Archive for the ‘History’ Category

The Great Forks Fire

September 19th, 2011 by contributor

newspaper article

Sixty years ago today a few hot spots remained from a forest fire near Camp Creek.  On September 20, 1951, the humidity dropped and a strong east wind gave life to those remaining embers.  Around 3:00 am on September 20, 1951 a forest fire began its devastating journey down the Calawah River Valley and the citizens of Forks awoke to a rapidly moving fire, headed right for them.  The fire burned 38,000 acres overnight and traveled 18 miles in less than 8 hours, and a desperate effort to save the town began.

Marge Walhgren, a mother of 2 small children, had learned from her mother that there was a forest fire burning.  She recalls going outside that morning and the eeriness of the dark sky during daylight hours.  She says she thought it was raining at first and then she realized it was not rain hitting her face, it was bits of bark, ash and needles falling like rain.  Preparing for possible evacuation she washed diapers and set out her “valuables” to take, her silverware, on the dining room table.  At around 2:15 that afternoon the State Patrol ordered evacuation of women and children.  Volunteers coming in to help fight the fire reported a steady stream of evacuees throughout the day but those remaining had about 15 minutes to pack up and leave before the highway to Port Angeles was cut off.  Wahlgren grabbed the children and the diapers but in the rush totally forgot about her “valuables” her silverware.  Walhgren’s father had just completed building a 40 ft fishing trawler, it sat a block off of main street, he and Walhlgren’s husband Richard stayed behind to save what they could, mainly the trawler.  Walhgren made it to Port Angeles and she remembers the most frustrating thing was trying to get information about what was happening in Forks.  There were rumors that “there was nothing left” “the town is gone”.

When the fire had burned to where Ron’s Food Mart is today, it looked like a losing battle, one witness said houses were exploding like matches.  Then sometime after 6 pm, a southwest breeze sprang up, in a matter of minutes the fire rolled back on itself.  While the danger was not over the town was spared.  Around 38 structures were lost but there was no loss of life. After the fire a state forestry supervisor said, “The saving of Forks was a miracle, made up of hard work, guts and luck.”

Images of America “Forks”

August 18th, 2011 by brad


The Forks Timber Museum is home to local artifacts, displays and a fantastic collection of  photos.  Many of these photos have been compiled in to an Images Of America series book.  From the arrival of the Ford family in 1878 to the arrival of Twilight fans more recently, the story of our hardy little community is told in photos and captions.  Early settlers endured the elements and isolation and many of their descendants still call Forks home.  The book is available at Forks True Value and Chinook Pharmacy and many other Forks businesses.
The book can be purchased and shipped from Chinook Pharmacy, call them at 360-374-5030 for details.

Hops History

May 25th, 2011 by contributor

The first Settler’s to the Forks prairie in the late 1800’s didn’t come for logging, they were mostly farmers. Hay, oats, grain, and vegetables grew well on the prairie, and hops were a major crop.


But selling products beyond the prairie was a challenge. The nearest market in the 1870s was 100 miles away in Port Townsend, and in the 1890s was 60 miles away in Port Angeles. Hops regularly rotted awaiting transport.

Hop growing was in decline by the early 1900’s. The Merrill Whittier hop house, was located near our Town’s current only stoplight, became the site of all-night dances, people coming from miles around and staying until they could travel by daylight to their homesteads.

About twenty years ago I received a start from the original hops plants that still grow wild near the Forks Airport. Every spring when it begins to grow again it reminds me of the hardy individuals who first made Forks their home.

Lady of the Lake

May 13th, 2011 by contributor

One of my favorite Forks Chamber web cams to check in on is the O.N.P. camera located at Lake Crescent. From 1937-1940 these deep cold waters harbored the mystery of a missing woman’s whereabouts.hallielathamillingworth

The woman, Hallie Illingworth, had disappeared and her husband claimed she had left him, but dental records identified her body when after three years it returned to the surface of the Lake.

