Otto Selle talks about coming to Elbe in 1890

Early Hotel at Elbe
Early Hotel at Elbe

Otto Selle’s small autobiography was published in 1954 in The History of Eastern Pierce County. He talks about Elbe before there ever was an official Elbe.

Coming to Elbe
“Our family was one of the very first to settle in Elbe. In fact, there wasn’t any Elbe when we came and my Father named the place after the River Elbe in Germany. My parents, Ferdinand and Emilie Selle came from Bismark, North Dakota to Tacoma in 1889 and stayed there until April 1890, when then moved to what is now Elbe.

The trip to Elbe was quite a feat — emigrant style. Some rode on the wagon with our belongings and a create of chickens. The older boys walked and took turns leading a cow. The trip took three days.

The first night we camped at Clear Lake and it snowed, which made it miserable. The second night we camped by the Mashell River. That was the end of the road, and with nine miles yet to go. Then everything had to be packed by man or horse over a trail that was up and down and over logs that had been chopped down low enough so horses could jump over them. We had no stove, tabe, chairs nor beds at first, which was also true to all who came before the road was built.

First Store and Hotel
My father built and ran the first store, which for years as an old landmark. Meals were served and a bed could also be had. My father also built the first hotel, across the road from the store and he named it The Tourist Hotel. My Mother had charge of the hotel until it was destroyed by a fire.

Photo courtesy of Gary and Debbie Saint.

Click on image to enlarge.

4 responses to “Otto Selle talks about coming to Elbe in 1890”

  1. I have been doing some research on Elbe and found the following information on Wikipedia. According to Otto Selle’s autobiography, it sounds like the name of the town was always Elbe. Does anyone know anything more about this?

    “Elbe was known as Brown’s Junction after the Tacoma & Eastern Railway was built in the region. When a post office was requested a shorter name was demanded. A meeting of settlers decided to honor the pioneer settler Henry C. Lutkens who had come from the valley of the Elbe in Germany.”


    • From what I can tell, everyone has always called it Elbe. Whether someone officially put it in the record books somewhere for a while as something else, is possible. But I’ll see what I can rustle up. Wikipedia isn’t necesarrily 100% accurate.


  2. According to the History of Southeastern Pierce Co. and notes from the late Helen Danforth, Ferdinand Selle named Elbe after the river in Germany. Danforth goes on to state that Elbe was called Sellyville prior to that.


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