History Burns, Orting Transfigures

Burning Engfer House

Burning of the Engfer Farm House © by Lydiafairy. See her Flickr acct. at Lydiafairy’s flickr photostream

The Engfer farm ended in fire.  I missed the actual demolition day, but my friend Lydia was there to document the funeral pyre.  Beautiful photo, sad ending.

As of today, building of new structures, laying of asphalt, construction of roads or businesses or apartments, has not begun.  The land sits empty, looking like it expects to be ploughed for next season’s crops, bit it waits in vain.  In the words of Mayor Cheryl Temple, “With the development of the Gratzer and Engfer properties, more jobs and shopping opportunities will be offered in addition to some condominiums. I see a growing mix of great restaurants, unique shops, historic buildings and homes.”

Where the historic buildings and homes will come from baffles me since all the historic buildings and homes have been removed from the property.  Of course they could be planning to move some others there, but that seems unlikely.

The Front Door

The Front Door

This was the home of people who were Orting.  Karl Engfer purchased 50 acres, a portion of the original Whitesell donation claim, in 1912 and had the home built in 1913 by Fred Mueller.  

Karl’s son, John, worked for Fred for two years, then for James Evans for seven more learning the carpentry trade.  For many years the farm was run by family, then leased out until John took it over in 1932.  That land grew a little of everything over the years; in 1980 it became the Engfer family vineyard.

John was 93 in 1983.  At age three he and his family traveled from Germany to Hawaii, around Cape Horn aboard the F. H. Glade.  At age nine, he sailed to Victoria B.C., on to Seattle, down to Tacoma and on by train to his Uncle Albert Arndt’s home in McMillin.  In 1904 his family rented a place on South Hill, Puyallup, and he attended the one-room Firgrove school with seventeen other students.  Firgrove school is still on South Hill, but it has many more rooms and students.

Orting grew; the Engfers, the Deatry’s, the Knaack’s, the Whitesell’s — they all did the hard work of building a community.  That community still sits in the shadow of Mr. Rainier, but the life they knew has gone, only to be found it the history books, newspapers and keepsakes of descendants.

Yes, I missed the actual demolition, but I explored what was left after the fire. The silverware I had photographed on the counter in the kitchen rested in a bed of ashes.

In Case of Dinner

In Case of Dinner

Dinner Never Came

The bathtub, about the tallest thing left from the structure, was full of burned remnants of the old red house and I found the springs from the chair which had sat stoically it the upper room. The wheel chair sat off to the side as if it had been moved to spare it from the blaze. There was no trace of the Ouija board I had seen in the hall, but singed doorknobs and hardware, the fire-hardened nests of Mud Dauber Wasps, crazed and melted Ball jars, iron window weights all attested to the lives once lead there.

I found one corner of what may have been a porch that was not completely burned.  In it, I noticed charred, but readable, pieces of newspaper from the 1924.  They spoke of Willebelle Hoage and Mildred Field; Lewis B. Scliwellenbach and Preston M. Troy being on the verge of announcing their candidacy for Governor; Star automobiles and their state-of-the-art brakes; the robbery and kidnapping of Mr. and Mrs. C. O. Darling, of Vancouver; house dresses for sale, $1.79.  There was a cartoon by W. A. Carlson, the title block of a serial by Mabel Cleland and a piece of art by Frank Godwin.  Tiny bits of history that the fire couldn’t erase.

Check out more of my photos at my Flickr photostream.

Some more about Aaron Titlow

A. R. Titlow signatureAs I covered in a previous post, Aaron R. Titlow  is responsible for the area in Tacoma that bears his name–Titlow Beach.  Among other things Mr. Titlow was the Pierce County Prosecutor in 1897 and 1898 and I wanted a better picture of what he did, which led me on a search for some cases he handled while in that office.  Ahhh, what fun.

If you have never gone on such a search, let me tell you a bit about it.  I started with the misconception that records of that vintage would no longer be stored at the Pierce County Courthouse, my experiences with another county years ago being that most of the cases that old had been forwarded to the State Archives.  Should you decided to do research of this type, be advised, Pierce County has theirs in their own house.

When entering a courthouse in America in 2013 one must expect to pass through security and I planned for this.  On my first visit I carried a camera on a tripod, the gradoo in my pockets, a small briefcase with my netbook and a tablet and pens.  The security officer was quite efficient, everything went well and I headed to records.

