Pierce Prairie Post

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

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

Ground breaking has begun on the Elk Plain O’Reilly’s

ELK PLAIN, WA — The site has been the Elk Plain Cafe since the 1940’s and a gas station since about 1901. Earlier this year, the Elk Plain Cafe building was removed along with old manufactured homes and the tall trees.

This week, the excavation began for the new O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store on the corner of the Mountain Highway East and 22nd Avenue across from Elk Plain Elementary. Over the next two months, a new look for the center of Elk Plan will appear.

There is also excavation just north of the Mexican Restaurant in Graham. That is the new Graham O’Reilly’s.

If you are interested in the Elk Plain site history, check out this older story from the Pierce Prairie Post, Farewell Elk Plain Cafe.

Leave a comment

Graham Fire and Rescue welcomes new Chief Ryan Baskett

Graham Fire and Rescue held a badge pinning today to officially promote and welcome its new Fire Chief, Ryan Baskett. The 3:00 p.m. ceremony was held at the headquarters fire station on 70th Avenue. The entire Baskett family was there, some arriving from eastern Washington. Much of Baskett’s wife’s family (she’s a granddaughter of John Thun) was also present.

The event was a traditional process. Reggie Romines, the outgoing Chief, entered with his wife followed by a bag piper and the  new Chief Baskett and his wife Christy.

First, the Graham Fire Commissioners presented him with a plaque. Then, his father pinned on his new badge and his wife pinned on his other formal Chief lapel pins.

Chief Romines then presented the Department banner to Chief Baskett. They shook hands and saluted each other.

Baskett gave an official speech. As memorable as any part was his preface. He began with a wonderful off the cuff comment about the awe he felt as he started to think about how many people helped him to get where he is today. He said, “It’s pretty amazing.” He thanked his father for giving him his work ethic, his four older siblings for setting examples and teaching him never to be late for dinner and his fellow firefighters for teaching him hard work, honor and courage.

Congratulations Chief Baskett!

Leave a comment

McMillin Bridge headed for Pierce County Register of Historic Places

PIERCE COUNTY, WA — The state-owned McMillin Bridge, a historically significant structure spanning the Puyallup River near Orting, may not be long for this world if the state proceeds to tear it down. But Pierce County wants to make sure the bridge’s future remains the subject of continued discussion.

The County Council voted 6-0 on June 18 to have the McMillin Bridge put on the Pierce County Register of Historic Places. This registry identifies buildings, structures, places and districts of historic or architectural significance that deserve preservation and protection.

The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Properties in 1982. By adding the bridge to the Pierce County Register of Historic Places, advocates hope to save what is viewed as an engineering feat of its time.

“It’s just another step in trying to preserve one of Pierce County’s historical landmarks,” said Councilmember Stan Flemming (District 7), sponsor of Ordinance 2013-18. “It’s the only known bridge of its type in the world.”

The bridge was designed by Homer M. Hadley of the Portland Cement Association in the early 1930s. Hadley is arguably one of the most innovative bridge designers of the 20th century, with numerous other landmark bridges in the region featuring his work, including the concrete pontoons on the SR 520 bridge over Lake Washington. When completed in September 1935, the McMillin Bridge stood as the longest concrete truss or beam span in the United States, measuring 170 feet, and was considered an engineering marvel.

However, the bridge’s placement on another historic register does not ensure the structure’s future. The Washing State Department of Transportation, which owns the bridge, is considering demolishing it. The state says the McMillin is too narrow for traffic on State Route 162, rating it “functionally obsolete.” The state wants to tear down the old span a replace it with a new one nearby.

Advocates agree a new bridge is needed, but they want to see the McMillin preserved in some capacity.

“The merit of being placed on the historic register may not ultimately save the bridge, but it is acknowledging that it’s worth the distinction,” said Councilmember Dan Roach, who represents District 1 where the McMillin Bridge is located.

The bridge is named for the nearby unincorporated area of McMillin.


1 Comment

Kapowsin, Electron and Clay City – the former boom towns of South Pierce County

By Marianne Lincoln

Last night, I attended the all classes reunion for Kapowsin High School.  There were 81 in attendance although several children and spouses were included in that number.  Laura Jobe brought out all the class annuals, from 1914 to 1951. They were donated to the Alumni by Ann Johnson, a member of the first graduating class of KHS and a teacher there for 14 years.DSC_1386

I attended with the express purpose of asking the class members to help with a historical information project, particularly concerning the transition of Kapowsin to Bethel. For instance, the first graduating class from the Bethel School District actually attended high school in the Kapowsin building as the Bethel High School building was not yet constructed. That is the explanation for the front page from the annual we published that has both Kapowsin and Bethel in the title.DSC_1385

At the end of the evening, Tessie Ogino, directed by Laura Jobe, handed me a bag full of Kapowsin High School artifacts. At the age of 86, she simply doesn’t need all the extra stuff around anymore. Understandable, but now I have the complicated task of finding the right home for this. The only museum in the Bethel School District is in Spanaway. Other artifacts from the formation of the Bethel District have been donated there as well. The Roy Library has a closet for archives, but there are no other museums in the district.

For now, these will go to the Prairie House Museum in Spanaway. There has been talk in Graham about a historical museum, but it is still just talk. I hope they are able to create a museum, there is more than just the history of Kapowsin that is of interest. The Electron Dam, still operating near Kapowsin, was completed in 1904. It has a rich history of construction and incidents over the years. Also the construction of the lumber railroad caused the discovery of a rich vein of clay material. That started a booming brick industry in the region between Kapowsin and Ohop Lakes called Clay City. It is another marvel of South Pierce County’s business boom and bust. Someday I hope they have an approprite place to tell their stories.

KHS grads, you are the richest resources in the area. We wish you all well and thank you to so many of you for being willing to sign up to share your history.


Memorial Day at Bethany Cemetery

Here are a few photo memories of the memorial Day tribute at the pioneer Bethany cemetery.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 488 other followers