Connections

Connections

 Introduction:  Over the years the Yelm area has been the connected to the “outside world” in a number of ways.  In this section you can find out about these “connections.”

The River – Indian Use  (The following is taken from testimony before the United States 

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  These Hearings were held in Seattle, Washington, on August 2-4, 1982, and July 25-August 5, 1983.  At these hearings the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Washington Departments of Fisheries and Game, Commission Staff and the City of Centralia presented testimony and numerous exhibits)

The record supports the conclusion that the Nisqually River was used as a conduit for commerce among the various groups of Indians living along the river’s banks and the Puget Sound area.  There is reliable evidence that an extensive Indian trade network once existed which linked Indians east of the Cascades to Indians in the Hood Canal and Vancouver’s Island areas.  Furthermore, the record adequately demonstrates Indians consistently used the river for commercial fishing, transportation of fish and furs to local and distant trade centers, and for general transportation of persons and property.   The existence of Indian villages scattered along the river from at least rivermile 39.6 [roughly the site of the La Grande Dam] down to the flats is demonstrated.

Transportation among these villages involved use of canoes  which were the Indian’s primary mode of transport.  In particular, the Nisqually Indians used a canoe called the “shovelnose” which was well adapted to river use.   This type of canoe was used extensively by the Indians with villages along the rivers flowing into Puget Sound and the surrounding coastal region.

The nature of Indian trade, particularly among the Nisqually Indians and related Puget Sound groups and those at Vancouver’s Island, now known as Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, was of such a magnitude it caused the United States to take action to curb it.  As a result, the United States in its negotiation of the Treaty of Medicine Creek, bargained with the Nisqually Indians and other bands of Indians for a provision in the Treaty by which the Indians agreed to give up their trade at Vancouver’s Island. 

. . . [T]he record shows the river was used by the Indians to trade with the Hudson Bay Company.  Evidence also supports a finding that in the early part of this century Indians residing on the Mashel Prairie used their canoes in the course of trading furs, at a trading past near Yelm, fifteen or more miles downstream.   Use of the shovelnose canoe on the Nisqually river by Indians for transport of harvested fish and travel to and from fishing sites is well documented.   Indeed, even after the turn of the century, Nisqually Indians were reported to have poled upstream from their reservation at least as far as the dewatered stretch of the river, approximately rivermile 14. 

Evidence of Indian use of the Nisqually River is further corroborated by the testimony of several witnesses.   Such evidence of Indians using canoes for fishing and transportation is substantial evidence of the river’s navigability. 

Horses

Yelm Ferries  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The very first ferrry across the Nisqually river was a canoe ferry.  IT was a connecting link in the Indian trail running from Yelm north through the site of the present town of Roy.  Here Henry Martin, an Indian, was always on call.  He stood erect to pole the canoe across, says D. R. Hughes, who recalls riding with him.  If the passenger had a horse, it must swim alongside of the canoe.  Henry was one of Gov. Stevens’ interpreters in making the treaties of 1855.

The Wagon Ferry  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The first wagon ferry within the state was at Yelm Prairie.  W. H. Gilstrap, an early secretary of the State Historical society, leaves these notes:  “Road from Olympia to Steilacoom, built in 1853.  Had to make a detour around past Yelm to get to Olympia.  Not the old Indian trail. First, wagon ferry  across Nisqually in 1854.”

This service apparently was not continuous and was probably maintained for the convenience of the Hudson’s Bay Co.

In 1869 William Wagner was granted the third ferry license to be issued by the territory.  His ferry depended on a windlass and cable for power, guided by a long and short cable, so arranged that the current helped to propel the boat.

The entire neighborhood turned out for the christening  of Mr. Wagner’s new ferry. Mrs. Ockfen (Sophia St. Cyr) of McKenna, is sponsor for most of the information about the ferries. The small Sophia does not recall the year, or who broke the bottle over the prow, or even what the bottle contained, but she remembers the singing and the excitement of the christening. For many years she and her brothers rode back and forth to school at Yelm, and she knew both the

ferrymen well.

After the ferry was sold to Mr. Tom Pierce, Sophia continued to patronize it. The boys tried to see how fast they could wind up the cable and reach the other side.

In one of the Nisqually floods, a great tree was carried down the river and the trunk punctured the boat. Mr. Pierce, with his nephew, one of the Price boys, tied a rope to the ferry and rowing up stream, pulled on the rope, hoping the current would raise the boat. As he was paying out rope, a loop caught around his foot and he was pulled into the river and drowned.

After this tragedy the Price boys took over the ferry and operated it until popular demand for a bridge brought about a change.

Bridges  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

There had been bridges before on the lower Nisqually, but they had been short-lived. Yelm wanted a permanent one, so the neighborhood set about raising funds.  Mrs. Ockfen remembered

that James Longmire gave a hundred dollars.  The county made up the rest and the bridge was built with much of the labor being donated.  This was about 1884.  The bridge was made of wood and it lasted until it was carried away in a flood several years later.

The next bridge was a very substantial structure, part steel, put in with county funds. However, it proved too narrow for modern traffic, and was replaced about 1919 by the present concrete structure.                 

