How Pe Ell Got It’s Name.

There have long been several versions of how Pe Ell was named, none of which can be authenticated.

 'Main St. Pe Ell, looking north' | ca.1906

‘Main St. Pe Ell, looking north’ | ca.1906

One of those versions, and the more accepted one, is that the name comes from the attempts of the local Indians to pronounce the first name of an early French-Canadian settler, Pierre Charles, who was an ex-Hudson Bay employee. This version has it that the Indians could not pronounce Pierre, and their attempts turned it into Pe Ell. Another version is that P and L were the first initials for Pierre Charles and his Indian wife. Two words were made from the initials: “Pe Ell”. Another distinct version is that Charlie Pershell, a Frenchman, settled in the area and married an Indian maiden. The Indians found it difficult to sound out the “sh” in Pershell so it became Pe Ell. In 1897, the North Pacific Railway built a railroad depot in the town. In 1907 Pe Ell’s population was around 1,000 — larger than it is today. The rich agricultural and timber resources of the region attracted farmers, millworkers, and loggers. By 1909, the town had a bank, three dry goods stores, two general stores, three grocery stores, two barber shops, five saloons, four hotels, a newspaper, a blacksmith, and even an opera house.

Pe Ell was officially incorporated on March 9, 1906.

(excerpt from wikipedia)

The Road to Walville: Stewards of a Ghost. pt. I

Nestled in-between two county lines lies a quiet ghost dressed in the mists of land and history.

Walville road.

Walville road.

The Ghosts of Walville walk here, in the rain and ferns and a road with no warning signs.This is where we have tethered our canoe. Along the banks of yet another Rock Creek (really, how many Rock Creeks are there?). This is our home, but we are merely the stewards of a story, adding our own footprints and footnotes of memory.

Walville, an abandoned mill town site that straddles the Lewis/Pacific county line, was once home to a large sawmill operation. Established in 1902 by the Walworth and Nelville Manufacturing Lumber Mill and General Merchandise Company, the mill burned in 1930 and was permanently shut down. The post office was
opened on June 3, 1903, and closed on February 29, 1936.Like many of the other villages and towns that lined the railroad route, Walville now consists of only a few scattered homes and an old cemetery..

- The Sou’wester of the Pacific County Historical Society and Museum Summer & Fall 2006, Volume XLII, Numbers 2 &3

We acquired the property of Red Hawk Avalon by chance or calling, either or, we are here. The mists have claimed us and the waters have initiated us. We have persevered storms and have laid our claim, always asking permission.

Porch runes.

Many tales have lived and died here. Stories riding on the backs of old Cedar stumps and singing with the chorus of frogs. We arrived to that song, and listened from our porch protected in an old Rune.
The ghosts of Walville are in a state of healing, caught in a constant cycle of letting go and decay caused by the monsoon like rains of the Willapa Hills. Each season washes the old dark memories into the Chehalis watershed, to be re-born, like the Salmon.

During the 1910s and 1920s, the mill employed well over 100 men, who lived with their families in separate areas based on economic, ethnic, and racial barriers. The wealthier white families lived in a part of the community called Big Bug Town, the many Japanese-American families in Jap Town, while other sections were called Cow Town and Dago Town.

Old town map of Walville.

Old town map of Walville.

Even the dead were separated in segregated cemetery plots.

- The Sou’wester of the Pacific County Historical Society and Museum Summer & Fall 2006, Volume XLII, Numbers 2 &3

Japanese Cemetery

Japanese Cemetery

These are newer stories in relationship to time, but one’s that have left a deep scar on the physical and spiritual landscapes of Walville and this bio-region. I feel some camaraderie with this, our mutual healing. I felt I had found my best friend when I arrived here. A friend that needed nothing more than stewardship and understanding. We would take walks in the dawn and discuss our shadows. Take strolls through the scarred forest and process our demons. We layed offerings to each others winds. I finally felt able to let it all go.

Honne Names the Salmon: Chehalis Legend

“LONG TIME AGO in the beginning of the world, Honne came to earth. No one knows where he came from. And as the country was new and strange to him he decided to travel about and see what he could find.”

Chehalis River

Chehalis River

Thus begins the Chehalis Indian legend of Honne, the creator of people and animals, as related in “Honne: The Spirit of the Chehalis”, by Katherine Van Winkle Palmer, W.F. Humphrey Press, Geneva N.Y. 1925. The various species of salmon and trout were extremely important to the Chehalis people, and the legends of the tribe tell fascinating tales of how Honne created these fishes. Honne named the different kinds of salmon and told each the streams they would inhabit and the seasons of their lives. The following is an abbreviated account of the creation of the salmon from the legends of the Chehalis people.