Once there I stated my mission and asked for records from 1878 1879.  The clerk was baffled…young and baffled.  He talked to a more experienced clerk…who was also baffled. They only knew of records going back to 1890.  I assured them I had called the day before to make sure they were there, they agreed to look into it.  I went home, pulled out my notes and discovered that I had asked for the wrong dates.  As I indicated above, I was looking for 1897 1898, not 1878 1879.

The following day I returned, with the same equipment, and arrived at the same security checkpoint.  The officer (not the one from the previous day), looked at my camera and said, “What’s that?”

“A camera,” I replied.

“What do you need that for?”

Resisting the urge to just say, “to take pictures,” I explained my project and that I was headed for the records dept.

“What’s that attached to it?”

“A tripod,” I replied

“What do you need that for.”

Not wanting to go into deep photographic technical stuff I said, “Well, there’s not a lot of light in there and this helps keep the camera steady so I can get clear pictures”

Meanwhile, everything else had passed through the appropriate scanners and all my pocket contents, belt, watch, etc. had passed muster.

“You can take the camera in, but I’m keeping the tripod here,” he said.  And he did.

Pierce County Case Books 4

Tome and Tomes and more Tomes

Pierce County Case Books 1

The big book of case files

Page 1051

Page 1051

There is a system to the huge tomes stored in records.  As near as I can figure, when the project to archive court records was conceived, each case was issued a number and they are listed in those big books numerically by that numbering system.  Unfortunately, the numbers have no logical system attached to them and the book I needed covered from 1890 to 1912.  Each case is listed, apparently, in order by date although the dates do not appear in the book.  Each case is listed alphabetically by the name of the plaintiff followed by the name of the defendant or defendants.  They do not indicate what kind of case–civil, criminal, what kind of crime was involved–but list only the names of the parties involved, leaving the records clerk to guess which numbers applied to the years and criminal cases I wanted.

After some trial and error, we got ourselves to the microfilm for the relevant years, but I was looking for criminal cases and the big books didn’t give us that information.  Finally an older, more experienced, clerk took pity on us and told us to look for cases listing the State of Washington as the plaintiff.  Done and done.  The clerk got the right microfilm reels and I spent the next five hours reading through them.  As I did so two things became obvious; the chairs at the microfilm viewers and my butt were not meant to be together that long and people were doing the same stupid and dishonest things a hundred years ago that they do today…it just took longer for the news to get out and it didn’t go nearly as far as it does today. 

There was the case of William Londerville who was accused, on the 28th of December, 1896, of, “with intent, attempting to kill and murder” a miner named Brotten.  Worse yet he did it in a “rude, insolent and angry manner.”  In fact, he was accused of, “striking, beating, shooting and wounding the said miner Brotten with a revolver loaded with lead bullets and powder.”

Revolver and ammoRevolver with lead bullets and powder.

Not any of those non-lethal bullets we have today, these were real lead bullets propelled by real [gun, we assume] powder.  And let us  keep in mind that he wasn’t out to kill or murder Brotten, he was dead set on doing both.

Now this was not just a he-said-he-said, William had a list of witnesses for his defense. According to his attorney, J. O’Brien, he needed W. S. Josh, L. P. Ferguson, Lewis Evans, John Warner, Julius Nelson, Warren Miller, Charles Pollard, Chas Shaw, Chas Stevenson and S. C. Chase, all of Anacortes, for his defense.  For some unexplained reason none of these gentlemen could make it to court so Mr. O’Brien  moved for a dismissal, and got it.

A. R. Titlow, the prosecutor, and Hugh Farley, the deputy prosecutor, dismissed the case on March 11, 1987 and Mr. Londerville apparently went on his merry way, undoubtedly avoiding a long stint in an anger management class.

Then there was Henry Flannigan, who, on April 15th, 1897,  committed an act that might be right out of today’s headlines.  Henry was just walking along the road between Wilkison and South Prairie when James Shaw and John Carpenter, riding their bikes toward Wilkison, spotted him.  Nothing unusual there, right?  Except that they noticed he had an upset seven-year old girl with him and he took her across the road and into the woods. Now that they thought that was unusual.

