Gustave Rosenthal

Rosenthal portrait

"Early History of Thurston County, Washington; Together with Biographies and Reminiscences of those Identified with Pioneer Days." Compiled and Edited by Mrs. George E. (Georgiana) Blankenship. Published in Olympia, Washington, 1914. p. 195


The following sketch, by Olympia's pioneer merchant, gives so true and life-like a picture of early business conditions, that it is presented word for word as written by Mr. Rosenthal himself, in compliance with a request that he furnish some of his experiences for this volume:

To comply with your request, I most respectfully submit the following;

I arrived in Olympia on June 19th, 1863, fifty-one years ago this date; made first acquaintance by being introduced to Governor Pickering, then chief executive of Washington Territory. At that time the trip from San Francisco to Victoria cost sixty dollars, and from Victoria to Olympia cost twenty dollars.

I commenced business on the corner of Second and Main Streets, selling general merchandise, dry goods, clothing, groceries, hardware, crockery and glassware, boots and shoes, rubber goods, farm implements, etc.

In the summer of 1869 I brought the first mowing machine, a Buckeye, to Olympia, and sold it to Thomas Rutledge; also the first water ram for Nathan Eaton, which to my knowledge was in operation of late years, on the creek, the farm now being owned by Mrs. Bushnell.

In those early days the farmers were not rich, and needed assistance. In 1866, I furnished some of them with hatchets and drawing knives with which to cut the hazel brush off their land, and by advancing supplies through the winter, they converted the sticks into barrel and keg hoops, with which I supplied the San Francisco sugar refineries for over twelve years.

In those early days land was not being so closely fenced, and farmers kept large flocks of sheep. I bought their wool after shearing time and shipped annually from forty to sixty tons; in fact, handled and shipped and sold a good many of their farm products.

At that time, it was hard for settlers to reach this county. Emigrants crossing the continent had to follow the Columbia River, which landed them at or near Portland, so in 1869, I collected a subscription, about four hundred dollars. This I handed to Mr. James Longmire, of Yelm Prairie, and he superintended the construction of a wagon road through the Natchez Pass, over the Cascade Mountains. The first use of the road was made by Mr. Sam Coulter, bringing a band of cattle, which produced very choice beef.

Since that time various parties have discovered different kinds of minerals in the Cascade Mountains, and mineral springs have been discovered and attractive places and health resorts established, and the government of the United States has built a fine road and designated Mount Rainier and surrounding country a park, which I suggested.

In 1872, I opened up and developed the second coal mine then in Washington Territory, in Lewis County, and built a house there, in the shape of a blacksmith shop from which since grew what constitutes now the thriving city of Chehalis. From this mine I shipped the first train load of coal on the Northern Pacific Railway ever hauled over that road, to Portland, Oregon; but as the railroad did not extend beyond Kalama, I was compelled to reload onto scows and have them towed to Portland. I also sent the first trainload of coal over the Northern Pacific Railway they ever hauled to Tacoma.

In 1873 I loaded schooners with piles to build wharves in San Francisco. In 1874 I furnished hewn spars and ship knees_paid 25 cents per inch for knees, as cargo for the ship W. H. Bessy loading then at Brown's wharf, at West Olympia. The ship sailed from here, around Cape Horn, to Goss & Sawyer at Bath, Maine, and the cargo proved a profitable investment for the consignees.

The treasury of the city, and likewise of the county, was of small amounts. The citizens of Olympia, in 1867, wanted a railroad to connect with the Northern Pacific Railway at Tenino, so one fine day, men, women and children gathered at Warren's Point, held a picnic and commenced the railroad toward that point. I broke ground and donated forty acres of timber land towards the enterprise.

In former years, and up to and including 1868, the oysters were sold only by Indian women, carrying a basket of a quarter bushel on their backs, supported by a strap across their foreheads. They sold them at 25 cents per basket. I shipped some to Portland, San Francisco and Victoria at $1.50, which bring at present as high as $9.00 a sack, during the oyster season, hence I started the oyster business which brings an immense amount of money annually to the Sound country.

On July 3, 1866, on a trip to Portland, three days of intense heat, after a cold spring, caused the Cowlitz River to rise to its banks, and some places overflow its banks. Canoe transportation being the only means of conveyance, after leaving Pumphries a short, distance, the Indian pretended to scold at other Indians, none of whom were in sight, and as we were going over some riffles, the Indian said to me, "Nanitch acook chuck mika bias eultus Demanimus." Translated, "See this water, your God is a very bad spirit." The only fellow passengers were two children, a boy and a girl, eight and ten years of age. I produced an instrument from my hip pocket and commanded him to manage his paddle correctly, or I'd send him to his "Demanimus". He then apologized, saying he meant no harshness against me, only some Siwashes in the woods, and the trip continued to Monticello without additional events.

Comparing the present condition of this country with former years, it appears more like walking into a parlor.


Submitted to the Washington Bios. Project in June 2007 by Diana Smith. Submitter has no additional information about the person(s) or family mentioned above.


Updated on 2 Jun 2007.