room, and The Olympian community room. Duane King suggested Churches and she suggested he pursue that option. Roger Easton would check Puget Power community room and E.L. Johnson, Lincoln School. Mark Johnson noted that the Courthouse was free and OHS had no funds for room rental.
The group agreed to the following schedule: Saturday, March 30 at the Courthouse, then beginning in May, 7 p.m., the first Thursday, location TBA. On Standard Time, Saturday meetings would start at 10 a.m.
Committee Meetings followed:
Finance and Fundraising: Bruce Newman suggested pursuing City of Olympia Neighborhood organizations for members; Rebecca Christie noted they were already on the mailing list.
Membership: Members so far were E.L. Johnson, Spencer Daniels, Marilyn Connon, Lanny Weaver and Rebecca Christie. No chair designated yet. Drew Crooks will give Rebecca a list of people attending meetings but not yet paying dues. Committee will draft a cover letter for President’s signature and send them application forms. Forms to be sent also to City Councilmembers’ inboxes. Will contact neighborhood and homeowners’ associations asking for publicity. Will create a membership brochure (print and electronic versions) to be discussed March 12. Will need facts from other committees to draft brochure language. Asked OHS members for leads for new members.
Education, Program and Outreach: Will follow up on program suggestions. Aim for May or June for the first program. Will report OHS support to School District and plan an interactive OHS booth for Sesquicentennial Family History Day in August.
Collections: Chair, Susan Goff. Members Pat Harper, Genevieve Hupe’, Duane King and Bev Gunstone. Will draft a Mission Statement, proposed geographic area for collections and a collections site or sites for consideration at next meeting. Attendees’ input: Anne Kilgannon asked if collections would be limited to “paper only;” Susan Goff responded that the bylaws allowed other formats. President Christie agreed to forward Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws to members. Bruce Newman suggested a formal portrait of members when the 50 member threshold was reached.
Publications: Members were Lois Fenske, Shanna Stevenson, Anne Kilgannon, Ann Shipley, Roger Easton and Bob Arnold. Lois Fenske reported that the committee will present a draft newsletter at a future meeting. It will include basic information about OHS and also features about Olympia history.
Other Business: Rebecca Christie reported that OHS was applying for the Stormans’ rebate program. David Kindle noted that Albertson’s had a similar program.
The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.
(Some participants at these early meetings report that they seemed tedious, and perhaps they were. But looking at all that was accomplished, and all that was laid out for future action, progress seems remarkable. Since then, some things have changed but much remains the same: The bylaws set the framework for a large, thriving future organization. The dues structure remained unchanged until 2013. OHS still has the same P.O. box, website URL, and bank account. The split 13-5 vote for the ”oyster logo” apparently did not bode well because today’s logo is entirely different. IRS 501(c)(3) status has not been applied for as the group’s income so far has not warranted it. The group still tries to schedule board, general meetings and programs a year ahead but often bumps up against individuals’ personal and professional schedules. Next chapter: Organizational progress, first programs, and more!)
By Emmett O’Connell
In 1903 John P. Fink, a newspaper man and promoter, had an idea for a baseball league.
Fink seemed to be a jack-of-all-trades sort of promoter in the era, is mostly mentioned in that gray area between public relations and newspapering. He wrote about sports, worked for newspapers, but also ran teams and leagues. In 1903 he is also noted in the first ever mention of the Southwest Washington League as “the manager of the Tacoma druggists” baseball team.
This is the same era that saw the consolidation in the high level minor leagues of the Pacific Coast League between California and Pacific Northwest teams. The highest level of baseball on the west coast to that point had been split between the two. In 1903 the two warring baseball regions joined together in an outlaw league.
The Pacific Coast League was operated outside the rules of organized baseball. That meant, for example, they could sign players outside existing contracts of other leagues that played inside the rules.
Was it because of the attention being paid to the Portland Browns, Tacoma TIgers and Seattle Siwashes in the press that Fink saw opportunity in a baseball circuit throughout timber towns in bottom left hand corner of Washington? The Pacific Coast League was no small undertaking.
Baseball had been growing along the west coast since after the Civil War, with Portland teams playing since the late 1860s. It slowly expanded from a game played between clubs and soldiers to a game of semi-pros and pros, business patrons and fans paying gate.
The new regional league from Los Angeles to Seattle was outside the bounds of baseball law, but Fink sought to toe the line. 1903 was also the first year of the National Association, the agreement major league baseball on the East and midwest and minor leagues throughout the country. This agreement gave certainty to players and owners (mostly owners) that contracts would be recognized across professional leagues and that poached players could not re-enter organized baseball without outlaw teams paying up.
This was also the agreement that Pacific Coast League ignored, if only for a year or so. But, the smaller (class D) Southwest Washington League was inside the law from the beginning. This was even fact trumpeted by the the league in “The Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide.”
The Southwest Washington League, under the protection of the National Association, enjoyed a most successful season, financially and artistically, under the able administration of President John P. Fink, of Olympia. The season opened May 10, 1903, and closed September 6, with Aberdeen and Hoquiam tied for the pennant. Hoquiam refused to play a post-season series to decide the tie, and the league directors awarded the pennant to Aberdeen.
Fink first reached out to organizers of local teams in the timber towns early in 1903, asking them if their communities had it in them to step up to professional baseball. First on his list were Olympia, Chehalis, Centralia, Montesano, Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
These six cities were at the time very similar. Today, they stand apart culturally and demographically, Olympia in particular. In more than a century, Olympia has gone from a timber town in the same classification as Aberdeen and Chehalis (with a state capitol) to a city on the southern edge of the Puget Sound metroplex. Olympia grew from just under 4,000 to more than 10 times that size.
But, as Fink sent out his inquiries in early 1903, these really were cities of the same league.
By February 1903 almost 20 Olympia businessmen had lined up behind the team, putting up the nearly the entire sum needed to enter the league. The entrance fee of $250 that Fink and other organizers wanted in 1903 to enter the league worked out to be about $6,000 today.
Gathering investors, officially forming the league, putting together a board of directors were early steps for the Olympia team in the Southwest League. By mid-February the local electric utility — Olympia Light and Power — promised to rip down a defunct veladrome (bike track) on the bluff above their powerhouse. The plan was to use the timbers to build a grandstand and bleachers on the stadium site, which also coincidentally was along the OL&P’s streetcar line.
In April, Olympia baseball men were calling the home field “Electric Park” but it was not yet fit to practice on. Process on the park is going slow, despite the effort of the OL&P company.
When the Olympia Maroons opened in a exhibition on April 19, 1903 against the Tacoma Athletes, an amatuer team, Olympia won 4-1. Six hundred Olympians supported the Maroons with “lusty yells” according to the newspaper account.
The board of directors meetings for the Olympia Maroons were public in 1903 and were covered like local government meetings. For example, a decision to charge admission is discussed in a regular news column. It cost 25 cents to get into the park, and additional 25 cents to get into the grandstands. Ladies get into the grandstands for free.
And, by May 10 the Southwest Washington League was in action.
The first really big event of the baseball schedule is on May 22 when President Roosevelt came to town and Aberdeen played a “President Day” special the same afternoon. A train full of Harborites came into town with their ball team to see the Bull Moose but the Pippins lost to the Maroons.
As it turns out, Olympia was a pretty bad team. By August, the Morning Olympian was advising against betting on the Maroons. Or, at least during league games, during which the Maroons were apparently snake bit:
Any man will tell you, provided he has money on the game, that he is willing to back the Maroons against any team in the Pacific National or the Outlaw leagues, on exhibition, but when it comes to Southwest Washington league games he will hereafter save his money to buy bread…
That’s a difference between today and then. While teams like Olympia would play throughout the week against teams in and out of their league, only weekend games played against other SWWL teams counted towards the standings. Apparently Olympia was a weekday team.
By August things were getting worse for the league on a much larger scale. Hoquiam was threatening to leave the league.
They seemed to have sarcasm back then as the Hoquiam Perfect Gentlemen were apparently not perfect or gentlemen. Well, if you assumed that amatuer ball players who worked mill jobs during the week and played in the SWL on the weekend, aren’t gentlemen. The all-amatuer team from Hoquiam was leading the league in August against teams made up of a mix of professional and amateurs. This apparently led to a decision by the owners of the other teams to expand the number of league games, which ate into Hoquiam’s small league lead.
Hoquiam stayed in the league, but not without dragging arguments through organizational meetings and letters.
At the end of the first season, half the league had 11 wins, the other 7.
Aberdeen Pippins 11-7 .611
Hoquiam Perfect Gentlemen 11-7 .611
Centralia Midgets 7-11 .389
Olympia Maroons 7-11 .389
In September the Maroons needed financial help. The Elks and Foresters clubs ended up holding a charity baseball game to support the town’s professional ball teams. This is an auspicious end to Olympia pro-baseball in 1903. Two amatuer ball teams were raising funds for the pro team.
The league would play three years before breaking apart. In 1904 the Maroons became the Senators and in 1905 Centralia was replaced by Montesano Farmers.
In early May 1905, the Morning Olympian introduced the players as if they’re elected officials: Senator Cook, Senator Christian, Senator Almost Stubavor Dye. “A newly elected member who represents the Solid South is Senator Autray.”
Its obvious why the Olympian was practically begging Olympians to come out to support the Senators in 1905. Its the same reason Mayor P.H. Carlyon was deciding whether to declare a half civic holiday for their home opener. Just like in the 1903 season, the hope of a warm Olympia May was smashed by the the heat of August and the league was again in financial trouble. In 1903, August featured a dust up between Hoquiam and the league. In 1905 it was the very fate of the league.
In early August the owners came together in an Aberdeen hotel. At the urging of Montesano and Aberdeen, they decided to press on, despite very real financial concerns for the rest of the league.
Then two days later, the Olympian carries this passage in a otherwise typical homestand preview:
The Kids (the team’s nickname in the paper is the Panama Kids for some reason) have played good ball all season, and have been a good advertisement for Olympia all the way. They have not received the support at home that they deserved. The league this year has been faster than ever before and a team that at this time is in second position with a chance still left for the pennant is worth of support of any city in this state. Turn out today, and tardy though you are, be there with the big boost and help the team out, not only with your presence, but encourage them with your two-bit piece. That’s where they need your help most. It costs money to run a team and every citizen should help defray this expense. Olympia needs a team and should be glad to pay for it when she has a team like the present one.
They need you two-bit the most, your fandom second. The team is an advertisement for the city. It costs money to run a team, Olympia needs a team, every citizen should pitch in. Seems like the newspaper is making an argument for a road or a school than a baseball team.
And, unfortunately, the Senators and what they mean for Olympia are in deep trouble as 1905 ends and the baseball men began to look to 1906.
1905 SW Washington League Standings
Montesano 25-10 (.705)
Olympia 20-16 (.555)
Aberdeen 17-17 (.500)
Hoquiam 9-27 (.250)
The Senators finished well behind the Farmers and in late winter 1906 the ground is being laid for a pro-baseball free Southwest Washington. While a league may not come around, but the possibility of an independent team in Olympia is brought up. The increased interest in baseball from amatuer clubs is also mentioned as a bright spot. A local league between Hoquiam and Aberdeen clubs (with the support of the streetcar company between the towns) is promised, but no one knows if they want to start a league between other cities.
While parlaying Olympia interest in reviving the D-level SWL, the Grays Harbor towns (Cosmopolis, in addition to Hoquiam and Aberdeen) jump up into the B-level Northwestern League. The class A Pacific Coast League (by 1906 not an outlaw, but a law-abiding member of Organized Baseball) includes Seattle and Portland along with California cities. The combined Harbor cities join other second tier cities in the region, such as Spokane, Tacoma and Butte, Montana.
Surviving as the Grays Harbor Lumberman and Grays, and the Aberdeen Black Cats, the Harbor super team plays in the Northwestern League until 1910 when the league drops them. The Northwestern League was in those years somewhere in the historic backwash of the legendary (and sometimes considered major league) Pacific Coast League. Cities like Seattle, Portland and Spokane would fall out of the PCL and into the Northwest League and then back up again.
After being bounced out of the Pacific Northwest League in 1910, Grays Harbor baseball supporters tried to put back the old SWL. Olympia had fielded an independent team in 1909 and felt up to the task.
But, only if things would be different in 1910. Olympia only wanted games on the weekend and no expanding the league schedule (like what happened to Hoquiam in 1903) to shoo out smaller clubs. Olympia also asked for a strict salary cap. “What we are planning on is a league run in such a manner that there will be no danger of it getting along nicely until the Fourth of July and then going to pieces,” said a baseball supporter. While Olympia wanted a ball team in 1910, they wanted it under more humble standards.
In addition to the old SWL towns (Olympia, Centralia, Chehalis, Hoquiam and Aberdeen), Elma, South Bend and two Tacoma teams are also considered. But, the 1910 Class D Washington State League did not end up including Olympia. The cost of travel, keeping players and drawing fans drove Olympia’s interest away from the league.
Olympia ended up fielding semi-pro, unaffiliated with Organized Baseball teams through the 1920s. Eventually even interest in that level of baseball lagged in the capital city.
Gordon Newell describes the final death of semi-pro Olympia Senators in Rogues, Buffoons and Statesmen decades later. The midsummer curse did the baseball Senators in again:
The coming of electronic home entertainment media may have provided the final straw which, added to the summer mobility of the family motor car, broke the back of paid admission baseball in the capital city. The sport itself was popular enough. The local merchants organized a twilight league and the sawmills fielded amatuer teams in the sawdust league. The Olympia Senators even began the season bravely under the leadership of ex-major leaguer Ham Hyatt, but by the end of July the lack of patronage caused the semi-pro players to give up in disgust and turn the new Stevens Field over to high school and amatuer teams.
Background: For many decades Olympia was content to depend on the State Capital Museum for its local history venue and a place to store many of its important historical assets. In the early ‘90s it appeared that the Art Deco Thurston County Courthouse on Capitol Way would be torn down and a State History Museum built on that site. But the courthouse was saved for adaptive reuse and the new History Museum ended up in Tacoma. Then, after it was determined that the old Lord family mansion housing the State Capital Museum was not suitable for long-term archival use, its “Olympia Collection” went to Tacoma, also. For years after that the local historic preservation community has variously muttered about the move of “our” history to Tacoma, or wondered about how to develop a facility to bring it back. A bond issue for a new Olympia library, which might have included such a room, failed twice in 1997.
Local history and preservation advocates Rebecca Christie,
author of the neighborhood history Workingman’s Hill, and Annamary Fitzgerald, then-Executive Director of the Bigelow House Preservation
Association, met when both served on the Olympia Heritage Commission. Both recognized the need for a local history repository and a community-based preservation advocacy organization.
While doing research for her book, Rebecca became aware of historical materials stored in closets, basements, attics and garages. Many families expressed a desire to have a place where they could donate their materials to be preserved and available to researchers and the general public.
So on August 19, 2001, Rebecca Christie, Annamary Fitzgerald and Liza Rognas signed and sent out letters addressed to “Dear Friend of Olympia History.” Recipients were invited to a community potluck meal at Rebecca’s home Sunday evening, September 9.
This letter identified the “Need: Identify, collect and preserve our community’s rich and rapidly vanishing/dispersing historical record,” and then asked, “ How can we locate, gather and house the historic materials currently held in private collections….?” and “What can concerned members of the community do to support other ongoing heritage-related projects?” Attendees would meet for a “…brainstorm discussion and to get the ball rolling.”
The meeting agenda included:
Refining the Statement of Need, selecting the Intended Audience, and drafting a Statement of Purpose. This last was determined to be, “To identify, preserve, protect, promote, interpret and perpetuate resources associated with the history of the City of Olympia and its identified growth area.”
The file contains no attendance list for this first get-together, but the group did set up “Identified Committees” with these members:
Invitation List: Rebecca Christie, Shanna Stevenson, Winnie Olsen
Program: Drew Crooks, Pat Harper, Shanna Stevenson
PR/Publicity: Liza Rognas, Randy Stilson
Mission Development: Bob Arnold
Today, some attendees believe that Roger Easton and Susan Goff also were at that first meeting.Perhaps others were also.
The group concluded its work by outlining “Next Steps:
Identify Stakeholders for an Organizational Meeting
Hold Organizational Meeting
Establish an Olympia Historical Society”
On November 8, 2001, a short item in The Olympian confirmed
that the group was actively pursuing its goals:
“A gathering to explore forming an Olympia Historical Society is planned for 2 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 10), at the Thurston County Courthouse, Building 1, Room 152. For more information call Annamary Fitzgerald, ….”
A flier for this meeting listed hosts Annamary Fitzgerald,
Rebecca Christie, Winnifred Olsen, Shanna Stevenson, Pat Harper, Drew Crooks,
Randy Stilson,and Bob Arnold. Meeting sponsors were listed as “…interested
individuals and the Conservation Associates of the Pacific Northwest.”
Two vintage engravings grace the reverse of this flier. One shows a girl on the shore collecting shellfish which she held in the front of her gathered-up dress, while just offshore
a Native American fisher in a traditional canoe casts a net. The image was framed with oyster shells. The second engraving shows a bustling port and city viewed from the Westside, with the wooden bridge to “Marshville” and downtown in the right background and a departing steamboat in the foreground. Mt. Rainier rises in the far distance. (These two images would later be considered for an official OHS logo.)
The group’s publicity effort brought a very credible response:
Present at this key meeting were: Gerry Alexander, Bob Arnold, Karen Bowen, Ann
Christensen, Rebecca Christie, Marilyn Connon, Drew Crooks, Spencer Daniels,
Lauren Danner, Edward Echtle, Lynn Erickson, Lois Fenske, Annamary Fitzgerald,
Chuck Fowler, Susan Goff, Beverly Gunstone, Pat Harper, Dorothy Hernes,
Genevieve Hupe’, Russ Hupe’, Dick Johnson, Agnes Kelley, David Kindle, Bonnie
Marie, Winnie Olsen, Susan O’Neal, Susan Parish, Liza Rognas, Don Roselle, Lila
Sjodin, Shanna Stevenson, Randy Stilson, Ed Swan, Kathleen Turner, Lanny Weaver,
Diana Wilkowski, Sandy Yannone, and Tom Zahn.
The agenda included:
Speaker: Chief Justice Gerry Alexander,
on the topic, “An Olympia Historical Society—A Good Idea”
Motion to organize an O.H.S.
Motion empowering the temporary chair to appoint a Committee on Organization,
responsible for drafting a
Constitution and Bylaws.
Committees and Interest Areas (signup sheet)
Discussion and Adjourn
After Chief Justice Alexander’s remarks, the group set to
work. Susan Parish moved, seconded by Ed
Swan, that an Olympia Historical Society be established “on this day, Saturday,
November 10, 2001.” There was no
discussion and the motion passed unanimously.
Drew Crooks then moved that “Temporary Chair Annamary Fitzgerald
be authorized to appoint a Steering Committee to continue the organizing (of)
the Olympia Historical Society.” Rebecca
Christie seconded the motion. Concern
was raised about the possibility of duplicating the work of the State Capital
Museum. Chuck Fowler volunteered to be
the liaison between the Museum and the Olympia Historical Society. There was no further discussion and the
motion passed unanimously.
Committees were named:
Organization (Steering Committee), Collections, Education and Programs,
Membership, Finance and Fundraising, and Outreach and Publications.
The next meeting was set for Saturday, January 26, 2002, at
the same location. Its main order of
business would be to adopt Articles of Incorporation, to appoint a nominating committee
that would present a slate of officers for a Board of Directors, and to set up
The minutes were signed by Patricia Carol Harper, Acting
The Olympia Historical Society had been born.
(End of Part One)
It would seem, then,
that 2012 is actually OHS’ 11th birthday year, not its 10th. I’d always assumed that filing the Articles
of Incorporation with the Secretary of State’s office marked the most significant
date, not considering all the hard work it had taken to get to that point. And, given the caliber of all those involved
in OHS’ conception and gestation, it’s not at all surprising that the process
was most impressively organized and carried out meticulously. Many of those dedicated community volunteers
are still active in local historic preservation; a few are no longer with
us. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.
The previous two newsletters contained articles on the history of Capitol Lake, whose authors maintain divergent conclusions. As our newsletter policies maintain, the Olympia Historical Society welcomes submissions on any subject of local history and does not take positions on the points of view of our contributors.
Mr. Miller submitted the following:
Unfortunately the membership of the Olympia Historical Society was purposefully deceived by an article in the June newsletter by Emmett O’Connell entitled: “The Myth of Connection between Wilder and White and Capitol Lake.” The article was false on two counts. First it is an historical fact that Wilder and White’s 1911 plan for the State Capitol Campus included the reflecting Capitol Lake. The August 29, 1911, “Report of Group Plan” signed by Wilder and White and which is in the State Archives states: “A tide lock at the Boulevard would form a lake and the whole effect would be visible from most parts of the city as well as from the sound.” A full copy of the document is attached. Second, Mr. O’Connell deceptively overlays the 1912 Olmsted Brothers plan, which was rejected by the State Capitol Commission, as if it was the Wilder and White plan for Capitol Lake and the Campus. This history is clearly laid out in Professor Norman J. Johnston’s definitive book on the subject: Washington’s Audacious State Capitol, at pages 33-37 and page 124.
Mr. O’Connell submitted the following:
I have two thoughts about the discussion reflecting the piece I submitted earlier this year on the history of Capitol Lake.
First, in “The myth of the connection between Wilder and White and Capitol Lake” I opaquely described the early history of the Wilder and White era of capitol campus design. Based on a master’s thesis by Mark Epstein, I overlayed the Olmsted Brother’s plan for a more limited lagoon with the current Capitol Lake. I don’t think I was wrong in showing that overlay, but I would admit that I didn’t explain it well.
According the Norman Johnston, the Olmsted’s group plan was rejected in 1912 not because of its more limited lake, but because it suggested a new axis for the campus. The axis on which the group would be built was an important consideration for the Capitol Commission, as explained below.
By the time the campus landscape planning was completed in the late 1920s, the Olmsted Brothers were brought back in by the commission, and depending on what history you believe, waterfront improvements either reverted back to the Olmsted’s vision (according to Epstein) or were dropped altogether (according to Johnston).
Second, I find the suggestion that Walter Wilder and Harry White’s “Report of Group Plan” as the last word in any discussion of Capitol Lake’s history troubling. Yes, they did mention a lake in that letter, but its worth exploring the entire letter to see the lake’s context in their minds.
The “Report of Group Plan” is correspondence from Wilder and White to the Capitol Commission dated August 29, 1911. The document is just over 4 pages long and in it Wilder and White quickly lay out three questions to be answered by the letter:
1. Was Olympia the right place for a permanent state capitol for Washington State?
2. Can the city express any special character possessed by the state?
3. Can Olympia’s growth be directed to “enhance the importance of the state.” This was an important question because capitol buildings in many older states had become crowded and overgrown by their host cities.
In terms of the first question, Wilder and White demur because of their limited knowledge of the state. They do point out that a coastal city was a proper choice because the state itself is coastal. And, in terms of Olympia’s small size compared to other cities, Wilder and White point out that the city can be more attentive to the needs of the state government than trying to compete with Tacoma or Seattle.
Wilder and White move quickly from the second question into the third, answering that it is:
…in the possibilities that (Olympia) contains for expressing the character of the state, that the city in general as well as the site for the capitol is remarkable, and we believe careful development of these possibilities, will result in an effect unequalled by any capitol in the world.
Most of the report (the remaining three pages) deal with answering the third question, how Olympia’s growth could be shaped to emphasis the capitol campus they proposed.
They then discuss the alternative of the north south orientation of the campus that they recommend, the east west orientation which would connect the campus to Capitol Way (Main Street then). Wilder and White criticize this approach, calling it “nothing but an accidental importance, starting nowhere and ending indefinitely…” Changing the approach to the east would also turn the capitol’s back on Olympia and ignore the approach from the water.
More specific recommendations reconnect their vision of the north south axis with the possibilities they earlier mentioned. They go into detail about a new road, which would be a possible extension of 4th Avenue, that would “connect the main ridges contained within the city” and continue to coastal towns. This road would be connected to the campus by another, which would extend along the east shore of what is now Capitol Lake and continue to the then proposed Pacific Highway and then onto Tumwater.
Wilder and White then propose regrading the hill between Water Street and the campus, creating space for a park-like setting for city and “other public buildings.”
Then, they discuss the building of a tide lock at the boulevard first mentioned earlier to “form a lake and the whole effect would be visible from most parts of the city as well as from the Sound.” In the entire document, this is the only mention of a tide lock and a lake.
Then follows a more philosophical discussion of why the city growing the manner they prescribe, while a sacrifice, would benefit Olympia in the long run. They quickly pivot from their specific recommendations about the growth of the city to the benefits that would be created by “any sacrifice made by property owners in the city for the sake of its beauty…”
The sacrifices on the part of the city would, in our opinion, be trifling compared to the advantages that would accrue from them, while the development outlined would facilitate the natural travel through the city and direct it past the most beautiful portions.
They then propose that the “present park” – Sylvester Park as far as I can tell – should be physically connected to their park and civic district proposed for below the campus.
They then cover their opinion of whether a foundation laid during a previous capitol building effort should be employed. Wilder and White write that taking into consideration the entire cost of the capitol campus, the sunk cost of an old set of foundations should not be considered, especially if they interfere with their design.
At the close of the letter, they refer to the need for more detailed plans for the campus.
While Wilder and White do mention a lake in this letter, it is important to put their suggestion in context. The reference is a single sentence in a more than four page long letter. It is also one suggestion of how the city itself should grow.
This is an important point in the discussion of the campus and Capitol Lake. By placing the lake in the discussion of how the city should grow and outside the group plan, they make it secondary. Their primary concern with the letter is the axis upon which the group is oriented. Obviously the city should grow around that axis, but that growth is secondary to the axis itself.
Also, like the grading between Water Street and the campus, the road to Tumwater and the location of a post office and other civic buildings below the campus, very little of what Wilder and White wanted in Olympia’s growth actually happened. In fact, the lake is practically the only thing they advised that was carried through.
Also, by using words like “sacrifice” when talking about the city’s growth, its also questionable whether Wilder and White ever saw these improvements as even part of the capitol campus. It seems likely that the roads, civic buildings and the lake would be constructed by the city itself and be complimentary to the campus.
I’m not trying to point out that Wilder and White didn’t envision a lake at the base of the campus. What I am trying to do is put their vision in its proper context. Their suggestion of a lake wasn’t the first one and the connection between what Wilder and White actually suggested and what eventually came about is tenuous.
Mark Derricott, Editor
Does Aristotle’s theory of the whole can become greater than the sum of its parts hold true if we apply it to our community? Can something as abstract as a community possibly transcend the totality of its individuals? If so, how does that happen? If the Olympia Municipal Code is any guide, our community has adopted that theory. A municipal ordinance provides that we may name our public buildings after those who have “contributed outstanding civic service to the city”.[i] Though a great honor that may be, it is nonetheless an insufficient gesture of gratitude for any individual on whom it is bestowed. And if that is the so, a newsletter article is altogether unable to comprehend the life of an exceptional individual. Judge Scott K. Ahlf, Olympia Municipal Court Judge summed up the obvious problem when describing the life of his predecessor: “You can’t say enough about Lee Creighton. He gave everything to this court; to this community.” For all of our inability to express it, we can still recognize some of Lee Creighton’s contributions to the success of our own community.
Transition to an Elected Judge
Historical processes that dramatically shape any community often have facially innocuous origins. So it is with Olympia, Washington in 2002. That year, the Court Rules and Procedures Committee, which is a standing committee of the Washington State Bar Association’s Board of Governors,[ii] adopted General Rule 29 which streamlined the procedures for courts of limited jurisdiction, including municipal courts. It mandated that cities elect, rather than appoint, their full time judges. It also provided for the rules by which municipalities create their own judicial departments mirroring the federal government’s three distinct branches of government.
Up until that time, Olympia’s judges were appointed by the city manager and approved by its city council. The judge was not a full time position and often local attorneys would serve as the judge while devoting the remainder of their time to their practices. With General Rule 29, Olympia was required to elect its judge for the first time. Thus, the people of Olympia had a direct and final say in the choice of its judge and consequently the administration of its judicial department. This meant a dramatic transition in how the city manages its criminal justice system. Prior to the change, the judicial department had been under the Administrative Services department (i.e. the delegate of the City Manager). The change resulted in a new Court Services department, split off and operated independently under the direction of the judge. This included the budgets, choice of personnel and operations—in fact all decisions but salary and benefits were now under the independent control of the new Court Services department.
To head the transition, Lee Creighton was elected as Olympia’s first municipal court judge. His personality was apparent before he took the bench. During the election season which took the city’s prosecutor, Lee Creighton, to the bench, Steve Hall remembered that Creighton had campaign t-shirts printed. He asked his friend Steve Hall, at the time assistant city manager to wear one during a run that Hall had entered. When Hall refused on the basis that he was a city employee and could not take a position in an election, Creighton rationalized his disappointment with the rejoinder: “Well, you’re so slow no one would see it anyway.”
After Judge Creighton took over, Hall was assigned to assist in the transition to a separate full department in the government. Operating procedures was the primary concern to most of the staff, which approached 20 individuals at the time. Perhaps that is a problem that Olympians can appreciate more than most communities. Hall attributes a relatively smooth transition to Judge Creighton’s leadership. Judge Creighton quickly signed a memorandum of understanding that adopted the existing city policies and procedures concerning employment and operation. While there were certainly other speed bumps along the way, the transition was consummated with relative speed and ease.
As anyone who has been through a transition in the administration of government can attest, it is not an easy process, but time and leadership help. Bonnie Woodrow, Olympia Municipal Court Administrator was present for the transition. “We knew it was coming, so we were able to get ready, but a transition like that doesn’t happen without the cooperation of a lot of people. Information channels needed to be maintained or established so that we were informed of what we we’re all doing. Things that happened naturally before the transition had to be recreated in separate departments.”
For Hall, this was a historic moment in the development of our city. According to Hall, Judge Creighton brought three essential attributes to the position and the city’s government: “1.) His exemplary ethical standards; 2.) His professional management of court staff. Judge Creighton implemented fair and equitable administrative guidelines for dealing with his new staff; and, 3.) His personal attitude toward everyone who came into the courtroom—ensuring they were cared for and respected. Judge Creighton made them feel like city government treated them well regardless of the outcome.”
Judge Creighton’s Courtroom
As one might expect, the courtroom experience began to reflect Judge Creighton’s attitude and personality immediately. It bears mentioning that municipal court is not the easiest place to be a staff person. People are often upset and sometimes even indignant at the idea of taking time off from things they would rather be doing to show up to municipal court and answer for misdemeanors, (crimes punishable by less than a year in jail, e.g. drinking in public or driving with a suspended license). Too often, these frustrations are taken out on the staff given that they are often the most visible individuals. Judge Creighton noticed this and was always attempting to remedy it. At times, when defendants would get belligerent with the staff, they would sometimes notify the judge through their information system between the time they entered the courtroom and were heard. Judge Creighton’s orders often included requiring a defendant to issue an apology to the aggrieved staff person after the hearing.
Judge Creighton’s courtroom accolades are plentiful. Kalo Wilcox, once a city prosecutor, now a judge in Thurston County District Court extolled Judge Creighton’s strong advocacy for crime victims, his protection of constitutional rights, but also his sense of humor. “Anyone could see the respect he had for the accused who would appear before him.” Woodrow explained when questioned for examples. “He would listen to them; take the time to talk to them; and to treat them as people. You could see his compassion. People wanted to do well for him, they didn’t want to disappoint him and that came not out of fear, but from the respect that they all knew he was giving them.”
According to witnesses, Judge Creighton found ways to accommodate the necessity of decorum in the courtroom while still appealing to the ironical humor that life always presents. He was a huge X-Files fan; fashioned himself an “X-Filian”; and couldn’t resist giving weekly updates on the series from the bench. Monica Schneider, at the time the Probation Program Manager, recounts an unforgettable example of his courtroom humor: “I was in court on a probation matter and a defendant who I knew from high school was being sentenced. I was merely a bystander during that hearing and wasn’t paying too much attention when all of a sudden I heard, “I don’t care if you put me on probation, just don’t make me report to Monica.” I looked up surprised and then looked at Lee, who said, “Why? Did you two go to the prom together with some bad result?”
With the judge now responsible for the judicial department of the city, Judge Creighton had a full slate of administrative responsibilities when he wasn’t on the bench. Judicial administration included the probation department in which offenders are often placed after or in lieu of jail time sentences.
One true labor of love Judge Creighton was the Options Program of the Olympia Municipal Jail. Monica Schneider, the probation services manager explains: “The options programs were introduced back in 1996 after the Olympia Jail and Municipal Court contacted a consultant to do a study about jail population management and alternatives to incarceration. Originally, in 1996, when [Judge Creighton] was a prosecutor for the City of Olympia, the initial programs offered were minimal. I was hired to head the probation department and develop programs to alleviate jail crowding. The programs focused on enhancing probation services to defendants by providing more intensive supervision (ISP) for some offenders (specifically multiple DUI and DV offenders). In the first couple of years we offered standard probation services, intensive supervision probation, community service, and had a part time work crew program.
“People want a fair and responsible government, and they want offenders to be held accountable.” Remarked Judge Ahlf, “Jails are often on the third tier to funding from voters, but police officers are first.” Therefore, there is too little jail space to accommodate offenders. Innovative and creative programs like the Options Program can help bridge that gap by ensuring that people found to have committed crimes remain accountable, but within the voters’ constraints.
As the Options Program was developed, several additional jail time alternatives were introduced including: Electronic Home Monitoring, Day Jail, Work Crew, In-custody work crew, Driving Under the Influence Alternative program, and Community Service.
“Judge Creighton was instrumental in the development and continued success with all of our programs. He was extremely supportive in lobbying the prosecutors, the police/jail, and the City Council to allow us to be creative and offer new ideas or make changes to the programs to keep them fresh and flexible with the changing times. I very much appreciated working with Judge Creighton for a variety of reasons,” Schneider concluded, “he was supportive, he was innovative, and he promoted creativity in his staff. He was always open to new ideas and willing to give any reasonable one a chance to develop. Lee was a champion of the probation department.”
Off the Bench
As Judge Ahlf presciently remarked: The measure of how someone feels about their boss is whether his or her advice is still revered when no longer the boss. His staff still defers to his predecessor. “Even years later, I hear: ‘Lee would do this or that.’”
Charisma isn’t necessary to manage an effective organization, but it can certainly help. While charismatic leaders often crowd the pages of the history books, very few people have been able to describe what it actually means on a daily basis. It’s a much more difficult quality to define on a personal level, but people who knew Judge Creighton well seemed to understand charisma even if it’s not articulable. Hall told the city council on May 10, 2011 “Until tonight I thought I was [Judge Creighton’s] best friend in the whole world. Then I heard that he told [Paul Wohl] and [Judge Ahlf] the same thing.”
“He insisted on being called Lee [in the office].” Woodrow summarized his off the bench demeanor: “With him, it was hard to separate the professional from the personal because he brought you into his family. He cared about you and you knew it.”
Woodrow was quick to remark that “He always treated everyone as an equal. He always used the word ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. Schneider remembers: “Lee had a great personality and was also someone who was easy to get along with.” “There was no one more appreciative than me, when it came to smoothing things over with other departments.”
In what became a common theme that reverberated through any discussion about Judge Creighton, humor was a readily accessible arrow in his trusty quiver. During a particularly contentious dispute over budget allocation between departments responsible for the city’s justice administration, (including flying spreadsheets, angry emails, and the inevitable pep talk, kumbaya speeches, with their subsequent dressing downs) “Judge Creighton stopped us to talk […] and the first thing that came out was ‘Can’t we all just get along….’ There was nothing we could do but laugh.”
When smoothing out wrinkles between departments wasn’t necessary, Judge Creighton was able to keep morale up by being himself. His colleagues recall an uncanny ability to imitate voices as disparate as the characters of a Monty Python sketch, and Elmer Fudd which would certainly have been hilarious until the moment it wasn’t. Woodrow remembers that he would settle into neighboring offices to share a lighthearted moment, even in the face of relentless deadlines. She laughed as she recalled “Sometimes, I could not get him out of my office.” His administrative assistant during his years as a prosecutor knew the secret: “I would yell at him: “Go to your room!” and he would.” Diane Vanderhoof explained proudly.
As all of us living in Olympia well understand, our quaggy winters wax and wane through the long hours that comprise the majority our working lives. The other participants of our office environments typically determine the length of each hour. Those who worked with Judge Creighton universally remember him with fondness and gratitude for the burden he helped to bear. One of the ways particularly fitting for an Olympian was his love of coffee—he was a connoisseur of all the local coffee shops—and he didn’t hesitate to spread those joyful tidings. “On exceptionally bad days,” Woodrow remembers, “[Judge Creighton] would get the one who was having the horrible day a huge mocha coffee.” The remarkable feature here of course is that one must recognize that your office mate is suffering though through a difficult day before attempting to remedy it.
His staff did what they could to repay a professional career that so deeply touched and influenced them. After the diagnosis of an illness, Judge Creighton finally decided to withdraw from the bench though it was personally devastating to leave his work that he found so fulfilling, and the people that he had grown so close to over the years. After he retired, as a testament to his character and commitment, his staff continued to keep in touch with him by, among other ways of expressing their love and gratitude, mowing his lawn.
On May 10, 2011, the Olympia city council voted to call its court buildings and offices, the Lee Creighton Justice Center. Mayor Doug Mah extolled Lee Creighton’s “Service, Dedication, and Respect” as reasons that it is fitting that Olympia’s justice center bears his name. In testimony before the council that day, Paul Wohl who followed Lee Creighton as an Olympia city prosecutor remarked: “I’m not sure our community understands the loss. This seems to me to be the perfect way to honor and show that his principles are still with us.”
We cannot attribute a respectful courtroom, a well-functioning probation program, or an efficient administrative department to one individual. The efforts of many are required to bring about these accomplishments. However, it is difficult to miss that some of those individuals become inspirations to others and that influence cascades through successor generations. Judge Creighton touched many individuals in our Olympia government, and the true to the cause of effective leadership they have carried on his legacy. Judge Creighton’s life is unquestionably an example of this.
Our City Manager summarized the historical significance accurately: “Judge Creighton was an important figure in the history of Olympia.” While perhaps counterintuitive to those who have not considered it, history is relentlessly unfolding before our eyes. It is people like Lee Creighton that give us all an opportunity to remark on that fact which further allows us to comprehend a reconcilliation of past and present.
Thus we return to our initial question. In the lives of certain individuals one can see clearly the typically opaque interaction found between the individual and the community. Communities are the individuals who comprise them. The forces, good or bad, that result from that interaction determine the success or failure of the concept of community. After all, no community appears on any map. There are cities and towns, but they become communities only because its individuals sacrifice their individuality for the spirit of their community thanks to the love they have for their fellow human beings. So it is with Lee Creighton.
