When you think of the Enumclaw Plateau, that vast flatland between the White and Green Rivers, extending from the Cascade foothills to where it drops off at Muckleshoot, what other towns come to mind? Well, there aren't any. Only Enumclaw. But there used to be other settlements, several older and several bigger. The Plateau between the rivers was once a whole network of communities. Who were they and where did they go?
With the opening of the Naches wagon road, after a few false starts, settlers started trickling in to the Enumclaw Plateau. After Allen Porter left, others soon came and stayed. The early wagon roads were widened trails--one way with turnouts for passing. Trees were cut, but the stumps remained. Other pioneers had no roads at all--they walked in on rough paths. With very limited transportation, several settlements sprang up in relatively close proximity, but for different reasons. Some developed as small communities of farmers, while others began (and ended) as coal-mining towns. Among these communities were post offices, schools, general stores, hotels, and mills. But in time, as transportation and economics changed, they became simply crossroads or were abandoned altogether.
Seven years after the Puget Sound War, Congress passed the Homestead Act to replace the Donation Land Act. A person could now get 160 acres of free land by filing a claim, living there for five years, and making improvements. In 1870, James McClintock was the first to do so in our area, settling near what is now Evergreen Cemetery. He eventually established a large dairy and built a 15-room roadhouse for his family and travelers.
In 1870, Johannes Mahler built a cabin about a mile from McClintock, near the current Mahler Park, which he eventually donated to the people of Enumclaw. He planted potatoes and hired out his team of horses for road building and transporting pioneers and their supplies. George Vanderbeck arrived with Mahler and settled near Boise Creek.
In the years to come, many homesteaders tried to eek out a living in the Plateau wilderness. Several succeeded in establishing successful farms and mills, but others gave up their claims, overwhelmed by the difficulties faced in this remote place. John Templeton, James Shorley, Charles Clark, and Peter Sanders all filed claims and then left by 1874. Those coming later often used their abandoned cabins until more suitable living quarters could be erected.
The first settler at Boise Creek area was George Vanderbeck, who accompanied Johannes Mahler to the Plateau in 1870. His wife and baby from Chicago soon joined him, to become the first white family in the area. Their claim extended to where Enumclaw High School now sits and near where an Indian longhouse was located then. A few months later, Henry Grothen and his family joined them.
James Johnson, his wife, and five of their twelve children moved from eastern Canada to a spot near the confluence of Boise Creek and the White River in 1875. After James put a cabin together, he built a flour mill and dam to power it. He also operated a ferry across the White River. This wasn't your ordinary ferry, but a small rowboat following a cable across the rapids. With no Mud Mountain Dam to control the flow, the crossing was often very dangerous. The boat often capsized, and several pioneers, including four mailmen, drowned. Horses and other animals had to swim, and many of them were lost also.
As others began moving in, George Vanderbeck anticipated that the settlement would flourish once the railroad came through, so he platted part of his homestead as a town in 1888 and established a post office the following year. His prediction came true when the Northern Pacific Railroad ran its main line through there and built a trestle across the White River bridge to Buckley. The town became a flag station, where trains stopped if the flagman raised the flag; otherwise, they passed on by. By this time, Boise Creek boasted a school, two general stores, a hotel, a sawmill, a shingle mill, and a saloon.1
The community also got a log bridge over the river, rendering the ferry obsolete. After it was destroyed by flooding in 1906 and again in 1911, a new steel bridge was built, which was also destroyed by flooding.
