McKenna District #341 – Pierce County

McKenna District #341 – Pierce County

The McKenna school has a most unique place in the story of education in Yelm.

Beginning as the only school in McKenna District #341, the McKenna school became a part of the Yelm district as a result of consolidation.  This in itself is not unique.  What is unique is that, unlike all of the others schools brought into the Yelm system, McKenna, alone, remained open.

As of this writing the origins of the school remain unclear.  Most of the information in the following paragraphs comes from several short histories on the school by persons unknown.  One of these anonymous writers stated, “Most of the history is told from institutional memory since these little actually documentation.” These essays were found among the scrapbooks of the McKenna PTA.  Also found in these papers were a number of news articles related to the school and the PTA.

The McKenna school district used to exist on the Pierce County side of the Nisqually River.   It was speculated (in the 1970’s) that the school began around 1890.  Like the Hart’s Lake and Horn schools it serviced a small local population.  Unlike those schools the McKenna district eventually became centered in a town.  The opening of the Salsich Lumber Company’s mill in McKenna in the 1920’s spawned a thriving community on the banks of the Nisqually with a boarding house for single men and company housing for workers and their families.

“Details,” according to one McKenna resident, “about the first building are vague.  It is known that it was a wooden structure.”  This school burned down in 1919.  A replacement was quickly erected for a cost of $10,000.  The McKenna notes also mention that the mill owner donated lumber for the reconstruction.  An interesting note in the margin of above information was that “the original boiler from the 1919 [school is still in use today.”  (The latter written in the 1970’s)  The school taught grades 1 through 8.  There were four classrooms and each contained two grade levels of students.

William Guilford helped put the McKenna school on the educational map in Washington state.  He helped found the McKenna PTA which is considered by some to be the 2nd oldest PTA in the state.

Guilford arrived in McKenna from Wisconsin in 1911.  He served as school principal, and might well have taught also.  In 1912 he held a public meeting and convinced the community to form a Parent Teachers Association.  (Another article places this event in 1913)  Mrs. Guilford elected the first president, representing McKenna at the state PTA convention in Olympia that year.  By 1914 there were 47 members, an impressive number.  In 1917, William Guilford became the first male to attend the state convention

He remained at the school until 1918.  Sometime during his tenure at McKenna a new school was built.  Also at the school at that time (1917) was a teacher Edna Price. J. C. Conine commented in a letter that she drove to work from her family place southeast of Yelm.  Earl Herness provided the following picture of Edna Price’s classroom.

The school continued to serve first through eighth grade students for several decades.  With the closure of the mill in town the district’s population stagnated in terms of numbers.  As a result of this the McKenna district never had enough students to justify a high school.  Eventually McKenna formed a “Union High School” with the Yelm school district.  This meant that a governing body, separate from the school boards forming the “union” was established to run the new expanded high school.  Students from the McKenna area would now be attending the Yelm High School.

The McKenna school itself remained in its two story configuration until the 1970’s.  According to notes in the McKenna PTA files, a covered playshed (considered a necessity in Washington’s damp climate) was built by the PTA in the 1960’s.  Those notes also state that the new play area was “quickly converted to the administration building (office).    That same area became classrooms and bathrooms, then becoming storage and a staff lounge.  “C” building was added in the sixties for $45,000.  Crowding persisted and portables were brought in.  Decades of wear and tear were catching up with the main building which had been built, after all, around 1920.  A bond issue was passed by Yelm voters, the original two story building came down, and a new McKenna Elementary was built around some of the additions from the sixties.  This remained the McKenna Elementary school for the remainder of the century.  A quarter of a century later voters once again approved money for a new school.  This McKenna Elementary was torn down in 2004.


McKenna Elementary Over the Years

Principal Fred Berry lowers the flag before the remodel in the seventies.

William Guilford (1949)

Room Inventory 1911-12

1936 – Daily Schedule

1937 – Annual Teacher’s Report

Halloween (1949)

1961-62 McKenna Kindergarten Picture

1961-62 Scrapbook Page

1965 – Fishermen’s Breakfast Article

Letter – Memories of McKenna (Written in 1982)

Introduction: In 1982 McKenna PTA members and staff collected information on the history of the school.  The following letter sharing some her memories of McKenna was written by Jodie Essman.  It was addressed to Sharon Welsh, the principal of McKenna Elementary that year.

