Atlantis Arisen/Chapter 19



I started from Portland in the forenoon of May 2, 1890, to "make the tour of the Sound," for in that familiar manner do Oregonians speak of a journey through that division of Washington which lies west of the Cascade Mountains. They have not quite forgotten that Washington was once a part of Oregon, and that in early times they warred with the British fur company for its possession, holding on with courage and pertinacity until the boundary question was settled in 1846, and conducting its affairs until 1853, when the territory north'of the Columbia set up for itself under the name it now bears as a State.

This, however, was not the title chosen by the territorial convention which petitioned Congress for a separate organization, at Monticello, on the Cowlitz River, in 1852, which convention asked for the adoption of Columbia as the name of their new commonwealth. But the bill was amended by Stanton, of Kentucky, and Washington substituted.

The change is to be regarded as fortunate, for, had the country north of the great river been called by the same name, the individuality of the latter would have been destroyed, and this mighty highway have seemed to constitute a part of a single State, whereas it belongs, first and last, to several.

But to go back to the beginning of a journey from Portland to and through West Washington. The Northern Pacific (Branch) road skirts the Wallamet highlands and river for fifteen or twenty miles, the traveller getting glimpses of each, and of Sauvé Island, as he rushes past old homesteads whose sacredness the "steam eagles" of civilization have invaded, the iron track often cutting in twain blooming orchards, now laden with the promise of a rich harvest. There certainly never were such cherry-trees as grow in the Northwest; enormous in height and spread of limb, and phenomenal in wealth of snowy blossoms, quite concealing leaves and stems. And the wonder culminates when we find the fruit has ripened after the same fashion, quite concealing the branch on which it grows. Pears are blooming with the same freedom, as are also plums, although receiving no care. All the pretty things of May-time are smiling at us from the wayside, and the dandelion, which is an immigrant to this country, has "taken" it, immigrant fashion, and the owners of the soil have much difficulty to teach it its proper place in agricultural politics. But it looks pretty and smiling and golden against the green sod, and I find it hard to have it compared to a dago.

No breadth of cultivable land is seen along this road for some distance, which finally emerges into a good farming country about the head of Scappoose Bay, an inlet from the Columbia at the mouth of the Lower Wallamet. Suddenly the character of the surface changes, and for a couple of miles, back of St. Helen, a sheet of basalt, some time poured out of Mount St. Helen, covers the underlying sand rock, and supports a thin soil on top, sufficient to sustain scattering groups of trees, which have a pleasing effect in contrast with the denser woods of the hillsides.

The crossing of the Columbia about twelve miles below St. Helen is made by a ferry-boat large enough to convey the train to the opposite side of the river, where we are landed on terra firma at Kalama, a few miles above the mouth of the Cowlitz River.

Kalama, like most railroad towns not terminal, is a. failure, because it can show no raison d'etre. It was started when the Portland Branch of the Northern Pacific was being constructed from the Columbia to the Sound, about 1870, and the company's head-quarters were established there, which were, on the completion of the road, removed to Tacoma. It was also made the county-seat of Cowlitz County, which did not save it from decay. But I am assured that the place is feeling a return of life in sympathy with the present upward and forward movement of the whole State, which has for several years been enjoying a rapid growth. We do not tarry long here, but speed on our journey to the "Mediterranean of the Pacific."

About the time the N. P. Railroad was being located from the Columbia to the Sound I made my first visit to this region. In that day we took an open mail-wagon at Monticello, near the mouth of the Cowlitz, for the drive to Olympia, having to cross Pumphrey's Mountain at the forks of the Cowlitz by a very rough road with rarely a human habitation along it. But it was in July, and I enjoyed the ride, break-downs and all. What struck me then was the magnificence of the timber. Such a forest as that on Pumphrey's Mountain was something to have seen. Trees straight as Ionian columns, so high that it was painful to bend one's neck to see the tops, and with a diameter corresponding to their height. If there is anything in nature for which I have a love resembling love to humanity, it is for a fine tree. The god Pan and the old Druidical religion are quite intelligible as expressions of the soul struggling "through nature up to nature's Cod," and one is at once in harmony with the sentiments of grandeur and solemnity, akin to worship, which a scene such as this inspires.