Shaw and Carpenter were suspicious and followed the pair.  When they found them Flannigan had the little girl sitting on a log and they decided some surveillance was in order.  As they watched, they noticed the girl crying and trying to leave while Flannigan “fetched her back,” telling her he would go home with her.  Shaw said Flannigan “had his hand under the girl’s clothing fooling around with her.”  He said she was crying, saying she’d get spanked if she didn’t go home and she got up and headed for the road again.

Mr. Carpenter made the same observations from his and Shaw’s place of concealment. After the girl and Flannigan made it back to the road, Carpenter confronted the creep and asked what he was doing.  Flannigan apparently replied, “it would not hurt any to play with her little ‘c**t’ a little.”

Mr. Flannigan had no technicalities to fall back on.  He was charged with Assault with intent to commit rape, made a plea bargain wherein he pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to six months in the county jail.

My guess is Mr. Flannigan appeared in court for similar reasons at some time in the future.

So while Mr. Titlow was a prosecutor, a businessman, and even the receiver of the failing United States National Bank in 1915, his cases tell us that life in 1897 was in many ways not so different from 2013.  He made money, built and ran a luxury hotel and raised a family and the world proceeded much as it does today…just at a slower pace.

You can see more of my photography by visiting my Flickr acct.

What’s that in Graham?

Rainier from West Graham

First of all, let me say that when you drive into Graham, you are at a four-way stop with a strip mall on the NE corner, a small grocery and the post office on the SE corner, a closed gas station on the SW corner and a Rite-aid on the NW corner. There are a few other buildings but for the most part, this rather inauspicious intersection is the center of Graham.  A few blocks to the west, however and you can find views like the one above.

Since at least the mid ’70’s I have been driving by the property at the intersection of 252nd and Meridian looking at what appeared to be a small western town and wondering what the story was behind it. A couple of years ago I stopped and took some photos of the buildings, the small train and, from a distance, a large barn in the back of the property, but still had no idea what it was.

Rainier from West Graham (7)

Could be the Old West

I Think I can Hear Spurs

I Think I can Hear Spurs

The impetus for further investigation was noticing that the train had been moved, much of the track was gone and those wild-west-cow-town buildings, like the Cartwright’s used to walk by when they went into town, were gone.  I looked at the spot where the old west buildings used to be and wished I had paid more attention to them four years ago.  I had to get some answers before everything was gone.

I finally spoke to someone who directed me to Karl “Bean” Thun. Unable to find a phone number, I eventually came up with a couple of addresses and sent actual real letters, on paper and stuff. One of them found its way to Bean and he was nice enough to get in touch and gave me the scoop (which, by the way, is about the only scoop I’ve been able to get about Graham).

The property was purchased by Bean’s dad, John Thun, back in the ’60’s.

If you are a local, you may remember John Thun for the airfield named after him. Now it’s officially known as the Pierce County Airport, but it’s still often referred to as Thun field.

Anyway, John’s dream was to build an amusement park on the property. According to his son, he built all the buildings himself, by hand, rock-work and all–Apparently building things was a passion and a gift for him–but the project never came to fruition, time and taxes got in the way, so it sat, arousing curiosity, for years.

Examining the locomotive I noticed the power plant was marked, “MM”, and the side of the frame bore the name, “Plymouth.” Neither provided me much information at the time but I now know that the engine is from a Minneapolis Moline tractor and that Plymouth was the brand name under which the J.D. Fate Company of Plymouth, OH began building gas locomotives in about 1909. Most Plymouth locomotives were small (built for use in mines and similar operations), and were built for track gauges from 18″ to 66″. Today they are built by the W. W. Williams Co. in Columbus, OH.

Minneapolis Moline came to be in 1929 when Minneapolis Steel and Machinery merged with Moline Plow and was based in Hopkins, Minnesota.  In 1963 the company was taken over by White Motor Co. and the Minneapolis Moline name was dropped.

lilm&m

Lil’ M and M

Despite much searching, I cannot determine what model this locomotive might have been.

Today I went back to spend a little more time with my camera while what remains, remains. I shoot with a Canon Rebel XTI and most often with the standard 18-55 mm lens, but I have amassed a group of old glass form non-digital days that works beautifully with an adapter. I used a Takumar 17mm fisheye, a J. C. Penney 80-200mm zoom, and a Takumar 85 mm lens for this shoot.