A colorful Boise Creek character was E. L. Robinson. He and his wife came there to start a utopian community. Although that venture failed, he did build Tower House, a unique residence near where Boise Creek enters the White River. Six stories high, it featured a water tower on top, an enclosed observation room on the fifth level, an open balcony below that, and living quarters on the first three floors. Robinson was a philosopher who shared his thoughts readily with anyone who would listen. A young Houston Allen was one. "Mr. Robinson was a poet, and he was rather deaf, in fact, he was extremely deaf. He taught me the deaf and dumb easy language. I talked to him with my fists and fingers enough and he would guess what I was going to say and he would beat me to it every time."2
Allen also talked about a train loaded with pigs and kegs of wine that wrecked next to Robinson's by the White River bridge. As the pigs got loose and lapped up the wine, farmers from all over the area came and tried to catch the inebriated animals.3 The Buckley Banner reported on a different aspect of the event. "A car containing forty-five barrels of wine of different kinds was almost completely telescoped by the tender of the eastbound train, and the wine flowed in streams in every direction." The reporter went on to describe many upstanding citizens from both sides of the bridge collecting (and drinking) the precious liquid in cans, pans, buckets--anything that would hold wine. Those with no containers "would hold their mouths under the drip and guzzle like hogs under a watering trough."4
Mason Smith filed a claim on Porter's Prairie in 1872 and later bought out his brother-in-law's adjacent claim. With his sons, he developed a very large farm. One son, L. C. Smith, later became a County Commissioner, mayor of Auburn, and King County Sheriff, while his grandson became mayor of Seattle.
In 1874, Edwin White and his family traveled across the country from Boston to San Francisco on the new transcontinental railroad and then to Seattle by boat, by a small steamer up the Duwamish River to Slaughter (Auburn), and by George Vanderbeck's lumber wagon to Porter's Prairie. The Whites moved into a cabin abandoned by a settler who found the pioneer life here too difficult.
One of the first roads in the area was Road No. 67, (later L. C. Smith Road, now part of the current SE 456th Way). This route, which had been in use since at least 1867, provided a link to other nearby communities. Locals began building other roads, and the new wagon road from Puget Sound over the Cascades (following the native Naches Pass trail) passed through Porterville.1
In honor of its pioneer, the settlers of the 1870s near Allen Porter's land claim called the area Porterville. By 1877, a post office was established, the community was connected with official county roads, and the name of the settlement was changed from Porterville to Osceola .
In the 1890s, Osceola farmers joined the hops boom until it crashed, and the Whites, among others, lost their farm. Several of their neighbors who survived the Panic of 1892 turned to dairy and poultry. Years later, the Jokumsen family set up a large cucumber farm and opened the Osceola Pickle Company.2
The French District/Firgrove
In 1873, Basil Courville settled in what was soon to become the French area, and much later, Firgrove. The French Canadian was 63 at the time and had spent a good part of his life with the Hudson's Bay Company, but also served in the Civil War. He had previously been a pioneer in California and Oregon. Courville arrived with his full-blooded native wife, whom he had taught to speed very good French, and four children, ranging in age from eight to twenty.1
Eusebe Fournier settled nearby in 1875 but failed his claim, as did four others on the Plateau that year and one in 1876. Finally, in 1877, the Courvilles got permanent neighbors, Charles Forget and his family, along with his brother-in-law, Joe Gautier.2 They bought three cows from the government and brought them by boat to Seattle, then drove them on the trail all the way here.
The French-speaking population of the area suddenly grew from one to eight, with two additional babies the following year and two more wagons arriving with Jack Aubert and Eugene Cota's family. Aubert failed his claim, but the Cotas became lifelong residents.
The first Danes settled in the Enumclaw area in the mid-1880s near the Mahler homestead. Sarne and Kris Sorensen and Julius and Louis Nicholas bought land with their railroad wages and then sent to Denmark for family and friends. Before long, the Danes had started many farms in the area.
It was a struggle to survive, especially with the Depression of the 90s. Hard times were compounded first with the collapse of the hop market and then an infestation of hop lice. Sorensen survived by turning to pottery as a trade, a skill he had learned in Denmark. On the bottom of each pot, he stamped Flensted, his native Danish town, and gave this name to the young community.1 (It was located about where the current Evergreen Cemetery is and should not to be confused with the current Flensted housing development on the south end of town.)