The city did not name its justice center after Lee Creighton because he was its first elected judge, because he supervised the transition to a full judiciary under the city’s administration, or because he saw to the effective administration of justice. Our community remembers and reveres him because he committed the better part of his individuality to our city; he committed his time and emotional resources to furthering his vision of a community based on mutual respect and quality of life to all of those with whom he came in contact. Some of us talk about these goals, but Lee was able to personify them and the memories of those who knew him attest to that. In that regard, Lee Creighton was as much as a city pioneer as anyone who lived at the city’s founding and it is appropriate to remember him as such; but perhaps his greatest legacy is the lesson his example taught—each of us has the capability to do the same.
[i] In 2010, the Olympia City Council adopted an ordinance now at 12.62.010 which provides that the city will choose to name its public buildngs after “[a]n individual, living or deceased, who has contributed outstanding civic service to the city and, if deceased, has been so for a period of at least one year.”
[ii] The Washington State Bar Association is the licensing authority for all attorneys in the state of Washington.
The excellent recent piece about Capitol Lake by Mr. Allen Miller and a formidable rejoinder in this quarter’s newsletter by Mr. Emmett O’Connell reveals a rich dialogue about our local history. Mr. O’Connell’s appeal to “true historical context” counters Mr. Miller’s exhortation to perfect the Wilder and White plan on its 100th birthday. These authors evidently disagree on the true intention of the designers of our Capitol Campus. Who is correct and how do we decide? And what does it matter? These are not simple questions and a sincere desire to answer them require examining and thinking about methodology in the the study of history, and the implications for us as producers and consumers of history.
If the truth of our history is worth discovering, the path its seekers must follow begins with considering what knowledge of the truth about anything that no longer exists might possibly mean. Before clarifying the object of history, however, we should weigh the value of that object. Why do White and Wilder’s intentions 100 years ago make any difference to us in deciding what we should do now? Is there something in their actions that should go beyond mere historical curiosity for us today? The answer for both Miller and O’Connell seems to be an emphatic “Yes!” What could some of their reasons be? There is often a strong, even sentimental, attachment to the past captured in such objects as the family bible or other heirlooms. These instill in us a sense of belonging to our particular place in time—a personal link to the past. This can be a grounding force in an often turbulent world. Often, history can be a rhetorical device that congeals a point of view in some time or place which may perhaps say more about now than then. People often view history as a guide to how events in our lifetimes follow causal laws, and through its study we can understand the present or predict the future, or avoid repeating mistakes. Historical share prices certainly aid the trader in this view. For many others, history is simply an inexplicable curiosity that drives research and consumption of books, media documentaries, side of the road historical markers, and bedtime stories. If nothing else, studying history provides some context for us, but some have believed its function is much broader than that. In fact, in some accounts, history is the only expression of our collective being that there ever could be and it is only by uncovering the past which bore us, can we look at and really understand ourselves.
One perplexing but beautiful aspect of the study of history is the subject-object problem first articulated by Georg Friedrich Hegel. The objects of history are the vanished events that make up the past which historians now study. These historians are the subjects in Hegel’s dichotomy; there is history (object), but also the historians (subject) who study history (object). Together, these asymmetrical components comprise Hegel’s Totality. The issue of whether they can be wrested from each other, even for the sake of conversation, provides a glimpse of the problems touched upon by both Miller and O’Connell.
Hegel spent his life meditating on the collective consciousness of humanity. There, he believed he discovered what in German is known as Geist or Spirit. The Spirit of ’76 is perhaps America’s most prominent use of the term. Hegel argued that we are unable to view history except in terms of this Geist: our subjective view of those vanished objects, events, places and everything else that comprise time now departed. Only by attempting to comprehend the organic development of Spirit can we approach something as intangible as the past, even in terms specific events. Over time, our views change and are changed, understanding develops through dialogues like the one between Miller and O’Connell—a view is put forward, it is criticized and/or corrected, expounded upon, or otherwise developed, then replaced again by a new idea, which is in turn criticized, or so Hegel believed continuing the process.
In our example of Capitol Lake, there is a point of departure, for the sake of convenience only. In reality, there are none and the development of concepts and ideas is perpetual. This constant negation giving rise to creation, like green shoots in a forest fire or a decimated economy, is not the slow uncovering of a fixed object, but the same story told from different, various, angles. After all, we as the subject and history as the object are eternally alienated by the passage of time. No matter how much we study, it’s still only through the interaction of the subject and object that we can come to comprehend it. Through Hegel’s lens, one might consider the question of whether there is actually any true history. It is a profound question!
That back and forth, negation-creation, occurs also in the thought surrounding the study of history. Hegel was not the first philosopher to engage in historiography, but he raised the questions have occupied the study of history since. Hegel’s critics believed there was an easier, more tangible path to its discovery. Leopold von Ranke rebelled against the subject-object framework offering instead that history can and should be reconstructed. He believed that a scientific, positivist approach to the study of history was possible and necessary. His formulation of this is one all students of historiography know well: wie es eigentlich gewesen (“how things actually were”). In the Preface to his History of the Latin and Germanic Nations from 1494-1514, Ranke wrote:
The book attempts to see these histories and the other, related histories of the Latin and Germanic nations in their unity. To history has been assigned the office of judging the past, of instruction the present for the benefit of future ages. To such high offices this work does not aspire: It wants only to show what happened (wie es eigentlich gewesen).
In this view, historians are like nineteenth century scientists, weighing and measuring objects and gathering data about facts. At first blush, this is an intuitive and attainable goal. With relentless objectivity any historian should be able to reconstruct the past through rigorous research, patient study, and accurate communication. On this view, our question about the process of designing Capital Lake should be easily answered. Mr. O’Connell’s appeal to the source materials follows the von Rankian tradition and his journalistic scrutiny, admirably applied, may well leave the reader satisfied that his facts comprise the truth. Did this mean that Hegel’s subject could be converted into a completely accurate instrument conveying the object as it was to us in an unaltered form? As one might imagine, this orientation to the practice gave other historians of the time pause. And it did not take long.
Johan Gustav Droysen, was a historian, politician, and critic of Ranke’s methodology. His Outline of the Principles of History, which was published in 1868, offers an Hegelian counterpoint to the von Rankian tradition. Droysen’s passage seems to delight in the difficult problem of the often sparse collection of materials which historians have for evidence, and how little contact we have with the objects of our studies. “They are remnants of that which happened […] which still lie directly before our eyes.” He wrote. Droysen might embrace the power of history as a legitimizing authority to rhetorical maneuvers. Droysen quickly returned to Hegel’s subject as the more important problem for the modern historian: “We thus look at them in a quite different way from that in which they occurred, and which they had in the wishes and deeds of those who enacted them.” Droysen was a Prussian nationalist, and strong supporter of German unification, under Prussia’s leadership. His work in German history can be said to employ a persuasive tendency toward unification or even perhaps his idea that Germany’s history is moving toward an inexorable unification as its conclusion. Droysen provides insight into the role and power of history in one’s own time and is a fascinating example of the use of rhetorical devices, and a powerful example in the value in the study of history. If we are unable to uncover the object of study to such an extent that we can reveal the past as it actually was, when is the historian’s work finished and is it futile to engage in it in the first place? Droysen would seem to argue that even though time alienates our object more with each day, that doesn’t mean the practice is without value. More important than the reason for study is Droysen’s recognition and strong arguments for ensuring that students of history understand that the subject in Hegel’s dichotomy should not attempt to alienate themselves from their object. Finally, both then and today, we see the subjective in the study of history, and its potential problems, which allow us to bear in mind the necessity of radical criticism in its production and consumption.
Clearly one’s conception of the past influences one’s view of the present. In both Miller and O’Connell’s work, we see an appeal to history that should lead us into a conception of our future. This is a common occurrence. Except in family history many individuals in our country consider history only terms of how it should shape the future, a legitimizing force for a point of view. (Without that personal connection, history is often tragically banished to true/false tests full of birth and death dates.) We need not elaborate the role historical appeals to versions of national history have played in the history of the modern world. As any observant individual in post-modern America is well aware, history has become a moving object, a victim of relentless rhetorical devices, visible across the entire political spectrum. On the other hand, it does not mean that the work of historians, and that which Miller and O’Connell contribute to it loses any value because it may be used to persuade. It does however shed new light on how history might fit into the Hegelian formulation of consciousness.
Droysen’s student, Friedrich Meinecke was one of the most well-known historians of the 20th century. He attempted to synthesize the work of his forbearers, including both von Ranke and Droysen. In his view, elements of art, positivism, and the subjective scholarly curiosity are beneficial if not critical ingredients in the output of the historian. In 1928, Meinecke published his essay “Values and Causalities in History” offering elucidation of his beliefs. At this stage in our conversation, the subject rather than separated from from the object—as would have seemed desirable to von Ranke and his followers—instead have fused together within a swirling mass, giving rise to the question of whether historians could ever find a compelling reason to separate them.
And although [art] too, can never fully reveal these depths, it can give us an intuitive understanding of them, can give us a sympathetic sense of them through unmediated seeing. Only a path no longer purely scientific, this is, no longer purely causal can lead us a step further into the depths of reality. Where science fails to, it is wiser for history use these supra-scientific means than to apply scientific means where their application must lead inevitably to false results.
Here, Meinecke has hit upon a fascinating argument: our ability to uncover the object is stronger when we don’t try to alienate that object from the subject. It is overly simplistic to get lost in the debate of whether history is an art or science, but that can clarify the problem for further analysis, debate, and development. In Hegel’s terms the subject and object don’t correspond to, but rather transcend, the art and science dichotomy. Can the science and art of journalism applied to historical scholarship take us back to the formulations of Wilder and White’s intentions? Where science is lacking can art fill in the gaps? Or vice versa? Of course, in scientific inquiry, it is sometimes impossible to replicate the conditions one is attempting to study. We cannot put ourselves back into the work chambers of our famous designers. Even if we could, would Mr. Miller’s cross examination or Mr. O’Connell’s exclusive interview uncover Wilder and White’s artistic inclinations as they are captured in the plans they produce?
An empowering resolution of these questions can be found in Charles Beard’s work. He was a dominant influence on 20th Century American historiography. Like Miller and O’Connell today, Beard was concerned with the relation between our past and our future environment and his own community’s social issues. As pragmatism was giving way to analytical philosophy, the debate within history faculties raged over the questions of whether history can be a science, and whether that study can or should be conducted according to scientific constraints. Beard offered an answer on how we might hold historiography to the positivist promise to which some of its practitioners aspire. Beard’s essay “That Noble Dream” reveals some of his conclusions: “Seekers after truth in particular and general have less reason to fear a [positivist methodology] than they have to fear any history that comes under the guise of the Ranke formula or historicism.” Beard in the speech finally embraced the position that history as an object cannot be removed from the totality it forms with its subject.
Still more pressing, because so generally neglected, is the task of exploring the assumptions upon which the selection and organization of historical facts proceed. In the nature of things they proceed upon some assumptions concerning the substance of history as actuality. We do not acquire the colorless, neutral mind by declaring our intention to do so. Rather do we clarify the mind by admitting its cultural interest and patterns—interests and patterns that will control, or intrude upon the selection and organization of historical materials.
Rather than discounting the subjective like von Ranke, or embracing it like Droysen, Beard made the inclusion of it and the explicit criticism of it part of the content of historical “truth”. Of course, Beard did not discover the end of history and his work did not resolve these questions, but he finally did seem to embrace that the dialectic process is perpetual and the historian is a necessary ingredient in it. And this perpetual conversation can shed light on one’s approach to the study of the events in question.
The waterway or body now known Capitol Lake is a much loved landmark and the more we study its history, the more we can approach an appreciation of our community. We also learn, thanks to the work of Miller and O’Connell, more about the sentimental attachment each of us have for our community, in its current form. On the other hand, if someone were to discover that lost plans actually proposed a radically different lake or estuary other than our current options, would that limit or change our views of what we believe the future should be? To read our subjective view by present aspirations back into it as O’Connell implicitly believes Miller does, we also unfairly confine the study of the past to unnecessary rigidness even if the work is defensible by scientific standards. The desire or necessity to see primarily ourselves in history as subjective, is always lurking. At times that subjective view certainly can cloud the object of study itself, but can a historian ever remove her fingerprints from her work? Inadequate and useless remnants, evidence, source materials, perjuring witnesses, falsified affidavits, need not thwart the work. The inability to resolve the truth of our past—if only because we didn’t live then—need not be a cause of remorse, nor should it become a reason to believe studying history is a futile act.
Beard said in the first line of his famous two volume work, The Rise of American Civilization, “the history of a civilization, if intelligently conceived, may be an instrument of civilization.” As we have seen that civilizing agent is not a static moment, but a dynamic process whose end is not the discovery of the truth of the past (even if that were possible). The civilizing arises through relentless action itself and this includes the study, production, consumption, and perhaps most of all, criticism of history. The fusion of these threads of thought is the driving spirit behind the study of history and as long as that criticism, back and forth, and perpetual development continues, subjects like Beard, Droysen, Meinecke and probably von Ranke too as well as their objects, will civilize us. As Hegel wrote: “Geist is the spirit of self-activity itself.” The phrase may well have particular poignancy for the historian in all of us. As we experience and delight in Miller and O’Connell’s work (like others who are as deeply committed) it becomes easier to conclude that the action or work should never end, but should continuously push us to further action: “Criterion of Spirit is its action, its active essence. It makes itself what it essentially is.” That action occurs with the study of the history of Capitol Lake, as much as it does with our action to any future form it may or may not take.
*Many thanks to Thad Curtz for his frequent reading recommendations and his patience in discussing the questions they provoke.
This article originally appeared on the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Natural Resource Department Weblog and was reprinted here as another view of the history of the development of Capitol Lake. The Olympia Historical Society takes no positions on the analysis or conclusions of the authors who submit articles for consideration in our newsletters.
The creation of what we now know as Capitol Lake was not the natural outgrowth of a landscaping plan for the Capitol Campus. Rather, it was the result of a decades-long lobbying effort by local businessmen, politicians and city-fathers to create an appealing water feature and “scrape the moss off” Olympia.
Recently, lake defenders have distorted the origin story of Capitol Lake for use as a cloak of legacy. The defenders of the lake present the argument that the Wilder and White plan for the campus was the origin of the lake idea. This position is wrong. They claim that restoring the estuary would disparage our own history. The true origins of Capitol Lake inform not only our misunderstanding of local history, but also how we move forward with the future of the lake and the Deschutes River estuary.
The initial campus plan called for a modest reflecting pool, but it was a group of prominent Olympia citizens that suggested creating a much larger lake by impounding the Deschutes River with a dam running east-to-west. This more drastic proposal was not embraced by the State Capitol Commission and was immediately rejected.
The first suggestion of a dam at the mouth of the Deschutes actually pre-dates Wilder and White by more than a decade. Ironically, Leopold Schmidt, the founder of the Olympia Brewing Company, proposed damming the river with a set of locks in 1895 to facilitate shipping to his planned brewery. Later opposition by Tumwater and the Olympia Brewing Company would prove to be the largest impediment to the damming of the river for decades to follow.
Capitol Planners Called For Free Flowing Deschutes River
During the early days of drafting a capitol campus plan, Wilder and White worked with the large and renowned Olmsted Brother firm to develop a larger landscape plan for the campus. Based on Wilder and White’s rough drawings that included some sort of reflecting pool, the Olmsted firm added more detail to the plans.
There are numerous representations by Wilder and White about what shape the campus could eventually take. This image below in particular has been used by current lake defenders as the best representation of what their vision for the lake was.
This is actually a draft that was meant to show the arrangement of the buildings in the capitol group, not to show any details of any proposed water feature. While you could read into the picture a proposal similar to the current lake, it included no actual detail of how that would be accomplished. It simply presented the idea of a pond.
When the planners started putting details down on paper, John Olmsted wrote about a reflecting pool that changed with the tides. From a Jan. 19, 1912 letter to the State Capitol Commission:
…extend a dike with a driveway upon it along the east side of the channel from Capitol Park to 6th Street (Legion Way) and to acquire all the flats between the river and the proposed Capitol Avenue, this area to be mainly devoted to a salt water pond which would be kept nearly up to high water level, merely fluctuating a foot or two at every tide so as to ensure a change of water.
Here is the more detailed plan for the Wilder/White and Olmsted saltwater pond laid over a more current aerial photo of Capitol Lake:
This reflecting pool would have had a much smaller footprint than the current version. Olmsted, along with architects Walter Wilder and Harry White never intended to block the Deschutes River or block the incoming tide to create a reflecting pool.
Actually, the entire idea behind the originally proposed reflecting pool was to take advantage of the tides. The pool itself would be filled by salt water and refreshed by the tides. A sill would keep the pond filled and ensure mudflats weren’t exposed, but the tide would not be totally blocked.
As late as 1927, when construction of the domed legislative building was in full swing, the designers of the campus continued to pursue the modest saltwater tidal pond rather than an aggressively dammed estuary (Epstein, 67).
Carlyon’s Lake becomes Capitol Lake
Today’s Capitol Lake strongly resembles a plan drawn up by former Olympia mayor and state legislator P.H. Carlyon. His 1916 plan would have included a dam at 4th Avenue (just north of the current dam), replacing the wooden bridge that at the time spanned the mouth of the Deschutes River.
While the Carlyon lake plan was likely popular locally, it lacked any further support:
Vigorously oppose closing waterway
City’s proposal is fought at hearing before state commissioner.
…State Lands Commissioner Clark V. Salvidge has taken under advisement the petition presented by the city of Olympia and by Senator P.H. Carlyon in a hearing before him last Tuesday, for the vacation of the Des Chutes waterway, the construction of a dam in the river at Fourth street and the creation of a lake south of that street…
The city officials and Dr. Carlyon are practically alone in their advocacy of the change…
(Olympia News, 1916)
Carlyon’s lake was impossible at the time for two reasons:
- The so-called Des Chutes Waterway was privately owned. The state-owned Capitol Campus at the time was limited to the bluff at Capitol Point and didn’t include any lowlands. It wouldn’t be until 1937 that the state started a serious effort to purchase property that would be inundated by a dam.
- Closing the Deschutes by an east-to-west running dam would stop water traffic from reaching Tumwater and possibly ruin power generation at the Deschutes falls. In the early 1900s, Tumwater’s downtown businesses still depended on water traffic.
Carlyon’s lake proposal was not his first effort in municipal terraforming. During his time as mayor of Olympia, he made significant efforts to complete the Carlyon fill, which created dozens of city blocks on the east side of downtown. This fill coincidentally also obliterated acres of the Moxlie and Indian creek estuaries. (Newell, 242)
Carlyon’s interest in the construction of the eventual permanent capitol campus (and lake) was primarily to put Olympia in its proper place among northwest cities.
This episode took place soon after the initial approval of the Wilder and White plan in 1911 (Newell 246):
Olympians were delighted when the plan for a complete capitol group was complete… (but) Everett boosters had been engaged in a last minute plot to steal the capital for their city and a bill had been introduced to move the supreme court and library to Seattle.
…Representative H.E. Foster of King county led the opposition with the traditional charge that Olympia was a sleepy village inhabited by mossbacks. “What has Olympia ever done for the state?” he wanted to know. “Although it’s been the seat of government for 50 years it has been at a standstill, progressing very little. Olympia is asleep and does not deserve any consideration from us.”
Dr. Carlyon, representative from Thurston County, having just put together the great downtown dredge and fill project, was speechless with indignation. William Ray, also of King County, added his voice to the defenders of the capital city, explaining that “the reason Olympia hasn’t been going ahead with other cities in the Northwest is simply this: every legislative session, some cranks come down here with some idea of moving the capital and agitate the question during the session. No business man or eastern capital is going to invest here until the question is settled once and for all…”
Even though it was rejected soundly in 1916, the Carlyon’s Deschutes Waterway project did not go away.
In 1937 the state Legislature allowed the use of bond revenue from state trust land to start buying property along the Deschutes waterway, the first step in the process to complete the aggressive lake plan. A 1941 ad for a mayoral candidate listed “develop the Deschutes Waterway” as a campaign goal (Olympia News-Graphic, 1940).
In early 1941, with the land in the waterway being bought up by the state (Olympia News, March 1941), a delegation of state capitol campus commissioners and “prominent Olympians” visited a Tumwater town meeting to persuade their neighbors to drop their objections to the larger lake plan. And, by a 29-3 vote, the Tumwater residents agreed. (Olympia News, June 1941). Among the reasons for Tumwater’s acquiescence was a new overland rail line that made shipping by water unnecessary.
Olympia’s final push for Capitol Lake
The final 1947 debate on whether to fund closing the Deschutes waterway was certainly a debate between Thurston County and the rest of the state. The proposal to issue $1 million in bonds for the project actually received a negative vote in a House committee due to its proposed funding mechanism.
Rep. Ella Wintler (R-Vancouver), chair of the committee that gave the negative vote, was quoted as opposing the bill because it took the state’s priority away from constructing buildings. She added that the only reason it advanced to the House floor after receiving a poor committee report was because of consideration for Olympia’s Rep. George Yantis. (Daily Olympian, February 1947)
Rep. George Kinnear (R-King County) added:
It is high time the Legislature settled down and realized we are in big business. Miss Wintler’s thoughts are so sound they are irrefutable. There are serious responsibilities we have begun to overlook the business for which we are here – conducting the business of the state.
After passing the House, it was only because of an extraordinary effort by another Olympia state senator, that the bill got any consideration in the Senate. State Sen. Carl Mohler (Thurston County) worked out a deal with a Senate committee chair to give the committee extra time to consider the bill. Mohler’s arguments put a strong emphasis on the project’s funding; the funds would come from a trust, not directly from the pockets of taxpayers. (Daily Olympian, March 1947).
The lake bill passed by a 70-20 vote in the House and a 29-4 vote in the Senate, but only because state Legislators from Olympia pushed hard for it. The lake bill was not considered a high priority otherwise.
An editorial in the Olympian (and reprinted in the Tacoma News-Tribune) as construction on the lake was about to begin in 1948 gives credit where credit is due (Tacoma News-Tribune, 1948):
Campaigning for the basin was a discouraging task at times but city officials, the chamber of commerce, various civic and fraternal organizations, real estate groups and numerous individuals kept plugging away until their perseverance was rewarded last week by the assurance that a long-fondled hope at least will be translated into reality.
News that the much-needed improvement will be started as soon as is feasible was received with immense satisfaction by the residents of Olympia and suburban areas… (Capitol Lake) will be a source of much pleasure to the people who already are established here, but also will convince visitors that Olympia is a mighty pleasant place in which to live and work.
The advocacy, funding and creation of Capitol Lake goes well beyond the intention of the capitol campus designers. Their intention was for a modest reflecting pool as part of the landscape of campus in balance with the built environment of the campus and the surrounding landscape. It was not unreasonable for the designers of the campus to consider a reflecting pool, but what ended up being built was an obese exaggeration.
When you view the Wilder, White and Olmsted tidal pond in the true historic context, it is only one mention in decades of discussion, certainly not the original vision.
“Capitol Lake Plan Sent to State Senate” Daily Olympian, March 4, 1947.
“Des Chutes Basin Plan to be Aired at Meet Tuesday” Olympia News, June 12, 1941.
“Deschutes Basin Improvement Gets Unfavorable Report to Legislature” Daily Olympian, February 26, 1947.
“Details on Basin Project Wanted” Olympia News, March 7, 1941.
Epstein, Mark B. “A history of the Washington state capitol landscape.” 1992
“Improvement at Olympia” Tacoma News Tribune, July 21, 1948.
Lane, Horrace M. “Letter to the Citizens of Olympia” Olympia News-Graphic, November 21, 1940.
“Last Objection to Improvement Withdrawn” Olympia News, June 19, 1941.
“Leopold Schmidt Announces Plans to Build Brewery” The Daily Olympian, September 18, 1895.
Newell, Gordon. “Rogues, Buffoons and Statesmen.” 1975
“Senate Approves Lake Project” Daily Olympian, March 10, 1947.
“Vigorously Oppose Closing Waterway” Olympian News, Friday, May 26, 1916.
Bush Prairie Farm, Then and Now
By Mark Derricott, Editor
It is not often that the present so starkly meets the past, but it is actually happening this year. Two relatively recent developments have compellingly confirmed this development.
Most of you are familiar with the first: our own Deborah Ross’s book, Konrad and Albertina, which reconstructs the lives of several individuals who played prominent roles in our community’s history. The Author’s note describes: “With trivial exceptions I have not altered any documented fact or event. However, existing documents give us only a glimpse of “what really happened.” I have written Konrad and Albertina as a work of fiction, allowing me to use my imagination to make the [characters] and the world they lived in come alive.” A prominent geographic setting in Ms. Ross’s work is the homestead of our now famous pioneer George and Isabella Bush.* Though not part of Olympia’s current city limits, and therefore, arguably outside the historical society’s jurisdiction, there may not have been any historical society in any current Thurston County jurisdiction had events described below transpired any differently.
The second development is the Mark and Kathleen Clark’s acquisition of part of the original 1845 homestead of George and Isabella Bush and their recasting it as a working farm. What’s more the newly named Bush Prairie Farm return to its original use is also significant because it now a Community Supported Agriculture allowing those interested to literally enjoy the fruits of the historical farm and its famous soil.
A few selections from Ms. Ross’s heartwarming story put the day and age in context:
Mrs. Bush told Albertina that she and Mr. Bush were the first pioneer wagon train to come across the prairie to the Puget Sound. They were the first Americans in the area, although there were many British Citizens here working for the Hudson’s Bay Company. And yes, Mr. Bush was a Negro. They had moved here to Puget Sound to escape the anti-Negro sentiment in southern Oregon Territory. Albertina was surprised to hear that such a fine family would not be welcome anywhere in their country, and was proud that Konrad had been among the people who helped blacks escape from slavery.
She could tell right away that Mr. Bush must be a very good farmer. Konrad later told her that the Bushes had done better than anyone else in the Sound. They had brought their own seeds across the prairie and had a good supply of grain stored for the coming winter. Their trees were already bearing fruit after only a few years. Mr. Bush said that this was due mostly to the fertile land on the prairie and not his skill as a farmer. Konrad and Albertina though that he was probably being too modest. Mr. Bush said that Mrs. Bush was also a wonderful farmer, famous for the quality of her turkeys and chickens.[i]
In fact, the healthy fruit trees were described in the first edition of one of Olympia’s nascent newspapers, the Columbian.[iii] A scion of the 165-year old butternut tree planted by Mr. Bush was recently transplanted on the Capitol Campus near the World War II monument. And, the Thurston County Historical Commission presented a paper on the George Bush family at the national African American Historical Research and Preservation Conference held in Seattle on Feb. 5, 2011. While none of the original buildings are standing, the Clarks continue to work with Dale Croes, archaeologist at SPSCC in identifying and preserving artifacts from the farm.
In one of the more precinct passages of the book, Ms. Ross’s imagines a conversation with Mr. Bush’s that many present day Olympians would find prescient and compelling:
“We need skilled farmers to settle here,” Mr. Bush explained. “Folks are arriving all the time, both by land and sea, and many of them aren’t bothering to farm. They just want to start up a commercial business or work for someone else. If we don’t have farmers, though, who is going to feed them all?”[ii]
It’s a fascinating twist to our local history’s development that we see historical farms returned to their original uses and maybe even optimal uses. The question of highest and best use is of paramount, if not singular concern, in the question of the use of land. Viewed as an income producing asset, one could easily question whether food production is the best use of any parcel of land, although without some land allocated to it somewhere, all such questions are undeniably mooted. Our understanding and appreciation for the toil of those who came before us enriches our lives today and enables us to reconsider some of our preconceptions that we constantly take for granted. Wherever any of us fall on these questions, after reading Konrad and Albertina, I cannot help but conclude that Mr. and Mrs. Bush would have been proud to know that the land they worked continues to feed the descendants of those who Mr. Bush himself generously assisted in settling our community.
* Scroll down in the new window that this link will open to see more sources on and Isabella and George Bush.
[i] Ross, Deborah Jane. Konrad and Albertina. [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, 2009. Print. pp. 68-69
[ii] Ross, p. 69
[iii] Ross, p. 72 while Ross wrote the book as fiction based on actual occurences, the description of the trees in the newspaper is factual.
Centennial of the Wilder and White Plan for Capitol Campus
A century ago, on both coasts of America, the curtain of history was about to go up on a transcontinental drama still being played out today. In the West the setting could be found on a bluff above the muddy tide flats of the Deschutes River in Olympia. In the East the setting was the midtown-Manhattan office of two young architects with a dream and an ambition that propelled them to historic achievement. That dream and achievement involved the design and construction of Washington’s classical and monumental state capitol campus in the style of the City Beautiful movement in 1911.
Of special interest in the Washington drama is the initial, exciting frame of mind of the New York architects Walter Robb Wilder and Harry Keith White. They had started out together on big projects at the New York City firm known as McKim, Mead and White (no relation to Harry). Now in their mid thirties and entering a new partnership, Wilder and White were about to begin their stunning 18 years of service to Washington, one of the youngest states in the Union.
In the spring of 1911 these young partners entered a national competition for the selection of architects to develop a plan for Washington’s proposed capitol campus. In May, Harry White’s overnight note to his bride-to-be, Blossom Randolph in nearby Plainfield, New Jersey, confirmed the spark of this memorable moment:
Have just finished our entry…..We think it’s good
…..very good……classic, eye-catching, a very
sound plan. Worked two nights till 1:30, then
3 A.M. Wednesday to get things just right…….
Had extra time today, before Western mails closed
At six….Got to the counter on time with our best
Effort yet….Now, some rest!
Wilder and White incorporated five design principles into their plan for the State Capitol Campus. These principles include: (1) the City Beautiful Movement, (2) the Capitol Group of buildings, an unprecedented design of separate legislative, executive, and judicial buildings to look like a singular Capitol building when viewed from Budd Inlet, downtown Olympia, and the Fourth Avenue Bridge, (3) the borrowed landscape of the Olympic Mountains and Budd Inlet to frame the design (4) the northern orientation of the Capitol Group and Campus to Budd Inlet and the Olympics and (5) a lake to reflect the beautiful buildings on the bluff.
On August 3, 1911 the competition judges and the State Capitol Commission unanimously selected Wilder and White’s proposal as the winning concept for Washington’s new state capitol campus. The New York architects not only captured the crown with their group building plan but also the separate commission to design the first building in the set, the Temple of Justice.
The City Beautiful movement was a Progressive Era land use and architectural design experience of urban renewal, large in scale, rich in detail, and providing a sense of national wealth and power. The 1901-02 McMillan Plan for the National Mall in Washington D.C. exudes the City Beautiful movement with its grand buildings, long viewscapes, and reflecting pools and lakes. Closer to home, the Olmsted Brothers’ plan for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition on the University of Washington Campus with its grand Rainier Vista also encapsulates the City Beautiful movement.
In an August 29, 1911 “Report of Group Plan” to the State Capitol Commission the architects concluded that “a tide lock would form a lake and the whole effect would be visible from most parts of the city as well as from the sound.” This part of the Wilder and White plan was delayed by World War II but became a reality in 1951 with the creation of Capitol Lake. The promenade from the bluff down to Capitol Lake and out to Budd Inlet was constructed in the 1990’s during the first decade of the 21st Century with the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial, the North Capitol Campus Trail, an amphitheater, the Arc of Statehood from the Western Washington Inlet to the Eastern Washington Butte with thirty-nine county commemorative markers, and the City of Olympia’s interactive fountain on the Isthmus.
From the beginning of 1911, it was immediately apparent that the success of the project would depend not just on partners Wilder and White but also on their endless consultations with engineers, a carefully selected sculptor, and numerous vendors. Another crucial element would be the hard work and personal motivation of hundreds of craftsmen. Sparked by the architects’ own inspiration, a responsive feeling grasped the minds of the supporting cast, “the circles of planners and builders” who became focused on the new state project of the Washington State Capitol Campus.
In January 1913 Wilder touched on his own initial thoughts in a short article for Pacific Coast Architect. Said Wilder, in part:
In any state capitol, there is more at issue than
is at once obvious. Far above excellence of detail,
of plan and evaluation is the expression of the dignity
of the state….. it should be characteristic of the
particular state…..Fortunately, Olympia is wonderfully
expressive of the State of Washington. Its location
at the head of Puget Sound, with water and mountains
in every direction, makes it distinctive beyond most
capital cities. What is true of the city is particularly
true of the sites elected for the capitol buildings themselves.
The problem is to preserve [and enhance] this expression……Olympia being the state capital, the people
of the whole state are vitally concerned…..public
opinion should be aroused to protect [the new
The architects’ dedication to their Washington project was certainly challenged in the next decade. The initial decision was to build the first unit, the Temple of Justice, “in brick,” leaving its sandstone exterior facing till the end. World War I and economic problems intervened. Half a dozen years passed before the classical judicial building was finished. In this period, the source of quality sandstone was established at the Walker Cut Stone Company in nearby Tacoma. Walker’s key quarry was in Wilkeson, a coal-mining town near Mount Rainier.
In the 1920’s one of Walker’s senior craftsmen was a stone carver named Alexander McKenzie Munro. Having been born in Scotland, at age 13 he grabbed the chance to become an apprentice stonecutter on the Scottish Castle in Beauly. Then, as a new journeyman at 19, he bonded with a group of young Scots coming to America “to build a better life.” The Scots were recruited to work on the new Texas capitol, but they backed off when labor problems developed. After stone jobs in Kansas and Denver, they headed for Seattle. There in 1889 the catastrophic “Big Fire” spelled opportunity.
When in his 50’s Alex Munro joined the Walker Cut Stone Company to work on the Washington State Capitol project, his stone carving kits included a remarkable 600 chisels, mallets, and various specialty tools. His most important assets, however, were his know-how and his leadership gathered from long years in the trade. Alex was at the apex of his career as a stone carver, superbly ready for the grandest, most honorable and most distinctive project he had ever seen. He would be capping his active years by working on the Washington State Capitol.
In the 1920’s a dramatic variety of carvings was specified for the structure. Every day, as Munro worked on the ornate stone petals and figures-90 feet or more above ground he knew what a unique “margin of excellence” was going into this classical structure. So it was this craftsman and his colleagues who produced the fine decorative carvings and helped stamp the Legislative Building with a unique mark. For generations of Washingtonians that “margin of excellence” has reinforced the capitol’s character and quality while also helping to define the state’s ever-evolving democracy.
There’s more to the Alexander McKenzie Munro story. On Bainbridge Island he and his Scottish wife raised ten children. In due course came grandchildren, including a grandson named Ralph. He had arrived in 1943, seven years after Alexander Munro died; but Ralph grew up hearing a good deal about his special grandfather. Ralph, of course, grew up to serve in the great capitol building his grandfather helped build as Washington’s Secretary of State.
Through the years, the state capitol campus has built its own constituency. Countless generations of legislators, their staffs, plus a flood of temporary student pages have been gripped by the thrill of working in and around this classical structure. “This is one cool building and landscape!” exclaims almost every new young page walking the corridors and the park-like setting between the buildings. Statewide officials and their staffs have come under the same spell. They revere the marble halls, the towering dome, the feeling of grandeur, and the magnificent view across Capitol Lake to Budd Inlet and the Olympic Mountains beyond. It’s a feeling shared by the Olympia community, even the news media, and certainly by the guides who host tourists. Also in the limelight in recent decades: the dramatic increase in student visitors who have found new opportunities to learn about government from the hometown legislators, often with an informal bag lunch on the indoor capitol steps and finding their home-county marker along the Arc of Statehood adjacent to Capitol Lake in the North Campus. It’s an educational experience etched in the minds of young people all across Washington.
In the 1950’s, 30 years after Wilder and White finished their project, architect Harry White took up his own vacation tours of the capitol. He joined his close friend and former associate, Jay Johnston, who had represented the New York architects in Olympia during construction days. Revisiting the legislative chambers and chatting with current government leaders, they saw the fulfillment of the early State Capitol Commission’s dreams. In the 1920’s Wilder and White and Jay Johnston had reached with hope and daring to build a dynamic monument to state democracy. Now Harry White and Jay Johnston delighted in the pride they observed everywhere. The “magic” was still in the air!
Another 30 years later Jay Johnston’s son, Professor Norman J. Johnston, was a leading educator in architecture and urban planning at the University of Washington when he decided to research and tell the capitol’s story. In his 1988 authoritative history, Washington’s Audacious State Capitol and Its Builders, Professor Johnston captured the flavor and reality of how the state came to build its remarkable capitol campus.
Johnston’s penetrating study developed fascinating facts. On one point he was very direct: “In contrast to similar efforts in other states, the history of the Legislative Building project was free of scandal…..” In prior years, as Johnston knew, this taint of corruption had been part and parcel of state capitol construction in other states.
In 1911, when the bold project had first been approved, the population of the entire state barely exceeded 800,000. The Legislative Building and other core campus structures in Olympia were funded by timber revenues from the original 1889 federal land grants to the state. No state taxpayer dollars were used.
During the last one hundred years, the Campus has survived three earthquakes and has expanded as envisioned by Wilder and White to include Capitol Lake and the North Capitol Campus Heritage Park. We have much to celebrate as we approach August 3, 2011, the centennial of the adoption of the greatest land use plan for our State Capital City. We need to be ever-vigilant to preserve, protect, and perfect the great Wilder and White plan on its 100th birthday and thereafter.
Olympia, the Capital of the State of Washington
By Allen Weir
Some one has said that “God made the country and man made the city.” This is, at least, an exaggerated statement, and needs to be qualified. No city could be built, or could flourish, unless it have the foundation of natural advantages. A philosopher, when asked when the training of a child should begin, promptly responded: “A hundred years before its birth.” He doubtless referred to prenatal influence as a foundation for human character. Given proper natural advantages, supplemental to man’s design, energy and intelligent effort, and a city springs into being and continues its growth and prestige through ages. In the distribution of the world’s population and commercial activities among civilized nations, natural conditions favorable to the formation of centers of population and wealth attract and control. The continent of North America, settled late in the world’s march upward from savagery, contains more and better natural elements as a basis for a highly developed civilization than does any other part of the world. Of this continent, Puget Sound, the latest in settlement and development, is the garden spot from an agricultural and horticultural standpoint, and is so situated with reference to the meeting and exchange of inland and ocean commerce, that upon its shore must ultimately be the foremost commercial city of the Pacific coast.
Puget Sound, with its 1,200 miles of inland shore line, indented with bays, harbors, and surrounded and backed by such a vast wealth of soil, timber, coal., fish and mineral, with a mild and equable climate, necessarily furnishes room and suitable location for towns and cities.
Olympia, situated at the headwaters of this splendid. inland sea, flanked by her outlying resources, offers advantages for inspection and consideration of the world at large without an apology or reservation. Ever since August, 1845, when Col. M. T. Simmons and his small party first arrived at the head of Budd’s inlet, it has been recognized as a natural point for a future city. Ever since 1846, when Col. Simmons erected at Tumwater Falls the first gristmill north of the Columbia River, this great water power has been looked upon as furnishing the natural conditions for a manufacturing center. In 1847, Edmund Sylvester built the first dwelling house in Olympia, and in the same year the Simmons party erected the first saw mill on Puget Sound, at the falls of the Deschutes River. In June, 1848, Rev Father Ricard established the Roman Catholic Mission of St. Joseph on Budd’s Inlet, one and one-half miles below Olympia. These beginnings, each in its line, demonstrated that the argonaut who saw with prophetic eye in Puget Sound and its future possibilities the golden fleece of commerce, and who selected the head of the Sound as the natural and choicest for a city, knew what they were about.