The  Over-the-Mountain Trail  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The Indian tribes on both aides of the Cascades made frequent trips over the Natches Pass. The trail on the west side was known as the Bald Hill Trail and a part of it was used west and north, crossed the river by the Canoe Ferry, or the near-by ford, and became the path to the beaches of the Puget Sound.  So the important east-west and north-south trails joined at Yelm Prairie where they crossed the Nisqually River.

U. S. Military Road  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

When the United States took over the Oregon country in 1846, the first official act was to construct a Fort-to-Fort road from Vancouver to Steilacoom.  This largely followed the old

Hudson’s Bay Company trail.  It was so well made that today, a century later, remnants are still discernible on the Philby place and at other points.

History of the Northern Pacific Prairie Line

(The following article appeared in the July 19, 1990 edition of the Nisqually Valley News)

By: Brian R. Ferris

Introduction:  The railroads played an important role in the development of the Puget Sound area.  In early years, Yelm had the privilege of being located on the main rail line between Seattle and Portland. In recent years, the favorable economics of truck transportation for freight and the personal automobile for passengers has caused a decline in rail traffic. The local railroad line, once known as the Prairie Line, has been scaled down to an almost nonexistent status.  Now, according to Burlington Northern Railroad, current owner of the line, Yelm is considered to be the “end of the line.”

                                                The Coming of the Railroad

In the mid-19th century, many communities were just getting their start in the Pacific northwest.  In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation which chartered the Northern Pacific Railroad to complete a line between the Midwest and the Puget Sound.  The legislation included a reward of a 40 million-acre public land donation.

With that challenge in place, each of the local communities attempted to persuade the Northern Pacific Railroad to choose them as the western terminus.  Great prosperity and development would result for the chosen site.  The list of finalists included Olympia, Steilacoom, Tacoma, Mukilteo and Seattle.

By 1870, the Northern Pacific (NP) had raised enough money in bond sales to begin the westward from Minnesota.  In addition, a line had been started north from Kalama, located approximately 40 miles north of Portland on the Columbia River.  This line was to connect with the Puget Sound western terminus. By the end of 1871, about 21 miles of rail had been laid.  In

June of 1872, construction was in full swing with a full crew of 800 men and two locomotives. The men were paid $2.25 per day.  With the exception of a delay to build a bridge crossing the Cowlitz River, the line moved rapidly northward reaching the small community of Tenino by October of 1872.  Regular service began in November over the 65-mile line between Kalama and Tenino.

Due to financial difficulties for the NP, a major washout of the newly constructed segment, and the uncertainty of the location of the western terminus, constuction was stalled at Tenino for over eight months.  During this time many rumors circulated about the terminal choice. Olympia experienced a land boom in speculation that the city would be chosen.

In May of 1873, construction resumed in the general direction of Olympia.  After years of study, the Northern Pacific Board chose Tacoma on Commencement Bay for the Puget Sound Terminus.  Following the July 14 announcement, the line was surveyed in an eastward direction from Teninio to Tacoma.  Some land was deeded back to Olympia when the city was not named the terminus.  Not only was Olympia not selected as terminus, it was bypassed altogether.

Arthur G.Dwelley notes in “Prairies and Quarries”the blame for this bypass was placed on a greedy real estate company (a subsidiary of the NP) and the fact that Olympia’s water harbor was shallow.  The capital city eventually built its own narrow gauged railroad to connect with the main line in Tenino. It was called the Olympia and Tenino, then the Olympia and Chehalis Valley Railroad, finally the Port Townsend Southern Railroad.

The tracks were completed to the Yelm area by the fall of 1873; the Nisqually River crossing was finished by late September.  The work proceeded through the prairie to where Roy is now located, on to Lakeview and the South Tacoma area.  In October construction was delayed four miles southwest of Tacoma due to a shortage of iron and money.  The 40-mile segment between

Tenino and Tacoma was completed on December 27,1873, and service began on January 5, 1874.

Business was not booming in the early years on the Pacific Division Line.  One daily passenger train was scheduled in each direction between Kalama and Tacoma from 1873-1877.  Freight trains were run on an as-needed basis.  A line was completed between Goble, Oregon and Portland on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.  With a transfer ferry across the Columbia from Kalama to Goble. the Tacoma-Portland run went into service on October 9,1884.  The long

awaited transcontinental route from St.Paul, Minnesota, was completed over Stampede Pass on July 3.1887.

                                                    Yelm area prospers

With the arrival of the railroad in the late 1880’s, several businesses sprang up in Yelm near where the rails crossed a wagon road to Olympia.  Edgar Prescott quotes Yelm pioneer James Mosman in “Early Yelm” as saying,”The railroad never gave us much in the way of service.”  The only facility was a wood platform.  Trains had to be flagged for passengers to board-with a white  cloth during the day, by lighting a newspaper at night.  Often the signals were ignored by the “highballing”train crews in a hurry to complete their run to Tacoma. Incoming freight was usually left somewhere in the vicinity of the platform.

Fed up with the poor service to the area, James Mosman approached the NP about setting up a manned agency at Yelm.  The NP laughed at the idea claiming the area accounted for$11.00 in monthly revenue.  By meeting every train for the next month and noting its passenger and freight (marsh hay and dairy products).  Mosman proved there was much more business than the NP claimed.

