A History of Enumclaw Area Schools

How could a tiny village that wanted a tiny school district end up with one that stretched from Auburn to Mt Rainier?

Enumclaw History Index


How could a tiny village that wanted a tiny school district end up with one that stretched from Auburn to Mt Rainier on the day the School District #216 was established?  How could Enumclaw, surrounded by country schools before it had any itself acquire them all?  How could Enumclaw School District span an area that borders distant districts in Yakima, Kittitas, Pierce, and King Counties and even reaches into two counties itself?

A history of the early schools in the Enumclaw area will set the stage for some answers.


Osceola and Boise Creek Schools

Osceola had the first school in the area and included students from neighboring Boise Creek.  Edwin White had built a house on Porter's Prairie in 1875 and his daughter Amanda (Amy) reports on the beginnings of a school:  "Not long after we came, the James Johnsons came and settled at Boise Creek, not far from the Vanderbecks.  They had two children of school age, Tillie and Charlie, so mother decided to keep school, which she did in the living room of the Hicks house in which we were still living.  George Vanderbeck, Frank Smith, Tillie and Havelock Johnson, and myself were the scholars."    In 1881 the students had another teacher, Miss Lucey/Lucy Thorndyke, who, according to Amy, was from Seattle and "was only fourteen years of age and and knew little more than we did."1

Student Tillie Johnson adds more information in her narrative:  "Si Smith used to bring mail from Wilkeson to E. G. White's place, where the Osceola schoolhouse is now, only back in the woods a little way.  And it was there that we went to school, Mrs. White teaching us in her home.  The pupils were Zina Smith (Si Smith's oldest son), Amy White, Frank Smith, George Vanderbeck, my brother Havelock, and I."2 

In 1884, the community, now called Osceola, moved their school to a tiny cedar shack.  Tillie Johnson continues,  "When the shake schoolhouse was built (near the present [Osceola] pickle factory) Si Smith--he was Mrs. White's brother--he was our first teacher."    Another student,  Emma Ekman, whose family from Sweden had arrived in Osceola in 1892, adds,  "The teachers at Osceola school always tried to get a place to board near the school so they wouldn't have to walk too far, as they, of course, had to do the sweeping and make the fire in preparation for the day's session.  Miss Anne E. Krumm boarded with us and later Miss Georgia Armstrong.  The teachers in those days received only $30 to $40 a month pay.  Charles Newman taught in the Osceola school, but he walked out every day from Enumclaw."3

In 1890 a more permanent one-room building was erected on land donated by Lou Smith.  This building still stands today, and is currently owned by the Plateau Community Players.4  Then in 1914 the students moved into their third school, which today is a private residence.5  (Osceola School District was consolidated with Enumclaw in 1937.)

Boise Creek also built its own school, a two-storey building complete with bell tower.  It was situated on what is now 244th Avenue East, near the junction of 468th Street.  The picture of it above gives you an idea how large a building was needed to serve this thriving settlement.


French District School (later Firgrove)

The families of the French district had enough children for a school and needed a teacher.  Charles Forget went on a hunt for one, and in 1881, found a young French girl across the White River, Miss L'Ecuier.  Since the children spoke only French, she was a lucky find.6  She conducted classes in the Forget house.  Later, the community built the school shown in the above picture.

(One interesting story about the school:  In 1904, George and James Carroll shot a large cougar right in front of the school.)7


Krain School District #137

The Canfield family had the first Krain school in their home in the early 1880s.  Then the railroad gave the community 2.5 acres for a school site in 1884.  The original hand-split cedar shack was replaced in 1899 with a two-room structure for its two teachers and 100 students.8  Education was very important to this community, since most of the immigrants spoke no English before arriving.