When, in 1852, a convention was called to meet in Monticello, made up of delegates from all portions of Oregon north of the Columbia River, for the purpose of petitioning Congress for a separate Territorial government, Olympia was naturally selected as the Proper location for the capital of the new territory. The capital it remained through territorial existence and when, in l889, the constitution for the State of Washington was submitted to the voters of the commonwealth for their ratification, and the selection of a permanent seat of government was likewise left to popular vote, it was demonstrated that no mistake had been made by the founders of the territory in selecting Olympia. At the succeeding election the location of the capital at Olympia was confirmed for all time to come by an overwhelming vote in its favor against all competitors.
Olympia is a modern, up to date town, having a population of about 6,000, with miles of graded, planked or macadamized streets, with an excellent sewer system and first-class sanitary arrangements; wide sidewalks, a well-equipped and efficient electric light and street car system; water works supplied from a pure mountain stream; the best of telegraph and telephone systems and service; attractive homes; a fine, graded public school system; good society, and many other advantages such as intelligent and desirable newcomers inquire about and appreciate.
Olympia has two banks, and an aggregate of cash deposits amounting to upwards of a million dollars, divided among a large number of depositors, indicating a healthy financial condition. The conservative and safe character of her business community is shown by the fact that business failures are here unknown.
Last winter the state Legislature passed an act under which the state became the purchaser of the Thurston County court house and a block of land in the heart of the city for capitol purposes. Sylvester Park, a full block of land adjoining, has since been donated by the city, to become a part of the capitol grounds. The building is a handsome, substantial structure, with stone exterior and ornamental trimmings, and cost, together with the additions now in process of construction, $360,000. Sylvester Park, named for the original townsite proprietor, adds much to the beauty of the surroundings.
Olympia is a historic spot. Within its borders, almost half a century ago, in a building still standing, was enacted the first law ever enacted on American soil north of the Columbia River. Funds have recently been raised to preserve the old building from destruction. Here was issued the first proclamation by Governor Isaac I Stevens, first territorial governor. Here the wheels of organized government in the territory were first set in motion. Here was held the first Fourth of July celebration on American soil north of Oregon, Hon. D. E. Bigelow, who was the orator, of the day at that celebration, July 4, 1852, still lives in his elegant Olympia home, ripe in years and surround by a large family. Judge Bigelow was also a member of that first Legislature, and is almost its sole survivor. On Capitol Hill, on a ten-acre site donated by Edmund Sylvester, stands a historic building, being the old capitol erected at the expense of the general government in 1855. Within its walls the various legislative sessions, territorial and state, since the first two, have assembled. In 1889 an extension was added to this building to accommodate the constitutional convention. The next legislative session will be held in the new state house. The first session was held in a building then owned by Parker & Colter, merchants. The second session was held in the Masonic Hall building, still standing in its modest dignity near the center of the city. Of the firm of Parker & Colter, who, by the way, had here the first express office north of Portland, Ore., within the United States, Capt. John G. Parker still survives. His home is in Olympia, fronting the shore of the bay on the east side, just south of the location of the old Catholic Mission.
Olympia is also the home of the oldest weekly newspaper in the state, the “Washington Standard,” still owned and published by its founder, Hon. John Miller Murphy.
Tumwater, just South of Olympia, and in fact, a suburb, is the spot where Col. M. T. Simmons, in 1845, made settlement. The old saw mill building which he erected there during the “forties” is standing. Here the waters of the Deschutes River, tumbling through a rocky gorge, furnish the power for Olympia’s electric light and street car systems, as well as for pumping her water supply, besides enough surplus for a large grist mill.
Of the constitutional convention that assembled in Olympia July,4, 1889, the following were members: John P. Hoyt, President; J. J. Brown, N. G. Blalock, John F. Gowey (since deceased), Frank M. Dallam, James Z. Moore, E. H. Sullivan, George Turner, Austin Mires, M. M. Godman, Gwin Hicks, William F. Prosser, Louis Sohns (now deceased), A. A. Lindsley, J. J. Weisenburger (deceased), P. C. Sullivan, R. S, More, Thos. T. Minor (deceased), J. J. Travis, A. J, West, C. T. Fay, C. P. Coly, R. T. Sturdevant, J. A. Shoudy (deceased), Allen Weir, W. B. Gray, J. P. Dyer, George H. Jones, B. L. Sharpstein, H. M. Lillis, J. F. Van Name, A. Schooley, H. C. Willison, T. M Reed, S. H. Manley, R. Jeffs, Francis Henry (deceased), George Comegys, O. H. Joy (deceased), D. E. Durie, D. Buchanan, J. R. Kinnear, G. W. Tibbetts, H. W. Fairweather, T. C. Griffiths, C. H. Warner, J. P. T. McCrosky, S. G. Cosgrove, Thos. Hayton, S. H. Berry, D. J. Crowley, J. T. McDonald, John M. Reed, Edward Eldridge (deceased), Geo. H. Stevenson, S. A. Dickey, Henry Winsor, Theo. L. Stiles, James A. Burk (deceased), John McReavy, R. O. Dunbar, M. Morgans, James Power, B. B. Glascock, O. A. Bowen, H. Clothier, M. J. McElroy, J. T. Eshelman, R. Jamison, H. E. Allen (deceased), H. F. Suksdorf, Jas. Hungate, L. Neace, J. C. Kellogg, W. L. Newton. These persons framed and adopted the fundamental law of the state.
Olympia is a city of beautiful homes and good society. As the residence of state officers, the judges of the supreme court, and of the federal and county officers, the city is a gathering point for a most desirable class of people. Among it’s future claims to distinction will be its advantages and attractions as a summer resort.
A Short History of Industry and Manufacturing in
Thurston County, Washington
by Thomas Rainey
Mirror of page http://www.wa.gov/esd/lmea/labrmrkt/eco/thureco.htm
The following history is largely excerpted from “A Short History of Industry and Manufacturing in Thurston County, Washington,” by Thomas Rainey, Ph.D. Additional commentary has been included by LMEA staff.
The native inhabitants of what is now Thurston County were engaged in commerce long before the first Europeans and Americans sailed into Puget Sound. The Nisqually and Squaxin were cedar and salmon people. Their split cedar longhouses were places of dwelling and ceremony during the long rainy winter as well as factories and storehouses. Wooden canoes fashioned from cedar carried the natives and their cargo to war, trade, and visit. Sustanence was provided by salmon, roots and bulbs gathered during the spring and summer.
In the late eighteenth century, Europeans and white Americans entered the Sound. In 1792, a surveying team under Lieutenant Peter Puget of the Vancouver expedition put its longboats ashore in south Puget Sound. White explorers did not return, however, until the 1820s when scouts of the Hudson’s Bay Company searched the area for beaver and a possible location for a fort to serve as their Puget Sound base of operation.
In the spring of 1833, Dr. John McLoughlin, Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, sent agents to establish a trading post at Nisqually in what is now Thurston County. Fort Nisqually was the hub of fur-trading activity on Puget Sound. The company also established a large cattle and sheep operation on the Nisqually plains. The British fur-trading and agricultural companies were thus well-established on southern Puget Sound when American settlers began arriving. The United States, though, gained full sovereignty over the region by the mid-1840s.
Colonel Michael T. Simmons led the first party of Americans to settle on Puget Sound. In 1846, he staked a claim around the waterfalls of the Deschutes River near where it empties into Budd Inlet, the southernmost part of the Sound, and harnessed the Deschutes Falls to power a sawmill and grist mill. He named the settlement New Market, later Tumwater.
Levi Lathrop Smith and Edmond Sylvester laid claim to a small peninsula jutting into Budd Inlet two miles north of Tumwater. Their claim became Smithfield, later renamed Olympia. Olympia became the seat of the new county of Thurston. It was there that Isaac Ingalls Stevens, the first governor of Washington Territory, established the capital in 1853. Shortly after the foundings of Tumwater and Olympia, Isaac Wood founded a small village east of Olympia named Woodland (renamed Lacey in 1891 so as not to confuse it with the more prominent town of Woodland located on the Columbia River).
The first American settlers in Thurston County had high hopes for its rapid economic development. Except for pockets of prairie land which lured the first farmers, the county was blanketed by marketable timber. Coal was also discovered in the south county. The founders of Olympia and Tumwater envisioned their towns as centers of commerce that would eventually rival San Francisco.
The mid-1850s found the new settlements on south Puget Sound prosperous. Olympia had a small newpaper, the first on Puget Sound, which championed immigration and rapid development in its first issue. The vast forests surrounding the Sound beckoned the woodman’s axe. An infant shellfish industry was blooming and new lumber mills were springing up around the inlet. Olympia had an established merchantile trade. Though growth was impeded by the Indian War of 1855-56 and the tendency of the men to rush off to California’s gold fields, the founding generation had established Olympia as a significant port and trading center on south Puget Sound by the 1860s.
Still, a prosperous and stable economy proved elusive for the remainder of the century. For example, in the late nineteenth century, Thurston County experienced all of the usual problems of a frontier area – and a few special ones of its own. Puget Sound was essentially an enormous virgin wilderness of fir trees. The topography therefore dictated that timber would be a major industry. But nature wasn’t so kind. Olympia, the county’s only feasible port, provided a link for local exports, but at low tide was separated from open water by a massive mudflat. Since dense forests made overland travel extremely difficult, water transport was vital to economic growth (at least until the railroads arrived).
Tacoma and Seattle, until the 1870s much smaller than Olympia, possessed deeper and more accessible ports which accounted in large part for their phenomenal growth in the late nineteenth century. By the time Olympia dredged its way to deep water at the turn of the century, the cities to its north had eclipsed it in population and industry. Another setback came in 1873 when the Northern Pacific Railroad chose Tacoma instead of Olympia as its major western terminus because of the former’s spacious and deeper waters of Commencement Bay. Transportation problems decreed in part by nature proved a major impediment to early industrial growth in Thurston County.
By 1893, Thurston County was dependent on outside markets in the sense that its economy tied directly to its most important resource – timber. As new technology made it possible for lumber companies to cut, process and ship timber out of the county, wood products became the major export and primary driver of the local economy.
The timber industry generated most jobs, with camps and mills springing up all over the county. Several small towns in the south county – like Bordeaux – were no more than lumber camps. Olympia merchants supplied camps and mills in several western counties, while mills in Tumwater and along Budd Inlet turned logs into finished wood products. Logging and milling operations around Yelm, Tenino, and Bucoda boosted those small towns during good years when national demand for lumber was high.
The forest products market during these years was notoriously unstable. With many competitors, lumber prices were low even in the best of times. Small logging and milling firms struggled along with razor-thin profit margins. Owners frequently cut wages, operated outdated machinery, or went out of business when market gluts cut demand. The lumber practice of the day was to cut as fast, as much, and as cheaply as you could and then abandon the property.
The county’s agriculture sector experienced similar market fluctuations. Here again, nature wielded a stern hand. Glacial activity left a path of rocky rubble in its wake. Sandy loam in some prairie areas was all that remained to attract farmers. Even the prairies had highly acidic soil. At the end of the nineteenth century, farmers were barely meeting the needs of the local market and eventually lost it altogether. They turned to dairy farming to survive market shocks.
Other industries began to brighten the county’s economic horizon in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Most notable were coal mining and stone quarrying in the southeast county and the Olympia Brewery in Tumwater. Coal was discovered early in the county’s history and mined sporadically well into the twentieth century. An even greater boom to the economy of the south county were the sandstone quarries near Tenino. Craftsmen came from all over Europe and America to get Tenino Sandstone. The quarries lifted the local economy and, from the late 1880s until the first World War, boosted Tenino’s population several times over. But growth in this industry was cyclical, reflecting the availability of disposable income and municipal expenditures, both of which tended to decline in times of economic downturn. The market for sandstone faded after World War I as architectural tastes changed and less expensive cement replaced it as a major building material.
The Olympia Brewing Company proved to be a more enduring aspect of the county’s economy. It was founded in 1894 as the Capital Brewing Company by Leopold F. Schmidt. After establishing itself in the Far West, the company expanded to the booming gold rush towns of Alaska. In 1901, it effected facility expansions in Washington and Oregon – and was renamed the Olympia Brewing Company. The company was nearly wrecked by state prohibition in 1916, pushing the economies of Tumwater and Olympia into a minor depression. However, it sprang from Prohibition in 1933 with a new, thoroughly modern brewing plant.
The Olympia Brewing Company may have led Thurston County out of the hard times of the 1890s but other sectors prospered as well. As before, the basic economic health of the county depended upon timber. In 1900, a corporate giant emerged when the railroad tycoon James Hill sold 900,000 acres of timberland owned by his Northern Pacific Railroad to Frederick Weyerhaeuser. Over the next 20 years, Weyerhaeuser moved his operations to western Washington and bought additional land, including the last old growth stands on the southeastern slopes of Thurston County. Meanwhile, a regional outfit, Simpson Timber Company, expanded into Thurston County from neighboring Mason County. Simpson purchased part interest in two local companies, Mud Bay Logging and Mason Logging, and was soon logging timber high on the slopes of the Black Hills.
By 1906, the sawmills along Budd Inlet and in other parts of the county were humming with activity. Olympia was expanding north into the Inlet, as new land was formed with dredge material from the mud flats. Olympia as creating a deepwater port, though still relatively small compared to Seattle and Tacoma. The Union Pacific Railroad was surveying a new line to Budd Inlet. The population of the county and real estate values were rising. The San Francisco earthquake ushered in local economic recovery as mills in Thurston County could not keep up with the demand for lumber created as the city began to rebuild. The Banker’s Panic of 1907 caused a slight downturn, but one that hardly affected the county.
While the timber industry sustained Thurston County through nearly three decades of prosperity, state government – which would eventually replace it as the dominant local industry – began to emerge. It would not fully replace timber as the major industry until the post-World War II period, but it made a good start in the 1920s. In the process, Thurston County began to reap the economic benefits that accrued directly and indirectly from state government. For example, when the legislature was in session local businesses saw a healthy pickup, this despite the fact that state government did not grow substantially until after World War I. A rising state government meant growth in the county economy (though the economic boom in the 1890s was itself responsible for state government growth).
One sign of government-fueled prosperity was the building spree in and around Olympia during the 1920s. Finished in 1927, the State Capitol Campus, anchored by the domed Capitol Building, was the very symbol of what would become the county’s preeminent industry. State employment, bolstered by federal funds, buffered Olympia and the surrounding area from the worst effects of the Great Depression after the Stock Market Crash of 1929.
The mobilization of resources at the onset of World War II marked a new heyday for the county’s timber industry, pulling it out of the downturn experienced in the years immediately following the Depression. Wartime demand did, however, reveal a growing problem – overcutting.
The main problem for the county’s timber industry was exhaustion of the resource base. Weyerhaeuser felled the last major stands of old-growth Douglas fir in southeast Thurston County, while the Mudd Bay and Mason Logging Companies cleared the Black Hills in the west county. However, Weyerhaeuser, with the help of federal conservation agencies, initiated replanting and other means of stewarding forest resources. Companies in the Black Hills, though, were of the old “cut and run” school. By 1941, the area was logged out, and with the timber went the town of Bordeaux. The Department of Natural Resources took over the land and established a tree farm now known as Capital Forest.
Olympia emerged in the post-war era as a major service center for lumber communities west of Thurston County while the Port of Olympia remained a major transportation center for shipping logs and finished lumber. But the glory days of the local timber industry were over. With the decline of the timber industry went many of the associated milling and secondary operations. Local mills boomed briefly in the post-World War II period, but began to close after the building orgy of the 1940s and 1950s.
War – both hot and cold – has been good for counties along Puget Sound. During the war, operations at nearby Fort Lewis increased several fold, forcing soldiers and their families into Lacey and Olympia for housing and other services. Later, a good many discharged and retired military personnel and their families settled on Thurston and Pierce counties as permanent homes. Lacey, a sleepy town before the war, expanded almost geometrically and by the late 1950s surpassed Tumwater as the county’s second largest city. It was also in the 1950s that Olympia assumed its present form as a capital city with a small mill or two on the shores of Budd Inlet and a flourishing, profitable seaport.
By the 1970s, Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey had blended into an extended capital community. The cities epresented an urban fixture on the new interstate corridor between Seattle and Portland, while continuing to expand as a center of offices and homes for state employees, military personnel, and their respective families. This further diminished the county’s already modest farm sector as housing development pushed into the remaining fertile prairies. Dairy and truck (mostly berry) farming continued in the south county, interspersed with small hobby farms.
The Washington Public Power Supply System plant at Satsop in neighboring Grays Harbor County had a marked impact on Thurston County since half of the 4,000 construction laborers not only lived in Thurston, but usually spent their paychecks there as well. The Satsop nuclear plant benefits came to an abrupt end in the early 1980s as the project was terminated. Unfortunately, that coincided with a severe national economic recession that further hobbled the county’s manufacturing sector. Even seemingly invinsible state government was hit by layoffs.
Thurston County emerged from the recession and by the late 1980s was in the midst of a commercial, office, nd residential building boom. The Olympia waterfront and downtown were revitalized, Black Hills Hospital (now Capital Medical Center) was built, and Lacey and Tumwater began a residential and office boom. As population followed this development, public schools were built to accommodate the influx.
In recent years, Thurston County has become an educational and retail center, serving counties to the west and south. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the state legislature approved and financed construction of The Evergreen State College on a peninsula between Budd and Eld Inlets. The four-year public institution became an economic and cultural fixture in Thurston County with faculty, staff, and students contributing to the local housing and retail sectors. The same can be said for South Puget Sound Community College and Saint Martin’s College, though on a somewhat smaller scale. The county also benefitted from the trained and skilled labor graduated by these institutions.
As with other cities across the nation, the retail business has migrated from historic downtown Olympia to shopping centers and other significant retail outlets on its periphery (the trend has abated somewhat, however, as downtown Olympia has mounted something of a retail rebound with niche stores). The county’s first mall was South Sound Center in Lacey, built in the mid-1960s. It was followed in the late 1970s by Capitol Mall and its surrounding retail corridor. More recently, Martin Village in Lacey and other smaller-scale retail centers have further boosted the county’s retail core. In addition to capping the retail “leakage” to Pierce and King counties, Thurston County’s retail core has “exported” its goods to much of southwest Washington by attracting customers from rural parts of Thurston and nearby Lewis, Mason, and Grays Harbor counties. Thurston County’s metropolitan area has of late experienced the arrival of large retailers that market in a specific product category (e.g., electronics, home furnishings, hardware and garden, office supplies, books, etc).
After all is said and done, there remains state government. Though it is not the growth sector it was only a few years ago, it remains a vital stabilizing factor for the local economy. Notable employment growth in the county, though, has recently been driven by population migration as residential development moves south from the central Puget Sound region.
SOME OF THE EARLY DOCTORS OF OLYMPIA
by Dr. T.R. Ingham
(Used with permission from Thurston County Historic Commission)
Charles E. McArthur was born July 9, 1901 on a Kansas wheat farm near Walton,
some ten miles north of Wichita. He attended the one room school at Walton and
worked on the farm with horses until he was 16; severe allergy to horses drove
him from this occupation which he loved, and he probably would have been a
farmer for life but for that problem. Working nights as a time keeper for Santa
Fe gave him sufficient funds to complete an AB degree at Bethell College in
Newton, Kansas with his major interest in physiology.
He secured a master’s degree in biochemistry in 1928 and became the professor of
chemistry and physiology at the Palmer Union College (Albany, Missouri, not
chiropractic). From there, Charles went to the University of Oklahoma in 1930
and continued to teach physiology, during which time he studied medicine,
obtaining his MD degree in 1938. He also completed sufficient work to receive a
PhD in physiology but doe to minor technicalities, did not receive this degree.
A year at Seattle General Hospital starting in 1938 followed by an additional
year—before coming to Olympia to take office in the National Bank of Commerce
building in 1940. When World War II closed upon us, Dr. McArthur and I were the
only reasonably healthy doctors left to treat the community, now bulging with
many military attached personnel, particularly from Brooklyn, New York. We
alternated nights on call, which meant that on nights on call we did not have
time to go to bed.
After the war was over, Charles became very active in that area of medicine
which emphasizes the need for doctors to first be doctors, and second to be
specialists. He was co-founder of the Academy of General practice in 1947, and
its first president of the state chapter in 1948. He became chairman of the
General Practice A.M.A. section in 1948: he instituted the “yearly physical
exam for every MD” at AMA meetings in 1955, and was awarded an AMA appreciation
certificate in 1964 on its tenth anniversary for a program that has been growing
in scope and now does screening physical examinations on over 2,000 doctors a
year. He was the first president of the American Board for Family Physicians,
and this organization is apparently growing in strength, emphasizing the need
for all doctors to carry on a certain amount of general practice.
For some eight years, he was editor of the World Wide Medical Abstracts, has
been on the advisory committee of the National Heart Institute, and is a Fellow
of the American College of Cardiology.
Despite repeated negative biopsies of a personal problem in his parotid gland,
Charles insisted on pursuance of the matter over a five year period and as a
result recently received successful curative operation which has left him with
the mark of facial paralysis, but has preserved his health and life. He has two
daughters, five grandchildren, and one great grand child by a previous marriage.
He now lives in a very well designed attractive home on Capitol Boulevard with
his wife Mary Ho.
Copy of faded copy of note for St. Pete, call Bell about 1968.[image]
LAWRENCE M. WILSON
In keeping with our policy of presenting members of our staff, here is the story
of Dr. Lawrence M. Wilson:
Dr. Wilson was born and raised in the mid-west and was married just after
graduating in medicine from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1933.
After a three-year residency in surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital, St. Louis, he
and his wife, Colette, set out for the Pacific Coast. Neither had been West
before, but after hearing reports from friends they decided that was where they
wanted to live.
Incidentally, they traveled in a brand new 1936 Ford. Cost: $652, deluxe
model, at that time! He took basic science examinations in Oregon and
Washington and started touring the coast. However, they were so taken with the
Puget Sound area, particularly with Olympia, their decision to settle here was
At that time, Olympia had about 8,000 residents and a dozen doctors, as well a
fine new hospital.
Dr. Wilson had the first oxygen tent brought to Olympia. A couple of years
later he used the first intravenous anesthetic in St. Peter Hospital–after
considerable controversy with Sister Benosa who was in charge of surgery at that
In those years doctors furnished all their own instruments as well as their own
scrub suits. The procedure of surgery furnishing the surgical gloves had just
Dr. Wilson’s practice was interrupted in January 1942, to star his four years’
service in the Army, having been a reserve officer for several years previously.
Upon his return to Olympia after the war, he found office space unobtainable, so
he bought the old Coulter home at 1502 Capitol Way and converted it into an
office site. This he still maintains.
He was chief of the hospital staff in 1941, again in 1946, and served several
years as a member of the board of the Medical Bureau. He was secretary and
president of the Thurston-Mason County Medical Society.
While serving as secretary he inserted the last minutes, closing the record book
of the society that had been in service nearly 100 years.
This county society was the first one established in the State of Washington.
Over the years Dr. Wilson has been a member of the American Academy of General
Practitioners, serving as the first Speaker of the State House of Delegates for
two years, at the time the House of Delegates was established. He is also a
member of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, the Washington
State Obstetrical Society, and a member of the American Society of Abdominal
He is a past president of the Active Club, and the Kiwanis Club. He served as a
member of the YMCA Board of Directors for seven years, the last four as its
present, at which time the new swimming pool was built as its first major
addition in 50 years.
He is an avid yachtsman and belongs to the Olympia Yacht Club where he keeps his
42 foot boat the “Willie.” His wife is a widely known golfer here and has won
championships and city titles. They have two sons and a daughter. Four
grandchildren round out this closely knit family. They are active lifetime
members of the Christian Church.
HUGH S. WYMAN
Hugh Wyman was born in 1858 and raised in Detroit, Michigan, where he attended
school and received his medical degree there from the Michigan College of
Medicine in 1882. He came directly to Olympia and associated in practice a
short time with Dr. Nathaniel Ostrander at 515 Main Street.
Shortly thereafter, as a surgeon attached to the Marine Corps, he embarked on
the gunboat, S.S. Pinta at Tumwater. This was before the long dock which
extended for years to the area now occupied by the Jacaranda, and gunboats and
similar ships regarded Tumwater as the port, and negotiated the narrow channel
up to vicinity of the present Crosby Museum Home.
The Pinta took Dr. Wyman to Sitka, where he met Henrietta Milsner. She was the
daughter of Governor Milsner, who went to Sitka in 1867 to deal with the
Russians directly, in purchase of Alaska (Seward’s Folly) from Alaska.
Milsner’s other daughter became interested in Admiral Koontz, Chief of Naval
Operations, and marriage of these two to their corresponding suitors occurred in
1885. Henrietta and Hugh had but the one child, Prudence Wyman, born a year
after their marriage in Treadwell.
Hugh left the Marine Corps service shortly after marriage, and went to
Treadwell, a small community across the bay from Juneau, to render medical care
to the gold miners. Treadwell had a fabulous load, and was an exceeding
prosperous gold mine until its termination by a landslide, that washed the mine,
settlement and all into the bay; despite many subsequent attempts, this lode has
not been rediscovered, and is said to contain a tremendous amount of gold ore –
(Maybe we should move Fort Knox to that location now!).
In the meanwhile, Hugh also took part in starting the Alaska Juneau mine, which
operated on a lower grade ore for many years with multiple “shaker tables” which
many of us have been privileged to see; the finely ground concentrated ore
flowed across a washboard like shaking table and collected in a pocket at one
corner, like pool balls hitting a corner pocket. Bag samples of this collection
were not given to visitors in 1929 when the Capital-Capital cruising race
terminated in Juneau.
In 1892, Dr. Wyman returned to Olympia and lived in a small home at 112 West
10th. Prudence then age six, started kindergarten with Winnie Lang (Schmidt)
held in the basement of St. John’s Church. Dr. Wyman became the leading surgeon
and performed appendectomies and similar operations in the old St. Peter
Hospital (209 West 11th). In 1896, he purchased the Sylvester home from the
Sylvesters, and moved to that location.
He was a good student and travelled to New York City nearly every summer for a
refresher course, first learning general surgery (hernia repairs and
appendectomies), and later concentrating on eye, ear, nose and throat. Shortly
after moving to the Sylvesters home, Dr. Wyman built his own office (708 Main
Street) which was a neat gleaming white office.
Diabetes mellitus plagued Dr. Wyman and lead to his death in 1913 shortly before
his fifty-seventh birthday. Mrs. Wyman left Olympia for a time, to be with her
sister (Mrs. Koontz, the Admiral’s wife), and her daughter Prudence married
Captain Howard of the U.S. Navy – The Sylvester home was rented to Harry
Heermans (founder of the Moxlie Creek water system, later taken over by Olympia
for its city owned water supply). During the next decade, this house was filled
with music generated by the Heerman boys (Joe, Jack and Don) and their sister
Ruth. While the Heermans were living there, Mrs. Wyman returned to Olympia to
live in a brown two story frame home, standing nearby (771 Washington).
Prudence Howard became a widow from her husband’s death in World War I, and
later married Joe Wohleb; these two moved back to the Sylvester home, and
converted Mrs. Wyman’s home into an architectural office. Some years after Joe
Wohleb’s death, Prudence married Admiral Greene, moved to Virginia. She
returned to live in the Olympian Hotel, following the death of Admiral Greene,
and lived out her days as a charming sophisticated person who knew much of our
town in its early days.
Robert Kincaid was a Canadian, born in 1863, who graduated from Queen’s
University Medical Facility, Kingston, Ontario. He came to Olympia in our year
of statehood, 1889, to live in a small white house surrounded by picket fence,
on northeast corner of “Tenth & Main”. At that time, the grade was about eight
feet below Main, causing the house to be down in a hollow.
Doctor Kincaid and his wife were alleged to be brilliant and studious, and yet
his practice did not flourish well. His office was reached by “rickety” stairs
to the second floor of a small white frame building just west of Toklas and
Kaufman (Mottman) store. Low cash flow was always a problem. The Kincaid’s had
two children, a daughter Adria and son Trevor. Trevor was well known around the
town as the youngster forever chasing butterflies with a net. He later became
better known as a zoologist of world fame, and was professor of this subject for
many years at University of Washington.
ALBERT MILLER TREAT
About Civil War time a Boston orphan went to Minnesota to live with his uncle
Mayo (no Mayo Clinic relative). His uncle, Oscar Rhodes, was a giant of a man
(7 feet 300 pound plus) who farmed inn Delphi Township. This orphan grew to be
a man, settled in the 1,200 people town of Blooming Prairie, Minnesota and
increased the population by one on January 23, 1887, with the arrival of Albert
After clearing the hurdles of a one room school, Albert attended University of
Minnesota, then took an additional year to receive his MD degree at Jefferson
University in 1910; a one year internship at Fairview, Minnesota followed.
A.M. specialized in general practice in small town for the next 21 years, except
for a two year World War I interruption. Two years at Bickleton, Washington
(near Goldendale) where he married Maude Hosfelt, a Seattle Minor Hospital
nurse; five years at Pingree, North Dakota; two years in U.S. Army (1917-19)
attached to British Army in Birmingham, England, hospital; 13 years at Fairview,
Montana, in Yellowstone Valley near Dickinson, North Dakota.
The barter system brought on in full swing by the depression “blew it” in 1932.
A.M. packed his bags and went to Vienna, the medical center of the world, and
under Professor Hajek in EENT and Sallman in eye, acquired a specialist training
in ENT by 1934.
Olympia appeared the best location to Dr. Treat with this training fresh in
mind. George Ingham who had taken the same ENT training in 1908 was now backing
away from mastoid work, now in 1934 largely handled by Frank Gibson. John
Mowell, deceased, left Gibson, Longakeer and George Murphy to handle the eye
department, with no one doing more in that field beyond refractions (fitting of
glasses). From 1934 to 1951, A.M. Treat was the stead dependable ENT man of our
town who handled his referrals smoothly, and understood the promise of the
generalist in a small community.
When asked about war experiences, A.M. told me it was more psychological than
physical. Rumor claimed 14 transports had been torpedoed off the Jersey Coast
when Captain Treat started overseas from New York in 1917. He asked the ship’s
captain about “abandon ship drills” and was promptly assigned direction of this
project. Life boats were insufficient to handle the passenger list. A large
life raft rested on the top deck for the excess. A.M. found that all hands on
deck still had insufficient strength to lift the raft, let alone launch it!
Conclusion: if torpedo strikes, go to the top of ship, jump in raft, and hope
same floats if ship sinks. Ship did not sink.
In 1942, Dr. Treat again served in war duty – chief of the Washington Junior
High emergency hospital – consisting of that school building’s basement with a
few old fashioned operating tables, and abundance of triangle bandages, splints
and old instruments. A cold dark January 1943, Sunday morning was the time he
drove through the sleet to station because of red alert, inadvertently flashed
to the “fan-out” phone system of medical division by Message Control Center,
when the practice alert in Seattle operators forgot to close the switchboard
keys to lesser control centers in Puget Sound cities. I found Dr. Treat in
charge which all personnel present and accounted for on station at 8:00 a.m. on
inspection grounds, with everything in readiness for all out disaster. (It was
still pitch dark for we were on War accelerated time and without street lights,
and all windows masked.)
The car he drove for this War II service was mirror image of his present
favorite, a 1947 Chrysler coupe.
Two sons carry on the Treat name. George Nathaniel is an executive for Crown
Zellerback in San Francisco. William Albert is an Ob Gyn specialist in Oxboro.
CHARLES E. MCARTHUR
Charles E. McArthur was born July 4, 1901, on a Kansas wheat farm near Walton
some 30 miles north of Wichita. He went to the one room school at Walton and
worked on the farm with horses until 16; severe allergy to horses drove him away
from this occupation which he loved — and he probably would have been a farmer
but for that problem. Working nights as a timekeeper for Santa Fe gave him
sufficient funds to complete an AB degree at Bethel College in Newton, Kansas,
in 1927 with considerable emphasis in physiology.
He secured a master’s degree then in biochemistry in 1928 at the University of
Kansas and became the professor of chemistry and physiology at Palmer Junior
College, Albany, Missouri. From there, Charlie went to the University of
Oklahoma in 1930 and continued to teach physiology during which time he studied
medicine, obtaining his MD degree in 1938. He also completed sufficient work to
receive a PhD in immunology, but because of minor technicalities did not receive
A year at Seattle General starting in 1938 followed by an additional year with
Roger Anderson in 1939 completed his formal training; he arrived in Olympia to
take office in the National Bank of Commerce Building in 1940.
When World War II closed upon us Dr. McArthur and I were the only reasonably
healthy doctors left to treat the community bulging with many attached military
personnel from Brooklyn, New York. We alternated nights on call, which meant
that on nights on call we did not bother to go to bed.
After the war was over Charlie became very active in that area of medicine which
emphasizes the need for doctors to first be doctors and second to be specialist.
He was a founder of the Academy of General Practice in 1947 and its first
president of the state chapter in 1948; he was chairman of the General Practice,
AMA section, in 1958; he instituted the Yearly PE for every MD at AMA meetings
in 1955 and was awarded an AMA appreciation certificate in 1964 on its tenth
anniversary for a program that has been growing in scope and now does screening
physical examinations on over 2,00 doctors a year. He was the first president
of the American Board for Family Practice. This organization is apparently
growing in strength, emphasizing the need that all doctors do a certain amount
of general practice.
For some eight years, he was editor of World Medical Abstracts, has been on the
Advisory Committee of the National Heart Institute and is a Fellow of the
American College of Cardiology.
Despite repeated negative biopsies of a personal problem in his parotid gland,
Charlie insisted on pursuance of the mater over a five year period, and as a
result recently received successful and curative operation which has left its
mark of facial paralysis but preserved his health. He has two daughters, five
grandchildren and one great-grandchild by a previous marriage. He now lives in
a very well designed, attractive home on Capitol Boulevard with his wife, Mary
HEBER WILSON COULTER
H.W. Coulter practice in Olympia from 1924 until his death December 21, 1953.
There is a bit of mystery about this man’s birth – the dates ranging from 1878
(AMA Directory), to 1880 (Medical School diploma), to 1883 (Who’s Who,
Washington, 1934), but all are agreed that November 13 was his birthday. His
Irish ancestry father, Henry, married a Scotch gal, Martha McLaughlin, settled
in Lewiston, Maine to practice law and had Heber Wilson as their only child. A
railroad accident near Lewiston suddenly made H.W. an orphan at age 13. During
his childhood, he had spent his summers on one uncle’s large farm near Lewiston
and learned to love animals; during the winters, he often rode in the surrey
with the local family doctors, and learned to love medicine. This combination
developed a powerful, muscular man who loved animals and people, and with the
help of his bachelor attorney uncle, James Coulter (Lewiston, Maine), he
completed his elementary schooling and secured doctorate of medicine at Trinity
College (Toronto School of Medicine) in 1903. This four year stint coincided
with the Boer (South African) War, in which he served some time there in the
Canadian Army, sufficient to receive personal congratulations and handshake from
After medical school, hospital service in Toronto,, H.W. travelled in Europe and
Asia, then started practice in Maine (1907), South Dakota (1908), Idaho (1912),
North Dakota (1913), and finally State of Washington in 1920, starting first in
Seattle, then Montesano, and finally Olympia in 1924.
A Deep Lake (Millersylvania) dairy farmer’s daughter caught Wilson’s eye,
leading to marriage in 1928 – but she seldom saw him after that for H.W. was on
the road night and day seeing patients. He loved to drive, and not uncommonly
would make 20 to 40 home medical visits night, carrying for young and old with
little concern about financial reimbursement. With the advent of welfare
payments to doctors for home visits to recipients in 1945, Dr. Coulter’s
caseload became open knowledge to the auditors who were thoroughly astounded at
his long hours of activity with little time for rest; his hobby other than
practice of medicine, was watching hockey and basketball; a Sunday drive to
Vancouver, BC to see a game and return, was about the only time wife, Anna, saw
him for any lengthy time.
Obstetrics was one of his first loves and many a delivery he accouchered in the
old Maxwell Maternity Home (SE intersection 4th & Olympic Way).
Diabetes mellitus with heavy insulin requirements starting in 1932 did not slow
him down, but did make him thinner. Fulminating uremia following minor cold
took him rather suddenly December 20, 1953. Following his desires, notice urged
that expression of condolence be gifts too the Thurston County Humane Society,
rather than flowers.
Ref. AMA Directory 13 Edi. 1934 T.R. Ingham, MD
Who’s Who, Washington & Oregon, 1934
Widow Anna Langford Coulter, 2816 Otis, Olympia
Sunday, Olympian, December 20, 1953
JOHN W. WAUGHOP, MD
Practiced medicine in Olympia 1871-1880
First Supt. Western Washington Hospital for Insane, 1880
John W. Waughop was born in Tazewell County, Illinois, October 22, 1839 and grew
up on a farm. His parents of Scotch ancestry had come there by team from their
Portsmouth, Virginia home by team, were exemplary members of the Methodist
Church, hardworking farmers with family of ten, plus a homeless waif whom they
took under their care.
After a country school education, John entered Eureka College, but his studies
were interrupted by “The Rebellion”. After a 90-day volunteer service answering
President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 men, he enlisted “for three years or during
the war, unless sooner discharged”, during which time he served in battles of
Donelson and Shiloh, and then did hospital service at Lake Providence, LA.
In July 1864, his honorable discharge permitted him to take a course of medical
lectures at the University of Michigan, followed by formal medical training at
Long Island Hospital, Brooklyn, where he graduated in 1865. (Ed. note, the
record does not indicate whether he was Board Certified, but people in Olympia
agreed that he was an excellent doctor.)
In July of 1865, John Waughop started practice in White Cloud, Kansas, became
mayor of the town, and left in 1866 to practice at Blue Island (near Chicago)
for five years. (Ed. note – there must be a good story to this, but I do not
have the information).
Eliza S. Rexford became his wife in 1866; she was the daughter of the prominent
citizen, the Honorable Stephen Rexford of Cook County, Illinois. This marriage
yielded a son, Philip, who graduated from Harvard College in 1890, and Harvard
Medical School in 1893.
After coming to Olympia where he practiced from 1871 to 1880, Dr. Waughop was
offered and accepted the appointment for the new hospital for the insane at
Steilacoom. While there, it is said many fine buildings were constructed to
create an institution for 600 inmates as well provided as in any state in the
Union. He was president off Washington State Medical Society in 1893, and
member of many honorary societies before his death, the date of which I do not
Source Illustrated History State of Washington
Chicago, Lewis Publishing Company, 1893, Page 88
NATHANIEL JAMES REDPATH
Dr. Redpath was born January 19, 1860 in Cowlitz County, Washington on his
father’s homestead, near the present town of Kelso.
