La Grande

La Grande homes

La Grande Homes
La Grande Homes

The 1912 homes in La Grande were famous for their futuristic attribute — they were all electric in a time when everyone heated with wood thanks to Tacoma Power.

(To read and see more pictures of these homes, click HERE.)

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Pelton Water Wheel at Nisqually Dam (ca. 1942)

s-l1600As I write this, the image here is for sale on Ebay. The information on the photo reads: “Photograph shows a workman standing next to a Pelton water wheel case for La Grande Dam on the Nisqually River in Washington.”

To see how one of Lester Pelton’s water wheels operates, you can check out this YouTube video. 

Lester Pelton, known by some as the father of hydroelectric power, died in 1908, so he didn’t get a chance to see this particular water wheel in operation.

Click on image to enlarge.

La Grande, early 1900s

La Grande, early 1900s
La Grande, early 1900s

La Grande was a interesting town in the early 1900s — famous for it’s all-electric, ultra-modern homes.

Jim Rupert says, “The far right in the far corner of the picture was the paint shop when I worked there in the summers. Virgil Buttler ran that shop. Behind that and the other little square house way in the back had a concrete wall around it. Now it is a switch yard. All the houses were tore down with the last one being John Nordstrom house [two-story house on the right]. There is an entire story behind the houses and why they were tore down.”

Kevin Hoskins adds, “It always amazed me that we as kids would go and play around there, (at the hydro plant) nobody would say, “Scram Kids!” They would always say, “Hi, How are You Doing?”
We had it good in La Grande!”

Regarding the ponds, Sally Lofquist says, “I was always curious about what happened to the pond as it wasn’t there when we lived there. Dad said that one of the Stock kids almost drown so Fred Dorfner (Supervisor) told Harry Stocks to fill it in.”

Thank you Jeff Morrison for the image.

Click on image to enlarge.


Old Alder and the Flood Line

Old Alder and Line of Future Lake
Old Alder and Line of Future Lake

In the 1940s the second Alder dam was built at La Grande. The town of Alder had to be moved to make way for the lake (Alder Lake) that would be created. This is the first time I’ve seen a picture depicting where the old town of Alder was, and then the line where the water level would come.

“Tacoma Eastern depot is marked on the photo, and the rail grade can be seen. Date and photographer unknown,” Tim Daubert.

Photo courtesy of Tim Daubert and the Milwaukee Road-Tacoma Eastern Branch Historical Site.

Click on image to enlarge.

Carlson Girls of Alder – Interview


Alice Carlson
Alice Carlson

Carl Linden was kind enough to share this interview with the Carlson girls from Alder. The family moved to the area in 1910.

I have copied the pasted the document here. You’ll recognize many names. It’s a little lengthy, but worth the read!


March 22, 1994

Dear Margaret:

I’m sorry that I’m late in responding to your request for information gathered when we visited with you. I had the tape only for one side – about half of the time there. I’m trying to take some information from that and some from what Brenda wrote down. I wish I had taken some notes, but I was primarily giving her transportation and introductions, etc. I’ve learned a thing or two though and if ever I do this again I will have questions and then ask that one person talk at a time. There were times we had more than one conversation going at the same time, and when that is on tape, it is most difficult.

Brenda’s daughter has been having a bad time (not the girl who was with her) and they are talking about transplanting a lung. Because of this Brenda has dropped out of school. I do have the name and number of a young man who is on the same project and may, when I have time, see if I can help get a few people from the Eatonville area together for him. I’m thinking of people like Veora Rotter, Helmer Norberg, Bill Bartels and Elsie Van Eaton.

We met and talked with three of the Carlson sisters, Margaret 87 years, Elsie, 83 and Alice, 77. They moved to Alder in 1910. We looked at pictures of the original cabin that had the name Carlson carved into it, but Elsie believes the cabin was built by another Carlson, not her father.

The Carlson father’s first wife died after the birth of the second child. The wife’s sister, who wanted to be a missionary in Africa, came to America from Sweden to help raise her sister’s children. She eventually married their father and 7 more children were born.

May 20th, 1920, Leon Englund’s father, husband of Alma Englund was killed on the neighboring farm. Mrs. Englund ran the (about 2 miles) to the Carlsons to call for help. Sister Esther, 3 or 4 years old, answered the door and still remembers the distraught Mrs. Englund. Young Leon was born 2 weeks later.

Elsie and Margaret talked about walking to school, store, and church along the pipeline. This was puzzling to Thelma who had always heard the trail mentioned as the old school trail. It came out by the big fir tree that stood as a sentinel, just about where the highway 7 now goes past the new Alder Lake Park. There was a culvert under an old railroad grade on the Carlson place and the trail took off just south of that. Maybe the pipe culvert gave a name to the trail to the Carlsons because of a straight line from the pipe. They had a small gate in the fence which allowed them to walk just east along the Englund/Thuresen Thorne property fence.