The Sorensens had to buy on credit at the store, and eventually got so behind they were forced to mortgage the farm. In time, however, they recovered, and later Sarne became a very successful businessman in Enumclaw. According to his nephew, Herb, Sarne would have remained a potter all his life had he not left Denmark for Enumclaw.2 (Personal note: In my family's exploratory trips to Enumclaw in the early 1950s, Herb Sorensen was the first person we met here. My father grew rhododendrons on Herb's farm for several years until we moved here.)
The Danes supported each other in the hard times by developing cooperatives. They were instrumental in the organization of Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company (now Mutual of Enumclaw) in 1898, the Cooperative Creamery (now Darigold) in 1899, Rochdale Department Store in 1905, and the Enumclaw Grange in 1909.3
Known today for the Krain Corner Restaurant, this community had its beginnings in 1881. Mathias Malnerich, a native of the Dukedom of Krain in Austria (now Slovenia), bought 320 acres to start a farm. It was difficult in an area of old-growth forest and no roads, bridges, or railroads. He built a house, drained a lake, and eventually planted hay, vegetables, and the big money- maker of the area, hops. Soon after Malnerich's arrival, his cousin came. Word spread among those in his original Austrian parish, so that by 1889, twenty of his home-country neighbors lived in the Washington Krain.
By this time, there were also fifteen Irish families in the area and the two ethnic groups worked together to build a Catholic church. Mathias Malnerich donated five acres for the church and cemetery and the community raised $625. They bought the materials and paid Anton Kauka $200 to build the 24- by 50-foot structure, complete with a 57-foot high tower .1
Creating productive farms out of old-growth forest was difficult, but some of the Krain residents had been miners in the old country and were able to bring needed cash into the community by working in nearby Franklin and Coal Creek. Others found livelihoods selling their garden vegetables to the miners and their families.
The Krain Store opened in 1903. It became the Krain Tavern in 1916 and was later rolled across the highway. It housed several other businesses before becoming the Krain Corner Restaurant. A visit there now greets you with rooms full of pictures and stories from the early days of this Slovenian settlement.
Coal Creek/Birch and Veazie
Coal Creek, which later became Birch and Veazie, was first settled by Otto and Theodore Tamm in 1883. As others in neighboring districts had done, they took up claims earlier pioneers had abandoned. In the beginning, they sold vegetables to the miners, and later to crews building the Northern Pacific Railroad. As their farms got larger and they added hops and cattle, the two made a great deal of money in the good years. When bad times came, they did better than their peers who had not diversified. They would have done better yet had the railroad built the hoped-for siding in Birch rather than Enumclaw. By 1900, the community, with its post office, hotel and store gone, had only the school remaining. It closed in 1914. Otto Tamm, however, continued to thrive. He worked with a few others to found the cooperatives, and was later president of Mutual of Enumclaw for nineteen years.
