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
- Clevinger-Stiltner (Weslie) Cemetery - transcribed for the Washington Tombstone Transcription Project. (See also a Correction to this listing)
- Morton Cemetery - transcribed for the Washington Tombstone Transcription Project. (See also a Correction to this listing)
Address: Corner of 7th St. and Weslake Ave. [Google Map]
Records: Morton City Hall
- 1900 Census for Morton - complete transcription
- 1910 Census Index for Morton
- 1910 Census Images, Morton Precinct, ED 129-01A to 129-05B
- See the listing for Morton in Meany's "Origin of Washington Place Names".
- Entry for Morton in the "Oregon, Washington and Alaska Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1901-1902"
- Catholic History of East Lewis County Washington
- Cowlitz River Valley Historical Society (Formerly known as the East Lewis County Historical Museum) located at Gust Backstrom State Park, with an emphasis on the Morton Depot.
- Notes from Morton - published in "The Advocate", 2 Jan 1940
- "Soaring Price of Mercury May Revive Morton Mining" - article from The Daily Chronicle, 24 Mar 1955, describing efforts to revitalize the mercury mining industry in Morton. Article includes an informative history of the mercury mining industry.
- "Reopen Mines: Morton Mercury Mine Comeback Is Seen" - article from The Daily Chronicle, 1 Jul 1965, updating efforts to revitalize the mercury mining industry in Morton.
- View a map of Morton, from the Lewis County Public Works Dept. Road Atlas.
- Town of Morton, Washington, 1910
- Morton Baseball Team, ca. 1910-1915
- Local Morton Musicians, ca. 1910-1915
- Hotel Hilts, Morton (ca. 1920s)
- Town of Morton, Washington, 1930
- Morton School, early 1930s - Douglas C. Core and classmates
- Views of Morton (posted on the Sacred Heart - St. Yves parishes' website)
- Morton School District
- "Morton School Budget Reduced" - article published in "The Centralia Daily Chronicle" on 2 May 1932.
- "Husky Flashes" - Morton High School Newsletter, 9 May 1941
- 1942 "Huskimemo" - Morton High School Yearbook
- 1943 "Huskimemo" - Morton High School Yearbook
- Graduating Seniors, Morton High School Class of 1962