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Farewell Elk Plain Café

Farewell Elk Plain Café
By Marianne Lincoln
It was 1901, Lillian and Thorne Tibbitts built a business on the new Mountain Highway south of Spanaway. Inside the enterprise, Lillian sold gasoline, groceries and auto accessories to neighbors and people passing by on their way to the mountain. The gas was Red Crown, a division of Standard Oil.
The station was a rectangular building, cream-colored with red trim. There was a large awning out front held up by four posts. Between the posts were two gas pumps. One, a tall pump with the calibrated glass cylinder on top and the other, a shorter metal pump with meter readings.
On the front of the posts holding up the awning were colorful V-shaped flags for catching the customer’s eye as they drove down the highway. On top of the building, a large Red Crown Gasoline sign could be seen from far down the road. Above it a sign suggesting people stop for lunch. Across the front of the awning it read GROCERIES AUTO ACCESSORIES.
Around the building outside were several small furnished cottages. They were part of Tibbitt’s Tourist Camp. Next to them there was a sign touting they were approved by the AAA. This was Thorne’s part of the business. According to Barbara Dorfner Ford, the cabins were tiny, but during the depression, entire families lived in them.
Great granddaughter Anne Tibbitts Reitzug showed off an old business card for Tibbitts Tourist Camp, 4 miles south of the Spanaway Post Office. “14 MILES SO. OF TACOMA ON MOUNTAIN HIGHWAY.“ The phone number was MAD 162 R 3. The card advertised completely furnished cottages, showers and a community kitchen. STOP AND LUNCH was in large letters.
Lillian and Thorne had two children, John and Thornwell. They ran the business until the mid 1930’s.
In a recent discussion with Reatha Leber, she revealed she used to go there quite often in her childhood. Reatha and her sisters used to call Johnny’s parents Grandpa and Grandma even though she wasn’t related to them directly as her aunt Bernice was married to John Tibbitts. She reminisced with a smile, “I liked to go there. I would get pop, candy and snacks.”
I asked what she paid for them, she responded, “Oh, I think they just gave them to me.”
“All the better,” I responded. It’s nice to have family with a grocery store.
Reatha also mentioned Lillian had help running the store. “Johnny’s aunts and mother ran it,” she said.
Records are scarce from the late 30’s and 40’s, during that time the Tibbitts sold it and according to a News Tribune article from 1996, the gas station was remodeled into the Elk Plain Café in 1946.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Sylvia Hicks McVey and Lydia (Hicks) McCauley leased it. Their other sister, Pat (Hicks) Justice also worked there, according to Cindy McVey Willett, Sylvia’s granddaughter. Cindy and her husband Rick have been commenting on café photos posted on Facebook this month. At first they thought Cindy’s great grandparents Perl and Edna Hicks had bought it. Another relative told them that wasn’t the case. This is the difficult part of remembering the past, getting the accurate story.
“We bought Cindy’s family home about three years ago and while going thru her father’s stuff we found some receipts from the Elk Plain Café,” noted Rick fondly.
Other people who operated the Elk Plain Café included, 1980-1984 Faith & Harvey Keller, 1985-1988 Janet Anspach, 1988-1995 Patricia Predmore, and 1996-2000 Randy Corner.
Joseph Nichols noted his grandmother Charlene Adams was a waitress there from 1980 – 1989 and dated one of the cooks named Walter.
Randy Corner shared several photos and stories of the Café in the late 1990’s, when it seemed to function as much as a community center and a restaurant. Randy noted. “People came to eat and stayed.” People would meet and have food drives for the holidays, go on sturgeon fishing trips and have hay rides around Christmas time.
Randy had a special place in the southwest corner of the restaurant where he would sit and run the business. He had been injured in his previous job as an operating engineer and was on crutches for a couple years. He also ran a Pizza Station in Elbe and a pizza place at the nearby shopping mall that he eventually incorporated into the Elk Plain Café.
One of his patrons, Bill Brown, liked to show up at 4 a.m. Randy gave him a set of keys. He would open up the Café and start a pot of coffee. Breakfast started when Randy arrived at 6 a.m.
Randy said there was a large number of regulars every day for breakfast. One of the regulars, who was very particular about his seat location and breakfast selections, was dubbed “Old Goat.” One day the regulars presented him with a plaque at his place that said “Old Goats Table.” Everyone was sad when he passed away.
And who could forget the screen door as you entered and left the café, “Thawack!” it would announced behind you.