He presented his findings to officials who agreed to let him act as agent and gave him 15 percent of revenue from ticket sales and express.  In the first two weeks, Mosman’s take was $120.00.  The NP eventually granted a recognized agency for Yelm.

Mosman’s next demand was that a depot be built.  The NP once again turned him away.  He took his case before the Interstate Commerce Commission in Olympia who granted the depot be established.  The structure was built sometime around 1912.

New Route Constructed

In 1909, a Columbia River bridge at Vancouver, Washington, was completed dispensing with the ferry crossing at Kalama. In January 1910, the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) reached an agreement granting them trackage rights on the line from Portland to Tacoma.  In June, a similar agreement was signed with the Great Northern Railroad(GN).

With the addition of the other railroads, activity was at an all time high for the mostly single-track line. Louis I. Renz reports in his book “The History if the Northern Pacific Railroad” daily totals from the 3 railroads were 22 passenger trains and 18 freight trains-and those figures were on the increase.  The need to improve the operations became evident.

The NP contracted to have the Tenino-to-Kalama line double tracked, straightend and reduced in gradient.  The same had already been completed on the Kalama-to-Portland segment in 1909. Since a portion of the Prairie Line south of Tacoma contained a 2.2 mile section of 2.2 percent grade, the NP surveyed a flatter grade onto Tacoma.

The new line was to diverge at Tenino, follow the grade of the then NP-owned ex-Port Townsend Southern Olympia Branch for 6 miles to Plumb and  head northeast toward Nisqually and Stielacoom.  The line followed the Sound to Point Defiance, entered a tunnel ay Ruston to the Commencement Bay side of the Point, then turned south into Tacoma.

Since the new line was at water level and conained no grades, the NP did not complain about increasing the Tenino-to-Tacoma segment from 39.18 to 43.71 miles.  The line was completed with double track in December, 1914.

The single track Prairie Line through Yelm was downgraded  to secondary status.  Only the NP and  GN continued to use the line.  In the1920’s, timetable stations were located at West Tenino, McIntosh, Wetico, Rainier, Yelm, Roy, Lakeview, South Tacoma and Hillhurst.  Of these, West

Tenino, Rainier, Yelm, Roy, Lakeview and South Tacoma had depot buildings.  By 1926, only 2 passenger trains, one each day, were scheduled daily. (The1928 Department of Public Works Map shows a short logging railroad owned by the G.D. Lumber Company connecting with the Prairie Line at Yelm.)

The war years at the Yelm depot

Throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s Yelm held its status as a flag stop and hosted the only telegraph operator (days only) between Lakeview and Tenino.  The April,1942,  NP timetable shows the prairie Line with northbound and southbound passenger and freight trains scheduled daily.

Joaquin”Joe” Miller(father of Donald R. Miller, publisher and editor of the Nisqually Valley News) [when this article was written], was assigned as agent at the Yelm site from1938 to 1954.  He began working for the railroad in 1918 after serving in the Army.  During the depression, he was laid off and worked  off the “extra board”  filling in  when other employees were on vacation, serving at several agencies on the NP.

Don Miller recalls the converted box cars that served as section houses for the crew and lined both sides of the track near the Yelm depot during the 1940’s.  One siding served the Standard Oil bulk plant and a teamster track joined the Prairie line to load cars with poles.  A”hobo jungle” was sited near the present golf course during the Depression years.

Dan Maslowski, who served as the city street sweeper during the decades of the 1940’s and1950’s, came to Yelm on the train and spent time in the hobo jungle before finding work with farmers in the community.  A fountain in front of the fire station [now gone] on Yelm Avenue is dedicated to Maslowski.

Don Miller remembered a Yelm youth, Guy Summers, who was hired in the 1940’s to be the operator at the depot during the graveyard shift.  His job was to report to the dispatcher  when the train passed through Yelm.   One uneventful night Summers fell asleep. When the dispatcher called to check on the status of a northbound train,Summers told him it had not been through. Unfortunately, the train in question was already sitting at the depot in Tacoma.  The “old timers” taught Summers how to avoid the situation in the future.  He placed a stick across the tracks and if he would fall asleep,  a glance at the broken stick would let him know if a train had passed.

While he was in high school, Miller received commissions for delivering freight as a “drayman.”  With the money he earned he bought his first  automobile.The freight house had two doors and Don had the habit of backing down the tracks and angling his 1930 Model B pickup into the house to load.  After loading freight one day, Don went into the living quarters of the depot

 to visit with his father. He heard a train whistle coming from the South and rushed out to move his truck. He was too late — the fully loaded steam train with an 80-car load of logs was unable to stop.The mishap was not as bad as it could have been;  the Model B received only a dented radiator and a broken headlight.

Don remembers the “thrill”of attempting to flag down a large scale steam locomotive with a heavy load of steam to make the small grade into Yelm.  He recalls there were two desks back to back at the agency — one for the Northern Pacific business, one for the Great Northern business.