Added to the awe which the mighty shafts of fir, naked for a hundred and fifty feet, and the "dim religious light" filtering through their closely-meeting tops, awakened in my mind at that time, was a secret dread of encountering in these shadow halls of silence something unusual—and terrible—a brown bear or a cougar, for instance; but nothing more appalling than a gray hare, some grouse, and mountain quail attempted to cross our road. The larger game, if there were any near, took warning from the noisy rattling of our wagon and hid themselves from observation.

A few years later, when the railroad up the Cowlitz Valley had been completed, I again visited Olympia, and found the road to run through a wild and densely-timbered country almost from the Columbia to the Chehalis River. There were, it is true, a few stations cut out of the forest, with no excuse for being except that all railroads must have "stations" scattered along,—to give tourists, by their forlon aspect, a contempt for the country, I privately remarked.

But on this May-day, 1890, I found the stations had grown into towns, and there were so many of them that I seemed to be travelling over town-sites all the way to my destination. Not that all of these twenty or more embryo cities were astoundingly large and populous for their age, but that there was so much evidence of growth as to keep up a feeling of curiosity and surprise as to what brought these people here, and how they accomplished so much in so short a time. How many sturdy strokes it took to clear away the heavy forest to make room for farms and towns! Yet the work had been done, and in the place of the noble firs I had so much admired stood homes, school-houses, churches, hotels, stores, mills, and all the ordinary conveniences of established society. It was a revelation.

That the Cowlitz Valley is a fertile one none can doubt who travel through it, but it is not a wide or long one. It rather consists of small side valleys, in each of which there is room for a settlement. The real wealth of the Cowlitz country consists of lumber and coal, with other minerals used in manufactures.

At Kelso, which calls itself the "Gateway to the Sound Country," are two saw-mills and four shingle-mills. The place has about six hundred inhabitants, and is the prospective seat of a Presbyterian Academy. Winlock and Toledo are two thriving settlements within a few miles of each other, in Lewis County.

The chief town of the county of Cowlitz is Castle Rock, which has about eight hundred inhabitants. It is located in the midst of good farming-lands, large coal-fields, and fine timber, and is a point of supply for several mines in their first stage of development. It has railroad and river transportation, which, with its natural resources, ought to secure for it a prosperous future.

There is a curious mixture of English and Indian words in the nomenclature of this part of Washington, and indeed of the whole State. Take the names along the railroad from the Columbia to the Sound. There are Carrol, Kelso, Coweeman, Freeport, Stockport, Tucker, Castle Rock, Olequa, Sopenah, Little Falls, Mill Switch, Winloek, Napavine, Newaukum, Chehalis, Centralia, Skookum-Chuck, Seatco, Tenino, Gillmore, Spurlock, Plumb, Bush Prairie, Tumwater, Olympia.

The railroad does not touch the pretty village of Claquato, on the Chehalis River, an old-fashioned, quiet, respectable-looking place before the railroad brood of towns came into existence. We are not permitted a glimpse of its tidy orchards, gardens, gray, unpainted frame houses, and its modest "Claquato Academy," which showed the reverence of the pioneer for education, and its equally modest wooden church.

A short distance from Newaukum, which is on a branch of the Chehalis River just east of Claquato,. is Chehalis, the countyseat of Lewis County. It was first laid off in 1873 and called Saundersville, after the owner of the land. Its location was a fortunate one, and it became the seat of county government in place of Claquato, which had long enjoyed that distinction. It was the centre of a fine agricultural district, and, being upon the railroad, soon began to show considerable activity. During the year just passed it has had a remarkable growth, owing not only to its natural resources, but to railroad building on two lines, either of which will connect it with the sea, one at Gray's Harbor and another at Shoalwater Bay, or, as it is now called, Willapa Bay. These roads make the lumber business active. Eastern men, I am told, are negotiating for a site for a woollenmill. water-power being conducted to the town by a flume from the Newaukum. There is a pump-manufactory located here, and other industries looking this way. A railroad line is projected to connect with Hunt's system, in East Washington, via Yakima Valley, which road will go to Willapa, it is said; and the Union Pacific has made a survey from Seattle to Portland which closely parallels the Northern Pacific through Chehalis County. All this is very exciting to real-estate dealers, and also