His grandfather, Adam Redpath, was born in Scotland in 1803. In 1818, he came
to America with his parents, James and Isabel (Hay). She died and was buried at
sea. They settled in Randolph County, Illinois, in 1821. Adam and his two
sons, James and Robert came West around 1852 and settled on a Donation Claim in
Cowlitz County, Washington. Their claim was adjacent to the Dr. Nathaniel
Ostrander claim, and in 1856 James Redpath married Priscilla Catherine
Ostrander. They had two children, Nathaniel James born January 19, 1860, and
Lilly born in 1857. The family moved to Albany, Oregon where his father had a
market until his death in 1869. Mrs. James Redpath, with her two children moved
back with her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Nathaniel Ostrander, at Freeport,
Washington, for about two years then returned to Albany, Oregon. She worked as
a seamstress to support her children. Nathaniel worked at any job he could to
help support the family and gain his education. He attended a private school
because his first day in public school he was seated with a young negro. His
mother being from Missouri could not tolerate this so he attended a private
school. In 1879, Mrs. Redpath married Mr. Charles Bruce Montaque, a widower
with six children. They moved to Lebanon, Oregon, where Mr. Montaque was in the
mercantile business and had real estate holdings.
Young Nathaniel worked hard for his education. Among the various jobs he held
were working as a Telegraph operator and in his grandfather Dr. Ostrander’s
drugstore in Tumwater. He attended Albany Collegiate Institute, at this time he
decided on a life devoted to the Medical Profession. He attended the Medical
Department of Willamette University, graduated from Jefferson Medical College –
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1887.
In 1882, he married Anna R. Bridgford, a sister of Dr. Wayne Bridgford. He was
in charge of a general mercantile store for one year at that time.
After graduation from Jefferson Medical College in 1887, he immediately opened
his office in Olympia, Washington. However, in September of that year he was
offered a position at the Western State Hospital for the Insane, located at Fort
Steilacoom, Washington. He stayed there until 1896. While there he had a most
interesting life and learned a great deal about treatment of mental patients.
However, his wife died there and he did not want to continue. He took a
position as ship’s doctor on a sailing vessel to Japan. At the time he left
Western State Hospital, the patients gave him a beautifully carved oak cabinet
for his surgical instruments. The initials N.J.R. are carved as part of the
decoration on the cabinet. Also, the staff gave him a beautiful sterling silver
water pitcher tray and goblet as a token of their appreciation of his friendship
and devotion to patients and staff alike.
In 1897, he again opened an office in Olympia for practice of medicine and
surgery. His offices were located in the Chambers Building at the Northeast
corner of 4th and Main Streets. He remained in these offices until he purchased
a building known as the Columbia Building located at 206-208 East 4th Avenue.
He remained in that office until his death in April 1924.
He was always eager to leave and better himself for the good of his professional
ability. He took many post graduate courses such as N.Y. Post-graduate
Institute, Philadelphia Polyclinic and later Columbia University and Mayo’s
He enjoyed swimming, tennis, golf, photography and fishing.
In 1903 he married Miss Lucy Elizabeth Maynard, daughter of Mary Alice
(Buchanan) and Charles W. Maynard. Mr. Maynard was at that time Treasurer for
the State of Washington. Their previous home having been Chehalis, Lewis
County, Washington. The Maynard home was located on the north side of 11th
Avenue across from the old St. Peters Hospital. A most convenient spot for Dr.
Redpath to drop in for a cup of coffee after his hospital rounds. Dr. and Mrs.
Redpath had three children, 1 – Catherine Alice born July 22, 1906, 2 – James N.
born 1909 but he died at 10 months of age. The third child was Nathaniel J.
Jr., born December 7, 1910.
Both Dr. and Mrs. Redpath were active in civic affairs. He was a member of
Pierce County Medical Association, Thurston-Mason County Medical and Washington
State Medical Association. He was Past Master of the local Masonic Lodge #1 F &
AM, member of the Afifi Shrine and 32nd degree Mason.
Also an original member of the Olympia Golf and Country Club and local Elks
Dr. Redpath’s life extended over an interesting period of time in our
transportation, from the days of the horse and buggy, bicycle, motorcycle, and
finally the automobile. Before the automobile became the general means of
transportation, the doctor was expected to go to the patient rather than the
reverse as is common practice today. Names such as Gate, Malone, Oakville,
Tenino, Porter, Rochester, Yelm, Rainier, Littlerock, Tono, Bucoda, Kamilche,
McKenna and many others were well known in the Redpath household. Much of the
time the calls for help came from places with no other direction as to how to
reach them than by the names of farmers along the way. In those days appendix
were apt to be removed by the light of a kerosene lamp with the kitchen table
used as the operating table. Babies were born at home – not in a hospital.
Many times Dr. Redpath would drive himself or ride his bicycle to the end of the
road, where he would be met by someone in a rowboat or a launch to take him
across a river or across the bay to the home of the ailing patient. Sometimes
he would find an entire family stick with say smallpox. He would often stay
with them for several days if no other aid were available. His patients seemed
to love him for his kindness and devotion as well as professional knowledge.
One incident Dr. Redpath enjoyed telling concerned an Indian and his wife; the
wife had suffered a broken leg. The couple lived in a small one room house at
Kamilche. When the doctor entered the room, it was so dark he could hardly see.
He finally located the bed, only to discover the husband, who pointed to a heap
of rages in the corner of the room. When Dr. Redpath went over to the corner he
discovered his patient. Upon investigation he found the broken leg seemed to be
in perfect position and was bandaged expertly with a bandage of kelp. It is my
understanding the bandage was left intact and resulted in a perfect healing.
However, during his diagnosis the doctor wanted to compare the broken leg with
the normal one to check the amount of swelling. However, at this time the
husband, who had been watching from the bed, called to the doctor “Only one!
These were also days of the booming logging camps. Many terrible accidents
occurred due to the lack of safety features in the logging methods used.
Bordeaux, Mud Bay Camp #2, McCleary, Shelton, Vail and Fir Tree were among the
many places calling for help. Shelton eventually established a very fine small
hospital which made treatment of many logging accidents much simpler and I’m
sure helped in saving many lives. The hospital was made possible through the
generosity of Mark Reed.
Then came the era of the shipyards with more crippling accidents. This was
during the days of World War I. Many a time in the middle of the night, a
worker would awaken Dr. Redpath to remove a piece of steel from his eye. This
same period was the time of the very real “flu” epidemic. This “flu” struck
very suddenly, a worker would often leave the shipyards and by the time he
reached the doctor’s office he would have a temperature of 1030 or 1040.
Hospitals were full and patients had to be cared for at home. House calls could
not possibly be completed in the course of a normal day, in fact there were
times when it was almost continuous day and night.
How the medical men of these days managed to survive as long as they did is a
marvel to me. They must have received a great deal of satisfaction from the
knowledge that they were doing their best to serve mankind.
corner of 7th Avenue and Washington is now located on southeast corner of Water
and 17th Avenue. It still contains the original furnishings which are receiving
loving care by its current owner.]
JOHN FRANK GIBSON
“Well, mah boyee, what’chu lookin’ so sad about?” – a drawl coming from a tall
lanky more broad-shouldered graying sandy-haired man with twinkle in his eye –
reminds me of only one man – John Frank Gibson – and the feeling of warmth,
friendship and uplift this kindly inquiry imparted. Would that I could recall
the many friendly quips starting “We fellers down from Texas…” that would
bring a roar of laughter to his fellow Rotarians when he dropped a friendly barb
to conclude some preceding speaker’s comment:
J.F. was born in Paris, Texas, July 9, 1880, son of Dr. and Mrs. David Gibson,
attended University of Texas (Austin) and studied medicine at John Sealy
Hospital (Galveston) where he also interned. Graduate work in Chicago and
Vienna (Austria) gave him specialized training in eye, ear, nose and throat.
Following marriage in 1909 to a Virginian, Imogene Pace Nickell, he started
practice in Paris, Texas, had an only son (Frank), and served in the U.S. Army
Medical Corps throughout the entire World War I. When his mother died in the
early 20s, Dr. Gibson came to the Northwest for cooler climate, at suggestion of
Mr. Long (Longbell Lbr., Co., Longview) and moved to Olympia in 1923.
Munson’s Drug Store counter, and later the Security Drug store counter were kept
in an uproar as J.F. handled the dice box (Ship, captain and crew) against old
friends during short quiet periods between patient calls. I have a warm spot in
my heart for the prompt attention he gave my son, Cap, whose ears needed
surgical drainage 2:00 a.m. one Sunday morning (par for the course). The
Thursday and Friday gang poker clubs counted on J.F. to supply the wisecracks
for the evening and make the friendships priceless.
As President of the Thurston-County Medical Society, Ralph Highmiller wrote a
memorium which merits repeating: “Measured by Eternity, the span of life is but
a fleeting experience. To mankind, however, life is measured by years and by
achievement. Some lives are so filled with useful service that they stand out,
even as the flame exceeds the spark. Such was the life of our friend and
fellow member, John Frank Gibson.
A prominent member and past president of Thurston-Mason County Medical Society,
and a member of the Washington State Medical Society for more then 25 years.
He retired in June 1950 because of impaired health. In his profession he was
highly esteemed for his ability and he had the confidence and goodwill of all
our members. We think of him as a friend, counselor and a physician well
qualified in his chosen specialty. As a friend, he was faithful, loyal, and
helpful in many ways. As a counselor his wisdom could be trusted. He had the
prize of human wisdom, a deep knowledge that comes from being continually
exposed to the pitiful frailties of mankind. His sharp wit, and his sense of
good humor made him indeed to those who knew him.
He passed from our midst April 2, 1951, but he left us such a rich heritage of
memory that we, his brother members, find it difficult to believe that he has
gone. We will miss his presence, wise counsel, calm deliberations and ready
advice in the everyday problems of living.
Be it therefore resolved that this report be spread upon the minutes of our
Association, and that a copy be sent to his wife as an expression of our great
admiration and gratitude for his loyal service to our Association, as well as
our deep sympathy for those who remain and feel so keenly his absence.”
Information source: Frank Gibson, PO 337, Spokane, 99211
The above-named is one of the early physicians in this area whose history was
well recorded by his great granddaughter, Catherine Redpath Weller, as follows:
“Dr. Nathaniel Ostrander, who was one of our early pioneer doctors, was born in
Ulster County, New York in 1818. His grandfather David came from Holland and
settled in New York. Nathaniel’s father, who was Abel Ostrander, was born in
1776 and died October 3, 1859 at age 84. Abel was married to Catherine
Easterly, and they had six children, three boys and three girls; Nathaniel was
the youngest of these.
Young Nathaniel was raised by his Uncle Nathaniel until at the age of 18 he went
to Missouri. There he clerked in a store in a town called Sweet Springs that
was located in Saline County. When 19, he married Eliza Jane Yantis on April
11, 1838. They lived in Sweet Springs and had three children before Nathaniel
decided to study medicine. After he received his medical training at St. Louis
University, he returned to Sweet Springs to practice medicine.
However, the urge to come West was too much for him. So in 1849, he made a trip
to California. He wasn’t a good miner but continued to practice medicine among
the miners until he made enough money to bring his family out west.
When the family finally started west, they had five little girls: Pricilla,
Catherine, Mary Ann, Susan Charlotte, Sarah Teresa and Margaret Jane. They left
Missouri in April 1852 in the same group as the Yantis family which made it very
nice for Mrs. Ostrander, since she was a Yantis. Abel Ostrander, Nathaniel’s
father, also accompanied them on the trip. Among others who were in that wagon
train were Gilmore Hayes and Tom Prather.
Along the way a dispute arose as to whether they should travel on Sunday or take
that day for rest for themselves and their stock. The Yantis group decided to
rest on Sunday and the Hayes crowd decided to go on and travel each day. Dr.
Ostrander decided to take his family with the Hayes group and try to hurry
through. However, he later agreed it was not the best plan as the Yantis group
arrived in Portland at about the same time and didn’t experience as much
sickness and didn’t lose as much stock.
The entire party with the Hayes group suffered terribly from diseases and the
hardships of the trip. They all had black measles which later turned into
cholera. When they reached the Snake River in Idaho, Mrs. Ostrander and her
five little girls were all sick with the measles. Susan, eight years old, died
and was buried on the river bank. Here, too, Eva was born; she weighed only
three pounds and was so tiny that they Indians wanted to buy her. They offered
a few pennies and some blankets as pay. Even this newborn baby had measles.
Mrs. Ostrander also lost a sister-in-law, the wife of her brother Franklin
Yantis, the grandmother of George and Robert Yantis and also for George and
Robert Blankenship. She herself was so miserable she told later that at the
time she wished they could all die.
However, after six months of constant travel they finally arrived in Portland in
September 1852. From the Dalles, they made the trip to Portland in canoes down
the Columbia River.
They spent the winter in Portland, then in the spring of 1853 they moved up to
the Cowlitz where Dr. Ostrander and his father took up a homestead of 640 acres.
That claim was later known as the town of Ostrander in honor of the doctor.
Later they moved to Freeport which is now Longview. Dr. Ostrander was the first
probate judge of Cowlitz County and also served several terms in the Territorial
Legislature. During this period he continued his practice of medicine and often
had to travel 25 to 50 miles by horse to visit his patients. At that time, the
usual fee for a maternity case was $5.00.
In 1872 the family moved to Tumwater where they bought the home of Nathaniel
Crosby, who incidentally was Bing Crosby’s grandfather. They lived in Tumwater
for five years and Dr. Ostrander ran the Drug Store in connection with his
Finally in 1877 they left Tumwater and moved to Olympia where they spent the
remainder of their lives. They built their family home which is still standing
in the block bounded by Franklin, Adams, 8th and 9th, with the house facing 8th
Street. He became the first mayor of Olympia. Mrs. Ostrander died February 22,
1899 and Dr. Ostrander died three years later on February 7, 1902.
In those early days drugs were not as carefully labeled and there were no laws
controlling such things. Dr. Ostrander always claimed he never gave anyone a
prescription without first testing it himself. That way he could always make
sure it was the right thing.
Another incident I have enjoyed hearing had to do with my grandmother Priscilla
Catherine. Being the oldest of the children, she always thought it was her duty
to introduce all sisters whenever her mother had callers. She would introduce
herself and give her age, then say, `this is my sister Mary Ann, she is 15 years
old; this is Susan Charlotte 13 years old; this is Sarah Teresa, 11 years old;
this is Margaret Jane, 9; and this is Maria Evelyn who is only 5 – Pa was in
California that year.’
The Ostrander family consisted of ten daughters and one son:
1. Priscilla Catherine, my grandmother was the oldest and she married James
Redpath and lived in Kelso where my father Nathaniel James Redpath was born
January 19, 1860.
2. Mary Ann, married Thomas Roe of Longview and later moved to Forest Grove,
3. Susan Charlotte was the little girl who died on the plains.
4. Sarah Teresa married Charles Catlin, a pioneer of Cowlitz County for whom
the town of Catlin was named.
5. Margaret Jane married Michael O’Conner and lived here in Olympia. He had a
stationery and bookstore here and also was the first telegraph operator in
6. Maria Evelyn married W.W. Work of Olympia.
7. Isabella May married E.E. Eastman of Tumwater.
8. John Yantis, the only boy in the family, married Fannie Crosby and spent
most of his life in business in Alaska.
9. Florene Eliza married Walter Crosby and lived in Olympia.
10. Fanny Lee married C.M. Moore and is now living here in Olympia as you all
know (written later) died January 7, 1951 at age 84.
11. Minnie Augusta died in infancy.
In bringing this to a conclusion, I would like to read part of what Mrs. George
Blankenship wrote of Dr. Ostrander in her TILLICUM TALES: `He was every strong
for the right’ are the words that came most readily to the compiler’s pencil
when attempt was made to draw a pen picture of that veteran old war horse in the
medical profession, Dr. Nathaniel Ostrander. For many years while living on his
homestead on the Cowlitz River he was the only doctor to minister to the
distress of the people for many miles. His daughters can still remember their
father hurrying out, sometimes in the dead of night, saddling his faithful nag,
filling his saddle bags with medicines and frequently used surgical instruments
and starting on a trip of perhaps 20 or even 50 miles in response to a summons
for medical aid. Many of the men and women today in Cowlitz County, with heads
white with scar of age were ushered into this world by the genial doctor.
Brusk, sometimes gruff in his manners, all who best knew this grand old man,
knew his heart was of pure gold, his moral life beyond reproach and his family
relations loving and pure; a staunch friend, loyal to his political and
fraternal affiliations. Dr. Ostrander’s memory is still fondly cherished by his
Before I close I want to tell you I am indebted for all my information to my
Aunt Fanny Moore, who is the youngest of the Ostrander children, and she is here
This was a biography written by Catherine Weller sometime in the 40s and prior
to Fanny Moore’s death in 1951. The Ostrander home in Olympia has been replaced
today by the Timberland Olympia Public Library.
Not mentioned in this otherwise very comprehensive biography is the part Dr.
Ostrander played in medical politics. At the preliminary meeting for
organization of the Washington Territory Medical Society on January 4, 1873, Dr.
Ostrander together with Rufus Willard and J.W. Waughop were censors. The
meeting was held in Olympia with A.H. Steele as its president. Action taken was
to have 100 circulars printed so as to send one to each doctor of medicine in
the Territory and urge attendance at the next meeting. This was held again in
Olympia on February 19, 1873 with adoption of constitution and by-laws and
election of permanent officers for the year. Censors Drs. Ostrander and Waughop
were appointed as essayists for the next regular meeting to be held in six
months. Dr. Ostrander continued to be a leader in the organization until his
T.R. Ingham, December 1991
ALDEN HATCH STEELE, MD
Dr. Alden Hatch Steele long ranked with the most progressive, capable and
honored physicians of Western Washington and Oregon. He was born in Oswego, New
York, February 10, 1823, a son of Orlo and Fanny (Abby) Steele, who were native
of Connecticut. After mastering the common branches of learning, Dr. Steele
determined upon the practice of medicine as a life work and began reading under
the direction of P.H. Hurd of Oswego, New York, and subsequently continued his
studies under direction of Dr. James R. Wood, noted surgeon and medical educator
of New York City. He then entered the medical department of the University of
New York and was graduated in 1846, after which he located for practice in his
native city. Subsequently, he opened an office in Kenosha, Wisconsin and in
1849 started for Oregon with a stage company, and while en route overtook the
Rifle Regiment U.S.A. He was invited joint the officers and traveled with them
to Vancouver. He settled in Oregon City, Oregon in 1849, and for 14 years
successfully engaged in practice there. He was a most progressive physician, in
research and practice. He was the first to administer chloroform in amputation
north of San Francisco, this being the first time anesthetic was used in
surgery, the operation being performed in 1852. Dr. Steele not only figured
prominently in professional circles in Oregon City, but also took active part in
public life, serving for 11 years as a member of the city council and for three
years a mayor.
In August 1854 was celebrated the marriage of Dr. Steele and Miss Hannah H.
Blackler. Her grandfather was a captain in the Revolutionary War and commanded
the flotilla with which Washington crossed the Delaware. Dr. and Mrs. Steele
became parents of two children but only one Mrs. Russel G. O’Brien, widow of
General O’Brien, is mentioned elsewhere in this work. (Grandmother of Mrs.
Virginia Aetzel (Truman) Schmidt, Mrs. O’Brien died in 1932.)
For a short time in 1857, Dr. Steele was with General Palmer in the Grand Ronde
Indian reservation and there, as at Oregon City, he had wonderful influence over
the Indians who came to him to settle all their difficulties. In 1863, when the
troops in Oregon were called east, Dr. Steele was appointed surgeon of Fort
Dalles, when the post hospital was virtually a general hospital. After three
years service there, his own health becoming impaired, he was transferred to
Fort Stevens, at the mouth of the Columbia River. In June 1868, he was sent to
Fort Steilacoom, but the fort there was abandoned in 1869, and the troops were
sent to Alaska. Declining further service in the army, Dr. Steele came to
Olympia, where he spent the rest of his life.
In 1869-1870 when Colonel Sam Ross of the United States Army was Superintendent
of Indian Affairs in Washington territory, Dr. Steele was appointed physician to
the Indians of Nisqually and the Chehalis reservation. He was, for 15 years,
examining surgeon for pensions for both the Army and Navy, beginning in 1873,
and in 1876 he was appointed by Governor Ferry regent of the Territorial
University, which position he filled for two terms, or until 1880. He was
likewise for six years medical inspector of the Territorial penitentiary and for
25 years, he was medical examiner for the New York Mutual Life Insurance
Company. For a considerable period, he served as one of the directors of the
First National Bank of Olympia, continuing in that office from the organization
of the bank until a few years prior to its failure in 1893. He was one of the
organizers of the first gas and power companies and a stockholder in the
railroad to Tenino (T.M. Reed, President) and also in the Olympia Hotel built by
the citizens to help leap the capital here in Olympia. He did important work
for the government as a pioneer physician of the northwest and for his fellow
townsmen as well.
He was a man of the highest character, thoroughly reliable, just, considerate
and kindly. The Indians came to know that they could trust him fully, and he
enjoyed in equal measure the confidence and goodwill of the white men. He died
in Olympia, June 29, 1902.
The above was published in Volume III of 1917 edition of Washington West of
Cascades, S.J. Clarke Company, Chicago.
The Dr. Steele home exists at its original site, 1010 Franklin, perhaps one of
the oldest houses in Olympia today (1994).
DR. U.G. WARBASS
Dr. U.G. Warbass would respectfully announce to the citizens of Olympia and
Washington Territory that he was fitted up a large and commodious building as a
hospital for the convenience of the sick and afflicted, on Third Street, one
door east of the Pacific house.
Having relinquished all business of a public nature, the doctor is determined to
devote his entire ability and energy to the wants and comforts of his patients.
Being a Lycentiate and member of the State Medical Society of New Jersey, and
having had 13 years of an extensive practice (six of which have been devoted
almost exclusively to surgery) he feels satisfied that the wants of the
community are entirely supplied in an operation of a surgerical nature, as well
as medical advice.
Office in the same building of the hospital. For further information and terms,
address by letter Dr. U.G. Warbass, Olympia, Washington Territory.
From advertisement appearing in Pioneer and Democrat newspaper, July 20, 1860.
GEORGE WILLIAM INGHAM, MD
My father, Dr. G. W. Ingham was a well-known physician and surgeon in Olympia
from 1891 to 1954. He was born at the Ingham homestead in Algona, Iowa in 1868
the sixth of eight children. Dad often told me how he had to use a rope to find
his way to the nearby barn during Iowa blizzards to feed the Ingham horse, “Old
Nell” and chop ice out of the barrel of water so the latter could get a drink.
As a youth, he was an active, muscular boy whose bosom pal was a Sioux Indian
youth. They both earned pocket money shooting nickels out of the air with their
Sioux Indian arrows (1).
G.W.’s father was retired Civil War captain who started out as a surveyor and
finished life as Kossuth County banker and large Iowa farm owner. He was the
first settler in Algona after negotiating United States purchase of northern
Iowa lands from the Sioux. Dr. G.W., as a youth, developed great muscular
strength working on these farms.
After getting his degree in surveying from University of Iowa, Dr. Ingham spent
the hot Iowa summer carrying a heavy transit a mile at a time to establish
section corners. “There must be a better way to earn a living” entered his mind
and led to his MD degree in medicine from University of Michigan in 1889. In
the Fall of 1891, he started medical practice in the Chamber’s Building (4th &
Main). This was just before the depression of 1893, and his many letters to his
father are now on record at Henderson House in Tumwater filled with accurate
history of that era.
During the next 40 years, Dr. Ingham had a very busy medical practice which
included delivering many babies, taking care of St. Peter Hospital’s contracts
for care of injured loggers and serving on many medical activities (2). His
hobbies included fly fishing (of which he was an expert) with Dr. P.J. Carlyon
on the Deschutes River, duck hunting with his Seattle friends at Nisqually and
McAllister Gun Clubs, and rummy games with his Shelton friends. The latter
tried to keep his earned fees in town when he joined them at Bill Smith’s saloon
for a friendly game after making a medical call to that area.
Dr. Ingham married Emma Reed in 1895, took post-graduate work in Vienna 1907-08,
and became a pioneer expert in mastoid surgery in Olympia, for which he used
chloroform as anesthetic (3). In addition to medicine, G.W. became heavily
involved in business which included Fredson Brothers Logging Company (Kamilche),
Olympia Knitting Mills, Reed-Ingham Investment Company with building of Liberty
Theater and Liberty Garage, and founder of Olympia Oyster Investment Company at
Oyster Bay. The latter consumed much of his interest and time (4).
The severe economic depression of the 30s took its toll on Dr. Ingham’s business
ventures: Knitting Mills became bankrupt in 1932; logging company closed down;
and oyster business nearly destroyed by pulp mill pollution and importation of
Ill health with multiple surgeries compounded Dr. Ingham’s problems during the
30s, from which he gradually recovered during the 40s and returned to limited
medical practice until his retirement in 1949. A home fire in 1954 caused his
death on May 21.
The above is just a brief synopsis of the life of George William Ingham, whose
biography together with multiple pictures has been written for his descendant’s
JOHN WILSON MOWELL
Next to my father, I consider John Wilson Mowell the greatest doctor. He
attended my mother (home delivery with aid of forceps and chloroform), and dad
carried on the resuscitation – but that’s another subject.
Dr. Mowell was born March 5, 1861 in Shemmokin, Pennsylvania but since his
parents moved to Missouri when he was five, he has been regarded here “J.W. from
Missouri” and lived a life true to that inquisitive “show me” spirit. He
attended school at Dell until age 17, then taught school for four terms, then
entered normal school at Warrensburg, Missouri for a year. In 1882, Dr. Mowell
married America Feaster in Lincoln, Missouri on December 26, and moved to St.
Louis where he worked as a shipping clerk for Brownell and Wight Car Company,
and later for Brown Woodworking Company. In 1885, he entered Missouri Medical
College in that city and graduated with his MD in 1888. While in school, he had
two sons: Arthur who died from poliomyelitis at age one and Shelley. The
marriage soon fell apart thereafter; Shelley stayed with his mother, and later
came to Olympia in 1902 to serve as cashier in C.J. Lord’s Capital National Bank
for many years.
After medical school, J.W. practiced a few months in Warsaw, Missouri, then Lind
Creek, Missouri, then visited awhile in Texas, and came October 7, 1890 to
Tumwater, alone, to live with his maternal aunt and start practice of medicine
here. He married Ada Albertz Sprague in 1898, built his home on the northeast
corner of Union and Washington in 1907, and in addition to medical practice,
became a leader in the community in many ways: vice president of Olympia
National Bank, member of Olympia Golf and Country Club, Married Folks Dancing
Club and City Council (Knight of Court Honor, 1924).
As a person, John Mowell drove himself and those about him in a likeable but
intense manner. He made friends easily, being a competent musician with many
instruments and singing a good tenor. His zeal for care of the injured workman
carried him on a collision course with many doctors who predicted socialized
medicine. Nevertheless, he was a founder of the first Industrial Insurance
Company in this state. Mark Reed and his associates saw that a private company
could never secure full participation by all industry for prepaid industrial
insurance, and this led to the Washington State Industrial Insurance in about
1911, with Dr. Mowell as its first medical director.
Meanwhile, with his thirst for knowledge, Dr. Mowell secured a telescope and
became an expert in astronomy; secured a billiard table and became a local
champion in three cushion baul. (Jerry Kuykendall and I spent many hours
playing billiards on this table, always taking care to have the basement room at
proper temperature to protect the quality of the perfectly matched set of ivory
billiard balls.) Later, J.W. studied criminology and became so proficient as to
solve a baffling embezzlement problem that occurred in the Industrial Insurance
Department, which led to the TRUE DETECTIVE story recorded by Hollis Fultz.
John was health officer here for several years, and chairman of the Medical
Reserve Board during World War I. During this period, he contracted pneumonia
requiring surgical drainage of empyema at Camp Lewis. With his physical
capacity limited, he returned to private practice in 1921 and confined his work
chiefly to eye refraction and supplying of glasses. Thyroid carcinoma befell
him and his thyroidectomy left him with a permanent tracheostomy, with which he
trained himself to talk again.
Dr. John is remembered as a very kind and gentle person. The story is oft
repeated, that when he had to leave his home before his wife returned from
Women’s Club, he left a note on the door, “Ada, the key is under the mat.”
As of 1994, the Mowell (6) house is still standing at the northeast corner of
Washington and Union Avenue.
T.R. Ingham, MD
January 22, 1994
DR. J.R. JOHNSON
The above named is perhaps one of the earliest doctors to practice medicine in
Olympia as noted by the following Columbian newspaper advertisement:
J.R. JOHNSON, MD
About Fifteen miles below Olympia on
Puget Sound, has opened for the
benefit of the sick and afflicted a
HOSPITAL at his “point” where he will be in
readiness at all times to attend with
counsel and medical assistance all who
may make application.
March 26, 1853,–29ly
Although we know little about this man, that little suggests he was an
interesting individual as noted in the Columbian two months later on May 7,
“A man whom Dr. Johnson once reproved for following a useless and
demoralizing business, said in excuse: ‘You know Doctor that I must
live!’ The brave old hater of everything mean and hateful coolly replied
that ‘he did not see the least necessity for that.’
“A lady sent for the doctor in great trouble to say she had a frightful
dream and seen her grandmother.
‘What did you eat for supper? Madam.’
‘Quarter of mince pie, Doctor.’
‘Had you ate two, Madam, you would have seen your grandfather, also.'”
Pioneer Ezra Meeker wrote in his 1905 edition of Pioneer Reminiscences of Puget
Sound [page 43] “At the point a little beyond where we landed we found next
morning J.R. Johnson, MD, with his cabin on the point under the pretentious name
of JOHNSON’S HOSPITAL, opened as he said for the benefit of the sick, but
which, from what I saw in my later trips think his greatest business was in
disposing of cheap whiskey of which he contributed his share of the patronage.”
Some 90 years after the above when Johnson’s Point ceased to be Poncin’s Joint
(private estate) the area again became location of a doctor, but this time an
excellent one, the late Dr. Ralph Brown.
DR. WAYNE L. BRIDGFORD
Dr. Wayne LeSeuer Bridgford was veteran a colorful physician who practiced
medicine in Olympia for nearly 36 years and died at age 59 in his home, Tuesday,
February 22, 1938 some three months before his 60th birthday.
The Bridgeford name was well known in Virginia before the Civil War which
divided many families. Those members favoring the North retained the name but
those who favored State of Virginia and supported the South dropped the E. Dr.
Wayne made sure there was not an E in his name Bridgford.
His father crossed this country in a Conestoga wagon on the Oregon Trail to
homestead in the Willamette Valley in what is now Scio on current Highway I-5.
It was there that Wayne was born May 25, 1878. At Albany College in Oregon he
played football and was a tuba player in its band. After receiving his BA degree
at Albany, (now Lewis and Clark) in 1897 Wayne earned his MD degree at San
Francisco’s Cooper Medical College in 1902. This school later became Stanford
University’s Medical School.
On July 26, 1902, he married Adalene Chamberlain. During his college days he had
become acquainted with “Addie” who lived in her home town of Albany in her
mother’s boarding house. After spending two more years in medical training in
Portland, Oregon hospitals, he moved to Olympia.
Initially Dr. Bridgford associated with the well established physician, Dr. N.J.
Redpath, and then set out on his own, taking office on second floor of the
Pacific Building with reception room shared with Dentist Dr. Curtis Egbert. When
the Security Building was completed in the 20’s Doctor Bridgford took an
independent office on the fourth floor, the move being occasioned because of
Like Dr. John Mowell, Dr. Bridgford fitted glasses for many patients with aid of
a box of assorted trial lens. As the leader inn internal medicine in Olympia,
he later installed in his office the town’s first large x-ray machine (7) with
its diagnostic table that permitted gastro-intestinal and kidney studies and led
to his great interest in treatment of peptic ulcer. For this he created special
anti-acid preparations which were prepared by Carlton Sears pharmacy, and far
more pleasant to take than the usual Sippy powders and very popular in this
area. It became patented as Neutroacid and sold extensively throughout the
The good doctor played a large part in local activities, He was elected
coroner for Thurston-Mason Counties November 10, 1904 (Morning Olympian),
elected Grand Exalted Ruler of Olympia’s B.P.O. Elks #186 March 8, 1908, a
“32nd degree Mason.and an important force in the work of this order, being
active in Scottish Rite work as well as the Masonic Blue Lodge. He was a former
wise master of the lodge of Rose Croix, Scottish Rite body. He was a Shriner.”
(8) Dr. Bridgford also served on the City Council and as Mayor.
The doctor’s first residence was on north side of 15th Street between Sylvester
and Water when his first child Waynette Schmidt) was born At that time
Governor Hayes kept a cow near the nearby Mansion, and it was killed by Dr.
Bridgford’s pit bull. In 1920 the family moved to 203 West 17th when State of
Washington constructed the Insurance Building. His second child, Wayne “Buzzie”
was born after this move an active musically inclined youth who played drums
professionally and is now deceased Buzzie apparently inherited his father’s
keen ear and musical talent. The doctor’s daughter like this author, failed to
have musical expertise. Both did poorly despite piano teacher Mrs. Helen
Phillips (9) efforts.
This house which started out as a cottage (10) with received considerable
expansion: the living room was enlarged, and permitted an open air bedroom
upstairs; later a master bedroom with separate bath and side entrance with small
hall was added to west side of the home. Between backyard and garage a large
playhouse filled with children’s toys was constructed, but curtains on the
windows were not permitted. Waynette later learned her father was able to
observe children activities from his bathroom window; he kept a close eye on the
Dr. Bridgford was a strong character about whom there were the usual number of
anecdotes, of which the best known is his confrontation with Mel Morris who ran
a store for lady’s clothing. Mel sent the doctor a month over-due bill with
the large letter PLEASE written on same; Dr. Bridgford, without bothering to
take off his white office jacket, marched up the block to Mel’s store and handed
him this bill together with Mel’s much larger and longer over-due statement for
medical services rendered by the good doctor; the accounts were settled promptly
and the Doctor returned to his office with additional money in his pocket.
Ill health cause Dr. Bridgford’s retirement from practice in 1936 and he died
peacefully in his home February 22, 1938. His wife Addie died a few years
later, and his daughter Waynette Schmidt is living today and supplied me with
most of the above information.
T.R. Ingham, MD
January 19, 1994
1 These were made from a straight shaft of hickory without feather tale, with
sharp flint embedded in chestnut for its leading point, extremely accurate in
flight, and with rawhide bow string had sufficient penetration to drop a bison.
2 Head of hospital staff, head of the Thurston-Mason County Medical Society,
World War I Draft Board Medical Examiner, State Board of Medical Examiners, etc.
3 Chloroform was the preferred anesthetic in parts of Europe because of its
freedom from fire, a risk associated with ether in hot climates.
4 More can be found in E.N. Steele’s book, The Rise and Fall of the Olympia
5 “Slipper shells” with importation of eastern oysters and Japanese oyster
drills with import of pacific oyster seed. These continue to be problems today,
but pulp mill residues essentially gone.
6 It is typical of the many fine homes built in Olympia by Bill Ogle in the
first decade of this century.
7 Drs.G.W. Ingham and H.W. Partlow preceded Dr. Bridgford with x-ray machines,
but they were only good for diagnosis of fractured extremities, bulky and poor
in quality. St. Peter Hospital installed an x-ray machine similar to
Bridgford’s at his urging, and Dr. Ralph Brown used Bridgeford’s machine for
many years when he took over that Security Building office after Bridgford’s
8 Olympian February 23, 1938
9 Nick-named Mrs. Phitt-lips by her less talented students.
10 This home started out as a small cottage built by Sprague, who later became
Governor of Oregon.
“So Fair a Dwelling Place”: A History of Olympia and Thurston County Washington
By Gordon Newell
Olympia: Olympia News Publishing, 1950.
Note: transcription retains errors appearing in the original text, and no doubt includes a few
added in the transcription process. Please check unclear passages against an original copy.
THE MAP MAKERS
The sea changes but little and in 1841, as today, the ocean gateways to the Par
West were not always hospitable to the stranger seeking a landfall. The squadron of
Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, acting Commodore, U.S.N., 33 months out of Norfolk by way
of Antarctic, South Pacific and California, lay hove-to off the mouth of the Columbia.
It was April 28, and the bar was breaking. Great seas flung themselves against the
rock bulwark of Cape Disappointment and foamed outward over the unnamed sand-spit at
its base. To the South, seas broke on the sands of Clatsop Spit, and they, too, roared
outward toward the channel. Where they met with the cracking of titanic whips, the bar
itself was a seething maelstrom of churning, sand-filled water.
Lieutenant Wilkes was not a timid man. He it was who, 20 years later, almost
precipitated war between the United States and England when he stopped a British mail
steamer on the high seas and removed from her the Confederate commissioners, Mason
But the Great River of the West is treacherous as it meets the sea and not to be
taken lightly at the best of times. The brig Porpoise was standing in dangerously close to
the nameless sands at Disappointment’s foot. Signal flags soared to the Vincennes’ mizzen,
and the little squadron squared away to the north, rolling up the northern coast of the
Two days later, on May 1, the squadron raised Cape Flattery; the yards were braced
round and the ships swept past the tall rock, Tatoosh. The seamen watched smoke climb
from the Indian villages and the Indians watched the first American government vessels
sail into American waters in the Pacific Northwest.
Captain George Vancouver had sailed these waters 49 years earlier, in command of
His Majesty’s sloop, Discovery, and the armed tender, Chatham. Off the coast, he had met
the Yankee merchant skipper Robert Gray on the ship Columbia.
From this meeting, the Discovery and Chatham sailed north to discover and chart
the waters of Puget Sound. The Columbia sailed south to discover and chart the waters of
Grays Harbor and the Columbia.
For countless centuries the far Northwest had remained a trackless territory. In the space of a few weeks, Vancouver and Gray placed the present coast of Washington in the well-mapped atlas of exact knowledge.
Vancouver and Gray, in 1792, were the true pioneers of the far Northwest, but it is
Wilkes the last of the explorers, who has left his mark most deeply on the headlands and
inlets of the upper Sound.
Vancouver and his lieutenant, Peter Puget, spent but little time in the Discovery’s
launch and yawl south of Vashon’s Island, which Vancouver named for another of his
Mount Rainier and Discovery Bay, Admiralty Inlet, Hoods Canal, Elliott Bay and
Dungeness they named for British ships and seamen and British villages, but it remained
for Wilkes thoroughly to chart and name the shores and bays of the southern tip of Puget
The geography of these shores is well sprinkled with good American names from
the muster-lists of Wilkes’ ships. Hartstene Island he named for his first lieutenant, H. J.
Hartstene. Henderson, Eld, Totten and Hammersley Inlets bear the names of Wilkes’
officers, as does Budd Inlet, the harbor of Olympia. Beautiful Drayton Passage, off
Anderson Island, was fittingly enough named for Joseph Drayton, the expedition’s artist. A
half hundred or more points and capes, from Olympia to the San Juans, were likewise
named by Wilkes, and most of those names remain to this day.
Two English names were given to islands of the upper Sound by Wilkes, however.
Anderson Island and McNeil Island were named for officers of the Hudson’s Bay
Company, who entertained the Americans at Nisqually and served as pilots aboard the
squadron flagship on the upper Sound.