February 2, 1982

From:  Jodie Essman    16305 143 Ave. SE Yelm, WA  98597

To:  Sharon Welsh, Principal

Dear Ms. Welsh:

Hello! I’m not an “old-timer”; on the contrary, I’m a 1981 graduate. But that doesn’t make me less fond of the McKenna grade-school.

I spent the first five years of my school-life there, and I’ll never forget them. It broke me up (literally—I cried) to see them tear down the old buildings and put up new ones. Perhaps it was necessary, I’m not the one to decide that, but I still cried.

It was at McKenna that I was in my first movie, directed by Mr. Self, now an accomplished singer/actor. That film is an experience all of my graduation class treasure, and whenever we get together we always relive it.

I still remember peaceful, drowsy days right before school let out. During recess we’d play marbles, and baseball on the old baseball field. I remember all the skinned knees and torn leotard that I got jumping off the huge old wings out in back.

I hear Mrs. Crumbly (I’m not sure of the spelling) is still the playground supervisor. What fun we had tormenting her! We’d have chicken fights, climb up the slide, and in the winter we had some devils of snowball fights.

I don’t know much about the ancient history of the old McKenna school, but I do know we were a part of its history, and I know I’ll never forget the good times my friends and I had there.

I comment your research project, and hope you are successful in completing a historical record of the school.

You said that the children have discovered that history is available in other places than books. I’m glad! Sometime the best place history is to be found in the annals, not of libraries, but of the old-timers’ minds. I’m afraid that most young people don’t realize this, and thus miss a tremendously valuable learning experience.

Keep up the good work, and bring old McKenna back to live again.

1974-75 – McKenna Staff

1977 – Halloween

1977 – 4th Grade Christmas Program

1977 – lst Grade Christmas Program

1978-79 – McKenna Staff

Stay Off the Roof

District #305 – Lackamas

Lackamas – District #305 

Early History 

The Lackamas school opened in fall 1914.  Lackamas District #305 was formed by combining the Longmire (Tebotten), Morehead, and Bald Hills Districts.  Students from the Longmire (also known as the Tebotten and maybe even the Clear Lake school), Morehead, and Bald Hills Schools were now bused to their new school in a district which combined the three school districts found in the Bald Hills area.  Louis Cochrane built a house behind the school and rented it to a teacher at the school.  In 1920, the gym was built.  The gym became the social center of the Lackamas community.  The gym was used for playing basketball and other physical activities.  School plays and assemblies in the gym drew appreciative crowds of parents and relatives.  Community dances were a regular part of weekends in the Bald Hills.  Profits from the dances were used by the families to fund the free lunch program at the school.

“Everything Was Entirely Different”

Everything was entirely different. We had one teacher. No superintendent, no principal, no janitor, no nothing. One teacher ran this school. And every Friday we would put a list up on the board and two boys would feed the wood furnace for the following week. Two boys would take care of their restroom. Two girls would take care of theirs. The teacher always cooked the noon lunch. And she’d have two girls, their names would be on the list, they’d help cook the lunch for that week, but they only cooked lunch for four days a week and every Friday one of the mothers would bring us something special for lunch. And that’s the way it worked. And then about fifteen minutes before school was out every day we’d have to clean up our room, so it was ready for the next morning. And then once a week we’d go out and clean up all the school grounds and clean everything up. And then of course one person had to put the flag up and take it down everyday.  (Dillard Jensen, 2003)



The Lackamas school drew its students from the farms and woods of the Bald Hills.  The enrollment fluctuated with the economy and other undetermined factors.  Students might have numbered as low as 13 for one year to a high of 44 in 1920-21.  Wallace Music attended Lackmas for seven years in the 1930’s and remembered the  school employing two teachers, each with roughly 12 students.  Dillard Jensen recalled 16 students attending Lackamas in 1940.  Students would be grouped according to age with up to four or five for a particular grade level.  At the enrollment height of its existence the school employed three teachers.

                                                The School Year


In an interview in June 2003 Dillard Jensen recalled, “We started right after Labor Day and we always got out the last of May. Usually around  May 29.  . .  I don’t think we had any spring vacation.”  School records from the Lackamas school corroborate Jensen’s memory.  School usually started the first week in September and ended during the third or fourth week of May.

According to school records the 1918 school year at Lackamas, on September 2, 1918.  October 4th the school had that Friday off for students to attend the fair.  World events caught up with the students of Lackamas within days of returning to school that Monday.

