This is the history of Midland, Washington. Its evidence is given to us through historical maps, photographs, and documents that are factual and truthful in content, gathered from reliable sources such as the Library of Congress, Washington State Archives, Bureau of Land Management, Puyallup Tribe of Indians, and Pierce County Auditor.

In 1888, Ezra Meeker was one of the wealthiest men in the territory, making a fortune growing hops in the Puyallup Valley and selling those hops to breweries around the world.  Hops grown in the Puyallup Valley during that time were considered the finest anywhere and would command the highest prices at market.

How Meeker and the other hop growers in the valley would get their hops to market was by rail.  The only company providing rail service in the valley was the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and people living in the valley were not happy with the service provided.  Thinking he could do better than the Northern Pacific Railroad, Ezra Meeker decided to build a railroad of his own.

Railroad Company is Formed

On March 23, 1888, the Puyallup Valley Railway Company is incorporated by Ezra Meeker, president, Levant Thompson, vice president, George W. McAllister, secretary, Charles Ross, Frank R. Spinning, Clearance O. Bean, and John V. Meeker as corporate officers.  The newly formed railroad company intends to build a railroad from Tacoma to Puyallup, thence to Sumner, using the most practical route possible, through the Puyallup Indian Reservation. [1]

Federal Government Grants Right-of-Way

The company petitions the federal government asking that a right-of-way be granted through the reservation, [2] and on July 26, 1888, during the First Session of the Fiftieth Congress, an Act of Congress entitled “An Act to grant to the Puyallup Valley Railway Company a right of way through the Puyallup Indian Reservation in Washington Territory, and for other purposes” is passed with provisions.  “The consent of the Puyallup Indians to the right of way must first be obtained before any rights to the act can be accrued by the company.” [3]

The Puyallup Indians will have six months to ask questions and find out everything they need to know about the right of way.  The agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs will then coordinate with the Puyallup Indian Tribe a date, time, and place on the Puyallup Indian Reservation where the Indians can vote to allow or refuse the right of way.

Over the next few months the Puyallup Valley Railway Company surveys the entire route from the town of Sumner, to the town of Puyallup, through the Puyallup Indian Reservation, to the city of Tacoma.  All of this at great expense to the railroad company, and before permission has been granted by the Puyallup Indians.

Charges of Bribery

On March 22, 1889, an investigation began after representatives of the Puyallup Valley Railway Company were caught bribing Indians with money for their votes to approve a right-of-way through the reservation.  Ezra Meeker told investigators that the Indians “misunderstood” what the money was for.

A representative of the company, George Dougherty, was asked where he got the money he gave to the Indians, and he answered, “From the company to give to them for their troubles.”  He admitted to giving 47 Indians money for their “troubles”, and promised them more money after they voted and the company was given the right-of-way.

Chief Tommy Lane testified that on several occasions he was offered “all the money he could ever ask for” by Mr. Dougherty if he would induce the Indians to approve the right-of-way.  On each occasion, Chief Tommy Lane refused. [4]

Meeker would make a statement that is published in the March 26, 1889 edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer  stating that a crime had been committed against the people of Puyallup.  He went as far to say that the agent from Bureau of Indian Affairs told him to give the Indians money. [5]

It was announced on March 29, 1889 that the Puyallup Indian Tribe had voted and will not grant the right of way to the Puyallup Valley Railway Company. [6]   Ezra Meeker would then file a lawsuit in Superior Court in an attempt to have the Indians land condemned as a right of way.  The case would be dismissed in July of 1891.

The failure to obtain permission from the Puyallup Indians to build a railroad through the Puyallup Indian Reservation did not deter Ezra Meeker from building a railroad from Puyallup to Tacoma.  It was the motivation behind forming the Tacoma and Puyallup Railroad Company and build the the railroad from Puyallup to Tacoma from a southeasterly direction.


Sources

  1. Articles of Incorporation; Puyallup Valley Railway Company; March 23, 1888
  2. Petition for Right of Way Through Indian Reservation, N. H. Owings, Secretary of Washington Territory; May 12,. 1888
  3. Chap. 718, An Act to grant to the Puyallup Valley Railway Company a right of way through the Puyallup Indian Reservation in Washington Territory, and for other purposes, First Session, Fiftieth Congress; July 26, 1888
  4. Wholesale Bribery of Puyallup Red Men, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 1, March 23, 1888
  5. Puyallup Bribery Case, Mr. Meeker Makes a Statement, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 2, March 26, 1889
  6. Reservation Right of Way Decided, Pullman Herald, page 1, March 29, 1889