A Town Called Slaughter

Seattle, Houston, Vancouver, Pennsylvania. Naming communities or even states after noted or heroic locals is not uncommon. But soon after incorporating their small community of about 740 inhabitants, the citizens of Slaughter, Washington had second thoughts about their choice to honor William Slaughter, an Army Lieutenant who died in an 1855 skirmish with local Indians. I wonder if someone at the time suggested that naming it “Williamstown” might have been a suitable tribute to the Lieutenant, that wouldn’t offend the sensibilities of some locals.

In 1893, only two years after incorporation, the town name was officially changed to Auburn. Supposedly an influx of settlers from Auburn, New York triggered this change. Some traditions hold that the new name came from “The Deserted Village,” a poem penned by Irish poet, Oliver Goldsmith. The first line of that poem is, “Sweet Auburn! Loveliest village of the plain.”

Several years ago the history of Auburn was the theme at a meeting of a local Toastmasters group. One member was inspired by the question, “What if our town was still called Slaughter?” and produced a poem on the subject. I don’t think that it will be nominated to be the official poem of our city, but his humorous look at the topic is worth sharing:

Slaughter, Washington

There once was a town named Slaughter
Where people said change our name we oughter
They looked not to the west to find a name that was best
But turned to New York and found a name to exhort
Slaughter they said sounds frightening and full of dread
But Auburn, now that’s an inviting place to lay your head
To them it seemed to make good sense
But thought they not of the consequence
They built a high school Auburn by name their athletic prowess they do proclaim
But can you imagine the fear and distain if the Slaughter High Butchers were your next game
Surely Green River College is a place of higher knowledge
But oh the career you could pursue if you graduated from Slaughter U
I don’t mean to whine, I guess Auburn is fine 
We’re an upstanding community with hope and opportunity
But as a recovering plotter, and occasional squatter who loves to sit in warm bathwater
A man who courted my wife until I caught ‘er and father of a son and daughter I kinda like the name of Slaughter.  
And you gotta admit it’s better than massacre. 

by Tony Garcia, 2007

Lt. and Mrs. William A. Slaughter, 1852. (Courtesy White River Valley Museum)

Tony’s look at what might have been if our town had not been renamed to Auburn is interesting. But there are towns with the name of Slaughter or some variation of the word. But that’s a story for another day.

Tony Garcia lives a happy and full life with family and friends in and around the Auburn area.  He enjoys connecting with people through work, fellowship, laughter and mutual respect.

The Auburn Morning Toastmasters (where Tony got his poetic inspiration) meets every Thursday at 6:35 AM at the Rainbow Café, 112 East Main Street in Auburn. http://auburnmorning.freetoasthost.cc


Uniquely Auburn Press Release

Today’s Date: December 20, 2010                        Release Date: Immediate

Subject:  16th Annual Uniquely Auburn Celebration

To be held Sunday, January 30, 2011 at the

Auburn Performing Arts Center

For More Information Contact:  Janice Nelson 206-349-3061


AUBURN, WASHINGTON – Uniquely Auburn, a FREE community-sponsored celebration of cultural diversity recognizing people, places, and events that make Auburn unique, will be held Sunday, January 30, 2011 at the Performing Arts Center at 2:00 p.m.   

The 16th annual Uniquely Auburn, “An All-American Story”, will feature performances by Igneous Rocks; Latin Rhythms, a dance group from Green River Community College; Marina Shats, an accomplished pianist; Timmy Kosaka, a young harpist; Kate Kosaka, playing the Thai Dulcimer; “unique” stories about Auburn, a very special re-enactment of “Casey at the Bat”, and much more. 

There will also be an art and poetry exhibit in the lobby featuring works from students in the Auburn School district and various community artists with hors d’oeuvres provided by Tastefully Simple.  The King County Library System’s Digital Discovery Zone bus will be there for young and old to learn more about computer graphics and animation.

Following the program in the theater, there will be a complimentary “sit-down” picnic-style dinner featuring fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, green beans, rolls and apple pie.

Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, City of Auburn, Soroptimist International of Auburn, Auburn Arts Commission, Auburn School District, and Trillium, sponsor the 16th annual event. The Auburn Performing Arts Center is located at 700 E. Main Street.

For more information, please call Janice Nelson at 206-349-3061, or visit our website at www.uniquelyauburn.org.  Also check out our blog at www.uniquelyauburn.wordpress.com.

More than one local scout troop has made a pilgrimage to Angeline Seattle’s grave in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery. Her Victorian-styled tombstone seems like an ideal backdrop for a discussion of the importance of Seattle’s namesake, Chief Seattle, and his daughter, popularly known as “Princess Angeline.” The only problem? Princess Angeline, daughter of the famous chief, is actually buried in Seattle’s Lakeview Cemetery. Who, then, is the Angeline Seattle buried here in Auburn?

We don’t know our Angeline’s maiden name, but we do know that she spent the majority of her life as Angeline Tumas. She and her husband Charlie Tumas were members of the local Muckleshoot Tribe. They can be found in Washington’s territorial census reports of the late 1800’s living on the reservation, on a farm they shared with their daughter Mary.

Except for these few details, we know very little about Angeline’s life. The 1900 Federal Census tells us only that Charlie had died by that time, leaving Angeline a widow. Her daughter Mary was no longer a part of her household; she had probably married and moved on to a home of her own. Angeline would have been 68 years old at the time of the census-taker’s visit.

Auburn’s Angeline faced old age in a new century without the company of her husband or her daughter. Was she lonely? Perhaps, but she did have some company. There was one other member of her household in that 1900 census report: a hired man named John Seattle (some sources report that John was a cousin of the famous chief). Sometime before her 1907 death, Angeline and John married. It’s because of this late second marriage that Angeline Seattle is buried under that name in the Auburn cemetery. Angeline’s tombstone, although it occasionally causes a bit of confusion to scout leaders and other amateur historians, is one of the most ornate markers in the cemetery—it’s certainly suitable for any “princess.”

Kristy Lommen is an English and History teacher and a volunteer at the White River Valley Museum. She has lived in Auburn for 12 years. You can find more stories from Auburn’s history at her website for the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery: www.auburnpioneercemetery.net.

The Auburn Pioneer Cemetery is located at the corner of 8th NE and Auburn Way North, across from Fred Meyer. It contains monuments for many Japanese American families that lived in the Auburn area. Stop by to pay your respects to some of our earliest settlers.

The Clever Railroad Engineer

Frank Cavanaugh in the cab of his Mallet Steam Engine. He moved to Auburn about 1915

Long before the days of cell phones a railroad engineer in Auburn devised a clever method to signal his wife that he was almost home. When his train had passed the old  Neely Mansion heading west on the Northern Pacific line he blasted two toots: when he was in the Mallet steam locomotive pictured to the left it was two whistles; when he was in his diesel locomotive it was two blasts on the horn. His home was located a few blocks north of the line, on land currently occupied by the Maple Lane Estates apartments on R Street SE.

His wife would run out to the sun room where she’d wave her biggest tea towel to show that she’d heard him. Ten minutes later she’d pack up three little grandchildren, all sisters, and head down to the Northern Pacific round house in their Dodge coupe to pick him up. The round house was located about two blocks to the west of where Denny’s now stands on Auburn Way South.

Because there was no back seat in the coupe the three little girls stood behind the front seat on the way back to the house. Standing in the back of the coupe was also the same way that they got to the Point Defiance zoo or around on any of their other various excursions. The youngest granddaughter would get tired and try to crouch in the cramped space to rest her little legs.

Nowadays they’d be arrested for child endangerment. But to put it in perspective, seat belts weren’t even an option on Dodges at that time.

Two of those three little girls are now in their 70’s, the other has passed on. The youngest granddaughter in this story has been telling me this story for most of my life, because she wanted to pass on the history of her family, which is my family, because she’s my mother.  

The Auburn Round House in Auburn was torn down in 1987. This past year the last child of that railroad engineer, Frank Cavanaugh, passed away at the age of 91. With her goes some of the stories only known by that generation.