to settlers. The State Reform School is located at Chehalis, and a block of land has been deeded to the Catholic Church to establish a Sisters’ School in the town. An effort is being made to secure the land-office which is to be opened in the district. Thus, with land, railroad, lumber, and water companies, there is enough to keep up the spirits of an aspiring new town.

But we have hardly glanced at this healthy and sturdy place, or had our queries answered, before we are at Centralia, at the junction of the Skookum-Chuck and Chehalis Rivers. This young city is situated at about an equal distance from Puget Sound and the Columbia River, and also midway between the mountains on the east and the ocean on the west—hence its name, which does not impress me as being equal in dignity to its prospects. On the 1st of January, 1889, Centralia had eight hundred inhabitants. One year from that date its population was three thousand two hundred. Railroad building had, no doubt, some effect to increase the census; but that there was a very rapid growth during the year is evident from the improvements which one may see on every hand. Its advantages are identical with those of Chehalis, while it enjoys the still further one of being only two miles from the coal-fields, which are being slowly developed, and which will soon have a railroad to them to bring out the mineral. Besides the railroads already named which come to Centralia, the Port Townsend and Southern is expected to reach here within a year, on its way to Portland.

Centralia is situated on a prairie, or rather on rich bottomland, which would make a very productive hop-farm or raise small fruits in abundance. There is good fruit-land all about it, and in the vicinity mighty forests of the most valuable timber. Lumber and shingles are shipped from here to the cities of the East. Iron and copper are numbered among the minerals within easy reach. It is, besides, a fit place to live in, with a good public-school system, an academy, an opera-house, several churches, a bank, a daily newspaper, and many substantial business blocks.

Speeding on, the next half-dozen miles brings us to Bucoda, or Seatco, which is its post-office name. Here is located a large lumber-mill and sash- and door-factory. The population is one thousand. Bucoda coal is beginning to have quite a good

reputation. Bucoda was destroyed by fire, sustaining a loss of one hundred and thirty-three thousand dollars, but is now rebuilt better than before.

On leaving the Chehalis Valley we enter upon gravelly prairies, separated by belts of timber. A particularly interesting section is Mound Prairie, which is covered with mounds from two to two and a half feet high, as close together as potato- hills in a field. Various theories have been advanced as to their origin, but it is merely a matter of conjecture still.

At Tenino passengers for Olympia leave the Northern Pacific, and take passage on the Olympia and Tenino Railroad, recently sold to the Port Townsend and Southern. The distance is only about fifteen miles, but the road was a narrow-gauge, the track in bad order, travel light, and the service anything but agreeable. I was told the track was to be widened and the road put in good order, which has, I believe, been done by its new owners.

This little road, with all its faults, had my sympathies. It was built by local capital and local labor, even the ladies of Olympia assisting by having what they cglled “field days,” when they all went out with baskets, coffee-pots, and frying-pans, and fed the volunteers upon the grade, who were the men of every rank of society in the little capital city. The Northern Pacific had disappointed its good people grievously bypassing by and taking a short cut to Commencement Bay,—which its want of funds probably forced it to do,—and the Olympians, with true American pluck, determined to have a branch, and did have it, taking a just pride in the successful accomplishment of their undertaking.

Most of the prairies about the head of the Sound were taken up in early times, and bear the names of the first settlers upon them. Bush’s Prairie is perhaps the most noted of any on the line of the road, simply because Bush, being a colored man, of sound sense and a kind heart, who made himself useful to his white neighbors, defended his well-deserved claim to a donation, which the government finally granted him, although the law read “white male citizen.” His son exhibited wheat raised on Bush Prairie, which received a medal at the Centennial Exposition.