Influenza was rampaging through the nation and world at that time.  The school was shut down on the 13th of October, not to reopen until the week of November 25.  The students returned to school that Thanksgiving week.  Undoubtedly they shared their knowledge of the workings of the disease in the area, along with their tales of free time in the fall.  Students fell back into the rhythms of the school day and looked forward to Christmas.  Christmas vacation, however, came early to the Lackamas school that year.  On December, 6, 1918, the school was again shut down in order to limit the spread of the deadly contagion.  The students didn’t reenter the doors of the school until February 3, 1919.  Altogether the students had missed 49 days due to the series of precautionary school closures.  The school year ended, as was usual, in mid May and seven out of the eight students in grades 9 and 10 were promoted to the next grade.  That was not the end of the flu, however.

In February 1920, the school was again shut down for, in the words of the teacher, two separate “flu vacations.”  The last vacation ran until the end of the school year.  Students returned in September 1920.

Teaching in a Multi Age Room

Chester Biesen taught in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade at the Lackamas School in the 1926-27 school year.  A yearly sum of $1,125 he instructed four 4th graders, one fifth grader, and ten 6th graders.  According to his grade book his school day was broken up in the following way:

9:00                Opening Exercises

9:10                4th arithmetic

9:25                5th arithmetic

9:40                Physical training

9:45                6th arithmetic

10:00             4th spelling

10:10              5th spelling

10:20              6th spelling

10:30              Recess

10:45              4th history and reading

11:00              5th history and hygiene

11:15               6th history

11:30              4th hygiene

11:45              6th hygiene

12:00              Noon Intermission

1:00                penmanship

1:15                 4th language

1:30                5th language

1:45                6th language

2:00                5th reading

2:15                Recess

2:30                6th reading

2:45                4th geography

3:00                5th geography

3:15                6th geography

3:30                Dismissal

Dillard Jensen, who attended the school over a decade later, remembered that recitation and working at the blackboard was an important part of the school day.  Jensen stated:

in reading and different things like that we probably read more than we had to recite, but we did have to get up and read to the class, stand up in front of the class…or even in math, she’d make you get up and work your math out on the blackboard and everybody would watch you and see if you were doing it right. So, that’s where you learned from the class ahead of you, so when you got there it was pretty much review. Everything was done pretty much without teacher. She sat at the front of the room and she’d call you up and you’d work on the blackboard, because you wouldn’t want to mess up.

The benefits of years of this pattern of education were described by Jensen:

Because when you’ve got six grades in one room and you’re in first grade, it’s just like computers today, you store everything, well you store the same in your mind and so when you get to the second grade you’ve already heard those kids recite their lesson- they recited everything back in those days. So it’s already stored in there, right on up through the six grades. When you get there it’s just a review for you.

Recess was a time for students to relax.  There was no playground equipment at Lackamas.  Gertrude Reichel Schulte, who attended the school from 1918 to 1926, remembered taking in the nearby woods, but always being back in time to lessons to resume.  At age 91, Schulte still remembered the beautiful flowers that appeared in the spring.  Jensen played basketball in the gym, but the boys’ favorite pastime was playing baseball.  According to Antone Johnson, boys ‘used to throw the ball around in there.  As far as games go we didn’t do anything very organized.  Mostly teased each other.’  Wallace Music explained that some of the men from McKenna Camp 12 built a small golf course behind the school.  There was a daily dose of 15-20 minutes of organized physical activity.

Materials and Supplies

There is no detailed account of the texts available at the school, but records do show a small collection of books available to the students.  According to district records the Lackamas school possessed copies of the following books in 1923-24.

From Earth to the Moon                                         Jules Verne

The Last of the Plainsman                                      Zane Grey

American Claimant                                                  Mark Twain

Matthew Arnold                                                       Thurman

Vandemarks Folly                                                    Quick

Daddy Long Legs                                                      Webster

Dombey and Son                                                      Charles Dickens

The Making of Herbert Hoover                             Lane

A Man for the Ages                                                  Bachellor

At the end of each year teachers were to inventory their room.  An examination of these documents provides a glimpse of the school room at Lackamas.  The sun filled rooms were sparsely decorated.  There were the desks and chairs for teacher and students.  There was also a table for the younger children to work at.  Utilitarian items including a wastebasket, pencil sharpener, a large clock, and two flags dotted the room.  Bookshelves with 20 reference books filled out the inventory.  In 1927, there were 250 reference and other books in district library.  By then there were 275 volumes of free textbooks available for student use.

