Morton: (2016 population: 1,145)

Morton replaced Chehalis and Centralia as the center of logging in Lewis County and is the fifth-largest town in the county (according to US Census Bureau estimates). It is located at the junction of SR 7 and US Hwy 12, about 43 miles east of Chehalis. In 1888, the first post office opened. The story goes that Mrs. Baumhauer, the first white woman in the valley, compaigned vigorously to have the town named for her. After lengthy debate, Republican sentiment prevailed and the town was named in 1889 for Levi P. Morton, a former U.S. Representative from New York and the newly-elected Vice President (under President Benjamin Harrison). Levi Morton would go on to become governor of New York. Mrs. Baumhauer was sorely disappointed (La Gra, p. 2). On June 11, 1890, James Kelso was appointed the first Postmaster. The first school was held in 1890 at the Burnap homestead. Mrs. Burnap taught until Mrs. Jennie Neady Corey was hired as the first teacher in 1894. The first school enrolled 13 students: Fred and Anna Buchanan, Gold Temple, Vannie Monk, Clarence Ross, and the Nichol children (La Gra, p. 17). The Morton Cemetery Association was chartered April 16, 1904, leading to the establishment of the Morton Cemetery near the junction of SR 7 and US Hwy 12, where many of the pioneers are buried (La Gra, p. 51). The Tacoma Eastern Railway brought in the first train in 1910, opening Morton up to commerce and to the rest of Lewis County (La Gra, p. 11). The advance of the railway prompted a major boom in logging companies, sawmills, and shingle mills. At one point, no fewer than 100 mills existed in the surrounding region. Morton was incorporated in 1913 and Thomas Hopgood was elected its first mayor (La Gra, p. 11). Much of the business district was burned by fire in 1924, which started at Hilts Hotel and quickly destroyed 19 of 23 business and left 50 residents homeless. However, the homes and businesses were quickly rebuilt within the next two years (Nix, p. 20; La Gra, p. 26). Although logging operations have decreased dramatically over the years, Morton's economy still relies heavily on logging. Every year, during the second weekend in August, the Morton Loggers' Jubilee is held to commemorate the importance of logging in Morton. The weekend includes a parade, logging competitions, and exhibitions.

The first religious service in Morton was held in 1893 by the Rev. William J. Rule, a Methodist circuit minister. The Methodist church was built in 1905/6 and was shared with the Baptist church from about 1909 to 1920 (La Gra, p. 63). Sacred Heart Catholic Church was dedicated by Father Merten on August 22, 1922, saving locals from having to trek the fifteen miles to St. Ives in Harmony (La Gra, p. 66).

Many descendants of pioneer families still live in Morton. The families of Nelson Clevinger and F. P and Annie Stiltner migrated from West Virginia and Oklahoma in the early 1920s, along with many other Appalachian loggers who moved out ot Morton during the same period. Other families include the William Fairharts, the Hopgoods, the Frank Binghams, Frederick M. and Mae (Temple) Broadbent, the Pius Cottlers, the Coopers (Harold and Marge Cooper currently own the Cottler Homestead, the oldest in Morton); the Edlunds, Edwin and Nellie Knittle, the Haddalers, and the Gust Backstroms (namesake of Gust Backstrom Park in town). My grandparents, Floyd and Dorothy Sherbondy, moved with their four children to Morton in 1950, living next door to the Sparkmans on SR 7 (a.k.a. Morton Road), four miles north of the business district.

Online Resources for Morton:

Biographies and Genealogies

Cemetery Records

Census Data

Local History




Sites and Events of Interest