The Railroad is Remembered

Dorothy Brown – The train was very vitally to the town in the early days and even in those days you could flag the train down if you wanted to go to Portland of Tacoma.  And they wouldn’t stop because it wasn’t a regular stop but if there was someone at the depot and the could flag it down and they would stop and they could ride the train if you wanted to.  And if they  didn’t…… [they] ….use the train for delivering a lot of things in those days.  The stores got some of their things by train and even after the war. 

Roger Eide – when we lived in Roy weÍd ride the train to Yelm to go to the dentist.  They didn’t have a dentist in Roy and they had one in Yelm.  But other than that we never rode it too much. 

Bicycle Decade  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The first decade of the new century might be called the bicycle decade. This means of travel was so prevalent that a good toll trail was kept up between Yelm and Olympia.  One minister, Rev. Mixsell, kept his appointments at the various churches by pedaling his way around.  Messages were sent, a la Western Union, by proud youngsters on their “wheels”, (not bikes).

But cycling nourished more for the social pleasure of the many not so young, flitted over to Olympia for ice cream sodas at noon and then home for supper.  Mrs. Nate Morris once declared that it seemed like flying, compared to the horse and buggy, and she frequently rode to the capital city.  The younger bicvcle crowd comprised the ‘teen-agers’ of the day.  Clara, Annie, Roy and George McKenzie, Kate and Essie Chambers, Christine Van Trump (for whom Christine Falls was nam ed) Bell and Joe Melvin, Neo  Conine, Tom  McGlothlan, Lelah Rice (Mosman), James Mosman, and many others were included. 

In a 1998 interview Bob Wolf remembered: 

“ . . .we bicycled to Olympia all the time.  But maybe we were so used to bad roads that it

didn’t bother us. . .  But we did bicycle to Olympia a lot.                             

The Concrete Trail  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The automobile was largely responsible for the concrete trail, the highway that winds like ribbon over the state.

The first auto in Yelm was the property of James Mosman.  It was all the one-cylindered Oldsmobiie could do to work itself and the driver up a hill.  All other passengers had to walk. 

The license number was 334.  The date was 1905.   This single seater had a small jump seat which could be fastened to the back of the front seat, and was entered by a little step from  the rear.  The car was cranked at the side.

The Bus – The greyhound bus came from Tacoma, through Yelm, and then Rainier, and then Tenino.  So, that’s another reason Olympia  was harder to get to.  After the war, or during the war, they started bus service to Olympia because the people that worked at the state house rode the bus back and forth to Olympia.

Lila Eide – Well, because I think most people thought towards Tacoma. But there was a bus line, and my mother had gone to the University of Puget Sound, so she was acclimated toward Tacoma. All of our medical- exceptional medical problems went to Tacoma- we did have a local doctor which we went to. And I do remember going shopping with her in there. Olympia was kind of a different- we never thought much of it, it was where our bank was. And I’d go over sometimes with dad to the bank, and I’d go to the dime-store, I remember going there. But it was not the center, as much as a lot of people feel now- of course with Capital Mall, and all the different stores. So I think Tacoma was more of the place to go.

Roger Eide –  When I was a kid we just got clothes out of the store, it was a general

 store.  It had the whole works, so we mostly just went there.  My mother

 used to ride the bus to Tacoma, it went from Rainier to Tacoma.

Dorothy Brown – We didn’t go there often but if there wasn’t, if you needed major shopping, major clothes or whatever.  You would go to Tacoma, but you didn’t go often.  It was a major event that you got to go to Tacoma.

? ? ? ? ?  My dad was pretty hot for a car, so I grew up knowing we always had a car. So obviously by the thirties… I remember one time he went back to visit his old Michigan farm, and picked up a car at the factory in Detroit. And came all the way across the country- that was 1936, because it was a ‘36 Plymouth, and it was steel gray, and I thought it was the most disappointing looking thing I had ever seen. We were built up for him bringing this brand-new car, and here it was a dumb old gray car. But we always had a car- it was an important thing to him.

Roger Eide – I got mine in 1935 or 6.  My first one I had, my friend and I had his

father give it to us, it was a model T Ford.  It was just kind of four wheels and an engine and that

 as about all, there wasn’t much to it, no body or cab on it or anything like that.  The next one I got was a 1929 model T Ford, it was seven or eight years old but it was kind of a nice little roadster.  The first good one I bought was a 1949 that I owned.  But I went through several of them at that time, the first one was given to us and the next one I bought for $35.

Lila Eide – Yes, we always had a car.  Sometimes it wasn’t the best car in the world because in those days as well as now, Yelm was truly isolated, if you didn’t have a car.  And if you went to work ….. you needed a car.  Gas was very very cheap then.  What was it?  Fifteen cents a gallon or something.  And a lot of times, after picking berries all day in the hot summer.  For something to do for fun, several of the children would pool their money to buy a gallon of gas and drive up to the lake to go swimming.  But they’d pool their money to get that fifteen or twenty cents for the gallon of gas.

Dorothy Brown –  Well, while I was in high school I think there were three.  There was R——   Brothers Garage which is where the body shop is now up on the corner that used to be by the railroad track.  And there was one where Tim’s Pharmacy is now.  And then there was one where the paint shop is now on the other corner.