Veazie, a few miles out past Birch, was unique in that it was logged before it was settled in 1886. A post office opened in 1890 and closed two years later.1 Veazie struggled to grow, but by the time a new coal vein was discovered there in 1907, the community had only a sawmill, stone quarry, and the mine.2
Mud Mountain/Mt Baldy
The early settlers of the Mud Mountain district arrived by train. In 1888, the Buchanan family were first. Maude, one of the daughters, later described her first day on the claim. "Father had built a split cedar shack to live in until we could haul lumber from Conner's mill and build a house. . . As we walked along the narrow, rough road, mother carried the baby and father carried Belle on his shoulder. Belle from her exalted position saw our new house first. I think she was a bit surprised to see anything but trees, so she pointed her finger and exclaimed, 'Oh, Pa, nares a barn.' "1
Shortly thereafter, George Forler arrived in Enumclaw with his family after crossing the new White River trestle on a freight train, spending the night in the Stevenson hotel. Here is a description by a family member of their going out to the claim for the first time:
"Someone took our things on a pack horse, and we followed the horse. It was only a rough and narrow trail. Very rough. . . Our little cabin was built of split cedar. You could reach out of either of the two windows and touch the trees. . . All our furniture was made out of split cedar. For a mattress, we had a straw tick, minus the straw. The first two years we had dried ferns."2
Soon a third family, the Malidores, joined the Mud Mountain community. Mrs. Malidore described their nighttime arrival at the Stevenson hotel: "Naturally, we did not see much of the town that night and were surprised next morning to see only a few buildings scattered among the trees. . . The three buildings faced Railroad Street, which wasn't a street at all, only a trail through the woods. In fact, there weren't any streets, just trails. . . There was only a foot trail through the woods [to Mud Mountain], some places so muddy one could hardly get through and my husband had to carry me on his back to the place where our home was to be."3
The Moeller family settled nearby in the hills above where the current transfer is located. With nine children, they had almost enough for a school of their own. All but the baby hiked the long trek through the woods to Mud Mountain. The last one, Arthur, was born in their potato patch to the surprised and hard-working Mrs. Moeller.4
As transportation improved after the turn of the century, the need for so many towns on the Plateau decreased. Better roads, automobiles, and school busses all led to consolidation of services. Enumclaw emerged as the hub of the area, with its critical railroad siding and train station, fast-growing timber company, and administrative center for the economic cooperatives. People still lived and farmed across the Plateau, but the scattered settlements lost much of their individual identities.
(We are getting into some familiar names now. If you have family stories or interesting anecdotes about these neighboring communities, share them with us in the comments below. If your story doesn't fit in the space allowed, just make multiple comments or write a separate blog.)
Boise Creek NOTES
1. Boise Beginnings. Historylink.org.
2. Houston Allen interview. Washington Rural Heritage Collections. 9.10.1975. p. 13.
3. Houston Allen interview. Washington Rural Heritage Collections. 9.10.1975. p. 13.
4. Special Edition Supplement to the Enumclaw Courier-Herald/Buckley News Banner. Enumclaw Courier-Herald Centennial Edition, 1985.
1. The Osceola Loop Heritage Corridor follows some of these roads today. King County Roads.
2. Mile by mile tour of the Osceola Loop Heritage Corridor, with a 1937 picture of two members of the Jokumsen family and their Osceola Pickle Company truck. King County Roads.
The French District/ Firgrove NOTES
1. Nancy Irene Hall. In the Shadow of the Mountain. The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 26.
2. Nancy Irene Hall. In the Shadow of the Mountain. The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 36.
1. Pioneer History of Enumclaw. Enumclaw Women's Progressive Club, 1938. p. 17.
2. Poppleton, There Is Only One Enumclaw. 1995. p. 93.
3. "Enumclaw Thumbnail". Historylink.org.
1. "History of the Slovenian Community and Church in Krain, WA". Slovenes in the USA
A list of those buried at the "Holy Family Krain Cemetery". US Cemetery Project.
Coal Creek/Birch and Veazie NOTES
1. Poppleton, There Is Only One Enumclaw. 1995. pp. 97-98.
2. Nancy Irene Hall. In the Shadow of the Mountain. The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 205.
Mt Baldy/Mud Mountain NOTES
1. Pioneer History of Enumclaw. Enumclaw Women's Progressive Club, 1938. p. 107.
2. Nancy Irene Hall. In the Shadow of the Mountain. The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 77.
3. Nancy Irene Hall. In the Shadow of the Mountain. The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 78.
4. Nancy Irene Hall. In the Shadow of the Mountain. The Courier Publishing, Enumclaw, 1983, and republished by Heritage Quest Press, Orting, 2004. p. 79.
ENUMCLAW CENTENNIAL BLOG SERIES
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 Alan Porter's Wagon
Enumclaw's Early Plateau Neighbors
Schools and Districts
Enumclaw Becomes a Town: 1879-1913
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