Balloon Dance June 22, 1923

Balloon Dance  

Nisqually Valley News   June 22, 1923

 The Pavilion at Lawrence Lake is fast becoming one of the most popular places in this section of the country.  Mr. Edwards is advertising a balloon dance for Saturday night.  One thing that can be said of this resort that is not applicable to many similar places, no booze or rough stuff goes.  He is keeping it as a place where men may take their families and enjoy themselves without having to put up with the undesirable features so often encountered at such places.  By doing this the better classes of people are being drawn to Lawrence Lake.



Yelm During World War I: “Workers Never Before Got Such Wages”

 Yelm During World War I:  “Workers Never Before Got Such Wages” 

By Ed Bergh

“War is hell.”  It was a brutal destructive activity and J. C. knew that to be true from his personal experience.  On the home front, however, those who were economic producers in Yelm (food, timber, lumber, etc.) benefited financially from the conflict.  Only a few years before the war started the Yelm irrigation system had been completed opening more land to cultivation.  With the war in Europe crisscrossing continental farm land and so many men at arms, food production there decreased.  Demand for American grown crops increased.  Demand increased prices.  The chance for additional riches increased the acres being utilized in Yelm.  J.C. summed it up in a 1917 letter, “Well the Nisqually is flowing thro’ Yelm and the millennium is fast approaching, in the minds of the promoters.  All prospective millionaires.”  Money was rolling in.  At the J.C. ranch “the boys are milking 24 cows—gets $240 per mo. out of ‘em” Farming was making money. People were moving to Yelm.  J.C. estimated thirty new families had arrived in 1917.  (Later he put this number at 200, which probably was an exaggeration)  New buildings were springing up on the prairie.   Land was sold for $175 an acre, then $200.

Around Yelm the forests were being cut down at an accelerated rate.  The McKenna mill employed 300.  The Whitlatch mill southwest of town, Gruber-Docherty near Rainier (at that time), the Hammerschmith operation southeast of Yelm, and the McKenna mills stepped up production.  Their logging railroads worked their way towards fresh stands of timber.  Increased production meant a greater demand for workers.  In order to attract workers, wages went up.  For farmers like J.C.’s son, he could no longer attract workers or hire teams of horses at the pre-war rates.  An inflationary spiral was beginning to be noticed out on the Yelm prairie.  J.C. wrote, “Isn’t the d—d war raising hell with the cost of living?”

Despite his pleading with the pension bureau about his infirmities, the septuagenarian bragged about making $11 haying and, more impressively, “I made $30 per day myself during harvest and put in 10 and 11 hours a day while others put in 8.  I’m not an 8 hour man, not an I.W.W.”  (The latter was a reference to the “International Workers of the World,” a radical labor organization which was promoting the eight hour day and sometimes through extralegal means.)  Even public employees like teachers were experiencing extra dollars in their checks.  “Edna and Pearl Price are both teaching at good salaries” in McKenna he wrote in 1917.  “Workers never before got such wages.”

The cities were where the real economic action was.  People started moving off the prairie to take defense industry jobs.  “Tacoma and Seattle are booming.”  Parenthetically he added, “[M]y two lots may be worth something yet!”  Olympia shipyards, he reported, had contracted to build three ships at over a quarter of million dollars apiece.  “Olympia is also forging ahead.”  Men were leaving the farms and heading for the nearby mills or to war related industries. “The Dupont powder works is all up.”  Just north of Yelm, across the county line in Pierce County “They are establishing the biggest post [Camp Lewis] in the United States.”   According to J.C. the place was to be huge, 70,000 acres and an expected 66,000 men at arms. “So you see Tacoma will be booming soon.” He could not believe the country’s good fortune, “Oh, this is an age of progress.  Workers never before got such wages.  Democratic prosperity falling around in chunks for those that hustle,” he gushed.  Times were so good he felt mildly guilty.  Following a Thanksgiving with two turkeys on the table, probably in 1917, he reflected, “I’d rather they wouldn’t have gone to that expense when I think of the poor devils in Europe.”

The war ended in November 11, 1918.  He hailed the results of the war as the final nails in the coffin of the “divine right of kings.”  Like Woodrow Wilson J.C. believed that the spread of governments of, by, and for the people would make the world a more rational and a less dangerous place. In the election just. In the election before the armistice, however, the American public had rejected the Democrats and the Republicans had taken back the Congress.

