Founder of Eatonville Thomas Cobb Van Eaton

Thomas Cobb Van Eaton was an amazing man. Through his deliberate planning and strength of character, his dream of building a town became a reality. However, the whole story of the formation of Eatonville, WA is broader and not only includes TC Van Eaton, but other amazing individuals as well.

1851 Earliest Settlers

(Prior to Van Eaton)
     Beginning in 1833, the British were in the Puget Sound area and spread out their economic empire through the Hudson’s Bay Company. One of their subsidiaries was the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. As the company grew, they needed more workers. Responding to an advertisement and having been accepted, four men boarded the HBC Tory and arrived at Ft. Vancouver on Vancouver Island on May 14, 1851. They were all headed for the same post and would leave an Eatonville legacy.
    When Thomas Dean stepped off the ship with his wife and two sons, he could not have imagined the series of events to follow.  Dean accepted a position as “bailiff” or foreman on a sheep ranch at Post Nisqually earning 60 pounds a year.   His sons worked under him as “laborers.”  However, the family did not stay intact.  Life as a settler was too difficult for Thomas Dean’s wife Emily.  She left Thomas and Pierce County for the more refined city of San Francisco, CA.
            Though his marriage failed, his career flourished. He was promoted to estate manager and replaced William F. Tolmie at Nisqually. The post was running smoothly, but the presence of more and more Americans brought imbalance to the agreed upon joint occupation of the United States and England.  Finally, England withdrew from the Northwest leaving Dean without a career.  In addition, the United States pushed through treaties to legally acquired land.  This rush created tensions and led to the Washington Territorial Wars that began in 1856.  That same year Thomas is listed as retiring from the Hudson’s Bay Company.  The family records that Thomas and his son George left and Thomas lived out his days in Tillamook, Oregon.
            Thomas Dean’s two sons were still in their teens when they arrived with their father.  By 1856, twenty-four-year-old Aubrey and twenty-two-year-old George had “deserted” the Tlithlow Sheep Station near Steilacoom years prior to their father’s departure.   According to Hudson’s Bay Company records, George “deserted” in 1852 as did his brother Aubrey in 1853. Many Hudson’s Bay workers left the company to claim homesteads and become American citizens. According to an 1854 census, Thomas, Aubrey, and George were listed as farmers in Pierce County.
George ER Dean
Territorial Muster Sheet
George Dean tried farming but was unsuccessful.  He gave up and joined the Washington Territorial Volunteers.  He was a part of Capt. HJG Maxon Mounted Rifle Company.  The muster roll sheet states that George Dean joined on April 2, 1856 at Ft. Steilacoom.  Maxon was on his way back from the Mashel Massacre, so George could not have been a part of that.  However, George was most likely a participant later that month during the second scout down to the Mashel Prairie and River area.
Aubrey Dean
            Like many Hudson’s Bay men, Aubrey Dean married a native woman. Her given name was Chelalicum, but she chose to be called Rosa.  Rosa was of the Snohomish and Yakima nations. To their union, they added eleven children starting in 1855 with son Thomas, then George, Joseph, Catherine, Gennie, Mary (Molly), Rosa (Susie), Frank, Charles, and Lily who was born in 1883.  Their last child Janey died at birth. 
Rosa Chelalicum Dean
            During the 1870’s, Aubrey was known for his creativity and love of tinkering.  He put on puppet shows for local children.  If the children gathered about him when he did not have his puppets, he would use whatever was around him create his characters.  Those who knew him stated that one could not talk to him long before the topic of flying dominated his conversation.   Aubrey pondered if a large enough kite could not carry a man.  Better yet, wings.  So, he built a flying suit of paddles made from cedar shakes and strapped it on his back.  His plan was to launch from a platform atop a large fir tree.  Folks around did not want to see him hurt around his wife and children, so they talked him into starting from a lower spot.  High atop his barn he climbed and took off.  For a little while, he was actually airborne.  He figured out how to glide but did not succeed on the landing.  Aubrey slammed into a pile of rocks, broke both legs, and sustained many other injuries.  His wife Rosa patched and splinted him up.  He recovered but walked with a limp thereafter.
            By 1880, Aubrey Dean and family settled by Silver Lake near Eatonville.  His land deeds state that he acquired 80 acres and gained an additional 80 acres in 1888.  Aubrey made a home with wife Rosa until his death on October 24, 1913. 
