In 1872, the Northern Pacific Railroad establishes a rail junction at Seatco 15 miles south of Olympia and calls it Tenino. The name derives from a Chinook word meaning junction, referring to the junction of military roads between Fort Vancouver, Olympia, and Steilacoom.
In 1852, Stephen Hodgson filed a Donation Land Claim on a prairie 15 miles south of Olympia and a small settlement grew. In 1872, the Northern Pacific Railroad established Tenino station there on the line between Kalama and New Tacoma (bypassing Olympia). Legend incorrectly held that the Northern Pacific chose Tenino because of the numbers on a surveyor's stake -- 10-9-0 -- or on the side of a locomotive.