Randy liked to fly. His list of customers included Slim Lawson who operated Spanaway Airport and the local flying school, Spanaflight and Tim Brill. Tim is an FAA Master Certificated Flight Instructor –Aerobatic and the 2013 Western-Pacific Region CFI of the Year.
Breakfast at the Elk Plain Café according to Randy was, “Homestyle.” He made eggs benedict, eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage and pancakes that were as big as the plate at 12 inches across. For the kids he would prepare Mickey Mouse pancakes. He had a farmer’s breakfast that he said, “Had everything including the kitchen sink.”
Randy said Leo Ceccanti was the owner of the café when he operated it. I spoke with Leo around 2006 and asked about reopening the enterprise as a bakery. He said the building was, “Too far gone.” Leo passed away a couple years ago and left it to his family who formed the Elk Plain Café LLC.
The property was sold at the end of 2012 to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and they will be tearing the building down as soon as the permits come through. The residents in the mobile homes have moved out and those will likely be gone in a few days.
I contacted O’Reilly’s Real Estate Department in Springfield, Missouri this past week and asked about the plans for the café site. Patrick Tasset was happy to send over the architectural elevation and landscape plan for us to see. The new building will be masonry and brick with a significant amount of landscaping, including some trees. The current fir trees will be removed. Esterly Schneider Architects of Springfield, Missouri are the designers of the building. Construction will likely begin in March. The best news was that he was affable and interested in the feedback from our community. The location is certainly a prominent one with the triangular street corner and the design is nice looking with its red brick accents. Of course, I suggested there should be some trees capable of holding Christmas lights. Every community needs a happy spot to light up in the dark of winter.
O’Reilly’s has also purchased a lot on Meridian in Graham next door to the Mexican Restaurant and will be building a store there as well. Patrick noted that building does not have as many street fronts and will not be quite as elaborate as the one in Elk Plain. It is expected to begin construction in early April.
Many people have expressed sentiment regarding the landmark that the bright red, now faded, Elk Plain Café has become in the community. I contacted Jean Sensel who was the Spanaway representative on the Landmarks Commission and County Councilman Tim Farrell who is an avid local historian. Neither thought the building was salvageable due to its deteriorated condition and county health regulations. Indeed, Kevin Greely took me inside. With a flashlight and the flash turned on, I managed to get a few photos of the molded wallboard, dusty bench seats and torn up floors.
Local businessmen at the 723 Networking meeting were quick to notify me in December when Rick Ceccanti took down the Café signs. I contacted Rick and he acknowledged also salvaging the old interior door with the etched glass that said Elk Plain Café. He has plans to donate them to a local museum.
In preparation of the demolition, I posted some photos of the Elk Plain Café on Facebook. Many people reached out to comment on their memories and experiences.
Michael Zubitis, “A Dios, Elk Plain Cafe! Sorry I didn’t eat there more often…Just didn’t have a lot of $$$$ when I was a kid!“
Terry McLaughlin, “I had lots of meals there, certainly a great breakfast place to go with friends! Great memories!”
Richard Olson, “Wow, I used to buy cigarettes there as a kid. Before I was legal.”
Robin Heick- Bish, “Hey, I bought cigs there too (when I used to smoke), since the machine didn’t ask for id.”
Calvin James, “My bedroom was up stairs in 1969.”
Samantha White Kilcup, “Best french fries in the world.”
Rick Gardner, “I used to like walking over there for their fried chicken dinner.”
Annette Sullivan, “My in-laws met there. I have this place to thank for my Wayne Miller! Gerry was working and Ralph stopped by for a bit to eat…”
Cindy McVey Willett, “I remember going there and we always got a bottle of pop.”
Steven Slater, “ Firemen used to walk over there to eat when the Elk Plain station was open. There was a story of Sasquach scratching up the siding one year.”
Robert Meier, “Every time I pass it I remember riding bikes there on Saturday mornings with my dad for breakfast, all the way from Spanaway Park.”
Robert Etteldorf, “They served some great breakfast and lunches out of that old building.”
Susan Rankin, “Had many breakfast and dinners eaten there and the Griebe’s lived out back. Learned CPR at the fire station also located out back when I attended grade school at Elk Plain… So sad to see it looking like that.”
Joseph Nichols, “My Grandma was a waitress there when I was kid.”
Jeanette DeBella Bogue, “Man, they had awesome food!”
Robin Barnes of the Spanaway Historical Society added, “They made the best grits and gravy according to the old-timers. There was a big scandal when they raised the price of coffee.”