                                                            CONNECTIONS

Introduction:  Over the years the Yelm area has been the connected to the “outside world” in a number of ways.  In this section you can find out about these “connections.”

The River – Indian Use  (The following is taken from testimony before the United States 

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  These Hearings were held in Seattle, Washington, on August 2-4, 1982, and July 25-August 5, 1983.  At these hearings the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Washington Departments of Fisheries and Game, Commission Staff and the City of Centralia presented testimony and numerous exhibits)

The record supports the conclusion that the Nisqually River was used as a conduit for commerce among the various groups of Indians living along the river’s banks and the Puget Sound area.  There is reliable evidence that an extensive Indian trade network once existed which linked Indians east of the Cascades to Indians in the Hood Canal and Vancouver’s Island areas.  Furthermore, the record adequately demonstrates Indians consistently used the river for commercial fishing, transportation of fish and furs to local and distant trade centers, and for general transportation of persons and property.   The existence of Indian villages scattered along the river from at least rivermile 39.6 [roughly the site of the La Grande Dam] down to the flats is demonstrated.

Transportation among these villages involved use of canoes  which were the Indian’s primary mode of transport.  In particular, the Nisqually Indians used a canoe called the “shovelnose” which was well adapted to river use.   This type of canoe was used extensively by the Indians with villages along the rivers flowing into Puget Sound and the surrounding coastal region.

The nature of Indian trade, particularly among the Nisqually Indians and related Puget Sound groups and those at Vancouver’s Island, now known as Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, was of such a magnitude it caused the United States to take action to curb it.  As a result, the United States in its negotiation of the Treaty of Medicine Creek, bargained with the Nisqually Indians and other bands of Indians for a provision in the Treaty by which the Indians agreed to give up their trade at Vancouver’s Island. 

. . . [T]he record shows the river was used by the Indians to trade with the Hudson Bay Company.  Evidence also supports a finding that in the early part of this century Indians residing on the Mashel Prairie used their canoes in the course of trading furs, at a trading past near Yelm, fifteen or more miles downstream.   Use of the shovelnose canoe on the Nisqually river by Indians for transport of harvested fish and travel to and from fishing sites is well documented.   Indeed, even after the turn of the century, Nisqually Indians were reported to have poled upstream from their reservation at least as far as the dewatered stretch of the river, approximately rivermile 14. 

Evidence of Indian use of the Nisqually River is further corroborated by the testimony of several witnesses.   Such evidence of Indians using canoes for fishing and transportation is substantial evidence of the river’s navigability. 

Horses

Yelm Ferries  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The very first ferrry across the Nisqually river was a canoe ferry.  IT was a connecting link in the Indian trail running from Yelm north through the site of the present town of Roy.  Here Henry Martin, an Indian, was always on call.  He stood erect to pole the canoe across, says D. R. Hughes, who recalls riding with him.  If the passenger had a horse, it must swim alongside of the canoe.  Henry was one of Gov. Stevens’ interpreters in making the treaties of 1855.

The Wagon Ferry  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The first wagon ferry within the state was at Yelm Prairie.  W. H. Gilstrap, an early secretary of the State Historical society, leaves these notes:  “Road from Olympia to Steilacoom, built in 1853.  Had to make a detour around past Yelm to get to Olympia.  Not the old Indian trail. First, wagon ferry  across Nisqually in 1854.”

This service apparently was not continuous and was probably maintained for the convenience of the Hudson’s Bay Co.

In 1869 William Wagner was granted the third ferry license to be issued by the territory.  His ferry depended on a windlass and cable for power, guided by a long and short cable, so arranged that the current helped to propel the boat.

The entire neighborhood turned out for the christening  of Mr. Wagner’s new ferry. Mrs. Ockfen (Sophia St. Cyr) of McKenna, is sponsor for most of the information about the ferries. The small Sophia does not recall the year, or who broke the bottle over the prow, or even what the bottle contained, but she remembers the singing and the excitement of the christening. For many years she and her brothers rode back and forth to school at Yelm, and she knew both the

ferrymen well.

After the ferry was sold to Mr. Tom Pierce, Sophia continued to patronize it. The boys tried to see how fast they could wind up the cable and reach the other side.

In one of the Nisqually floods, a great tree was carried down the river and the trunk punctured the boat. Mr. Pierce, with his nephew, one of the Price boys, tied a rope to the ferry and rowing up stream, pulled on the rope, hoping the current would raise the boat. As he was paying out rope, a loop caught around his foot and he was pulled into the river and drowned.

After this tragedy the Price boys took over the ferry and operated it until popular demand for a bridge brought about a change.

Bridges  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

There had been bridges before on the lower Nisqually, but they had been short-lived. Yelm wanted a permanent one, so the neighborhood set about raising funds.  Mrs. Ockfen remembered

that James Longmire gave a hundred dollars.  The county made up the rest and the bridge was built with much of the labor being donated.  This was about 1884.  The bridge was made of wood and it lasted until it was carried away in a flood several years later.

The next bridge was a very substantial structure, part steel, put in with county funds. However, it proved too narrow for modern traffic, and was replaced about 1919 by the present concrete structure.                 