            Rosa had a reputation for strong opinions and a remarkably kept home.  After Aubrey’s death, she went to live with their son George who had a farm on Kreger Lake but needed special care and died in a hospital in Steilacoom on July 11, 1922. She was buried in Spanaway.
George, Rosa, and Daisy Dean
            Aubrey’s son George Dean was born on Christmas morning of 1858.  Down the road from his father’s place lived Henry and Meta Hagedorn.   The Hagedorns came from Germany, worked in Hawaii then sailed to San Francisco before arriving in Pierce County.  Their daughter Christina was quite beautiful, and George worked hard to win her heart. They married on November 16, 1889.  George bought 160 acres in 1890 next to nearby Kreger Lake.  By 1896, Christina had given birth to daughter Daisy Christina and son William George.  Tragically, Christina died without warning that same year which left George to care for two young children and aging parents.  With all the amount of work to be done on the farm and rising tensions from his mother Rosa towards Daisy, George sent his children to live with their grandparents the Hagedorns who had moved to Toppenish in 1897.
            After his parents’ death, George lived alone and raised fine livestock and hunting dogs.  For some reason, George and his sister Catherine seemed to have falling out of sorts.  They did not associate, and Catherine even made her husband build a fence alongside George’s fence to firmly establish the coinciding boundaries.  Catherine’s granddaughter, also George’s grand niece, Martha O’Neil relayed how they were warned to stay away from wild George Dean.  However, Martha along with siblings and Leber cousins would sneak on his property to catch catfish from a nearby stream.  The children would reach their hands in, and the catfish would lay hold.  They would suffer through the sting to land the fish.  While the group fished, another child looked out for George Dean.  Sometimes he came running from his house screaming so much that the kids would scatter and run at high speed out of there.  Curiously, George Dean seemed to come out after they had caught their fish.  One wonders if he was letting those kids do the fishing for him for many times fish were left in the commotion.
Daisy and her brother William Dean
            His daughter Daisy moved back into the area, which allowed George to enjoy his grandchildren.  Granddaughter Evelyn Lowell Guske remembers his immaculately kept farm.  The barn and fences were extremely well built and attractive.  He kept the homestead in excellent shape as well as his livestock.  George owned prize registered cattle and a gorgeous team of horses including one race horse.  Mrs. Guske remembers handling the team as her grandfather cut and loaded wood.  He was kind and giving to his family.  She and the other grandchildren remember grand times of horse racing down the dusty dirt road.
            After suffering a stroke, George Dean was hospitalized until his death in 1935 and was buried in the Eatonville Cemetery.  He and his father are the Deans of the Dean Kreger Road that runs between Silver and Swan Lakes outside of Eatonville.
            George had a son William and a daughter Daisy.  Daisy married Oscar Lowell.  Their daughter Evelyn married Fred Guske.  They had a daughter Sharon Guske Aguilar who is very active in the history of Eatonville.  Evelyn Guske, with her sons Jack and Tom, were the ones who took on the preservation of Indian Henry’s Grave in 1975.  After all those years of work preserving our town’s history and that of Indian Henry, the descendants of Indian Henry at the private ceremony at his grave honored Evelyn Guske in 2009.
            Aboard the same ship from England as the Deans, nineteen-year-old Richard Fiander came from Dorset County, England as an HBC laborer.  Richard married a Yakima Indian woman called Betsey. According to an 1870 census, they were living in Yelm with children John, William, Sarah, and Samuel. As adults, many of their children, including those born later, moved to live among the Yakima Nation.
            In 1871, Richard encouraged his much younger brother Robert Fiander to come and join him in the Washington Territory.
Robert Fiander
            Born in Dorchester, England in 1847 among 11 siblings, Robert Fiander gained some early education in a nearby school.  As an adult, he was employed in “public work” in both England and Scotland, but there was no future in it.  He wanted to own land and control his future.  America was just such a place to fulfill that desire, so he sailed over to America in 1871.  Fiander lived in New Jersey and Iowa before arriving in Thurston County in 1872.  For about two years, Fiander lived and worked with his brother Richard on his farm.  By 1874, Robert Fiander filed a Homestead Claim on section 14, township 16, range 3 at Swan Lake and thereby became the first settler that far southeast in Pierce County. 