Farewell Elk Plain Café, you have been an icon in the Elk Plain / Loveland community with your bright red paint, great homestyle meals and circle of great friends. We wish you and the community great success as you return to your original purpose, auto accessories. But we won’t mind if you put a pop or candy machine out front, for the good old days.

For other stories about the history of Elk Plain/Loveland try these links.



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Help the POST deliver your local news and get a tax deduction

Dear Pierce Prairie Post Reader,


Before you count down the final seconds of 2012, you should know that we are counting on you. When you read an article, it helps our statistics and helps us to convince advertisers to invest in our publication. Since we are also non-profit, if you like having a local news source,  you can help us with a tax deductible donation.


The stage is being set in some of our communities for a large spurt of growth. Parkland, Spanaway, Elk plain and Frederickson sit in an underutilized portion of the Urban Growth Area. The instant the economy starts revving up again, there are building plans that will knock your socks off. You need the POST to help you understand when and where this is going to happen.


Please act now and support the work of the Pierce Prairie Post in your community. Make your tax-deductible gift before midnight on December 31st to include it on this year’s tax return.


The Pierce Prairie Post is your link to true local news and some local history too. With information, you can be a step ahead of others in your neighborhood; our readers knew about the road closure on 22nd Avenue at 183rd and could go around that site because they knew it would last 2 weeks. Our readers will also know when the intersection at 176th and 22nd Ave will close for a weekend in Spring of 2013.


Together, we have tremendous strength to make our communities better.


Please donate now.


With thanks,


The Pierce Prairie Post
PO Box 1071, Spanaway, WA 98387


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It’s Elk Plain, not Bethel Station

By Marianne Lincoln, lifelong Elk Plain resident


Bethel Station is a shopping center, not a community. Spanaway Plaza, Pacific Commons and the new Mountain Plaza are also shopping centers in Spanaway, but no one is trying to name communities after them. The name Bethel Station was picked up by the Post Office in Washington D.C. when the second branch of the Spanaway Post Office was built in the mid-1990’s. They stuck the name Bethel Station on it because of the nearby shopping center. I spoke with the Spanaway Postmaster at the time and even he was surprised they had not chosen the community name.

John B. Chapman drew this map in 1852 for the HBC land purchase completed in 1869. All this was owned by the British Company up until then.

John B. Chapman drew this map in 1852 for the HBC land purchase completed in 1869. All this was owned by the British Company up until then.

The original name of the community is Elk Plain. In 1907, the railroad put in a whistle stop at the site where RFP Lumber now stands and named it Loveland. Therefore, the community has had a battle of names for some time. All the new settlers saw the community as Loveland until Chester Thompson, the grange historian, did a little digging as to why the school was called Elk Plain. He discovered the Hudson Bay Company map and the story the local natives told of the great herds of elk that roamed the prairie they called Elk Plain.

Today I was reading an article online in the News Tribune and there was a banner ad for Timberland Bank at the top. On it was touted the local branch locations, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Edgewood, Puyallup/South Hill, Spanaway/Bethel Station. Which one is not a real community name? You guessed it, Bethel Station.

When did Elk Plain become “Bethel Station?” If you said, it has not, you are correct.

Note to Timberland Bank, your branch is located in Elk Plain. To you and future businesses, welcome to Elk Plain; where residents like our name and would like you to appreciate us for it. The Dispatch newspaper also received a call from me a couple years ago about their list of community names. Many of us actually went to school here before the Bethel Station Shopping Center was built. We like our shopping center and we like the fact that we have a bank here, and we like our name.

Ruth Bethel, for whom this district is named, got her start as the principal of Roy High School. There, she faced incredible challenges when that school burned down, but classes still needed to be held, wherever there was space. She pushed for consolidation of the local districts here and got credit for her many years of effort by having the high school and the district named after her. Since the Bethel District is far bigger than just Elk Plain, the community name should continue to be the traditional, historic name as mapped by the cartographer John B. Chapman in 1852 (photo).

For those who actually like renaming places, there’s a mountain up the street named after a British naval officer who never set foot in this part of the world and fought for the British in the Revolutionary War. There’s a Facebook site, Restore Native Names to Sacred Places looking for a better name for that mountain.


