This photo of Ladd, Jim and George Van Cleve was taken around 1940. These three guys were the heart and soul of Van Cleve Motors in Eatonville and Morton for decades.
We’re posting this picture because early March, 2011 the VanCleve motors building in Eatonville was knocked down. Even though the structure had gotten old, we’ll always remember these guys in their prime.
Ready for an “unsolved crime” story? This one, however, is likely to stay unsolved since it took place over 80 years ago.
In October 1928, Julian Tison, his wife, and two teenage sons, took over the management of Friendly Inn — a “roadside resort and eating place” about 2.5 miles outside Eatonville near the Mashell River.
December 2 was a busy day, but by 9 p.m. things had slowed down. The boys had gone out and it was just Julian and his wife at the Inn.
Mrs. Tison was in the living room, and Julian was taking wood to the kitchen when they heard a car drive up. Two men carrying revolvers came in wearing overalls and white handkerchiefs over their faces. One of the men ordered Mrs. Tison to put her hands up.
She offered the outlaw the day’s receipts, but he wasn’t interested in her money. He wanted her.
Julian watched through the glass door between the kitchen and living room as his wife was backed into a small hallway at gunpoint. As Julian crept into another hallway to get his gun from his coat, the second man spotted him, shot him in the back, smacked him over the head with a gun, and left Julian for dead.
Back from the Dead Julian was very much alive. He quickly revived, and although he was now partially paralyzed from the waist down, went to help his wife. When Julian approached the first man and his wife, the thug turned to put a bullet in his head. That’s when all hell broke loose.
Mrs. Tison jumped for the man’s gun. As they wrestled, the gun discharged six times. At the same time, Julian tried to get off a shot without injuring his wife, but thug two showed up and shot Julian twice more in the stomach.
Despite his mortal wounds, Julian realized the first man was out of bullets and shot him above the heart. The man staggered through the house, onto the porch and dropped dead in the driveway. Julian died at the Eatonville Hospital hours later, but not before he told his story.
On the Run The murderer took off and walked five miles to Ohop Bob. He told the owner, Mr. Josselyn, how he’d been robbed near the Triangle. Josselyn called it into the Sheriff (busy with a murder), then gave the man a nice room and loaned him stage fare to Tacoma, where he was dropped at the police station to make a report.
The Pierce County Sherriff never apprehended the murderer. The police did determine, however, that the criminals had planned on kidnapping the previous owner for ransom and didn’t realize they had the wrong woman.
NOTE: Another version of this story by Pat Hamilton can be found by Clicking here.
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.
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.
History of Southeastern Pierce County
Besides a history of Eatonville, Ohop Valley, Longmire, Ashford, National, Elbe, Alder and LaGrande, this 235-page book also includes 154 photographs, an every-name index to text and photographs and the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Eatonville Dispatch. 252 pp. Velobound. 1989.
This 114-page book, written by Abbi Wonacott, covers the early Eatonville settlers, Indiana Henry, Ohop settlers, T.C. Van Eaton, and more. The book contains many facts, stories and pictures of the town and community’s early days.
Where You Can Find Your Copy • The book can be purchased at Kirk’s Pharmacy, in Eatonville, WA
• You can also find the book at the Eatonville library.
It was September 21, 1924, and the townspeople of Eatonville were battling a string of arsons. Little did they know the real fire was yet to come.
Rumor has it, that afternoon in Alder a Fire Marshall swapped someone at the Cascade Timber Company a bottle of whiskey for a slash fire permit. Despite how the slash fire started, what made it a deadly were the 40 mph winds that picked up shortly after it was set.
The fire swept down the hillsides toward Eatonville, covering swatches half a mile to five miles wide and 15 to 20 miles long. It ravaged its way through Pack Forest, Ohop Valley, jumped roads, traveled through Lynch Creek, and Kapowsin, and set fire to millions of board feet of timber as far as Graham.
The draft from the blaze was so powerful “good sized” fir trees were twisted and pulled up from their roots. Barns, houses, livestock, and logging camps were destroyed in the fire’s path and people frantically worked to save their homesteads.
Eatonville resident Frank Hoffman says, “Our family was good friends with the Conrads who lost a barn in the fire. Mrs. Conrad worked hard to save their home and I’m not sure if it was the smoke or the heat, but it left her blind.”
By 5 p.m. the fire had completely encircled Eatonville and 500 people had yet to evacuate.
“The late Mrs. Otto Anderson once told of walking down Eatonville’s main street at the hour,” writes Marjorie Hayes in History of Southeastern Pierce County. “There was no sign of life. All the stores were empty and there was no one on the street but Mrs. Anderson and a bewildered cow. The air was full of smoke and ashes which obscured the sky, and there was a lurid glow over everything.”
Mrs. Larry Smith went up to the school to check on her husband, the custodian. Hayes says, “The fire was roaring through the canyon behind the buildings, and the draft was so great that she feared she would be sucked into it and resorted to crawling on her hands and knees.”
Firefighters from Tacoma arrived in time to help save the residences on the north end of Washington Avenue. More equipment arrived from Fort Lewis, right behind Dr. A. W. Bridge who had rushed from Tacoma to his patients at the Eatonville Hospital.
In the end, it was probably Mother Nature who played the biggest part in saving the town. The “freakish” windstorm shifted direction, which kept the fire literally at arm’s length.
Rains came the next day and Eatonville residents returned, relieved to find their town intact.
40 years ago, in the summer of 1970, Eatonville was gearing up for the Buffalo Party Convention and pig roast at Buffalo Don Murphy’s Flying M Ranch, east of town. It was supposedly a political gathering, but everyone knew what it really was — a rock festival.
I was in first grade at the time and even from my six-year-old perspective I could tell the townspeople were seriously worked up. Woodstock had taken place the summer before and people had images of thousands of hippies with their drugs and everything else that goes along with a rock festival.
Right before the event, a preliminary injunction was filed in Superior Court prohibiting “further advertising, opening, ticket selling, operating, or in any way furthering and having the event called the Buffalo Party Convention and Pig Roast.” But the word was already out and neither the injunction nor the roadblocks put up by the police stopped Eatonville’s rock festival.
Police, townspeople and businesses got ready for the worst. My dad was even hired by the Eatonville School District to guard to the grounds from vandalism. He had a billy club, which he jokingly referred to as his “hippy cruncher”.
A man who attended the event posted on the web: “I hitch-hiked from Portland, Ore. Arrived in Eatonville late at night and the police were directing traffic through town, trying to tell us to go back where we came from, the festival is cancelled! We went around in circles through town like a parade. The locals were out on the sidewalks waving and we were waving back. . . . the next day they let us in on the festival grounds ’cause there were just too many people to deal with.”
On a rather disgusting note, because of the injunction, the portable restrooms never arrived and attendees had to make due with one out building and a large ditch.
Despite the crowds, lack of restrooms and roadblocks, the three-day event held on the 4th of July weekend was more peaceful than rebellious. The Dispatch reported somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people attended and although drugs were openly sold at the three-day event, the only real damage to property was a car collision at Center Street and Washington.
Merchants and residents stated that, “the long haired youths were courteous, polite and considerate.” It also appears the hippies turned out to be somewhat of a spectator sport. More than a few residents have told me they managed to get up there to take a look around.
Who played at the rock festival? James Cotton? Clear Light? No one seems to know for sure.