Alder was founded in 1902.

The French Canadians of Hudson Bay Company named the 700 foot deep Nisqually River Canyon La Grande in 1904. A sign was placed along the road, “Watch the Grand Canyon grow.” Remarks made by various persons at Elsie’s: La Grande was once a beautiful town. There was a lodge/hotel named Canyada that stood out in persons’ minds. John Nordstrom runs the store in La Grande now. He is grandson of the Carlsons’ cousin, Sadie Hedborg.

The church in Alder was at first at the corner of the school property down near the Mountain Highway across from the Suderburg store. The Boettchers of Colorado, Charley, Ernest, Mrs. Minnie Fyfe, and Mrs. Emma McGillvery were instrumental in getting the church started. Margaret thought of them as national missionaries. Ernest came to Alder in the 1890’s. He was born in 1882. Elsie, Ernest’s oldest child, still lives in Eatonville and should be talked to for further information. Elsie Carlson Lundberg says that Elsie Boettcher was named after her. (I called Kathleen Boettcher Smith to double check on Colorado. She says that her dad and family came directly from Europe through Ellis Island and on to Elbe where members of the Lutkin’s family were waiting for them. Ernest was 12 years. His mother died the next year and their house burned down the following year. She said they started out in the Lutheran Church in Elbe but because of distance helped to form the church in Alder. The Lutkins and Boettchers were related with the Lutkins at that time being uncle to Ernest.)

In talking further about the church, Elsie told of a board fence at the bottom of the hill by the road at the corner of the school yard. Later the church was on the street between the Odd Fellows Hall and the Hotel.

“I skipped second grade because there were not enough children in the third grade,” said Elsie. Thelma remembered her mother always talking about the wonderful Carlson girls—how capable and intelligent they were. Elsie had had the lead in a play in grade school and had to come back from high school the next year to play the lead again when sickness struck that later lead character. Thelma’s mother always remembered that as something special about Elsie.

There was talk about when Thelma and her mother’s sister, Selma Berggren had come by in 1969 to visit Elsie. Selma had come from Sweden and Thelma thought Elsie could give her a little picture of what her mother was like.

Some pictures were given to Thelma of her and her brothers Leon and David. Thelma was a bit awed to realize that her family had been that important to the Carlsons that pictures were kept for so many years.

The year ’87 is carved on log—I’m not sure if this reference is to the log house and the Carlson name carved on it. The Mountain could be seen beautifully from the Carlson house. Thelma said that her home, too, had a beautiful view of the mountain.

There was mention of a log cabin across behind the Little Nisqually River which was reached by trail after going under the Nisqually River in a tunnel at the Headworks. Another log cabin was above the Carlson’s place and could be reached when hiking up towards the Pack Forest Look Out. We thought it was called Thompson’s cabin. There was talk that another log cabin had been moved onto the Scurlock’s property and was being used even when Thelma was in high school. Maybe it still is.

The Jensen family and the Lund family were mentioned but not enough for us to get any recorded information. Thelma remembered Mr. Lund as the school custodian who helped her and Kathleen Boettcher fool their classmates. Kathleen and Thelma went fishing in Alder Creek at noon recess. When they returned to the school grounds, Mr. Lund asked them if they had caught anything. When they said that they had not, he said to go down on his porch and bring up the bucket with fish that he had caught earlier in the day, and tell the kids that they had caught them. This they did. There was a little talk that the principal during the Carlsons time at the Alder school was quite strict. They had never been allowed to go off the grounds and fish and build dams as was allowed when Thelma was in grades 5-8. The children were even allowed to bring wash boiler lids to school and use them as protection when they had cone wars behind the gym.

We looked at several more pictures of the school on the hill, the school being moved, etc. The school porch was a wonderful place to play under. Thelma remembered using it as headquarters for Cops and Robbers. The covered walkway from the school to the gym was a wonderful place to play Andy I Over. There would be two teams, one would toss a ball over the walkway and run around the building; the other team would have to catch the ball and then chase the first group to capture members for their team.

There was a rectangle just outside the basement door made by daffodils. This made a wonderful spot for a base in some catch type games.

The Carlsons remembered changing shoes/boots at Wackerles when they caught the bus to Eatonville High School. Thelma remembered the same thing but changed them at Hrvatins, 2 places closer to the store where everyone waited for the bus.

Elsie talked of how Mrs. Wackerle always called Herman in German when it was time for him to come home for lunch. Thelma remembered that Mrs. Wackerle had called her and Leon from the school grounds during recess to come over to her gate and get some fresh cookies. Mrs. Wackerle’s granddaughter is a teacher of science at Eatonville Middle School.

