Pierce Prairie Post

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

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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!

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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.


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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.

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Bethel High Dominates, Wins State History Championship

BETHEL SCHOOL DISTRICT — For the second time in school history, Bethel High School has captured National History Day’s Washington State Championship.  Officially known as the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Outstanding School Award, the “State Cup” belongs to the team whose projects garner the highest total rankings in the finalist round of competition.  Scored like a track meet, Bethel’s point total more than doubled that of the nearest competitor: 34 – 16.  Bethel finished with two, second-place projects, three third-place projects, two fourth-place projects and three fifth-place projects.  Coach Jim Sawatzki remarked, “This is the best History Day team Bethel High has ever produced.  In multiple areas of comparison, the 2013 team far surpasses the state championship team of 2005.”

Bethel High students Taylor Mamaril, Britt McCracken, Tiffany McDaniel, Peyton Schwartz and Lisa Thompson will represent Washington State at the National History Day competition held June 8 – 13, 2013 at the University of Maryland.  Ms. Mamaril and Ms. McCracken qualified with their exhibit – The Boldt Decision, and Ms. McDaniel, Ms. Schwartz and Ms. Thompson with their play – Margaret Sanger.  This year’s competition theme is: Turning Points in History: People, Ideas, Events. Bethel High School qualified ten of nineteen of its Washington State National History Day projects for finals judging Saturday, May 4th at Bellevue College.

Thirty-five Bethel students competed against those representing 59 state-qualifying schools at this national qualifying event. Bethel projects garnered four “Special Awards” sponsored by various historical foundations and state agencies. Students finishing first or second place in each National History Day category advance to represent Washington State at nationals.

The National History Day competition involves over 700,000 students during the course of a school year.  Regional and state competitions whittle this down to 2000 students representing fifty states and multiple Department of Defense overseas schools, each competing for the National Championship. 

Placing at State:

• Taylor Mamaril and Britt McCracken, whose Group Exhibit, The Boldt Decision: Turning Point for Native American Treaty Rights finished 2nd.  They also received the Washington State Archives Regional/Local Research Award.

• Tiffany McDaniel, Peyton Schwartz and Lisa Thompson whose Group Performance, Margaret Sanger: Turning Attitudes Regarding Reproduction finished 2nd.

• Leah Peterson, and Julie Martell whose Group Exhibit, The E.R.A.: Turning Point for Women’s Rights finished 3rd.  They also won the Washington State Archivist’s Award.

• Chloe McClellan for her Individual Exhibit, The Other Freud: Turning Points in Medicine finished 3rd.   She also won the National Archives Research Award.

• Stacey Baumes and Lyndee Faust whose Group Performance, Flappers: Turning Points in Gender Roles and Identity placed 3rd.

• Quentin Main, Kyle Leonard and Nicole Taylor whose Group Exhibit, Turning Points in Cloning: From Weismann to Dolly finished 4th.

• Ruth Smitherman whose Individual Performance, Martha Graham: Breaking Tradition One Dance at a Time finished 4th.

• Tayler Kindsfather and Deidra McKnight whose Group Exhibit, Modern Art: Turning Perspective on its Head placed 5th.

• Lucien Benvenutti whose Individual Documentary, Space: A Turning Point in Human Imagination placed 5th.

• Trevor Hiscox whose Individual Performance, Darrow and the Evolution of Truth: A Turning Point in Scientific Freedom placed 5th.  He also received the Washington State Supreme Court Award.

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Spanaway historical graveyard cleanup Saturday, April 20

The Parkland-Spanaway Kiwanis will be having their annual graveyard cleanup on Saturday, April 20. The historical Spanaway pioneer graveyard is on 176th and A Street. If you feel like assisting as an Earth Day project a little early, they will surely welcome the help.

Speaking of history, the photos below are pages of a December 1939 newsletter that was circulated in Spanaway. They were forwarded to the Post by Wayne Cooke. His wife was a descendant of the MacKenzie family who had the grocery across from the Exchange Tavern many long years ago. Enjoy the interesting read.




The Milroy Bridge, trusses of steel from a different era

OPINION By Marianne Lincoln

The George Milroy Bridge was constructed in 1931 across the Puyallup River between Tacoma and Puyallup. A plaque on the bridge tells a few details of its history. Built by the Kart Construction Company, the steel truss bridge has served the county for 82 years. Though small for a bridge in these days, it was a magnificent structure for its time. The bridge is regularly inspected by the Washington Department of Transportation and Pierce County Public Works. Amazingly, it always seems to come up with a good report of its strength and longevity.

In January, I took a few photographs of the bridge and the gallery is below. You can click on a photo to see them larger on the screen. You will notice that many vehicles have come too close to its steel girders.

Solid or not, this bridge is far too narrow for today’s traffic volumes. Stopping on it travelling south is seriously not for the faint of heart. There are long backups in several directions much of the day at this crossing.

As a pedestrian, I had to wait a log time to cross the several walk signals and past heavy traffic to get onto the bridge. It is a five-way intersection with a long light for River Road. Drivers would smile in amusement as if they understood standing on the bridge as a pedestrian was not something they wanted to do. Seeing me taking photos was an even greater curiosity to them. The crosswalk on River Road had serious pavement damage and several trucks that were too tall, kissed the top of the arch above, leaving some twisted metal.

It is time for WSDOT and the County to create some jobs replacing this structure. It is lovely, and would make a great pedestrian walkway, but it doesn’t adequately serve the community anymore as a roadway. Placing a new structure a little farther east so it can directly connect to 70th avenue and redirect the 5-way intersection would be a magnificent change. This is my opinion, not a plan that I am aware of at this time.

In addition, it could be a better photo opportunity. The view of the river and valley at this location is lovely, but the vegetation along the river is rather scrappy. Some native flowering pear trees, currant and hazelnut set along the way would make it a perfect photo setting, although there would need to be a place to actually pull over to take the shot.


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