            Every day living was full of challenges.  Fiander had to ride all the way to Steilacoom to get his mail and had to haul in his supplies from districts as far as fourteen miles away.  There was never a shortage of meat for the area was packed with wild game, fish, and birds.  The wild predators were not in short supply either and encounters put Fiander on guard.  One encounter left him face to face with a cougar with no time to grab a weapon.  After a “long and severe” fight, he was able to conquer the large cat. 
            To create a homestead out of wilderness took strength and spirit.  Soon, after settling, he built a log cabin.  Then, he cut and dragged timber, cleared brush, and drained the soggy land.  It was difficult and strenuous work.  Eventually, he had a beautiful farm where he also raised stock cattle and draft horses.
            The “road” from Tacoma or from anywhere north literally ended at Robert Fiander’s place.  It was a two-day trip from Tacoma, and many travelers and settlers stayed at Fiander’s home or barn.  The many guests included James Longmire, the Herman Anderson and the Torger Peterson families, Paul Haynes, Nate Williams, and T.C. Van Eaton himself.  When T. C. Van Eaton shared his plan to start a town, Robert Fiander introduced T.C. Van Eaton to Indian Henry.
            The travelers were treated like guests, ate dinner with the family, and were never charged for their stay. However, some left money and other gifts which allowed Mrs. Fiander to purchase a sewing machine.  She put it to good use with all the daughters she had.
            Fiander was always available to lend a hand or hoof when needed.  When settlers started populating the Ohop Valley, there was no good road to get down to the valley floor.  Matteus Kjelstad recounts one particular incident with Herman Anderson:
He had to get his family to its final destination.  He returned to Robert Fiander again to get assistance from both the pioneer and his oxen.  Together, they lowered the wagon with a rope tied to the rear axle of the wagon, taking a hitch around a stump to hold the wagon from going too fast as it descended.  The rope marks could be seen for many years afterwards.

William Fiander
            Robert Fiander married a native woman from Pierce County called Jennie.  Before she died in 1880, she had a son named William. 
Catherine Dean Fiander
            Fiander married again after he met Catherine Dean in 1884.  Catherine was born on November 8, 1864 and was the fourth daughter of Aubrey and Rosa Dean. Besides acting as hostess and raising the children, she made mittens, caps, sweaters, and stockings of wool dyed with the moss from ash trees.  In those early years for miles around, Catherine had one of the largest open spaces of land.  She took full advantage of it by planting a vegetable garden with extra to share.  The potatoes, in particular, would help many in lean times.  If someone could not pay for the greenery, she told them they could “work it out” somehow.
            With no doctor for miles, Mrs. Fiander would tend to the ill and dying offering them compassionate care.  She was skilled in home remedies especially the use of poultices.  Depending on the ailment, she would take onions, chickweed, or other greens; pound them down, heat them in water, and apply to the chest or on the skin of the effected area.  One year, four of her daughters fell ill with diphtheria.  None of her children were lost as her care and treatments saved all four.  Ironically, she succumbed to complications of a goiter no one could treat.  At only 49 years of age, Catherine died on March 1, 1914.  Dr. A.W. Bridge signed her death record.
Robert Fiander 1908 Road Crew
     Robert Fiander never remarried after his wife’s death.  The loneliness inspired him to take a trip to England in 1919 to visit his sisters.
            A few years later, he sold his homestead in 1922 and lived with his daughters.  His granddaughter Martha O’Neil remembers him as a loving and gentle man.  When Martha was sick with pneumonia at age 4, she was so ill that she could not eat.  Fearing for her health, her grandfather Fiander searched the forest for days to find a tiny bird egg small enough for her to digest.  Martha, in turn, spent many hours at the hospital above present day Kirk’s Pharmacy in Eatonville tending to the needs of her dying Grandpa Fiander.  Over four long months, Martha, his daughter Susie Scoggins, and others would care for the dying pioneer until he passed away in January of 1927 at age 79.

     He loved his children dearly and was very involved as a member of the Swan Lake School Board.  Always ready to help within his community, he was a road supervisor running crews to maintain the nearby roads. So, it is very fitting that a road by Swan Lake bears his name.  His many descendants lived, loved, and some have died being apart of Eatonville’s community.  
Eliza, Susie, Clara, Emma, Flora, (Little ones seated together)Amelia, Hannah, and Bessie
            Fiander sisters Clara, Eliza, and Amelia married three Jensen brothers.  Susie and Bessie married brothers Bud and Charles Scoggins.  Fiander’s other daughters Emma Parshall, Flora Asplund, and Hannah Leber married as well.  His only son William raised his family in White Swan in Eastern Washington.
