By Len Longmire, Mrs. F. N. Edwards and Mrs. Jack Kettleman
Introduction: The following is an excerpt from The Story of Yelm.
At least 22 schools have served the people of this community in the cause of education, and all have at this date been incorporated into the Yelm or rainier schools. Oldest of all was the Yelm school, which was started as a private school in the Longmire log cabin (formerly McLean Chambers’ cabin). One day when Mr. Longmire was in Olympia, he heard a man remark that he was a teacher by profession.
“Then come and teach for me,” said the pioneer. “You can board at my house and all your pupils will be Longmires. My children went to school in Fountain County, Indiana, and while we were forted up in Olympia but have had no schooling since.” The man accepted, but his name, unfortunately has been forgotten.
When a schoolhouse was finally built, sometime in the early 60’s it was down on Yelm Prairie, a log structure located across from the present site of the Adventist Church. Several years later a frame building was erected here and was used also as a church and meeting place for the first Grange organization. Very few dates are available for this period but the school was a going concern by 1872 when J. C. Conine taught the first of his four terms there.
Other teachers recalled by old-timers as having taught here are: Lou Jackson (Longmire), Amelia Ditman of Olympia, Anne Broden, Miss Shelton (Van Trump), Seymour Stone, Mrs. Stoddard, Anna Hart, Mrs. M. Alberta Johnson, Clara McKenzie, Zouy Jackson, Lizzie Waddell and Fred Brown.
The Des Chutes district school was the next in the point of time in this vicinity. It too was a log cabin, built in 1876. The site was later occupied by the Morehead school and was a part of the ranch known successively as the Hazlin, Medley and Jensen place. Here the first teacher was Renny Pollard.
The second teacher proved to be the most famous ever to instruct the youth of this locality. She was Ada Woodruff (Anderson), author of “Heart of the Red Firs” and other novels. The scene of her books was laid in the Bald Hill country and one of the families described was the Longmire family with whom the author boarded. The gold mine discussed was an actual one and the disappearance was just as authentic.
Following her was Harry Garfield, nephew of James A. Garfield, at that time governor of Ohio and later president. He was a gay Lothario whom the country girls did not seem to appreciate.
Following him were Victor Bunnell; Bill Hart of San Francisco, and Harry Hart his cousin, who claimed some connection with the family of President Wm. Harrison; then Amelia Ditmana and Emma Chitman.
The families of La Blanch Reil and Chadotte Winnue, relatives of Joe Laramie; Johnny Milkain and George Leslie, nephews of Yelm Jim; Fred and Dora Berchti (McVittie); the Gardner girls, Moses Kabana and Dick Fiander
were the first attending this school.
The Des Chutes district was subsequently broken up into four schools: Laramie, first teacher, Edith Corbett; Moorehead first teacher, Emma Chitman; Bald Hill, first teacher, Ethel Ross; Longmire, first teacher Bertie Cooper; and Hull, first teacher, Fred Grass. These were in turn combined in the Lakamas school where a modern building was erected and where one year of high school was taught. This building is still used as a community center.
The District School
Other schools to the North and east, but nearer to Yelm, were: Smith Prairie, Lawrence Lake (Bob Smith), Kandle (Tony), Eureka, Forest, Willow Lawn, and Hewitt (Cook); and in Pierce County, Lieber and McKenna.
West of Yelm were Wells, Rathbun-Morgan, and Lindstrum. All three of these were at various times presided over by Mrs. Alberta Johnson, a very superior woman. Out towards Rainier was the Mt. View School.
When the old Yelm school became so crowded that classes had to be held in the cloak room, the primary grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 were moved to a room in the home of Mrs. Anna Coates which had been furnished for their use. This was about 1899.
Eventually, a new building was erected, but on the present site, which act cause some opposition in the town. This two room building was later enlarged to four, and the “shop” annex used as a classroom before the new High School was erected in 1920.