The Hudson’s Bay men knew the waterways well. As early as 1824 an expedition
left Astoria for the Puget Sound country. Led by James McMillan, it made its way by
canoe and portage from the Columbia River to Grays Harbor. Through a dark and tangled
wilderness, it paddled its way through November rains up the Chehalis River to the Black
River, up the Black River to its headwaters in Black Lake, just west of the present site of
Olympia. From there the men portaged to Eld Inlet and made their way up Puget Sound to
the Fraser River.
Upon their return, the group divided at the Chehalis, one group returning to Astoria
by the route they had come, the other traveling overland to the Cowlitz River near the
present site of Toledo and down that stream to the Columbia. This route became the famed
Cowlitz Trail, over which the first American settlers were later to pour into the Puget
In the spring of 1833, the company sent Archibald McDonald to establish a trading
post at Nisqually, and when this fortress-store was occupied, the old circuitous route to the
Columbia River by way of Black Lake, the Chehalis River and Grays Harbor fell into
disuse. The Cowlitz Trail was the accepted land entrance to the new frontier.
The Englishmen took leave of Wilkes when he received word of the loss of one of
his sloops which he had dispatched to the Columbia River. It had stranded on those
treacherous sands below Cape Disappointment, and the sands had received a name, along
with the bones, of the U.S.S. Peacock. Peacock Spit has claimed many proud ships in the
100 or more years since then.
Wilkes never returned to Puget Sound. The Hudson’s Bay post at Nisqually was
eight years old when the American squadron arrived. It was to remain for 30 more … until
1870, but it was free of American visitors and competitors for less than five years of that
THE EMPIRE BUILDERS
In April, 1845, a covered wagon train stopped at Washougal while a baby was born
to Mrs. Michael Simmons … the first white child to be born north of the Columbia. Then
the train pushed on over the Cowlitz Trail to the Falls of the DesChutes, called Tumwater
by the Indians.
Colonel Michael T. Simmons was a Kentucky man who didn’t like to be crowded.
He had a taste for danger and a way with savages. George Bush was a Negro – a very light
mulatto, but, by the harsh judgement of slave days, a free Negro. He was making the age-
old search of his race for tolerance and a place where he could be a free man… not a free
James McAllister wanted a lot of land where he could raise big crops and a big
family in peace and security. With them came David Kindred and Gabriel Jones, with their
families, and two single men, Jesse Ferguson and Samuel Crockett.
Peter Bercier had guided them from the last outpost of American civilization on the
Columbia. They were met on the way by a big Nisqually Indian, whose homely, kind face
smiled a great welcome to his people’s land. The Indian’s name was Leschi, and he gave
more than a welcome to the settlers. He had brought them pack-horse loads of badly
Colonel Simmons stayed at Tumwater, staked a claim, and named his new town
New Market. He was letting the Hudson’s Bay men know that they had a new market to
contend with. It took a quarter of a century, but the new market finally triumphed over the
old one at Nisqually. This was the first American settlement in what is now Western
Using water power from the falls, he built a saw mill and grist mill – Washington’s
first industries used water power, as do her newest. It was Simmons, too, who founded the
state’s great oyster industry. The hills of Kentucky hadn’t given the Colonel much in the
way of an education and historians have called him illiterate.
He was actually a self-educated man of considerable intelligence. A natural
linguist, he became fluent in the Indian languages and was later of great assistance to
Governor Stevens in dealing with the Puget Sound tribes.
Michael Simmons was first in many things, but like most of the true pioneers he
reaped little financial reward from the enterprises he started.
Bush, too, was a man of intelligence and character and had done well in a world
where all the cards were stacked against him. When he unpacked his goods he removed a
false bottom from his wagon. The boards below were neatly covered with silver dollars,
laid edge to edge.
Because the Bush family were officially Negroes, one historian has facetiously, but
falsely, stated that the first white child born in Washington was a Negro.
Bush did not stay at New Market, but settled on a fertile little prairie nearby, which
is still called Bush Prairie. The later settlers had much reason to bless the name of George
Bush. By the fall of 1852, his farm was bursting with acres of wheat, corn, potatoes, beans,
pumpkins and livestock in abundance.
Then came the wagon-trains of that ill-fated year. Cholera had attacked them on the
broiling plains. Starvation had struck in the mountains and many of them had been forced
by hunger to eat the grain meant for seed in the new land. They arrived on Puget Sound in
Says Archie Binns, in his beautifully written historical novel of the Puget Sound
country, Mighty Mountain: “Watching those emigrants come in, I saw that flesh is a
luxury. It’s the bones that matter. When flesh gets to be too expensive a luxury, the skull
comes out in the face and takes charge. It’s the skull and some dream burning in it that
keeps the leg bones walking on, and the wrist bones cracking the whip on galled skeletons
of horses and cattle that must not be allowed to lie down because they would never get up
Most of these tattered men had a few dollars to start a new life in a now country,
but they would have given all they had to George Bush for a pittance from his plenty. He
could have made himself a fortune, but instead he gave his fortune away. He gave the
newcomers all they needed to start a new life and didn’t collect a dollar.
Later he almost lost his farm because Negroes weren’t allowed to own land in the
United States. But his neighbors rallied to his defense and carried their protest to the
national capitol, where Congress passed a special act allowing George Bush and his heirs
to hold land forever.
The settler’s good Indian friend, Leschi, sent a dozen of his braves to help harvest
Bush’s life-giving crop before the autumn rains fell, and the brown man and the red
deserve the credit for saving Olympia from death by starvation almost before it was born.
There is little racial discrimination at the southern tip of Puget Sound. Here men are
not looked upon as less than men because their skins are dark. Here in a country that was
given life by two men whose skins were dark, they never should be.
The James McAllisters settled in the Nisqually Valley, in the midst of Leschi’s
people. Their first home was in two huge hollow cedar stumps until Leschi and his braves
helped them to build a log farm house. Leschi wanted his people to learn the farming
techniques of the Boston men, and McAllister was encouraged to take land among the
McAllister, as a lieutenant of territorial Rangers, was to die at the hands of an
Indian sharpshooter in 1856. The original McAllister homestead included McAllister
Springs, now the source of Olympia’s water supply.
THE BIRTH OF A CITY
The present city of Olympia was really born in 1846, but under a temporary and
almost forgotten name. Edmund Sylvester and Levi Lathrop Smith staked a joint claim on
the present site of Washington’s capital city.
Edmund Sylvester was a Maine fisherman who wanted to forget the cold seas and
rocky soil of New England. Smith was an epileptic, cultured, solitary, with a call to the
ministry which had been frustrated by ill health.
Each filed on 320 acres under the homestead law of that time, which provided in its
partnership clause, sole ownership for the survivor in the event of death of either partner.
Sylvester, weary of the sea, settled on an inland section now known as Chambers Prairie.
Smith chose for his claim the land at the southern tip of Budd’s Inlet, some two
miles north of the already settled town of New Market, or Tumwater.
Although most of the embryo townsite was covered by virgin timber and tangled
underbrush, the sandy point at the north end of Smith’s claim, now the foot of Capitol Way
in Olympia, was the northern tip of a two acre clearing which was above extreme high
A small bay, extensive at high tide, bounded the claim on the northeast and when
the tide was up, the bare land somewhat resembled the silhouette of a bear. The area was
called “Cheet-woot,” which in the Nisqually tongue, means “bear”. Here in the winter
months, the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes of Indians under Chief Sealth, or as the white
men called him, Seattle, were accustomed to camp for the rainy season.
The first building of the new city was built in this area – a log cabin about sixteen
feet square. It stood adjacent to and west of a point midway between the present State and
Olympia Avenues, and since the town had not yet been laid out, part of the cabin stood on
what is now Capitol Way.
The tragic figure of Smith was soon to depart from the rude stage of pioneer
Olympia, or Smithfield, as he called his claim. He did not live to see any of the beginnings
beyond the first rude cabin.
At this time, Smithfield was in Lewis County, Oregon Territory, and at the first
county elections in 1848, Smith was elected representative to the Oregon Provisional
Legislature. He did not live to take office. As he was traveling to New Market by canoe, he
was gripped by an epileptic attack, fell into the Sound and was drowned. His was the first
American death in the Puget Sound country.
The life of Olympia’s co-founder was not a happy one. Sheets of a diary left by
Smith show that his fatal disease had long preyed upon his mind. He had renounced a half-
caste Catholic sweetheart in the east to become a Presbyterian minister, but his malady
made it impossible for him to continue his theological studies.
His life of aching loneliness in a wild, new land made him pitifully dependent upon
the hearty good cheer of his partner, Sylvester, the bluff New England sailor. It is part of
the dark tragedy of Levi Lathrop Smith that he did not live to glimpse even a hint of the
beautiful city which was to grow from his rough shack between the empty bay and the
After Smith’s death, Sylvester gave up his Chambers Prairie claim and became the
permanent occupant of his dead partner’s claim.
The Washington Standard, published at Olympia, in 1867, reproduced an inventory
of Smith’s former holdings, made by Sylvester on a torn leaf from a ship’s log book. Editor
John Miller Murphy wrote:
“The following copy of an original document is pleasant as well as a curious reminiscence of those primitive times. The contrast between that cabin and its simple furniture and the present mansion (Sylvester’s) is not only marked, but affords a fair comparison between Olympia of 1848 and Olympia of 1867. It also serves to remind us how
the pioneers of the American settlements were obliged to live, and while they so willingly
submitted to privation in their great mission of making homes for American men and
women, yet they found time for jest in the very poverty that surrounded them, satisfied
because they had abundance to supply their passing wants.”
July 25, 1848. ” ‘N. B. New Market Precinct, Lewis County, on the shore of Puget’s Sound,
Simmon’s Inlet, one mile below the falls on the La Shutes River. ” ‘In it you will find one house built of split cedar with a stone fireplace and a stick
chimney. It is covered with four foot shingles, put on with weight poles. It has three lights
and one door, with a rough puncheon floor, made of split cedar, with a closet and a bed
room made of the same materials. ” ‘The furniture consists of two tables, one bedstead which is made by boring holes
in the side of the house and driving in sticks; three benches and two stools. The cooking
utensils consist of one frying pan and tin kettles, one 12-quart and one 6-quart and one 3-
quart, for boiling and one tea-kettle. The closet contains one tin pan, three tin cups, three
tin plates, three knives and forks, two half-pint kettles, one basin and one trencher.
” ‘The enclosure two acres of land, with one and a half under cultivation with corn,
beans, pumpkins, squashes, potatoes, peas, cabbage, melons, cucumbers, beets, parsnips,
carrots, onions, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, parsley, sweet fennel, peppergrass, summer
savory and sunflowers. ” ‘The out house, one hog house and one hen house, with five hogs three pigs,
seven hens, and a cock, cat and dog, one yoke of oxen and two horses. ” ‘ Signed
” ‘Edmund Sylvester. ” ‘Attest:
Michael T. Simmons
Samuel B. Crockett
Daniel D. Kinsey.'”
Such then, was Smithfield, or Smithter, in the year 1848. Destined to become the
capital city of a great state yet to be born, the table service for three in its one rude
dwelling was more than enough to serve its entire population.
It was not an impressive beginning, but 1847 and 1848 were years of destiny for
the city of the future. A trail was cleared between Smithfield and New Market in the late
summer of 1847, and the seeds of a complex transportation network were planted.
By 1848, the population of the Smithfield-Newmarket area had increased. Early in
1847, a party consisting of Mr. Davis and family, Samuel Cool, A. J. Moore, Benjamin
Gordon, Thomas W. Glasgow, Samuel Hancock and Leander C. Wallace arrived at New
Later that year, Elisha and William Packwood arrived with their families, followed
by J. B. Logan, A. D. Carnefix and Frank Shaw.
Thomas Chambers and his sons, David, Andrew, Thomas J. and McLain, with
George Shazer and a Mr. Brail arrived during the winter.
In 1848, too, the area became an educational center with the arrival of Father Pascal
Ricard and a little band of Oblat missionaries. The gentle fathers found a cathedral waiting
On a long-ago June day, they stood on a jutting headland of the Sound and saw the
benediction of slanted sunlight streaming through the hushed nave of ancient fir trees, and
they knew that this was the place where they would bring the red men to a knowledge of
the white man’s God.
More than a century has fled since then and the good fathers are long gone to their
reward. The few descendants of their Indian friends live on a somber island reservation
down the Sound, and the only living memory of Father Ricard and his mission is the name
of the beautiful headland where he lived and worked – Priest’s Point.
After the Indian wars of the ’50s, the Squaxin tribe was moved to its reservation on
Squaxin Island, and the mission declined. Father Ricard left soon after to found other
frontier missions. With its passing, the first spark of Old World culture to reach Puget
Sound was extinguished.
Priest Point is now an Olympia city park. Almost as hushed and lovely as it was
when the Mission of St. Joseph of New Market was founded there, it is rich in historic
To the imaginative visitor, there on a quiet day may come, as he strolls through
dark forests above the quiet ebb of Puget Sound, an echo soft as memory down the corridor
of years, echo of the chant of priest and mission Indian, and he may be reminded of the
ringing, tragic words of Old Seattle:
“And when the last red man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall
have become a myth among the white man, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead
of my tribe, and when your children’s children think themselves alone in the field, the
the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth
there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages
are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once
filled them and still love this beautiful land. The white man will never be alone. “
Some of the quaint old 16th century French text books used by the priests of
Priest’s Point are now kept at the State Library in Olympia.
GOLD RUSH DAYS
The formal Territorial Government of Oregon was established on August 14, 1848.
It included all the Pacific possessions of the United States north of the 32nd parallel. The
Olympia of today was still officially known as Smithfield, Lewis County, Oregon.
The year 1849 was a dark one for the Puget Sound country as the bright flame of
California gold eclipsed the northern coast. Crops were left to rot and half-built cabins
were deserted, as all but a few devoted souls stampeded for the California gold fields.
With most of the able-bodied white men gone, Patkanim, chief of the Snoqualmie,
called together a great council of the Puget Sound Indians. Patkanim urged the canoe
Indians to join with the horse Indians from east of the great mountains, to drive the whites
from the land.
“Soon,” he said, “the white men will outnumber the Indians, and then we shall be
driven to a land where the sun never shines, and there we shall be left to sicken and die.”
The Puget Sound tribes refused to join with Patkanim in his proposed massacre.
The Hudson Bay men at Fort Nisqually had long treated the Indians kindly and fairly.
When the first Americans at Tumwater Falls felt the autumn chill of 1846, they delegated
Colonel Simmons and Jim McAllister to call upon Dr. Tolmie, the chief factor at Fort
Nisqually, for help.
Although it was contrary to the interests of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the
British government to encourage American settlers in this disputed territory, the kindly
factor agreed to furnish clothing, food and blankets to the people of New Market, and to
buy shingles from them. In return he demanded that they observe the company’s policy of
dealing with the Indians and to help in protecting the gentle Puget Sound Indians from the
brutal raids of the war-like Haidahs of British Columbia, who swept down periodically in
their 70-foot ocean- going war canoes to murder, pillage and take slaves and women.
The first American settlers observed this code scrupulously, and as a result the
Nisquallys, Squaxons [Squaxin] and other tribes of the upper Sound, looked upon the
white men as friends and protectors. Had later settlers been as wise, the Puget Sound
country might have gone down in history as the only section of America where red men
and white worked out their destiny without murder, bitterness or tragedy.
A war party of Patkanim’s braves did attack Fort Nisqually in 1849, and a white
man, Leander C. Wallace, was killed. Later Patkanim was bribed with 80 blankets to
deliver up six of the supposed murderers for trial and as a result of this sordid episode,
which reflects credit on neither Indians nor whites, two of the six Indians were found
guilty and hanged.
While this was transpiring, Leschi, son-in-law of the Chief of the Nisquallys, was
learning agriculture from his friend, Jim McAllister, and as the most influential of the
upper Sound Indians, he was building a firm foundation of peace and good will between
his people and the Americans.
So it was that the tiny settlements of Puget Sound escaped annihilation at the hands
of the Indians while their men were away in the gold rush of ’49.
RETURN OF THE GOLD SEEKERS
The treasure hunters began to drift back in a year or so. Some were broke, just as
they were when they started. Some, like Sylvester, brought back pokes of dust to buy land
and goods and ships to found new, solid fortunes in the northwest. Some brought new
settlers with them.
The year 1850 was another year of great beginnings. In the spring the Smith claim
was dedicated as a town. Edmund Sylvester still owned the whole town, and he decided to
launch it with a new name – Olympia.
The name Olympia appears to have been suggested by Colonel I. N. Ebey, who
joined the gold rush and was fairly successful, returning north in 1850 and settling on a
valuable claim on Whidby Island.
The Colonel was down for the dedication ceremony and added his oratory to the
occasion. He composed these lines for the little assemblage gathered at the city’s birth, and
they have become a part of the capital’s history:
p18“Afar their crystal summits rise
Like gems against the sunset skies,
While far below, the shadowy mist
In waves of pearl and amethyst,
‘Round somber fir and stately pine,
Its dewy, jeweled fingers twine;
Olympia’s gods might view with grace,
Nor scorn so fair a dwelling place.”
Historians disagree as to who should receive credit for suggesting the very fitting
name, Olympia, for Washington’s capital city. Some claim that it was actually the
suggestion of Charles Harte Smith, who was a partner of Simmons in an early Olympia
store located at First and Main.
Hubert Howe Bancroft quotes Elwood Evans (Washington’s first historian and
pioneer Olympian), backed by Sylvester, as crediting Ebey with the name. In later years,
Evans credited Smith. Still later, in a booklet edited by Evans for the State World’s Fair
Commission of 1893, Hugh Goldsborough is listed as suggesting the name.
In this regard, it is interesting to note that the only two books mentioned in Ebey’s
journal are the Bible and a Life of Olympia Fluvius Morata (an Italian scholar of the 16th
century). This, coupled with the foregoing poem, indicate that the name Olympia was in
the Colonel’s mind at the time, and it is likely that the credit should go to him.
Colonel Ebey’s subsequent life was quite a saga in itself. In 1853 he was appointed
a Collector of Customs. He was a doughty champion of the rights of the American settlers
in conflicts with the British colonial government at Vancouver, and was the first to explore
inland in what is now King County.
In 1857 a band of raiding Northern Indians of the Haidah tribe fell into battle with
the U.S. Government steamers, Massachusetts and Traveler, and were given a sound
drubbing, losing 27 killed and 21 wounded. Instead of teaching the savages a lesson, it left
them burning for revenge, and they made a sneak attack on Ebey’s isolated homestead. His
official position and great popularity made him a white chief “Boston Tyee” – in their
Shortly after midnight, the Colonel’s dogs gave the alarm and he stepped to the
door to investigate the disturbance. Two shots flashed in the dark, wounding him. Two
more dropped him to the ground and as he fell, the Indians sprang upon him and
Ebey’s wife and three children escaped to spread the alarm and the neighbors
gathered for defense, but in the morning it was found that the Haidahs had gone as silently
as they had come. Haidah revenge was complete with the death of the man who took a
lovely name from Greek mythology and gave it to Washington’s capital city.
A NEW COUNTY
Olympia’s water-borne commerce began in 1850 when, on New Year’s Day, the
brig Orbit arrived in the harbor from California where she had been purchased by
Sylvester, Ebey and other Olympians with California gold.
Olympia was the Orbit’s home port, and she was the first sea-going ship owned on
Puget Sound. On her first voyage, she loaded a cargo of piling for San Francisco. This
development was of interest to the federal government as well as the settlers of Olympia
and New Market, and, the following year, a customs house was established at Olympia.
A customs house employee has left a journal which contains a vivid description of
the city at about the time of its first birthday in 1851:
” ‘The place is situated near the head of Budd’s Wet, on a low flat, and the tide
rushes in and falls nearly 24 feet. On the margin of the sound, clams and mussels abound
and ducks of diverse varieties are most numerous. The largest house by far in the place is
now occupied by the Customs House. It is a large two-story house, not far from the
extreme northermost point, and on paper is designed as being near First and Main streets,
though the streets, to a great extent, exist in the imagination.
” ‘It belongs to Colonel Simmons, the American settler on the Sound, who has a
little room parcelled off for a store, though the stock is slim, and a still smaller apartment
dedicated as a post office. As the Colonel repudiates being “book larnt”, the post office
runs itself, or rather some half a dozen or more, having been sworn in as deputies, help
themselves and the few who come to inquire for letters. The upper story has been fitted for
a customs house and residence for which Col. Simmons receives the snug little rent of $50
” ‘There are about a dozen one-story cabins of primitive architecture covered with
split cedar siding, well-ventilated but healthy. They answer the purpose well, for the
winters are mild though moist. Snow and ice are comparatively unknown, but it rains on
short notice and without difficulty. There are some 20 or more Indian huts at a short
distance from the Customs House.
” ‘The Indians are of the D’Wamish tribe, a filthy, fish-eating flat-headed lot, who
live without much effort and are content with such clothing and conveniences as they can
purchase or obtain with the little they earn by occasional labor for the whites and the trifle
they receive for fish, ducks, venison, oysters, berries, etc.
” ‘Old Seattle is their Chief, a venerable looking old personage who, by his stately
walk and dignified carriage, would remind you of Col. Benton. He is friendly to the whites,
claims to remember the voyage of the renowned Vancouver, and while he considers it
beneath his dignity to use the jargon of the country, he will show you by friendly shake of
the hand and a grunt that he expects to be noticed by the newcomer.
” ‘The hospitable people consist of immigrants from Missouri and Illinois, and a
goodly sprinkling from the state of Maine. Col. Isaac N. Ebey is perhaps the most
influential of the citizens, but Goldsborough, Simmons, Poe and the Custom House
officials are worthy of mention. Edmund Sylvester, the town proprietor and native of
Maine, has recently built a dwelling. Beside it stands the old log cabin – the first house
built on the townsite. Dr. Lansdale has a little shanty east of it on a back street where he
dispenses calomel and occasionally justice, for the worthy doctor has been selected by his
fellow citizens as justice of the peace.
” ‘I recently witnessed a trial before him in which Captain Crosby and Colonel
Michael T. Simmons were parties, growing out of a question of title to and possession of
the Tumwater claim. It originally was taken by Simmons in 1845, but purchased by Crosby
in 1849. J. B. Chapman, Esq., of Steilacoom, was attorney for Crosby, Col. Simmons being
represented by Daniel R. Bigelow, Esq., of Massachusetts, who crossed the plains this last
season and arrived in Olympia in the Schooner Exact from Portland on a voyage to Queen
Charlotte’s Island, where gold is supposed to exist in large quantities.
” ‘Mr. Bigelow is a retiring, modest man, but seems to understand his profession
well enough, and though his old and unscrupulous antagonist attempted to badger and
bully him, yet he held his own with imperturbable good temper. Bigelow had grammar and
good English on his side, anyway.
” ‘Quincy A. Brooks, Esq., now employed in the Customs House, is another
attorney just arrived. He has on several occasions helped us while away these dreadfully
long nights of this northern latitude, by his admirable playing on the violin of which he is a
master. It really seems to me that should he fail to convince a jury by his oratory, he might
by leave of the court, prove irresistible with his fiddle. Dr. D. S. Maynard, hailing from
Ohio, like his brother Lansdale, with the melancholy experience that there is no demand
for pills, has taken to store keeping about 100 yards south of the Customs House. He offers
great inducements to his very limited supply of purchasers.’ “
Smith’s cabin had expanded into a crude hotel and store, but only the barest
essentials were to be bought in Olympia until 1852, when George Barnes opened a general
merchandise store at the west end of First Street. This opened a new era, with such luxuries
as soap, sperm candles, hoop skirts and patent medicines added to the pioneer necessities
of axes, powder, shot, whiskey and smoked fish.
Before long, business houses were opened by A. J. Moses, J. G. Parker, Sam
Coulter, L. Bettman, Goldman and Rosenblatt, and Louison and Company.
Another ship sailed out of Olympia harbor in 1851 when a schooner was chartered
by Samuel Williams, J. Colvig, William Billings, S. D. Howe, Charles Weed, S. S. Ford
and three Sargent brothers to explore the new-found gold fields on Queen Charlotte’s
The schooner was wrecked on the east side of the island and the fierce Haidahs
stripped the ship, capturing the hopeful Olympians. After two months of captivity, they
were released by a revenue cutter and troops from Fort Steilacoom.
The year 1852 found the little settlement fairly prosperous and its citizens with high
hopes for the future. Coal had been discovered nearby, several saw mills had been
established and these pioneer industries were the nucleus of a growing trade with booming
California. They felt, however, that their interests were jeopardized by their political
The Sound country was then the northern part of the Territory of Oregon. Many of
the towns and settlements were 500 wilderness-miles from the seat of government, and the
settlers weren’t getting much attention or consideration from the Territorial Legislature. All
the territory north of Cowlitz County was a part of Lewis County and it contained
somewhat more than 300 white inhabitants.
Pacific County was created in 1851, and, in 1852, another new county was
approved to include the land west of the Cascade Mountains and north of the Cowlitz
divide. The new county was named Thurston in honor of Oregon Territory’s delegate to
Congress, Samuel R. Thurston, who was pledged to defend the territorial rights of the
northern section against the claims of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Thurston had died at sea while returning home from the national capitol in 1851
and was buried at Acapulco. Years later his body was brought home and now lies in
Salem, Oregon, marked with a stone bearing this inscription:
“Here rests Oregon’s delegate, a man of genius and learning, a lawyer and
statesman, his Christian virtues equalled by his wide philanthropy. His public acts were his
With a new county on the map, an election was in order, so in June, 1852, the
citizens went to the polls and elected A. J. Simmons as Thurston County’s first sheriff; A.
M. Poe, county clerk; D. R. Bigelow treasurer; R. S. Bailey, assessor, and Edmund
Sylvester, coroner. A. A. Denny, S. S. Ford and David Shelton were the first Thurston
The records of the first session of the county commissioners show the following
The tax levy was fixed at 4 mills for county purposes, 11/2 mills for schools, 11/2
mills territorial, and $1 poll tax.
T. F. McElroy and George Barnes were appointed justices of the peace.
Road districts were established and William Packwood was authorized to establish
a ferry across the Nisqually River.
Precincts were established as follows: Skagit precinct, Whidby Island and all
islands north; Port Townsend precinct, territory north of Hood’s Canal on the west side of
the Sound; Duwamish (or Duwamps) precinct, east side of Sound north of Puyallup River
and all south of Hood’s Canal to the parallel of the north parallel of the Puyallup River on
the west side of the Sound; Steilacoom precinct, territory north of the Nisqually River to
the Puyallup River on the east side of the Sound and thence due west to the mouth of the
Nisqually River to the parallel of the mouth of the Puyallup River; Olympia precinct
included all territory south of Steilacoom precinct.
Olympia precinct had two school districts, with one each in Duwamish, Skagit and
Port Townsend precincts. The first term of district court was convened at Olympia in 1852
and Elwood Evans, D. R. Bigelow, Quincy A. Brooks, and S. H. Moses were admitted to
This was truly a year of progress for Olympia and Thurston County, and not least
of the developments was the founding of the first newspaper in what is now the state of
Washington. Publishers Thornton F. McElroy and J. W. Wiley issued Volume 1, Number
1, of the weekly Columbian on September 11, 1852.
The new paper vigorously advocated a new territory to be formed of the area north
of the Columbia. The editors chose their stand well, for their subscribers were all heartily
in favor of the idea.
Continued agitation along this line resulted in the historic Monticello Convention
on the banks of the Cowlitz River on November 25, 1852. Thurston County’s delegates
were M. T. Simmons, S. D. Ruddle, S. P. Moses, Adam Whyte, Q. A. Brooks and C. H.
As a result of the convention, Congress was memorialized to create the Territory of
Columbia out of that portion or Oregon lying north and west of the Columbia River. There
was no opposition from the other citizens of Oregon, and the new territory was created the
Congress didn’t go along with the citizens in their choice of a name, however.
Richard H. Stanton of Kentucky suggested that a District of Columbia and a Territory of
Columbia would be confusing. He wanted to honor the Father of His Country – and the
Territory of Washington was the result.
Olympia’s first public school was built at the corner of Sixth and Franklin, on the
present site of the building which houses the Olympia News 52, in the spring of 1852, but
the heavy snow of that winter caused it to collapse. It was soon replaced by a sturdier
In February of that year, four men named Bell, Boren, David and Arthur Denny set
up claims in the wilderness on the east side of Elliott Bay. This hopeful young town, with a
population of four, was soon to be named after the friendly Duwamish Chief, Seattle.
Olympia was a lusty two-year-old, the metropolis of a new territory, and there was little
time, with all the new developments, to take note of the birth of another tiny settlement
along the great tidal forests.
When the schooner Mary Lane dropped anchor in Olympia Harbor and the weekly
Columbian’s little Ramage hand press was hoisted from her hold, the printed word had
come to the new frontier to stay. The newspaper had come to the Northwest and the slow
stamping of the little Ramage was to swell into the clatter of a great network of news wires
and the thunder of the mighty power presses that now pour out more than 300 newspapers,
large and small, in 167 Washington cities and towns.
Most important of all, to the historian, the coming of the press meant the coming of
detailed history, for from 1852 to the present day, the yellowed files of the Columbian and
the newspapers which followed it provide a detailed, day-by-day chronology of the great
and small events of a growing empire.
The Columbian’s crude hand press had more than its share of glory. It was already
nearly a quarter of a century old when it arrived in Olympia, having been shipped around
the Horn from New York to Mexico City. By 1834, it was in Monterey, California, where
the Spanish governor used it to print the Alta California, the first newspaper on the Pacific
Coast. In 1836, it was in Upper California, stamping out San Francisco’s first newspaper,
the Star. Later it was moved north to print the famous Old Oregon Spectator, which was
Oregon’s first paper, later becoming the Portland Oregonian.
In her long career, the little Ramage changed her language and her politics more
than once, but she was consistent in following the first waves of the pioneers and bringing
the printed word to the outposts of civilization. When her work at Olympia was done, she
served in Seattle, Steilacoom, Whatcom and Port Townsend, and is now at well earned rest
in the University of Washington Museum.
The first issue of the Columbian carried considerable advertising. Edmund
Sylvester, father of Olympia and proprietor of the first “hall for travelers,” the Olympia
House, corner of Second and Main (now Olympia Avenue and Capitol Way), advertised
“an accomplished Chinese cook who comes highly recommended by the American Consul
at Canton” and also “commodious rooms without bath for those who furnish their own
Michael Simmons, father of Washington industry, placed the first “help wanted”
advertisement, a call for “40 to 50 axmen and 8 sawyers to attend a shingle mill.”
Publisher McElroy wrote back to his bride in Pittsfield, Illinois, on August 10,
1852, describing his trip by steamer, horseback and canoe to Olympia:
“I left Portland on Monday the 3rd inst., and after a pleasant passage of about four
hours down the Columbia on the steamer Lot Whitcomb (the first Columbia River
steamboat), arrived at the mouth of the Cowlitz River. Here I left the steamer to go up the
Cowlitz River. I embarked in a canoe with two Indians on Tuesday morning for
Warbassport, a trading post at the head of canoe navigation on this river. The ascent is very
slow on ‘account of the many rapids. Despite the rapid current, we reached the forks of the
river, 18 miles from the mouth, before night. Next day at about 9 o’clock arrived at
“From this place to Olympia, the conveyance is on horse back. I procured a horse
and rode 30 miles before night, over a fine farming and grazing country, very sparsely
settled. On my way, I met a gentleman and a lady on horseback. The lady was riding
astride and seemed to be as expert in managing her horse as her husband. I hear that all the
ladies in this part of Oregon have adopted this mode of riding. They follow the example of
the Indian women in this respect. The next day I arrived at Olympia.”
McElroy and Wiley set up their crude press and took turns as editor, business
manager, circulation man and printer’s devil. By the following year, young McElroy was
beginning to feel the separation from his bride more and more, and on September 4, 1853,
“Well, the first year of the Columbian has about closed. I am completely worn out
by constant attention to business. Many times I wish I had never left you and home. I am
glad you are willing to follow my fortunes wherever. I may go, and I do not doubt that you
would be perfectly happy with me here.”
That month, the paper was sold to Matt Smith, who published it only a few months
when he sold it to Wiley. The single owner changed the name to the Washington Pioneer
and the paper’s politics from Whig (Republican) to Democratic.
By 1853, the trickle of emigration had become a steady stream. In three years,
Olympia had sprung from a hopeful dream to a growing reality of a score or more of cedar-
shingled houses and two or three muddy streets. True, Main Street was lined with massive
stumps, the primal forest still pressed darkly upon the settler’s cabins and the Indians still
camped along the shore, but the solid kernel of a city was there.
Lumber was in great demand as the town grew, and another mill was built to
harness the pulsing water of the falls at New Market. Ira Ward, N. Barnes and S. Hays
were the owners and the mill delivered 3,000 feet of lumber a day. Colonel Simmons no
longer owned the original mill at Tumwater. The Kentucky lumberman sold his mill to a
New England sailor and used the proceeds to buy the brig Orbit. The sailor-turned-
lumberman prospered. The lumberman-turned-sailor didn’t do so well.
The Wiscatt, Maine, Crosbys owned The Mill now, and their story is one to be
remembered. Captain Nathaniel Crosby was the first of the clan to see the Sound country.
The United States government sent him out in command of the brig O. C. Raymond with
supplies for the first settlers on the Sound, who were seldom far from starvation in the
earliest days. Captain Nat liked the new frontier and he believed in direct action. He sent
word to his elder brother, Clanrick, back in Maine, to buy a ship and bring the family out.
Clanrick bought the 270-ton brig Grecian, loaded her with the household
furnishings of the Crosbys, manned her with a crew of Crosbys and their kinfolk, and took
her around the Horn to Portland. That voyage brought famous pioneers to New Market,
whence they overflowed to Olympia.
But people have to be careful about tracing their ancestry to the Grecian. Of the
whole ship’s company, passengers, officers and crew, all but four were members of the
Crosby family, and one of the non-Crosbys was the colored cook.
A California vocalist, one Bing Crosby, is one who can legitimately claim descent
from the afterguard of the Grecian. The old Crosby House still stands at Tumwater and,
unlike most historic old land. marks in the Olympia area, is to be preserved as an historical
Olympia now had industries to compete with the water-powered mills at Tumwater
Falls. In July of 1853, D. C. Beatty opened a furniture manufacturing shop, a brick yard
had been opened in May by Conrad Snyder, and a bed of small native oysters had been
discovered at South Bay and was being exploited.
Large shipments of coal were being hauled from the Skookumchuck coal fields for
shipment to California, and little brigs and schooners, the James Marshall, Orbit, G. W.
Kendall, June, Kingsbury and the bark Sarah Warren were calling at Olympia for cargoes
of shingles, timber, pilings and coal for San Francisco.
On January 8, 1853, the Sarah Warren dropped anchor with $15,000 worth of
merchandise for Olympia stores. She left two passengers, Captain and Mrs. S. W. Percival.
They were destined to live out their lives in Olympia and to leave their mark on the
community. The name is still well-known in and around the capital city.
Captain Percival soon built and operated a saw mill at the mouth of what is now
Capitol Lake. He also built a dock for the accommodation of the first steamers running at
Olympia, and Percival’s Dock at the foot of Water Street was a center of community life
for more than half a century.
Most of the famous old Puget Sound steamers rubbed their trim flanks against its
pilings in their day, and it is still used by unglamorous but efficient diesel freighters of the
Puget Sound Freight Lines. Percival also conducted one of the town’s leading mercantile
establishments at the corner of Main and Second Streets until 1876. Captain Percival’s son,
Samuel, operated the dock and steamship ticket office until shortly before the second
The census of that year showed Thurston County with a population of 996, Pierce
513, the Territory 3,965.
J. R. Johnson, M D., announced the opening of a hospital on his claim at Johnson’s
Point at the head of South Bay. The doctor was the first settler at South Bay and the name
of his point is famous in upper Sound steamboat lore. Like “old Bachus,” the naval surgeon
of H. M. & Bounty, Dr. Johnson’s favorite, and at times, only, medicine was a high-test
whiskey, for which his “hospital” was noted.
THE GOVERNOR ARRIVES
All this the settlers noted with considerable satisfaction, but the really big news of
the year was the arrival of the territory’s first governor. Isaac Ingalls Stevens arrived at
Olympia on November 26, 1853. On November 28th, he proclaimed Olympia the Capital
of Washington Territory.
The figure of Isaac Stevens, first governor of Washington, is a controversial one to
this day. Some historians paint him as a knight in shining armor, the champion of the new
frontier, a statesman without flaw or blemish.
Others portray him as a hard-drinking, autocratic martinet, who brought the tragedy
of an unnecessary Indian war upon the territory.
The truth probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. Here the facts shall
speak for themselves and the reader may form his own opinion.
The arrival of Governor Stevens marked the first step in Olympia’s governmental
growth to become one of the nation’s most beautiful capital cities. Only eight months had
passed since the northwest pioneers had received separate recognition from Oregon.
The weekly Columbian, now named the Washington Pioneer, which had done a lot
of heavy editorializing to help bring this about, was still happy about the achievement of
separate territorial status for Washington. Said the editor, “The recent enactment of the law
to establish a territory… has give a gallant, dashing, sparkling and ponderous momentum to
the march and swagger of progress. During our poor dependence upon the cold charity of
Oregon, we must as weak and puny infants, creep. But now… no longer in the hands of go-
betweens, we have become a people within ourselves. Progress is our watchword. Our
destiny is in the keeping of God, the national government and our own judgement.”
The Pioneer did not fail to keep its readers posted on the matter of a governor for
the new territory. “Just as we are going to press, a gentleman who came passenger on the
steamer Columbia informs us that a Mr. Stevens of Massachusetts has been appointed
governor of Washington Territory.”
By the following week, Olympia had learned this stranger from the States was
Brevet-Major Isaac I. Stevens, U. S. Engineers, and a month later the Pioneer’s editor had
received vastly cheering and important news by post from the governor himself. He passed
Steven’s message on to his readers.
“I herewith enclose to you,” Stevens had written, “my private instructions from the
War Department regarding an exploration and survey of a railroad from the headwaters of
the upper Mississippi river to Puget Sound.”
The governor assured that “While I am delayed by the charge of this work, there
will be no delay in the organization of the government as Col. Anderson, the marshal, will
at once take the census preliminary to a proclamation ordering an election of a Territorial
Legislature. . .”
The citizens were greatly cheered as the published letter continued, “Twenty
thousand dollars have been appropriated and placed in my hands to construct a military
road from Fort Walla Walla to the Sound, early enough for this year’s immigration.”
This was of particular importance to the Olympia area as more and more settlers
were reaching the area by way of Natchez Pass – an arduous and terribly dangerous route.
A wagon road to Eastern Washington would bring a golden harvest of wealth and new
The governor’s dispatch continued, “I do feel no doubt but that I shall succeed this
year in piercing the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Ranges and in opening a direct
communication between the Mississippi and the Sound on the Pacific. As I must devote
myself thoroughly to the interests of the Territory, I shall consult freely and be advised by
my fellow citizens. I remain, Isaac I. Stevens.”
