T.C. Van Eaton

First Eatonville School House (ca. 1905)

Eatonville's First School
Eatonville’s First School

The Eatonville School District has come a long way in the last 100+ years. This was Eatonville’s first schoolhouse. You can find it today at Glacier View Park. 

Here is some information about the little school house from Dixie Walter’s blog, written in 2006:

The following historical excerpt is from the History of Tacoma Eastern Area by Jeannette Hlavin and Pearl Engle written in 1954. “The first school was the log house built from logs and nails and on ground donated by T. C. Van Eaton. It stood across the Mashell Avenue from the present grade school building. Some of the Scandinavian settlers were “Broad axe men,” experts at hewing logs or lumber, and they hewed the material for the school house.

First School House (photo taken 2006)
First School House (photo taken 2006)

“The first teacher was Miss Alice Dodge. School was conducted only three months a year. Two other teachers taught in the log school house, Miss Hortense Oliver and Miss. P. Messinger.

“Some towns neglect their historic buildings but this cannot be said of Eatonville. The old log school house has been tenderly cared for and is often referred to sentimentally in writings and speeches of local people.

Clyde Williams says that when it was to be removed from its original location, he said to T. C. Van Eaton, who with a team of horses, was his partner on the job: “Let’s save it” and Van Eaton replied: “All right, we have plenty of room.” Accordingly, they hitched it to the horses with chains and pulled it to the spot where it now stands.

Mensik family school photo
Mensik family school photo

“Before 1912 church services were held in it.

B. W. Lyon told the Community Day audience in 1923 that when he was school superintendent here, an orphan boy was permitted to live in the old school house. He was placed in charge of the agricultural class’s poultry, and was allowed to keep what money he made from it. In this way he was enabled to complete the high school course here. His name was John Kruger and in 1923 he was head of the Agriculture Department of the Sumas public schools.

“The Fortnightly Club used the building as a club house for some years, and it is now used for the same purpose by the Girl Scouts.”

For decades the old school house stood in the area behind the present day tennis court at the high school. Eventually, through the efforts of the Dogwood Garden Club it was moved to it’s present site. The log building has been used as the Eatonville Cooperative Nursery School for thirty-one years.

Photo courtesy of the Baublits family and Bob Walter.

Click on images to enlarge.


Van Eaton home in the early 1960s

Van Eaton Home early 1960s
Van Eaton Home early 1960s

The Van Eaton home has experienced some transformations. Built originally in 1898 by T.C. Van Eaton, it was looking a bit worn down here in 1960s.

Justin Van Eaton says, “My Grandmother Elsie Van Eaton used to have a wonderful Garden there. I remember playing among the Sunflowers and Oregon Giant Green Beans.”

Later on, T.C.’s grandson Dr. Tom Van Eaton, would transform the home, adding on and making it his own without changing what original made it unique.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Morrison.

Click on image to enlarge.

T.C. Van Eaton home 1971 (front)
T.C. Van Eaton home 1971 (front)
Van Eaton home 2009 - at Centennial Tour
Van Eaton home 2009 – at Centennial Tour

Eatonville Mail Bag (early 1900s)

US Postal bag
US Postal bag (up close)

Eatonville has always had a post office. In fact it was one of the first things T. C. Van Eaton set up when the town was founded. Our first post office opened July 25, 1890.

Here are images of an early mail bag used to deliver letters and packages around town.

If you want to read a story about our postal carriers of the past, just click HERE.  There are also others on the site.

Photo courtesy of Roni Johnson.

Click on images to enlarge. 

US Postal bag
US Postal bag

The First EHS Graduates – 1914

Ed Christensen, 1st Eatonville Grad, 1914
Ed Christensen, 1st Eatonville Grad, 1914

This is a big year for Eatonville High School. It marks the 100th high school graduation.

The 1914 class was a particularly small one — two students — Ed Christensen and Susan Van Eaton. There is no picture of the two together because Ed and Susan refused to have photos taken together because they thought it would look like they were married. The two students graduated and went on two very different paths.

Ed Christensen
Soon after the graduation, in July 1914, World War I broke out. Not long after Ed graduated, he left to fight with the troops. He was one of the lucky ones and made it back home.