Following Indian Henry

Roger Lincoln inspecting the remains of inscriptions

An obscure green fence at 84th Street and Thompson Avenue in Tacoma is indented away from the sidewalk. There, two rocks lay resting, one with markings that have been worn away by years of weather. Across Thompson is a larger rock, almost 6 feet tall, newer with an inscription still visible. These monuments denote the location of the Indian Henry Trail.

Newer monument at the Tacoma end of the Indian Henry Trail

Newer monument at the Tacoma end of the Indian Henry Trail

Indian Henry, himself, now rests in a small Shaker Cemetery on Mashel Prairie Road near Eatonville, where he and his three wives farmed. His monument and fellow spirits had their resting place updated by a local Eagle Scout in 2005.  He lived until 1895, no one is certain of when he was born.

Shaker Cemetery with Indian Henry's grave on Mashel Prairie

Shaker Cemetery with Indian Henry’s grave on Mashel Prairie

Since Indian Henry spent his summers on the slopes of Mt. Rainier, he knew the mountain well.  It is reported that he guided James Longmire to the mountain in 1883 when Longmire climbed to the summit.  This link is a short story and photo of Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground on Mt. Rainier. It is a beautiful, flower filled meadow in the late summer, a hike away from Camp Longmire.

Starting in South Tacoma at 84th And Thompson there is a trail, known as the Indian Henry Trail. It runs from there to Spanaway Lake, past Spanaway Marsh, through the Lacamas Valley to Harts Lake and finally, to the Nisqually River. I have been seeking out portions of that trail. Much is on military land now. Portions of the trail are still roadways through the prairie and trees.

Former stage coach stop and general store

Former stage coach stop and general store

In the Lacamas Valley, the trail runs through the Lacamas Valley Ranch, a historic farm with a tale of its own related to a lynching over a century ago. There was a stage coach route that followed that part of the trail. The stage stopped at what is now the home of Rex and Virginia Stead on 40th Avenue South. In May, they shared the story of the parts of their home which was a hotel and general store in the 1800’s.

WP_007624 WP_007633The trail continues down the Allen Road and winding downhill to Harts Lake through the Wilcox Farm. Jim Wilcox was kind enough to take me through several locations where parts of the old road are still visible winding through their farm this past week. He also is cataloging an amazing collection of museum pieces of family farm and neighborhood history from Harts Lake. Their grandparent’s home and the old Hart’s Lake School are among the collection. It is keeping him busy in his retirement.

A portion of the switchback trail from the river to the Mashel PrairieFinally, the trail reaches the Nisqually River, where it hugs closely near the banks and up to the Mashel Prairie. At that point, there is a switchback trail winding up the hill to a campground at the top. There, at the fire pit site at the end of March in 1856, a very horrific scene in the Indian War transpired. As I have heard the tale, Captain Maxon of Territorial Governor Stevens volunteer militia build a tiny building and waited for the Indians to come up the trail. It is said they were bound for Yakima, to escape the hostilities in Pierce County while the militia searched for Chief Leschi. They were mostly women, children and elderly. The slaughter can be found in books about the Mashel Massacre. One most recently written by Abbi Wonacott with the help of her Bethel Junior High history class in 2008.

The site at Mashel Priaire is in the process of becoming a state park. With the assistance of local citizens, various trails advocates, and the Nisqually Tribe, there are some incredible plans for the area. You can see the plans for the Nisqually State Park at this link. I had the pleasure of meeting with Lisa Breckenridge, the Nisqually Tribal Parks Development Specialist a few weeks ago regarding the location and discussed some concepts for an appropriate memorial for the sacred site.

The trail itself eventually crossed the mountains to reach the home of the Yakama on the eastern side. Many local tribal members have ancestors from both sides of the mountain as crossings were fairly common. In fact, Leschi and his brother Quiemuth had a Yakama mother. The Leschi Schools site has a good, brief history of them.

This article is accompanied by photos of sections of the trail. I am currently working on getting a GIS map assembled with these portions of the trail. At some point in the future, this trail should have signage and recognition as the historic footpath  from Tacoma to the great mountain on our horizon. I hope it is not just my wishful thinking.

South Pierce County history is slowly being revealed for the amazing story that it is. Follow the Pierce Prairie Post, there will be more to come.