Although the eager readers of the Washington Pioneer probably didn’t note it, the
governor’s letter gave an indication of what was to prove probably his greatest weakness.
Governor Stevens, to use an old American expression, had a tendency to “bite off more
than he could chew.”
He had no apparent doubts as to his ability to survey a transcontinental railway,
build a trans-territorial highway, settle the Indian and Hudson’s Bay Company problems,
and establish a territorial government, all more or less at once. No man, however brilliant –
and Isaac Stevens was brilliant – could do all these things and do all of them well. His
greatest failure was to be in the field of Indian affairs, and it was to prove a tragic failure.
But to the eager settlers, awaiting the coming of their new leader, no such doubts
obtruded. True, there was much to be done when the governmental wheels of the new
territory would finally be set into motion.
The eastern Washington Indians were openly hostile. The Sound Indians, once
docile and friendly as children, were becoming sullen as they saw their tribal lands taken
over by new settlers, many of whom refused to follow the old code of fair play,
considering the Indians on a par with wild beasts which should be exterminated as soon as
Other troublesome problems pressed close upon the people as Hudson’s Bay Company
traps bit deep into the territory’s choicest sections, and British aggression was asserting
But a railroad route was being explored! A railroad that would some day creep
across a continent, a slender thread of iron linking fast two shores across a nation’s future!
The territory tempered its impatience and waited.
Then.. . “Glorious news for Washington! Arrival of Governor Stevens! Complete
success of the Expedition! Entire practicability of the Northern Pacific Route,” the Pioneer
shouted, breathless, to its readers.
Then, more coherently, “Governor Stevens arrived at this place on Saturday last,
November 25, 1853, through a drenching rain, having completed one of the most arduous
and triumphantly successful explorations ever performed since the organization of the
“Six months devoted to incessant toil, danger and the overcoming of insuperable
obstacles, has brought to our new territory a governor, and with him, as we believe, the
ground work of the Pacific railway… A new Territory, set apart and organized in one year,
and a favorable report for a railway from the Atlantic states to the Sound! Who can
anticipate our future Territory!”
In spite of the advance notice, the governor’s arrival took the villagers by surprise.
They were preparing a big reception for him at the Washington Hotel at Second and Main,
once Sylvester’s Olympia House, now operated by a Mr. Stanley. When a swarthy, black-
bearded little stranger in shabby frontier garb dismounted stiffly from his horse in the chill
November rain, the citizens were too busy to notice him.
The newcomer entered the hotel dining room, but was told to go to the kitchen for
food, as the dining room was reserved for a great welcoming banquet for the new governor
of the Territory, who was expected momentarily. When the travel-stained little stranger at
last convinced the proprietor that he was the long-awaited governor, the effect was electric.
The astonished settlers thronged about, the Olympia Light Artillery fired a national
salute of 100 guns from the village’s small but enthusiastic cannon, flags fluttered in the
chill, wet wind, and the first governor of Washington was literally swept into the arms of a
All of the leading citizens of Olympia and New Market were at the hotel for the
official meeting. These included Colonel William Cock, Shirley Ensign, D. R. Bigelow,
George A. Barnes, H. A. Goldsborough, Jno. M. Swan, C. H. Hale, Judge B. F. Yantis,
Judge Gilmore Hays, Jno. G. Parker, Quincy A. Brooks, Dr. G. K. Willard, Colonel
Michael T. Simmons, Capt. Clanrick Crosby, Ira Ward, James Biles, Joseph Cushman, S.
W. Percival, Edwin Marsh, R. M. Walker, Levi and James Offut, J. C. Head, W. Dobbins,
Isaac Hawk, Rev. George F. Whitworth, Jared S. Hurd, H. R. Woodward, B. F. Brown, and
Publisher Wiley of the Washington Pioneer delivered the address of welcome, and
Governor Stevens responded with a talk on the results of his explorations for a northern
transcontinental rail route and his plans for the future government of the territory.
Never a man to waste time, Stevens immediately issued a proclamation establishing
election districts, and naming January 30, 1854, as the time for holding an election for
delegate to Congress and members of the first Territorial Legislature, which was to
convene at Olympia, February 28.
The governor appointed Colonel Simmons Indian Agent for the Puget Sound
Indians and sent him to visit the various tribes, “bearing a message of friendship from the
White Father.” The baby-faced Kentuckian was apparently a sort of pioneer Dale Carnegie,
with a gift for making friends and influencing Indians.
His persuasive powers were instrumental in coaxing all the chiefs and leaders of the
Puget Sound tribes, except Leschi, to give up their people’s birth-right for a mess of
pottage in the form of cheap gifts and hazy promises.
Charles H. Mason, the first secretary of state, had arrived before Governor Stevens.
The first treasurer was Colonel William Cock. Daniel Bigelow was the first auditor. Judge
Edward Lander was first chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, and Columbia
Lancaster was elected delegate to Congress.
The first political campaign in Thurston County was a spirited one. Elected were
Councilmen (Senators) B. F. Yantis, Whig and D. R. Bigelow, Democrat. Representatives
were L. D. Durgin and David Shelton, Democrats, and Ira Ward and C. H. Hale, Whigs.
The Whigs, forerunners of the present Republicans, were elected without much help from
the very Democratic Washington Pioneer. The Union party failed to place any of its
The first legislature met in a little two-story frame building on Main, between
Second and Third Streets. The Gold Bar Store and Restaurant occupied the street floor, the
law-makers the upper story. There Stevens predicted a brilliant future for the Territory,
urged county and school organization, and the establishment of a state militia.
He dwelt upon the importance of extinguishing the Indian land titles and the claims
of the Hudson’s Bay Company and its subsidiary Puget Sound Agricultural Company, and
settling of the British boundary line. Most of his measures were promptly adopted by the
legislature. The militia bill was not passed, however, and the legislators had cause to regret
their oversight before two years were past.
Several acts of the first Territorial Legislature had considerable effect on Thurston
County. Chehalis (later Grays Harbor) County was created from the southwest part of
Thurston County. Sawamish County was made from the northwest section.
This name was later changed to Mason County, in honor of the first secretary of
state, or territorial secretary, as he was then called. Secretary Mason died of a fever in
1856. He was then 29 years old. Mason’s fatal fever, like that of other pioneers, was
probably brought on by overdoses of the kind of medicine prescribed by Dr. Johnson of
The Oregon Territorial Legislature has already carved the counties of Pierce, King,
Island, and Jefferson from Thurston during the previous year, and the Washington
legislature of 1854 left Thurston County with substantially its present boundaries, except
for a section at the south, which later went back to Lewis County.
Roads were authorized between Olympia and Shoalwater Bay (Willapa Harbor);
from Cathlamet to S. S. Ford’s place in Thurston County (now Fords Prairie, Lewis
County); Olympia to the mouth of the Columbia River, and Olympia to Monticello
County officers were appointed by the legislature, with the following for Thurston
County: Commissioners, S. E. Ford, David J. Chambers, and James McAllister; Auditor,
V. E. Hicks; Sheriff, Frank Kennedy; Assessor, Whitfield Kertly; Probate Judge, Stephen
D. Ruddle; Treasurer, D. R. Bigelow; School Superintendent, Elwood Evans; and Justices
of Peace, William (Squire) Plumb, Nathan Eaton and Joseph Broshears. Ruddle declined
the judgeship and Judge Joseph Cushman was appointed in his place.
While the political structure of the Territory was being formed, material progress
continued in the capital city, still a tiny settlement of scarce 100 folk huddled in a clearing
between the salt water of its inlet and the dark wilderness of its forests.
The Washington Pioneer, ex-Columbian, became the Pioneer and Democrat, but
its little hand press on the edge of the tideflats continued to thump out the events of the
tiny community it served.
The first seal of the Territory was designated by a member of Steven’s Northern
Railway Exploring party. The seal, representing a sheet of water being traversed by a
steamer and sailing vessel, with a Goddess of Hope with an anchor, pointing to the
Chinook word “Alki” (By and by), was adopted and used until the Territory became a state
The present state seal was designed at that time by the Talcott brothers of the
pioneer Olympia jewelry firm. The Talcott brothers also drilled the first of the famous
Olympia artesian wells.
A CHURCH IS BUILT
The Rev. J. F. DeVore completed construction of the Methodist Church and it was
dedicated March 19, 1854. This pioneer minister approached doughty Captain Clanrick
Crosby at his Tumwater mill with a request that he donate some lumber for the erection of
the new church.
The New Englander regarded the scholarly looking clergyman with no great favor,
and replied that he could have as much lumber as he could carry away by himself in one
DeVore showed up at dawn the next day, carried from the mill enough lumber to build his
church, and rafted it down the DesChutes waterway to his building site. History does not
record Captain Crosby’s reaction to the Methodist minister’s unexpected vigor, and perhaps
it is just as well.
At any event the building, constructed in the ’50s with lumber rafted by an intrepid
clergyman from Washington’s first mill, served for many years as a church, as Epworth
Hall, and later as a lodging house. It was destroyed by fire in 1949 – just short of its 100th
April 8, 1854, saw the first of a long series of Legislative Balls. It was held at the
new Pacific Hotel under the supervision of the busy Colonel William Cock, and in the
same month A. J. and N. P. Miller began to build a steam saw mill at North Olympia, two
miles below town, “the largest lumbering establishment on the Sound.”
A Mr. Henry Yesler had a steam saw mill operating at the upstart village of Seattle
by this time, too. In May, Bishop Scott and the Rev. D. McCarthy announced a meeting to
form an Episcopal Church, which was built on the present site of the Governor Hotel, and
in July, Olympia’s first Sunday school was opened.
In August, a pile driver began work on the waterfront, constructing a dock from the
foot of Main Street to deeper water. Until the harbor was dredged in later years, deep water
was a long way from town at low tide.
The original dock, known as Giddings Wharf, extended only 300 feet and was high
and dry at low tide. By 1888, the dock extended a mile into the bay and was known far and
wide as Olympia’s “Mile Wharf.”
Its term of usefulness extended into the early 20th century, although wharves north
of town on deeper water were used by most of the sea-going ships which called at Olympia
for lumber cargoes in the early days.
MUD AND STUMPS
This year Governor Stevens purchased property in Olympia for his future home.
Deeply disappointed at Secretary of War Jefferson Davis’ orders to discontinue his railway
survey, Stevens returned East, spent some time at the national capital, and began the return
trip with his family from New York City on September 20.
They arrived at their new home in December. The city’s most ardent boosters of
today will seldom claim that Olympia is at its best in December, and in 1854 it was
definitely on the bleak side.
The Governor’s family was less than enthusiastic, this being the pen picture left in
the family archives: “It was a dreary, dark December day. It had rained considerably. The
road from Tumwater to Olympia was ankle deep in mud and thrided a dense forest with a
narrow track. With expectations raised at the idea of seeing the Capital and chief town of
the Territory, the weary travelers toiled up a small hill in the edge of the timber, reached
the summit and eagerly looked to see the new metropolis.
“Their hearts sank with bitter disappointment as they surveyed the dismal and
forlorn scene before them. A low, flat neck of land, running into the bay, down it stretched
the narrow, muddy track, winding among the stumps, which stood thickly on either side.
“Twenty small wooden houses bordered the road, while back of them on the left
and next to the shore were a number of Indian lodges, with canoes drawn up on the beach,
and Indians and dogs lounging about.”
(The little hill mentioned is where the Masonic Temple now stands, opposite the
Federal building. The site of the Indian camp is now Columbia Street, between Third and
“There were only one or two buildings above, or south of Sixth Street. The public
square was a tangle of fallen timber. Main Street terminated in Giddings’ wharf, which was
left high and dry at low tides. ”
Kate Stevens Bates, one of the children who made this journey to Olympia in the
early 1850s, lived her whole life in the city her father had made the capital of Washington.
She died at Olympia in the late 1940s.
William Winlock Miller built a sawmill on the east side of Budd’s Inlet a short
distance north of town, late in the year, and the original Masonic Temple was built on the
site of the present lodge building.
The town’s first fraternal order, Olympia Lodge 5, Free and Accepted Masons, had
received its chapter that year.
The second legislature moved from the Gold Bar Store and Restaurant to this new
structure in 1855. In December, W. B. Goodell established a stage line between Olympia
and Cowlitz Landing (Toledo). The stage left the Capitol on Tuesdays and Fridays, and
connected with steamers for Monticello and Portland at Cowlitz Landing.
The fare was $3.50 to Grand Mound, $10 to Cowlitz. The lumbering coaches and
lathered horses pulled up at a stage house where the [old] Olympia City Hall now stands.
Also on the high side were commodity prices in Olympia stores. Potatoes, $3 a
bushel; flour, $10 for 100 pounds; butter, $1 a pound; onions, $4 a bushel; eggs $1 a
dozen; tea, $1 a pound.
Pork at 20 cents a pound and coffee at 18 cents were reasonable as compared to
present prices, but high when paid for in 1854 dollars. A mess of clams could be had for
the digging and a big salmon could be purchased by non-anglers from an Indian for a bit
Sawed lumber was going at $20 per thousand; cedar, $30; shingles, $4.50; piles,
per foot, 5 to 8 cents; and square timber, per foot, 12 to 15 cents.
In 1855, the legislature officially located the capital at Olympia (but the fight had
really only begun), the city got regular steamer service to the still inferior but rapidly
growing village of Seattle, and the Sound Indians were finally goaded into action – the
Territory had a full- fledged Indian War on its hands.
The steamer Traveler was placed on a regular mail, passenger and freight run to
Seattle by John G. Parker. This advertisement was inserted in the Pioneer & Democrat:
U.S. MAIL STEAMER TRAVELER
W. N. Horton, Master
FROM OLYMPIA via STEILACOOM to SEATTLE
For freight or passage apply on board
The steamer, Fairy, was on the Steilacoom run, and the fabulous Puget Sound
mosquito fleet was on its way. A later chapter will deal more fully with the history of the
steamboat days on Puget Sound.
THE INDIAN WAR
To contemporary citizens the Indian troubles overshadowed all other developments
and the history of 1855-56 is largely a bloody and shameful one.
For several years, as some adventurers of limited vision and flexible conscience
followed the tide of migration to the Sound country, renegade whites had been abusing and
murdering Indians, and renegade Indians had been terrorizing isolated cabins and
murdering an occasional white settler.
In 1854, a northern Indian of the Kake tribe was working at H. L. Butler’s sawmill
at Butler’s Cove – the present site of the Olympia Golf and Country Club. A dispute arose
over wages, and as a result of the controversy, he was shot and killed by one Burke, a
white employee of the mill.
Butler and Burke were arrested for the murder, but to many of the settlers a “good
Indian was a dead Indian,” and the presiding judge, Squire Plumb (for whom Plumb
Station was named) moved for the discharge of the accused white men “because Thurston
County has no jail and it will be an expense to the county to retain them in custody”!
About the time of the murder, the northern tribes were en route home from their
annual trip to the Sound, and the killing served as a pretext for widespread depredations on
the settlements they passed.
Commander Swartout, in command of the U.S.S. Massachusetts, decided to teach
them another lesson and raided their camp at Port Gamble, leaving blazing huts, smashed
canoes and twenty-seven corpses on the beach. So far most of the killing had been done by
the superior race, but they were soon to answer grievously for it.
By 1855, tension was gripping the whole Sound country. Secretary Mason was
acting as governor during one of Stevens’ many absences from the Territory – he was
making treaties with the Nebraska Indians – and in October, Mason issued a proclamation
calling for two companies of volunteers to consist of 86 officers and men. Olympia and
Vancouver were designated as places of enrollment.
At that time, an inlet of the bay extended well into the present business district of
the city, a southerly extension of the present east
waterway. The town of 1855 was well inside the limits of this bay and that formed by the
west waterway or main harbor.
The jittery citizens decided to fortify the town, and soon a 12-foot log stockade was
extended along both sides of Fourth Street from bay to bay. A block house was built at the
corner of Fourth and Main (Capitol Way) with the town’s trusty cannon mounted on it.
The first militia company enrolled at Olympia was designated as the Puget Sound
Mounted Volunteers. Captain George Goudy commanded it; W. B. Affleck was first
lieutenant and J. K. Hurd, second lieutenant.
A little later, Nathan Eaton, a pioneer of 1842, was authorized to form a company
of Rangers; Jim McAllister was chosen first lieutenant, James Tullis, second lieutenant and
A. M. Poe, third lieutenant.
McAllister didn’t think the Nisquallys would fight. “They’re so gentle I could drive
the whole tribe before me like sheep,” he said.
So confident was he of their friendship that he left his wife and five little girls, with
three boys, the oldest 12, to guard them in the midst of the Nisqually camp when he went
to join the Rangers. The McAllisters stayed in the farm house that was the gift of Leschi
and his braves.
But Leschi had reached his decision. Governor Stevens was turning out treaties
much as Detroit now turns out automobiles, and a lemon was bound to creep in now and
then. The Medicine Creek Treaty, held on the Nisqually Flats east of Olympia, was one of
the little governor’s tragic mistakes.
He settled the destiny of the Nisqually Tribe by moving them from the lush bottom
lands of the Nisqually to a rocky table-land. Crops could not be raised there, and there was
no water for fishing.
Leschi, like Seattle, was noted for his friendship with the whites, but his first
loyalty was to his tribe. He was convinced that to comply with the treaty meant a slow
death by starvation for him and his people.
The opinion of historians differs as to whether Leschi signed the Medicine Creek
Treaty. Mrs. George Blankenship says, in her history of Thurston County, “Sixty-two
Indians signed. Leschi, an intelligent and designing Indian, who since has been
immortalized by having a Seattle park named after him, being third. The first signer was
Qui-ee-muth, Leschi’s brother. Both these Indians met death as a reward for their
Clarence B. Bagley, in his history of King County, indicates doubt as to whether
Leschi actually signed. The Indians’ signatures were simply X’s after their names, and
could easily have been forged. Ezra Meeker is emphatic in denying that Leschi signed the
treaty. Archie Binns gives this interpretation of the scene at Medicine Creek:
” ‘Leschi, sub-chief of the Nisquallys and Puyallups!’
“The name was always like a great cry . . . and by the gathering silence, you would
think it some special meaning of hope or fear. In the silence, you became aware of the still
treaty ground in the falling rain, and the great fir trees on a strange planet whirling through
“Under those mysterious trees, people clustered together to decide how things
should be. And they tried to decide what was right or profitable by the color of each others’
faces. But none of them knew what was right or what would be profitable. And they did
not know what they were doing or how it would end…
“Looking at Leschi, you did not think about his race or yours. He was like a wise
and homely friend you had always known and would trust in anything. He was standing
beside the unpainted wooden table, and Colonel Shaw was holding out the ready-dipped
“Leschi’s arms were folded under the tawny Hudson’s Bay blanket. He did not seem
to notice the pen. In the stillness, you could hear the failing rain. Then Leschi spoke in
” ‘I will not put my name on that paper. My people need land they can plough, and
prairie land for their herds. They need the creek for their canoes. I have told Governor
Stevens these things. Even if my heart had changed, the need of my people has not
Binns writes that, “Colonel Simmons was beside Leschi again, with a colicky smile
on his baby face, while he talked Soothingly in Nisqually. When that brought no result, he
started to pat the chief’s arm. His hand touched once, and then it was flung aside as Leschi
whirled on him so swiftly that he blurred.
” ‘ Klatawa!’
“Simmonds recoiled with a singed look, from the great explosion of a word. Leschi
turned back to the angry little governor, and looked down at him with blazing eyes. ‘We
ask for farms, so we can live, and you give us gravel for a burial ground! We ask for bread
and you give us a stone!’
” ‘Aie lah, Leschi!’ The name had become a great cry in more than the…
“Jim McAllister was on his feet, looking from Leschi, to whom he owed his farm
and wealth and a thousand kindnesses, to the governor, to whom he owed his allegiance as
a citizen. He looked irresolutely from one to the other. Then he sat down heavily.
“At the treaty table, they were trying to shout Leschi down. The furious little
governor was shouting, ‘Tell him he is a Klickitat! Tell him he has nothing to do with this
treaty!’ And Shaw repeated it in jargon.
“In answer, the Nisqually drew a folded paper from inside his blanket. The others
quieted as he held it up. ‘If I am a Klickitat,’ he said mildly, ‘why did Governor Stevens
give me this paper which makes me a little chief of the Nisquallys? That was yesterday.’
” ‘Today I am a Klickitat with no business here. But if I had put mark on that paper,
Governor Stevens would not remember my Klickitat mother. I would be a great Nisqually
today. Governor Stevens made me a little chief so I would do my people a big wrong. This
is my answer.’ He held up the folded paper so every one could see, and tore it into long
strips, which he dropped on the muddy ground.
” ‘Aie Iah!”
“‘Go away! The treaty makers were shouting. ‘We don’t want you here!’. . .
“Leschi raised his powerful voice. ‘I am going, but hear one thing: burn that paper
or it will burn you! That evil paper means war!’
“Settlers who had not been at the treaty believed Leschi had signed. The governor’s
friends who had been there told people who had not that Leschi had stepped up to the table
and signed without protest, like all the others.
“In proof, there was a mark after Leschi’s name on the treaty. The treaty was
witnessed by some of the settlers and members of the Governor’s party, including the
Governor’s 12-year-old son who had sat under a tree with the Indian boys, eating
blackstrap and playing a jews-harp.”
For a time nothing happened on the upper Sound. The treaty was not enforced and
Leschi began his fall plowing. The governor, having stirred up a hornet’s nest at his capital,
had dashed back across the Rockies to make more rapid-fire treaties, driven on by war
Acting-governor Mason sent Puget Sound Volunteers to take Leschi into
“protective custody.” Leschi fled to the hostile camp in the White River area of King
County and the die was cast.
Late in October, both Olympia volunteer companies left for the White River. Four
more companies were mustered in as a reserve force, and stockades were built on
Chambers Prairie and at Grand Mound. At Puyallup Crossing, Lieutenant McAllister, still
counting on the gentleness of the Nisquallys, rode toward the hostile camp.
He and his companion, Connell, were fired on from ambush and killed.
McAllister’s faithful Indian farm hand, Chipwalen, escaped and returned to Nisqually in
time to warn Mrs. McAllister and conduct her, with the eight children, to the stockade on
Chambers Prairie. A. B. Moses and Col. Joseph Miles were killed a few days later.
In Olympia, word of the deaths cast a pall of gloom over the little settlement. The
bodies of the three volunteers were brought in, and under a dismal fall of autumn rain, the
settlers bowed their heads in grief over their first war dead. The three young men were
buried on Chambers Prairie.
Only two other Thurston County settlers, William Northcraft and William White,
were to be killed in the Indian war. A savage massacre of settlers occurred in the White
River Valley, but the Nisquallys had no part in this. Most of the actual fighting took place
there, in the Puyallup Valley and at Seattle.
There is a little doubt that Leschi, disgusted with his Klickitat and Duwamish allies’
wanton butchery on the White River, stopped a planned campaign of extermination as far
south as Olympia.
By December, 1855, most of the hostile Indians were scattered and hungry and
Governor Stevens, back from his treaty making, decided the war was over. He disbanded
the militia companies that month, and on January 24, 1856, sailed into Elliott Bay aboard
the U.S.S. Active.
The citizens of Seattle were still expecting an Indian attack, but the fast-moving
governor scoffed at their fears, stating in a speech, “I ton you there are not 50 hostile
Indians in the territory, and I believe the citizens of New York and San Francisco will as
soon be attacked by Indians as the town of Seattle!”
He urged the commander of the U.&& Decatur, which was moored in the harbor, to
go on about his business. Fortunately for Seattle, Captain Gransvoort stayed where he was.
Before dawn on January 26, Seattle was attacked without warning by a large and
determined band of hostile Indians.
Had it not been for the naval cannon and shore parties of sailors and marines from
the Decatur, the little town would probably have been annihilated. As it was, the fate of
Washington’s future metropolis hung by a thread until the Indians were finally beaten off.
When the Indians were repulsed at Seattle, the Indian War was really over. The
chiefs had counted on the loot of Seattle to carry on their campaign, more regular army
troops were coming into the territory, and the Indian’s cause was lost.
DEATH OF A CHIEF
Leschi led a little band of starving Indians over Natchez Pass to sanctuary with his
mother’s people, the Klickitats, but he was unable to resist the call of his beloved salt-
chuck, and he soon returned to Puget Sound.
Here he was betrayed by his nephew, Slugia, for a reward of 50 blankets, and was
imprisoned at Fort Steilacoom in the custody of Colonel Casey of the U.S. Army.
The military authorities considered Leschi a prisoner of war and refused to treat
him as a criminal. The little governor had been flouted by the big red man, and he pressed
murder charges based on the death of Moses.
The jury disagreed at Leschi’s first trial… and this is a telling point when it is
considered that it was an all-white jury made up of settlers who had suffered bitterly in a
long and vicious war, in an age when the life of a red man was of little importance at best.
The Pioneer and Democrat had this to say in its November 28, 1856, issue: “The
failure of the jury to agree upon a verdict with the character of the evidence before them,
we are informed, created general surprise.
“The attorneys for the prisoner expressed no doubt but that he would be convicted,
and merely labored to discharge a duty imposed upon them professionally; and Judge
Chenoweth is said to have been astonished when, on concluding his charge, he was
informed that it was necessary to clear the courtroom, expecting that a verdict of guilty
would be pronounced from the jury box.”
Ezra Meeker was one of the four jurors who believed Leschi innocent.
At a second trial, the sub-chief of the Nisquallys was sentenced to hang on January
22, 1858, at Fort Steilacoom. The Pierce County sheriff wasn’t anxious to carry out the
vindictive legal murder and the army refused to surrender Leschi to the hangman, anyway.
Finally, the Supreme Court met. They listened to an impassioned plea for mercy
from old Doctor Tolmie of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who had known Leschi longer
than any white man. They heard the statements of army officers that they considered
Leschi innocent. Then the Supreme Court resentenced Leschi. This time the Thurston
County sheriff was charged with the execution, which was to take place on February 19.
An intimation of the strong feeling against Leschi in pioneer Olympia which
extended its bitterness to those who defended him, may be gathered from this account of
Leschi’s final defense in the Pioneer and Democrat, a staunch partisan of Governor
“Dr. William F. Tolmie, the chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Nisqually
in Pierce County, addressed the governor an elaborate and powerful appeal in Leschi’s
behalf, in which he exhibits an artful cunning, ingenious special pleading, worthy the
representative of an unlawful illegitimate foreign corporation.
Lieutenant Kautz, the erstwhile 4th of July speaker, surveyed the area where Moses
was killed and, according to the Pioneer and Democrat, “made a cautious and cunning
affidavit that it was impossible for Leschi to have been present when the murder was
Sheriff Hays wasn’t around on execution day, so Deputy Mitchell went to
Steilacoom with a posse of 12 men. Colonel Casey still felt he was turning an innocent
man over to be hanged, and he was fighting mad. The execution took place well out on the
prairie. The Colonel said they couldn’t commit murder on army ground.
Leschi died without a struggle. It was, said witnesses, like hanging a statue.
“I felt that I was hanging an innocent man, and I believe it yet,” said Charles
Granger, the executioner, when he discussed the death of Leschi with Ezra Meeker in later
In his history of King County, Clarence Bagley says, “He (Leschi) was promised
protection for himself and followers, in good faith so far as the army was concerned. His
after-fate is too well known to be reviewed in this history; nor is it germane thereto. King
County had no part in this wretched business.”
Ironically, Governor Stevens revoked the Medicine Creek Treaty before Leschi’s
death, and the great Nisqually saw his people given the very land he had requested for
them before the war.
The Nisquallys still live there, and Leschi, who had really won his fight, although it
cost him his life, is buried in the heart of the great reservation he gave his people.
Qui-ee-muth, Leschi’s brother, and chief of the Nisquallys, was captured near Yelm
and taken to the governor’s office at Olympia. There, late at night, he was murdered.
No one was arrested, but it appeared to be common knowledge among the settlers
that Joseph Bunting, son-in-law of Jim McAllister, had shot and stabbed the chief to death
with the connivance of his guards.
Many brutal and wanton murders of Indians were committed by white men,
including a horrible slaughter of helpless women and children by Maxon’s Volunteers, but
none of the white murderers were brought to trial.
By the time the war was really over, the governor, dead wrong in declaring peace to
the citizens of Seattle on the eve of their greatest battle, refused to admit that peace was
Settlers persisted in returning to their homesteads for the spring planting, and a
group of settlers, removed from their claims near Steilacoom by the governor, had the
temerity to apply for a writ of habeas corpus.
Judge Lander was so disrespectful as to hold court against the governor’s wishes to
hear their case. Stevens declared marital law in April, 1856, and the territory was treated to
the spectacle of militia kicking in the doors of a judicial chamber, of a Supreme Court
Justice harried from town to town, and of a U.S. Marshal, trying to serve a contempt of
court order on the governor, being ejected from the executive chambers by a group of
militia officers, territorial officials and citizens.
Martial law was ended May 24, 1856, and Governor Stevens paid Judge Lander a
$50 fine for contempt of court.
In October, 1856, the following advertisement appeared in the Pioneer and
GENERAL ORDERS NO. 7
Head Quarters, W.T. Volunteers
Olympia, Oct. 30, 1856
1st The Volunteers of Washington Territory of both staff and line, are hereby disbanded.
The Indian War ended as it had begun, on a note of tragic blundering and pathetic
The war left the Territory decimated and shaky. Barns and cabins were burned,
stock slaughtered and land untitled while the men were off with the volunteers. Olympia
suffered less than many of the settlements, however, and the Pioneer and Democrat
sounded a note of optimism in the autumn of 1856.
Said the editor on November 14: “Four years ago, where stood but a few solitary
buildings, OLYMPIA may be found, with its numerous stores, workshops and scores of
neat, substantial dwellings.
“In its vicinity, Swanville (now a part of the city east of East Bay Drive) had sprung
from chaos, New Market has become a place of considerable business, and the once dense
forests of fir lining the bay on either side are fast being supplanted by cultivated farms.”
The harbor was doing well, too, as this November 28 news item attests: HARBOR
OF OLYMPIA – During the past week, four vessels have been lying at anchor in the harbor
“Three of them belong to ‘Kendall Co’s line, viz: the clipper barks Live Yankee and
Samuel Merritt, the bark Sarah Warren, and the schooner Rob Roy, McLane, master.
“The first three named were freighted with merchandise for the different parts of
the Sound, and will clear with lumber, timbers & etc. for San Francisco.
“This is the first time for the last year that four merchant vessels of large
dimensions have been anchored in our harbor at one time, and would seem to augur that a
revival of business is at hand.”
A little later, foreign trade had started, the paper reporting: “The Prussian bark Ica,
Schwencke, master, is now loading with lumber at North Olympia. She is a vessel of 500
tons burthen. The cargo is destined for the South American market.
Olympia entered its 10th year, as an incorporated town. Articles of incorporation
were filed on January 29, 1859, but the entire county had a population of less than 1,000
by 1860. It was another decade – 1870 – before Olympia could boast a population of more
The census figures of that year showed the capital city with 1,203 inhabitants.
Thurston County had 2,246. The second city of the territory in 1870 was Seattle, with a
population of 1,142. King County had 2,164.
The Indian War seriously retarded the territory’s development and the outbreak of
the Civil War in 1861 almost halted the westward flood of immigration.
PROGRESS IN THE SIXTIES
The growth of Olympia and Thurston County was gradual but continuous during
the decade 1860 to 1870. The fight for the capital was waged almost continuously.
Portland interests wanted the capitol at Vancouver.
At one time, it was announced that the legislature had actually moved the
headquarters of government, but a legal technicality saved the day. Again the capitol was
retained in Olympia by one vote.
In 1860, the town’s first hook-and-ladder company was formed, and Mt. Baker was
reported in eruption, “throwing off clouds of smoke and steam. ”
The famous Washington Standard, Olympia’s second newspaper, was founded by
John Miller Murphy, who was to become one of the state’s great newsmen, and the Pioneer
and Democrat was sold to Jaxnes Lodge.
Bridges were built connecting Swantown on the east and the west side district with
the original site of Smithfield. The Swantown Bridge, extending from the present Jefferson
Street to East Bay, later collapsed, depositing a herd of cattle in the mud flats.
In 1861 the people of Tumwater gave their Olympia neighbors a bad time, trying to
annex the county seat for their community. Olympia, goaded by capitol-grabbers, offered
the town’s public square to the county if it would build a courthouse there, and so kept the
seat of county government.
Later, it was discovered that this deal was illegal, Edmund Sylvester having
donated the square to the town for park purposes only. Eventually the courthouse was built
elsewhere, and the old town square is now beautiful little Sylvester Park in the heart of the
city’s business district.
News of the death of General Isaac Ingalls Stevens reached Olympia on October
18, 1862. The little governor had died a hero’s death at the Battle of Chantilly.
The Pioneer and Democrat was now being published as the Overland Press by a
combative journalist named B. F. Kendal. An angry reader attempted to whip Editor
Kendall on the street and was shot, but not killed, in self-defense. The editor’s version of
the affair, as printed in his paper, apparently prompted the choleric subscriber’s son to enter
the newspaper office and murder Kendall.
The gun used in the crime was traced to a prominent territorial official. It was
believed at the time that the newsman, too outspoken for his own good, was the victim of a
plot among political enemies. Olympia had its first “big murder story” and “political
scandal” in one package.
On Sunday evening, September 4, 1864, the telegraph was completed to Olympia.
Territorial Governor Pickering dispatched a congratulatory message to President
The next day the marvelous brass key in the Olympia telegraph office chattered and
this message was copied in the operator’s fluent copperplate script:
“Washington, D. C.
Sept. 6, 1864
“Gov. Pickering, Olympia, W. T.:
“Your patriotic dispatch of yesterday received and will be published.
Olympia was strongly pro-union in its Civil War sympathies. John Miller Murphy,
though a Democrat, favored the preservation of the Union at any cost and reflected that
attitude in his Washington Standard. The town was almost wrecked in the victory
celebration when the war ended.
There were still lusty pioneers around in 1865, and two of them, James Pray, saloon
owner and veteran of the California Vigilantes, and Benjamin Cleal, an ancient mariner,
decided to fire victory salutes with the town’s fabled Indian War cannon, which still
reposed on the waterfront at the foot of Main Street.
They used large quantities of powder, and as the ancient cannon warmed up it
began bounding backward in great leaps as it recoiled.
It progressed up Main Street backward, knocking out windows at every blast, until
it arrived at Pray’s saloon, near Fourth, where the victory celebration was continued. Mr.
Pray paid for his hearty patriotism by having all his glasses and windows and most of his
In 1865, the long-awaited wagon road across the Cascades was finished; the
pioneer town pump at Fourth and Main, where the Chambers Building now stands, gave
way to a cistern and water mains; and, by 1866, newspapers were coming to the little
community in a flurry of newsprint.
The 1868 legislature was “a most acrimonious one,” with brawls and fisticuffs
frequent in the halls of state, the local saloons and on the streets. The first Olympia city
library and the first city hall were built in 1869.
A wooden water pipe company, which was to develop into one of Olympia’s major
industries for many years was established in Tumwater in 1868.
By 1871 Governor Stevens’ vision of a northern transcontinental railway was
nearing reality. The Northern Pacific Railroad was approaching Puget Sound and the
location of its western terminus was the burning question of the day.
It was taken for granted that the railway terminus would become the greatest city of
the territory. Seattle and Olympia were making frantic efforts to get the steel rails, and in
November, 1871, the road was within 15 miles of Olympia, with the location of the
terminus still undecided.
The company asked a right-of-way to Budd’s Inlet, and the town went on an
optimism jag. Property values sky-rocketed.
The Puget Sound Land Company, a subsidiary of the Northern Pacific and bought
up large tracts of land on Budd’s Inlet in the name of one Ira Bradley Thomas. Before the
rails reached Olympia, Thomas died.
Rather than face the legal delays of probating his estate, the company quickly
bought up new land near Old Tacoma and told the Northern Pacific to change its terminus
to that location.
Had an obscure business man, Ira Thomas, lived just a little longer, Olympia would
undoubtedly have become the western terminus of the first northern transcontinental
railway and the site of the present city of Tacoma might still be a comparative wilderness.
The year 1872 saw the end of Olympia’s dream of becoming the great city of
Washington. The failure of the railway to end its line on Budd’s Inlet blasted that hope.
That year ended the city’s pioneer era, too, and it was ushered out with a severe earthquake
in November – the worst in the city’s history to that time.
The Society of Thurston Pioneers long ago made residence in the county before
1872 a requirement for membership. The true pioneers of the ’40s and ’50s would never
concede that those who came in the ’60s and ’70s were more than “early settlers,” and those
who came after 1872 were forever doomed to remain “Che Chacos.”
Of late years, however, it has become common to confer pioneer rank upon those
who lived in the area before the territory achieved statehood in 1889.
The year 1872 also saw the end of the last phases of the ancient boundary disputes
between England and the United States, with the northern boundary finally located as it
From 1873 to 1889, the period during which Washington remained a territory,
Olympia and Thurston County made slow progress. The location of the railway at Tacoma
took much trade and industry from the head of the Sound, and Seattle’s amazing
development was drawing a large segment of the territory’s population to that booming
Seattle’s “skid-road” was wide open. Olympia was respectable and sedate. The lusty
workingmen of the territory preferred to spend their money in Seattle.
The Northern Pacific, which dealt a death blow to Olympia’s dreams of easy
commercial greatness did, however, bring a measure of prosperity to other Thurston
In 1852 Stephen Hodgson took a donation claim on the prairie some 15 miles south
of Olympia. It gradually developed into a small settlement, and in 1872 the Northern
Pacific Railroad established a station there.
Several myths are prevalent as to how Tenino got its name . . . that it was from the
number 10-9-0 on a railway surveyor’s stake or on an early locomotive.
The fact is that the railway used the Chinook word meaning “junction” in naming
the station Tenino. It referred to the junction of the old military roads from Vancouver to
Steilacoom and Olympia, which branched at that point.
Tenino achieved commercial importance in 1888 when its magnificent sandstone
quarries were discovered. Tenino sandstone was the approved building material for most of
the state’s greatest buildings, until the use of structural steel and concrete supplanted it.
Although the quarries are no longer in regular operation, Tenino has enjoyed a
modest but consistent growth throughout the years.
The first settler on a small prairie south of Tenino was Aaron Webster, who came
to the Sound country in 1854. In the Chinook language, the stream crossing the Webster
claim was Skookum Chuck – strong water.
In 1857, Webster harnessed the strong water to a mill wheel and turned out lumber
for the neighboring settlers. When the mill went into operation, he sold his farm to Oliver
Shead, who named the place Seatco – a Chinook word meaning ghost, or devil.
As early as 1852, large coal deposits had been found in the area, and later the coal
fields were purchased by J. B. David of Portland and Samuel Coulter.
When Coulter and David met with William Buckley of the railway company to
decide on a name for the new station there, the picturesque Seatco was abandoned and they
coined a new word by taking the two first letters of each of their own names. Bu-Co-Da
was the result.