Flensted School District #131

Until the Flensted community built its own school, their children walked several miles each day to the Krain School.  S. L. Sorensen then donated land for a school building.  Crop failure of the hops and collapsing prices had brought hard times, so Sorensen start making pottery to pay the bills.  He stamped his Danish hometown's name of Flensted on the pots and that's how the Flensted area and the school got their names.9


Coal Creek (Birch and Veazie Schools)

Coal Creek started as a 10x12-foot hand-split cedar shack.  (Where else have we heard a story like this?)   There was no stove, as the earliest school terms went only through the summer.  But the community grew, and by 1892, it had a post office, general store, and blacksmith shop.  Otto Tamm and others set aside land for an upgraded building, organized a school district, and formed a board.  The new school opened with twenty students, and closed in 1914.10

Meanwhile, Charles Coe was laid off from his job in Enumclaw as a store clerk, so he headed up to Veazie and started a new school in 1905 to house its growing number of students, then 29.11 


Mud Mountain, Mt. Baldy, and Mt. View Schools

The Buchanan family were the first to settle in the Mud Mountain area, and were soon followed by the Forlers and the Malidores.  With eleven children amongst this group, George Buchanan started a school district, with Mr. Collins as teacher for the three-month (summer) school year.  After a few terms in his house, they built a school at the foot of Mt. Baldy and called it the Hogan school.12

The Moeller family settled on the other side of Mt Baldy, above where the Transfer Station is now.  At first they walked over to the Hogan school, but as more people moved in, the Mountain View school opened.  In 1909, the "two schools consolidated.  The Mud Mountain school moved all of its furniture down to the Mountain View School."  Finally, both were consolidated into Enumclaw School District in 1935.13


Ellenson School

Ellenson was a company village owned by the White River Lumber Company, situated next to what later became the Weyehaeuser mill.  For a time, the community had its own school, but in 1909, "The school up at Ellenson closed and the children were hauled down from Ellenson in a horse-drawn wagon by Tougaw Brothers."14


Other Early Schools/Districts Eventually Consolidated with Enumclaw

Newaukem, Wabash, Franklin, Kummer, Black Diamond, Bain, Cumberland, Selleck, Buckley.

Buckley?  Yes, Buckley, too.


Enumclaw School District #216, 1887-1949, 1953-2013

Early Stevensonville, as some citizens then called Enumclaw to honor its founders, had no school, so the few children walked several miles out the railroad bed to Coal Creek and back, or braved the muddy trail to Osceola.   By the 1880s, the established Osceola District claimed all the land between the White and Green River to the crest of the Cascades.  They tolerated Coal Creek because it was so small and remote, but they actively resisted Enumclaw's efforts to get its own school district.  When everyone in Enumclaw signed a petition to get its own district, the county superintendent rejected it outright. However, an election was about to take place.  A Missouri native named S. P. Rich was running for King County Superintendent on the fringe Citizens' Party ticket, and Enumclaw also had a Missouri native, Oscar Welch.  The town "held a meeting and decided that the time had arrived to secure what we were after.  We therefore instructed Mr. Welch in the manner he was to handle Rich."15  Welch met with Mr. Rich and promised him all the votes from Enumclaw if he would grant them their own school district.  Rich received 80 of the 81 Enumclaw votes, won the election, and immediately made good on his promise.

But the strange story of intrigue doesn't end there. Most of townspeople wanted the school district to be small, just for themselves.  However, Art Griffin had a different idea.  He drew up the boundaries on his own and submitted them to a grateful Rich, who approved them in 1887.16  Residents here (and in Osceola) were surprised to learn that the new Enumclaw School District 216 stretched between the two rivers from Auburn to the crest of the Cascades.


Early Enumclaw Schools

Enumclaw's first school was another simple shack of hand-split cedar boards,17 probably on Porter Street near the current Presbyterian Church.  According to Louise Poppleton, the first teacher, Miss Granville, had better looks than teaching skills, and the school closed after a month.  Enumclaw's students then had to return to the Osceola school or Coal Creek.18

In 1891, the residents of the town erected a two-storey school building where the city hall now stands, with donated land (by the Stevensons), materials, and labor.  The first level was used for two classrooms, the second for town meetings and dances.  Citizens pooled their resources to buy an organ from a traveling salesman for the second floor.19  Four years later, a new three-storey school was built.  The old one was sold to Gabrielle Tamelle, who later married Arthur Griffin.  She had it moved and used it as a hotel for several years.  (Two favorite obsessions of our early citizens were holding dances and moving buildings.)

The new three-storey school, complete with a large bell tower, was the pride of the town.  The building served the community well, but Archie McKinnon, James Montgomery, and Anton Johansen convinced them that with Enumclaw's population then topping a thousand, the current space would soon be inadequate.  In fact, the town did experience rapid growth in the next few years, and the process of consolidation of the surrounding country schools was just beginning.20

In 1910, the first J. J. Smith School, named after the highly regarded Enumclaw doctor and state senator, was built.  It was a three-story brick building with nineteen classrooms and an auditorium.  The Fair Organization owned the land at Griffin and Fell Streets, but gave it to the city when they went out of business.  The city, in turn, traded the plot for the site of the big wooden school and made it a park (and home of City Hall in 1922.)

