Our Congressman Loves Local History

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Karen Johnson, Congressman Denny Heck and Don Trosper with an original art piece from the Foundation archives

The “Heritage Builders” program of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation had a special treat on Friday, July 1st, as we hosted 10th District Congressman Denny Heck for a guided history tour of Tumwater’s Schmidt House.  During his visit with his aide David Bremer, he was not only led through all three floors of the home of the founding family of the Olympia Brewing Company, but also explored the many treasures and stories of the rich historic archives with Curator Karen Johnson and Public History Manager, Don Trosper.  Great stories were shared back and forth as the Congressman shared his love of local and state history and learned about the history program here at the foundation.

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Denny Heck holds a book on brewing beer printed in 1742.

The executive director of the Foundation, John Freedman, along with two of the trustees (Waite Dalrymple, and Lee Wojnar) also met with Mr. Heck while he was here, both to welcome him and to talk a little about the work of the non-profit Olympia Tumwater Foundation. The visit lasted an hour and a half and everyone involved agreed it was a good, informative time well-spent.  The Foundation hopes to be a good resource for him and other public servants for a historic perspective on our area’s rich culture and heritage.

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John Freedman and Denny Heck

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Waite Dalrymple, Don Trosper and Congressman Denny Heck

by Don Trosper


Mildred Parker, Last Grandchild of Olympia Brewing Founder Leopold F. Schmidt, Dies at 103

A recent donation from the estate of a New Jersey resident has intrigued our archives staff.


Mildred (Schmidt) Parker

In 1912, a daughter was born to Leopold F. Schmidt Jr. (son of Leopold Sr., founder of the Olympia brewery) and his wife, Louise Barksdale Schmidt. The daughter was named Mildred Virginia Schmidt, and she grew up in the family home in Olympia. Mildred died recently at the age of 103, and a box of photos from her estate arrived at our office. We’ll use several of those photos to illustrate Mildred’s life, Continue reading

Entertaining Videos on Tumwater History

In a cooperative effort with the City of Tumwater, the Olympia Tumwater Foundation’s local history program partnered with Thurston Community Television (TCTV) to produce twenty, three minute videos focusing on Tumwater’s rich history.

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Local historian and author, Don Trosper, hosts these short videos featuring music, historic photos, and compelling details about names you may hear and see around Tumwater today, like George Bush, Michael T. Simmons, the Crosby family, and more. Don says, “There is more than enough material to produce many more of these utilizing the rich resources of the foundation archives at the Schmidt House and the City of Tumwater files from Henderson House.  It is great fun and will hopefully be helpful to students in history classes, local area residents and visitors from outside our local area.”


Click on the underlined links below to enjoy Don’s folksy interpretation of Tumwater’s past:



The History of the West Begins in the East

The Founders of Tumwater and their trip over the Oregon Trail.  Why make such a trip?

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News Briefs from the Washington Standard at the Turn of the Century

Until recent years we’d get our daily news headlines and short features from the radio or television.  Now, with the age of computers and smart phones, we go “on-line” to find out what’s going on around town.  We do still utilize print or on-line newspapers today, but the high tech way of getting the daily dose of information at the turn of the century around 1900 was the local newspaper.  In our area, one of those influential newspapers was published by John Miller Murphy.  His paper was called the Washington Standard.  Let’s look at some short clips from that old paper.

April 27, 1900:  “Mr. Fenton of Tumwater, a teamster for Wm. Mitchell, was Tuesday kicked by one of his horses, breaking his leg just above the ankle.”

July 6, 1900:  “The balloon ascension announced at Tumwater at 3 o’clock did not come off until 5 o’clock on account of the windstorm that prevailed at that hour, however, a splendid ascent, as well as a parachute descent, was made by Professor Hamilton.  The balloon floated to the westward and the aeronaut landed about a mile east and south of town.  He landed in a dead tree and was injured quite severely by it falling with his weight.”

July 20, 1900:  “A report that the number of bicycles in Olympia area reached the 1,000 mark.”

July 11, 1902:  “Thomas Foley has been arrested in Tumwater for pilfering small articles from residences.  He claims that he is a machinist from Tacoma and that he is in retirement to sober up.”

Sep. 19, 1902:  “W. O. Bush of Bush Prairie recalls that in 1845, 58 years ago, there was an experience in this section similar to that experienced last Friday.  He says the smoke and darkness lasted 6 weeks, or until the fall rains put out the fires and cleared the atmosphere.”  (There was also mention of a fire on Mima Prairie started by sparks from a train.  Farms were damaged with losses totaling $6,000.)

Dec. 9, 1898:   “A Tumwater woman asked a tramp who called at her back door the other evening for something to eat, why he didn’t take a bath.  He said that he was too proud to beg for soap.”

Don Trosper, Public History Manager, “Heritage Builders” program, May 2016

The Olympia Brewing Company’s Swiss Chalet

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For decades the Swiss Chalet, seen on this ca. 1910 postcard, was a landmark in Priest Point Park. Courtesy private collection.

Many interesting buildings have been constructed in Thurston County over the years. Some still stand, while others have sadly disappeared. One of the most intriguing structures now gone was the Swiss Chalet that served as a gathering place in Olympia’s Priest Point Park for many decades. Continue reading

Tumwater Park: An Early Version of Northwest Trek


Elk by upper Tumwater Falls in this colorized postcard from the early 1900’s

The Washington Standard newspaper reported in its November 12, 1897 edition that “It’s raining pitchforks with saw logs for handles and the tines downward.” In other words, the weather was typically wet for that time of year in our part of the country. What caught my eye though in that issue of the paper was a reference to Tumwater: “Tumwater Park received an unexpected accession to its population the other day, in the shape of a baby elk, which was born in the park from a captive elk.” Keep in mind that this was around 65 years before our modern day Tumwater Falls Park was constructed on the same site in 1962 in time for the Seattle World’s Fair. Continue reading

It’s a Small World

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Each month, Amber Raney at the Washington State Archives publishes an online newsletter, appropriately titled Out of the Archives. The November issue featured a great photo of a mountain lodge, and challenged viewers to identify the lodge’s location. When I saw that photo, I knew I’d seen a copy somewhere at the Schmidt House, so I went digging through our archives. What I found surprised me, and led both Amber and me to exclaim “It’s a small world!” Continue reading