T.C. Van Eaton built the first general store — where Kirk’s Pharmacy stands today — and in 1912 sold it to A. Y. Lindsey Co.
This appears to be the back half of the store, and T.C. Van Eaton in the center, wearing the dark suit and hat.
Per Pat Van Eaton, the boy in the chair is John Van Eaton. The man in the doorway is Charlie Williams and his nephew. The pictures was taken around 1914, making John Van Eaton (born 1911) about 3 years old.
Charley Williams Takes Over In 1907 Charley (C.H.) Williams took over as postmaster. Charley already had a reputation for avoiding red tape. “Before becoming postmaster, he drove a stagecoach and carried mail form Eatonville to Longmire. One day he got in an argument with a bear, which delayed his arrival at Longmire by nearly three hours. When Washington, D.C. heard of this delay, they were agitated and sent a long form in quadruplicate to Charley to explain his tardiness.” Instead of filling out the lengthy form, Charley scrawled across it, Stopped to skin a bear. He heard no more on the matter.
While Charley was postmaster, Washington D.C. decided Eatonville would be a postal savings office and sent Charley $37,000 in postal savings certificates and forms to be filled out. Since it was more responsibility and no extra pay, Charley promptly dumped the certificates and forms in a corner. Letters began to arrive from D.C., each more urgent, wanting to know where the forms were. Charley added them to the pile. Finally a postal inspector came to find out where the forms were. Charley pointed to the now substantial pile, saying, “There they are.” That was the end of the savings certificates.
Fred Matheny Postal Carrier On April 1, 1909, the first rural route was established and Fred Matheny was appointed carrier. He would hold the position until 1935 when he retired.
The Dispatch states, “Fred Matheny started out with his old black horse, Old Bill. The route was 29 miles long with about 80 patrons. Old Bill would tire out around Clear Lake and [Fred] would sometimes borrow a horse. The second year Old Bill had help by a pair of wild ponies.” (It’s too bad the stories about mail delivery by wild ponies aren’t still around.)
After a few years, Fred used a bicycle and “pumped the long weary miles on cycle to give his horse a resting period.” Fred also used a motorcycle, before buying a Metz automobile in 1914. Next was a two-cylinder Brush. (People said the rattling chains announced their mail delivery.) Later, the Brush was replaced by “a reliable Model T. Ford.”
During Fred’s 26 years, he saw the roads go from mud and planks to pavement. He also saw the weight and number of packages increase. When he began there were about 4,000 pieces of mail a month and parcel post packages were limited to four pounds. By 1919 he had 15,000 piece of mail monthly and in 1924 the weight of parcel post was raised to 50 pounds and 70 in some instances.
Thank goodness the job qualifications for today’s carriers don’t require a strong back, a good horse, and the skills to fend off bears.
The move from horses to cars didn’t happen overnight. You can see from this picture of Mashell Avenue during the winter of 1914.
Per Pat Van Eaton, this pictures shows a big time of change for Eatonville. T.C. Van Eaton had just sold his store to Christensen. Electric power had reached Mashell Ave.. The two men at the far right are standing where the top rail of the hitching post used to be, and you can still make out the uprights. On the utility pole hangs a sign that reads “Gas for Sale” and there is a hand pump and hose at the base of the pole.
And there is change soon to come. In May 1915 the hardware store will burn down, soon a modern high school will be built at the end of the street and within four years the horse and buggy ear will be gone.
Here we see the stage coaches that took people from Eatonville to Tacoma.
“The two wagons in the center are T. C. Van Eaton’s stage coaches and one of the men standing by it is T.C.,” says T.C.’s grandson, Pat Van Eaton. “The location was a stopping point — what is now Elk Plain. T.C. would only use two horse teams from Tacoma to Eatonville because of the relatively easy grades.
From Eatonville to Mt. Rainier he had six horse teams due the steep grade out of Eatonville and the one from Longmire to Paradise. They left the Groe Hotel at day break and only from June through September. A diary kept by Bob Potter has entries form the passengers he carried most of whom complained about the rough ride.”
These press photos of the old T.C. Van Eaton home were taken in 1971. The small article says at the time it was being considered as a family and regional museum. It also mentions the town hall was new then too.
“The Van Eatons built a “mansion,” a sturdy square structure on a knoll above town, in the late 1890s. It was pretty fancy going for those roughhewn pioneer days. Another Van Eaton son, John, is having it restored, not a monumental task considering the sturdiness of its construction. He plans to make it into a family and regional museum.
As a museum it will be a welcome adjunct to the new Town Hall, which in the manner of such facilities these days is becoming as much a community center as the site of city offices, the jail, the fire house and such.”
If you like the pictures, the original press photo are available on ebay.
This snippet from the Eatonville Dispatch, February 9, 1927, gives you a feeling for the everyday goings on in the town the. Some things harken back to a simpler time, when who visited was a newsworthy item. In other areas we can see how far we’ve come as a society (i.e. we’re no longer referring to folks as “colored”).
But for the most part, life goes on like it always has. Movies are still playing in town(although then they were silent). There are still politics — T.C. Van Eaton and H.S. Pravitzbattling it out for school director. There are tragedies, like the death of someone taken too young, and there is still good fun, like dances and suitcase contests, which Frank Van Eaton wins, dressing like a woman.
Life in Eatonville. The more it changes, the more it stays the same.