Enumclaw is incorporated on February 1, 1913.

  • By Thomas Parker
  • Posted 6/04/2016
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 11228
On February 1, 1913, in a close vote, citizens of Enumclaw vote to incorporate. The City of Enumclaw is located on a plateau in the Cascade Foothills near Mount Rainier in South King County. It is sandwiched between the Green River to the north and the White River to the south. The population is just over a thousand people. 

Early History

Enumclaw traces its origin back to 1879, when Frank (1841-1916) and Mary (1852-1928) Stevenson set up their 160-acre homestead in the lower White River Valley. Known as the "Mother and Father of Enumclaw," the Stevensons provided the land and buildings for Enumclaw's first hotel, school, saloon, churches, and cemetery.

In Enumclaw's early days, settlers called the new town "Stevensonville" after the area's first homesteaders. However, when the Stevensons declined the honor, settlers begin looking for a new name, preferably one that did not end in "-ville" as requested by the railroad. One settler suggested naming the new town Enumclaw after nearby Mount Enumclaw.

According to legend, Mount Enumclaw got its name in the following way. A group of local Native Americans were camping at the base of the mountain when they heard a loud crashing sound that seemed to come from the mountain's interior. They fled, fearing that evil spirits lived around the mountain. They came to refer to the mountain as "Enumclaw" meaning "home of evil spirits" in the native language. 

In 1885, the main line of the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed through Enumclaw. The railroad help connect the once isolated settlement to the rest of the region, attracting many new settlers and businesses to the quickly growing town. By 1910, Enumclaw’s population had grown to 1,129 people. 

Vote for Incorporation

The issue of incorporating Enumclaw was first brought up by the town’s business community in 1912. Business owners argued that by voting in favor of incorporating, the town’s citizens would allow local businesses to use various legal and business means and practices to provide benefits and services to both themselves and to the citizens. However, when the boundaries for the proposed incorporated Enumclaw were presented to the public, many property and landowners decided to pull their support for incorporation, leaving the town divided. By the time the vote took place, only a small group of citizens and business continued to support incorporation. On March 15, 1912, the vote to incorporate failed. 

But the issue of incorporating Enumclaw continued to be discussed. Later that year, local store owner John Blake (1863-?) held meetings with other town business people about holding another vote for incorporation and how they could improve their chances for a favorable vote. After the group voted in favor of pursuing another vote for incorporation, changes to future town’s boundaries were discussed and made. On January 24, 1913, in a reversal of the previous year’s vote, the citizens of Enumclaw voted in favor of incorporation.

The announcement of the results led to large celebratory public displays by the town’s citizens, politicians, and business leaders. On February 1, Enumclaw was officially incorporated as the town’s citizens elected their first city council, which held its first official meeting on February 7.  

Enumclaw's first council comprised John Blake as mayor, R. S. Miles as treasurer, and L. A. Dibley, A. C. Johnansen, R. D. Taylor, Archie Smith, and N. C. Christensen as councilmen.

Sources: Clarence B. Bagley, History of King County Washington (Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1929), 815-818; Louise Ross Poppleton, There Is Only One Enumclaw (Enumclaw: Poppleton, 1981), 9-12; Nancy Irene Hall, In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Pioneer History of Enumclaw (Enumclaw: Courier-Herald Publishing, 1983), 175-179.

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