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.

1909 Township

By early fall of 1909, Eatonville was still a settlement.  Many called it a town, but it came time to take the next logical step toward township.  On October 16, 1909, with a vote of 47 to 21, Eatonville became the third town incorporated in Pierce County.  Technically, it was a city of the fourth class categorized by the county.  The members of the newly formed Eatonville Town Council were Joseph Hearn, Charles Williams, C.C. Snow, T.E. Jones, and Clint Smith.  Joseph H. Benston (owner of the private bank) was the town’s first Treasurer.  The first mayor of Eatonville was actually George B. Ingersoll.  When Ingersoll fell ill, C.C. Snow was made Mayor Pro Tem.  When Ingersoll officially resigned, Snow was appointed as mayor by the town council.  Though not the elected mayor, C.C. Snow was the first acting mayor of Eatonville.  Finally, the Town Council appointed L.E. Martin the town Marshall.  He earned $15 a month but later demanded an increase saying he would not serve for less than $75.
            The first entry of the town minutes recorded the petition to the Board of County Commissioners of Pierce County, Washington:

We, the undersigned electors of the County of Pierce, do hereby petition your honorable body that the territory, hereinafter described, be may be incorporated as the city of the fourth class under the provisions of Sections 3373 to 3380, inclusive, of Chapter 7, in Pierce’s Code of the State of Washington and to be known and designated when incorporated as the Town Eatonville, Pierce County, Washington.

