Puyallup: Opinion

Recapping Puyallup’s 125th anniversary celebration

It is always useful to review an activity soon after it ends to determine how it might be made better next time.

The Puyallup Historical Society is working on that, but here are my early thoughts.

The City pulled off its birthday party with considerable panache. Emcee Chris Egan ably conducted the program, to include filling the spots of two missing speakers, and the displays and treats were most appreciated.

The Puyallup Historical Society acquitted itself reasonably well in its ambitious program of activities for the week. Unfortunately, two activities had to be canceled; one due to an accident that left several key personnel injured and the second event for lack of interest.

Some of the Historical Society’s best work was done in researching and preparing information for display before the event. Having firm deadlines produced a flurry of useful information. Cooperation between City folk and Historical Society members was very evident in planning for and carrying out activities in City Hall and at Woodbine Cemetery.

The Little Museum of Puyallup on the ground floor of City Hall was installed in six hours and taken down in one; it was scheduled to be open for 18 hours and it was actually open almost twice that. It was clearly successful proof of the concept that the Meeker Mansion and a stand-alone Museum of the Valley need to be two separate entities, and that the town could support both.

The cemetery tour was interesting and successful. Bright colored markers drew the eye to areas of the grounds where prominent individuals are buried. Photographs and biographic data illuminated their accomplishments. Sometimes the marker told us more than we had originally known.

For example, Peter Belles, the owner of the Puyallup Hotel (now Trackside Pizza) also known for his racehorse, Sleepy Tom, was discovered to be resting beneath a Civil War gravestone identifying him as a member of 214th Pennsylvania Infantry!

Legacy families are important to the proper remembering of early times. We were fortunate to have several of Ezra Meeker’s great-great grandchildren in attendance for part of the week, and also to have Nix, Summerfield, Stewart and Ross descendants visit with their stories.

One of our volunteers found it necessary to remove the undergrowth that covered the forgotten cairn under the north end of the Puyallup River Bridge on Meridian before he could explain its significance to visitors. It was unfortunate that folks outside the Historical Society who volunteered their time and facilities did not attract very many visitors: among them were Peace Lutheran Church (the Church that Ezra Built); the Sunnens’ Red Barn Tree Farm (the last remaining hop barn in the valley); the South Hill Historical Society, which manned the Heritage Corridor markers at the Heritage Recreation Facility; as well as Washington State Fair staff, and members of the Fife Historical Society who were there to explain the Camp Harmony Memorial inside the fairgrounds.

All in all, we were pleased to help our community celebrate its 125th anniversary. In another 25 years some folks will at least remember that a fuss was made in August of 2015, whether or not they nabbed a piece of the birthday cake.

If you interacted with the Puyallup Historical Society or participated in one of its activities last week, you should consider joining or supporting the society. See the Meeker Mansion website for details.

Andy Anderson is the historian of the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion. He can be reached through the Mansion at 253-848-1770 or by email at historyandy@comcast.net.