Chehalis: (2016 population: 7,498)

Located 4 miles south of Centralia on I-5, Chehalis is the second-largest city in Lewis County. It was named for the Chehalis River, whose name comes from the Indian word for sand (Brokenshire, p. 39). The earliest white settler in this area was Simon Plomoden, a French Canadian trapper (Brokenshire, p. 40). Chehalis was originally called Saunders bottom, after the Saunders family, who settled on a donation land claim in the valley (Hunt and Kaylor, p. 449). Schuyler Saunders established the first post office here on May 8, 1858 (Nix, p. 7). The first business in Chehalis was the West and Dobson Packing House, opened by William West and John Dobson in 1878. The second business was a flouring mill built by Roudebush and Botham (Hunt and Kaylor, p. 456). The Saunder's bottom School District was established as one of the first five school districts in Lewis County in the early 1860s (Hunt and Kaylor, p. 451).

In 1873, the Lewis County seat was moved from Claquato to Chehalis (Hunt and Kaylor, p. 459). Chehalis was incorporated in 1883, with the first town council meeting comprised of: A. F. Tullus, mayor; J. E. Willis, city clerk; U. E. Harmon, attorney; T. L. Holloway, M. D. Roudebush, John Scott, H. J. Brooks, and W. H. Long, councilmen (Hunt and Kaylor, p. 457). Soon after, in the summer of 1883, the Chehalis Nugget newspaper was begun by Mayfield and Tozier. In June, 1884, the Chehalis Bee was begun by J. E. Willis. In November, 1898, Dean W. Bush consolidated the two papers into the Chehalis Bee-Nuggest. William West commented, "Certainly an appropriate name--busy as a bee, rich like a nugget--a good combination" (Hunt and Kaylor, p. 457). The first bank in southwest Washington, Coffman, Dobson and Co., was begun in 1884. In 1885, the Chehalis Cemetery Association was chartered. In 1889, the Citizens' Club, a popular philanthropic and social club for Chehalis businessmen, was organized. In 1890, the Chehalis Land and Timber Co. was organized, playing a large role in the growth of the city. In 1892, most of the business district was destroyed by fire, but was completely rebuilt by the latter 1890s (Hunt and Kaylor, p. 458). As with Centralia, Chehalis's fortunes rose and fell with the logging and railroad companies. Today, much of the surrounding valley is farmland. The Chehalis economy is also dependent on manufacturing, with several large warehouses operating in the city.

Online resources for Chehalis:

Biographies and Genealogies

Cemetery Transcriptions

Census Records


Local history


Newspaper articles and clippings

Pictures and Postcards


Sites of interest

Other links