Tag Archives: Southwest Washington History

Dreamers, Loggers and Trains-Capital Forest’s Early Years

Feature photo above – Bordeaux logging camp train, 1906, Clyde Cummings, engineer.  Photo from the Washington State Historical Society.

The Early Settlers

The 1870s brought the first logging claims to the Black Hills region of southwest Washington Territory.   The Black Hills got their name from the dark shadows that frequently covered the thick forested slopes.

This area would eventually become Capital State Forest–named for its close proximity to the state capital of Olympia.

In 1880, a Utopian society from Brooklyn, New York tried to settle in the area.  Most of the group didn’t last the first winter.

However, New York names like Central Park and Brooklyn still dot the nearby areas.  Undeterred by that group’s misfortunes, more Utopian groups arrived in the Puget Sound area over the next few decades.

Serious logging of the Black Hills began in the 1880s and 1890s.  Washington became the 42nd state in 1889, and Congress granted the new state 5,000 acres in what was to become Capital Forest.

A lower elevation logging camp was set up in 1898, in what would become the town of Bordeaux.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Bordeaux’s population grew to 500.

Bordeaux Logging Camp
Bordeaux Logging Camp

1902 saw the first of a series of devastating wildfires in the logging hills. Continue reading Dreamers, Loggers and Trains-Capital Forest’s Early Years

Canoes to Covered Bridges – Crossing the Old Nisqually

Photo above courtesy of Martin Burwash, from the Eatonville to Rainier website (eatonvilletorainier.com).

The 81 mile long Nisqually River starts as a tumbling, rocky stream off the the end of Mt. Rainier’s Nisqually Glacier, as shown here:

Imagine taking this car on this road to see the Nisqually Glacier and Mt. Rainier, back in those days.  Look at the bridge they just crossed!

1926 nisqually glacier postcard

After flowing west to today’s quaint, quirky, and cool Elbe, the river creates Thurston County’s east border with Pierce County.  It then travels northwest until it  flows into the Puget Sound.

There are now two easy ways to cross the Nisqually.  Upriver about twelve miles west of Mt. Rainier Park’s Nisqually Entrance, Highway 7’s Elbe Bridge crosses the river at the boundary of Lewis and Pierce Counties.

Interstate 5 crosses the Nisqually where it joins Puget Sound, at the Nisqually Estuary.

Crossing the Nisqually in the Old Days

Crossing the Nisqually River in the days before Highway 7 and Interstate 5 was quite an adventure!

This 1905 photo shows Sam P’yelo of the Nisqually Tribe canoeing in the Nisqually River.

Photo from the University of Washington website.
Photo from the University of Washington website.

Early European settlers built the first bridge across the Nisqually at Elbe in 1898.

Photo courtesy of Russell Sachs, from the Eatonville to Rainier website.
Photo courtesy of Russell Sachs, from the Eatonville to Rainier website.

Here is the same 1898 bridge.  This bridge is long gone–they weren’t built to last.

Photo courtesy of Pat Van Eaton, from the Eatonville to Rainier website.
Photo courtesy of Pat Van Eaton, from the Eatonville to Rainier website.

Logging operations began in earnest near Elbe at the beginning of the 20th century, with the building of the first sawmill.  Early railroads transported the harvested timber. Continue reading Canoes to Covered Bridges – Crossing the Old Nisqually