The resulting peace was not what Wilson or J.C. had expected.  Upheaval and revenge dominated the international scene.  Arguments about expanding democratic virtue around the globe were shouted down by the voices of self-interest.  In the U.S, within a few short years, farm prices fell dramatically, unemployment rose, repression of ideas increased, and the Republicans rode heightened discontent back into control of the presidency and the Congress in 1920.

Safe Blowers Work at M’Kenna Office February 13, 1915

Safe Blowers Work at M’Kenna Office

(Morning Olympian   February 13, 1915)  

Several packages of registered mail and between $150 and $200 were taken from the post office at McKenna when the safe was shattered with nitroglycerine early yesterday morning.  The work is believed to have been done by experts.

The post office is in the McKenna Lumber company’s store.  The robbery was not discovered until the store was opened for business.  The cracksmen entered by prying the back door open with a crowbar.

Postmaster A. G. Cook notified Post Office Inspector Barclay.  The exact amount of the loss will not be known until the inspector checks the books and supplies.  No stamps were taken.  (Morning Olympian   February 13, 1915)

Game Warden Will Make Investigation. No Clue is Yet Discovered as to Assailant of Yelm Victim   April 8, 1913

Game Warden Will Make Investigation. No Clue is Yet Discovered as to Assailant of Yelm Victim (Morning Olympian  April 8, 1913)        

James Fennell, county game warden, intends to do a little investigation of the mystery of the death of the man whose remains were found near Saturday afternoon.  As yet Coronwe Sticklin has been unable to get any trace of the identity of the man, , and the authorities have taken no action in the matter/  Fennell hopes to get some trace of the affair, although he has no clues of any kind to work on at present.  Only the skeleton and fragments of clothing remained.

Some months ago a body was found on the west side under similar circumstances, and the authorities were never able to get any clue as to the identity of the person.  The Yelm skeleton adds another mystery, and the present indications neither will ever be solved.

Nitro Used to Blow Open Safe in Yelm Store October 12, 1913

Nitro Used to Blow Open Safe in Yelm Store 

(Morning Olympian  October 12, 1913)   

Nitro-glycerine is believed to have been used a by a burglar in blowing the safe if the Yelm post office in this county early yesterday morning, when about $300 in stamps and $100 in cash were taken.  No clue other than papers fond along the line of the railroad toward Tacoma had been secured at a late hour this afternoon, according to word from Yelm.  Iti  thought that the burglar took the early morning train for Tacoma or Seattle, and threw the worthless and damaging papers out of the car window.

Neighbors of D. H. Hughes, in whose general merchandise store the post office is kept, say that the heard noises about 3 o’clock, and it is thought this was about the time of the burglary.


Development of District Is Progressing Rapidly Since Irrigation Ditch Project Was Completed, But it Required Much Hard Work (undated newspaper account)

Yelm Prairie, with the assistance of the Nisqually river and the natural geography of the land is being put on the map as one of the most important irrigation centers in the state of Washington. Irrigation of the Prairie has been realized after years of struggle and the entire district is beginning to prosper. The hardships which the hard-working farmers of this section will not soon be forgotten.

The Yelm irrigation project is complete and the ditches are running with water. The extension of the benefits of irrigation from the same project to the other lands yet to be developed to their full capacity undoubtedly will be undertaken.

A few years ago the Yelm Prairie was a howling wilderness of dirty prairie grass that died out every summer during the dry months. Yelm was for many years a picture of distress, a little group of weather-beaten, dust colored, stores and houses resembling a tank town in the sage brush more than a thriving farming community.

A few days ago a woman who lived during her childhood days on the Yelm Prairie returned to see how the old home looked. She found the fields growing fine, the irrigation ditches carrying prosperity to the farmers and automobiles gliding over the roads where teams in the old days struggled to pull lightly laden farm wagons. She returned to her home in the city praising the old Yelm Prairie as she had never praised it before.

J.L. Mossman is one of the Yelm citizens responsible for the improvement. Years ago he conceived the idea of irrigating the prairie. Mossman conducts a general store and is one of the kind of citizens who cannot let things go haphazard.

