The Early 1900s

Eatonville Pioneer [Nathan Williams] is Stricken

Nate Williams (Center) Andrew (left) Ed (right)
Nate Williams (Center) Andrew (left) Ed (right)

Eatonville Pioneer is Stricken
Death closes long and active career of one of Eatonville’s earliest settlers

Article from Tacoma News-Tribune — Feb. 1934
Written by Jos. C. Larin

Nathan Williams, aged 83 years, was stricken at his home in Eatonville suddenly Friday morning, and passed away within a few minutes. For the three days preceding he had complained of “not feeling well” but was up and around till the time of his death. Sunday he was laid to rest at Eatonville cemetery, with no other services than brief graveside ceremony, as he had requested.

Trapper, hunter, prospector, house mover, mason, miner, horse trader, trailer breaker — these are but some of the pursuits followed by the remarkable man.

He was born in Indiana 83 years ago, the son of a potter and one of a family of four, all long since gone to rest. When he was 5 years old, the family moved to Iowa. When but a lad, he had a perchant for the drum, and ran away to join the army as a drummer in the ranks of the North, then engaged in the Civil War. He was caught, and brought back home.

The restless spirit of adventure was in his blood, and when 18 he joined a bull train in the rush to the Black Hills for gold. After that, he spent years on the plains, sometimes having to very quietly fold up his tent to escape from the braves of the Sioux, Cheyenne and Crow tribes.

He married Sarah Elizabeth Van Eaton, a sister to T.C. Van Eaton. It was at the Pine Ridge Agency, south of the Sioux reservation, that his first children were born.

His sons are Charles, Tom and Clyde, all living in Eatonville.

His companion on his expeditions on the plains was Jim Richy, a very unusual character, adventurous and exceedingly religious. Mr. Richy, by the way, after not seeing Mr. Williams for some 30 years, suddenly popped up in Eatonville and took a homestead in Ashford, which he provide up on and went back east. He was in Eatonville to see his old trail companion last spring.

Williams and Richy hunted antelope for the Omaha market together, and not infrequently saw the last remnants of the once great buffalo herds.

Soapy Smith
Soapy Smith

Mr. Williams’ life was one full of wanderings and one lived in the outdoors. It reads like a western thriller. He was in the Alaskan gold rush, and prospected and “sniped” for gold on the 70-Mile River, 120 miles below Dawson, for two summers. He was one of those hardy spirits who helped build the old Skagway Trail, near where the notorious Soapy Smith ran his gambling hall. He knew Soapy, and frequently talked with him, although he managed to steer clear of playing with him. He distinctly remembered the high excitement when Soapy made his exit from the world with his boots on. It was a rough, hard life, but one that Mr. Williams loved and was adapted for. While he never made a strike, he made good wages.

Before leaving for the gold fields he and T. C. Van Eaton moved to where Eatonville now stands, and he had taken a homestead where Olaf Malcom’s place now is, and built a large log house for his family, before he learned that it was not government land, but railroad land, he was on. He had to move off, and the railroad men burned down his house.

He was unable to get a boat for Washington from Alaska, and had to take one from San Francisco. Scurvy broke out on the boat, and two burials were held on the Bering Sea. When the ship docked 32 were so sick they were unable to walk ashore. Mr. Williams was attacked, but refused to stay off his feet.

Built Observation Tower

The structure Nate Williams built at Anvil Rock
The structure Nate Williams built at Anvil Rock

After he lost his homestead he worked for some time in Tacoma as a longshoreman, then returned and put his hand to whatever turned up. It was he who built the stone house at Anvil Rock, 10,060 feet high, above Paradise. It took him 31 days to do. He never went back to see it, but it still stands and is used as a government observation tower.

It will be remembered that after the Tison murder at Friendly Inn, when the call went out for someone to stay at the deserted house till the investigation was complete, it was old Nate Williams who was the only one who volunteered for the eerie vigil, swearing he never feared man, god nor the devil.

The Eatonville 1907 Baseball Team

1907 Baseball team
1907 Eatonville Baseball team

There was quite a bit going on in 1907: Houdini caused a sensation when he escaped from his chains underwater, the first taxi cab appeared in New York and UPS (United Parcel Services) started up in Seattle.

But closer to home, Eatonville residents were cheering on their baseball team.

The little guy in the front was the team’s mascot — Morgan Williams.

Names of the team follow.

Photo courtesy of Pat Van Eaton.

1907 Baseball team names
1907 Baseball team names

Excecaloir Lumber Company, Alder

Excecaloir Lumber Co., Alder
Excecaloir Lumber Co., Alder

This picture is provided by Pat Van Eaton and entitled “Excecaloir Lumber Company”.

