A History to Preserve
The History of Mill Pond
The Oregon Trail
By the early 1800's a lucrative fur trade was gaining momentum and ships of a dozen countries began to frequent the Northwest Coast.
First to penetrate the interior of Southwestern Washington were the Astorians. Robert Stuart of Astor's Pacific Fur Company claimed to have ascended the Cowlitz River for many miles and his description of the countryside gives credence to his claim. Stuart later was credited with establishing the route of the "Oregon Trail".
The first settler on the site of Tenino was Stephen Hodgdon, a native of Maine who had come west in 1849 with the California gold rush. Failing to strike it rich, he ventured north in 1851 and staked a donation land claim on the banks of Scatter Creek. His land was located directly on the old Oregon Trail at the point where it turned north to Tumwater and the Hudson's Bay Company trial continued eastward to Yelm Prairie and Fort Nisqually.
It wasn't long before the Hodgdon Farm was referred to as "Hodgdon's Station" and became a regular stagecoach stop from the Columbia River Basin to Olympia. Then a Mr. Samuel Davenport laid claim to the adjoining land west of Hodgdon Station, and B.F. Henness settled on the east side of the present town site.
What's in a name?
In 1872, the Northern Pacific Railroad from the Columbia River reached Hodgdon's farm and they built a station, naming it "Tenino". This event was the beginning of a settlement that later grew into the town of Tenino.
There is much speculation about the genesis or birth of the name. Talk to 10 residents and you'll get 5 different answers. Some say, it is of Indian origin, meaning "meeting ground" or "a branch (fork) in the trail" or it comes from a locomotive with the number 1090. The most commonly accepted, is a survey stake marked 10-9-0. Take your pick; you'll be as close as anyone else.
The community took a quantum leap forward with the founding of the first - several others followed - sandstone quarry in 1888, called "VanTine and Fenton's Tenino Stone Co."
The quarries were instrumental in putting Tenino on the map. It quickly gained a reputation, as the finest building material of its kind and provided sandstone for many prominent buildings in the Northwest. The original capitol building is an excellent example of the beauty that can be sculptured out of sandstone.
As the stone quarries prospered, so did Tenino. By 1890 the population was 390! By the early 1900's, more than a thousand people inhabited Tenino and it was termed "a real boomtown."
The Mill Pond
Adding to the commerce of the area was a number of logging companies and mills. It was the lumber that furnished the wood to build the stores, schools, churches and homes. Frank Bard started a shingle and lumber mill just east of town in 1889. Bard's mill burnt down and T.F. Mentzer built a sawmill in its place. It also burnt to the ground in 1907. Mentzer rebuilt and sold to Mutual Lumber Co. in 1913. Mutual could produce 80,000 to 100,000 board feet per day! See photo's showing the Mill Pond, which is part of the Heernett Foundation's property.
World War 1
With the outbreak of World War I, the area's boom began to slow down, and Tenino's population dropped as quarries and several mills closed. Logging and farming became the major economic factors in the area and Tenino settled down to begin a trading center for the south central part of the county.
Wooden Nickels and The Great Depression
Remember the saying "Don't take any wooden nickels?" Not so in Tenino…! Tenino was hit as hard as most other areas of the country with the advent of The Great Depression. But it was a bank failure and the issuance of "Wooden Money" that made the town, world famous. Tenino issued emergency scrip to relieve the hardship caused by the defunct bank. One issue even carried a "watermark" reading "Confidence makes good; Money made of wood."
Even today "Wooden Money" is still issued for advertising purposes.
Tenino today, is growing and looks forward to the future with well over a hundred years of history already behind it and confidence in the years to come.