Material conditions within Grace Inman’s room (1926-27) had improved over the following year.  Money had been spent to acquire a pointer, 7 rulers, 100 blocks,  10 boxes of letter cards, a dozen boxes of “crayolas,” and a box of beads.  In 1927 the school also possessed a globe, two sets of wall maps, and a sewing machine.

The September 6, 1938 inventory of Ida R. Mertz contained:

Number         Articles                                   Number         Articles

1                      paper punch                          1                      small desk

1                      large art scissors                   1                      primary printing set

1                      fire extinguisher                   1                      set of phonetic element                                                                                                                   cards

1                      typewriter                             1                      set of arithmetic cards

1                      phonograph                           1                      first aid kit

1                      paper cutter                          1                      set of alphabet blocks

1                      book case                               1                      set of toy money

1                      sand table                              1                      duplicator

1                      clock                                       1                      bench

1                      globe                                       1                      waste paper basket

1                      wall map                                1                      swing chair

8                      primary chairs                      15                    rulers

2                      primary tables                      11                    scissors

1                      teacher’s desk                       8                      pen holder

1                      rhythm band set                   1                      whistle

1                      set of chart material for use with Webster’s readers

In 2003, Wallace Music recounted that he “Never bought one piece of paper or a pencil, never took a sack lunch to school.”  His needs were provided for by the school and the community.


Those Saturday night dances provided the money for lunches for the students.  Wallace Music proudly stated that he never took a sack lunch to school once during his time at Lackamas.  The school served up hot lunches daily.  There was soup sandwiches, and cake.  Students had a choice of white or chocolate milk.  The students took one hour for their lunch break.   

The dances were great Saturday evening events. Dances were a “family affair.” There were grandparents, students, parents, even babies taking in the live entertainment.  Wallace Music could remember two fights during all of his evening at Lackamas.  One of those was between two brothers and was fueled by moonshine.



Students break rules, no matter the teacher or the era.  After all, “we all try to get away with as much as we can.”   Corporal punishment was part of the Lackamas program.  “You got bent over,” was how Dillard Jensen described it.  “There were no ifs, ands, or buts about it, and then when you got home you got some more.”

On occasion discipline issues were considered serious enough to require the attention of the school board.  Discipline was the reason for a special board meeting on May 14, 1930.  Board members assembled for the purpose of deciding whether to expel Roy Hull, all in attempt to get him “to stop making trouble on the school ground.”  Lackamas board members in that instance decided to let the county board solve the problem between Roy Hull and Principal Grass.  The decision of the county board, however, has been lost in time.


State law required that schools keep a log of all visitors that stopped by the school during the day.  In the 1931 records the visitors often made comments about what they witnessed.  Here are some of those comments:

            Excellent school & spirit

            Excellent cooperation

            Pull together spirit

            Quite different from Seattle schools

            A very enjoyable school and good spirit

            Farther advanced than some schools

One visiting prankster, in 1923, signed the name “Barney Google” (undoubtedly with the “goo, goo googling eyes”).  His home was Steillacoom, Washington, home of the state mental institution.


The following is a list of teachers who worked at the Lackamas school.  When records have been found we have included students number, grade levels taught, and salaries.

9/3/17 – 5/24/18    Sylvia Sharpe            17 students   7,8,9,10

9/2/18 – 5/16/19    Sylvia C. Sharpe

1919-20                     W.B. Beckman

1920–21                    W.B. Beckman

1921-22                     Minnie Lautzheniser                                                $1,260

1919-20                     Pearl Ferris              12 students    4,5,6,7


1921-22                     J.R. Lautzhenhiser   14 students

1922-September      Florence Chabert      14 students    4,5,6

1922-23                     J.R. Lautzenhiser     11 students    12-17

9/4/23 – ???                                     unknown

1923-1924                 Thea Cooke               21 students    1,2,3

8/31/25 – 5/24/27  Grace R. Inman         17 students   1,2,3                $1,125           

8/30/26 – 5/24/27 Chester Biesen          15 students     4,5,6              $1,125

8/31/31 – 32            Fred Grass                                                    5-8

5/31/35         Fred Grass   

1934-35         George M. Parkko    12 students                5, 6, 7, 8         $900

1934-35         Pauline Schierman                                       1,2,3,4,5         $630

1934-35         Daniel E. Damitio      11 students                7,8                   $810  (Made                                      an additional       $10/month working as the janitor)

