The City of Pacific's roots are linked to the rivers that flow through the fertile valley of south King County and northern Pierce County.
The first pioneers arrived in the White River Valley around the mid-1800s. By 1878, hops had become a major crop in the City of Pacific and throughout King and Pierce Counties. This was short-lived, however. A disastrous epidemic of hop lice, augmented by the depression of the 1890s and the American Panic of 1893, brought an end to hop farming. Farmers turned to dairies, berries, vegetables, and bulbs.
Railroads Bring Change
With the advent of the railroad, a huge migration of immigrants brought an economic boom. Swiss, Dutch, German, Swedish, and Japanese people came to the valley to work on the farms and the growing factories.
The railroad was a key factor in the early growth of Pacific. Construction began on the Interurban Railway running from Seattle to Tacoma. In 1902, still under construction, it was sold to another company becoming the Seattle Electric Company and later the Puget Sound Electric Railway.
The Railway opened September 25, 1902. It ran from Georgetown in south Seattle to downtown Tacoma--passing through the White River Valley and the towns of Renton, Kent, Auburn, and Pacific. The extremely successful system operated on a one-way fare of 60 cents, one dollar for round trip. Eighty percent of the income came from passenger fares and twenty percent from freight fees. Five years after opening, the railway showed a profit of $184, 000. However, by 1920, hard-surfaced roads were developed. Auto, truck and bus service took off, and the Interurban made its last run in 1928.
Yearly flooding threatened the peace of early valley inhabitants. The White River flowed north through Auburn while the Stuck River flowed south and joined the Puyallup River at Sumner. Worry over crop loss plagued farmers in the valley. Farmers often directed water from the White River into the Stuck River by creating logjams, which created conflict between the two valleys' residents. In 1906, the conflict came to a head. (Image to the right: Hillman's Land Sales)
That year, as the White River was diverted into the Stuck River, the flooding in Puyallup and Sumner was disastrous. A concrete division dam built on the site of the more natural logjam in the White River was constructed in 1913. However, the annual threat of floods did not disappear completely. Two major floods in the 1930s threatened to overpower the dam and invade the valley. (Image to the right: Original City Hall)
The Mud Mountain Dam completed in 1950 and the Howard Harness Dam at Eagle Gorge in 1962 bought an end to the flooding that had threatened farmers for more than 100 years.
The Founding of a City
Clarence Dayton Hillman, an early land developer from California, founded Pacific City. Pacific City was platted into two town lots and advertised as "an addition to Seattle." Hillman chose the name of Pacific to reflect its meaning-peaceful. He wanted to promote Pacific as both a peaceful, rural setting and a logical growth area for Seattle.
Hillman and his wife, Bessie Olive, platted "Division No.1" on August 10, 1906. Hillman's real estate office was in a building on the west side of town. Earlier that year H.T. Bredes and his wife, Ella M. platted "Division No. 2." Pacific City was incorporated on August 10, 1909.
During 1906, school was held in the upstairs room of Hillman's real estate office. The first teacher was Mr. Bagley. In 1907, the children crossed the tracks and attended school at the Whisler Family home. About 1908, the Methodist church was built so classes were taught there. Later, two buildings were used for the school.
These were located behind the present day school gym, and served only grades 1 through 8. Eventually, a three story schoolhouse was built and the ninth and tenth grades were added. The two buildings were then moved to the west end of town. One building was made into a roller-skating rink, and the other converted into a grocery and feed store.
In the early days, the city was centered around the vicinity of Third Avenue and what is now known as the West Valley Highway. (Image to the right: Campbell's Service Station)
Arnold's Hotel, Cook's Grocery, a barbershop, Luthburrow's Bakery, a blacksmith shop and livery barn, Cox's Store, later known as Waddell's Store were early business establishments. A Baptist church, sawmill, roller-skating rink, grocery-feed store, and a saloon also were established in these early years. Babe Weaver bought the grocery-feed store and added a post office were he served as postmaster.
In 1919, the community built Pacific City Electric Light System. As the area grew, the system became inadequate and the utility was eventually sold to Puget Power. (Image to the right: Present City Hall)
By 1929, Pacific's population was estimated at 632. Many of the early business had disappeared due to fire and the demise of the railroad. New businesses opened to replace those that had gone.
Gius Market, which opened in the spring of 1934, is still operating today under new ownership. The original market was located "kitty-corner" from its present location. Dick Gius, who also acquired the post office, was the original owner of the store. He leased the building, but the owners would not renew his lease. Gius decided to purchase the property across the street and move his store there. Gius's father, a retired carpenter, built the new store in less than one month.
In 1936, the Gius Market moved to its new location. The Gius building has been added to seven times. In 1978, Ron and Barb Gius bought the business, which is now in its fourth generation of family management.
Another family business in Pacific was the Campbell Service Station. Owen Campbell purchased the gas station in 1934.
Earlier, it had been a confectionery and lunch counter run by Mrs. Heppel. At the time the Cambells bought the station, Mr. Campbell worked for Todd Shipyard in Tacoma. Mrs. Campbell and their two small children tended to the store while Mr. Campbell worked.
Eventually, Mr. Campbell was able to work full time at the station. They expanded the business and sold it to the Dunigan's in 1973, who in turn sold it to Don Small who converted it to a restaurant and added the post office. The restaurant closed in 1988 and Melissa Small continued to run the post office until Glenda White bought the property and the contract to operate the post office in 1992.
The business is presently named "The Union Station Gift & Collectibles" and continues to be owned and operated by Glenda White.
Development Brings Change
The installation of sewage systems throughout the valley hastened conversion of farmland to industrial uses in the 1970s. Land became more valuable, with resulting increased taxes. Farmers were unable to grow and sell enough crops to pay these assessments and found it hard to compete for the business of major supermarkets. Most of the small businesses that once served Pacific are gone, as are most of the truck farms in the immediate area.
The desire to retain a small town atmosphere of friendliness and independence still remains. The Pacific Community Center, established in the 1970s, became a local network that helps residents in need. the newly organized Kiwanis Club of Algona-Pacific, and the success of annual community events attest to the community pride of Pacific's residents.