Deputy’s A Yelm Fixture
by Dan Wheat
(The Daily Olympian November 19, 1979)
YELM – Charles S “Chuck” Donaldson is something of an institution in Yelm.
His father and uncle wen cops, and Donaldson has worn the deputy marshal’s badge in Yelm for 37 years Despite his fringe of silver hair and 75 years, the old law man is a familiar figure 01 the streets. He’s usually ii full uniform with a cigar stub between his teeth and his .32 20 caliber pistol at his side.
The gun is at least 50 years old. He has to special order its bullets from a firm back East. Small printing on the barrel indicates the first .32-20 were made in 1884; the last in 1926.
Donaldson’s uncle, Ave Hill, owned the gun when he was Sunnyside Police Chief and a deputy sheriff in Yakima County. Hill put one notch in the butt, a reminder of tin one man he killed.
His nephew has never added a notch, hopes he never has to, but says he’s no: afraid of anybody and will “plug” anyone who tries to get him.
Donaldson was born in Fredonie, Ky., and his family moved west to Zillah, a small town near Yakima. Donaldson finished high school and worked on his father’s farm. He married and moved to Yelm in the mid-1920s. After working on a farm, at a logging camp and a sawmill Donaldson began driving a Yelm school bus and serving as a deputy Yelm marshal.
He served as the town’s marshal several times, usually after another marshal left or had been fired. One was even shot on Yelm’s main street, but that was in the 1920s before Donaldson joined the department.
Dan Carew was one of the more famous marshals Donaldson served under. A man of short stature but much courage, Carew was known for packing a Colt .45 revolver on each hip.
Donaldson’s been a special Thurston County Sheriff’s deputy just as long as he’s served Yelm – since 1942. He still carries his commission cards from Sheriffs Frank C. Tamblyn, Lawrence Huntamer, Clarence Van Allen, Don Redmond and Dan Montgomery.
Yelm had gravel streets and few sidewalks when Donaldson became a lawman. The Yelm marshal and his deputies used their own cars on the job or walked.
“It wasn’t a bad town at all ’20s they made moonshine up in the (Bald) hills, and it was a tough town then,” Donaldson said.
He remembers during prohibition Sheriff Claude Havens once offered a Bald Hills moonshiner’s son a dollar if the boy would tell Havens where his dad was. The lad is said to have replied, “You give me the dollar now because if you go up there you aren’t coming back.”
“I guess Havens kept his dollar and left. He finally located the still later,” Donald-son recalled.
town’s old jail built out of two-by-fours that stood where the new Town Hall now stands. The next town jail was a iron cage in Brown’s garage.
Donaldson says he’s seen a lot of “awful wrecks” and helped successfully investigate two murders.
Yelm still is known for occasional bar fights. Marshal BUI Ruddell says he or another officer might have to wrestle someone to get a fight stopped.
“But, if I sent in Chuck all he’d have to say is ‘that’s enough’ and the guys would escort the troublemaker out. Chuck has the confidence, trust and respect of everyone in town because he’s known most of them since they were kids. If I accomplish anything in my time, I hope it’s to gain half of that confidence and trust,” Ruddell said.
Ruddell says he never would send Donaldson into a barroom brawl. But, Donaldson, unpaid, still helps in investigations, funeral escorts, parades and football games.
And he brings an apple or a pear to the department’s dispatcher every day.