            Susie and Wesley (Bud) Scoggins had three children Robert, Martha, and Myrtle Daughter Martha married Lloyd O’Neil.  The oldest Fiander daughter Clara Jensen was the grandmother of June Carney.  At the time of this writing, Martha O’Neil and Mrs. June Carney still live in Eatonville.
Alfred B. and Mary Conrad
            Another pioneer of European decent came to the Washington Territory in 1882; Alfred B. Conrad was drawn to a beautiful area near Eatonville to make a home.  Conrad, at only fourteen years old, left Germany and became a sailor on a whaling ship.  After many shipwrecks in the frigid waters of the English Channel, the Falkland Islands, and in the North Sea, he took a job on a ship headed to South America.  While it was warmer, things were heating up a little too much in the Chilean waters.  He was forced off the ship by rebels commandeering the cruiser to use in the war between Chile and Peru.  Fortunately, for him, Conrad took a liking to Chile and its people.  He became so involved that he even fought as a mercenary during their war. 
            Conrad left Chile and acquired a homestead down from Clear Lake, near Eatonville.  Without any stores nearby, Conrad walked through old Indian trails all the way to Tacoma.  Once there, he secured such goods as flour and returned home with fifty pounds strapped to his back. 
            On one such trip, he noticed something stretched out on a fallen tree up ahead of him.  He had never seen this type of large animal with its long tail swaying back and forth.  Conrad took his gun and shot the creature.  The Leber boys went to investigate and found that it was an enormous cougar.
Nellie Conrad
            Although Conrad had a good farm in a pretty setting, he longed for the beauty of another.  Her name was Mary E. Siegmund.  Her parents came from Austria to Washington in 1881 by way of Texas, where Mary was born.  Family life suited him as Alfred Jr., Annie, Mary, Minnie, and Nettie were born.  Conrad worked as a Forest Ranger, served as a Justice of the Peace, and on the Clear Lake and Eatonville School Boards. Alfred B. Conrad died in 1950 and rests beside his son Alfred, who died at 15 years old, and his wife Mary, who died in 1963, in the Eatonville Cemetery.
            The Kreger family, another early family in the area prior to Van Eaton, trekked all the way from Texas.  George had married Margaret Campbell to which eight children were born: Henry, Charles, Joseph (Emil), Lillian, Ruth, Blanche, Robert, and Annie.  In 1883, George Kreger set up his family on a homestead on a 160-acre claim, which included same-named Kreger Lake.  They cleared out the timber and brush to create home and road.  It was a prosperous location: the lake was full of fish, and the seasonal ducks made for a wonderful variation to their dining.  On the farm, the family raised dairy cattle, and chickens.  Crops of hops, hay, and potatoes abounded as well.  George Kreger was a member of the Swan Lake School Board for twenty-five years while he worked as a road boss organizing the maintenance of the local roads.  Dean-Kreger Road still bears his name.
Smith Family
            One among many local families that became heavily involved in Eatonville was the Samuel P. Smith family.  Smith and his wife Mary found a good claim in the Stringtown area around 1888 and continued to raise their large family.  Leaving the oldest son in North Carolina, Smith brought remaining seven sons out west.  Of those seven, six lived out their days in Eatonville.  In fact, Brown, Lee, Nat, Milt, Clint, and Larry all signed the petition for the incorporation of Eatonville into a town in 1909. 
            Mary died and Smith remarried then moved to Tacoma.  Years later in 1908, he came back to Eatonville; and because of his poor health, Smith lived with his son Nat. Nat recalled that his father had voted in every election since Lincoln and did not want to miss casting his vote in 1916.  He had missed the last vote due his health.  Therefore, his friends and relatives helped him get to the booth.  
            The Smith sons created a heritage in Eatonville.  Many worked in the logger industry.  Larry Smith got on with the school district in 1916 and worked for Eatonville Schools until 1946.  At the first town election, Clint was voted in as a Councilman.  In 1912, S.L. (Lee) Smith secured the town’s peace as its marshal.  To be sure, many, many descendents still thrived in the Eatonville area today.  Clint secured his Eatonville ties and   married from another pioneer family when he wed Dora of the Fredricksen family.