The  Over-the-Mountain Trail  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The Indian tribes on both aides of the Cascades made frequent trips over the Natches Pass. The trail on the west side was known as the Bald Hill Trail and a part of it was used west and north, crossed the river by the Canoe Ferry, or the near-by ford, and became the path to the beaches of the Puget Sound.  So the important east-west and north-south trails joined at Yelm Prairie where they crossed the Nisqually River.

U. S. Military Road  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

When the United States took over the Oregon country in 1846, the first official act was to construct a Fort-to-Fort road from Vancouver to Steilacoom.  This largely followed the old

Hudson’s Bay Company trail.  It was so well made that today, a century later, remnants are still discernible on the Philby place and at other points.

History of the Northern Pacific Prairie Line

(The following article appeared in the July 19, 1990 edition of the Nisqually Valley News)

By: Brian R. Ferris

Introduction:  The railroads played an important role in the development of the Puget Sound area.  In early years, Yelm had the privilege of being located on the main rail line between Seattle and Portland. In recent years, the favorable economics of truck transportation for freight and the personal automobile for passengers has caused a decline in rail traffic. The local railroad line, once known as the Prairie Line, has been scaled down to an almost nonexistent status.  Now, according to Burlington Northern Railroad, current owner of the line, Yelm is considered to be the “end of the line.”

                                                The Coming of the Railroad

In the mid-19th century, many communities were just getting their start in the Pacific northwest.  In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation which chartered the Northern Pacific Railroad to complete a line between the Midwest and the Puget Sound.  The legislation included a reward of a 40 million-acre public land donation.

With that challenge in place, each of the local communities attempted to persuade the Northern Pacific Railroad to choose them as the western terminus.  Great prosperity and development would result for the chosen site.  The list of finalists included Olympia, Steilacoom, Tacoma, Mukilteo and Seattle.

By 1870, the Northern Pacific (NP) had raised enough money in bond sales to begin the westward from Minnesota.  In addition, a line had been started north from Kalama, located approximately 40 miles north of Portland on the Columbia River.  This line was to connect with the Puget Sound western terminus. By the end of 1871, about 21 miles of rail had been laid.  In

June of 1872, construction was in full swing with a full crew of 800 men and two locomotives. The men were paid $2.25 per day.  With the exception of a delay to build a bridge crossing the Cowlitz River, the line moved rapidly northward reaching the small community of Tenino by October of 1872.  Regular service began in November over the 65-mile line between Kalama and Tenino.

Due to financial difficulties for the NP, a major washout of the newly constructed segment, and the uncertainty of the location of the western terminus, constuction was stalled at Tenino for over eight months.  During this time many rumors circulated about the terminal choice. Olympia experienced a land boom in speculation that the city would be chosen.

In May of 1873, construction resumed in the general direction of Olympia.  After years of study, the Northern Pacific Board chose Tacoma on Commencement Bay for the Puget Sound Terminus.  Following the July 14 announcement, the line was surveyed in an eastward direction from Teninio to Tacoma.  Some land was deeded back to Olympia when the city was not named the terminus.  Not only was Olympia not selected as terminus, it was bypassed altogether.

Arthur G.Dwelley notes in “Prairies and Quarries”the blame for this bypass was placed on a greedy real estate company (a subsidiary of the NP) and the fact that Olympia’s water harbor was shallow.  The capital city eventually built its own narrow gauged railroad to connect with the main line in Tenino. It was called the Olympia and Tenino, then the Olympia and Chehalis Valley Railroad, finally the Port Townsend Southern Railroad.

The tracks were completed to the Yelm area by the fall of 1873; the Nisqually River crossing was finished by late September.  The work proceeded through the prairie to where Roy is now located, on to Lakeview and the South Tacoma area.  In October construction was delayed four miles southwest of Tacoma due to a shortage of iron and money.  The 40-mile segment between

Tenino and Tacoma was completed on December 27,1873, and service began on January 5, 1874.

Business was not booming in the early years on the Pacific Division Line.  One daily passenger train was scheduled in each direction between Kalama and Tacoma from 1873-1877.  Freight trains were run on an as-needed basis.  A line was completed between Goble, Oregon and Portland on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.  With a transfer ferry across the Columbia from Kalama to Goble. the Tacoma-Portland run went into service on October 9,1884.  The long

awaited transcontinental route from St.Paul, Minnesota, was completed over Stampede Pass on July 3.1887.

                                                    Yelm area prospers

With the arrival of the railroad in the late 1880’s, several businesses sprang up in Yelm near where the rails crossed a wagon road to Olympia.  Edgar Prescott quotes Yelm pioneer James Mosman in “Early Yelm” as saying,”The railroad never gave us much in the way of service.”  The only facility was a wood platform.  Trains had to be flagged for passengers to board-with a white  cloth during the day, by lighting a newspaper at night.  Often the signals were ignored by the “highballing”train crews in a hurry to complete their run to Tacoma. Incoming freight was usually left somewhere in the vicinity of the platform.

Fed up with the poor service to the area, James Mosman approached the NP about setting up a manned agency at Yelm.  The NP laughed at the idea claiming the area accounted for$11.00 in monthly revenue.  By meeting every train for the next month and noting its passenger and freight (marsh hay and dairy products).  Mosman proved there was much more business than the NP claimed.