The Carlsons said they understood Swedish but when parents spoke Swedish, they answered in English. Thelma’s dad was so set that they be American that he seldom used Swedish and didn’t encourage them to learn it. They did talk Swedish when they didn’t want the children to know what they were talking about.

More school memories—An igloo being built, sledding down the hill. There was talk about the houses just south of the school ground. There was a high sidewalk above the Highway 7.

Thelma lived in the Suderburg house behind their store for two weeks after coming home from the hospital in Eatonville in February of 1923. She and her mother had come from Eatonville on the train and found 10 feet drifts of snow so her dad could not come down with the horse and wagon to get Mrs. Thureson and Thelma. Later when she was in 7th grade, she lived with Miss Jacobson, teacher, in the first house from the store on that high sidewalk. She had a home in Ohop, but did not want to drive that distance daily.

(Elsie) Margaret told about being on the school grounds playing when her Uncle Henry came by with his horse and buggy bringing “Momma and my baby Alice home.” Her voice had so much feeling in it—just as if she was just now experiencing that moment. Aunt Mathilda, Uncle Henry’s wife, had delivered Esther at home in the Carlson log cabin.

Henry Hedborg took Thelma and her mother from school one day in his truck that had an enclosed bed on it, to the doctor. Thelma thought it was to Tacoma, but Elsie felt that maybe it had been to Eatonville.

Every summer the Hedborgs would have a big get-together. The Thuresons would be invited. Thelma remembered playing with Donald and Barbara, Einer Carlson’s children. Sometimes the get-together would be in Ohop at Einer Hedborg’s place.

As soon as the girls finished high school they would go to Seattle to work. Elsie also went to night school.

Alice brought letters that “Papa” had written. They had been sent to her after he died and she had translated them to English. There was not time to read all of these. She also brought a letter that Einer had written about his life and the area. We would like a copy of this. The importance of family continually is shown as we heard about working and living together, about people leaving Alder for work while trying to maintain homesteads. Carlsons owned hotels in Seattle and for years he had to spend time there managing them. The building of the Alder Dam provided work locally for the men until many were called off to war.

There was talk about the Tacoma Eastern Railroad history that Minnie Suderburg had given to Leon Englund and he had given to Thelma.

When Elsie finished high school she was asked to stay at the train depot and help Mr. Tatro who was blind while Mrs. Tatro went to visit her family in Quebec, I think it was. She took care of him for 2 months and she would also write down the messages that came in. The Tatro son, Clinton, was remembered and someone asked, “Whatever happened to him?”

A three-foot long picture of the main street of Alder had been given to Thelma from Leon who had received it from Minnie. It is narrow and not too clear, but gives memories.

We talked about the memories of the Odd Fellows Hall and Christmas programs given there. School classes would practice their Christmas plays there and then finally the night of the program arrived. Thelma remembered one night when there was snow on the ground and the moon was out and her dad carried her down to the garage by the County road where their car was kept. Her mother carried David. At the end of the program, Santa would sit by a big washtub filled with bags of candy and an orange. Thelma still remembered the feeling of walking up the stairs on one side, accepting the bag from Santa, then walking down the stairs on the other side of the stage. Elsie remembered the washtub, too.

Veora Rotter was mentioned and there was talk about Carl Rotter, her son, and his wife who does such beautiful weaving.

Picking berries was really remembered. One could sit by a stump and pick a whole bucketful. The Carlson family had names for some of the patches. They remembered “Poppa’s patch” so named because he had found it. They would pick and then go home for lunch, then go out again. They were thrilled when they would get one gallon to take down to Alder to sell. After their mother had canned 100 quarts, they could then pick and sell.

There seemed to be quite a few fires caused by stump burning, lightning, etc. These wild forest fires could blow and burn close to the Alder area. Maybe some fires were from poorly built chimneys or from clothes drying too close to stoves. Elsie and Margaret remember anxiously coming to the top of the hill on their way home and wondering if their home would be on fire. Thelma remembered a time when all belongings were in yard covered with wet blankets as a fire was blowing towards their place.

Brenda wondered if we did have Indians living near us. We were mainly Germans, Scandinavians, Austrians. There was one black woman who was a housekeeper for Mr. Bayes for a short time. There were many Japanese in Eatonville.

Alice brought a wonderful cake that was one of “Mamma’s” recipes. It was called, “Milkless, Butterless, Eggless Cake.” Elsie found this odd considering that they always had these ingredients on the farm.

Alice brought Gene Allen Nadeau’s book, A Highway to Paradise.

Brenda’s notes say, “I felt so honored that these women took the time to share their life experiences and family history with me. The sense of loyalty, a duty to family astounds me. A quality, I fear, is lacking in most families today.”