The barn is listing heavily to the east and after looking inside I decided to follow Mr. Thun’s advise and stay on the outside of the building…but I did get a couple of shots from the outside  through the windows.  I was sorely tempted to go in and see what was upstairs…until I spotted the hole in the upstairs floor…the kind a foot leaves when breaking through rotten wood.

Rainier from West Graham (10)

Gravity Will Win in the End

I took the opportunity to get several more shots of the barn, the train as it sits on what’s left of the track at the back of the property, and the water tower built to enhance the looks of the whole set up. and, finally, I left. I think my curiosity has been satisfied.

As my previous readers will note, I like to dig up and present more information about my subject places.  Graham has proven a tough nut to crack; libraries have not even provided information as to how it got its name or when it was established. Nor have I been able to find any genealogical info as a starting point.  I did find the origin of the name, however.  It seems that mail delivered for the loggers and miners in the area were dropped off at the home of Mr. Graham.  It became common practice, when something had to be delivered to the area, to just, “take this to Graham”. Repeat it enough and it sticks, thus the unincorporated area of Washington State called…Graham.

If anyone reading this post can point me in the direction of more information please leave me a comment and get me on the trail.

I leave you with this gallery of shots for my two days, four years apart, photographing John Thun’s dream.  And, check out my other photos at my Flickr photostream.

Oh! So You’re from Orting WA!

It’s a little place, really…Orting that its.  Little, but not without it’s impact on us.

There was Tony Cammarano; during the first World War he started what was to become the Mazza Cheese company when Charles Mazza took it over in 1929. Charles’ son, Louie bought the operation in 1934 and ran it with his son, Edward, and wife, Darlyne, until he retired in 1974.   Though Darlyne took over the reins, she relied heavily on Louie’s assistance until his death in 1977.

In 1963, the company was still in Orting and marketed to the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska.  Enid Bennett worked in the plant then.

In 1989 the company moved to a 95,000 sq. foot plant in Sumner processing 1.2 million pounds of milk and 1 million pounds of whey per day and was featured in a 1990 issue of Food Engineering Magazine, and then, 

Mazza Cheese plant, built in 1989

they disappeared.  In 1991 overwhelming financial difficulties led to Mazza’s sale to Beatrice Cheese which about that time became a property of ConAgra.  Today, the building houses Shining Ocean, Inc., a company specializing in Japanese style seafood products.

There was Casy Carrigan, a 1969 graduate of Orting High School, who was a pole vaulting member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic team in Mexico City.  Unfortunately, he was disqualified when his pole fell forward, breaking the plane of the bar, even though the bar remained in place.  There was an appeal claiming that an assistant actually knocked the pole forward, but the ruling stood.  That rule that was changed the following May.  The event did nothing to blunt the pride in this elite athlete’s accomplishments.

public domain pole vault photo

public domain photo

A self taught vaulter who trained without a coach, at home, in Orting. He began to seriously pursue the sport in 5th grade; his Dad would take 8 mm films of collage vaulters for him to study and his brother Andy got him into weightliftng.  In 2004 he still held the the state high school record of 17′ 4 3/4″, although he cleared 17′ 10 3/4″ when preparing for the ’76 Olympics. Unfortunately, an Achilles tendon injury ended his pole vaulting career.

In 1995 he married his wife, Dione, and by 2004 he was captain of the Long Beach, CA, Fire Dept.

jackie mcmahon

1990 Mrs. Washington USA Pageant – Photo courtesy of Mrs. USA Pageant

In 1986, Jackie McMahon was crowned Miss Washington.  She came from an Orting family; parents Jack and Judy (Wright) McMahon were both Ortng High graduates and Jackie followed in their footsteps.  She graduated cum laude and went on to Seattle Pacific University to study law, then returned to Orting where she maintains a law practice today.

In 1990, Jackie continued her pageant activities; she was in the top 10 competitors of the 1990 Mrs. Washington America pageant.

From food, to athletics, to aesthetics and on to music.

Born to John and Doris Buckingham, in Seattle, WA, in 1923,  Bonnie Buckingham was raised in Redondo Beach, WA, later moving to Auburn.  Around the late ’60’s she lived on an 82 acre ranch outside Orting.