1935-36         Dan Damitio              (salary reduced to $67.54 per month)

1935-36         Pauline Schierman   $60/month

1935-36         George Parkko (Principal) $100/month

1935-36         Margaret Williams teacher $60/month

1936-37         George Parkko          21 students    1,2,3,4,5,6,7      $1,125

 1937-38        Lewis G. Hunter       17 students                5,6,7,8   $1,200

1938-39         Lewis G. Hunter       14 students                5,6,7,8   $1,350

9/2/35 – 1940                                  Lewis G. Hunter

9/6/38 – 6/2/39                              Ida R. Merz                           grades 1,2,3,4


September 1935-     Lewis  Hunter/Principal/$100 a month

                                    Ida Mertz/Teacher/$100.80 a month

October-                      “                    “

                                    Ida Mertz/Teacher/$100.00

November-                  “                    “

                                    Ida Mertz/Teacher/$94.00

December-                  “                    “

                                    Ida Mertz/Teacher/$100.00

January 1938-April-              “                    “                     

May-                          none

June-                          Lewis J. Hunter/Principal/$300.00

                                    Ida Mertz/Teacher/$200.00

July-                           none

August-                      none

September-               Lewis J. Hunter/Teacher/$112.00

                                    Ida Mertz/Teacher/$100.00

October-April-                        “                    “


One of the most common sights on American roads today is the big yellow taxi, the school bus.  Dillard Jensen described the era’s transportation:

 a homemade school bus. It had benches along the side. Was an old… just an old regular pickup. Old wooden back. And uh then… up the Peissner road here. Whoever lived up there Mr. Peissner had an old car and then he’d deliver them. And then up above Clear Wood, which is Clear Wood now, up on Johnson road, there was another old gentleman up there and he had a big old car and he used it for a bus. And that’s how everybody was transported.

In an interview in the Nisqually Valley News, Antonte Johnson recalled that 16 year old Edith Roundtree was the driver of the district’s model T Ford.  ‘She was tough. She changed tires on that old truck.’

Transportation needs were a common topic of discussion at Lackamas school board meetings.  For instance, at a December 1933 meeting the board decided to have a brake job on one of the buses and replace the tires.  They made a special point of keeping an old tire for a spare.  In 1935, also during the depression the board denied a request by the Warner family to have a bus pick up one of their family members.   “The budget couldn’t take any more expense.” 

The district owned several vehicles.  The bus routes were put out for competitive bids.  In 1934, the Johnson Road route, the school provided a “sedan type car” able to carry 7 or more students.  It was to driven by an “adult” who was to provide his own gas and oil.  Forty-five dollars was the monthly salary.  One who drove the Morehead Route was paid also paid forty five dollars, but the school provided gas and oil for the “bus.”

The board was also made sure that certain safety rules were followed by the drivers.  There was to be no drinking and no exceeding 30 miles per hour.  The latter certainly made sense in an era where the closest paved road was in the town of Yelm.  At one board meeting in 1934 a driver was told to only go 15 mph when a logging truck was approaching.  Violators of board policy were punished.  At a January meeting in 1935 the board voted to notify Mrs. E. A. Cooke that neither Harold nor Jim Cooke “could drive a bus for the district again” if rules were not followed. 

Economic hard times forced the board to make hard decisions.  Reversing an earlier decision, the board voted to take the cost of gasoline out of the monthly pay of the driver.  They also voted to exclude anyone who was on relief from prohibited from driving.  There would be no double dippers in Lackamas.

For others a mile walk to school along the railroad tracks, past acres of stumps and slash piles, was the way to get to school.  “How did you get to school?  Two legs,” was how Wallace Music described this in an interview.  In an era when a family might walk four miles to call on a friend a mile was, literally, child’s play.

                                    The End of the Lackamas School 


In the 1940’s, Lackamas “was operated under an arrangement whereby parents residing in the vicinity were permitted to choose between the one-room school at Lackamas and the graded school in Yelm.  Under this arrangement the average daily attendance at Lackamas dropped from 16.7 in June, 1943, to 7.7 in June, 1947.”  The voters of the Lackamas District voted to be part of the Yelm District. For many their affirmative vote on the matter was a result of the Yelm board of directors emphasizing the fact that Lackamas would remain open for children in the area.  This, however, was not to be the case.  In 1946 the Lackamas school was closed.  Many in the Bald Hills were shocked and feelings of betrayal regarding the matter stayed fresh for decades after.  There was an attempt by residents in the area to resurrect the Lackamas district and reopen in the in 1948-49, but this attempt failed.  In the spring of 1949 a Yelm school board meeting discussed the disposal of the Lackamas gym.  Cap Longmire and Glen Rutledge argued that the gym should be allowed for the newly formed Lackamas Community Club.