Cowlitz First Salmon Ceremony, Photo Unknown

Cowlitz First Salmon Ceremony, Photo Unknown

When Honne came to earth he found that the people were living like animals, so he decided to exchange the lives of people and animals. As Honne travels the banks of the Chehalis River, he meets several people who have caught a salmon. Honne changes each of these persons into a crane and takes the salmon. After cooking and eating the first salmon Honne said: “‘Now I will name the salmon.’ And he called it Thowsh or Thatssocub. He threw the salmon backbone in the river and told it to go up the river. Honne said to it ‘You will be food for the people. You will go up the river to the riffles and spawn and raise a thousand fish.’

Fresh Salmon Meal

Fresh Salmon Meal

The backbone of the fish said to Honne ‘After we spawn what shall we do?’

Honne replied ‘After you spawn, you will go back to the ocean where you will become fat and bright again. Once every year at a certain time you will go up the river. That is your work to do for the people.’”

Honne met another fisher with a salmon and after turning him into a crane:

“Honne picked up the salmon which had lain in the gravel. He built a fire from drift wood, fixed the salmon and cooked it. After it was cooked and he had eaten all he wanted, he took the backbone of the fish and said ‘Your name will be Twahtwat, the black salmon.’

From ashes rise.

From ashes rise.

backbone said ‘What time of the year will I come up the river?’

And Honne answered ‘You will come up in the fall. You will not stay long but will work fast while you are here for the other salmon will have come ahead of you. When you finish you will go back to the ocean and then you will be young again.’

Black salmon went in the river and Honne traveled on.”

Soon Honne took a third salmon from another crane:

“Then Honne built another fire and cooked the salmon which he ate and as before he took the backbone and said to it ‘Your name is Skawitz, silverside salmon. This is as far as you will come up the river, and you will work in the creeks and never in the river. When you are thru you will go back again to the ocean and become young again.’ Skawitz said ‘How will I work?’

Riffles of the Chehlis River.

Riffles of the Chehlis River.

Honne said ‘You will lay eggs and cover them on the gravel.’

The fish asked ‘Will any place do?’

Honne answered ‘No, you must put them on a riffle because there are many other fish who will eat them.’

Silverside said ‘But won’t the other fish eat them on the riffle?’ ‘No.’ Honne said, ‘because the other fish do not work on the riffles. They work up and down the river but they do not stay on the riffles.’

‘Won’t the eggs float downstream?’ asked the fish. ‘No.’ said Honne, ‘because grandmother* will take care of the eggs.’ (*Grandmother is a small creature who is supposed to hold the eggs between the rocks.)

Elk Creek.

Elk Creek.

Silverside could not understand how it was done so Honne got down on the gravel and dove under the water on the riffle. He kicked the gravel with his feet; each time that he kicked he dropped two or three eggs off his hands and as he laid the eggs he sang,

“Under the gravel,
Under the sand,
You lay, and
Grandmother will take care of you.’

The eggs went under the gravel and lay there. They were to lie there so many days before they would become fish. And Honne told the eggs that they must not leave the fish until they were able to swim. He told them that when the fish grew up they must come each year to the same place. After they were hatched they must go up the creeks and stay one year. In the spring of the year they must go to the ocean but each year they must come back again. Those that go to the creeks for the first year are akalade, mountain trout. They are one year old, and from three to four inches in length. After three years they are large and are then bull trout. The fourth year they are salmon.

Walville Creek

Walville Creek

Silverside said ‘My feet will wear out if I kick the gravel as hard as that.’

Honne answered ‘They will grow so long that you will have to wear them out anyway. And when you go down to the ocean they will grow out again.’ This satisfied Silversides and he started down the river.”

Honne obtained the fourth salmon from yet another crane:

“He went further up the river and cooked the salmon which he carried with him. He ate it and then took the backbone and said to it ‘You will be Squawahee, steelhead salmon. You will always go further up the river than any of the other salmon, and you will have a longer life than the other fishes.’

The fish asked ‘What time of year will I come up the river?’ Honne told him that he would come up in the fall of the year and stay all winter and that he would spawn in the spring of the year. When the pheasant began to drum then it would be time for the steelhead to spawn.

Honne started down the river. The first creek he came to he fished. In it he caught silverside salmon, but no other kind. He told the little creek that hereafter it must give up the silverside salmon. ‘But,’ said the Creek ‘when the fish come up, will they come only here? If they do I will call for rain and it will raise the waters so that the salmon can not tell one creek from another.’

To which Honne said ‘I have told them when and where they are to hatch and that is the way they must do it.’

Honne went on to another creek and fished. There he caught silversides, blacksalmon, steelhead and chinook. He was satisfied and went on to another creek. In that he did not catch anything. He went to the head of the creek and asked it why it did not give him any of the fish. The creek answered that it did not like to give up the fish because they would be killed and eaten.

Honne said he would give the creek another chance so he took a dip net and fished. After some time he caught a silverside, and he said ‘That is all that will ever be in this creek.’ So he continued on. He came to a slough near the river at Choshed* meaning the star that fell (*Grand Mound) He sat down by the slough and gazed for a long time in the clear water.

Cut Throat Trout.

Cut Throat Trout.