Some good local history to read in these books:

Andy Anderson,  In the Shadow of the Mountain

William Bonney, The History of Pierce County, 1927

Abbi Wonacott, Where the Mashel Meets the Nisqually: The Mashel Massacre of 1856

Theodore Winthrop, Canoe and Saddle

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Tax breaks for historic sites on County Council agenda


3:00 pm, December 11, 2012

Pierce County Council Chambers, Room 1045

930 Tacoma Ave S, Tacoma, WA

1. Proposal No. 2012-79, An Ordinance of the Pierce County Council Amending Section 2.88.055 of the Pierce County Code, “Property Eligible for Special Tax Valuation” to Specify Only Properties Listed on the Pierce County Register of Historic Places are Eligible for the Special Tax Valuation; and Adopting Findings of Fact.


Contact persons: Susan Long (Council Office) 253-798-6068 and Chad Williams (Planning and Land Services) 253-798-3683

This may be only part of the Council’s December 11, 2012, agenda, since other proposals may be noticed separately. To see the full agenda for this hearing and to access information about each proposal on the agenda, use the following link http://www.piercecountywa.org/calendar, click on the meeting to see the agenda items, and click on the proposal number to get information about that proposal. Note that the complete final agenda will not be available on the web calendar until the Wednesday prior to the meeting. 

The Council encourages public participation. Opportunities for public comment are provided for every non-emergency action item on the agenda. You may also provide written comments at any time up to final adoption of a proposal. The mailing address and fax number are at the top of this notice and on the Council’s web page: www.piercecountywa.org/council.

Dated: November 14, 2012

Patty Face
Deputy Clerk
Pierce County Council

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Spuds growing wild? – Might be left from the Hudson Bay Farms

If you bought a piece of property in south Pierce County you could be surprised to find potatoes growing wild.  They have been found around Victoria Canada and Neah Bay as well. Currently, researchers of the Hudson Bay Company farm sites have been trying to determine the varities of potatoes that were grown by the company on the 1833-1869 farms.

Since a large portion of Pierce County from the Puyallup to the Nisqually River  was part of the farm land cultivated by the Puget Sound Agricultural Company it is possible you could find these spuds growing wild. Wild asparagus has also been reported in one of the farm locations in Spanaway not far from Cedarcrest Middle School.

If you find one of these garden items going wild in an area that appears not to be occupied, let us know at the Post. We will bring in the experts to find out if you have found one of the old gardens.

Here’s a note about potatoes from Nancy Anderson, an HBC researcher from Victoria Canada left on the Fort Nisqually Descendants Facebook page:

“I am reading Fort Nisqually journals and am finding many kinds of potatoes mentioned, other than lady fingers. For example: kidney, early, red, and Spanish. I think Spanish might be the sweet potato bushes that came from South America to Fort Vancouver — they could also be some of the potatoes the Spaniards left at Neah Bay (I think) with the natives there. I am interested in the potatoes grown in the fur trade because a reader of my blog wrote to tell me of potatoes growing wild on Quesnel Lake before the gold rush. He had rescued some of them and now grows them in his garden, and the Royal BC Museum botanists are VERY interesting and doing DNA testing on them. I haven’t heard the result, unfortunately.” 


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Open letter to supporters of Fort Nisqually

Hello All,

I am writing to let you in on some of the goings on directly affecting Fort Nisqually.  This past week, Peggy Barchi, our volunteer/event coordinator turned in her resignation, it is effective Dec. 14th.  Her reasons are many, but the highlights are: in 2011 Metro Parks said her position was going to be classified as “career part time” which means that she can work 30 hours a week, get a number of days of paid leave per year and a stipend each month for health related expenses. That promise never materialized even though it was in the Fort’s budget and listed in the Fort’s business plan.  Because Peggy knew the Fort budget was tight she let the matter go. In recent weeks, the administration for Metro Parks handed down additional cuts to the Fort’s budget citing a budget shortfall for the end of 2012.  Peggy’s hours were going to be reduced as well as the hours of the other part time interpreters. She was left with no other real alternative. The many responsibilities of Peggy’s job require every bit of her 30 hours a week. It is just not doable with less time.

At this point, there will only be one paid, part-time interpreter at the Fort on weekends for the remainder of the year. Mike and Lane will have to fill in the gap of hours on top of their current responsibilities.  During the week Mike, Lane and Bill will be responsible for all interpreting plus having someone on site Monday – Friday to oversee the use of the Fort by the SAMI students. Understand, that we normally have 2 paid interpreters on the weekends and during the busier summer months their hours are extended to cover all open hours.  This allows the other staff to keep up with camps, classes and other general business for the Fort.