Twenty years ago Mossman made an investigation at his own expense to determine whether or not the district could be irrigated profitably. He spent much of his time and money on the scheme, but he was given little support. Some of the old timers laughed at him. Others refused to listen. Irrigation was there but little practiced it in the west. Mossman was told that if the prairie were watered the moisture would sink away and disappear. He was told by the farming experts of the community that the scheme would not work, that the soil was not good enough, that there wasn’t enough water in the world.

But, about this time a certain irrigation ditch in the west was being constructed, and it was costing a lot of money. The backers of the project put in $75,000 and were forced to shut down. The best looking man in the outfit was dolled up in a $10 suit of clothes and sent back east to talk to a big railroad official. Result – the ditch was completed.

The Yelm ditch, however was not built that way. Associated with Mossman were L. M. Rice, O. K. Thompson and Chester Thompson as well as J. P. Martin. All three served in different capacities while the big ditch from the Nisqually was being constructed.

The work of surveying the ditch was a job of itself. The main idea was to spread the water from the river over the prairie as well as possible, but it had to be done systematically by following the highest lines and giving the ditches a fall of at least one foot in 1,00 feet.

The valley is seven miles long and from two and a half to three miles wide, naturally drained through the center by Yelm Creek, it was necessary to take the water from the Nisqually river at a point 14 miles upstream and to convey it down to the prairie in a long flume. The flume was constructed on land as much as possible but in some places it hugs the side of the cliffs and hills and is more or less scenic. As the district develops tunnels probably will be constructed through some of the hills and the flumes made more permanent. It was hard scrabble, however to put the big project over, and now the ditch is complete with the exception of a few minor details and improvements will be undertaken from time to time. The prairie is divided into tracts and there will never be any shortage of water as the river is high at the time when the irrigation is the most necessary.

Arthur Ray Sheckler Letters From McKenna

Introduction: The following are excerpts from letters written by Arthur Sheckler while he worked at the McKenna Mill during the 1920s.

Will send cards and books of Yellowstone soon by parcel post. Must draw some money first.

McKenna Wash
Sept 3.23

Dear Mother:
Well I am sleeping on a bed again after 20 days on the hard ground altho I could sleep there and feel fine in the morning. I am also eating good grub again.

I am straightening the boards after they come from the saws that is, after the boards and timbers are sawed they fall on a slow moving table and if they don’t fall straight I straighten them up.

I don’t have to touch very many of them and half the time I sit around doing nothing. We work eight hours and get four dollars. Chuck is piling lumber in the yard and works hard and is sort of pieved over my good luck.

We have a room with two single beds and have electric lights and there is toilets, wash room with hot and cold water, shower baths and free laundry. We have a Japanese lady that makes the beds and sweeps every day and talk about grub. They feed the very best of grub. Several different kinds of meat, potatoes, cookies, cakes, pie, several kind of fruit, lots of milk, different kinds of sauce, soup, and lots of other things. They don’t come out and say “what will you have for supper” like in a resturant but set out big dishes full of every thing and as soon as a dish is empty they fill it up again and when you start to get up they tell you to set down and finish your meal.

Their idea is to eat all you want of everything there is to eat. Don’t let any body tell you that life in a lumber camp is hard, dirty, roughneck life. We have iron beds with white sheets and pillow cases and everything is as clean as can be and every day is quiet and orderly and friendly except the Wobblies go bugs every once in a while.

They gamble all their wages night after pay day and as soon as they are broke they spend their evenings sitting on the porch kicking about the poor grub, poor beds and knocking everything in general but the one great union (I.W.W.)

They called a strike yesterday and then kept on working as if nothing had happened. They didn’t even strike a minute, they are all bluff and talk and don’t do anything else. They are nothing but a disgusting joke.

We have a big city here, a company store, a movie house, a mess hall, a bunk house, a big mill and a few shacks. Our board costs us $1.20 a day and I don’t see how they do it for that with some of those big Swede lumber jacks that eat enough for a family of six.

The way I happened to get this job was that Denzil was working on the night shift from six to three at night and getting up before daylight and then sleeping days as he only has to appear once a day at sunset.

He lost his job because they couldn’t get enough men to run nights even though they had the entire 6th engineers band except their leader, even the corporal and sergeant worked.

Denzil is the same as ever and hasn’t grown a bit. He has taken up an I.C.S. Mechanical Drawing course now and bought a good set of tools.