            With no town hall, the first town council meeting was held at the jewelry store of Councilman Hearn.  Later, meetings were conducted at Red Men Hall.  It was Hearn’s job to secure a permanent location for the town hall.  Two properties, both owned by T.C. Van Eaton, were good prospects.  Van Eaton's terms were $150 cash or by installments.  The cost to construct was estimated at $650.  The town used a loan from the Eatonville Lumber Company at 6% interest to pay off the outstanding bill of $455.91.
With the town’s incorporation came the need for more civility regarding the animals of the area.  In addition to the usual requirement of dog tags, other beasts of the field were given restraints.  Horses had to slow down to a trot not exceeding 6 miles an hour.  Cows were not to roam at night as their bells kept many awake.  Chickens were prohibited from roaming town streets.  The prohibition was later extended to pigs.  In 1911, the marshal appointed deputies to kill all the Chinese pheasants and were allowed to shoot from Washington Ave. West to the town limits.  Trespassing rabbits were fair game as well.  The rats actually had bounties on their heads.  Ten cents a rat to be paid after the kill was verified by the Town Clerk.  The rat problem was so bad that some businesses offered incentives for killing rats.  The Eatonville Theater offered a free movie ticket for each dead rat.
            With all those shots being fired, it was good to have another doctor in town.  Albert Wellington Bridge served as Eatonville’s fourth mayor, but he is best known as Dr. A.W. Bridge. In 1909, Dr. Bridge was a graduate of the Vermont Medical School who was earning money by delivering telegrams when his bike got a flat tire.  He came in through the trees carrying his bike and ran into T.C. Van Eaton who was looking over the ground where the school was to be built.  Anxious to have an additional doctor in town, Van Eaton offered to house him in a clinic if Bridge would practice in Eatonville.  At first, Bridge lived with Dr. Martiny eventually taking over his practice.  According to a 1910 census, A.W. Bridge was a roomer with Martiny as was a bartender named Dexter and thirteen-year-old stable boy Jay Osborn. 
Lumberman's Hospital
            Dr. Bridge was motivated to practice in a logging town because of a trauma from his past.  While he was young, he lost his own father from a logging accident, and his mother’s death left him an orphan.  Needing an income, he had to find work at the local sawmill.  After he inherited the family farm, Bridge sold it off and went to the University of Vermont.  He wanted to become more than a doctor.  He wanted excellent care for those far from a city hospital.  In 1912, Dr. A.W. Bridge established the Lumberman's Hospital in Eatonville in a house he remodeled into an emergency room.  After earning more income, in 1915, he expanded to the construction of larger building with a drug store downstairs and a hospital upstairs.  It was named it the Bridge Clinic and was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The staff included managers for the store and nurses for the hospital.  Eventually, it even had an ambulance.  There is no longer a hospital upstairs but downstairs is still a pharmacy now called Kirk’s Pharmacy.
            Dr. Bridge was a healer but could be tough if needed.  During the World War I, Dr. Bridge organized “smokers” as fundraisers.  They sold tickets at the Red Men Hall where boxing matches were held for charity.  The doctor needed his own treatment after volunteering to go a few rounds with a young, strong logger.  Bridge suffered two black eyes and a broken nose.  In 1913, when Dr. Bridge was mayor, he and other men from town captured a group of men who had just robbed the bank.  He lined them up and gave them a good lecture on the evils of their ways.
            Dr. Bridge was one of the first “contract doctors.”  He had a contract with the Eatonville Lumber Company and workers paid a dollar a month to receive full services when they needed it.  Many physicians and hospitals frowned at this.  Now it is a common practice.
Mashell Telephone Company
         Many Innovations came to Eatonville in the 1910’s, and Christensen family was a big part of the new technology.  In 1910, the Mount Tacoma Telephone & Telegraph Company was wiring the town.  T. C. Van Eaton’s store housed the first phone.  The first telephone operators were Mrs. Dye, Mrs. Haynes, and Anne Christensen.  The phone company building burned down in 1911.  As the new building was being put up in1912, N. P. Christensen bought it and renamed it the Mashell Telephone Company.  At that time, there were 30 phones in use, and they rented for $1.50 a month.  The Christensen family was synonymous to telephones for decades in Eatonville.  It is now called Rainier Connect.
Anvil Rock Block House
            After he returned to Eatonville from Alaska, Nate Williams became the second Town Marshall in 1910.  He also put his skills to good use and constructed the Anvil Rock Block House used as an observation tower above Paradise on Mt. Rainier.    
Pioneer Garage
            Nate and Sarah Williams had six children.  Their daughters Carrie and Hazel died young leaving the four boys: Tom, Charlie, Leon, and Clyde.  Leon worked as a logger.  Tom was a shingle sawyer and filer.  Clyde (or C.C.) made a living as a shingle sawyer and filer.  He is best remembered for his involvement in the town playing on winning sports teams and as a member of the Eatonville School Board for many years.
Other son Charlie returned from Alaska with enough gold to build the Pioneer Garage.  It opened in 1915, and Charlie operated the business.  Now most of what remains of that garage is the Tall Timber Restaurant. 
The Sun’s Rays Bakery operated from 1911 to 1919 as a confectionery and coffee house.  It was owned by Frank Mensik.  He came to Eatonville from Czechoslovakia with his brother Charles.  He started out in Chicago in 1888 as a confectioner.  His wife Mary went into a depression after the loss of her baby.  The doctor told Frank that he must get her away from Chicago as everything reminded Mary of her lost child.  They left and moved to Alder where Mary gave birth to daughter Mary (named after the baby who died) in 1893.  Frank worked in Tacoma and was very skilled at candy making.  His almond candy recipe may have inspired or have been purchased by Brown and Haley to create Almond Roca.  At the time of his death, Frank had seven surviving children: Anton L., Charles, Joseph, George, Mary (Biggs), Frances, and Agnes (Neche).
            Frank’s father Josef came to America with his second wife Anna and children: Anton, Agnes, Anastasia (Annie), John, August, and Louise.  Frances, his first wife and mother to Frank and Charles died in 1881.  Josef was 70 years old at the time, but the fear of upheaval in his home country compelled him to come.  He bought the property owned by Walter Baker that was once Meta.  They first stayed in the building that was once the Meta Post Office.  His wife Anna died in 1905, and Josef passed away in 1916.  Their son John acquired the property and purchased surrounding lands that were tax foreclosures.  He was known as a cattleman who drove many a bovine to the Yelm Cattle Yard. 
            Josef’s son Anton wed Mary Basler and had a daughter Nora Anderson.  His daughter Annie married Scott Turner.  Turner bought property in the same area as the Mensik’s and the road that bears his name runs through most of it.  He was a gentle, loving man.  Mother Annie worked hard her whole life.  Turner had served as a medic in WWI.  A motor blast injured his eyes, and caused blurred vision.  As a result, he suffered from headaches for the rest of his life.  Even so, he designed the overflow tunnels for Alder Dam and constructed houses at Fort Lewis.  Annie and Scott Turner had three children: Robert, Josephine, Virginia, and Eloise.  As mentioned before, Josef’s daughter Agnes married C.C. Snow.  August Mensik died in 1921 from a logging accident, and Louise worked for the Tacoma General Hospital for over 50 years but never married.  The Mensik name is best known from the picture of a mining claim at Wildcat Falls.  Some of the Mensiks did have mineral rights. 
