Pierce Prairie Post

Midland, Parkland, Summit, Spanaway, Frederickson, Elk Plain, Lacamas, Roy, McKenna

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Tales from Sahagalie Palielah: The Pre-pioneer History of University Place

[Editor note: The Pierce Prairie Post is including this event because Steve Anderson is an expert on the local history of the Hudson’s Bay Company who had Fort Nisqually and the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) in our Pierce County area. Some of those PSAC farms were Spanueh (Spanaway), Sastuc (McChord Field), Mullock House (Elk Plain) and several along Muck Creek between Graham and Roy.]SteveAnderson

University Place Historical Society — The next meeting of the University Place Historical Society will be on the first Wednesday in August, August 7th, at 7 pm. There will be a short business meeting followed by a presentation of local history by Steve Anderson, a 1973 Curtis High graduate.

Steve is the son of our esteemed members Ed and Lorraine Anderson. Steve is currently the Executive Director of the Carteret County Historical Museum in Moorhead, North Carolina. His talk is entitled Tales from Sahagalie Palielah: The Pre-pioneer History of University Place. A preview: “Blue bunch grass, now rarely seen in University Place, once covered the land – and burned every summer. The smoke from this and other fires in the open grasslands of early 19th century Pierce County clouded southern Puget Sound. Furthermore, the smoke was entered into early descriptions of the weather and landscape by some of our county’s first settlers.”

The presenter will address how a Native Hawaiian from that archipelago’s big island, a foul-mouthed English shipwright, and a Coast Salish Indian named Steilacoom constituted University Place’s first permanent residents.

The meeting will be held in Suite D-2, the room adjoining the UP Museum, Windmill Village Bldg D, suite D-3. This room can be entered either through the Museum or through the doors which open onto the Windmill Village Drexler St. Parking Lot. August meeting: August 7, 2013 at 7:00pm.


Part 1: George Bush, first black man in Washington Territory

By Chuck Haviland


The first free black man in the Washington Territory, was George Bush.  He had  lived in Missouri for a couple of years before coming out west, on the Oregon trail in 1843.  Four white families joined in the westward journey: Michael and Elizabeth Simmons, James and Martha McAllister, David and Talitha Kindred  and Gabriel and Keziah Jones. Many of these people were related to one another. Simmons sister Martha  was married to James McAllister and Simmons wife Elizabeth was David Kindred’s sister. Michael Troutman Simmons was a longtime friend of George Bush.  Upon arriving in the Oregon Territory, George was forced to live north of the Columbia River, near Vancouver, since the existing white men had already banned black people from the Willamette Valley. He settled on Puget Sound near what is now called Olympia.   The area became known as Bush Prairie. His full name was George Washington Bush  (no relation to our current or past presidents).

As a young man he served in the US Army and may have participated in the battle of New Orleans during the war of 1812. He married Isabell James on 4 July 1831. She was a Tennessee Baptist of German –  American extraction.  All that is known of her childhood was that she was born between 1804 – 1809.   She had outstanding courage for her time to marry a black man in the Southern United States.  Her marital choice may have been because she saw what no one else saw, a striking (nearly 6 foot) tall man who had already lived a lifetime of adventure and exploration of the unknown.  George must have set quite an impression on Isabell for her to take such a leap.  George was broad shouldered and weighed 180 pounds.  He had dark eyes and a roman nose, with a heavy beard.  He maintained a dashing air about himself and must have been very attractive to a young lady.  George was about 40 when he met Isabell. She was a trained as a nurse although she had yet to practice her profession.  Soon they were married and moving to Missouri.  Once there, George honed his farming practices and became quite successful. While living in Missouri they had ten sons of which only five made it to maturity.  Without today’s medicines life was very short for many people, even if they made it to maturity, death still took its toll.