When your family gathers over the holidays I hope you’ll share the tales that make up the history of your family. If you wait, you might lose those stories forever.

Are you ready to share your story about the people or history of Auburn? See the guidelines on our Tell Your Story page ( https://uniquelyauburn.wordpress.com/tell-your-story/ ) or come to our next “Share Your Story” session at the Auburn Public Library on Saturday, December 18 from 1:00 to 3:00. Download a flyer here:  Share your story library session dec 18.

The Great Watermelon Barbecue

Thanksgiving week is usually a time for family gatherings. While some like to plan these social events in fine detail, for others a seat of the pants method is preferred.

Chris Garrison has been an important fixture in Auburn since 1995. He’s been the baseball coach at Auburn Riverside High School since it opened that year and in 1999 was awarded the SPSL North Division Coach of the Year. At least one Auburn school district site gives him credit for coaching since 1945—at least a FEW years before he was born. He also teaches Freshman Health and Human survival and has a 4.7 out of 5 rating on www.ratemyteachers.com. One student commented, “A great teacher and even more a respectable man.”

Coach Garrison is however, also known for a major family social event “faux paux” caused by using the seat of the pants planning method. Chris is one of eight brothers and sisters—one short of fielding their own baseball team. One summer about eight years ago Chris and his wife, Terrie, hosted a family reunion for Chris’ siblings.

Terrie is the Principal at Sunrise Elementary in Puyallup. She’s also a meticulous planner which helps her succeed in that role. Normally she plans family gatherings but in this case Chris took the lead. After all, it was his family.

When he called each up to invite them they asked, like good guests, “What can we bring?”

His response to each was, “Just bring a watermelon or something.”

Nobody brought the “something.” All eight brought watermelons. Even Chris and Terrie had one on hand. A quick trip to the grocery store was required to rescue the occasion which has ever after been referred to as the “Watermelon Incident.”

I suspect that this Thanksgiving it will be Terrie, not Chris, doing the planning. There will be checklists and guests who volunteer to bring something will be given a specific assignment. I’m sure it will be a well-planned event.

Coach Garrison however, may choose to toss another watermelon on the barbecue, if the food runs low.

Do you have an interesting story about the people or history of Auburn? See our “Tell Your Story” page to see how you can submit your own: https://uniquelyauburn.wordpress.com/tell-your-story/

Surprising the Super Star

 At the awards ceremony for the Auburn High School graduating class of 1978 an elderly gentleman was asked to present the award for the “Most Outstanding Athlete.” (Well, to us high school seniors he seemed elderly. It’s quite possible he was only in his fifties.)

When he took the stage he said, “Would Becky Sturtz please come up and help me present this award. I’m always seeing her name in the sports page.”

Becky, who had been very active in athletics through her high school career came up and stood next to the presenter. As he described the accomplishments of the “Athlete of the Year” without naming the star, Becky could be seen scanning the audience trying to figure out who he was talking about. He told about the winner’s achievements and leadership on the basketball court, baseball diamond, and in academics. Becky still couldn’t figure out who he was describing. When the suspense was at its peak the “elderly” gentleman uncovered the name on the trophy and asked Becky to read it.

She looked down and was surprised to find it engraved: BECKY STURTZ. She was so modest that she never considered that he could be describing her.

Becky now teaches at Auburn High, where she was the Star Athlete of the Class of the class of 1978, without the ego to match.

Ready to share your stories about the people or history that make Auburn unique? Contact Dennis@DennisBrooke.com

Our first “tell your story” session will be on Saturday, November 20th from Noon to 2:00 PM at the White River Valley Museum located at 918 H Street Southeast (just behind the public library).  Do you have a story about how you or your family came to Auburn? How about interesting people, events, or trivia about the city? Stop by and share your memories.

Take a look at this post to see some of the stories we’ve already collected. Stories of Auburn  

If you’re interested in hosting future “tell your story” sessions or have a tale of your own that you’d like to share please contact Dennis Brooke at dennis@dennisbrooke.com