He presented his findings to officials who agreed to let him act as agent and gave him 15 percent of revenue from ticket sales and express.  In the first two weeks, Mosman’s take was $120.00.  The NP eventually granted a recognized agency for Yelm.

Mosman’s next demand was that a depot be built.  The NP once again turned him away.  He took his case before the Interstate Commerce Commission in Olympia who granted the depot be established.  The structure was built sometime around 1912.

New Route Constructed

In 1909, a Columbia River bridge at Vancouver, Washington, was completed dispensing with the ferry crossing at Kalama. In January 1910, the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) reached an agreement granting them trackage rights on the line from Portland to Tacoma.  In June, a similar agreement was signed with the Great Northern Railroad(GN).

With the addition of the other railroads, activity was at an all time high for the mostly single-track line. Louis I. Renz reports in his book “The History if the Northern Pacific Railroad” daily totals from the 3 railroads were 22 passenger trains and 18 freight trains-and those figures were on the increase.  The need to improve the operations became evident.

The NP contracted to have the Tenino-to-Kalama line double tracked, straightend and reduced in gradient.  The same had already been completed on the Kalama-to-Portland segment in 1909. Since a portion of the Prairie Line south of Tacoma contained a 2.2 mile section of 2.2 percent grade, the NP surveyed a flatter grade onto Tacoma.

The new line was to diverge at Tenino, follow the grade of the then NP-owned ex-Port Townsend Southern Olympia Branch for 6 miles to Plumb and  head northeast toward Nisqually and Stielacoom.  The line followed the Sound to Point Defiance, entered a tunnel ay Ruston to the Commencement Bay side of the Point, then turned south into Tacoma.

Since the new line was at water level and conained no grades, the NP did not complain about increasing the Tenino-to-Tacoma segment from 39.18 to 43.71 miles.  The line was completed with double track in December, 1914.

The single track Prairie Line through Yelm was downgraded  to secondary status.  Only the NP and  GN continued to use the line.  In the1920’s, timetable stations were located at West Tenino, McIntosh, Wetico, Rainier, Yelm, Roy, Lakeview, South Tacoma and Hillhurst.  Of these, West

Tenino, Rainier, Yelm, Roy, Lakeview and South Tacoma had depot buildings.  By 1926, only 2 passenger trains, one each day, were scheduled daily. (The1928 Department of Public Works Map shows a short logging railroad owned by the G.D. Lumber Company connecting with the Prairie Line at Yelm.)

The war years at the Yelm depot

Throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s Yelm held its status as a flag stop and hosted the only telegraph operator (days only) between Lakeview and Tenino.  The April,1942,  NP timetable shows the prairie Line with northbound and southbound passenger and freight trains scheduled daily.

Joaquin”Joe” Miller(father of Donald R. Miller, publisher and editor of the Nisqually Valley News) [when this article was written], was assigned as agent at the Yelm site from1938 to 1954.  He began working for the railroad in 1918 after serving in the Army.  During the depression, he was laid off and worked  off the “extra board”  filling in  when other employees were on vacation, serving at several agencies on the NP.

Don Miller recalls the converted box cars that served as section houses for the crew and lined both sides of the track near the Yelm depot during the 1940’s.  One siding served the Standard Oil bulk plant and a teamster track joined the Prairie line to load cars with poles.  A”hobo jungle” was sited near the present golf course during the Depression years.

Dan Maslowski, who served as the city street sweeper during the decades of the 1940’s and1950’s, came to Yelm on the train and spent time in the hobo jungle before finding work with farmers in the community.  A fountain in front of the fire station [now gone] on Yelm Avenue is dedicated to Maslowski.

Don Miller remembered a Yelm youth, Guy Summers, who was hired in the 1940’s to be the operator at the depot during the graveyard shift.  His job was to report to the dispatcher  when the train passed through Yelm.   One uneventful night Summers fell asleep. When the dispatcher called to check on the status of a northbound train,Summers told him it had not been through. Unfortunately, the train in question was already sitting at the depot in Tacoma.  The “old timers” taught Summers how to avoid the situation in the future.  He placed a stick across the tracks and if he would fall asleep,  a glance at the broken stick would let him know if a train had passed.

While he was in high school, Miller received commissions for delivering freight as a “drayman.”  With the money he earned he bought his first  automobile.The freight house had two doors and Don had the habit of backing down the tracks and angling his 1930 Model B pickup into the house to load.  After loading freight one day, Don went into the living quarters of the depot

 to visit with his father. He heard a train whistle coming from the South and rushed out to move his truck. He was too late — the fully loaded steam train with an 80-car load of logs was unable to stop.The mishap was not as bad as it could have been;  the Model B received only a dented radiator and a broken headlight.

Don remembers the “thrill”of attempting to flag down a large scale steam locomotive with a heavy load of steam to make the small grade into Yelm.  He recalls there were two desks back to back at the agency — one for the Northern Pacific business, one for the Great Northern business.

