Wesley C. Engstrom
There was once a large center of activity in the Swauk Basin of upper Kittitas County. The place is called Liberty. Liberty was once the most action packed place in Kittitas County. At least it was for a while after gold was discovered in Swauk Creek. Like many gold camps the place boomed and ebbed over the years. Unlike some other places it never quite went completely bust. It came close, and fortunately for some it didn’t. It still exists today as a living ghost town.
The Liberty story has been told before in various ways. This telling of the story revolves around the end of Liberty’s role as an active mining community and its close call with complete destruction. It is about four Nicholson brothers and their store, the last post office in Liberty, and the people who later saved the mining camp as a historic site to show the next generation what came before.
My thanks to Fred Krueger for preserving Liberty history in the form of oral interviews of old time miners and for his encouragement to write history in my own way. That is, to simply preserve history, not to rewrite it. Thanks also to Pattie Nicholson, Robert Nicholson’s wife, and Warren Leyde, Freida Nicholson’s nephew, for graciously sharing family documents and pictures that made this story possible.
Carol Steinhauer, a long-time resident of Bothell, Washington, is a devoted student of family history. This book gives the Madash family history as they immigrated from Slovakia to Roslyn Washington. Previously she has written Frontiersmen, Settlers, and Rustlers: the Pease Story (2014) about her maternal grandfather’s family. It is archived in the Ellensburg Library and the University of Washington Library (Pacific Northwest Special Collection). She lives with Loren Steinhauer, her husband of forty-eight years. They have two sons, two daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren. Besides family history, her interests are gardening and reading.
Wesley C. Engstrom and Mary Lou Dills
In 1882 Jesse James Evans and his family were one of the last pioneers to follow the Oregon trail by Wagon, pulled by mules, intending to settle in the Puget Sound area. Instead they ended up joining a half-dozen or so early settlers on Swauk Prairie in Kittitas County. They sent word back to Missouri to neighbors and relatives and eventually most of the early settlers on Swauk Prairie were connected in some way to the Evans.
This book was written because an Evans family historian, Mary Lou Dills, and a local Swauk historian, Wesley Engstrom, just happened to meet one day and decided that, by combining resources, a bit of local history could be preserved.
The result of that joint effort was a book that describes what conditions were like when settlers first arrived on Swauk Prairie. Who the people were, what the towns looked like, who claimed the land, where the schools and churches were built, where the dead were buried and, lastly, what the family stories were of those in the southwest corner of the Swauk Cemetery where Mary Malinda Evans and her unborn child were buried in June of 1884.
The Swauk Cemetery is a community heirloom. It started without any formal organization or plan, just a place where neighbors buried their dead. Now, to comply with state law, there is a non-profit corporation to administer its affairs. It is still a non-endowed cemetery without a fund for its perpetual care where the descendants of those buried there are expect-ed to take care of the graves.
Swauk Cemetery is a place of serenity and beauty befitting of the hardy pioneers resting there.
Wesley C. Engstrom
This book presents the history of a school in a mining camp of the late 1800's with emphasis on preserving names of early pioneers involved in creating the school. To put the school itself in proper perspective the history of the development of the gold mines is included as well as the history of Liberty, Washington.