Tumwater, which is the Chinook dialect for strong or rapid water, is the name of a village at the head of Budd’s Inlet, on

which Olympia is situated. There are mills and manufactories on Des Chutes River, which here falls into tide water, making a very pretty cataract. The town itself is sleepy and old-fashioned, and for that reason more interesting than those bran-new ones, all bustle and discomfort. Here was made the first American settlement, in 1845, when seven emigrants, five of whom had families, forced their way through the forest along the Cowlitz and the Chehalis Yalley to Puget Sound. The leader of this mighty host was Michael T. Simmons, a Kentuckian of the Daniel Boone order, who selected this place for settlement, and erected the first flouring-mill in all this region, a small atfair in a log-house, the millstones being hewn out of blocks of granite found on the beach. Even unbolted flour was a luxury after a year of boiled wheat. Tumwater is a good place to listen to pioneer stories and reflect what man can do.

A belt of timber about two miles in breadth encircles the Sound, even where the back country is prairie. Olympia therefore was hewn out of the forest, but it has a pretty situation, and resembles a Hew England town more than any other I have seen in the Northwest. Perhaps I should say it did resemble a New England town, for I found on the occasion of my late visit that it was partaking of the hurry and exhilaration of real-estate transfers in anticipation of* coming events—and railroads. I prefer to speak of it as it had appeared to me on former occasions, when it had an air of home comfort and cheerful leisure, produced by snug residences, good sidewalks, pleasant gardens, shade-trees, and a neighborly friendliness joined to a frank independence in its citizens, who withal were rather above the average in intelligence. And why not, when the capital had always been here, and the people were used to hearing public questions discussed ?

One of Olympia’s charms to me was its long bridges and wharves—for the tide has a great rise and fall in this inlet. To be suspended over water on a bridge, a long one, was always to me fascinating. To be at rest over the restless water,, and gaze upon its instability and dream! In Olympia one can do this, when the tide is in. When it is out one can watch the millions of squirming things left by the receding flood in the oozy mud. Standing on the long bridge, too, we can gaze upon the Olympian

Range—the most aerial mountain view in this country of mountains.

Olympia was settled as a donation c*laim in 1846 by Levi L, Smith, who had for a partner Edward Sylvester. Smith died, and Sylvester remained in possession of the claim, which was patented to him. Here he lived and died in peace and plenty, leaving a handsome estate. In spite of the rivalry of other towns, Olympia has always been the choice of the people for the capital, that choice being definitely confirmed by an election held after Washington became a State. That matter being settled, capital and corporations are now looking for investments, and the quiet little town is in danger of blossoming forth into a city. Its present population is a little over eight thousand. Its lumber trade amounts to five hundred thousand dollars annually. It is connected with all the cities on the Sound by steamer lines, and with some of them by railroad, as also with the Columbia River and Portland. It is expected that the Port Townsend an(^ Southern will be extended north to Port Townsend and south to Portland. The Northern Pacific will connect it with Tacoma and Cray’s Harbor, with which latter place it is already in communication by steamer and rail. The air is full of rumors of railroad projects by old and new companies, but it is with facts accomplished that I prefer to deal.

West Washington, unlike West Oregon, has no chief river, with its numerous tributaries, draining a great valley; but it has, nevertheless, its central body of water, into which flow numerous small rivers, draining the Puget Sound Basin, which is bounded, like the Wallamet Yalley, by the Cascade and Coast Ranges on the east and west, and by their intermingling spurs on the south. These rivers, unlike those of Oregon, are all affected by the ebb and flow of the tides, and have their lowest bottom-lands overflowed. The Sound itself is not one simple great inlet of the sea, but is an indescribably tortuous body of water which is not even a sound, being too deep for soundings in some of its narrowest parts. So eccentric are its meander- ings that the whole county of Kitsap is inclosed so nearly in the embraces of its several long arms as very narrowly to escape being an island.

That particular arm of the Sound upon which Olympia is situated is six miles in length by^from one to one and a half miles in width, narrowing to a quarter of a mile when opposite the town. At low-tide the water recedes entirely at this point, leaving a mud flat all the way from here to Tumwater, a mile and a half south. The mean rise and fall of the tide is a little over nine feet; the greatest difference between the highest and lowest tides is twenty-four feet.