Missouri was a quasi-free state.  At that time only four states allowed black citizens to vote.  “Free blacks” were only quasi – free.  They had limited voting privileges and most state’s forbade marriages between the races.   Their oldest son Owen was not even permitted to attend school.  As time progressed it became gradually clear to George that he would never gain the respect and consideration of his neighboring white men. The Bush family started the journey, loaded down with seeds, farm implements, various fruit trees (some even in buckets). They also brought porcelain platters and the finer things of a woman’s life.  Of all the books that they brought, the Bible and the traditional dictionary meant the most to them.  At this time their family consisted of the following children:

1)      William Owen Bush 1832 – 1907

2)      Joseph Talbot Bush 1834 – 1904

3)      Rial Bailey Bush 1837 –   ?

4)      Henry Sanford Bush 1841 – 1913

5)      Jackson January Bush 1843 – 1888

6)      Henry Sanford Bush 1841 – 1913

7)      Jackson January Bush 1843 – 1888

To be continued…

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County Executive signs historic McMillan bridge status

In the Tuesday, July 23 meeting of the Pierce County Council, the council received notice that Pat McCarthy, Pierce County Executive had signed ordinance 2013-18, placing the McMillian Bridge on the Register of Historic Places.

Today in response, the Washington State Department of Transportation recognized that status by taking the demolition of the bridge off their project plans for a new bridge across the carbon River on SR162. The McMillan bridge was a one of a kind structure designed by engineer Homer M. Hadley.

The demolition has been stopped, but that does not necessarily mean the bridge will remain in place. The Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Puyallup Tribe have supported removal of the structure. The new bridge is already funded and slated to have construction begin next Spring.

More detail in the story by the News Tribune, Historic McMillin Bridge outside of Orting may be saved.



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Chip sealing warning, mannequins and horses

By Marianne Lincoln

Cruising around Spanaway on this lovely summer day of July, I saw many things happening in the area.DSC_3260

The Washington Ladies Riding Club Association (WLRCA) State Meet Competition was this weekend at the Tacoma Horseman’s Unit in Spanaway. They presented their awards for the weekend riding and horsemanship competition in the outdoor arena. With Mount Rainier in the background, it made for some lovely photos. The Tacoma Lariettes were looking lovely and the horses were so patient waiting for the final presentations to begin. As I walked by, each stuck his/her nose out to be petted. Horses do crave affection. The Rein’n Rowdies had Susie their mascot mannequin brought in on the bucket of a John Deere.DSC_3277

Speaking of mannequins, there is a headless mannequin on the Mountain Highway in military camo beckoning people to check out the new military surplus store, Paracord near the WalMart.DSC_3286

On 176th Street, there is significant progress on the tree removal for the new, wider roadway. There appears to have been a few homes removed close to the hill between  11th and 13th Avenues also. Be aware travel will be getting difficult as roads are being striped, chip sealed, widened and dug up for sewer repair in the area.DSC_3190

Chip sealing notices for Monday July 22 are on 192nd Street between B Street and 38th Avenue. Another chip sealing sign is on 168th Street between Pacific Avenue and 22nd Ave, this one says Monday/Tuesday.

Hope you have a great week and manage to get where you need to go without too many construction holdups. The weather is beautiful and the road projects are underway.DSC_3291

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Lovely weather for the Spanaway Historical Society picnic

The Spanaway Historical Society held their annual picnic and meeting on Sunday July 21 at the Prairie House Museum grounds. They re-elected their officers for the year. (correction) Shirley Mathis is the new President, Marilyn Goddard is vice president, Kathleen Creso is secretary and Chuck Overaa is treasurer.. It was a lovely, temperate, sunny summer day. It was delightful weather for a picnic.

Highlights include delicious dishes brought by the attendees, the exhibits of the museum and a June 27, 1946 copy of the Prairie Pointer, and old newspaper from the area. This Prairie Pointer was a pictorial edition with photos of many local businesses from Johnson’s corner, 98th and Pacific, Garfield Street, Steele Street and Sales Road and Midland. Jean Sensel spoke about the book she is working on about Spanaway history.

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Spanaway Historical Society Picnic Sunday, July 21

Sunday noon, July 21 is the annual Spanaway Historical Society Potluck Picnic and Annual Meeting. At the Prairie House Museum on 176th Street, next to Fir Lane Memorial Park, many of the oldest citizens of Spanaway will gather with their families to celebrate the historic founding and early days of Spanaway.