Alder had a number of mills in the early 1900s.

“A one-machine shingle mill was set up by a Mr. Daniel a the north fork of Alder Creek. August Delin built a three-machine shingle mill, to which he added a small sawmill. Cedar was cut into bolt 4’4″ long and about 20 to a cord. They were transported to the mill on skid roads by sleds up to 20′ long. The cedar from the Boettcher place was mostly transported on wooden railroads. Bolt cutters received $1.00 per chord and bolts brought about $3.00 per chord at the mill.”  History of Southeastern Pierce County

Movies in Eatonville – Roxy Theater

Pecchia Theatre
Ticket Front – Pecchia Theatre Curcuit

Eatonville’s Roxy theater in town was built by A.G. Pecchia back in 1942. It was just one of many.

Mr. Pecchia came into the movie business by accident. Around 1920,  a man who was renting Pecchia’s building owed Pecchia money. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on how you look at the story) the man had no money and paid Pecchia with a theater in Orting.

Mr. Pecchia, who hadn’t even seen a “rolling movie” learned about the industry quickly. In 1922 he opened a theater in Kapowsin and bought the the theater in Eatonville.  In 1925 he purchased the Morton theater and then took over Randle’s in 1937.

Ticket back - Pecchia theatre Curcuit
Ticket back – Pecchia theatre Curcuit

In 1949 he built The Narrows, the theater near the Narrows Bridge, which I believe today is the Tacoma Musical Playhouse.

Mr. and Mrs. Pecchia continued to run the Eatonville Roxy until the late 70s.

Torger Peterson Finds Ohop Valley and Builds a Road to Rainier

Torger Peterson family
Torger, Asse, and children Anna Elena and Peter

The following is one of two memoires written by Torger Perterson (courtesy of Gary Hendrickson). Torger was an original settler of Ohop Valley and tells here how he came, settled and worked to get a roads in place — including one to Mount Rainier.

Torger Perterson
I was born the 22nd day of January, 1855 on my Father’s farm (Langtvet) in Holtsogn Norway. This farm had reverted from father to son for over three hundred years.

My Father’s name was Peter Haaversen; my Mother’s name was Anna Togesdatter Goderstad.

We had a very good common school, and I was confirmed at the age of 14. From the time I was nine years old, I would herd my Father’s cattle and sheep, and on a high hill out in the woods, I could see the ocean and the ships sailing, and would wish that I might some day go on these ships and see the foreign land.

At the age of 15, I went to sea as a cabin boy at $3.00 per month. The next year I got $4.00 per month. Able seamen $9.00 per month; First Officer $14.00 per month; Second Officer $12.00 month. Captain $50.00 per month and 5% of gross earnings.

When I was 21 years of age, I took my examination as a Navigator and had a Masters’ certificate at that age. The same year I married Aase Elena Olsdatter Goderstad Holtsogn. I sailed as an Officer for a few years and got badly hurt and quit. Went into the logging business and ship building, but the small wooden ships that we would build could not compete with the big steel vessels and steamers, so I made up my mind to go to America, and to the City of Tacoma in the State of Washington. I had heard that Tacoma was just starting up at the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad on Puget Sound and my intention was to build schooners for the Coasttrade.

Torger Peterson
Torger Peterson, County Commissioner

On my trip from Norway to Tacoma, I stopped off in Ashton, Dakota Territory to rest my family and also to visit relatives who lived there, and they persuaded to take up land and go farming.

When I decided to take up land, I went to the County seat 12 miles out on the prairie to take out my intention papers to become a citizen. The Clerk asked me my name, and I told him Torger Peterson Langtvet. He fixed up my papers and I paid him the necessary fee and put the papers in my pocket without looking at them. When I came back to Ashton, I looked over my papers and found that the Clerk had omitted the name Langtvet, and hand my name recorded as Torger Peterson. He no doubt thought that was a good enough name for a Swede.

I made the first wagon track fourteen smiles South from Ashton on the Milwaukee Railroad to the Missouri River, going due West and there I located. The first year’s crop was destroyed by grasshoppers; the second year’s crop was destroyed by a hot wind that lasted three days and cooked everything. I then made up my mind it was about time to go there I originally planned, Tacoma.

Ohop Valley
Ohop Valley

I covered two wagons and went immigrant style up the Missouri River and over the old Government trail; crossed the Missouri on a ferry at Bismarck and drove into Montana where my wife gave birth to a child, which stopped us for a time. As soon as my wife was able to travel, we took the Northern Pacific train and finally landed in Tacoma, broke. After a couple of years of hard work, and after looking over the a good deal of the Western part of this State, I found the Ohop Valley which was then surveyed, but as a Navigator, I surveyed it to my own satisfaction and knew what section I was in, and squatted on it for seven years before the Government finally surveyed it.

