Journey from Puyallup to east Lewis County (1885): A Reminiscence

  • By Jen Ott
  • Posted 8/24/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8706

This is an account by Gus A. Temple of a March 1885 journey from Puyallup (in present-day Pierce County) to Davis Lake Valley in east Lewis County near present-day Morton. Temple was 14 years old at the time of the journey. His account is reprinted here from the Lewis County Advocate of August 26, 1937.

Early Days Full of Interest
By Gus Temple

In the spring of 1884 my father, H. C. Temple, filed a homestead entry on the northwest quarter of section 18, township 12, range 4 east of the Willamette meridian. This land lay in the Davis lake valley. That fall in late October he, with my older brothers, Harry and Hugh, came in and erected a log cabin on this land. At that time the only known access to the Davis lake valley was by a trail leading up the Cowlitz river from the end of the wagon road on the Klickitat prairie. This trail left the Cowlitz river near the mouth of Rainey creek, thence up through Fern gap leading down into the valley about two miles. Being an old Indian trail, naturally it was very crooked. There were many logs to climb over and the crossing of the Cowlitz river was a decidedly hazardous undertaking. So those early settlers were highly desirous of finding a better and shorter route to Chehalis.

Explore Tilton Valley

When the cabin was completed, Harry took the horses back out over the Cowlitz trail to Chehalis and on to our home in Puyallup. While father and Hugh together with H. M. McCune and A. M. Green, the only other settlers in the valley, set out on foot heading westward down the Tilton river, then a totally unknown country. In the afternoon of the second day they came to the cabin of the first and only settler then in the Tilton river valley. His claim was about one mile west of Red [?] canyon and he had a sort of a trail out [?] across the canyon to Cinebar.

They continued their journey to Chehalis. McCune and Green returned to their homesteads for the winter by the Cowlitz trail and Hugh and my father took the train to Puyallup. So far as I have been able to ascertain, they were the first white men to ever make the trip over the Tilton route.

Fifty-two years ago, on March 2, 1885, H. C. Temple, my father, and myself (Gus A. Temple), then a boy of 14 and a big black dog left our home in Puyallup bound for the new homestead in the Davis lake valley, then part of the wilds of eastern Lewis county. Having but one pony we took turns riding "one walk, the other ride." That first day we made about 35 miles and camped that night four miles south of Tenino at the "Old Tilly" place on Grand Mound prairie. In the days before the Northern Pacific built to the Sound, this place was quite a famous inn or relay station for the stage coaches running between Monticello and Olympia. We slept in an old barn that first night of our journey.

March 28. Up at break of day. Cooked our own breakfast over a camp fire and soon were off on our journey again. Passed through Centerville, then a small town of four or five stores, and probably about the same number of saloons, a livery stable and a few dwellings. The name was changed later to Centralia, and in the 50 years that has elapsed, it has grown to be one of the larger town (sic) in Lewis county.

Chehalis, at that time the county seat, boasted of two general stores, carrying a very limited stock; a drug store which was also a post office; hotel, bank, newspaper, livery stable, and, of course, a saloon or two; also a tin shop, which carried some hardware. I remember this tin shop particularly, as father had the man there make a reflector for him. A reflector is a tin contraption used to bake bread by setting it before an open fire. We also purchased a brush hook, which came in very handy before we reached the end of our journey.

Then we went to one of the stores operated by a man named Long. Here we purchased a supply of groceries to the limit of what our pony could carry. These consisted of flour, sugar, bacon, beans, coffee and so forth, about 150 pounds in all. These we packed on the pony, a process that attracted very little attention in Chehalis in those days, as pack horses could be seen on the street most any time. After the pack was on and securely tied with the packers' famous diamond hitch, we again were on our way, and this time both of us walking. That night we camped at the Dilenbaugh place, four miles south of Chehalis, and had hot biscuit, baked in the new reflector, for dinner.

March 29. Up at dawn; breakfast by our camp fire, and we were soon traveling, leading the pack horse. Four miles farther on, we left the old stage road and turned east on a road leading through Alpha prairie and to the Lovell place east of Cinebar creek, where the road ended. After an uneventful day's traveling, we camped at the Burnside place, three miles east of Alpha prairie. Weather was wonderful and the roads dry and dusty. A barn furnished us shelter, but this one was minus the hay.

"Lost in the Forest"

Friday, March 30. Hit the road early, as usual, and were soon to the road's end at the Lovell place. We stopped and purchased some seed potatoes and some honey, which added more to the pony's burden. Then we headed for the wilderness of the Bear canyon and Tilton river valley on a so-called trail. This trail had been used very little and was hard to follow. Several times we lost our way altogether. Then there were many logs that were too large for the pony to climb over and we had to find some way around these, so naturally our progress was very slow. However by late afternoon we arrived at the new homestead of Antone Leurqain. He had been there by a short time and his domicile was made by splitting out cedar boards and leaning them up against a very large log. This place was a short distance below the present Bremer bridge. There were no settlers any farther up the river, so this was "the end of the trail." That night we spread our blankets under a large cedar tree on the bank of the Tilton and soon were lulled to sleep by the gentle murmur of the river.

The next morning we continued following the trail of a cow and calf that had been taken through a few days before by William York, first settler in the Big Bottom country. Our course led along the side of Bald mountain, which was so steep in places we had to do a little grading in order that the pony could pass without sliding down the side of the mountain.

We finally reached the North fork of the Tilton, which we forded. Then we followed along up the river, often zig-zagging through vine maple thickets. Finally, we came to Little mountain, where the river ran close to its rocky ledges. Here we camped for the night under a large cedar, having been all day making less than six miles.

Sunday, April 1, we were up at the break of day, an, after breakfast of biscuits and bacon, we packed our provisions on our backs up along the river where the pony could not go. Dad returned to swim the pony across and take it up past the ledges, then forded it back again We repacked the pony and headed on the last "leg of our journey," with the homestead only a few short miles away. We were nearly home.

We made faster progress, as the brush was not so dense now, and soon we were to the place where we had to ford over to the south side of the river, just above the mouth of Lake creek, and there we found a trail that had been blazed and partly slashed. This trail was the work of H. M. McCune and A. M. Green, who were the first white men to winter in the Davis lake valley.

Dinner and "Home"

About two miles up the trail we were pleasantly surprised to meet these men on their way to cut more trail down the Tilton to meet the end of the road at the Lovell place. They turned back with us and we all had dinner at McCune's on his homestead -- and that was some dinner, as I now remember it, as McCune was an excellent cook.

Later on we went to dad's little cabin on the homestead, where I spent my first night in [?] Davis Lake valley.

Since that day, more than half a century has slipped by, and I am still living in the same Davis lake valley.

But when I look around I see many, many changes.


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