            As more people moved into the new town, by 1913, “rubbish” started piling up in yards and vacant lots.  Some citizens were careless about maintaining their yards and let them get piled up with useless materials.  It did not help matters that the town had a smelly dump located on the hill past where the high school sports fields are now located.  Overall, it was getting filthy in Eatonville, and this sloppy attitude translated into how the children treated the school grounds and buildings. 
            B.W. Lyons had had enough.  He put the students to work cleaning the schoolhouses and yards.  The results were inspirational, as Mayor Nettleton wanted to keep it going throughout the whole town.  Lyons and the students moved through town cleaning the streets and buildings.  It caught on as residents started cleaning and burning up the trash.  The remaining refuse was hauled away using funds from the mayor and town council. 
            They decided to make it an annual event adding a rousing baseball game in which Eatonville beat Sumner with a score of 5-6.  As years went by, more festivities were added and became known as the Tacoma Eastern Fair Day then Community Day.  At present, it is called May Day.
With the presence of the lumber company, stores, and other businesses, a financial institution became necessary.  At first, Henry Howard and William Benston established a private bank just prior to 1909.  Two years later, the new town council passed a resolution that this bank should be the depository for the funds of the Town of Eatonville.  However, state code prohibited a small, private bank from handling public funds, and the money was transferred to the Pacific National Bank in Tacoma.  F.M. Roberts and his father F. W. Roberts had already found success in operating several country banks.  After a visit to the town, they decided to charter an additional branch.  The Eatonville State Bank was established in 1913.  The main part of this building exists today as Key Bank.
Methodist Church
            To attend church in the early days of Eatonville, people worshipped either together in homes or in the outdoors.  The Mensik family created a “church tree” near where they lived.  They cut out a small section of the trunk and placed sacred items in it.  In Ohop Valley, they built a mission house to gather and hear messages by circuit or traveling ministers.  Many times the minister would join the congregation at a schoolhouse.  Rev. H. N. Svinth served the people of Ohop Valley for many years.  He also traveled to Benston, Clear Lake, Edgerton (Ohop), Silver Lake, and Weyerhaeuser schools preaching for the English Evangelical Lutheran Church.  In 1924, the worshippers formed the Bethany Lutheran Church.
            For a time, there was a small community church but no established church structure within Eatonville, until the Methodist Church was completed in 1912. 
Eatonville Theatre
            Many gathered for another innovation: going to see a “moving picture.”  Movies, as they were later called, were first shown in Van Eaton Hall in 1910 and then over at the Red Men Hall.  For a time it was called the Red Men Theater.  In 1915, Frank Van Eaton built the first movie theater.  Frank operated the theater until he left for WWI in1917.  His brother McKinley Van Eaton ran the place in his absence.  The stars of the day included Ann Pennington and Mary Pickford who appeared in the hit movie entitled A Romance of the Redwoods.
Town Fire 1915
            The films were exciting, but the real show was the occasional fire in town.  In 1915, a man became so enraged at someone at the saloon that he tried to set it on fire.  He must have been a little tipsy because he set Ingersoll’s Hardware Store ablaze instead.  There was a volunteer fire department, but fire engulfed the building too quickly.  Dynamite kept in the back of the store did not help matters.  Brave citizen’s from the Japanese community ran into the building and retrieved all of the dynamite saving many buildings and people as well.
            Of the family businesses that began in Eatonville during the 1910’s, the Malcom family has the most prolific amount of stores and services to date.  Olaf Malcom (shortened from Malkomsen) came with his brother from Norway in 1901.  Butchers by trade, they quickly found work in Tacoma.  While there, Malcom met and married Jessie Smith.  They moved to Kapowsin and opened their own meat market.  Later, the Malcoms moved to Eatonville, and Olaf built a slaughterhouse near the Mashel River and opened a shop on Mashell Avenue (later used as the Sears building).  Malcom expanded and opened other meat markets in surrounding towns; but the Great Depression sized him down to the one shop in Eatonville.
Olaf Malcom
            Olaf and Jessie raised four children together: Muriel, Byron, Keith, and Bruce.  Byron went by the name “Barney.”  He opened a restaurant and gas station at the south end of the Eatonville Cutoff Road; and though the restaurant is gone, many in Eatonville can give directions to “Barney’s Corner.”
            Keith Malcom married Delores Jones.  They had four children: Gary, Kathy, Linda, and Diana.  Keith and Delores extended the legacy by opening several stores and shops.  Keith took over the Red and White Store and then, built the town’s first supermarket: Shop Rite (the building now houses Medical Billing).  Delores built and operated Malcom’s Deli (later sold and is now called Bruno’s).  Together, the Malcoms created Mill Town with a motel, storage, gas station, and various shops, including their son’s store Gary’s Video.   
            As the town became more populated, T.C. Van Eaton’s dream of a top-notch school came to fruition.  Though N.P. Christensen saved the town the $9000.00 fee for contracting between 1904 and 1910, the first school burned down as did the second.  Students had to attend classes in the back of a store or in Van Eaton Hall.  The townspeople got down to work. 
            A story is told that prior to any ideas of building, it was discovered that the school superintendent had taken a check from the school funds, cashed it at a bank, and disappeared.  T.C. Van Eaton was on the school board and was made aware of the predicament.  Working quickly, he made a deal with the state.  If Eatonville would supply a bus for Camp 1 students and allow surrounding students to attend, then the district could collect the money from additional sections of timberland and subsequent taxes.  The revenue from the timber was astounding and inspired the school board to build a new school “second to none.”
            With money in and land donated by T.C. Van Eaton, new schools were in the works.  They would not be like the ones prior.  To start anew, the school board elected B.W. Lyons to be the head of the school.  He and others created plans for the construction with all the latest in educational facilities.  After viewing the new plans for the high school from Lyons, Dr. Holland, the president of the Washington State College, exclaimed that they were twenty-five years ahead of their time.  Many families contributed.  It was to their advantage to have an excellent secondary school close by.  In the past, families had to send their teenagers outside of Eatonville to attend a good high school.
Fourth of July 1915 (Original one room schoolhouse on far left)
            On July 4, 1915, the town celebrated Independence Day and the foundation of a new school with a parade and laying the cornerstone of high school building. 
On April 29, 1916, a day of festivities began full of ceremonies, tours, singing, and addresses from several speakers.  The State Superintendent of Public Schools and Governor Ernest Lister came to Eatonville to speak for the high school dedication.  It was an amazing event (in 2009, the town celebrated a total renovation of the high school and kept much of the original brickwork).  The school encompassed three buildings: grade school, gym, and high school.