Torger Peterson in Canyon
Torger Peterson in the canyon when Canyon was being built.

I found the Valley in the summer of 1887 and moved my family out there in April, 1888. At that time it was one of the worst wilderness that it was possible to find, and after we had gotten out some logs and brush so that a wagon could travel, it took us three days to go from Tacoma to my home in the Ohop Valley. I remember friends of our told my wife that I had gone crazy and for her not to go out there, after a while I would get tired and come back. My wife however said she had never found me crazy and laughed at our friends and said she would stay by me.

The pioneers of Western Washington have all had a hard time of it and I think our lot in the Ohop Valley was as hard as any.

After we had cleared up some land, the main thing was to get a road, and the County helped us in this way; for every day we worked gratis, they would give us $2.00 a day for the following day, and this is the way the first road was built into the Ohop Valley and beyond. It was always a puzzle to me how Norway, a poor country, had such splendid roads, and a country as rich in natural resources as our State of Washington, could get along with such poor roads, not better than a cow trail, and it was my chief object to see if I could not interest the people in getting good roads built so that the farmers could get their product to the markets at a reasonable cost.

Indian Henry Hunting Ground, by Kevin Bacher
Indian Henry Hunting Ground, by Kevin Bacher

In October, 1988, I went in company with Indian Henry and some other Indians up to Mount Tacoma. We went on horseback through brush over logs and finally landed in what is now known as Indian Henry’s Hunting Grounds. It was a clear day and the sun was just setting when we reached the Mountain, and I will never as long as I live forget that sights; such a park surrounded with flowers of all colors and descriptions. And right then I made up my mind to do all in my power to get a road to that Mountain so that the people could see that wonderland and inhale that invigorating Mountain air.

For twenty years I attended every County Convention. At first the people thorugh I was crazy when I mentioned a road to Mount Tacoma, but as years went by I had more and more followers. The Commissioners all promised to help, but each time failed me, so that last I decided to run for Commissioner myself, and was elected and the road was completed.

After the people had been there and seen the wonder, it was not difficult to get all the money necessary and today we have a boulevard from Tacoma to the Mountain.

In addition to serving as County Commissioner, I was elected from the 36th Representative District as Representative and served in the 1917 Session of the Legislature.

My wife and I have five children; three died. Anna Elena and Peter being the only living children.

I am writing this with the thought it mind that in the future my great grandchildren might be interested in knowing where their ancestors came from and who they were.

Torger Peterson

Tacoma, WA

May, 1925

Creating Canyon Road – Pictoral (first set)

Every time I drive up Canyon Road I wonder what it took to carve a road out of side of a rock wall. And how hard would that be back in 1920 when the road was built?

It took a lot of strong men, hard work, what would today be considered extremely primitive machinery — and explosives.

Here are shots (courtesy of Pat Van Eaton) of the making of Canyon Road.

big bucket
Big Bucket
Machinery on hillside - Canyon Road
Machinery on hillside – Canyon Road
Moving Rock, Canyon Rd.
Moving Rock, Canyon Rd.
Creating Canyon Road
Building Canyon Road
Dropping Dirt
Dropping Dirt
Torger Peterson, McDowell and grandson at the Canyon Rd. Building
Torger Peterson, McDowell and grandson at the Canyon Rd. Building

Spectators at the Building of Canyon Road

Torger Peterson, McDowell and grandson at the Canyon Rd. Building
Torger Peterson, McDowell and grandson at the Canyon Rd. Building

This shot has a little something for everyone. It was taken in approximately 1920, during the construction of Canyon Road. On the left is Torger Peterson, County Commission, Ohop Pioneer and promoter of the Canyon Rd.

The older man and the young boy are noted as “McDowell and grandson”, both enjoying the big machinery moving  large rocks.

Memories of Friendly Inn Shootout

Memories of Friendly Inn Shootout, by Pat Hamilton
Memories of Friendly Inn Shootout, by Pat Hamilton, from The Dispatch 3/15/11

Here is another version of the Friendly Inn Shootout by Pat Hamilton, which ran in The Dispatch, March 15, 2011.

Pat knew the family and his accounts are different that written up on the History of Tacoma Eastern Area, written in 1954 by Mrs. Pearl Hengel and Mrs. Jeannette Hlavin. An article that recounts the HTEA story ran in The Dispatch February, 2011