Mr. Shead preferred his Indian word and continued to call his townsite by that
name. Seatco remained a town with a railroad station named Bucoda until 1890, when the
legislature made it officially Bucoda.
Bucoda, or Seatco, was the site of the first penitentiary in Washington. At the
legislature of 1874, Sheriff Billings of Thurston County and Sheriff Smith of Pierce
County got a bill passed turning the territorial prisoners over to them for contract labor.
Shead put up the money to finance them and a timber prison with well-spiked, 12-
inch walls was built at Seatco to house the convicts. This continued as the territorial prison
until 1888, when a new one was built at Walla Walla.
Samuel James had staked a claim at Grand Mound Prairie in 1852, and the James
name is still a prominent one in the Rochester community. George Edwards and John
Edgon had settled on Yelm Prairie in 1850, and they were joined by James Longmire and
William McLane settled at the head of Eld Inlet in 1852, and that rural community
still bears his name.
NARROW GAUGE RAILROAD
When the people of Olympia had somewhat recovered from the stunning failure of
the Northern Pacific to touch their city, they took matters into their own hands.
The county commissioners floated a $75,000 bond issue and a new narrow gauge
railway was built to connect Olympia with the main line at Tenino. The first little train
clattered into Tenino carrying a fun load of happy Olympia excursionists in 1878.
The little road was operated as a local project until 1890, when it was purchased by
the Port Townsend Southern Railway. The same year, the Northern Pacific relented
somewhat, and built a branch line from Tacoma to Grays Harbor by way of Olympia.
In 1903, the N. P. bought the 15-mile Port Townsend Southern, and the historic
little railway soon passed into oblivion. The long rail way trestles on the west side of
Budd’s Inlet are the only present-day reminders of the old Port Townsend Southern.
The little trains used to enter town from the south by way of a trestle west of the
present capitol group, pass under the West Side Bridge and terminate their run at a depot
alongside the trestle on West Bay Drive.
Washington became a state in 1889, and to the people of the territorial capital, it
meant another fight to get their city named state capital. This involved undergoing the new
ordeal of a state-wide vote on the location.
Although various other cities put up a strong campaign, Olympia managed to get
the most votes, 25,490, but Ellensburg got 14,711, Centralia 607, Yakima 314, Pasco 130,
and scattered locations, 1,088.
Since the law required a majority of all votes cast, jittery Olympians faced another
vote in 1890. The great Seattle fire intervened, and the Olympia city fathers dispatched the
town’s fine new steam pumper to the stricken city by fast steamer. Then they gave $500 of
the taxpayers’ money to Seattle as a relief donation.
There was some grumbling about this, of course, but it proved a wise investment.
Grateful and growing Seattle threw its support behind Olympia in the capital fight and next
year Olympia got 37,413 votes, Ellensburg only 7,722.
The capital stayed in Olympia, but at that time the state capitol consisted of one
frame building, which was located on the present site of the Insurance Building.
Bills authorizing completion of a new capitol building were vetoed by the governor
in 1897 and 1899. Finally, in 1901, the Thurston County Court House was purchased by
the state and enlarged for a capitol building. Tacoma interests made a final attempt to grab
the capitol for the City of Destiny, but their measure was defeated.
Olympians breathed somewhat easier when the big stone building with its tall,
eight-sided clock tower was acquired by the state, but the more pessimistic citizens,
plagued for decades by the attempts of other
cities to take over the headquarters of state government, never really relaxed until the
present magnificently Roman-Doric capitol group was completed in 1935.
Then they felt that the capitol was firmly attached to Olympia with a $15 million
Although the buildings were paid for from state timber grants and used up no tax
money, the group was completed in a state-wide rumble of disapproval.
These were depression times, and Washington was still only one life-time away
from the puncheon-floored settler’s cabin on the beach. Imported marbles, bronzes and
seamless carpets were viewed by many as a bit “highfalutin.”
But the buildings crown their hilltop in undeniable grandeur, ruled over by the
great dome of the Legislative Building – one of the highest in the world – and with the
completion of Capitol Lake, citizens get more than $15 million worth of reflected beauty.
The Old Capitol in downtown Olympia still serves as a state office building, having
survived a great fire, which destroyed its old-world clock tower, and a recent earthquake
that nearly wrecked the new buildings on the hill.
The first years of statehood were boom times for Olympia and by 1890, it had
grown to a town of 4,698 inhabitants, but the great depression of 1893, coupled with the
emergence of Seattle and Tacoma as the “big cities” of the Puget Sound country, hit the
Times were bad, and it is said of that period that many of the citizens consumed
clams until the town’s stomachs rose and fell with the tide. Still the ’90s were years of
progress – Olympia’s franchise years.
The Sunset Telephone and Telegraph Company put in the first telephone lines in
1889. Street railway franchises were granted, E. T. Young was given permission to erect
electric light poles along the city streets, Western Union was allowed to put in telegraph
poles, and the Olympia Water Company laid plans for the modern water system which met
the city’s needs until the great McAllister Springs development was completed in 1948.
In 1894, the federal government began the harbor dredging, with silt confined
behind bulkheads, which resulted in Olympia’s modern port and industrial districts.
The fabled Olympia Hotel was built in 1890 at Eighth and Main. A gigantic
gingerbread edifice, it was the city’s pride, but didn’t fare well financially. It was later
destroyed in a 1904 by fire.
The 1900 census showed a population loss – a drop to 3,863. This was the first time
this had happened since the California gold rush days. By 1910, the city had come back
with a vengeance, almost doubling its population to 6,000.
Even during the depression days of falling population figures, things had been
accomplished. The street railway system was built in 1890.
The rolling stock consisted of two horse-cars, and the line extended from Puget
Street west to Main Street and south to Maple Park. In 1892, the franchise and equipment
were sold to the Olympia Light & Power Company and an electric line was projected.
Of the street cars, a March 4, 1892 newspaper boasted, in anticipation, that they
“are to be the best in all respects and will be finished in white, with gold trimmings.” The
gold-trimmed cars began operating in July and were declared an immediate success.
Said the press of July 22, 1892, “The inauguration of the electric street car system
in Olympia marks another epoch in the progress of the capital city. The first street car
passed over the track of the Olympia Light & Power Company yesterday at 4:30, with
Superintendent Shock at the electric lever.
“The passengers on the memorable occasion, besides the news correspondent, were
George D. Shannon, Robert Frost, George L. Sickles, Thomas Henderson Boyd, C. T.
Whitney, A. S. Gills and L. B. Faulkner.” Mr. Faulkner, who later became president of the
Olympia Light and Power Company and superintendent of the street railway system, still
resides in Olympia (1950).
The news story continued, “The car, as soon as the current was turned on, moved
like a thing of life, smoothly and without friction, and responded steadily to the will of its
master as if endowed with reason.
“People appeared on the street and at doors and windows all along the route and
waved hats and handkerchiefs in greeting this new and tangible evidence of progress.”
The electric line was extended to the West Side and to Tumwater on the south, with
five cars in operation – three closed and two open. They were advertised as running to
Tumwater every hour and giving seven-minute service within the city.
Fall rains brought problems to Superintendent Shock of the street railway. On
September 23, the morning paper reported, “The open street cars have been doing a
shocking business this week.
“When the interior woodwork became wet, the electric current played like the
aurora borealis among the passengers and converted the whole vehicle into immense
Leyden jars, ready to discharge a current whenever a proper connection was made. They
were, of necessity, promptly withdrawn from service.”
Olympia was learning that progress is not without its painful side.
The street railways system remained in operation until 1933, when the present
 bus transportation system was installed.
The second decade of the 20th century saw a modest advance in population to
7,795 by 1920. By 1930, the census figures showed 11,733 and those of 1940, 13,254. The
1949 estimated population was between 16 and 18 thousand, with approximately 50
thousand in the immediate trading area.
The journalistic history of Olympia is a long and complicated one, and deserves a
short chapter of its own.
As has been stated, the territory’s first newspaper, the Columbian, changed hands
and names frequently. Established in 1852, it became the Pioneer in 1853. A new paper,
the Northwest Democrat appeared on the scene in 1855, but since its politics agreed with
those of the Pioneer, the two papers merged to form the Pioneer and Democrat.
In 1860, the historic Washington Standard was established by John Miller Murphy,
who had come to Olympia as a small boy in the early ’50s. Murphy was to become a dean
of Washington journalists and a real civic leader.
He brought the first steam powered press to the territory and later built the
magnificent Olympia Theater on Fourth Avenue. Although Murphy was a Democrat,
Republican forces induced him to establish a paper in Olympia to promote the Republican
policy of national unity, which was to result in the Civil War.
The citizens of Olympia were to fete Murphy at a great banquet in 1910
commemorating the Standard’s first half-century of publication without missing an issue.
The Pioneer and Democrat expired in 1861 and was revived as the Overland Press
the same year. When its publisher was shot, the Overland Press became the Pacific
Tribune in 1864, and the little Ramage hand press was sold and moved to Seattle.
The Washington Democrat was established in 1864 and lasted until 1865. The
Territorial Republican, founded in 1867, was just as short- lived.
The first attempt at daily publication was made by the Tribune in 1867. This was
too much for its resources and the plant and subscription lists were put up at sheriff’s sale.
John Miller Murphy, rival publisher, bought much of the essential equipment,
including the Tribune’s subscription lists – and gave ot [sic] back to the Tribune’s
Perhaps the end of our pioneer era won’t really have come until there are no more
George Bushes and John Miller Murphys left in the land.
The Tribune moved to Seattle and then to Tacoma, where it prospered, and the
name is still in use there. A radical Republican paper, the Transcript, was founded in the
post-civil war period and lasted until 1885, and in 1867, a temperance paper, the Echo,
The Puget Sound Courier was moved from Port Townsend to Olympia in 1871,
and its publisher, Clarence Bagley, joined forces with Murphy of the Standard to run the
Temperance Echo out of business. Apparently the pioneer newsmen, like many of their
present-day brethren, were not in favor of militant teetotalism.
Bagley was an ardent Republican and Murphy was a Democrat. They named their
combined Standard-Courier the Daily Olympian and agreed that each would edit the paper
on alternate days, keeping it strictly neutral in politics.
During Murphy’s absence from town, Bagley’s father, the Rev. Daniel Bagley,
slipped a great deal of strong Republican propaganda in the paper’s forms. When Murphy
returned, he said nothing, but when his day as editor came up he issued an extremely
Democratic Daily Olympian.
This so enraged Bagley that he moved his equipment from the printing shop, but
the hated Echo was still in business, so he returned, a truce was declared, and in 1874, the
Olympian succeeded in forcing the Echo out of business.
Then they went their separate ways and the Olympian was no more until 1889
when Murphy published it as a daily for about a year, with Olympia real estate men
underwriting it. The theory was that a daily would add prestige for real estate boom and
The Courier combined with the Daily Critic as the Daily Critic and Weekly
Courier in 1884. These were extremely Republican papers and in 1885 they emerged into
one paper, the Republican Partisan.
The Partisan, in turn, became the Olympia Tribune in 1890 and published as a
daily until 1893, when it combined with a new Daily Olympian as the Olympian-Tribune.
In 1903, this became the Olympia Daily Recorder.
Then the Olympian and Recorder published as separate dailies until 1927, the
Recorder being purchased by the Olympian and issued as an evening paper, while the
Olympian remained a morning edition.
In 1927, the morning and evening editions became the morning and evening
Olympian, while the Evening Recorder discontinued. The morning edition of the Olympian
has also since been discontinued.
The Weekly Capital was printed from 1897 to 1901, the Olympia Chronicle from
1899 to 1927, the Washington Saturday Review from 1909 to 1910, and the Anti-
Imperialist in 1900.
In 1913, six papers were printed in Olympia: the Chronicle, the Independent,
Olympian, Recorder, Washington Standard and State Capitol Record (a legislative digest).
The first paper was printed in Tenino in 1880. The Tenino Herald’s life was a short
one, but it was the forerunner of the present Thurston County Independent.
The Olympia High School News, predecessor of the present Olympus, began
publication in 1893.
At the present time, Olympia’s newspaper needs are met by one evening daily and
one weekly newspaper. The Olympia News was founded in 1922.
The period from 1872, the end of the pioneer era, to 1920, the beginning of the
gasoline era, was the golden age of steamboating on Puget Sound. The little sailing vessels
of the ’40s and ’50s scattered settlements about the Sound. The steamboats drew them
together into a civilization.
Steamboats were the only means of comfortable travel on the new frontier, and they
were more than that to the people they served. When there was a fair or a picnic or a
potlatch, the little steamers and the big were there.
Citizens from the smallest and farthest settlement chartered their local steamer and
traveled to the scene of glamour, like owners of a private yacht. The steamboats were
personal and friendly, and they had a lovely steamboat smell of steam and hot paint and
They stopped to pick up the families of isolated settlers in rowboats, and take them
to town, and they stopped to unload a few sacks of feed for them on the way back.
They were slow, the slim white steamers with their tall, black smokestacks and
beating paddle wheels, but they seldom dropped a passenger onto a mountain top or
swerved over a cliff at 60 miles an hour. The people had an affection for the steamboats
that has no counterpart in this age of high speed, streamlined, impersonal transportation.
The Hudson’s Bay steamer Beaver, built in England in the 1830s and navigated to
the Columbia River under sail, was the first steamer to beat the waters of the Sound with
its paddle wheels, plying between the company posts at Vancouver and Nisqually.
The first American steamboat was the little side-wheeler, Fairy, brought to Puget
Sound on the deck of the bark, Sarah Warren, in 1853. She plied intermittently between
Seattle and Olympia, and was later put on the Olympia-Steilacoom run.
In 1857, her boiler exploded near the Steilacoom dock, and she sank while
operating on this route. The pioneer steamer, Traveler, was also brought up from
California on the deck of a sailing ship and assembled on the beach a mile north of Priest
Point in 1855.
She made regular trips between Olympia and Seattle for some time and eventually
sank off Port Townsend. The iron propellor steamer, Major Tompkins, began the Olympia-
Victoria run in 1854, but was wrecked outside Victoria Harbor in 1855. The wooden
propellor steamer, Constitution, replaced her.
In 1859, the fabulous old side-wheeler, Eliza Anderson, began plying between
Olympia and Vancouver, B.C., on a weekly mail schedule. The run was a highly profitable
one and many other steamers – Enterprise, Alexandria, Josie McNear, New World, Alida
and Wilson G. Hunt made a losing fight for lucrative business, but were either beaten off
with a rate war or bought off with hard cash by the Anderson’s owners. The Eliza Anderson
was tied up to her wharf in 1870, and her owners put the beautiful new steamer, Olympia,
on her run.
The Anderson was wrecked while on her way to join the Alaska gold rush in 1897,
but legend has it that she “earned her weight in gold” for her owners during her long
An old schedule at the State Library indicates that in 1870, the Anderson and Alida
were plying between Olympia and Victoria, and the Varuna and Chehalis from Olympia to
Seattle. The Chehalis, a stern- wheeler, was built at Tumwater; the Alida at Olympia.
During most of those years, the Anderson’s owners had the mail contract, but in
1872, a Portland firm, the Starrs, underbid them and put another historic boat on the run –
the North Pacific.
The Olympia and the North Pacific made an epic race from Victoria to Olympia in
June, the North Pacific winning the money bets on the short dash to Port Townsend, but
the Olympia winning the long pull, up-Sound, to the capital city.
Early in September, 1871, the new, 100-foot stern-wheeler, Zephyr, was launched
at Seattle and placed on the Olympia-Seattle run, which she maintained for many years.
By the early 1900s, the Greyhound, a speed queen of the Sound in her day, was
plying between Olympia and Tacoma, and the big Multonomah was running from Olympia
to Seattle. The Greyhound connected with the Flyer for Seattle.
In 1911, the beautiful propellor-steamer, Nisqually, steamed into Olympia harbor
on her maiden trip and was placed on the Tacoma- Olympia route. She was slim and fleet –
140 feet long and 23 feet wide – and she could slash her way from Olympia to Tacoma
against the tide in two hours.
But the day of the steamboat was almost over, and the Nisqually didn’t last long. By
1917, the little 112-foot propellor Magnolia could handle all the business there was, and
when she made her last trip, trundling north down Budd Inlet, the era had ended.
Other little steamers served Olympia and the bays and inlets of the upper Sound.
The Sol G. Simpson and City of Shelton were the last and best-known of the Shelton boats,
although the little stern-wheeler, Willie, which preceded them, was well-known in her day.
In the early 1900s, the tiny steamer, Mizpah, plied between Olympia, Oyster Bay and
The Mizpah sank once and burned to the water’s edge, but she is still in service
(1950) in Olympia harbor as a diesel tug, owned by her first skipper, Captain Volney C. P.
Young of the Capitol City Tug Company.
In 1911, when the Nisqually was the pride of Olympia, everyone thought the Sound
would go on building bigger and faster steamers forever.
Ten years later, the mosquito fleet was almost gone, swept from the bays and inlets
on a cloud of carbon-monoxide and the stench of gasoline. The deep-sea trade had long
since departed for the lower Sound ports, and Olympia turned her back on the water.
The city’s interest didn’t focus on the waterfront again until 1925 when, with the
mud flats which had choked the harbor dredged away and confined behind bulkheads to
form a deep-water harbor, the Japanese steamer, Milan Maru, entered the new Port of
Olympia and began loading a big lumber cargo for the Orient.
From then on, deep sea ships began calling regularly again at the only capital port
in America, and Olympia has regained her place among the ocean terminals of Puget
The present harbor is a much different place from the waterfront of pioneer days,
where Duwamish squaws dug clams on the mudflats and the flat-bottomed paddle-wheel
steamers grounded at their moorings out at the end of the long wharf when the tide was
Olympia has many ties with the past, among them pioneer business firms that have
grown from small beginnings with the city. Bettman’s Clothing Store is the oldest of these.
Louis Bettman came to Olympia in 1853 and opened a general merchandise store in
the tiny hamlet. He prospered with the city in which he had faith and died at his adopted
home in 1904. The business has continued under the same name for almost a century.
Millard Lemon was born while his parents’ covered wagon creaked toward the
promised land of Puget Sound, and he, too, devoted his life to the development of
Olympia, building up the present Casco Company, which is now managed by his son, Gary
Gustave Rosenthal arrived in Olympia in 1863 and opened a general store at
Second and Main. That firm is still in business under the ownership of M. M. Morris.
I. Harris arrived in Oregon Territory by ship in 1853 and entered the general
merchandise business in what is now Eastern Washington. In 1870, he opened the dry
goods store in Olympia which in 1949 became the big Miller’s Department Store.
Two years later, in 1872, the Talcott Brothers established their jewelry firm, which
in 1949 was operated by three generations of the family, including one of the founders.
The Olympia Oyster Company was established in 1878.
the Mottman Mercantile Company began in 1880 as Toklas end Kaufman, the
present building [NW corner Capitol and Fourth] being completed in 1891. In the 1850s,
C. E. Williams conducted a store there, and his house, which now stands between the
YMCA and Sunset Building, was moved from Fourth and Capitol Way to make way for
the Mottman Building.
The Olympia Brewing Company, the oldest of the city’s larger industries, was
established in 1896 at Tumwater where, fittingly enough, the first Washington industry had
been begun 50 years before by Michael Simmons. The Olympia Brewing Company
brought not only a payroll, but valuable civic leadership to the city.
Leopold Schmidt, its founder, worked always for the welfare of Olympia, and he it
is, with P. M. Troy, pioneer lawyer and father of the present State Attorney General, Smith
Troy, to whom the people of Olympia owe their beautiful civic playground, Priest Point
Troy, as city attorney, saved the land from speculators, and Leopold Schmidt
provided most of the equipment and the Swiss chalet which have been used and enjoyed by
thousands of Olympians for many years.
THE WORK OF A CENTURY
Olympia has matured gracefully in the century just gone by, and it has mellowed
more than most western cities in the changing.
The muddy, stump-lined streets of 1850 thunder now with motor traffic, and where
at night the somber firs were once reflected in a qui- et bay, with only the stars and the dim
light from settlers’ cabins to hold back the darkness, neon and mercury vapor flare in the
The log trading post of Edmund Sylvester has expanded into hundreds of retail
stores. Five theaters and a radio station have sup- planted General Rag and his pioneer
vaudeville of a century ago.
Trains and huge buses and space-eating airliners now serve the city whose fathers
hacked their way over the Cowlitz Trail, and great ocean ships are moored in the waters
once ploughed by the little paddle steamers.
A hundred service stations dispense the magic liquid that brought these changes,
and to the casual observer, Olympia is a pulsing, noisy, modern city.
But in the quiet residential streets, where old houses built of timbers hewed by
Clanrick Crosby still stand, and on the still shores of Puget Sound, where Seattle and
Leschi once walked with loving feet, and in the marble halls of state where Isaac Stevens’
picture hangs, you may feel the quiet calm of a city which has lived a century with a
remarkable tolerance and calm and lack of violence.
Olympia escaped the worst hatreds of the Indian War and of the Chinese troubles,
the great fires which ushered in statehood year to many Washington cities, and the I.W.W.
troubles and the other upheavals that wracked the new frontier around her.
Basically, Olympia is serene and calm. It is a lovely little city which is sure of its
place in a green and lovely land. It is a good place to live. Perhaps the pioneer colonel had
a vision of this future city when a century ago he said:
“Olympia’s gods might view with grace
Nor scorn so fair a dwelling place.”
CHINOOK JARGON WAS HELP TO PIONEERS
Language differences have many times caused misunderstandings leading to woe
and misery and war among humans since the beginning of history.
Just as now, since 1945, at least part of our troubles with the Soviets has been due
to language misinterpretations leading to dangerous misunderstandings, so were the Indian
uprisings of 100 years ago caused by misinterpretations and lack of understanding because
of the limited facility of the Chinook jargon or language that had to be used in negotiations
with the Indians. The Chinook language was the only common medium for the exchange
of ideas between various tribes of Indians and the American, English and French of the
When Washington’s first territorial governor, Isaac I. Stevens, attempted to control
the activities of the Indians in western and eastern Washington, he failed to secure their
compliance with his treaties largely because, as it soon became apparent, the Indians
simply had not understood what their leaders had agreed they were to do, or why.
Naturally, they resented being pushed around.
Soon after arriving at Olympia, Governor Stevens delegated Col. M. T. Simmons to
represent him in Puget Sound Indian affairs largely because Simmons was one of the few
American white leaders able to speak and understand the Chinook jargon sufficiently to get
along well with a majority of the Indians.
No doubt during the treaty-making, both sides took advantage of the possibilities
for misconceptions. Historical records make frequent references to wrong interpretations
being blamed for acts of violence by both whites and Indians. But the fact remains that the
Chinook language they were able to use as a common means of intercourse was the best in
Explaining the origins of the jargon, George C. Shaw, in his book The Chinook
Jargon and How to Use It, published as late as 1909, states that, “The origin of this Jargon,
a conventional language similar to the Lingua Franca of the Mediterranean, the Negro-
English- Dutch of the Surinam, the Pigeon English of China, dates back to the explorers
and traders of the 18th century.”
These were the Spanish, English and American mariners and French Canadian fur
traders who came to the Pacific Northwest before the Lewis and Clark expedition’s arrival
in 1806. When Lewis and Clark arrived on the north bank at the Columbia River’s mouth,
they found that the Chinook Indians there already understood English and French words as
well as the language of the Nootka tribes on Vancouver Island in what is now British
For many generations before, the various tribes of the North Pacific region,
especially along the coast, had practiced a common, though limited, manner of speech
understandable between tribes. George Vancouver’s men found the Indians in Grays
Harbor able to understand Chinook and Nootka.
But with the arrival of the Astor party, the Chinook language became enlarged and
more common in use among the Indian tribes and whites, and by the time the Hudson’s
Bay Company settled at Vancouver on the Columbia, French words were added to the
American and English idioms commonly used by the Indians.
As movement started up the Columbia, on the Fraser River, and over the eastern
plains to the Rockies, the Chinook jargon became more and more common in use between
Indians and whites in their trade and government transactions.
Author Shaw says that words adopted from the several languages were naturally
those most easily uttered by all, but that when objects new to the Indians were introduced,
they would use the English, American or French names, if at all pronounceable.
The various tribes were accustomed to different sound tones and in Chinook, the
gutturals of the Indian were softened or dropped; and the “f ” and “r” of the English and
French were modified into “p ” and “l”. Expressions were simplified, and mood and tense
conveyed only by adverbs of the context.
Eventually Chinook became used widely, even Americans and English using it
when speaking to non-English speaking French and the kanakas of the South Sea Islands
who more and more frequently came to the territory in ships’ crews. The language was
comparatively easy to learn, because of its small number of words.
Known as “The Trade Language”, the Chinook jargon ultimately comprised around
500 words, according to George Gibbs, one-time assistant to Governor Stevens, his first
adjutant general, who for 14 years studied the development of the lingo. There were,
according to Gibbs, 221 Indian words, 94 French words, 67 English words and 29 Flathead
(eastern Indians) words. The balance was a conglomeration of idioms developed in local
Of the Chinook language, Gibbs wrote later: “There can be no doubt that it will
remain a living and useful language so long as the native tribes continue to speak their own
“Rude and formless as it is, the spontaneous product of the commercial needs of
mingled races, it has been the source of great and varied benefits. It may well serve, if not
as a model, at least as a finger post to direct us to some higher invention for advancing
civilization through better understanding.”
Wrote Myron Eells, D. D., another authority of the Chinook language: “With the
spelling… I have learned that it is useless for any person who has not heard a Chinook
word used to try to give its pronunciation. The accented syllable is marked but it must not
be supposed that any one pronunciation is the only correct one. There are often many
different ways of pronouncing the same word in different localities. ”
Perhaps a short demonstration of the use of the Chinook jargon is the best
explanation of it. From the autobiography of John Roger James of Thurston county comes
this interesting extract:
“There was no racking of brains to acquire grammatical expressions in Chinook. At
the same time, a proficient would pride himself in knowing when to use ‘Claxto’ (who)
instead of ‘Icta” for what.
“Common expressions used among the early settlers and the Indians included
‘Cumtux’ (understand); ‘tickey mucka muck’ (I want something to eat); ‘Ca mika clatawa’
(where are you going?); ‘leta mike tickey’ (what do you want?).
” ‘Clahoua, six?’ (How do you do, sir?)
“While in Victoria in 1870, an Indian there said to me, ‘I mika clauk nesika salon’
which meant, ‘You, opened your ears’.”
OLYMPIA 100 YEARS AGO
By BERNICE A. SAPP
In the area bounded by the then waterfront, Second Street and Third Street (now
State), and Fourth Street and Columbia and Washington, was most of Olympia 100 years
ago. Crowded in these few blocks were all of the buildings of the Town of Olympia, laid
out by Sylvester in 1850 and incorporated as a town in 1859.
Here was the home of Levi Lathrop Smith, first owner of the townsite of Olympia;
he lived in a log cabin which was shared by Edmund Sylvester, his partner. A building
which Sylvester built later contained the famous Gold Bar Restaurant. Upstairs, the first
legislature of the Territory was held in 1854. Facing Second Street was the first Masonic
Temple. On one corner was Bettman’s Store; on the other were the buildings of Governor
Stevens surveying party. Percivals and Munsons lived down there, and on the corner where
the City Hall is, stood the stable of Rice Tilley, owner of the first Overland Stages. Across
the street was the New England Hotel and the Pacific House – two early hotels of Olympia.
Here Stevens stopped after his long overland journey.
On the corner of Second and Washington stood the building which housed the
Washington Standard for over half a century. Next door, the home of John Miller Murphy,
proprietor and editor of the Washington Standard. Murphy was a brother-in-law of George
A. Barnes who had a general merchandise store in the next block. Barnes also started the
first bank in the Territory which still stands just south of the Daily Olympian building. The
site of the Daily Olympian once was a two-story brick building built by Charles
Burmeister, a saloon keeper. Becky Howard, a negro woman, ran the Pacific House, owned
and built by Colonel Cock.
Over on Columbia Street were John Clark and family who ran the Columbia Hotel.
On the corner of Columbia and Third (now State) was a wagon shop. The top floor, or
story, of the wagon shop was Olympia’s first theater. A furniture store across the street
became the scene of an early school conducted by Annie Stevens. Around the block on
Main Street was the Woodruff Building; one of the first music stores was below, and one
of the first post offices.
On the northwest corner of Main and Fourth stood the residence of Sam Williams,
the hardware man. This house is still here, having been moved to a location just south of
the Y.M.C.A. North of Williams’ house stood his hardware store. After the house was
moved away, Toklas and Kauffman had a drygoods store on the corner, where Mottman’s
Store is now. On the southwest corner was the scene of the first circus.
On the northeast corner was the first water system in Olympia – a town pump where
Indians and whites came to draw water and exchange gossip. Maybe this was the reason
the newspapers have remained on the block so long. Afterwards, the Chambers Building
was erected on this corner and still stands there.
On the southeast corner of Main and Fourth was the Turner Block, built by Dr.
George Turner, the first licensed pharmacist in the Territory. Many governors had offices
in this block, upstairs and handy to the “Capitol”, just across the street. In the Chambers
Block, in an early day, Julian Guyot, formerly of Switzerland, became the first jeweler in
the Territory of Washington. Talcotts came later, in 1873, but have continued in business
all the years. George and Grant Talcott were the makers of the State Seal.
Continuing on around the block on Fourth Street and Washington stood the home
of Thos. Prather, early Indian fighter, who lived to be nearly 90 years old. Across the
street, on the northeast corner of Washington and Fourth, was the home of Burmeister, also
his saloon. On the southeast corner of Fourth and Washington, where the Security Building
stands, was Mann’s Drug Store. Across the alley, on Washington, was the old Odd Fellow’s
Hall, where one of the early schools was conducted by Mary O’Neill. Across Washington
the other corner by the alley was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Ott, also from
Switzerland – with them were their sons, Walter and Henry, and daughter, Gertrude, now
Gertrude Ott Martin. Then on the northwest corner of Fifth and Washington stood the
Tilley home; across on the southwest corner of Fifth and Washington, Doane’s Restaurant,
home of the Oyster Pan Roast, and rendezvous, of Captain Woodbury Doane, a retired sea
On the southeast corner of Fifth and Washington, about midway of the block, was
the home of Thomas Milburn Reed, Territorial Auditor. The Olympic Theater stands about
where the Reed home stood. Reed built the block on the northeast corner of Washington
and Sixth (now Legion Way). Where the Olympian Hotel stands, stood the home of
Tarbells; north of them were Hamer’s, the first undertaker, and west of them, Carroll’s,
parents of Mrs. Walter Beals. South of Carroll’s, on the southeast [northeast] corner of
Capitol Way and Legion Way where the new building for Miller Brothers is, was the home
of Governor Stevens.
Where the Harris’ Store was, stood Grainger’s Livery Stable, operated by Wm.
Littlejohn. Grainger’s house was across on the other side of Main Street. On the northeast
corner of Main and Sixth, [Capitol and Legion] where
Penney’s Store is now, was the home of Peterfield Turpin. On the southwest corner of
Main and Sixth stood the Charles Talcott residence.
Next, going south, was the Ike Ellis house where the Elks’ building stands; then the
Episcopal Church where the Hotel Governor stands. Next was the Unitarian Church in the
middle of Seventh, and then the T. I. McKenney House. Then in succession, a block-
house, burned up; U.S. Land Office, burned down; Olympia Hotel Building, which burned
in 1904 – all where the Post Office is now. On the southeast corner of Main and Sixth, at
the corner of Sylvester Park, was a block-house used in Indian War days. After the war, it
was used as a jail. Speaking of jails – one of the earliest was the large brick jail, two stories
high, which stood about where the flats are in back of the First Presbyterian Church on
Legion Way. The jail was there long after the turn of the century, until it was torn down.
Why a jail in a place like that? Well, the courthouse from an early day was only a block
away on the southeast corner of Legion Way and Washington; afterwards the courthouse
was on the northwest corner of Legion Way and Franklin. Then, in 1890, the large stone
courthouse was built which is now a part of the old downtown Capitol, facing Sylvester
Edmund Sylvester’s house was erected in 1857 on Eighth Street, between
Washington and the present Capitol Way. He donated the land for Sylvester Park, and land
for the Masonic Temple, and 10 acres for the Capitol grounds.
Across the street is the Thornton McElroy house, another old land- mark. Where
the bus station is, was the Harris house, still standing on another location at 7th and
Adams. At Seventh and Adams are the old Harris house, the Alexander Farquhar house
and the T.M. Reed house, all made over into apartment houses. On Eighth and Jefferson
still stands the remains of the old Jefferson Hotel constructed by Farquhar. It was once
known as the Capitol Hotel – now is the Baird.
Farquhar once built and owned a huge barn down on the waterfront on Seventh and
Jefferson, which fell down in a snowstorm, killing his stock. The hardware store he had on
the southeast corner of Seventh and Adams was later used as a legislative building, was the
scene of a Governor’s Ball, was used as the State Printing Office, and last, as the State
Armory, harboring the supplies of the Adjutant General’s office. On the southwest corner
of Eighth and Adams, is the old Territorial manse of the First Presbyterian Church. Next
door is the old home of Dr. Nathaniel Ostrander, a pioneer physician, who was a member
of the Cowlitz Convention at Monticello which sent the Memorial to Congress to create
the Territory of Washington. This house was built about 1875. He also built around the
block, which he owned, houses for his daughters as they married; the Walter Crosby house,
the Fanny Moore house, the Mike O’Connor house, are all in the block. (The O’Connor
house has been torn down.)
Further south on Adams Street are the McFadden house; the William Billings
house, home of the pioneer sheriff; the old school house; the Howard flat, built by a son of
Becky Howard; the old Ben John’s house, built by a pioneer schoolteacher who held the
first kindergarten in her living room (Mrs. Houghton). The Fidelia Boyd house on 11th and
Adams has been torn down, but her first home is still standing on Franklin Street. She was
the first Mrs. Baker, then Mrs. George Turner, then Mrs. Boyd. Bush Baker is her son.
There are an endless number of old houses all over Olympia: the Chambers house,
on Water Street; the Anders house, on 19th and Capitol Way; somne old houses on Maple
Park; the William Sternberg house and old waterwheel was on East Union Street; Ike Ellis
logging camp in that vicinity.
I am returning now to East Bay Drive in order to get in a school building. I almost
overlooked the Olympia Collegiate Institute at Second and Pear. It was organized in 1875
and operated until the early ’90s as a school for the whole northwest. This school is
deserving of a marker.
The old Bigelow home is on Glass Street. The first water system in Olympia was
on East Bay Drive, built by Wm. Horton, and the second brewery in Olympia was East
Bay Drive; the Robert Frost home was there; the Sally Eaton home; the Pattison home was
on Second Street; the Galliher’s donation claim was down toward the park. The
Whitworth’s was in back of the park, the St. Joseph’s Mission just outside the entrance of
the park. The land was acquired for this mission in 1848. An Indian graveyard just south of
HISTORIC BUILDINGS ON FRANKLIN STREET
Starting at Fourth Avenue, going south, the Olympic Hotel is on the site of an early
theater in Olympia, at Fourth and Franklin on the southeast corner. On the southeast corner
of the next block was the C. B. Mann house where Mann’s Seed Store is now. Next was the
J. J. Gilbert house (house torn down). He was head man of the U. S. Geodetic Coast
Survey. Next stands the Chas. Williams house. This once stood where Mottman’s Store is
now at Fourth and Main. On the southwest corner of Franklin and Fifth Street stood the
first real telephone building in Olympia. They had a telephone company before that, but
they were always in rented buildings. The home of Williamson, the logger, was next, high
on the hill. Next south of that, on the hillside, was the first American schoolhouse, north of
Columbia River and west of the Rocky Mountains, on the northeast corner of Franklin and
Sixth Street (Legion Way). Later in this building were the Courthouse and the Daily
On the opposite corner, on the southeast corner of Legion Way, and Franklin
Street, was the First Presbyterian Church, erected in 1862. Olympia had the first church of
this denomination organized north of the Columbia River on the shores of Puget Sound.
The church itself was organized in 1854 in a cooper shop on Fifth and Columbia, but held
Sunday School and church for eight or ten years in the old schoolhouse on the opposite
corner of Legion and Franklin. This church building is still standing and is used by Gloria
Dei Lutheran Church (on Adams between Legion Way and 5th).
On the west side of the next block stands the old Thurston County Courthouse,
built in 1892 and added onto about 1905 for a Capitol. Next to the Presbyterian Church and
across the alley was a low piece of ground where stood the home of Jack Baldwin, pioneer
logger. This house was afterwards occupied by Captain Hatch of Steamboat fame. The
house stood there until the present public [Carnegie] library was built on the spot. The lot
was filled in. As evidence that the lot was low, notice the holes in the sidewalk on the
Seventh Avenue side for a fence which was there once. Across the way on the opposite
side is the old Kauffman house, owned by the man who had the Kauffman store. The
Kauffman house is an ancient edifice with a square roof and a small balcony on the upper
story. South of the Kauffman home is the John Scott and Mary Jane Scott house. He was
an early saloon keeper. She had lived here nearly all of her 82 years, having come from
Liverpool, England at the age of two. Next south of that on the northeast corner of Franklin
and Eighth Street was the house of Sam Willey, a pioneer logger. This home was
afterwards occupied by some people who were related to the Willeys and the house was
known as the Leighton house.
On the southwest corner of Eighth and Franklin were the five houses built by
Lafayette Willey, and occupied for most of his life by Sam. Willey II, his son, who lived in
the corner house and rented the others. They are still standing there. The elder Willey
logged with ox teams, then was the owner of the Willey Navigation Company which
operated steamboats on Puget Sound. Sam Willey II was born here and lived here all his
On the northeast corner of Eighth and Franklin is the site of the old First Christian
Church, organized in 1890; this building was torn down. It occupied most of the corner.
South of the Willey houses and on the northwest corner of Ninth and Franklin is the old
Bettman house. He was a pioneer merchant, having one of the first stores in town at the
corner of Second and Main Street. (The old Bettman store near Fourth and Capitol Way is
still there, but was recently sold to a new concern after nearly 100 years in business in
Olympia.) West of the Bettman house is the Oppenheimer house, belonging to a son-in-
law of Bettman.
The block bounded by Eighth and Ninth, and Adams and Franklin, was known as
the Ostrander Block, so called for Dr. Nathaniel Ostrander, pioneer physician, who arrived
in Olympia about 1875 and thereafter built most of the old houses in the block. Besides the
Ostrander house, facing Eighth Street, are the Fanny Moore house
still standing, and the Michael O’Connor house which stood on the northeast corner of
Ninth and Franklin, and which was torn down in 1948.
Next east of that was the Walter Crosby house and next the Pixler house which
formerly was the Ostrander barn. East of that, on the corner, was the large house known as
the Billings house, occupied by Janette Billings, the widow of William Billings, pioneer
sheriff. Just south of that, on the next corner, is the little old house where the Billings lived
in the early ’70s; here Frederick Billings was born. Billings, about 1874, built a brick
house, one of the first in the Territory, on the lot where now stands the Mottman house at
9th and Washington. The next block, bounded by Ninth and Tenth streets, and Adams and
Franklin, was known as the Brown Block. Mrs. Brown was a sister of Edmund Sylvester.