The cuts to Fort Nisqually’s budget have been steadily increasing as the year has progressed and, at this time, there appear to be more cuts planned  for 2013-2014. The proposed 2013-2014 Metro Parks budget  does not indicate any specific dollar amount for the Fort; with that not spelled out there is genuine concern for the future operations of Fort Nisqually.

I know the economy is terrible and everyone is experiencing cut backs. However, cutting the foundation of your organization is not how you save your business. Getting rid of the frontline people who are in constant contact with the public that funds you is not going to endear you to the community nor make you money by attracting more visitors to your programs, etc.  This is essentially what appears to be happening. The foundation (front line) people are being cut while the administration and middle management doesn’t appear to be experiencing cutbacks.

The Metro Park Commissioners are meeting with MPT administration on November 19th (no public comment allowed at this meeting) to make decisions on the parks budget.  Before that meeting, we need to let them know that Fort Nisqually matters. The budget process is no secret and they welcome the public’s comments. 

What do you do? 

1. Spread the word – pass this storu on to other volunteers, friends and family. There are many, many more people who need to know and get involved.

2. Write or call the Commissioners.

A few talking points:

  • How are you involved or are associated with the Fort and how long. Some of you have been around for many years, it matters.
  • Tell them what the Fort means to you and your family.
  • Express your concerns over staffing and what that does to the overall operation.
  • Fort Nisqually is a model for other living history museums all over the world, how is it possible to keep up that caliber of operation with 3 full-time staff people (Mike, Lane and Jill) and very limited part-time staff?
  • What are their plans and intentions for the future of Fort Nisqually?

To be effective, no matter how upset or impassioned you may feel, please be respectful. We need to win them over, not run them down. This is critical. I fully understand the desire to storm the doors but it will not impart how important the Fort is to a lot of people for a variety of reasons. Have your kids, family and friends do the same. Metro Parks is about community and children so let’s show them what this community and their children think is important.

Here is a link to the MPT website with the Commissioners names, phone numbers and e-mails; there is even an option to e-mail all of them at once. Please use this to contact them.

3. Show up at the public meeting onNovember 26th, 6pmat the Metro Parks main office on 19th Street.  This is where you can make public comments. Also, them seeing the many supporters of Fort Nisqually will make it very difficult for them to ignore us.

Dana Repp


Clover Creek Elementary dedication Nov. 8

The 1938 cupola sits in the central courtyard of the new Clover Creek Elementary

A special ceremony marking the completion of the Clover Creek Elementary will be held on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

The district spent about $19 million dollars to build the replacement school. Renovations include a new, two-story design, courtyard, technology lab, high-tech equipment, enhanced playfields and additional parking space. The Clover Creek project was made possible thanks to taxpayer support of the 2006 bond.

Clover Creek Elementary was formerly its own school district. Started around 1855 by

Christopher Mahon, the school has had several locations and new buildings. According to historians, the current building is the 8th iteration. One location was Old Military and Radermacher Road (22nd Ave.) near the northeast corner. The remnants of that building were removed by the property owner in the 1990′s, not realizing it had been the former school. It appeared to be just an old barn covered in blackberries. Another iteration of the school was moved from a little farther west on Old Military to a farm in Frederickson owned by O.J. Anderson. The building was a two room school and became a chicken house and is currently a tool shed. A former church, Clover Creek Baptist was also a former Clover Creek School building. That building was moved from the school site to a place across the street where the current church has a marked footprint.

The relocated 1879 Clover Creek 2 room school

The most memorable of Clover Creek’s building was the white Colonial Revival building built in 1938. The wooden structure had large windows and a library upstairs. Students on Facebook fondly remembered

Clover Creek Elementary built in 1938

climbing up into the cupola, sometimes for surreptitious purposes such as smoking. That cupola was spared and is now part of the new building’s central rain garden courtyard. The location of the bell from that cupola remains a mystery. An article by Kathleen Merryman of the News Tribune brought some leads, but no bell.

Some of the land the new Clover Creek Elementary sits upon was purchased recently by the school district. Much of it was donated in the late 1800′s by Frederic Meyer, a former millwright for Thomas Chambers. The Meyer Donation Land Claim included all the land east of the school to Canyon Road and south to 176th.