Enumclaw continued to grow, and in 1921 constructed another three-story brick school on Porter Street where Garrett Park and the skate park are located now.  Dwight Garrett bought the property and gave it to the school district.  The graves from the Pioneer Cemetery, which had earlier been moved to that site, were then moved to their final resting place at Evergreen Cemetery.  An additional nine rooms were added for a junior high in 1927.  And in 1957, J.J. #1 was torn down and replaced with a second J. J. Smith School, a one-level elementary.  Finally, the Porter Street building was torn down when the current high school and middle school were built.

While all this growing and building were going on, nearly all the country schools became a part of Enumclaw School District.  But in 1949, consolidation took a strange turn.  To make better use of resources, Enumclaw and Buckley School Districts decided to become one--the White River School District.  The Enumclaw Tigers and the Buckley Mountaineers became the White River Hornets.

You guessed it.  A divorce was in the making, almost from day one.  Each school--and town--mourned the loss of identity.  The Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce in particular pushed for separation.  So in 1953, the two districts again drew a line in the river.  Textbooks, supplies, equipment, even the $26,000 in the bank, were all divided.  But one problem remained.  Money was still short, and neither high school could afford new uniforms or football helmets.  So today we have the maroon and gold Enumclaw hornets and the maroon and gold White River hornets.21

One additional quirk in this strange turn of events: the property where Enumclaw High School is now was owned jointly by the combined White River School District.  After the divorce, since Buckley kept the White River name and Enumclaw did not, it appeared, at least to Chicago Title Company, that White River still owned the land where the combined high school was to be built.  That matter was not cleared up until April 27, 1973, when Buckley issued a quit claim to Enumclaw.22

There was still one last country school sitting out there by itself.  In June of 1961, the Newaukum School closed its doors and joined Enumclaw School District.23

However, consolidation was not yet complete.  The next addition was the entire Black Diamond School District # 190, dissolved on July 24, 1975 and annexed to Enumclaw.  That decision displeased many people on both sides of the river, but was mandated by the State Board of Education.

So now Enumclaw School District, unique in both its history and geography, currently borders Thorp, Cle Elum-Roslyn, Easton, Snoqualmie Valley, Tahoma, Auburn, Dieringer, White River, and Kent districts.  And by the way, we still serve a piece of Pierce County--Greenwater and up the line from there.

That is the strange story of how Enumclaw School District #216 came to be.



1.  Pioneer History of Enumclaw.  Women's Progressive Club.  Amanda White Rogers interview. p. 89.

2.  Pioneer History of Enumclaw.  Women's Progressive Club.  Matilda Johnson Morris interview.  p. 93-94.

3.  Pioneer History of Enumclaw.  Women's Progressive Club.  Mrs. R. W. Thomson interview. p.48.

4.  http://plateaucommunityplayers.webs.com/osceolacommunityclub.htm

5.  Louise Poppleton.  There Is Only One Enumclaw.  1995.  p. 86.

6.  Nancy Irene Hall.  In the Shadow of the Mountain.  The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004.  p. 47.

7.  Nancy Irene Hall.  In the Shadow of the Mountain.  The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004.  181.

8.  Pioneer History of Enumclaw.  Women's Progressive Club.  Josephine Puttman Kincade interview.  p.  16.

9.  Pioneer History of Enumclaw.  Women's Progressive Club.  Sorensen interview.  p. 49.

10.  Nancy Irene Hall.  In the Shadow of the Mountain.  The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p.113   

11.  Nancy Irene Hall.  In the Shadow of the Mountain.  The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p.184

12.  Nancy Irene Hall.  In the Shadow of the Mountain.  The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 107.

13.  Shadow 78, "75 Years Ago Today [1935]:  Vote to Consolidate Mud Mt and Enumclaw School Districts".  Enumclaw Courier.  July 5, 2010.