On September 12, 1919, Eatonville threw a “Welcome Home” for all the men who had returned from service. That day, Ed was one of the 33 men who “fell into line at the upper end of Mashell Avenue and T. C. Van Eaton was there to give the “Welcome Home” address. Unfortunately, Ed’s life was cut short, much too soon. Just two years later, in June of 1921, Ed died tragically from electrocution while “repairing a motor at Camp Lewis.”

Susan Van Eaton
Susan, the daughter of T. C. Van Eaton led a much different life.

Hazel William with her sister Carolyn on the left and Susan Van Eaton on the right
Hazel William with her sister Carolyn on the left and Susan Van Eaton on the right

Her nephew, Pat Van Eaton says, “Susan met a young electrical engineer assigned to the building of Eatonville High School fell in love with him a married him soon after graduating.”

Susan raised and family and her daughter, Rose Steiner, is still alive and living on Whidbey Island.

Today we’re used to calculators and computers in the classroom, not to mention the amazing teaching tools available on the web. In 1914 is was literally “old school” — chalkboards, books, pencils, paper and inkwells.

If you’re curious what you would have been studying at EHS back in 1914, here is a list of the classes from the school’s catalog:
Freshmen: English, Algebra, Physical Geography, Agriculture
Sophomore: English, Plane Geometry, Botany or Zoology, Latin

1914, Poultry Farm at Eatonville High School
1914, Poultry Farm at Eatonville High School

Junior: English, Algebra 1-2 year, Higher Arithmetic 1-2 yr., English History, Physics Senior: English, American History and Civics, Chemistry, Review of Com. Branches In addition, each year a student could choose an elective.

They could pick from:
• Ancient History
• Medieval or Modern History
• English History
• Agriculture or Horticulture
• Physiology • German • Sociology

Eatonville Basketball team - 1914
Eatonville Basketball team – 1914

Extra Activities
EHS had a vibrant athletic department, including not only baseball, but also both girls’ and boys’ basketball teams. And don’t forget the top notch EHS debate team, which in 1913-14 trounced Roy. Congratulations EHS!

For a century teachers and staff have worked and devoted their careers to preparing students for the life ahead. And congratulations to the class of 2014. Go out there and make history!

Nellie Van Eaton in her Garden

IMG_0103T. C. Van Eaton may be known as Eatonville’s founder. But what about his wife? Because everyone knows that behind every man there’s a great woman.

Meet that great women, Nellie Van Eaton. She’s pictured here in her garden, where she obviously had a green thumb. Her grandson, Terry Van Eaton says that among other things, she ran the family restaurant during her younger years, in addition to raising a family.

She’s also pictured here in 1912 when T.C. ran for congress.

Here is information (that was posted below) by Margaret Nell Van Eaton. Thank you so much for sharing!

TC Van Eaton & Wife Nellie
TC Van Eaton & Wife Nellie

“Nellie Van Eaton was my grandmother. She grew up on a farm in Kansas. She graduated from Cedar Vale High School in 1903. I have her graduation diploma. She was married to T.C. Van Eaton in 1910, she was his third wife. His first wife died in an epidemic and his second wife died of breast cancer.

Nellie came to work for T.C. as a housekeeper after the death of his wife Mary Jane. Nellie had a young daughter who came with her from Kansas, Jennie Miller. Nellie had been married to a Mr. Miller, who went off to find work in the Oklahoma Territory and was never heard from again. She was was a very hard worker all her life. She ran a restaurant, sold insurance, always had a huge garden, had two boarders and cared for her sister until she passed in (1961?).

In the 1950s after T.C. died, she managed a herd of approximately 20 Hereford cattle, a milk cow, a large flock of chickens, ducks, an occasional pig and she helped take care of me while my parents were at work. I went to her house every day after school through the 4th grade.

She was also a very accomplished in the needle arts. She did beautiful tatting, crochet, knitting, sewing and quilt top making. I have a tablecloth she made that won a blue ribbon at the Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup.”

Photos courtesy of Pat Van Eaton.

Click on images to enlarge.

Overhead view of Eatonville, 1946

Overhead view of Eatonville 1946
Overhead view of Eatonville 1946

This picture of Eatonville ran in a paper September 1, 1946.

Caption with Picture:  Eatonville, named for T. C. Van Eaton, who platted its townsite in 1888, was in early days surrounded by dense, virgin forest. Its location on the line of the old Tacoma Eastern Railroad made it one of Washington’s most important lumber-producing and log-shipping centers. The largest part of the merchantable timber has been logged, off, however, and Eatonville it today largely dependent upon agriculture for revenue and employment, although some logging and lumbering operations still continue to the present.