Fredricksen Home near Mud Lake
     Many early Eatonville folks had to walk to Tacoma for work, and Jens N. Fredricksen was one of the first. Homesteading in 1888 near Mud Lake, which is off Jensen Road about three miles north of Eatonville, Fredricksen would travel on foot to his job, not coming home until Saturday night.  He had to truck down the road carrying weighty supplies until he was able to get a horse.
            His wife Mattie must have wondered if it was worth it.  She and the children would have to fend for themselves while he was gone.  Occasionally, bears would come clamoring at the door to try to get the food they smelled inside the cabin.  One cold night, Mattie worried because her children had not returned from searching for their lost cows.  With her lamp in hand, Mattie went out into the dark stumbling until she found them then returned safely home. 
            When Jens improved his place, he sold it all: timber and land.  Then, he bought a farm near Clear Lake and the family remained there until Mattie’s death in 1930.  Jens’ failing health caused him to move to town where he died at age 75 in 1937.  Their children Charlie, Arthur, and Dewey all stayed and raised their own families in the Eatonville area while their daughters moved to Tacoma.
The King Family with Salve Jensen (far left) married to Zella King
            On a very snowy January night, the Kings and extended family members passed by the spot they thought would be their home.  As they approached, they could see others had beaten them to it.  Still determined, they pressed out above Ohop Hill to the place that still remains in the family.  The Kings included a large extended family.  John Dillard and wife Margaret Catherine brought along Stonewall Jackson, Ellen Rebecca, Benjamin Roscoe, Laura Olympia, Zella Fair, Vivian Lee, (John David and the next child born to them died as infants), and Orena Belle King.  In addition to the group was sister Laura Case Grundell, married to Charles Grundell, with son Joseph Jefferson Grundell.  Another sister Mary Case Vance with husband John Zebulon Vance and children Virginia, Lillie, and Homer made up the rest of the pack.
            When the King group hiked out from Tacoma, passing by the Torger Peterson and Herman Anderson, the Kings were referred to as the “Texas People.”  However, they were all born in North Carolina and homesteaded in Texas together after the Civil War.  Being originally from North Carolina, their Confederate pride lived as they named some of their children after Confederate generals from the Civil War. 
            Even though the Kings lost the land race, they were said to be good neighbors and friends with the Ohop Valley people.  Indian Henry and his people on the Mashel Prairie trusted the Kings as well.  They got along so well that Zella married from the Valley by becoming Mrs. Salve Jensen.  “Pa” King, as many called him, was a skilled gardener and many sought his advice.  Mrs. King was said to be extremely generous, warm, and kind to all.  Whenever she went to visit, Mrs. King always brought a little something tucked in her apron.
"Pinky" King at King Gargage
            While in Eatonville, to John Dillard and Margaret were born Tennessee Launa, Margaret Elaine, and Hiram “Pinky” Pinkney.
            John Dillard died of pneumonia in 1919 at age 70.  After his death, son Roscoe owned King Garage off the Mountain Highway, which expanded to King’s Place with a restaurant and gift shop.
Alonzo Carter (John J. Carter's son)
            One family even homesteaded within what would become the town of Eatonville.  John J. and Nancy Carter, both born and raised in Indiana, arrived in 1888.  John had served as a 1st Lieutenant in the 5th regiment of the Indiana Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War and was honorably discharge when the war ended in 1865.  He ran for Justice of the Peace as a Republican in 1894 and lived in Eatonville until around 1907 then moved to Tacoma.  Long marches during the war and exposure to the cold left him with rheumatism.  His condition worsened causing him to have to stay at the Soldiers Home in Orting from time to time.        
            Nancy died of a heart condition in 1906 and is buried in Tacoma.  She had eleven children with John but four of them never reached adulthood.  Sons Alonzo and Harvey married sisters from the Feuerstein family.  Newton Carter married “Artie” Franklin in 1896.  Delilah Carter married Lewis Osborn (brother to Jane Osborn married to T.C. Van Eaton) in 1895.  Edith married Frank Krones in 1897 but died of fever in 1902.  Frank married Edith’s sister Itha May in 1905. So, weaved the Carter family with many surrounding families.  He married three times.  His first wife died, the second marriage ended in divorce, and his third wife survived him when he died in 1923.  Carter Street in Eatonville is named after John and Nancy.
            These families, as well as others, came to be a part of something beyond homesteading.  They produced farms, built schools, created businesses, had children, and buried loved ones.  They were strong, diligent people and faithful neighbors forming a firm foundation to build a town.