14.  Nancy Irene Hall.  In the Shadow of the Mountain.  The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 211.

15.  Nancy Irene Hall.  In the Shadow of the Mountain.  The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 211.

16.  Nancy Irene Hall.  In the Shadow of the Mountain.  The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 211.

17.  Louise Poppleton.  There Is Only One Enumclaw.  1995.  p. 12.

18.  Louise Poppleton.  There Is Only One Enumclaw.  1995.  p. 14.

19.  Louise Poppleton.  There Is Only One Enumclaw. 1995. p. 37

20.  Louise Poppleton.  There Is Only One Enumclaw.  1995.  p. 105.

21.   "'Divorced Schools Got Joint Custody of Colors, Nickname", Seattle Times.  April 2, 2002. 

22.  Email from Tim Madden, Enumclaw School District, to Nancy Merrill. January 24, 2012.

23.  Louise Poppleton.  There Is Only One Enumclaw.  1995.  p. 39. 




The Histories of Enumclaw

Introduction--Enumclaw:  The First 6020 Years

Early Enumclaw:  6000 Years Ago to the Mid-1800s

Early Enumclaw:  The First European Americans Arrive

          The Adventures of Allen Porter's Wagon

Enumclaw's Early Plateau Neighbors

           Schools and Districts


Enumclaw Becomes a Town:  1879-1913

          Enumclaw Cooperatives


Incorporation through World War II:  Enumclaw from 1913-1945

          Logging and Lumber

Growth and Prosperity:  Enumclaw from 1945-2008

          Searching for a Town's Identity

Recent Past to the Present:  Enumclaw from 2008-2013

          The Limits of Growth

Enumclaw's Next Two Decades:  2013-2033

          Alternative Futures

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John Anderson January 27, 2013 at 05:36 PM
Thanks for bringing that up, Dexter. I tried to find out about Lester, but don't have an answer yet. I did check out (online) the trail you can take to see some of the remnants of the railroad town. Must admit, when I first started looking, I was confusing Lester with Selleck. Maybe someone else has the info. BTW, are you attending the Incorporation Anniversary party tonight?
dexterjibs January 28, 2013 at 03:36 AM
No, I would love to but work called. The little I know about Lester is that the school teacher was allowed to live up in Lester long after it disbanded as a railroad town. Her house burned down in the late 90's early 2000's which finally forced her out. I believe Enumclaw Fire/Cumberland Fire responded to her house burning, maybe some old timers on eeh fire department have a history lesson about Lester.
John Anderson January 28, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Links don't go into comments live, but if you have any trouble finding the Washington Rural Heritage site, there's a live link on the Introduction--Enumclaw blog. Link to it just above these comments under the Centennial Blog Toward the bottom of the Intro post are Selected Web Links, and the Washington Rural Heritage link is the second one.
Doreen Anderson January 28, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Spelling bees used to be common classroom activities. I know they still were in the 50s-- maybe still today? I recently read of a school district fund-raiser, a spelling bee, but not with students--with teachers and administrators. (Are WE short on funds? What a great idea!) Spelling words "right", or "according to the dictionary", is valued in many settings (not all), so with or without bees, we still emphasize this skill in schools. The historical lack of precision or a "right way" to spell family names presents a challenge to historians and genealogists. In a 1970 interview, also on Washington Rural Heritage, Mrs. Josephine Puttman Kincade told about three spellings her father had used for their family name. (The Puttmans came to Enumclaw/Krain in 1891.) "Well, when he first came to Washington, he put that "E" in "Puettmann." Puettmann, they called it. Then the folks back east never put that "E" in it, so we went back to "Puttmann" and then they dropped the last "N". So now they spell it "Puttman" but originally it had two "N's". So when you're researching Enumclaw folks, or folks anywhere, you might find the same family or person with different spellings. Maybe by choice, by a clerical decision or error at immigration or somewhere in officialdom, or just from the individual's "uncertainty" : (never asked, how DO we spell our name?) If YOU are uncertain, follow any reasonable leads. BTW, I'd have guessed "Putman" and misspelled all three of the above.
John Anderson February 11, 2013 at 12:21 AM
Helen Stygar related a story today about missing the school bus in Ellenson (White River Mill housing). She and her friend Ruth Farman were afraid to tell their mothers, so they decided to walk to Enumclaw. The 2nd graders knew the route of the bus, so that is what they followed, and got to school at 11. Helen told me to shush. "I never told my mother!"


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