You can zoom in and really see the details like the school, the mill, Mashell Ave., Washington Ave. etc.

The year 1946 is an important one to my family. My grandparents bought the dairy in Ohop Valley (not pictured) from the John and Lena Malm that year.

Photo courtesy of Diane Mettler.

Click on image to enlarge. 

T.C. Van Eaton and Lenore Van Eaton

T.C. Van Eaton and first wife Lenore
T.C. Van Eaton and first wife Lenore

Thomas Cobb (T.C.) Van Eaton  was married to his first wife, Lenore, in 1887. They had two children and my understanding is that they both died before they were five years old. Here is a picture at a happier time.

Photo courtesy of the Parnell family.

Click on image to enlarge.

The Life and Times of T.C. Van Eaton’s Cabin

T.C. Van Eaton Cabin becomes a bakery
T.C. Van Eaton Cabin becomes a bakery — you can see T.C.’s house on the hill in the background

If walls could talk, T.C. Van Eaton’s little log cabin out at the Millpond Park would have a lot to say.

When T.C. Van Eaton purchased the dense woods that would one day become Eatonville, the first home he and his brother-in-law Nate Williams constructed was that little 17’ x 27’ cabin, make of split boards they planed by hand and a split shake roof. The year was 1889.

Store & Home
The little cabin’s first life was that of both home and store. The Van Eaton’s lived in the back (I’m not sure how much “back” there is in a 17×27 cabin) and three Van Eatonville children were born there between 1894 and 1998.  Up front was a trading post where people coming to make the forested spot their home bought supplies.

Post Office
In 1890, the trading post became the town’s first post office, with T. C. listed as postmaster. It remained the post office until 1895, when he moved it to his new, large store on the corner of Mashell and Center.

After T.C. built his new home on top of the hill and a smaller one for his mom next door — both of which are still standing today — the cabin became the town’s first bakery.

Cabin incorporated into the Hotel Snow - right hand side
Cabin incorporated into the Hotel Snow – right hand side

The picture of T.C. Van Eaton was taken outside the Chamberlain Bakery and his new home visible on the hillside.

The cabin didn’t stay a bakery for long.  Eatonville was growing and the Chamberlains built another bakery, which is the building we know today as Postnet.

Hotel Snow
The little cabin (which sat behind where Key Bank is today) was next incorporated into the Hotel Snow, built in 1912.  (In the picture of the hotel you can spot the “log cabin“ section to the right.)

The motel advertised home cooking, clean rooms and a view of Mount Rainier. Their ad also read “Always Pleased to Accommodate Commercial Men and Automobile Parties Entertained.” Rates were $2 a night.

The Hotel Snow, which later became the Eatonville Hotel, was eventually torn down but the cabin had yet another life to live.

Jackie Van Eaton Parnell pictured with the cabin where it sits today (photo from Eatonville News.net)
Jackie Van Eaton Parnell pictured with the cabin where it sits today (photo from Eatonville News.net)

The cabin was relocated to the Millpond Park where it’s maintained by the South Pierce County Historical Society and serves as the town’s “Stage Stop Museum.”

If you get a chance, you might want to stop on by. It’s filled with all kinds of items from the community’s past — from spittoons to swimming suits.

Who knows, the walls might still have more say.

Sources: Firm Foundation by Abbi Wonacott, Postmarked Washington: Pierce County, South Pierce County Historical Society, Pat Van Eaton. Photos courtesy of the Van Eaton family and Parnell family.


Snow Hotel and Van Eaton Cabin (ca. 1912)

Hotel Snow (ca. 1912)
Hotel Snow (ca. 1912)

This is an early shot of Hotel Snow, which was built around 1912. There are a number of pictures of this hotel on this site, as well at the Eatonville Hotel that took its place later down the road.

T. C. Van Eaton Cabin
What is great about this shot is that you can easily see how the T. C. Van Eaton’s log house was used as part of the hotel. It’s the right quarter (behind the men) with the smoke coming from the chimney.

The cabin was the first home in Eatonville and is now located at Mill Pond Park.

Photo courtesy of the Parnell family.

Click on image to enlarge.