Their house stood on the northwest corner of Tenth and Adams. There were several Mrs.
Browns in those days, and to distinguish them, they were known as: Cold-Water Brown or
On the block bounded by Ninth and Tenth, and Franklin and Washington, were two
of the early pioneer churches of Olympia. On the southwest corner of Ninth and Franklin
was the Unitarian Church, built by that denomination, and also the flats facing Tenth
Street; these flats were known as the Unitarian flats. This church was bought years later by
the Baptist denomination. On the opposite side of the block, facing Washington, is the old
Episcopal Church, built about 1890 and still in use. The old Episcopal manse, or Parish
House, which stood for many years on the southeast corner of Ninth and Washington
streets, was torn down years ago to make room for the new Parish House. Down in back of
the Parish House stood the old Holman house, one of the oldest houses in town. (Mrs. Fred
Sylvester is a grand-daughter of Holman; Arno Glidden is a grandson). Where the Baptist
Church stands, once stood a sawmill in the early days, a log pond was in the block, and the
bay was not far away to the east.
On the southeast corner of Tenth and Franklin is the palatial residence, on a hill, of
Sam Williams, the pioneer hardware man. This is the second house he built. (He was a
brother of Mrs. Harry McElroy.) West of that is the Addie Wood house, and next the
Woman’s Clubhouse. On that corner once stood the home of Judge Sparks. This home was
used for years as a Woman’s Clubhouse until the present clubhouse was built in 1908.
Then the Sparks house was moved over to Adams in the middle of the block between
Ninth and Tenth streets. Here the first Christian Science Church was organized and used
the building as a church until they built the present Christian Science Church building on
the southeast corner of Eighth and Washington. Here once stood the home of G. Rosenthal,
Going south from the Woman’s Clubhouse is the home of Helen Cowles and J.
Todd Cowles; her brother and Annie Cowles Claypool, born in Olympia. On the northeast
corner of Washington and Union, where the home of Mrs. J. W. Mowell now stands, once
stood one of the most historic school buildings in Olympia. This was first built for the
Puget Sound Wesleyan Institute, then bought for a courthouse, then leased for a young
ladies seminary, and last was the old Central School. It was moved to the southwest corner
of Union and Adams in two pieces and still stands there – the main part facing Union and
the other part facing Adams. To this school from the earliest days trooped the children of
the pioneers. Among these pupils of Old Central School was Harry Crosby, the father of
Bing Crosby. John Miller Murphy, pioneer newspaperman, attended the old institute.
On the southwest corner of Tenth and Adams is the old Kearney house, on the hill.
On the northwest corner of Union and Franklin stands the G. F. Kearney house recently
sold for a Y.W.C.A. Across the street, on the northeast corner of Union and Franklin, is the
old Woodard house, and north of that the old Dr. J. M. Steele house – over 85 years old.
Next west of the old schoolhouse, on the corner of Union and Adams, is the old home of
Mrs. Raggermeyer, a German woman, who ran a private school in her home. She taught
German, French and music.
On the southeast corner of Washington and Union, on a high point of ground, is the
old Rose [Ross?] O’Brien house, occupied so many years by the daughter, Hazel Aetzel –
now her daughter, Virginia and husband live there (Mr. and Mrs. Robert Schmidt). So this
makes about the fifth generation of that family to live in Olympia; on that same property is
a little old house where once lived John B. Allen, a United States Senator, the first librarian
in the Territory.
On the southwest corner of Twelfth and Adams is the William Campbell house. He
was an old pioneer who became blind crossing the plains. The house is very old and of a
type commonly built in pioneer days – large fireplace, a large pantry, big hall, etc. On the
northeast corner of Adams and Twelfth stand the Howard Flats, part of which are occupied
by a grocery store. These flats were built by the son of Becky Howard, a Negro woman,
who ran the Pacific House. The son was a mixture of Negro, Chinese and Indian [sic].
On the southeast corner of Twelfth and Adams is the old B. F. Johns property, but
he didn’t build it. It was built by a family by the name of Houghton. Mrs. Houghton taught
the first kindergarten in town. Two of her star pupils were Carrie Williams, afterwards
Carrie McElroy, and George Tarbell. She taught them their French and Latin. George
Tarbell lived in this same house when he was 85 years old, when the house was sold. Mrs.
Houghton taught the Masonic Temple School also.
On the southeast corner of Franklin and Eleventh (or maybe 12th) is a high level
piece of ground. On it, at the back of the lot, is the old Paisley house. In this house once
lived Fidelia Baker Turner Boyd. She had just come west from old Kentucky, and had
brought along a negro for a servant. She lived there for years until she moved to Eleventh
and Adams where she died when she was past 90 years of age. (Gladys Horton Johnson is
A house that is one of the oldest and has one of the most interesting histories is the
old William Winlock Miller house at about Cherry and
Eighth Avenues. The house sets back from Eighth Street, in a grove of trees, which is
known as the orchard. He was Quartermaster General for Governor Isaac Stevens during
the Indian War. It is presumed that he built the house about that time – in the middle ’50s.
The old house has a very large kitchen as was customary in those days. The boards in the
floors of the kitchen and the other rooms were very wide, almost a foot, and of rough
lumber. The panels of the rooms were of boards placed up and down, or stood on end. The
Olympia High School was named after this man, because his widow gave a block of land
in the present Capitol grounds for the high school in 1908. This is one of the historic
houses or spots in Olympia that should be marked. It is down by the railroad tracks and I
think is owned by the railroad. The Martensens lived on this property in an early day. One
of the Martensen girls married George A. Mottman. The other girl became Mrs. Harbst.
Emil Martensen was a brother. Mrs. Chris Nommensen was one of the Martensen girls.
Down in that same vicinity, on Jefferson Street and Tenth, stands an old, weather-
beaten, unpainted, forlorn-looking house – standing back among the trees. That is the first
priest’s house, for the Catholic parish, and was moved there years ago from Tenth and
Columbia streets. Where Temple Beth Hatfiloh stands, near the corner of Eighth and
Jefferson, once stood the home of Selucious Garfielde, who was once a delegate to
Congress but was defeated by Judge O. B. McFadden. He was a famous orator of that early
day and campaigned up and down the Sound in Indian canoes, paddled by Indians. The
house is gone now, the Jewish Temple being on the spot. Garfielde was a charter member
of the Masonic Lodge. He married the widow Varner. Varner had a logging camp over on
Union which was afterwards taken over by Ike Ellis. There were two Garfielde boys:
Charles and Guy.
In that early day, the salt water extended to Union Street. Clem Johnston, said he
used to walk logs across Union to get to the camp buildings which were in the vicinity of
Plum and Pear streets. The logs were brought in from Chambers Lake on a tram road, the
cars being hauled by mules, then at the top of the hill the mules would be unhitched and
the cars would ramble clear to Union where the logs were dumped in the water. On Union
in this same vicinity, between Plum and Pear, across Union Street, was the old William
Sternberg house. He was a pioneer furrier who traded with the Indians in furs. His son,
William, had a cabinet shop there and also a big waterwheel in Moxlie Creek to use in
connection with his shop. These were landmarks in early days but are gone now. Clem
Johnston’s house was built in 1879, and it is still there.
At the end of Cherry Street and Eleventh Avenue stands the old Henry Dittman
house which he built in the early ’70s. He came here in 1873 from Chicago and before that
from Germany. He had learned the weaving trade in Germany, but in Chicago did
carpenter work. His widow lived long after him until she was 93 years ago and never spoke
a word of English. Amelia Dittman, daughter, taught in the schools
for 46 years.
Next to the Dittman house was an orchard known as the Thos. Prather orchard. Dr.
F.A. Longaker bought the land from Mrs. J. D. Knox and moved about nine houses onto
the block off the Capitol grounds. One of these houses was the Thos. Mcleay house;
another was the John Percival house. Another was the Ace Rowe house, and many others;
also the Louise Ayer house.
On the southwest corner of Chestnut and Twelfth Street is the old square-roofed
house which was built by a John Slisby, a native of Maine who came to Olympia in 1878.
He was a pioneer grocer who had a grocery store in the old Episcopal Church which stood
where the Governor Hotel stands now. The classic yarn about this store is that Bob Lee,
son of the Presbyterian minister, on Hallowe’en tacked up the following sign on the church,
“My House was a House of Prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves”. Needless to say,
there was many a chuckle as the early passersby going to work saw the sign, but the irate
grocer tore it down when he arrived later.
In the jungle of fruit trees and other trees across Chestnut Street was the home of
James Swan, the original plattor of Swantown. The whole Eastside was his donation claim,
and could only be reached by crossing the body of water. He built a very large house,
although he was a bachelor. Some said the house was to be some kind of a home for men.
Whatever the idea was, it was never used for that purpose. The old house and the orchard
are still there at Eleventh and Chestnut. Swan originally lived over on the Eastside in the
vicinity of Second Street, about where the Pattison house was built. Pattison platted out an
addition over there.
One old landmark that was built in 1890 at the southeast corner of Thirteenth and
Cherry was the old Lincoln School. It was a very large brick structure that nearly fell down
on account of a severe storm while it was being built, so that in later years it had to be
propped up some. However, several generations of Olympia children attended school down
here, before it was torn down. The old steps at the corner of the block are plainly visible,
worn smooth by childish feet.
At the end of Fourteenth East are two houses worthy of mention. One is the old
Butler house or McBratney home. McBratneys had a livery stable. Mrs. Ben Turner and
her daughter, Mrs. Balch, lived there in their later years. Mrs. Balch died in the house. The
real Ben Turner house was in the block between 18th and 19th and Franklin and
Washington. He was a pioneer logger about whom many colorful takes are told.
At the end of East Fourteenth Street, on the south side of the street, on a high bank,
stands the old Whitney house. He logged with ox teams. Fred Reichel and his wife now
live in the old Whitney house. It is at the end of the trail as it were; in the late ’70s, this was
a logging road and logs were rolled over the hill to be taken to the Bay on Union Street.
MAYORS OF OLYMPIA
Nine years after it was officially dedicated as a town, Olympia was incorporated by
act of the Territorial Legislature. The first meeting of the town trustees was held on
February 17, 1859, with T. F. McElroy, James Tilton, Joseph Cushman and Elwood Evans
present. The board of trustees corresponded to the present city commission, and one of
their first acts was to elect a president of the board of trustees. This office was similar to
that of the mayor in the present city government. Joseph Cushman was elected board
president, and so goes down in history as the first head of the Olympia city government.
Other city officials appointed by the board were Richard Lane, town clerk; William
Mitchell, town marshal; and Thomas M. Reed, committing magistrate. By-laws for the
town were adopted, which required that all ordinances passed by the board be published in
the town’s leading newspaper, the Pioneer and Democrat.
The first town election was held on April 4, 1859, with George A. Barnes, U. G.
Warbass, William Rutledge, Jr., Butler P. Anderson and Harvey Winsor winning seats on
the board of trustees. Mr. Rutledge resigned shortly after being elected and Elwood Evans
was appointed to take his place.
When Olympia was reincorporated in 1873 as a city, the office of mayor replaced
that of president of the board of trustees. The following is a complete list of the board
presidents of the town of Olympia, and the mayors of the city of Olympia from 1859 to the
present time, and is, as far as can be determined, the first such compilation to be published
in a book of general circulation.
Presidents of the Board of Trustees,
Town of Olympia
Joseph Cushman, 1859 (temporary)
Elwood Evans, 1859-62
George A. Barnes, 1862
Joseph Cushman, 1863
E. Giddings, 1864
B. F. Yantis, 1865
George A. Barnes, 1866-70
Francis Henry, 1870-72
W. W. Miller, 1872-73
Mayors Under Council Form of City Government
I. C. Ellis, 1874
T. F. McElroy, 1875
J. C. Horr, 1876
John P. Judson, 1877
E. N. Ouimette, 1878-79
George A. Barnes, 1880
E. T. Young, 1881
Dr. N. Ostrander, 1882-83
J. S. Dobbins, 1884
A. A. Phillips, 1885
A. H. Chambers, 1886-88
John F. Garvey, 1889-90
J. C. Horr, 1891
R. G. O’Brien, 1892
J. W. Robinson, 1893
C. B. Mann, 1894-95
Charles H. Ayers, 1896
John Byrne, 1897
George B. Lane, 1898
C. S. Reinhart, 1899-1901
C. J. Lord, 1902-03
H. G. Richardson, 1904
Dr. P. H. Carlyon, 1905-06
Thomas McClarty, 1907
W. A. Hagemeyer, 1908
Mitchell Harris, 1909-11
Dr. W. L. Bridgford, 1912
George A. Mottman, 1913-16
Jesse T. Mills, 1917-20
C. H. Bowen, 1921-22
George W. Draham, 1923-24
James C. Johnson, 1925-28
Mayors Under Commission Form of City Government
George G. Mills, 1929-31
Newell Steele, 1932-35
Dr. Francis A. Longaker, 1936-37
David Gammell, 1938-39
J. Truman Trullinger, 1940-46
Ernest Mallory, 1947-49
WHO WAS WHO IN OLYMPIA IN 1889
By RAY C. GRUHLKE
Olympia in 1889, just prior to the admittance of the Territory of Washington, as a
state, was a thriving city of about 4,000 people and apparently in the process of growing
pains as its boosters estimated that it was growing at the rate of 600 persons per month.
The townsite was platted in 1851; in the same year, Olympia was selected as the
Capital of Washington Territory and in 1959, the city was incorporated. By 1889, the real
estate men had evidently taken over, as there were about as many real estate firms as there
were other businesses in town.
Among the real estate operators that year were J. F. Murphy & Co., J. C. Boyd &
Co., E. L. Sawyer & Co., T. C. Van Epps & Co., Shoecraft, Cook & Smith, Alfred
Thompson, George Gelbash and Henderson & Guyot. The firm of Olympia Real Estate
Loan and Insurance Agency was composed of R. G. O’Brien, S. C. Woodruff and H. T.
The T. C. Van Epps & Co., real estate dealers, advertised: “IF YOU WOULD BE
HAPPY, COME TO OLYMPIA: IF YOU WOULD BE HEALTHY, COME TO
OLYMPIA: IF YOU WOULD BE RICH, COME TO OLYMPIA.”
In 1889, there were 40 logging camps located around Olympia, employing about
800 men with wages from $30.00 to $100.00 per month, AND BOARD. There were three
saw mills, a planing mill, a wooden pipe factory, a brewery and fishing curing
Also one bank with a capital stock of $90,000.00.
The leading store in Olympia was Toklas & Kaufman, whose two- story business
block was located at Nos. 335, 337 and 339 Main Street. Arthur Ellis had a furniture store
at Third and Main, O. R. Simenson, a jewelry store in the Woodruff Block. Clayton
Aldridge had a grocery store, James Brewer a meat market and Albert D. Wright sold
harness and saddles.
Francis Henry was an attorney at law. He also sold real estate and had the abstract
company. Rogers, the photographer, took pictures of the pioneers, and Young’s Hotel, on
Main Street was the leading hotel, with rates at $1 to $1.50 per day and was the office of
the Montesano Stage Line.
The first Olympia Hotel was in the process of construction, at a cost of $50,000.00.
This was an ornate structure, with a many-gabled roof and two towers. There was a porch
clear around two sides, and it stood on an eminence overlooking the sound.
Some of the manufacturing concerns were the Puget Sound Pipe Company,
manufacturers of wooden water pipe; Olympia Planing Mill; R. G. Esterly, sash, doors and
chairs; and two flour mills at Tumwater, deriving their power from Tumwater Falls.
At that time, Tumwater Falls was the greatest asset of Olympia and was considered
the best water power in western Washington. An electric light plant was being constructed
at the Falls and a street railway contemplated. The narrow gauge railway line ran from
Olympia to Tenino where it connected with the main line of the Northern Pacific.
There were three weekly newspapers in Olympia in 1889 (The Washington
Standard, The Republican Partisan and the Olympian Review) and one daily The Evening
There were seven churches in Olympia, and two academies (the Sisters Academy
and Collegiate Institute, and Methodist College), each two-story structures of wood
construction. St. Vincent Hospital was a three-story building located near the present post
office. The high school apparently contained ten rooms, probably sufficient in those days
for those who wanted to go beyond the eighth grade.
The most important building at that time was the State Capitol, situated on an
eminence in the southern part of the City, which would be on a part of the present capital
grounds. The building was a frame structure, two stories in height with a dome; even on
that date was crowded with part of the state offices located in downtown office buildings,
even as of now.
The Masons and Oddfellows had their own buildings, and the Knights Templar
were very active, having their own library with over 2,000 volumes.
GAS MOTORS CHANGE STORY OF STATE
In Olympia, in 1903, was held the state’s first “Horse and Automobile Show”. It
was managed by Charles Hartwell who probably did not realize that his efforts symbolized
the dawning of a complete change of life for every citizen in Washington.
That year, several automobiles were operating in Olympia and the records show
that among car owners then were Dr. Wayne Bridgeford, Dr. G. W. Ingham, Otis Duby, C.
J. Lord and E. N. Steele. In Tacoma and Seattle, a proportionate number of cars were
snorting and groaning and clanking their way along the more level streets, terrorizing dray
horses, and occasionally scattering pedestrians who had not yet learned the penalties for
Six year before, in 1897, the Winton car was introduced with the spectacular
announcement that it had made a mile in 1 minute and 7 seconds.
By 1910, there were 4,192 automobiles registered in the United States, and the state
of New York became the first to receive revenue from registering. and licensing cars.
During this first decade of the automobile, it has been estimated that some 1,800 different
makes of cars were built, many of them powered by steam engines such as the White and
Stanley Steamer. By 1908, the Ford Motor Company had a sales and service establishment
in Seattle and the first hill climbing contest was held in 1909 on Queen Anne hill.
In 1910, a Pierce Arrow came out, equipped, believe it or not, with a wash stand
and toilet. It was probably the first genuine “touring car”. However, it was worthy of note
that the development of other “extra” equipment for early day automobiles took some time.
For instance, steering wheels were introduced in 1903 to replace the “tiller” that was first
In 1904, headlights were offered for sale with new cars – extra charge, of course.
Electric horns came in 1906, and the general acceptance of closed models began in 1911.
Semi-balloon tires were featured in 1922, and 4-wheel brakes came widely heralded in the
snappy new models of 1923.
And people who didn’t have enough money to pay the big prices of cars in 1905
began to “arrange terms” installment buying which was soon a common practice that
became big business for banks. Finance companies soon came into being. Only three
makes of cars were offered for sale at less than $1,000 in 1910.
In 1906, there were 763 cars known of record in the state of Washington. Ten years
later, in 1916, the first Washington license plates were issued to 70,032 car owners. By
1921, it was necessary to set up the state license department which issued 195,074 sets of
plates that year. In 1934, there were reported 439,979 cars, and in 1940, the records
covered 603,037 cars of all makes. In 1960, at the end of Olympia’s first hundred years, the
estimate exceeds 900,000.
WIDE INFLUENCE NOTED
The impact of the automobile on the way of living by our people was a gradual but
tremendously powerful one. It has been fully as influential to the development of our state
during the last half of the first hundred years as was the coming of the railroads in the
second quarter of the century. It has so completely changed social as well as commercial
and industrial concepts of our existence that the removal of the automobiles from general
use in 1950 would completely throttle our day-to-day activities.
With the constantly increasing numbers of cars that so quickly developed through
the years until the first world war, there came naturally the demand for more and more
roads and highways. At first,
highway engineering as we know it now did not exist. The early engineers tackling the
problems came from those whose training had been on railroad construction. And of
course, the problems were different.
Perhaps one of the biggest difficulties which have confronted the builders of
automobile highways was caused by the rapidly increasing number of cars, and the
constant changes in their mechanical ability to attain high speeds.
The first city-to-city roads which were available to motorists were simply the
existing wagon roads of general rural use. And the going was tough! When Charles
Hartwell programmed his first “Horse and Auto Show” in 1903, an auto “race” was
scheduled. There were two entry classes. The large cars were routed out of Olympia to
Yelm and back via Tenino and Tumwater. The smaller cars were to make a round trip to
Nisqually and back by way of Lacey. Only a few cars finished, and it was remembered by
many farmers en route that hauling business was good for several days.
In a statement appearing in the November 9, 1939 issue of the Olympia News, only
about 10 years ago, it was pointed out that “The rapid increase in both traffic volume and
speed has changed road building standards… roads wide enough in 1919 are frequently
bottle-necks to- day. Sight distances safe enough for 45-mile-an-hour driving are
dangerous for cruising speeds of 60-miles-an-hour. Sharp curves must be straightened,
narrow bridges widened and thousands of grade crossings eliminated.”
But the demand for adequate highways by the growing thousands of car owners
was a tremendous pressure that resulted in legislation which provided that all gasoline tax
and car registration money received by the state be reserved for highway maintenance and
Despite great efforts by politicians and others seeking state funds for other
purposes, the motorists of Washington have continually held steadfast against diversion of
Even as late as November, 1949, the efforts of the state highways engineers to
provide the modern express highways between key cities were being thwarted by local
interests seeking advantages not now possible in present-day motor traffic control when
speeds of 60, 70 and even 80 miles are frequent practices by drivers, for which highways
must be provided.
TRUCK TRAFFIC COMES
The decade between 1910 and 1920 brought into common use the automobile. But
during that same 10-year period, there was born another industry that today is a substantial
source of employment and activity in this state. It grew tremendously during World War 1.
While, in 1915 and 1916, the army was trying to capture the Mexican revolutionist,
Villa, its long lines of supply into northern Mexico were being supplemented on an
experimental basis with White and Packard trucks. Of course, there were few roads worthy
of the name in the Mexican country and the army lost much time and considerable religion
trying to keep these trucks going. Had it not been for the tried-and-true Missouri mule, and
the escort wagon, our troops of the Mexican Punitive Expedition would have fared much
worse than they did. However, out of these trials and tribulations by the military came the
development of trucks that was to bring about a long period of expensive adjustment in
railroading. From the end of World War I until now, the growth of the use of truck
transportation has kept pace easily with the growth of passenger travel.
The result has been to provide this state with one of the most economical and
efficient networks of truck freight and bus passenger traffic in the country. This industry
adds substantially to the daily growth of our payrolls everywhere.
But out of World War I came another great payroll builder for Washington state. It
started, actually, in the woods of the Olympic peninsula and the spruce forests of
southwest Washington when the army demanded an enormous quantity of highest quality
spruce for the making of airplanes to be used against the Germans.
In those days, planes were made largely of wood and cloth. The gasoline-propelled
engines were pretty closely related to the best type
of automobile motor of that day. The propellers were carved out of perfect cedar logs.
For the most part, the manufacturing and assembly of the airplanes was done in the
east, but Washington men (including Boeing and Fleet among others), who were serving in
the aviation section of the Signal Corps of the Army, were eyeing the manufacturing
facilities of Puget Sound and Grays Harbor communities for post-war plane manufacture.
Major Reuben Fleet returned from World War I to his home town, Montesano.
From there, he tried for several years to interest local capital in establishing a plane
manufacturing plant that would have cedar right outside its door. But Fleet wearied, after a
while, of trying to raise the money necessary, and went back east. In New England, he was
more successful and out of his efforts grew the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation which
he later moved to San Diego and during World War II, it became the enormous
Consolidated-Vultee plant. Fleet became a millionaire, ten times over!
POSTAL HISTORY IN OLYMPIA WAS TIME MEASURED
One hundred years ago January 8, 1950, the first official post office was established
in the present Washington State when Michael T. Simmons, founder of Tumwater, set up
shop at Nisqually. Later, he moved the post office to Olympia, constructing a two-story
building which also housed the first U.S. collector of customs, and Simmons’ small store.
[Note: first PO named “Nesqually” was actually located at Olympia.] Soon, a second post
office was placed at Vancouver where Moses H. Kellogg was named postmaster.
On July 11, 1851, A. B. Rabbeson took over the first mail contract to deliver mail
between Olympia and Cowlitz Landing over a trail that could be traversed by horseback.
Also that year saw occasional steamboat mail service on Puget Sound.
In Seattle in 1852, A. A. Denny was appointed postmaster, and two years later,
Charles C. Terry set up an official post office at Alki Point. Down at Cowlitz Crossing, E.
D. Warbass sorted out mail. Simmons remained the postmaster at Olympia until May 26,
1853, when Andrew W. Moon was appointed. Then came William Rutledge who served
throughout the Indian war period.
It was not until 1859 that envelopes made their appearance in the mail in
Washington Territory, an improvement over the practice of folding the letter, sealing it
with gum or wax, which didn’t always stay stuck, and addressing the letter on the reverse
side. By 1860, envelopes were sold at 1 cent each by the post offices. But postage was
high. A 90 cent postage stamp was in circulation, and the usual postage was around 50
cents for mail going to the eastern homes of the pioneers.
Nicholas Crosby established the first post office at Tumwater in 1863 and a replica
of that post office is now displayed at the state capitol museum at Olympia where the old
cancelling dies and stamps are on exhibit as well as the desks and windowed partition that
was used in the Tumwater post office. In 1864, the Olympia post office was moved into a
hotel building and Charles Wood became postmaster.
The last stage coach mail, carried from Monticello to Olequa, was delivered to the
Northern Pacific train there and carried as far as Tenino and again transferred to a horse
drawn vehicle and brought to Olympia on June 30, 1872.
Mail was also distributed to Puget Sound points by steamer in those days; P. D.
Moore operated the SS. Favorite, and his son, A. S. Moore, became mail clerk, the first
postal clerk on Puget Sound. Later, young Moore’s brother, W. G Moore, held down the
job for eight years.
By that time, A. J. Burr was postmaster at Olympia and the post office was located
just west of the old Kneeland Hotel; [SW corner Fourth and Capitol] J. H. Munson was the
mail clerk and sorter.
In 1880, the post office was located where the Knights of Pythias Hall now stands
and then it moved again to a building on the site where the Old Capitol Building now
stands. During J. M. Gale’s term. Olympians got their mail at the old Columbia Hall. [Site
of State Theater, 2001]
Gale was succeeded by Val A. Milroy who became the first postmaster after
statehood in 1889; the post office was moved again to 4th Avenue near Washington. Still
later, it was for a time located in the west wing of the Old Capitol Building until the spring
of 1891 when it occupied quarters in the Reed Building which had just been opened. Here
appeared modern post office call boxes. This was at 6th [Legion Way] and Washington.
By this time, there was a growing demand for carrier delivery in Olympia and to
meet the Post Office Department’s requirements, the streets of Olympia had to be named
and marked, and houses numbered. Olympia Ordinance No. 559 came into effect for this
purpose. Post office gross revenue for 1891 had reached over $1 1,000 and the carriers
On December 22, 1891, Postmaster Milroy recommended for employment three
carriers and one substitute including Irving Young, Arthur Bedford, Carey Jones and Clark
Savidge. Letter mail boxes were put out in various parts of Olympia a month later.
Present building is veteran
Olympia continued to grow. History reveals that state government business created
more and more mail service demands, so that for a long time, the post office was moved
frequently. Along about 1910, a post office building appropriation was at last made for
Olympia, and construction of the present  post office building was started. In
January, 1915, the federal building was occupied and has served through two World Wars
and an ever-growing demand for postal service.
According to Postmaster J. F. Leverich, who was appointed September 13, 1940,
the Olympia post office now keeps an average of 75 civil service employees busy receiving
and delivering mail here.
There are 10 rural routes served out of Olympia, Rochester and Yelm; each have a
rural route in addition to box service within their boundaries.
Other Thurston County post offices are located at Bucoda, East Olympia, Gate,
Grand Mound, Lacey, Littlerock, Nisqually, Rainier, Rochester, Tenino, Tumwater and
HORSE CARS STARTED OLYMPIAN TRANSIT SERVICE
Olympia has had just about everything that any community in America has had in
the way of transportation. And so it has had “a” horse-drawn street car. In 1890, “the”
horse car started its service, operated by Marvin Savage, owner of the franchise. The car
was drawn by two horses, and John Bickle handled the reins until a runaway caused a
change of drivers and Elmer Dodge took over.
At noon and for supper, the driver would be relieved by the barn man, who also
became the driver on Sundays. The car ran from 8 a.m. on through the day. Horses were
changed every three hours.
In 1892, the franchise was sold to the Olympia Light and Power Company and the
first electric street cars came to serve Olympia. The line of service extended from Puget
Street west on State Avenue to Capitol Way, and south as far as Maple Park Avenue. By
1891, track was run to the drawbridge to the west side.
Superintendent Shock of the Olympia Light and Power Company was the first
operator to start the electric street car system on July 21, 1892, and the first passengers
were George D. Shannon, Robert Frost, George L. Sickles, Thomas Henderson Boyd, C. T.
Whitney, A. S. Gillis and L. B. Faulkner.
According to a news story of that day, “the car, as soon as the current was turned
on, moved like a thing of life, smoothly and without friction, and responded readily to the
will of the driver. People appeared on the street and at doors and windows all along the
route, and waved hats and handkerchiefs in greeting to this new and tangible evidence of
There were five cars, two of them of the open variety which lasted only until the
fall rains started when wetness caused the electricity to short among the passengers.
However, a seven-minute service was maintained and service extended to
Tumwater. Fares were a nickle.
OLYMPIAN WAS MARTYR OF INDIAN WARS
It was Colonel Isaac N. Ebey, later collector of customs for the Puget Sound
country, who persuaded Edmund Sylvester to change the name of the little community
known as Smithfield to that of Olympia. Colonel Ebey had come to the Puget Sound
country among those appearing on the scene late in 1849. After engaging in business in
Olympia until 1850, he had been sent to establish the customs port at Port Townsend, and
then moved his family to a new home on Whidby Island.
Serving in the Port Townsend company of volunteers during the Indian uprising,
and becoming a prominent official active in the affairs of the white Americans, Colonel
Ebey became the innocent victim of horrible revenge on the part of a band of Haidah
Indians from Canada; their chief had been killed in a raid by America Naval forces in the
Battle of Port Gamble.
The murder of Colonel Ebey occurred on the night of August 11, 1857, when the
Haidahs made a raid on Whidby Island seeking Doctor J. C. Kellogg as their intended
victim “because he had good clothes and a good zinc boat.” It was their intention to behead
the doctor to compensate the tribe for the loss of their chief at Gamble. Instead, they found
Colonel Ebey, killing him as he opened his door to them in friendliness. His head was
taken to Canada where the Haidah tribe headquartered.
It was not until January 20, 1860, that the Territorial Legislature adopted a vote of
thanks to Captain Charles Dodd of the Hudson’s Bay Company steamer Labouchere, who,
after two years’ effort, had recovered from these northern Indians the severed head of his
friend Ebey and brought it back to have it buried with the rest of his body. In doing this,
Captain Dodd had risked the lives of himself and his men.
SUPREME COURT FIRST TO GET NEW BUILDING
The magnificent Temple of Justice, now a prominent part of the group of state
capitol buildings, is a far cry from the first days of statehood when the Supreme Court had
to hold its first session in the old Tacoma Hall which was located at Fourth and Columbia
streets; the building also served as meeting place, dance hall and theatrical auditorium.
The State Constitution, adopted on October 1, 1889, provided for the election of
five supreme court justices; the first elected were John P. Hoyt, Thomas J. Anders, T. L.
Stiles, R. O. Dunbar and Emon Scott. By lot, the judges served various lengths of time,
Anders and Scott drawing three-year terms, Dunbar and Stiles five-year terms, and Judge
Hoyt a seven-year term.
The upper floor rooms of Talcott Brothers jewelry store became the chambers for
the State Supreme Court for a number of years until the state rented the three upper floors
of the old Kneeland Hotel which was demolished following the earthquake in April, 1949.
However, the Supreme Court was given better quarters in 1901 when the State
government purchased the huge Thurston County Court House. There the court remained
until 1920 when it moved into its present beautiful building, the first of the capitol group to
It was in the still incompleted Temple of Justice that Governor Ernest Lister was
inaugurated on January 15, 1913, when over 1500 people attended the ball which followed
the ceremonies. George A. Mottman, the mayor of Olympia, and Mrs. Lister led the 358
couples in the grand march.
By Winnifred Olsen and Lois Fenske
Priest Point Park, located about a mile north of downtown Olympia, has a colorful history. The forested area and beach were once the site of an Indian village. Then came the European and American explorers, fur trappers and American settlers in 1845 and 1846. In 1848 an Oblate Catholic mission, which lasted until 1860, was established on the site . Developers took over for many years with big dreams that finally fizzled by the turn of the century. In 1905, the City of Olympia resolved the real estate controversy and purchased 240 acres and a mile of waterfront for a public park. Local residents rallied to donate labor to clear pathways and build a park – a family park for all ages to enjoy.
Then, and now, no admission was charged to use the park – a rarity, indeed.
My family, the L. E. Castle family, have been life-time users of Priest Point Park. I cherish early childhood memories of going to the park, special memories of grade school days, as a teenager, a young parent, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.
In my youth we lived on the Eastside near the Washington School. On some summer evenings, but mostly on Sundays, we would drive to the park to play on the swings and slides, visit the zoo, the beach and, perhaps, roast a hot dog in one of the open cement stoves.
Dad would push my sister and me on the tall “big kids” swings. We could go much higher than on the swing hanging from the apple tree in our back yard. We also enjoyed the green painted wooden gliders that swung more sedately back and forth. We often had to stand in line to use the covered gliders – everyone wanted a ride – mothers even sought them to soothe their babies.
Are any left today? Yes – carefully hidden – painted brown.
We loved to visit the zoo, which was located on the south side of the park, at the foot of a slight decline. A row of wooden pens housed a variety of animals – changing from year to year. There were wolves, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, deer and several bigger animals. I believe one summer there was a live bear on exhibit.
The most memorable animals, of course, were the peacocks! No one can talk about Priest Point Park without first commenting on the many peacocks that roamed throughout the park. There were always Oh’s and Ah’s when one of them opened up its tail feathers to form a beautiful fan. There would be contests and “show-offs” who couldn’t resist trying to imitate the shrill “cry” of the peacocks. A most unique sound to mimic.
As youngsters we begged to go down to the beach to wade, to look for shells and unusual rocks – especially, flat, smooth, round rocks for dad to “skip” across the gentle waves. He also taught us about the tides.
Before we were the “Castle family,” my parents and their generation obviously enjoyed the park. Somewhere in my photo collection there is a snapshot of my dad on a horse in the park (1915). Standing nearby were his brothers and their spouses dressed in their Sunday-best suits and hats!
Dad loved the park. On his last outing, before his death, he rested on an army cot beside Kitchen 3 and using his former logging experiences identified the various species of old growth trees towering above him for all of us to enjoy.
The Swimming “Hole”
In my grade school days (1928-30) we had several class hikes to the park from Washington School –duly chaperoned. Not chaperoned, about 8th grade, were a couple of visits to the Priest Point Park “swimming hole.” A narrow dirt road wound off East Bay Drive to a pond created by a little creek. The water draining into the bay was dirty, dirty! There was no place to change clothes. Not brave enough to dress in the bushes or tall grass, we must have worn our swimsuits to the park. Anyway, the “hole” didn’t last long. By high school, we chose to go to the local lakes.
The Kiwanis Feed and other Big Group Picnics
My uncle, F. Ray Klumb, founder of the Capitol City Creamery, lived in the last brick house before the park entrance. Each summer he put on a big “clam feed” for his fellow Kiwanis members. One year, my sister, Dottie, and I got to help his son, Harold, haul huge tubs of steaming clams from their house to the park in an old Dodge touring car. We felt special to be a part of the event. The food was served on the big long tables set in permanent rows under the tall trees in the main part of the park. For years, many fraternal organizations, businesses, and families counted on these tables for their annual celebrations.
Hanging near these tables were the “notorious” rings. Men of all ages would challenge each other like “toreadors at a bullfight,” betting to see who could last the longest or go the farthest, hand over hand on the equipment.
Long gone, the rings and tables. The area is serene. Individual tables are scattered under the same trees making a more romantic setting.
After covered kitchens were built, smaller picnic groups have vied for the convenience of sinks, running water, and a roof for shelter from rain. Groups sent out a scout to hold down tables for their picnic. Happily, today, part of the anxiety about securing a favorite spot is relieved. Reservations at four of the kitchens can be made in advance.
Every summer my sister, Betty, would bring her two boys and two daughters to Olympia. With her two boys and my two, no corner of the park was unexplored. When the trail to Ellis Cove was completed and a small bridge built across the deep, gooey mud, we enjoyed this more primitive north park. The boys dared to scramble across the warning logs to climb the steep banks by hanging on the Madrona tree roots. Adults shuddered and turned their attention to the many wild native plants – and the many large slugs along the pathway. From a visiting naturalist, we learned that Northwest slugs are even bigger than those in North Carolina!
The boys to this day (in their fifties and sixties) share memories of sitting on the two Civil War canons facing toward the bay and wading in the saltwater for jelly fish and baby crab. They lamented they could not go swimming on the east side of the bay. Swimming, even then, was “not recommended,” or more to the point, “not allowed.”
Priest Point Park was historically noted for its two-story, green and white chalet facing west toward the water. The Swiss-styled building was the gift of Leopold Schmidt in 1905. The building had been part of the Olympia Brewing Company display at the 1903-04 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland.
The pavilion had a caretaker but was open only on special occasions and a few Sundays. I remember the “zoo” inside. There were large stuffed owls and other birds as well as large animal heads mounted on the walls. Most memorable, again, was a large black bear mounted on “all fours” – the same size and shape as “Pepper” our Olympia High School mascot. The building was demolished in the early 1950’s.
The Wading Pool
In 1990 I had the opportunity to share a babysitting job with my granddaughter visiting from Hawaii. We entertained the younger nephews in the park’s popular wading pool where the zoo cages used to be and where once there was a small ice cream store. Another granddaughter reminded me that I had frequently taken her to the pool thirty-five years ago.
A more recent glorious memory was made in 2005 when my two sons brought their families to the park to celebrate my birthday. With two sons, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren we had a joyous picnic near the colorful playground equipment. We all were impressed with the brightly painted riding and sliding equipment and grateful for the implanted mats to help toddlers land (or fall) safely on the ground.
The Rose Garden
One doesn’t dare overlook the Rose Garden on the east side of East Bay Drive. An attractive cement bridge now connects the two sections. For many years there was only a wooden footbridge.
Noted for its well-manicured flowerbeds and its handy-equipped kitchen, this section has long been in steady demand for small group parties. It is also highly praised and appreciated by visitors limited to wheelchairs and walkers.
Newer yet, are underused picnic spots hidden in the woods to the east. Private spots appear suddenly around every bend in the winding road and a surprise – another covered kitchen – and a gliding swing!
Who could ask for more? How fortunate we are to have such a beautiful, usable park within our city limits! A park that keeps serving generation after generation – with no admission charge. I truly believe Priest Point Park is a “hidden Jewel” of the Pacific Northwest. Taxes? Well spent! May this park – including the unforgettable memory of its peacocks – long survive!
About the Author
Winnie Olsen was born in Olympia in 1916, where she has lived her entire life. Her contribution to education and history and her service to the community are countless.