Science Lab
            The new Eatonville High School was truly a national sensation.  There were articles and newspaper features across the country regarding the school.  It was made of brick and had five classrooms.  In addition was chemistry, agricultural, home economics, and five other laboratory rooms. 
            Businesses continued to expand.  According to excerpts from The History of Tacoma Eastern Area Volume II, these businesses operated at the given years:

1912 businesses: Nelson-Benson real estate and insurance; Hotel Snow; T.C. Van Eaton, real estate; Anderson and Wise, Mashell Bar and Cafe; Sun's Rays Bakery (Frank Mensik); CA Nettleton, meat market; G.B. Ingersoll; Kipper's Grocery; Howard and Benston, private bankers; Columbia Cafe, Lee Barber Shop; Benston Mercantile Co.; Lumberman’s Hospital and Dispensary, Dr. A.W. Bridge, M.D.; C.H. Williams, dealer in gasoline lighting systems; A.Y. Lindsey Co., groceries and men's furnishings; Depot Hotel, R. Marti; Joseph Hearn, jeweler; R. Rotter, plumber; A.E. Dye, telephone service; Dr. W.H. Marsh, Dentist; Fredricksen and Skewis, confectionary, tobacco, and billiards; E.A. Williams, confectionary.
       
        By 1916 the number of business places had increased and included the following: J. Hearn, jeweler; Eatonville Theater, A.P. Arkins; Fredricksen & Beckwith, Auto Stage; Eatonville Dispensary for drugs; Eatonville State Bank; C.C. Emmons, Hardware & Harness Repairs; Benston Mercantile Co.; Christensen's Department Store; Hotel Snow; Dr. M.C. Hill, Dentist; Depot Hotel, R. Marti, Proprietor; Johnson & Thompson, Blacksmithing and Horseshoeing; C.A. Nettleton, butcher; Mashell Telephone Co., N.P. Christensen; Victor S. Viken, tailor; E.R. Vaughn, attorney, with office at Eatonville; Club Pool Hall, A.U. Fairbairn & Co., proprietors; and the Eatonville Dispatch.

            By 1916, the town was strong and had the conveniences most towns desired.  There was water and electrical systems, a phone company, church, a movie theater, several stores, a hospital with a drug store, a town newspaper, and a strong school system.  The town had pride and met together on Community Day.  This sense of cohesiveness and dedication to education caused Eatonville to survive after the logging company closed and many jobs were lost.  Many other surrounding towns died out as work had to be found elsewhere.  Jobs were lost in Eatonville as well, but because it had so much to offer its citizens, they chose to stay.  Though not all the amazing early families have been mentioned, their contributions led to Eatonville’s success.  The families, familiar faces, forest living, and its founder formed Eatonville giving it a firm foundation.
Here are some scenes from the teens (1910’s) of early Eatonville:
TC Van Eaton far left by strairs, little boy John Van Eaton, Charles Williams to right of man in white apron the rest are unknown. Photo taken c a 1914 Mashell Ave Eatonville,WA (Pat Van Eaton).
"Gangs" of Eatonville
Lee's Barber


Chamberlain's Bakery


Dan Chistensen & friends in Eatonville,WA c a 1918