The Railroad is Remembered

Dorothy Brown – The train was very vitally to the town in the early days and even in those days you could flag the train down if you wanted to go to Portland of Tacoma.  And they wouldn’t stop because it wasn’t a regular stop but if there was someone at the depot and the could flag it down and they would stop and they could ride the train if you wanted to.  And if they  didn’t…… [they] ….use the train for delivering a lot of things in those days.  The stores got some of their things by train and even after the war. 

Roger Eide – when we lived in Roy weÍd ride the train to Yelm to go to the dentist.  They didn’t have a dentist in Roy and they had one in Yelm.  But other than that we never rode it too much. 

Bicycle Decade  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The first decade of the new century might be called the bicycle decade. This means of travel was so prevalent that a good toll trail was kept up between Yelm and Olympia.  One minister, Rev. Mixsell, kept his appointments at the various churches by pedaling his way around.  Messages were sent, a la Western Union, by proud youngsters on their “wheels”, (not bikes).

But cycling nourished more for the social pleasure of the many not so young, flitted over to Olympia for ice cream sodas at noon and then home for supper.  Mrs. Nate Morris once declared that it seemed like flying, compared to the horse and buggy, and she frequently rode to the capital city.  The younger bicvcle crowd comprised the ‘teen-agers’ of the day.  Clara, Annie, Roy and George McKenzie, Kate and Essie Chambers, Christine Van Trump (for whom Christine Falls was nam ed) Bell and Joe Melvin, Neo  Conine, Tom  McGlothlan, Lelah Rice (Mosman), James Mosman, and many others were included. 

In a 1998 interview Bob Wolf remembered: 

“ . . .we bicycled to Olympia all the time.  But maybe we were so used to bad roads that it

didn’t bother us. . .  But we did bicycle to Olympia a lot.                             

The Concrete Trail  (From:  The Story of Yelm 1848-1948)

The automobile was largely responsible for the concrete trail, the highway that winds like ribbon over the state.

The first auto in Yelm was the property of James Mosman.  It was all the one-cylindered Oldsmobiie could do to work itself and the driver up a hill.  All other passengers had to walk. 

The license number was 334.  The date was 1905.   This single seater had a small jump seat which could be fastened to the back of the front seat, and was entered by a little step from  the rear.  The car was cranked at the side.

The Bus – The greyhound bus came from Tacoma, through Yelm, and then Rainier, and then Tenino.  So, that’s another reason Olympia  was harder to get to.  After the war, or during the war, they started bus service to Olympia because the people that worked at the state house rode the bus back and forth to Olympia.

Lila Eide – Well, because I think most people thought towards Tacoma. But there was a bus line, and my mother had gone to the University of Puget Sound, so she was acclimated toward Tacoma. All of our medical- exceptional medical problems went to Tacoma- we did have a local doctor which we went to. And I do remember going shopping with her in there. Olympia was kind of a different- we never thought much of it, it was where our bank was. And I’d go over sometimes with dad to the bank, and I’d go to the dime-store, I remember going there. But it was not the center, as much as a lot of people feel now- of course with Capital Mall, and all the different stores. So I think Tacoma was more of the place to go.

Roger Eide –  When I was a kid we just got clothes out of the store, it was a general

 store.  It had the whole works, so we mostly just went there.  My mother

 used to ride the bus to Tacoma, it went from Rainier to Tacoma.

Dorothy Brown – We didn’t go there often but if there wasn’t, if you needed major shopping, major clothes or whatever.  You would go to Tacoma, but you didn’t go often.  It was a major event that you got to go to Tacoma.

? ? ? ? ?  My dad was pretty hot for a car, so I grew up knowing we always had a car. So obviously by the thirties… I remember one time he went back to visit his old Michigan farm, and picked up a car at the factory in Detroit. And came all the way across the country- that was 1936, because it was a ‘36 Plymouth, and it was steel gray, and I thought it was the most disappointing looking thing I had ever seen. We were built up for him bringing this brand-new car, and here it was a dumb old gray car. But we always had a car- it was an important thing to him.

Roger Eide – I got mine in 1935 or 6.  My first one I had, my friend and I had his

father give it to us, it was a model T Ford.  It was just kind of four wheels and an engine and that

 as about all, there wasn’t much to it, no body or cab on it or anything like that.  The next one I got was a 1929 model T Ford, it was seven or eight years old but it was kind of a nice little roadster.  The first good one I bought was a 1949 that I owned.  But I went through several of them at that time, the first one was given to us and the next one I bought for $35.

Lila Eide – Yes, we always had a car.  Sometimes it wasn’t the best car in the world because in those days as well as now, Yelm was truly isolated, if you didn’t have a car.  And if you went to work ….. you needed a car.  Gas was very very cheap then.  What was it?  Fifteen cents a gallon or something.  And a lot of times, after picking berries all day in the hot summer.  For something to do for fun, several of the children would pool their money to buy a gallon of gas and drive up to the lake to go swimming.  But they’d pool their money to get that fifteen or twenty cents for the gallon of gas.

Dorothy Brown –  Well, while I was in high school I think there were three.  There was R——   Brothers Garage which is where the body shop is now up on the corner that used to be by the railroad track.  And there was one where Tim’s Pharmacy is now.  And then there was one where the paint shop is now on the other corner.