Lake Crescent’s icy waters had turned Illingworth’s body to soap. Her husband went to trial and was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life, but was later paroled, leaving Illingworth to forever be known as “The Lady of the Lake.”


Tillicum Park’s 10-Spot 50th Anniversary

June 17th, 2010 by contributor

lima_locoThe 4th of July marks the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Rayonier 10-spot to the City of Forks.

The 10-spot was built by the Lima Locomotive works around 1930. From Ohio, she was sent to Milwaukee’s Seattle Round House. There she sat, no one interested in paying the $27,500 asking price.

The 10-spot had limited sales appeal. Designed in the Pacific Coast pattern for the western logging trade, she had piston valve instead of slide valve cylinders. This was beneficial when the locomotive was put in service on the undulant forest roadbeds. Flexibility was what was needed and the 10-spot had it.

As she sat rusting and waiting for a buyer she was cannibalized for parts for her sister engines in the Northwest woods. Throughout the nine years she waited for a buyer the Lima Corporation became concerned they would never sell the locomotive.

In 1940, she was finally purchased by the Ozette Timber Company for $21,000, a give-away price according to Lima officials. For the Ozette Company she performed faithfully. Train crews said she road the ties almost as often as she rode the rails. The 10-spot was sturdy, she always got where her engineer, my Grandfather Ralph Pedersen, headed her.

In 1955, Rayonier purchased the Shay from Ozette Timber. It was just a short time and the diesel truck put an end to the 10-spot’s forest hauling days. Scrap dealers were waiting in the wings but company officials refused to sell. Then some Forks residents negotiated a deal and the Shay came to where it sits today.

In 1998, the Shay got a makeover and a roof over thanks to the Department of Transportation, City of Forks, Lion’s Club and many local volunteers.

The Shay once again finds herself skirted by woodland ferns as a recent planting greets those that enter Tillicum Park. The 10-spot, sidetracked but not forgotten, a monument to the geared steam locomotive and our local logging history.


Forks High School 1925-2010

June 15th, 2010 by contributor

forks_high_resizeWell it has begun. The 1925 section of Forks High School has been fenced off and several maple trees and some shrubs have been removed and piled as the demolition begins to make way for the new Forks High School. The Spartan sign was carefully removed earlier in the day. I could not help but feel sad as I watched my very own Alma Mater soon to be no more. Plans for the new school include a grand entryway, using the historical facade of the 1925 building. “Hail to thee ole noble Forks High” those who walked your halls will always have their memories. And we will always “Hail the Blue and Gold!”




Fire! Truck

June 10th, 2010 by contributor

holabird1Earlier this week a few members of the Forks Volunteer Fire Department dusted off their 1939 Holabird Fire Truck for the annual Forks Elementary School 1st graders field trip. A ride around the block in this vintage vehicle is a tradition that is over 5o years old. The Holabird was acquired in the 1970’s from the Quinault Fire Department and restored by several Forks Fire Department members. The truck also makes an appearance in the Forks Old Fashioned Fourth of July Parade.

Online Museum Features Forks & West End

October 15th, 2009 by contributor

fall-meadow-in-olympic-national-park-photo-courtesy-of-olympic-national-parkThe Olympic Peninsula Community Museum never ceases to amaze us. This colorful photograph of beautiful fall foliage in the Olympics, which is part of the Olympic National Park Flora collection, is just one small example of what you’ll find there. The online museum is organized into fascinating exhibits — each representing a different aspect of our richly diverse West End culture and history. While there are just too many worthwhile exhibits to mention, we particularly enjoyed learning more about the Mountaineers’ 1920 Outing to Mt. Olympus (what hardcores!); Fannie Taylor, Postmistress of Mora; and the Great Forks Fire of 1951. The archived images of Hoh Tribe Baskets and Artifacts also caught our eye. And that’s barely scratching the surface of what’s available at this interesting resource!