The Rebirth of the Lackamas School 


In the spring of 2004, the Yelm school board held its weekly meeting at the Lackamas School.  It had been a long time coming.  The school had been closed since the 1940s, but the Yelm school district had recently decided to build a new elementary school on the site of this nearly ninety year old small school.

The Lackamas facility had been closed amidst controversy and had fallen into quite a state of disrepair during decades of abandonment. 

The school remained empty from 1946 through 1986.  It was at that time that two couples, Nita and Dillard Jensen and Mary and Rick Scott, took it upon themselves to restore the Lackamas schoolhouse.  According to Jensen, the

foundation was okay.  The doors, however, were gone.  Mere shards of glass remained of the beautiful windows and the “roof was on the basement floor.”

After years of sweet equity and a small fortune they had restored the building to its former beauty.  The school has been  placed on the  Thurston county, Washington state, and national registers of historic places.

The Yelm District #13 (1900-1919)

District #13 – Yelm (1900-1919)

The school in Yelm had started as a log cabin, but was eventually replaced by a wood frame building.  This structure was east of the major crossroads in Yelm.   This school, in the 1890’s, became so crowded that some classes were held in the cloak room.  Eventually the primary grades, first through fourth, were held at the home of Mrs. Anna Coates.  A new school was constructed around 1899.

The Story of Yelm provides an account of this new school built at the site of the current Yelm Middle School (corner of Yelm Ave. and Edwards St.):

Eventually, a new building was erected, but on the present site, which act caused some opposition in the town.  This two room building was later enlarged to four, and the shop annex was used as a classroom before the new High School was created in 1920.

The school site may have been unpopular at the time because it was located beyond the railroad tracks in west end of town.   This is, however, is mere speculation.  This building served as the Yelm grade school until it burned down in 1932.

Every Picture Tells a Story

The opening decade of the 20th century provides our first visual glimpse of the school in Yelm.   The first of these photos, from the Nisqually Valley News (                    ) is from 1903.  The caption locates the school at the original site east of the crossroads, which calls into question the memory of some informants that the school had moved by 1899.  The teacher is identified as Miss Hart.  The list of salaries for this era places an Annie C. Hartt at Yelm from September 1902 through March 1903.  The door behind the students appears to be a single door, different from the double doors found in subsequent photos of the school.  This, if true, would mean it was taken at the original school.  The students in the picture appear to range from five or six to the mid teens.

The second photo is of grades 4-9 at what is certainly the school at the current middle school’s site.  This photograph was found in the Yelm High Library and is identified as being from the 1908-09 school year, the first year in which a 9th grade classes was added.  Notes with the photo state that Dan Cook, Alice Hughes, Vera Chambers, and Ruth Hawley were the first 9th grades taught at the school.  The teachers in the picture are Miss Hattie Hawley and Miss Clara McKinzie [sic].  Salary records place both of those teachers in Yelm during the 1908-09 time frame.  The photograph is labeled as being for grades 4 t0 9.  This would imply that there were other teachers for the primary grades.  However, the students in the photo appear to range from young to high school, implying this is a photograph of more than grades 4-9.  Records only record two teachers at the time.

This third picture from the decade is from the Yelm City Hall.  It is identified as being from 1911.  The teachers in this photo are identified as Miss Lillian Natrous and Mr. White.  D.R. White and Lena Watrows (this could easily be Natrous) were indeed teaching in Yelm, he for $75 per month and Lena for $65 per month.  Two thirds of the students appear to be female.

The Forest School

The Forest School was part of the Yelm School District by 1915.  Located on the corner of 143rd SE and Vail Road the building still stands and is known as the Deschutes Grange.  From this picture one can see the closed bell tower that was always part on the small schools of the era.  Located where it is, the building may have been part of an earlier school district that was absorbed by Yelm.  This picture of the Forest School, from Yelm Pioneers and Followers, 1850-1950, is from 1915.  The teachers in the picture, Mr. Loren Peters and Miss Ruth Eide were on the Yelm school district payroll in 1915.  Also in this picture are two of the three Chabert girls. They became educators.  Not in the photo is their sister Rose, who also became a teacher.  According to Joseph Conine, in a 1917 letter to his daughter Jennie Lind Edwards, “the Forest school is also looming up pretty well.”   A “Miss Curry” was the principal and May Robinson was her assistant.