Old Military Road that runs along the north end of the school grounds was the main road from Walla Walla to Fort Steilacoom. Along the creek at the bottom of the hill was the Naches Trail route that settlers took over the mountain. That trail ran through the current park, crossed the creek and ran along the bottom of the cliff below the school and church, ending at the Brookdale Golf Course where the Mahon family lived. There is an Oregon Trail marker in front of the golf course if you look closely as you pass by.

Cairn, historical marker for Camp Montgomery

Just to the west of Clover Creek Elementary is another stone historical marker (cairn). It sits on the Donation land Claim of John Montgomery who was a farmer for the Hudson’s Bay Company’s subsidiary to Fort Nisqually, the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. Montgomery worked at HBC’s Spanueh station. Spanueh is a Lushootseed word meaning prairie where roots are dug.

The cairn denotes Camp Montgomery, a blockhouse built during the Indian War of 1855-56. That war followed the Medicine Creek Treaty when the local tribes expressed their dissatisfaction with the reservations that they were located to. In particular, this blockhouse was used to hold 5 Hudson Bay employees who were married to Indian women and Territorial Governor Issac Stevens suspected of treason. These men from Muck Creek were held in April and May 1956 while Pierce County was declared under martial law. There is a lesson in the use of habeas corpus in this event; these men were held without being told their charges. When the first trial was finally held for Sandy Smith, the court found him not guilty. No other trials were held and all the men were set free. The story of Chief Leschi is tied up in these events as well. He was one of the visitors to their farms for which to Governor was concerned. The Indian war ended soon after. A hearing on the events surrounding that declarations of Martial Law was held at Congress in Washington D.C. and Governor Stevens was given a letter of

Blockhouse at Camp Montgomery circa 1855

reprimand from President Franklin Pierce.

Clover Creek Elementary sits in a location with a great deal of history, settlers by wagon train, old military road, Indian war blockhouse, treason trials, martial law, and Hudson Bay Company farms. It became part of the Bethel School District in 1956, several years after the merger of the other districts (Spanaway, Elk Plain, Rocky Ridge, Kapowsin & Roy) into Bethel. It is a beautiful new school, join in the dedication and the history.




Descendants of Fort Nisqually employees live here

 These furry little tree chewing creatures had a lot to do with the settlement of western Washington. In the days when our home was called Oregon Territory until 1853, when it became Washington Territory, this area was part of Lewis County, OT (Oregon Territory). When Washington Territory was formed in 1853, our area became Pierce County. These details make doing historical research a little tricky. This is a story about historical families, but first it is necessary to digress into a little history to explain how these families came about.

Between 1832 and 1846, the US was in competition with the British for possession of the area north of the Columbia River. The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) had Fort Vancouver and, in what later became the town of Dupont, Fort Nisqually. Because of Fort Nisqually’s fur trade, much of the beaver population in the area was wiped out. Many other fur bearing animals were also significantly reduced in number. So being businessmen, the HBC decided to capitalize on the incoming American settlers. Settlers were always in need of supplies and the HBC had well established trade routes to provide them. In addition, the HBC started another business venture called the Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) that provided livestock to the new farmers along with grain products for feed. Most of the animals were sheep, providing wool for clothing. The farms are often referred to a sheep stations. But the PSAC also raised cows, horses and pigs.

PSAC operated several farm stations around Pierce County. The main station was called Muck and was located in what is now the Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) range area 13. In the Elk Plain to Parkland area, there were several stations. Mullock House was in Elk Plain. Spanueh station was along the southeast part Spanaway Lake and another half mile southeast of there, Greig’s cabin was erected. Near Clover Creek Elementary, John Montgomery, who operated Spanueh station, built his home.  On the Shibig farm (across from Rainier View Church), but slightly over onto McChord Field, was a station called Sastuc. These outstations were regularly visited by employees of Fort Nisqually, laying the groundwork of the many roads throughout JBLM’s range area.

Hudson’s Bay claimed ownership of much of Pierce County when the decision was made to settle the boundary with Canada. Since they were a company rather than a country, they insisted the American’s government purchase their land claim. They restricted settlement in the area of their claim and their archives include many stern letters sent out to squatters. It took from 1846 to 1867 to reach a court settlement and then until 1869 for Pierce County and the government of Washington Territory to pay for the land. The HBC had asked 2 million dollars and at the end of litigation, received about $750,000.

