Enumclaw, the Home of Agricultural Co-operation

  • Posted 4/22/2017
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 20340

This People's History reproduces a June 1, 1914 article from The Ranch, a south King County magazine, describing some of the emerging cooperatively-owned businesses in the Enumclaw area. At the time, there were more co-ops than one would typically expect to find in a small town like Enumclaw. One of the co-ops mentioned in the article still exists: the insurance company now known as Mutual of Enumclaw. This article was transcribed by William Kombol, Manager of Palmer Coking Coal Company located in Black Diamond, King County.

Enumclaw, the Home of Agricultural Co-operation

The community of Enumclaw and town of some 2000 inhabitants, situated in the extreme southeast corner of King County, contains without doubt the best organized co-operative body of farmers in the state of Washington, excepting possibly those of the Puyallup and Sumner valley. Indeed it is doubtful if there is a community in the United States of equal population so imbued with the uplifting spirit of co-operation as the farmers in and about the town of Enumclaw.

This little town is the home of the Enumclaw Co-operative Creamery Company, the Farmer's Mutual Insurance Company, the Enumclaw Rochdale Company, the Enumclaw Fruit Growers Association and the People's State Bank. Every one of these associations are based upon the co-operation of the citizens of the vicinity, and every one of them is successful beyond the average association of this kind in any other part of the country. Perhaps the reason of the great success of these co-operative societies in this community arises largely from the fact that the leading men of the different societies are men who were born in foreign countries, where the co-operative spirit has been in successful operation for generations. The leaders of these societies are largely men who were born in Denmark, Sweden, Holland or Germany. They have become the highest type of American citizens and are proud of their community and proud of the splendid co-operative success they have achieved and well they might be for it is a pleasure indeed to visit them and learn of their successes in an economical way, where so many have failed.

Enumclaw is a beautiful town situated on a high prairie, being reached both by the Northern Pacific and the Milwaukee railways. The prairie on which this town was built was formerly covered with timber and practically all of the beautiful farms now surrounding the town have been hewed out of the evergreen forests common to Western Washington.

Home of the Dairy Cow

This prosperous community owes the greatest part of its success to the humble dairy cow. Its original start came from the large lumber mills which cut the timber. As fast as the timber was cut the dairymen occupied the land and more than 3,000 dairy cows have been the basis of the success of the pioneers who followed the lumber camps.

The Enumclaw Co-operative Creamery Company

This co-operative creamery company is one of the co-operative companies which prove that co-operation can be made a success where the dairymen have learned the benefits of real co-operation. The officers at the present time are Otto Tamm, president; P. J. Johnson, vice president; R. T. Montgomry, secretary; Otto Bruhn, treasurer. These four, with Hans Nielsen, form the board of trustees. This association has been in successful business for 13 years, the past seven years under the management of D. Van Patten, one of the most successful buttermakers in the state. The company now has 250 patrons. A majority of them are raising Jersey cows on which the average butterfat is 5 percent. There are however, quite a number of men who are now raising Holsteins and Guernseys. The company is doing an annual business of $230,000, or about $20,000 per month. The milk is all separated at the farms and delivery teams are used to haul the cream to the creamery. Butter made by this creamery commands a price one to two cents above the best creamery butter made elsewhere. Owing to their up-to-date facilities for handling sweet cream such a splendid article has been produced that the Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane creamery men are taking practically the entire supply and have been for the past two years.

Price of Butterfat

During the past year the price of butterfat at this creamery averaged about two cents per pound higher than elsewhere in the state. The following prices were paid during the year: January, 47 cents per pound; February, 46 cents; March 47 cents; April, 40 cents; May, 35 cents; June, 37 cents; August, 40; September, 42 cents; November, 43 cents; and December, 48 cents. These prices are net to the farmer. The company paid for the hauling and in addition last year built a splendid cold storage plant at a cost of $6,000, which was all paid out of the profits of the concern. The plant now receives about 650 gallons of cream per day.

