Willow Lawn #40

Willow Lawn School (Courtesy: Yelm Historical Society)


There is little information about the Willow Lawn district. Records show that J. C. Conine taught there in 1891, later serving on the board of directors. In a 1992 letter, Dallas and Marguerite Edwards wrote that Willow Lawn was built on property donated by James Longmire. More specifically, they placed the building in the area near the Five Corners intersection and Yelm Creek, east of town. It seems more likely that they meant Four Corners which would have been closer to the original Longmire farm and within the boundaries of the Willow Lawn District #40. 


District Outline Map 

School Districts – The Old Fashioned Way – The location of Willow Lawn among the districts of the area. 

Willow Lawn School

List of Teachers (1899-1918)


District #28 – Deschutes/Morehead

Local historians claim that the Deschutes School was first held in a log cabin in 1876. Renny Pollard was an early teacher at the school. The earliest document from the school is a postcard communication from 1884. In 1894 there were 19 students enrolled at the school. L. J. Byrne was serving as the teacher at that time. Three years earlier Edith Corbett, of Mt. Rainier fame, taught at the school.

The Deschutes school, District #28, was operating in 1886. Documents show that Elcaine Longmire, the clerk received a note from the county superintendent that the school’s annual report had not yet been submitted,

1894 records from District #28 tell a little more about the school. Nineteen students were enrolled that year. The students were divided into five groups with each being designated according to the “reader” they were using. The school term ran for 77 days and the school maintained a 96 percent attendance rate. The district supervisors made no bones about it, their school was not well equipped. The school did not even possess a Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. Needless to, say the school did not follow the curriculum prescribed by the state.

The Deschutes/Morehead district was absorbed by the newly created Lackamas District. What happened to the Morehead school immediately following this in uncertain. In 1929, however, the building was sold to private hands. The highest of the three bids was for one hundred dollars. The school building still stands and it currently used as a private home.

Documents – District #28

School Districts – The Old Fashioned Way – Map – Find the Morehead District among the other districts of the area.

District #28 – Outline Map

Postcard to Elcaine Longmire, Clerk District #28, 1886 – Address, Note

Teacher’s Contract, Edith Corbett, 1891

Record of Teacher Contracts (1892-1899) District referred to as Deschutes #28

Teacher’s Report to County Superintendent, 1894

Certificate of Special Tax Levy, July 5, 1897

Estimate of School District Tax Levy, 1909

Board Minutes, November 11, 1929 – Lackamas school board sells Morehouse school and grounds to Mrs. W. R. Whitman for $100.

Morehead school today, Smith Prairie Rd. (front), Corner, Rear

Personalized Grade Card District #28



District #43: Eureka

Seven miles south of Yelm, John Algyer , formerly of Eureka, California, homesteaded a farm in the latter half of the 19th century. Other families, the Smiths, Morrises, and Langdens, among them, followed. In the late 1880s the families constructed a school for their children. When it was formally organized in 1907 it was identified as Thurston County District #43. Locally it was known as the Eureka school.

Cleora Paine, who arrived in the area in 1889 (the year of Washington statehood), remembered that the people in the area were building a schoolhouse that year. John Alyger and his wife had donated an acre of land for that purpose and residents provided lumber and sweat equity to make their schoolhouse a reality.

According to the authors of Yelm Pioneer and Followers,1850-1950, the Eureka school was located near where Solberg Rd. intersects with 148th Ave. The school would have been located nearly in the center of the nine square mile district. John Algyer’s generosity with his land also had the effect of minimizing a student’s walk or ride to school. Still, any children on the edges of the district would have had over a mile and a half trek through the rain, forests, and mud, so common in the state. Undoubtedly, some were forced to walk uphill and through the snow, thus giving credence to the stories of our ancestors.

Records show that the school was open as early as 1891 when Elmer Ralston opened the doors on October 5. Students thus began their school year which would run through the end of Ralston’s contract five months later. Then he left the school. In fact, teacher turnover, would be a dominant feature of the school. Unable to support a family on four months pay teachers were constantly on the move from district to district and in and out of the fledgling profession. In the seven years from school opening through 1898, nine different instructors taught there. N. Morris, George Weber, R. N. True, and A. B. Smith were among those that served on the board of directors.

The Eureka District combined with the Willow Lawn District and eventually they were incorporated into the ever growing Yelm School District. (This probably happened sometime after 1913) The school is reported to have burned down in 1932.

The Eureka Church

The school also served as a church for ten years. The Eureka community worshipped there until John Algyer donated another acre of land for the erection of a church. The church was dedicated in 1899 and was affiliated with the Methodist church. J. W. Blackwell recalled in a letter in 1933 that when he arrived at Eureka in 1907 he found a “small church building . . .and a few faithful members.” Rev. Blackwell’s day of “rest, as he ironically referred to it, involved his walking seven miles from Yelm to Eureka, where he taught a Bible class and preached a sermon at 11 a.m. Following service at Eureka he packed lunch and ate it as he walked to Rainier where he repeated the process.”

Church attendance dropped off after World War I. Some of the original founders of the church had died, some families had moved looking for better livelihoods, and others headed north to the Yelm Methodist Church.

