For Yelm: Growth Olympian December 26, 1979




For Yelm: Growth

By Dan Wheat

Olympian     December 26, 1979

In 1970, Yelm’s population was 632. Last April, it officially was 970, and undoubtedly it is over the 1,000 mark by now.

Along with that growth, Yelm built a new City Hall, new elementary school, new high school and has remodeled two old elementary schools.

The fire district serving- Yelm and the surrounding countryside built two new substations, and the town’s water system was updated in 1977 with the installation of a new water tank and water lines.

Among the new businesses opened during the last 10 years were Jayhawks Department Store, Herter’s Clay Pigeon Plant, a veterinarian clinic, a Bank of Olympia branch and a couple of small shopping centers.  Yelm gained a doctor, two chiropractors and three dentists.

In politics, Lora B. Coates was elected the town’s first woman mayor in the fall of 1969. She took office in 1970 and has served a full decade, being re-elected in 1973 and again in 1977, at age 72. Her present term expires in January of 1982.


In 1971, the arrest on vagrancy charges of six of the town’s better young people led to many complaints against Yelm Marshal Bill McCluskey. As the result of a Daily Olympian investigation, a budding bail-bonds racket was exposed, and the town attorney and town judge both resigned.

In 1976, Mayor Coates and the town council were miffed when the town’s three deputy marshals joined the Teamsters Union without first notifying the mayor or council. As a result, the council considered disbanding the Yelm Marshal’s Office and contracting with the county sheriff for law enforcement services.

However, the council decided to keep its marshal’s office because contracting with the sheriff would have been just as expensive and the town would have lost control of its law officers.

Perhaps Yelm’s most colorful figure in the 1970s was Joseph Agosto. Agosto built the Caravan Inn and Algiers Restaurant on the edge of town in 1972.

A short while later, Agosto was called by a federal grand jury to tell what he knew about the disappearance of some funds from Northwest Guarantee Savings and Loan Association. Later the Internal Revenue Service tapped his banking records, a car carrying his wife and children exploded near Ashland, Ore., (nearly taking their lives), and a car he was driving was shot at as he returned to Yelm one day.

In 1974, the Caravan Algiers complex burned. The state fire marshal said it was arson. Agosto had sold the business a year and a half earlier and opened the “Folies Bergere” show at the Tropicana Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas,


Prior to coming to Yelm, Agosto served a brief term in a federal penitentiary following a 1966 conviction for falsifying housing loan documents in Alaska. The US Justice Department, which says Agosto is an illegal alien wanted in Italy to serve a 10-year prison sentence for bigamy, has been trying to deport Agosto since 1968.

The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Agosto’s deportation in 1977, but then the U.S. Supreme Court heard his case and in June,1978, by a 7-2 decision, ordered that he be given a new trial. Agosto had last been seen in Yelm about a month before talking about opening a new bowling alley on property he still owned there.

Last May, Agosto was named in a FBI affidavit as a front man in Las Vegas for Kansas City and Chicago Mafia figures.




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