The land adjacent to this inlet is considerably elevated along the shore, and rises yet higher at a little distance back, being level, however, in some places. The same general shape of country surrounds the whole Sound, the land having a general rise back from it for some distance. This, of course, must be the case where a basin exists of the character of this one. That portion of it which lies adjacent to the Sound possesses a porous, gravelly soil, nevertheless, heavily timbered with trees of immense size. This belt of timber is several miles in width. The roads through it and across the small prairies which lie on its outskirts are all that could be desired in the way of natural macadam, and furnish delightful driving. One thing observed regarding these beautiful prairie spots was, that along their edges, where they receive the yearly accession to their soil of the leaf mould of the forest, the orchards and gardens looked very thrifty, and also that wherever there was a piece of bottomland on any small stream the hay-crop was the heaviest we had ever seen.

About ten miles back from the Sound on the east, the country commences to improve, and from there to the foot-hills of the Cascades furnishes a good grazing region, with many fine locations for farms. The foot-hills themselves furnish extensive clay- loam districts suitable for grain-raising, and will, when cleared, become very valuable farming lands. Around the base of the Coast or Olympic Range, on the west, there is also another large body of clay-loam land, and to the south, between the Chehalis and the Columbia,—or, more properly, between the Columbia and the higher ground which separates the Columbia Yalley from the basin of the Sound,—there is a still larger district which may be converted to grain-raising. But the vicinity of the Sound, within a distance of from ten to twenty miles,

affords little land that is good for grain, for, as before noticed, these streams coming into the Sound are affected by the tides, the lowest land being overflowed daily. That portion of each valley which is free from submersion furnishes the most fertile soil imaginable for the production of every kind of grain, fruit, and vegetable, if we except melons, grapes, and peaches, which, owing to the cool nights, mature less perfectly than in East Washington. The valleys of these small rivers, like those of West Oregon, already described, are covered at first with a rank growth of moisture-loving trees, such as the ash, alder, willow, and poplar. But they are easily cleared, and the soil is of that warm, rich nature that it produces a rapid growth of everything intrusted to its bosom. Owing to the fact that these valleys are narrow, and head in mountains at no great distance, they are occasionally subject to floods. As floods never occur, however, except in the rainy or winter season, a proper precaution in building, and harvesting his crops, should insure the farmer against loss from them when they do occur.

Olympia has a college, a hundred-thousand-dollar hotel, electric lights, water-works, and street-railway service. The State- House is a wooden structure which, although in good repair, is no credit to the rich young State of Washington, to whom Congress has given one hundred and thirty-two thousand acres of land for public buildings. The State constitution does not locate all the public buildings at the capital, but distributes them among the several towns and cities. Vancouver, on the Columbia, has the State School for Defective Youth ; Medical Lake, in the extreme eastern part of the State, has the Insane Asylum; Seattle, the State University; and Walla Walla, the State Penitentiary. The State Agricultural College will probably soon be located by the commissioners at some point in East Washington. I do not like this plan of distributing public institutions so well as Oregon’s plan of concentrating them at the capital, making a handsome city at the seat of government, and keeping these affairs of the government under the eye of the appropriating power.

Washington’s Territorial Penitentiary was on McNeil’s Island, in Puget Sound, about twenty miles northeast of Oh'mpia; and the Insane Asylum was at Steilacoom, on the mainland opposite, occupying the buildings erected by the general government when Steilacoom was a military post. Both institutions are likely to be retained in use for some time.

Washington received as its portion when it assumed the burdens of statehood one hundred thousand acres for the establishment of a scientific school; one hundred thousand acres for normal schools; for other educational and reformatory institutions, two hundred thousand acres; and will receive five per centum of the proceeds of the sales of public lands lying within her borders for the support of common schools, in addition to the sixteenth and thirty-sixth sections in every township. As the constitution of Washington makes the minimum price of school land from five to ten dollars per acre, according to quality, the public school fund is likely to prove abundant for the needs of the successive generations.