School Days

The first senior class was graduated in the old building and boasted four members, Helen Hettrick, Katie Hughes, Stanly Price and Haney La Blanc.  This was in 1915.  The second graduating class had but two members, Mary Eddy (Chown) and Frances King (Smith).  J. C. Conine wrote in 1917 that there were 120 scholars attending the Yelm High School that year.  (He must have meant 120 for the entire district)  The new high school building was dedicated in 1920 (another source states 1917) with the first senior class graduating from in that year.  This building burned in 1941.

Hazel Price passed the 8th grade state exam at Willow Lawn Grade School out of Yelm and entered Yelm High School the first year it was held in the grade School at Yelm, about the fall of 1910.  She and May Robinson drove their old horse and buggy to school each day.   There were only the first two grades of high school at Yelm for several years so if you wanted to continue you had to go to Olympia or Tacoma.

The Business of Education

In 1900, the Yelm School District was one of numerous schools districts in this area.  The Board of Directors had placed a 1 mill levy to the vote of the district in 1901.  In 1909, the school district estimated that they would be spending a little less than $1,500 for the coming year.  Nearly four-fifths of his was for teacher salaries.

According to The Story of Yelm the following men served as district superintendents during this era:

1914-16          Mr. Fleenor

1916-17          Mr. Blounquist

1917-18          Mr. Fletcher

1918-21          Ernest Nichols

1921-25         Fred J. Brown

1925-32         J. R. Loutzenhiser

Men and women desiring to become teachers had two avenues to certification.  One was an education at a normal school and the other was through testing.  Teachers were governed by state rules and regulations.  Many of the issues will seem familiar to teachers of the current era.

1905 – Education in Thurston County

Education Around the County:  1905

Introduction:  The following are a series of articles related to education which appeared in the Washington Standard, published in Olympia. 

The Eighth grade pupils of Lincoln school are planning an entertainment and debate on the last day of school- next Friday- to which parents and friends are invited. The question to be discussed is, “Resolved, that the General Government is More Important than Local Government.” Those to take part in the debate are Lee Kegley, Jay Tew, Ruth Mills, Anna Schively and Della Lincoln, for the negative, and May Mead, Fanny Harris, Alta White, Lynne Fullerton and Nellie Wilson for the affirmative. The judges are to be selected from the High school.


Washington Standard

May 19, 1905

Only fifteen of the thirty-two applicants for teachers’ certificates were successful at the late examination, owing principally, it is said to the fact that many of them were quite young and found the questions beyond their range of advancement. Those who passed the ordeal were: Faith Chambers, Bessie Comstock, Nellie Gwin, Lena Abernethy, Mrs. W.V. Baker, Evelyn George, Leona Leonard, Guy Overhulse, P.C. Moe, W.G. Parker, Nell Shahan, Katherine King, T.D. Young, Esther Packwood, Ralph M. Whitcomb and Oren R. Richards.

Washington Standard

May 19, 1905


Forty-six Passed, and 132 Will Have to Wait Another Examination.

There are in all 178 Thurston county pupils who have taken the eighth grade examination during the school year, beginning July 1, 1904, and ending June 30, 1904. There were three examinations held, as follows: September 1 and 2, 1904; January 19 and 20, 1905, and May 18 and 19, 1995. These examinations were held at various places in the county.

Of the 178 pupils taking the examination, 46 have passed and will be granted eighth grade certificates, which will entitle them to entrance without further examination to any high school in the State.

Following are the names of those who passed:

James Barton, May Burr, Ethel Carroll, Sylvester Chase, Gladys Clark, Ethel Coulter, Estella Cramp, James Davis, Sadie Doherty, Lyne Fullerton, Miles Gray, Mary M. Hall, Dora Hardt, Herbert Hoke, Anna Jacobson, Alice Malpass, Wallace Mount, Annie Schively, Henry Schultz, George E. Scott, Louis Utterbach, Lovina Wilson, Nellie Wilson, Alta White, Eva White and Edith Young from the Lincoln building, School district No. 1, Olympia; Charles H. Briffett and Martha N. Groat, teachers.

Hope Chambers, Providence Academy, Olympia.

