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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pictured is the home built by T.C. Van Eaton in 1898, located on Rainier Street.
It was built after there were sawmills nearby for lumber and was the height of architecture in its day and the finest home for miles around.
It had eight room. Most of the cedar and scroll were were hand-planed by Lou Osborne. Mr. Van Eaton also freighted some boards, such as flooring, from Tacoma,
The dimension lumber came from Andrean’s mill at Muck Creek, and the foundation timbers from the Goe and Tomlin mill on the Little Mashell.
At the time it was the highest building in town and situated on a knoll. Originally there was a 110-foot well near the back door dug by Nate Williams with the assistance of Silas Barr, an Indian from Indian Henry’s village.
The small house next to is, toward Center Street, was built by Mr. Van Eaton for his mother, Mrs. Caroline Van Eaton, who lived there for five years in the early 1900s. (History of Southeastern Pierce County)
During the 2009 Eatonville Centennial there was a tour a tea at the home. You can read more about the home today in Dixie and Bob Walter’s article. Just click HERE.
Pictured are Left to Right: Kate Dutton, Nellie Van Eaton, Jennie Miller, Frank, Susie and John Van Eaton.
Indian Henry (So-To-Lick, 1820-95) was a complex man, able to live in two worlds. While he was dedicated to indian customs he was also comfortable with the white man.
Some believe he was a Klickitat or Yakama from the village at Simco and that he arrived on the Mashell Prairie around 1864.
“Indian Henry’s village (the second one on the Mashell Prairie) was about five miles west of Eatonville, reached by the first road that turns left below the Triangle, of the Mountain Highway. The Indians owned about 600 acres of land, commonly referred to by people her as “the reservation” although it was not a reservation, but a land grant made to Henry by the government.”
“Henry was an intelligent man and made many friends among the white people, including the Ohop Valley pioneers, T.C. Van Eaton . . . and many others. ” History of Tacoma Eastern Area
Local legend has it that he showed T.C. Van Eaton the spot where Eatonville stands today. Whether he did or not, he did have a lot of interaction with the Eatonville community.
The newspaper Independent published in Vancouver noted on January 3, 1884 that “Indian Henry raises a large quantity of produce which he brings out to market on the backs of his ponies. He raises wheat and oats and all kinds of vegetable; besides, he has a large band of horses and a large number of hogs.”
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.