I can see Mt. Ranier from here nearly every day and a river runs right by our window in our room from the Nisqually Glacier on Mt. Ranier. The water is a milky color from the mud in the glacier.

Washington is not a built up country. Some of it is clear and fruit and garden stuff are raised by irrigation altho the eastern edge raises nice wheat, the best wheat we saw on our trip, without irrigation but all the rest is irrigation or forest, and it is real forest, no few stick of sapling pine like Michigan but real pine from six to twenty ft across the stumps. There is one tree north of us that you can drive a load of hay through and it isn’t redwood either.

Machine shops are scarce and dry gardening and farming don’t pay. Saw mills and lumbering is begging for men and the mines are asking for men but are having labor troubles.

The apples out here are big and pretty but the eastern apples have got them beat for flavor as these are flat or sour. I raided a nice tree of bright blue plums and tied my face in a knot as those ripe plums were green prunes. The darn things look like ripe plums before they ever begin to get ripe and are darn good after they ripen.

There are lots of bear and deer out here and the other day a couple of kids chased one of those so called dangerous mountain lions off the road and run it way back into the woods before they lost it.

They have a funny way of paying the men here. You get a slip from your foreman and that lets you into the boarding house and pay day they take it out of your pay and if you ask for it you can have a one two or five dollar check book for the store that they also collect from your pay. They pay once a month on the tenth and then the 25th is draw day when you can draw all but three dollars and you can draw less than five dollars any time between until you overdraw your wages.

The store and post office are in the same building and you can get anything from a stamp to a suit of clothes or a Ford.

I don’t think I will get over to Camp Lewis soon but tell Aunt Hattie I have talked Denzil out of the Alaska idea this winter and he has half promised to start home for Christmas and I will have his promise the next time I see him. He says there is only one thing he has got against this country and this is, it isn’t home and the only thing he cares about the east is his home.

I haven’t seen much of the coast yet and I have only tasted salt water a couple of times but I like the east best so far. Well write and let me know how everything is and tell Roy to write and you tell me how his kids are.

General delivery. McKenna. Wash

* * * *

Tell Roy to write me and Denzil, he thinks Roy is sore at him

McKenna, Wn
Sep. 27, <no year>

Dear Mother:
I just got a letter from Grandpa today.

I didn’t get to see Denzil but sent your letter over. The fellow he was going to come to work with got fired and so he lost out of his night job.

Today was clear and Mt. Ranier looked to be only four or five miles away and like a big dish of ice cream.

You can’t see the foothills on account of the big forest here but could only see the peak over the tree tops and it is a pretty sight, all covered with snow except in a few spots and the sun was shining bright on it today.

We had a small island appear in a lake here right after the Jap earthquake altho we didn’t feel anything and scientists say it is not of volcanic origin but can’t explain it.

Caught a big three foot salmon last night but it was so bruised from the rocks that it was no good. The salmon here are just the carp at home, just stick their backs and tails out of the water, only they are in the swift shallow water.

We put out from 17,500 to 20,000 ft of finished lumber a day here and this is only a small mill compared to some of them. We turn out everything from lath to 4 ft square timbers.

You ought to see the dahlias that they raise out here. As big as those small pie plates of yours and are the prettiest things you every saw. They have big farms and dahlia gardens here

(Source: Washington State Historical Society)

Yelm November 8, 1912

Yelm  November 8, 1912  Washington Standard

The farmers are busy digging potatoes these days.

James Mosman and Rodney Coats were in Olympia Friday.

THe steam shovel has arrives and work has begun on the ditch again.

Mary Hobson has been visiting home folks the past week.

Ben Fox has moved his furniture from Yelm to the George Anderson farm, which he has rented.

Fred Grass returned from Olympia Friday, where he attended the institute.

The Republicans will hold a rally Saturday, November 2, at the Grange hall, after which there will be a dance.

Hansens have moved to their new home.

Adrion Hall has gone to Portland.

George Neat finished threshing his whet and oats Saturday.

[Shingle Mill Fire]

[Shingle Mill Fire]   February 25, 1914  Washington Standard

The F & W shingle mill, owned by Charles Falkner and E. E. Whitlatch, and several thousand shingles were totally destroyed by fire early Wednesday morning of last week. , only the kiln being saved.   The damage amounted to about $2,500, with $1,000 insurance.  The mill, located a mile out of town will probably be rebuilt.