2012 - Old Time Fiddlers

2012 – Old Time Fiddlers

The event is a potluck, so participants bring a favorite dish from jello and baked beans to cakes, cookies and pies. The historical Society cooks up the hamburgers and hot dogs and provides lemonade and coffee. There is usually entertainment from the Old Time Fiddlers. Members renew their annual memberships and at the end of the event, they hold their annual meeting.

2012 - Chuck and Sue Overra and Shirley Zlock

2012 – Chuck and Sue Overra and Shirley Zlock

During the event, the Prairie House Museum and surrounding buildings are open to view the displays and memorabilia. There will also be a silent auction, contributions will be accepted. Cost of an annual membership is $8 for an individual.

If you have any questions about the event, you may contact Kathy Creso at 253-537-7565. For more history of the Spanaway area, read this story from the Pierce Prairie Post.


Getting your historical bearings – Parkland, Spanaway to Roy

From the time Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific Ocean, until 1846, the United States and Great Brittain competed for the Pacific Northwest. The area north of the Columbia River was particularly controversial. With considerably more American settlers around Oregon City and a Hudson’s Bay outpost at Vancouver, it was thought highly likely the area north of the Columbia would go to the British.

Settlers from both countries were being urged to move into the area. The Hudson’s Bay Company, through Fort Nisqually, made promises to potential settlers from the Red River area in Canada to encourage their emigration to the Puget Sound region.

In 1846, the two counties finally settled with a border at the 49th parallel, except for some controversy over the San Juan Islands. In 1848, the Oregon Territory was formed. North of the Columbia the Puget Sound Region was called Lewis County, Oregon Territory (OT).

Descendants of Charles Wren - the Dougherty family visit his grave and old homestead on Fort Lewis Area 13.

Descendants of Charles Wren – the Dougherty family visit his grave and old homestead on Fort Lewis Area 13.

Fort Nisqually spent a great deal of effort trying to defend its boundaries from American settlers. Their expansion from the fur trade into agriculture saw them develop many farm sites around south Pierce County. From Patterson Springs in Graham to the East Gate of Joint Base Lewis McChord there was William Benston, John McLeod, John McPhail, Henry Smith, Henry Murray, L.A. “Sandy” Smith, Peter Wilson and Charles Wren. At Spanueh, now Spanaway, there was John Montgomery and between the Fir Lane Cemetery and Crescent Park, there was another farm built by a fellow named Greig. In Elk Plain, there was a place known as Mullock house. On the McChord field side of the present day Shibig farmhouse was a farm known as Sastuc. Other farms were around American Lake and areas of Fort Lewis near the Nisqually River and near the impact zone where the younger Charles Ross had his farm on Nisqually Lake.

The HBC strongly defended their holdings in this area from 1846, stating they were a business, not a country and asked $2 million for the land. Pierce County and the Oregon then Washington Territories argued with them in court until 1867, when they finally reached a settlement. In 1869, the Hudson’s Bay Company was paid $750,000 for the land. The settlers that had stayed those 23 years, were able to be granted their rights to a donation land claim. You will see those on maps to this day.

On those farms, they raised cattle, sheep, horses and pigs along with various grains like oats and barley. It has been noted that the seed, brought up from Oregon City, also contained acorns and started the Garry Oak trees that are only found in Pierce County. The sheep were sheared and the wool was sent to back to England until the Pendleton Woolen Mill was started in 1863.

New settlers were often supplied by the Hudson’s Bay Company although there was competition encouraging American settlers to buy from the American stores in Steilacoom instead.

Complicating the controversy between the Americans and British was the British relationship with the indigenous tribes. Many of the local Indians were hired by the British to work on their farms. On Sundays, the indigenous people were encouraged to attend the Catholic church services at Fort Nisqually. Many of the HBC employees took native wives, leaving south Pierce County as a common place for families of mixed heritage to reside. For the women, it was a step up in their social standing to have a white husband.