Her Dad, and her uncle Bert were both fiddlers and her brothers took turns playing an old flat-top Gibson Guitar.  They had it to themselves until Bonnie turned thirteen, then passed it on to her.  She stepped up the game competing in local talent shows, winning her first at Seattle’s Rialto Theater.

More talent shows followed; touring the region with a musical review during the depression she honed her skills and developed her talent and by 1942 she took the stage name Bonnie Lane.  She studied with several prominent local pickers, including Paul Tutmarc. By 1943 Tutmac, 27 years older than Bonnie, became not only her instructor, but her husband.  They were together until 1955 and had daughter Paula, (who became a performer in her own right), in 1950.

Working together, Bonnie and Paul were recruited into a country group called the K-6 Wranglers who had a radio show on KVI from 1944-1947.  They played venues like the Eagles Nest Lounge–above the old Eagles Auditorium–and the Silver Dollar Tavern. Bonnie also guested with several orchestra’s; Abe Brashen’s, Wyatt Howard’s and Norm Hoagy’s as examples.

Record deals, concert dates with folks like the Everly Brothers, the Del Vikings, Jerry Lee Lewis and others followed.  Appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch and the Grand Ol’ Opry; even the Ed Sullivan show.  She played with Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins…and the list goes on.

At some point she hooked up with record producer Fabor Robinson of Fabor Records.  He convinced her that she needed a more marketable stage name and Bonnie Guitar was born.  Bonnie_GuitarShe was a ground breaker in the industry, moving into numerous positions not previously open to women.  At the same time, recording tunes like; Honeycomb  and That See Me Later Look In 2007 she did an acoustic home video version of Shenandoah along with some friends and daughter, Paula, which includes conversation about playing this song for a special gig at Antoine’s, (now Mama Stortini’s), in Puyallup.

In Orting, she married Mario DiPiano and they raised quarter horses on the ranch outside Orting together, but she never fully left the music scene.  Some time after Mario’s death in 1983 she took a gig in Soap lake, WA and subsequently moved there. She lives there still; she turned 89 on March 25th,  and her music lives on.

510 S Washington Ave., Symbol of the Death of the Farm in Orting WA

510 Washington 2

510 Washington Ave.

I don’t know why I developed a fascination with the Engfer farm; perhaps it was just something about the big red house at 510 S Washington Ave. that stood as a last bastion of a way of life as you entered the City of Orting.  I actually drove past it for years, always wondering who lived there, then if someone still lived there and finally who had lived there.  It wasn’t until June of 2012 that I stopped and really looked around.

As is always the case with me and abandoned houses, (or cars, or trucks, or factories….), I wanted the house to speak to me—to tell me about its history and its people, but it remained mute, so I had to go looking for answers.  I found some.  Enough to paint a small picture.  I never have met a member of the Engfer family nor had the opportunity to talk to them about their history but perhaps I will someday.

Karl Engfer and his wife, Pauline (Arndt) Engfer Came to Orting in about 1903.  Like many of Orting’s residents, they were of German descent, having migrated to the sugar cane fields of Hawaii for work and from there moved on to Orting; lots of work was advertised in Orting and by 1903 there was already a substantial German community there.   They brought with them their children, Karl Jr., Minnie, John, Edith, Dora, Bertha, Margaruite/Margaret, Elizabeth, Ernest, Max and Erna.  They were a busy couple.

The house that has held my attention, as far as I can tell, was established in 1912 by Karl and Pauline, worked, and later leased, by the family.  John took over from the lessees in 1932, presumably with his wife, Margret/Margaruite Deatry.

John and Margaret had four children; Frederick, Minnie, Herman and Martin.  According to the 1940 census, Margaret was 19 years younger than John and they lived with 4 ½ year old Fred.

In an November 2000 article from goodthings.com, I found that Fred, Barbara and their son John were hard at work providing organic produce to the local are and while they weren’t a certified organic operation according to the article, “‘It is going to take a lot to convince me to use pesticides,’ says Fred. He does not like the idea of using poison on his food.”  Apparently it was a great place for lady bugs to live and work.

They sold to Associated Grocers for awhile, but doing so didn’t leave enough to go around for the local clientele, so they gave up AG and focused on the people they knew.

