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Nisqually River, early 1900s

Where the Nisqually and Mashell meet
Where the Nisqually and Mashell meet

It’s easy to take the Nisqually river for granted when you live in Eatonville. For those of you, like me, that have seen it your entire life but don’t know a lot about it, here are a few facts:

• It’s 81 miles long

• Forms the Pierce/Lewis county line

• It’s fed by the Nisqually Glacier at Mount Rainier

• Runs through Ashford and Elbe before hitting the hydro electric dam in La Grande

• The river was the traditional territorial center for the Nisqually tribe

Nisqually River, early 1900s
Nisqually River, early 1900s

• The Nisqually watershed includes all lands which drain to the Nisqually River, including the communities of: Ashford, Elbe, Mineral, Eatonville, McKenna, Roy, Yelm, Fort Lewis, and portions of Graham, Lacey, DuPont, and Rainier.

• Where the Nisqually meets the Puget Sound — the Nisqually River Delta — is currently a National Wildlife Refuge. It’s famous for it’s 275 migratory bird species.
Photos courtesy of Rich Williams.

Click on images to enlarge.






Another shots of Nisqually River - early 1900s
Another shots of Nisqually River - early 1900s











Railroad along Nisqually River, early 1900s
Railroad along Nisqually River, early 1900s


Malcolms Make Their Mark

Ollie Malcom looks out from behind the counter at his meat market in this 1925 photo.
Ollie Malcom looks out from behind the counter at his meat market in this 1925 photo.

When Olaf Malcom arrived in 1918, he couldn’t have imagined the impact his family would have.

Olaf Malcom was a second-generation butcher from Norway. He homesteaded just outside Eatonville (where Rich Collins lives today) and built a slaughterhouse. The young entrepreneur opened up meat markets in Eatonville (currently the vacant building across from Tall Timber), Kapowsin, Mineral and Morton.

His entrepreneurial spirit was passed along to his children. His oldest son, Barney built a store and restaurant in 1946 on Meridian outside Eatonville. The building is no longer there, but you probably know it as “Barney’s Corner”.

Keith Malcolm, the next oldest son, started out as meat cutter like his dad. “I was raised around it. It’s what I knew.”

Eatonville Red & White Store around 1955
Eatonville Red & White Store around 1955

In 1946, after three and a half years in the Navy, Keith opened his own meat market in the Red and White store (today the parking lot next to Kirk’s Pharmacy). The Red and White was originally been T.C. Van Eaton’s store, with wood floors that had been cleaned with oil and sawdust.

Getting into Grocery
“My dad told me to just stick with meat cutting. Don’t get into grocery,” says Keith with a smile. He followed his father’s advice and just ran the meat cutting side alongside Jess Dawkins who ran the grocery in the Red and White. But a couple years later Keith bought Jess out.

In 1963, after 17 years in the Red and White, Keith and his wife Delores, made the jump and built the Shop Rite store (now the medical billing center). From 1963 to 1979 he managed the store, employed local folks, and had some interesting promotions, like “Guess the Pig’s Weight”.

ShopRite on Center
ShopRite on Center

“Rich Collins supplied the pig and fed it for me,” says Keith “And we had a pen in the store and for about 30 days we had people guessing its weight.”

Developing Eatonville
There was no stopping the Malcolm family when it came to starting businesses. “We built Malcom’s Deli Drive-in in the 1970s, [now Brunos] but we never developed the Drive-in,” says Delores with a laugh. She ran the deli for several years and says that was probably the hardest work she’s known — and she would know coming from a large logging family.

In the 70s they also built the Shell station (down near Arrow Lumber). In 1987 they built the Milltown Mall, then the Milltown Motel in 1992-93, which they ran for 6 or 7 years. Did I mention they also built the storage units, the mobile home park, and the office space across from Arrow?

“There was a need and we built it,” says Keith.

And to think it started with one meat cutter.







Post Card to Peterson 1909

1909 Mineral postcard
1909 Mineral postcard

Torger Peterson’s family kept with with folks through postcards and letters. (As did everyone then, since there was no internet and phones were spotty at best.)

This is a fun postcard from Mineral. I’ll have to brush up on my Norwegian to translate the card. I can read this much, “We are back in the woods and it’s cold.”

I like the address — Name, city , state. When it’s 1909 and there are only a handful of people living in the area, that’s all you need.

Photos courtesy of Pat Van Eaton.

Click to enlarge.

1909 Postcard to M. T. Peterson
1909 Postcard to M. T. Peterson

Loggers Build Eatonville an Airport

Loggers and their equipment at Eatonville Airport, 1952
Loggers and their equipment at Eatonville Airport, 1952

In 1952, John Swanson, Eatonville councilman and logger, told the council that there was a need for an Eatonville airport. His expense statement was hard to argue with — it would cost the town nothing.