The Final Years

It is unclear when the Eureka school shut its doors or the church for that matter. The church was torn down in September 1931 and the lumber used for improvements at the Yelm Church. When Edgar Prescott wrote Yelm’s First Church he interviewed Cleora Paine, a former member of the Eureka congregation, who recalled the end:

“I went away to the city. . . . I was gone for several years and when I came back, our church was gone and our school was gone. I went around to my sister, and I asked “What in the world have has become of our church?”

She continued, “They had torn it down and used the lumber to complete the second story of the parsonage at Yelm. . . . And our bell was gone. They had given it to the Yelm church.”

There is a brief historical coda for the Eureka School. On August 14, 1946, the Yelm school board voted a resolution “authorizing return of grounds of the Eureka School Dist#43, to the original owner. The resolution “was approved and signed.” The Eureka school had come full circle.

(Information about the Eureka Church is from: Prescott, Edgar. Yelm’s First Church. Tacoma: Privately Printed, 1980)


Timber Cruiser Map of the Area – On this map in the northeast corner is the property of John Algyer. This would have been where the school was located. South of there the Eureka Church is sketched on the map.

Outline Map of the District

School Districts– The Old Fashioned Way – Map of Eureka District with other districts around it

Teachers, 1891-1898

Teachers, 1899-1913

Special Tax Levy, 1896

Special Tax Levy, 1901

Estimate of School District Tax Levy, 1909

Collins #12 (aka Freedom)

Collins #12 (aka Freedom)

Introduction: The westernmost limit of the modern Yelm school district borders that of North Thurston along the Yelm Highway near Pattison’s Lake. Along the Yelm highway, just east of Eaton Creek stands a white, two story family residence sitting among some trees on the south side of that road. This building was the last of the school houses in the Freedom, or Collins, district #12. For decades the building serviced the children of the Freedom Community. (Today often referred to as the Evergreen Valley area)

The Freedom District was originally organized in 1854 and was one of the first districts in Thurston County. The first school was made of logs and located on the corner of the Marcus McMillan homestead. Mrs. H. R. Kagy, longtime resident of the Freedom Community wrote about the school in the 1930s. She quoted at length the memories of Flora Parsons who had attended that school:

It was a low straight building with the door in one (this description was…..there) end and a large cobble stone fireplace in the other end. The chimney was made of sticks and clay. There was a row of small windows on each side. The seats were benches along the side of the wall, and there were six or seven clumsy home made desks with a shelf for books. One low bench had a back and could be moved around. It was used by the smallest children. There was no well on the grounds so each child carried his own individual water bottle which was placed on a bench in one corner of the room. When we wanted a drink all we had to do was walk over there and find our own bottle. My recollection is that we were permitted to drink when ever we wished. There was quite a rivalry among the pupils as to who had the finest bottle. There was a ball around in front and teeters on the fence back of the house.

According to Parsons about a dozen children attended the school during her time there. The log cabin was abandoned in 1869 when a new frame school was erected on the property of William Parsons, southeast of Long Lake. The first teacher at that school was Maggie O’Neal, daughter of Abijah O’Neal of Yelm.

With most of the students living in the southern end of the Freedom District the above school was moved. This time it was located near old Fort Eaton on the road to Yelm. H. R. Kagy recalled that event:

The building was blocked up on rollers and hauled to the new location. It was somewhat wrecked but was repaired and used until the present building was erected. Some of the happiest days of my life were spent in that old school building. The days were never so stormy but what we were glad to walk a mile and a half to school rather than miss a day. The old log forts were our play houses. Two of them were still standing at that time.

In 1917 a new school was built. That building still stands on the south side of the Yelm Highway. The school contained two classrooms and usually employed two teachers. One of the teachers there was Harry Southworth.

The Collins District was eventually broken up with part of it joining the North Thurston District and part of it being consolidated with Yelm District #400. Yelm School Board Minutes from November 29, 1950 contain the following:

Collins school board Mrs. Boyles, Phil Layne, and H. F. Hastings met with the Yelm board to discuss the proposition of consolidating the Collins school district and the transfer of some of Collins to Lacey. After considerable discussion it was decided that Yelm board would all try to be present at the reorganization hearing on Dec. 11, 1950 at the courthouse in Olympia. The Yelm board also indicated that should consolidation take place they would be willing to maintain two teachers at Collins as long as the attendance warranted it.

Collins continued to operate within the Yelm District for several years, but by the mid 1950’s the school was headed for the same fate as the Lackamas School. Board minutes from 1955, read, in part, “A group from the Collins area came to protest any action to close the Collins School. After and extended discussion Chairman Phillips called for a motion to decide the issue.” They were unsuccessful in their attempt to keep the school open. The Yelm board of directors had decided it was more cost effective to bus the students from the Freedom Community to Yelm Elementary, than to keep the building open. Eventually the building was sold to a family, marking the end of the Collins District.


Collins District #12, outline map

Collins District Map

Record of Teacher’s Contracts, 1899-1916

Collins School Students (Courtesy of the Lacey Museum)

Collins School Students (Courtesy of the Lacey Museum)

Collins School Students (Courtesy of the Lacey Museum)