In 1989, Lori Price excerpted an article from the August 8, 1942 edition of The Puyallup Valley Tribune.
That article contained an interview with Perry Summerfield, who arrived in the Puyallup Valley in 1882 at the age of 32. In 1942 he was 91 and still remembered what the valley was like shortly after the city was founded. Now that we are ready to celebrate our 125th anniversary of the chartering of the city (Aug. 19), it is time to look back at that same article.
First, some timing marks: the Naches Pass pioneers arrived here in 1853. Ezra arrived to stay in 1862 and platted the town site in 1877, the same year the train arrived. The two oldest known photos of the community can be dated between 1877 and about 1883, and there was not much here. A town was “corporated” and ruled out of existence by the state Supreme Court and then properly incorporated in 1890. Two years later there still wasn’t a lot here.
In 1892, Summerfield reported that the site of the current Western Washington Research and Extension Center was only dense forest. A county road came down the hill in back of the present center and the Darius Ross homestead was between it and Clark’s Creek. Only two Indian families and the Rosses lived in that vicinity.
Summerfield said he used to hunt pheasants where the center’s buildings now stand.
The road crossed Clark’s Creek, below the Ross house, and then swung north and again east, along today’s West Main Ave to the vicinity of 9th St NW. From there a trail wound through the trees to what is now downtown Puyallup.
Where the bridges cross the Puyallup River on North Meridian was also only dense woods. Across the river there were two blockhouses, relics of the Indian War, standing on the Carson claim. The only way to cross the river in 1882, Summerfield said, was by canoe. He described the Carson claim as consisting of 327 acres and extending from the old river bed, which now forms Grayland Park to north of the present river.
Dense woods covered the ground where the Washington State Fair is today. Summerfield called it “one of the finest stands of timber in the valley.” Some 25 years later a racetrack was cleared, but huge stumps remained in the infield for a long time afterward.
Where Puyallup High School stands today was — again — dense forest. There was one house in the area, on what today is Pioneer Avenue. It belonged to Alec Mathews and was the last house between the settlement and Clark’s Creek. (For that reason, Darius Ross had a separate school district created for his children).
To the east, one of the largest places in the valley belonged to Rominous Nix. It was located near where Shaw Road meets East Main today. Summerfield recalled that a great flood in the valley inundated the Nix place in 1884, washing away 80 acres, two log barns and a log house. The house was later rebuilt and Nix ancestors still live on part of the original property.