John’s plan
Roy Swanson, John’s son, who was 15 at the time and a budding pilot, says his dad had scouted a plot of land that would work. John and his brother Eric owned a piece of the land and deeded it to the town. They also paid $250 to Weyerhaeuser for an easement to the rest.

Next came manpower and the logging community and others rallied. “Dad got ahold of all of the local loggers, and they built it in about 15 days,” says Roy. “They donated all their time and their machinery.”

It wasn’t just the loggers who helped out. John Van Eaton and Cecil Jordon supplied thousands of gallons of fuel and Dan Christensen of the Mashell Telephone Company along with Hugo Pravitz and Keith Predmore offered to assist with moving power lines.


arial of Eatonville at the time of building the airport
arial of Eatonville at the time of building the airport

Before the 1,850-foot airstrip was complete, Roy witnessed the first landing from atop of a hanger he was building. “Ernie Lodin from Mineral was the first. He flew in under the telephone line and landed.”

The town officially dedicated the Swanson Airfield at the 1953 Community Day celebration. The festivities included the high school band and a small airshow. Even stamp collectors got into it. The town got airmail from across the nation asking to be cancelled on the date of the event.

Primitive to First Class
The grass airstrip was primitive — the first lights were coffee cans filled with sand and gasoline, upgraded later by the pilots to army surplus lights. But in the 1990s, the airport got a big upgrade. One thousand feet were added, it was blacktopped and new lights were installed. Again everything was done with volunteer time, energy and equipment.

The men who built the Eatonville Airport
The men who built the Eatonville Airport — (back row, from left) Preston Parrish, Seg Osterdahl, Ralph Weigard, John Swanson, Earnie Christian and Fritz Guske, and (front row from left) Earnie Osterdahl, Norm Olden, Roy Block, Woody Wilson and Chuck Medlock. Not pictured — Roy Treadwell and Clarance Gemmel, heavy-equipment operators, Don Murphy who owned equipment and John Van Eaton and Cecil Jordon who supplied fuel. (Photo taken by Bud Blanchar)

To lengthen the runway, waste material from the resurfacing of the Cutoff Road was used as well as dirt from a nearby hill. Townspeople arrived with their dump trucks, scoops, dozers and various skills. This time the volunteer force included names like Severson, Swanson, Urich, McTee, and Van Eaton.

The pilots also got a grant from the Washington State Aeronautics, which they used to pave the runway and add new lights.

Your Airport
Today the airport is a great asset to the town. Not only can pilots play around, but it’s also a check point for the military and used to airlift folks needing immediate medical care.

And to think, it all started with a logger.

Eatonville’s First Doctor – A.W. Bridge

A.W. Bridge's office
A.W. Bridge had his office above what is today Kirk’s Pharmacy

What do Eatonville and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital have in common? Answer: Dr. A. W. Bridge.

In 1909 a young doctor, Albert Wellington (A.W.) Bridge, schooled at the Vermont Medical School, arrived in Eatonville carrying his bicycle and all his earthy possessions. He’d lost his father to a logging accident and his late mother had worked in a sawmill. Now he was focused on providing services to logging camps and lumber mills.

The town was in need of a doctor and T.C. Van Eaton offered to build him a clinic if he’d set up shop in Eatonville.

Taking Care of Loggers
A.W. settled in and got right to work. He set up clinics in Kapowsin, Mineral, Ashford and Morton. He also established one of the first medical plans for loggers and lumber company employees — $1 a month for medical care

The doctor didn’t just provide care to loggers. You could find him traveling out to farms — first by horse and buggy and then by car — to deliver babies and care for the sick and injured. Despite this incredibly busy schedule, he still found time to serve as Eatonville’s mayor in 1919.

Cruiser Cafe
A.W. Bridge’s home — currently (2011) the Cruiser Cafe

Estate Goes to Children
When Dr. Bridge passed away in 1949 he surprised many by leaving a half million dollar estate ($4.5 million in today’s dollars). He said all his money was to go to a group or hospital for children, but there was one stipulation. It must be named after his mother and inspiration, Mary Bridge.

The years between 1909 and 1949 were filled with lots of colorful stories, which will be the subject of future columns. Until then, take a look around Eatonville. Dr. Bridge’s footprint is still here.

• The annual Eatonville Country Christmas bizarre, which raises money for Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, is put on by the A. W. Bridge Orthopedic Guild.

• Dr. Bridge’s home still stands. Today it’s more commonly known as the Cruiser Café.

• The doctor had his offices above Kirk’s Pharmacy.

• He also practiced at the old Eatonville hospital, which is now a residence across from the Eatonville High School.