After awhile he noticed a fish swimming in the water. He could not see what it was and tried to get closer but could not make it out. He then said to it ‘Come up I want to see you.’ The fish came up to Honne.

Honne said ‘Oh yes I know you now. I had forgotten. You will be the chief of the fish. Your name is Klahwhi, dog salmon. This is as far as you will go up the river. You will come up the river quickly and go back quickly. Your life will be short.’ And Honne gave the fish a striped blanket, which was made of cedar bark and dyed with alder. That is the coat of colors which the fish still wears.”

How The Sun Was Stolen: A Chehalis Legend

Once upon a time, there lived a chief who kept the sun in a box. When his daughter went to gather berries, she carried the box along and opened it a little so that she was able to see. When she had filled her basket, she carried the box home to her father.

Blackberry harvest from our land.

Blackberry harvest from our land.

The people in other countries were very poor. They held a council in which they deliberated how they might obtain the sun. Finally they decided to send Kali-qoo to the chief to steal the sun.

Art by: http://ravenari.deviantart.com

Art by: http://ravenari.deviantart.com

When he reached the country, he assumed the shape of an old slave. The people found him and took him home to their chief. Blue Jay lived in the house of the latter. He said “Oh, that used to be my father’s slave. He lost him one day. His grandfather had been my father’s slave.” The people believed him and gave him to Blue Jay.

When the chief’s daughter went picking berries; they took him along to paddle the canoe. He was a very good oarsman, and Blue Jay said, “That is Tsi sti saatq, he was a very good oarsman.” And they believed him. When they were traveling along, the slave began to say “Tses, tses, tses.” The Blue Jay said to his brother Robin, “He always spoke so when he carried me about when I was a little boy.” But the Robin did not remember. And Blue Jay said, “Oh, you are good for nothing,. You are older than I am and you do not remember him.”

©2013 H a v e n

©2013 H a v e n

Finally they arrived at the berry patch and the girl opened the box a little. As soon as the sun appeared, the slave jumped up, seized the box and opened it. And it became daylight. He ran away and they were unable to catch him. The people almost killed Blue Jay because his lies had been the cause of their losing the sun.

Kali-qoo took the sun home to his chief, who gave it to the people saying, “Henceforth, we will all enjoy the sun and not one man alone shall have it.”

*re-printed from October 2009 Chehalis Tribe newsletter

The Story of the Flood: A Chehalis Legend

A long time ago, the animals and birds lived as people. Thrush wanted to marry a certain young girl, but her parents did not approve of him.

Thrush

Thrush

But the young girl, however, wished to marry him. The girl persisted and finally her parents gave their consent. Thrush and the young girl were married.

Thrush always had a dirty face; he never washed before he ate. His mother-in-law asked him “Why don’t you wash your face?” Thrush did not answer. The next morning she asked again “Why don’t you wash your face? It’s getting dirty.” Thrush once again did not reply. She asked him the same question for 5 days in a row.

Upper Chehalis River.

Upper Chehalis River.

Finally on the 5th day, Thrush said “If I wash my face, something will happen.” Nevertheless, his wife’s parents still insisted. Then they gave him an ultimatum. “If you don’t wash your face, we’ll take our daughter away from you.” So Thrush finally gave in, “All right then, I’ll wash my face”.

He went to the river to wash his face and sang, “Father-in-law, Mother-in-law, Keep moving back from the river.”

He washed his face. The dirt rolled off, leaving his face streaked all over. Then it began to rain. It rained all day.

Chehalis River from Pe Ell, WA.

Chehalis River from Pe Ell, WA.

Thrush told his in-laws, “Move back from the river. I washed my face as you asked.”

The river continued to rise. It rained many days and nights. Soon there were no places for the people to stand but in the water. The water rose and covered everything. There was no place for them to go. Many drifted away and were never seen again.

Thrush, his wife and his in-laws landed their canoe on this side of the land, in Upper Chehalis country. There was only the top of one tall fir tree sticking out of the water. And that is where the People tied their canoe.

They got together and planned what they should do next. They agreed that someone needed to dive in the water and see how deep it was. Muskrat dove into the water and came up with some dirt. He dove down into the water 5 times. Each time he brought up some dirt. From the dirt, he made a little mountain. He told the People to land there, that they would be safe. He told the People “This is the mountain that I have made for you so that you can be safe”. The People called that mountain Tiger Lily Mountain. It is known today as Black Mountain.

Mima Mounds, DNR archive photo.

Mima Mounds, DNR archive photo.

After the water receded and the earth dried up, the earth was found to be covered with dried whales (fossils). At Gate, not far from Mima Prairie, the earth still remains in the shape of the waves. It extends like this for 4 or 5 miles.

After the water subsided, the earth was just like new and the People could begin all over again. It was said “There shall never again be a person who will cause a flood when he washes his face.” Thrush turned into a bird and flew away.

*re-printed from the August 2010 Chehalis Tribe newsletter.