The American settlers did not have such a relationship with the indigenous people. These settlers arrived by boat or up the Columbia River from Oregon to Cowlitz Portage, present day Toledo, Washington. In October of 1853, the first settlers travelled over the Naches Trail, a new, northern branch of the Oregon Trail through the Cascade Mountains from Yakima to Greenwater. The end of the trail is marked by a monument at Brookdale Golf Course in Parkland.

The area north of the Columbia River had to become a territory of its own when Oregon sought statehood. In 1853, Washington Territory was formed and President Millard Fillmore sent Issac Stevens as Territorial Governor and Indian Agent. In order to enhance the settlement of the area, the United States wanted to insure the native residents would not cause havoc with the new residents. Issac Stevens was ordained to arrange treaties with each of the tribes to secure the regions livability.

The first of those treaties was with the Nisqually, Puyallup and Squaxin tribes. Along the shores of Medicine Creek in the Nisqually Valley (where Interstate 5 now climbs toward Lacey), the natives camped in December of 1854 while the treaty was discussed. Although signed on December 25 and 26, there was controversy over whether the Nisqually representatives Leschi and his brother Quiemuth actually signed those X’s. Within a few months, there was an uprising known as the “Indian War” in Pierce County. From the Fall of 1855 to the summer of 1856, the “Indian War” went on. Native people who did not want to be involved in the hostilities were sent to Fox Island. Any native people still on the mainland were referred to as “hostiles.” Governor Stevens hired a volunteer militia to seek out and kill the “hostiles” on sight. Leshi was the main target of the Governor’s wrath.

During that period, several outposts known as block houses were built to help the local settles defend themselves from the Indians. Along the White and Puyallup Rivers, several families had been killed.

Near Clover Creek, the blockhouse was called Camp Montgomery. Military road west of 36th Avenue has a stone monument in honor of that site.

Spanueh, a Lushootseed word for “dug roots,” had a barn somewhere between where the Little Park Café and the Columbia Bank stand now. John Montgomery ran that station. His home and donation land claim ran from Clover Creek Elementary to the area known as Stoney Lake. At 176th Street, there was a road from Spanueh Station which ran south of Spanaway Lake and north of the Spanaway Marsh. The road still ran there until the late 1960’s, when it was closed and became only a driveway to the remaining houses that were not sold to the military base expansion. Just past the old 176th Street crossing over Coffee Creek, the road forked south to Muck Station, which was located near the Joint Base Lewis McChord East Gate on SR507 and north to Sastuc which was on McChord Field. The road that was planned for the present day Cross Base Highway has been the historic main road to and from Spanaway. In fact, there is an old Hudson’s Bay map from the 1840’s that shows the military road ran from Montgomery’s place to the Spanueh Station and crossed south of the lake as well. There is a long and well-worn trail still running over that hill through the blackberries and into the woods. At one time, there was a grade school called Whittier at the top of the hill on the south side of the road. A mile farther up the road was a small town known as Hillhurst.

Among the oldest schools in Pierce County are Spanaway, Whittier, Clover Creek and Muck. They were all started in 1855. As you travel back and forth in your daily routine, you still may see small symbols left over from this older era. Other signs have gone forever save for the records of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest room of the Tacoma Library.

Currently, Jean Sensel, a Spanaway resident and former owner of the historic Exchange Tavern, is working to write a more comprehensive and condensed history of Spanaway. If you have access to any old photographs through your family roots, scanned digital copies might be greatly appreciated.

Marianne Lincoln, editor of the Pierce Prairie Post, is also historian for the Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees Association. Through the connections of these descendants, they are putting together the combined knowledge and stories to help build a better picture of the early days of settlers to the area. Through letters of the HBC themselves, former Fort Nisqually Museum director Steve Anderson has compiled two Indian Accounts books which show some history of local tribal families and place names as well.

Who we are matters. You can read a former Post story, There’s a reason for love the Braves, which talks about the influence of mixed native families on the history of South Pierce County.


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