Key Peninsula Historical Society & Museum

Elgin-Minter

Minter Creek estuary, looking south toward the bay. Photo: Joseph Pentheroudakis

minter mapFor more than 1,400 years, the land near the spit at present-day Wauna and on the shores of Minter Bay were home to the S’Hotlemamish, (sx̌əƛəbabš in the modern spelling for South Lushootseed, the language spoken by the Native people of south Puget Sound.) There they fished, clammed, gathered and hunted the bounty of the peninsula. As archaeologist Lynn Larson has described it,

For the S’Hotlemamish, the Native people in what we now know as Minter Bay, the coho, chum and cutthroat trout runs were so productive that the villagers were thought to have a magic seine. Woven from cedar limbs, the seine was always full.

(“The Magic Seine of the Minter Bay People,” Key Peninsula News, August 2020)

The S’Hotlemamish were related with strong social and family ties to many other Native people in South Sound, from the Squaxin in North Bay (Case Inlet) to the villages in Burley, Glen Cove and as far as Puyallup.

Survey plats drawn up by the first U.S. surveyors in the late 1850s show a network of trails connecting Minter Creek and North Bay across the upper third of the Key Peninsula (see “The Little-Known Story of Elgin-Clifton Road,” Key Peninsula News, December 2023).

Native trails were documented on the 1856 and 1857 U.S. government surveys at the north end of the peninsula. Adapted from General Land Office survey plats at the Bureau of Land Management.

 

The 1854 Medicine Creek Treaty assigned the S’Hotlemamish to the Squaxin Island Reservation, their land on the peninsula coming under the control of the United States. Starting in the 1860s the heavily forested peninsula attracted logging entrepreneurs who could buy large tracts at $1.25 an acre and harvest their valuable timber. In 1878 Congress would set the price of timberland to $2.50 an acre, in 160-acre blocks.

The Minter Bay people gradually dispersed, and in 1874 new owners of the land burned down the S’Hotlemamish longhouse at Minter.

Once cleared, the treeless land on the bay was often sold to settlers who planned to farm it and make it their home. The first documented settlers were George and Lucinda Minter and their three children, Minnie, William and Mary. George Minter, a farmer, moved with his son William from Nebraska to Washington Territory in the spring of 1881; the rest of the family followed later that year or early in 1882.

In Washington the Minters first settled on land around Horseshoe Lake, where George filed a preemption claim for 160 acres in 1884. The Preemption Act of 1841 allowed settlers who had been living on public land for a minimum of 14 months to buy a maximum of 160 acres for $1.25 an acre before the land was made available to the public.

The patent (title) to George Minter’s claim was not issued until 1888, but by that time the family, disappointed with the deep forest and lack of food at Horseshoe Lake,  had moved to the mouth of the bay that would bear their name, where they bought a 127-acre tract for $300. The land had been cleared by its previous owner, Olympia-based timber entrepreneur William Pix. The sale was recorded in November 1885.

Lucinda and George Minter’s property in 1915. The tract they bought from William Pix in 1885 is outlined in red. Additional land they acquired later is outlined in blue. Adapted from 1915 Kroll Atlas of Pierce County, Northwest Room, Tacoma Public Library

Gradually a community grew. A steamer dock was built on Henderson Bay, and in 1885 a post office was established with Lucinda Minter as postmaster. Lucinda also began a school at home.

In 1887 George Minter, Patrick Westmoreland (the first homesteader on Minter Creek) and others petitioned the county for a road from the Kitsap County line to “the boat landing at Minter.” Known until the 1980s as Kitsap Minter Road, that is today’s 118th Avenue NW. 

In 1887 the county approved a petition by George Minter and others for a road from the Kitsap County line to Minter. That is today’s 118th Avenue NW. Washington State Archives, Records of Pierce County Commissioners.

Lucinda had owned and operated a hotel in Nebraska, so by 1890 the Minters had built a hotel in their new community. A  steam-powered shingle mill is recorded in Minter in 1890, with a daily processing capacity of 40,000 board feet. The small village is also said to have included a saloon, a blacksmith shop and a brick kiln.

In 1888 the Minters platted the Town of Minter on three acres on Henderson Bay, the first plat recorded on the Key Peninsula. The venture was not successful, however, and the plat was dissolved in 1898; the land reverted to the Minters.

In 1892, under postmaster William Kernodle, the Minter post office was renamed to Elgin and moved a mile to the north, near the mouth of Minter Creek in the vicinity of today’s state salmon hatchery. The name Elgin came to designate that community for several decades; by 1905 there was an Elgin school and a  store, operated by Fred S. Smythe whose wife Cora would serve as postmaster from 1914 to 1936.

In 1903 the newly created Rainier Logging Company built a logging railroad and began operations along Minter Creek; the logging camp was near the intersection of today’s 118th Avenue NW and 144th Street NW (commonly known as Powerline Road). Logs were loaded onto the railroad cars and dumped into Minter Bay; there they would be assembled in booms and towed to a sawmill. The company operated there until around 1922.

In 1932 the Secor family started an oyster farm on the west side of the bay (today’s Minterbrook) and in 1935 the state built a fish hatchery at the mouth of Minter Creek with support from the Works Progress Administration.

In 1936 the Elgin store and post office closed, with mail redirected to Wauna. 

1953 topographic map showing the location of the state fish hatchery and biological station. The map also shows the remains of the Rainier Logging Company’s railroad trestles in the bay near the mouth of the creek. U.S. Geological Survey

Today the name Elgin is all but forgotten, surviving only in the name of Elgin-Clifton Road, built in the early 1920s between Elgin and present-day Belfair, then known as Clifton.  The name Minter is used for the large area on the shores of the bay and along Minter Creek.

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