Lester Brown, Sarah Croston, Grace Gibson, Darth Ludwick, Gertie McKray, Emma Packwood and Lester Skofield, of Bucoda, School district No. 31, C.H. Clements, teacher.

Tillie Carpenter, School district No. 39, Helen Simons, teacher.

Inez Clauson, School district No. 56, Guy Overhulse, teacher.

Irene Cole, School district No. 6, T.D. Young, teacher.

Dora Hardt, School district No. 17, Edith McIntire, teacher.

David Hartsuck, School district No. 16, Leno Watrous, teacher.

Zella Medge, School district No. 9, J. Emmett Brown, teacher.

Jenniw Neeley, Ruth Van Eton, School district No. 21, W.A. Bowers, teacher.

Chas Wellman, School district No. 65, J.H. Butler, teacher.

A.G. West, School district No. 63, Edna Patnude, teacher.

Nancy Hutson, school district No. 3, Mrs. E.B. Stephens, teacher.

Thirty-three of the pupils have signified their intention of entering the Olympia High school, the coming school year, and all but two or three intend going to school next year.

Washington Standard

June 2, 1905

The Thirties – Yelm Schools During the Great Depression

The Thirties: Yelm Schools During the Great Depression

Introduction: The story of Yelm schools in this era is revealed though the school board minutes of the early part of the decade as well as selections from the annuals of the time.

Yelm Schools in the Thirties: The Depression and a Fire

School Budgets of County Are Markedly Lower (1932)

Teacher Salaries in Yelm, 1930-1932

1930’s – Yelm Football Records

1932 Annual

1933 Annual

1935 Annual

1937 Annual

1938 Annual

1939 Annual

Teacher Test – 1900

Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6

Teachers Show Their Ability

Some examination questions. The examination has been completed in reading, state school law, history, grammar, arithmetic, physiology, orthography and theory and practice.

*The following are some of the questions given in arithmetic:

1. A man walks across the diagonal of a lot 8 rods long and 6 rods wide,4 times a day instead of walking around the corner on the sidewalk. How much time does he save in a year of 300 days if he walks at the rate of 3 miles an hour?

2. A vessel can sail up stream at the rate of 8 miles an hour and downstream at the rate of 12 miles an hour. How far can it go down stream and up in 5 hours?

3. (a) Find the entire surface of a cylinder 10 inches long and 8 inches in diameter. (b) Find the number of cubic inches in the same cylinder.

4. What number subtracted 88 times from 80.005 will leave .013 as a remainder?

5. A pole was broken 52 feet from the bottom and it fell so that the end struck 39 feet from the foot. Required, the length of the pole.

Must know the law

*In school law the following are some of the questions asked:

1. To whom may petitioners appeal in case the county superintendent’s decision is not satisfctory to them? When must the appeal be made?

2. Has a teacher the power to suspend a pupil?

3. Name the legal holidays belonging to teacher and school.

4. Who adopts the textbooks for the state? How often may they be adopted?

5. How may a school district now adopt free textbooks?

6. What offices of the executive department may the legislature abolish?

*In grammar the applicant must answer, among ten questions, the following:

1. Illustrate by properly constructed sentences five uses of capital letters.

2. Give an example of a complex declarative sentence; of a complex interrogative sentence; of a complex imperative sentence.


3. Illustrate the use of a prepositional phrase; of an infinitive phrase; of an adjective clause; and of a clause used as the object of a verb.

4. Correct the following sentences, giving the reasons: (a) New York is larger than any city in America. (b) This opinion is becoming more universal. (c) He took it to be he.

Questions for Wagner

*In geography the following questions would worry Harr Wagner:

1. Define altitude, latitude, equator, meridian, climate.

2. Name five foreign ports with which Puget Sound has commercial relations.

3. Name the form of government and capital city of (a) England, (b) Brazil, (c) France, (d) Russia, and (e) Switzerland.

4. Name a state characterized by an abundant production of (a) rice, (b) wheat, (c) cotton, (d) sugar, (e) lumber, (f) coal, (g) copper, (h) tobacco, (i) hops, (j) oranges.

5. Sketch a map of Washington showing (a) the mountain ranges, (b) four largest cities, (c) two largest rivers, (d) two principal railroad lines, and (e) boundary.

6. On which waters would a traveler pass to go from Tacoma to Paris by water route?

7. Discuss the commercial importance of the Trans-Siberian railway.