In 2006 Eijiro Kawada wrote, in Tacoma’s New Tribune, that John Engfer and his mother, Barbara,  were growing just enough for themselves and leasing the rest of the land for pumpkin growing.  Fred had passed away in 2003 and they were hoping to keep the place open until their centennial year, 2012.  It didn’t happen.

For awhile, they leased part of the land to Chet Sidu, who came to America from Punjab, India in 1998 to farm.  He grew raspberries there until it appeared the land would be sold in 2008.  The deal didn’t go through, but by that time Mr. Sidu had pulled out all of his irrigation equipment and moved on.

Orting, and many other small towns are hemmed in by the boundaries they agreed to in the Washington Growth Management Act of 1990.  Since they can’t expand outside that area growth comes from paving over farm land.  In the case of the Engfer land and the Gratzner land just north of it, it provides the only space for commercial growth for the city.  Overwhelmed by the proliferation of houses, the City put a moratorium on them.   “They want to see a mix of stores and offices on that land—and the tax revenue that comes with it,” Kawada wrote.

And so, this year, the Engfer place came to an end.  I was able to spend some time photographing what was left of the farm and present a gallery of some of those haunting photos.

Meanwhile, my research continues on Orting, and the Engfer’s, and perhaps some other folks along the way.

Check out more of my photography at Flickr.

Titlow Beach, WA

Titlow Beach is really part of the City of Tacoma, but it stands as a place with its own bit of history; named after Aaron Rosser Titlow, a prominent attorney in Pierce County and the Democratic Prosecuting Attorney for the County from 1897-1898.  Not a native Washingtonian, he was born in Ohio in 1858 to Aaron and Sophia J (Casase) Titlow and arrived in Washington shortly before statehood was granted, Nov. 11, 1889.

You may see Mr. Titlow’s portrait by following the Aaron R. Titlow link.

A man of means, he decided that Washington needed a good resort on the shore of Puget Sound.  To that end, he purchased 200 acres located at the far west end of 6th Avenue, in Tacoma, and built the luxury hotel which he named Hesperides, (nymphs who tend a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world in Greek mythology,) in honor of his young daughters, Lone, Marcella, Constance and S. Lucille.  What the “S.” stood for I have yet to determine, however since Mrs. Titlow’s name was Stella, Stella is as good a guess as any.

Hesperides Luxury Hotel
Used courtesy of Tacoma Metro. Parks

The original three and a half story building cost $50,000 to build, had 30 guest rooms, a formal dining room, billiard room, barber shop and a ladies parlor.  It was constructed so that each room had its own balcony overlooking the picturesque Puget Sound.  And state-of-the-art hot and cold running water; both fresh and salt water according to one source I read.

Supplied with the finest china and silver, columns of Douglas Fir supporting beamed ceilings, the dining room was illuminated by twenty-two Tiffany lanterns and equipped with a brick fireplace at one end.

This was the kind of place where guests might arrive in their Roll Royce’s, their 1917 Locomobile Coupe’s; perhaps a Stutz Bearcat, or a Duesenberg!  And think of how our colloquialisms would have been lacking without the Deusenberg to give us the phrase, “Hey!  Isn’t that a Doozy!”  

Of course lodging was provided nearby for chauffeurs, although with somewhat fewer amenities I’m sure.

To provide the best food for his guests, Titlow added a farm to the property.  Not only was the meat and produce fresh and local, he added ostriches for the entertainment of his guests.

The grounds included a swimming lagoon, which was described as crystal clear.  Apparently it was designed to fill with the high tide, then hold the water so that the sun could warm it for swimming.  By 1938 the clarity was gone – but more of that later.

By the 1920’s the luxury hotel business was waning; the hotel was used During WWI—1914-1918— to house troops.  The Hesperides was closed by the time Mr. Titlow died January 6th of 1923.