Meanwhile, many of the farmers from these outstations and workers from the fort became American citizens and took advantage of the Donation Land Claims (DLC) Act. Along Muck Creek, you will find on any plat map, the boundaries of these DLC’s. These farmers included Charles Wren, Henry Murray, Peter Wilson, Henry Smith, John McPhail, and John McLeod along Muck Creek. In Spanaway, there was John Montgomery. Most of these men had native wives. Often their wives succumbed to disease or childbirth so there were often subsequent wives and children. Many lost almost all their children to illness of the time, dysentery, small pox, tuberculosis and often common colds were enough to end lives of those with less disease resistance as those with native blood. But many survived, flourished and have generations of family living through Pierce County and nearby areas. Many also have been able to retain their tribal affiliations as well.

Few of the homes of these historic settlers remain. Henry Murray’s is an exception, although significantly remodeled. Many of their artifacts are at Point Defiance Park or the state museums if not still held lovingly by family members. There is a monument near Clover Creek Elementary denoting Camp Montgomery. Named after John Montgomery who ran Spanueh station and lived on that site, a block house was built to protect local settlers during the unsettling times when the Indian treaties were being worked out. Just below that site along the hillside was the Naches Trail, the northernmost branch of the Oregon Trail.

From what is now Parkland, to Yelm and Dupont, the Hudson’s Bay Company employees settled the area, raised families and live on today through their descendants, some of whom are your neighbors. Most are part Native American with Scottish, British, French or German heritage as well. They formed an organization in order to share their stories and their heritage as part of our local history. That organization is called Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees Association. Yes, it’s a mouthful to say. It is also a wealth of information and history they hold in their possession. They meet in Dupont twice a year.

If you happen to be one of those special people descended from a local Hudson’s Bay employee, you might just want to pay a visit to the next meeting. You also should join in the conversation on their Facebook group or check out their website. If you just love local history, you are also welcome.

Their next meeting will be at the Liberty Inn in the city of Dupont on Sunday, October 7 at about 12:30 p.m.

This story barely scratched the surface of the histories that are told about these very special settlers. It is possible the name of Bethel High School’s team, the Braves, came from the pride and heritage of these early settlers and their native wives and families. They succeeded and survived in very difficult times and they shaped the place we now call home. More information can be found in you the library’s local history section or online. If you have a library card, you can get some of the more unique materials through interlibrary loans or purchase books about these settlers at the Fort Nisqually gift shop at Point Defiance Park.

Fort Nisqually has a special event coming up. It is a candlelight tour on October 5 and 6th from 7 to 9:30p.m. They will have re-enactors that will take you back to an evening in 1857. Check the website for the fort below for more information. In addition, here are some links to learn more about the local history.

Descendants of Fort Nisqually Employees Association

Dupont Museum 

Fort Nisqually 

Map of Spanueh Station

Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room 

History Link.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History  

Washington State Historical Society  

Washington Secretary of State Historical Archives

The Prairie House Museum 

The Roy City Library  

Washington State Capital Museum  





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JBLM’s Housing Office and a non-profit organization to host a military mortgage assistance outreach event Sept. 26

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The JBLM Housing Office is partnering with Hope Now to host a one-day mortgage assistance outreach event for military homeowners Wednesday from 9 a.m.- 4p.m. at the collocated club, building 700, located on JBLM McChord Field.

Hope Now is a non-profit organization funded by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to combat the effects of the housing market crisis on military families. Homeowners attending this event will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with mortgage lenders and get immediate assistance or information on loan modifications, refinance, and short sale options.

The 16 mortgage lenders participating in this event include:

Bank of America
GMAC Mortgage          
Wells Fargo
Harborstone Credit Union                      
American’s Credit Union            
Fannie Mae                                          
Freddie Mac                             
Boeing Credit Union
Housing Services                     
Homeward Residential (formerly American Home Mortgage Servicing)

Participants seeking mortgage assistance will need to bring all mortgage and financial documents to the event, such as:

      • Monthly mortgage statements
      • Two most recent pay statements
      • Documentation on all sources of income (child support, alimony, social security)
      • Most recent bank statements and utility bills with your name and address

The JBLM Housing Office and Army Community Service Office will also be available to discuss other government programs and protections under the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

This event is also open to National Guard and Reserve, military retirees and civil service employees.

For more information about Hope Now visit www.hopenow.com

Media interested in attending this event can RSVP by calling the JBLM Public Affairs Office at (253) 967-0152 or (253) 967-0148 by 5 p.m. Tuesday. After regular duty hours, call (253) 967-0015 and ask for the public affairs officer on call.


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