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Historical Highlights of Montesano

 

 Courtesy of the Chehalis Valley Historical Museum and their back
 issues of the The Vidette, and the
The Daily World

Isaiah Scammon of Maine first settled on the banks of the Chehalis River near present-day South Montesano in 1852 after an unsuccessful gold mining adventure during the 1840's California Gold Rush. After making $500 on a land sale, he returned to Maine and brought back his wife, Lorinda Hopkins Scammon and their son and two daughters. The Scammon home became the focal point for river traffic on the Chehalis River and was known as the Scammon Hotel. For 26 years it was the only public house and landing for boats at Montesano.

After the territorial legislature split Chehalis County from Pacific County in 1860, the Scammon house was selected as the county seat. Isaiah Scammon became the postmaster when his home was selected as the first post office. (Chehalis County became Grays Harbor County in 1915.)

Another settler, William Medcalf, was the first settler to build on land north of the Chehalis River in the area of present-day Montesano proper. Together, Mrs. Medcalf and Mrs. Scammon established the first regular church, the Methodist church, in 1869. Later that same year, Rev. J.S. Douglas became the community's first assigned minister.

One of the Medcalf daughters, Elizabeth, married Charles Newton Byles, recognized as the father of Montesano. He was a surveyor who came to the area with a surveying team from the Northern Pacific Railroad. Between the time he moved to Montesano in 1869, and his death in 1897, Mr. Byles was elected to the positions of county auditor, county treasurer, mayor, councilman, and school board member. He also founded the first bank. As county treasurer, he relocated the county seat from South Montesano near the Scammon home to present-day Montesano, carrying the bank's gold and silver money to the new location in a pair of boots. Charles Byles also platted the city. The Byles home is the present day Whiteside funeral home.
- From The Daily World, July 23, 1983.

Mill Remains At Foot of Sylvia Creek Falls
In the 1860's, Lake Sylvia was discovered by Michael F. Luark, who located a claim on it and named it Sylva Lake, though the name was later corrupted to Sylvia. In 1868, Mr. Luark built a water-powered saw mill where Sylvia Lake Falls is today. The cement foundation can still be seen from the Sylvia Creek Trail. The mill had only one up and down saw and could produce a few thousand feet of lumber a day. The finished product was hauled by oxen over a winding road via Spruce Street to Sylvia Street.
- From The Vidette, July 29, 1927.

Train Tressel from former logging operations
Remaining train tressel along Sylvia Creek from former logging operations.

Lumber from Luark's mill was used to build the Byles home in 1872. An account ledger of the building costs survived, showing the total cost of the home was $182.16, which included $79.61 for 5,112 board feet of lumber, $28 for 1,600 feed of cedar siding, $31.25 for 1.25 acres of land, and credit for 10 pounds of butter ($4), 486 of apples ($6.60), and 1/2 gallon of oil ($0.50).
 - From The Vidette, May 1, 1948.

In 1881, Mr. and Mrs. Mullen came to Montesano from Olympia, a trip requiring 2 and one-half days by express wagon over roads deep with mud. Mr. Mullen became the first clerk of the court and helped organize the court. Judge Irwin presided over the first tribunal.
- From The Vidette, September 10, 1920.

In January, 1883, J.E. Calder and J.W. Walsh founded the Montesano Vidette. "Vidette" is a military term meaning "outpost."  The Montesano Vidette was the most westerly newspaper in the United States. The men used a hand-operated press, purchased new in Portland, Oregon for $400.  In 1883, The Vidette had a circulation of 480 copies and a subscription cost $3 per year. Revenue came from publishing timber claim legal descriptions, required by law, for which the paper received $10 each. The newspaper grossed $8-$10,000 the first year.
 - From The Vidette, August, 1939
(Follow-up note:  In 2002, The Vidette was purchased by Stephens Media Group, the same company that owns the The Daily World.)

Later that same year, on October 9, 1883, Montesano officially became a city.  On this date the city adopted its Articles of Incorporation and elected its first slate of public officials.  Families, churches, courts, and taxes had been established, and the city had a population of 300.  By 1890, just seven years later, the population had more than quintupled to 1,632, a growth rate that has not been surpassed even today.
- From The Daily World, July 23, 1983.

 Main Street, Montesano, October 1929

Sources:    

Chehalis Valley Historical Museum 
Jones Historical Photo Collection

The Vidette
The Daily World


City of Montesano • 112 N Main Street • Montesano, WA 98563 • (360) 249-3021 • info@montesano.us
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