Successful Insurance Company

The Farmer's Mutual Insurance Company of Enumclaw has a most surprising record. This company was incorporated in 1898. The officers at the present time are Geo. Bruhn, president; Otto Tamm, vice president; S. L. Sorenson, secretary and manager; Nels Brons, treasurer. A board of five trustees has the general supervision of this company, but the real success of this company has been due to Mr. Sorenson. The company was organized by Mr. Sorenson and Mr. Bruhn and Mr. Sorenson has had the management of the company since its incorporation. The company now has 5800 policy holders, each policy holder becomes a member of the association. They confine their operations to Western Washington and Kittitas County. They accept only farm property, country schools and community halls. It costs $2.00 to become a member of this association. The company is incorporated under the state by law, has no capital stock, being purely mutual. The trustees, though living in different parts of the state, are paid traveling expenses to attend the annual meetings. The president receives two cents for each $1,000 of insurance written and the treasurer receives one and one-half cents for each $1,000 paid. The secretary receives a salary of $150 per month, showing that the salaries are merely nominal. January 1, 1914, the company had in force $8,002,520 of insurance, and in 1913 the losses were but $6,000. Every third annual meeting is held at Enumclaw only. The next meeting will be held in January at Puyallup. The entire running expenses and losses have been paid to date on the nominal payment of 20 cents per hundred dollars insurance.

The Enumclaw Rochdale Company

"Let us work together" is the battle cry of the Enumclaw Rochdale Company, another successful co-operative company of this community, and has shown what the people can do when they really decide to help themselves in the matter of co-operating in buying and selling. The Enumclaw Rochdale Company was incorporated May 6, 1905 with shares at $25 each. The present officers are E. Yerxa, president; Chas. F. Johnson, vice president; Louis Nicholas, secretary. These with P. J. Johnson and J. A. Morris form the board of directors. The treasurer and manager is Petrus Nelson. The business was started with $25,000 in subscriptions but not all paid and it is now doing a business of about $225,000 annually. Practically 90 percent of the 400 members are farmers of the surrounding country. The business is well conducted and prosperous and one of the big mercantile establishments of the town. They are employing 12 clerks and drivers to deliver to all parts of the town and surrounding country. It has a large and varied stock, carried at all times, worth at invoice price about $35,000. They own a splendid building and have no debts except their monthly accounts. To show the splendid growth of this concern we present a few figures: The net gain from January 1905 to January 1906 in business done was $1,789.29; for year ending January 1, 1907, $4,278.58; for year ending January 1, 1908, $6,085.73; for year ending January 1, 1909, $8,645.93, for year ending January 1, 1910, 8,925.66; for year ending June, 1911, $9,137.13; for year ending June, 1912, $10,350 and for year June, 1913, $11,500.

The rate of dividends to purchasers of the store averages about 5 percent. The first year of business it averaged 7 percent; the second year 6 percent; the third year 6 percent and fourth year 7 percent. The fifth and sixth years a sinking fund was created and 5 percent was returned in dividends to purchasers. The store does not confine its business to the members. A large number of citizens of the community trade at the Rochdale store. This store does not cut prices, but simply returns to the members the earnings above actual expenses. Outsiders get no returns on their purchases. Up to date interest and dividends to the members have totaled $18,500. The store is managed along the same lines as the Rochdale stores which have had such a wonderful growth in England.

People's State Bank

The People's State Bank is not strictly a co-operative affair like the others mentioned in this article. It is, however, owned mostly by farmers and men who are interested in the other co-operative societies of the community. The present officers are B. F. Ribler [sic; actually Byron R. Kibler], president; Otto Tamm, vice president; J. W. Davis, cashier. This bank was organized April 16, 1910, with 60 stockholders with $15,000 capital, and now has $145,000 on deposit.

The Enumclaw Fruit Growers Association

Enumclaw also has a successful fruit grower's association. This was incorporated in 1906 with a capital stock of $1,500. This stock has been increased to $10,000. In 1906 a building site was bought and a cannery erected and a small pack of fruit was put up. This has had a steady growth until added capital has been invested and additional buildings erected. The association has 200 members with shares at $5.00 each. The business is run entirely on a co-operative plan and has been uniformly successful

It must be remembered that these co-operative societies are not the only successful lines of business in this community. Several other large mercantile stores are supplying the wants of the people and the State Bank has on deposit about $160,000. There is also being constructed at this time a condensed milk factory. This with the lumbering industry and the large coal mines in close proximity, make the future of this community one of the brightest in the state.


"Enumclaw, the Home of Agricultural Co-operation," The Ranch, June 1, 1914, p. 7.

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