(Elsie) Margaret said the whole time living in Alder she never went to Mt. Rainier. When she moved to the city and had a boyfriend was the first time she actually drove the road to the mountain.

The Carlson girls felt a bit guilty about leaving home and going to the city. However, their mother truly encouraged them to go. They all felt they should have stayed in Alder and helped their mother – make her life easier. They appreciated how hard she had worked at raising them.

Alder Dam (1945)

Alder Dam, 1945
Alder Dam, 1945

The new Alder dam as it looked August 21, 1945.

“Alder was a concrete arch structure, 330 feet high, two miles above the smaller dam at LaGrande. The town of Alder, population 200, was inundated by the reservoir in 1944. Construction was hampered by faults in the bedrock that required more excavation than planned. The labor shortage during the war also slowed progress. The Alder Powerhouse generated 50,000 kilowatts.

LaGrande was a concrete structure 192 feet high that replaced the 45-foot diversion dam. The additional impoundment of water increased the output of the powerhouse by 80 percent to 64,000 kilowatts.”
For more information go to

Photo courtesy of Pat Van Eaton.

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A glimpse of Canyada Lodge (ca. 1913)

Post Card of Canyada Lodge
Post Card of Canyada Lodge

Imagine it’s 1913. The Titanic disaster is now a year past and you’re looking forward to the fabulous year ahead. You and spouse decide to take a trip to Mount Rainier. You’ll need a place to stay, because it’s a long drive in your new Roadster and a friend told you about a place in La Grande that just opened called Canyada Lodge.

It’s quite elegant — designed by Heath and Gove and built by Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney, John L. McMurray for a staggering $92,500 [over $2 million in 2013 currency).

You arrive and Canyada is more spectacular that you imagined, perched above the Nisqually Canyon with ten stone columns, and curved, Asian-inspired roofline. The lodge even provides car services — free air, a supply of gasoline, oil tires, tubes, and a repair shop.

Canyada Lodge dining area
Canyada Lodge dining area

Mrs. Zella R. Turner greets you. She manages the lodge and is a graduate of Pratt’s Institute in New York and an authority on dietetics. She also has “extensive” experience catering at high-class hotels on the east coast. Under her are college girls from Oregon State University, who all specialized in domestic science. You’re in good hands.

Rooms & Meals
The rates are quite affordable — $2.50 a night, or $12.00 for the week — and the rooms are ultra-modern with hot and cold water and electric heat. Although, what else would you expect with the new hydroelectric dam just a few minutes walk away.

Dinner is a bit pricey. For .75 you can get a full dinner, but you have your heart set on the Canyada’s special Chicken dinner for $1.00 ($23.00 today). You read in their brochure “Our fried ‘Chicken Dinners,’ with hot biscuits and country gravy, too well known to speak of, are a thing of pride with us.” Heck, you’ve come this far, why not splurge?

Canyada Lodge Brochure (page 3)
Canyada Lodge Brochure (page 3)

Before you dine, you walk out onto one of the two verandas overlooking the scenic Nisqually valley and get glimpse of Mount Rainier. You make your way back in to an immense living room filled with comfortable chairs and warm up in front of a crackling fireplace. You relax, listening to a guest playing piano, and look up. The Asian architecture has even made its way into the ceiling beams of Washington fir, which are trimmed with Japanese bamboo.

Book Your Rooms

Canyada Lodge being built
Canyada Lodge being built

When you get back home, you tell your friends they must stay at the Canayda. You hope they heeded your advice because in 1927 you read the lodge burned down. Owner E. J. Leak rebuilt in1931, but it wasn’t nearly as extravagant, and it too eventually burned down in 1966.

You, however, are glad you got the chance to be a guest at the original Canyada Lodge.




Road Camp at La Grande (ca. 1920)

Canyon Road Camp (ca. 1920s)
Canyon Road Camp (ca. 1920)

While the Canyon Road was being built, this was the road camp.

Randy Stewart says, “This was the construction camp in the La Grande Canyon area. There was a small DOT shed there for many years. I think it was removed in the late 1950’s.”

Image courtesy of the South Pierce County Historical Society.

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Canyada Lodge (ca. 1912)

Canyada Lodge Ad
Canyada Lodge Ad

Here’s an advertisement postcard for the Canyada Lodge, which was located in La Grande, Wash.

Canyada Lodge is Calling You
An ideal place to spend the week ends or stop over night to and from America’s most beautiful Mountain. Our rooms are comfortable and modern in every respect. Table service family style. You will not be disappointed with our Fried Chicken Dinner with hot biscuits and country gravy. Our breakfasts and luncheons are unexcelled. 

It was an amazing retreat in its day.Unfortunately, it burned in 1927. For more information on the lodge, just click here.

Image courtesy of Diane Mettler.

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