Commentary by Bill Moeller: the story of a local town that has now disappeared

By Bill Moeller / For The Chronicle

One thing that has interested me in the 60 years or so since moving to Lewis County is the number of small communities that thrived for a while and then disappeared, many – if not most – without even a road sign to let you know they existed.

Harmony, Vail and Kopiah are three examples in Lewis County. Tono used to have such a sign, but it wasn’t visible the last time I passed by its location.

Tucked away in the southwest corner of Thurston County, there was once a thriving town that was served by not one but two rail lines, each with its own depot.

The city was Gate City and at one time it was considered the gateway to the coast. The name was later simplified to “Gate”.

It had all the amenities of a big city: a dance hall that was also a roller skating rink, an opera house, of course a baseball field, and all the restaurants and grocery stores needed to live comfortably.

The Black River flowed through the city on its way from Black Lake to the Chehalis River. The salmon tracks were so thick that a homemade spear was all that was needed for a winter’s meat supply.

Today, the only structure that remains in the city is a school maintained by local residents who refuse to let the city die completely.

I chose Gate as an example of this kind of story because I remember – when we Moellers were newcomers – a gentleman from Gate (and I can’t remember his name) wrote a column. weekly in the same newspaper. , keeping us informed of its events.

There is an interesting book about the city called “Glimpses of Gate” with over 200 pages of memories and memories of the locals, with old photographs on most of the pages. It was developed by Judith Upton, with assistance from Karyl Groeneveld, and was released in 2003.

While I bought my first copy from the Lewis County Historical Museum, it is now out of print.

But don’t be distressed – the Timberland Library has at least five copies still listed as in stock. I enjoyed reading it again. Almost every page is a reminiscence of what it was like to live there at the time.

Why did he disappear?

It would be easy to say that since it was a logging town and all the trees had been cut down, it was time for the loggers to move on. City leaders had also hoped that a proposed north-south rail line, in addition to the existing two, would pass through their city, but that line instead passed through Bucoda.

The land in the area was owned by logging companies, which was no longer useful once the trees were cut, and it was sold for a few dollars an acre.

And, subsequently, as most of the land in the region was now used for agriculture, there was no more work for many inhabitants.

Businesses that were near or next to the two train stations slowly failed as the population dwindled.

The schools were closed and the children then went to school in Rochester.

The road to the ocean became US Highway 12 and a new invention called “automobiles” became an easier way to get from point “A” to point “B” than trains, which was the last blow. hard for a regular service of this nature.

And, one by one, the buildings that had been used for shopping and entertainment became vacant until none remained, in what had once been a thriving community was a one-class school.

But the story doesn’t quite end there. Hope to have more soon.

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Bill Moeller is a former artist, mayor, bookstore owner, city councilor, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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