The land was acquired by the Metropolitan Parks Dept. In 1926 and the hotel was reopened as the Titlow Beach Lodge in 1928, but the age was over and the hotel never regained its former grandeur.  It closed in 1937

If you go to Titlow Beach now, you’ll see a small lodge, one and a half stories, used as a community center.  Between 1937 and 1941, the WPA was asked to demolish the hotel; the parks dept. felt they could no longer afford to maintain it.  All of the interior decor was

Titlow lodge today

Titlow Lodge Today
Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

auctioned off, but persistent Titlow Beach Improvement Club members protested the removal of the building.  A compromise was reached; the size of the building was reduced to the current one and a half stories. The remaining building was converted to a dining room, kitchen and living quarters for the Parks Superintendent and his family.

I must insert here a thanks to Melissa M. of the Parks Dept. for providing me corrected information.  The original story we had heard was that the top stories were removed because the building was sinking.  She shared information she had found that refuted this theory.  The reduction was about money, not gravity.

Carl Larson lived at the lodge with his wife Geneva and Daughter Betty, (who later became Mrs. Martin).  Carl was the Superintendent in 1945 and held that position until his death in 1955.  Geneva took over the position and held it until 1973.  Betty grew up on the beach and in the park.

For another look at Titlow Beach, take a look at René Fabre’s – Rainmaker –  blog, at Active Rain.

Stone Thing

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

There’s more to the Titlow Beach story—Mr. Titlow’s personal history, ferries, swimming pool, the Beach Tavern— but we’ll save it for another time.  See more of my photography at Flickr.

Feather and Grass

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

The Story of the Soldier’s Home Cemetery Orting WA

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

In my last Orting post I referred to some of the residents of the Orting Soldier’s Home Cemetery, but the cemetery itself has a story to be told; it wasn’t always such a place of peace and refuge. In their 1987 book, Orting Valley Yesterday and Today: Including McMillin and Alderton, authors Mardel Robins, Alice Rushton and Louise Koehler, (writing under the name of Ms. Adventures), presented the saga of the cemetery itself.

Originally, the cemetery was located in the area now used as the baseball field; a nice, flat, area which might appear a perfect location for a cemetery.  Unfortunately, the water table is about two feet below the surface in that spot, which meant that our departed honored military personnel were effectively receiving an aqua-burial.  Many found this to be unacceptable – so much so that residents were choosing to be buried elsewhere.  In the early 1900’s this led to an attempt to move the Home.  Fortunately, two Orting businessmen—J. C. Taylor and James O’Farrell—came to the rescue and arranged to move the burial ground to a new location and in 1905 Paul Koehler became the first person to be buried there.

Mr. O’Farrell bought the land and made the necessary improvements to make it a perfect location.  He effectively became Orting’s first undertaker and owned and maintained the cemetery for the next twenty years.  After twenty years he left Orting and leased the land to a person, or persons, unidentified, who failed to maintain the property and even managed to lose all of the records.  According to Ms. Adventures, “…in a few years, the record states the cemetery was in worse condition than when [O’Farrell] had bought it.”

The town of Orting bought the property in 1937 and began the arduous project of restoring it.  Again, as per Ms. Adventures, “According to Margaret Groff, the Town Clerk of that time, ‘the whole thing was a mess.’”  Because the records were missing, they had no way to verify who had purchased plots or who was buried where.  A map was eventually made by, “two town employees who literally crawled all over the grounds, measuring and getting names from tombstones.”  If you go there today, you will see a well-kept, peaceful resting place.

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

Hidden and almost lost to view under the growth of trees and vines, mere feet from south side of Orting-Kapowsin Hwy. is an old stone stairway leading up into the cemetery, forgotten it seems, since a newer drive in entrance was built.

Copyright – Optical Reflex/Ray Elliott

Directly across the Orting-Kapowsin Hwy. there is still productive farmland, but it seems to be being devoured by housing developments. How long can it hold out? Time will tell, but my belief is that the developments will win in the end.

Orting, like many other small cities, is bound by Urban Growth Boundaries set as a condition of Pierce County’s 1990 comprehensive plan for growth management, RCW title 36.chapter 70A. As a result, the only expansion of commercial properties within the city must come at the expense of farmland, and much of the productive farmland in the Orting Valley is already under houses and asphalt – with more about to be paved over.

You can see more of my photography at Flickr.

Shifting gears for a moment, I have been looking for blogs and websites about the towns I spotlight to provide a broader perspective and perhaps some fun stuff; when I find them, I’ll post a link.  I recently ran across a blog called Orting Valley Flyers, which is a model airplane group in the area.