Lost? or Disappeared? Unravelling the Veazie Mystery

The other day I looked up an article on my blog and noticed my tag line – Adventures in Serendipity

See it up there? Got to say this applies to the hunt for the Veazie Logging Camp. How what had become impossible was solved through a bit of luck.

Let us get down to this search for what was lost. What is the first thing one would do? I usually gather my clues. The more clues, facts and maps I gather the better are the odds of finding that sliver of lost history.

In my prior article, The Many Faces of Veazie, I discussed where Veazie was located over the years. However, I was not very satisfied in how the maps skipped over this lost Logging Camp. This is the first Veazie where the post office was in the early 1890s. What is up with that?

The only map that helped was from 1894. The old camp was gone or about to be deserted by that time. On this map the clues have it between the railroad, coal creek and the road heading north. We debated this clue but could never be sure it was the first site or the next face of Veazie.

1894 Anderson Map – Veazie location next to the NPRR

Time to move on and use other resources like the clues in the photo and boots on the ground. Plus some serious organization of a huge amount of data.

We decided the place to start was with the only known photo. We bounced around these bunch of clues over and over from our lone 1890s photo. Warning – as you read these clues below the rabbit hole will open and threaten to swallow you.

  • Biggest elephant in the room was the railroad track behind the line of horses and people. Look close between the two buildings flanking the sides of the crowd. There she is – the NPRR slightly elevated track.
Red Arrows point to the Northern Pacific Railroad Track Clue
  • Was this picture facing east or west? Since the NPRR track in the area of Veazie runs pretty much north to south we have to ask ourselves is that glow in the trees the morning sun or the setting sun?
See the glow thru the trees clue? Facing East or West?
  • Next, see on the other side of the rail the berm of earth pushed up?
The berm in the background
  • The fourth clue is the pile of debris in the foreground of the photo. There should be an old dump or parts and pieces of a dump in the woods.
Trash pile – did they clean up before they left?
  • Also across the track there are barns and old buildings. I count at least 6 structures that must have left some trace of their existence.
Six Buildings sat beside the railroad
  • As time passed and our search went on & on without finding anything we looked closer and closer at the photo for clues. Bang… a new one came when my friend pointed out a telegraph line running across the photo in front of the closest buildings. OMG we got excited cause that was a big new clue.
Can you see it? Three Wires stretched along the Railroad and thru the Camp.

Lot of good stuff you say and what is your problem Robin? Did you lose your mojo? Have to say we struggled with that mojo thing and at times kind of lost our minds over this lost camp.

Let’s get down too it and go through the list one by one.

The railroad is super easy to find. She lays abandoned. Well nearly abandoned since it has been used for railcar storage in the past couple of years. However, the whole time we searched there was never any train activity on this original main line between the Midwest/East and Tacoma.

Old NPRR track in Veazie Area – looking north from 392nd Street SE crossing

The clue of the raised railroad bed should eliminate a lot of places. We debated how raised it was. It must be between 3 to 5 feet at its highest point using the photo’s perspective and the height of the men and horses.

About this time it was getting very confusing on where and what we had. So, I got methodical and marked the track off in apx 100 foot increments. Then I took a video walking down the track and also took still photos in each section. All that I organized into excel workbooks along with notes on clues we had found. Told you I got a bit crazy and went down a rabbit hole. But what is a girl to do if she can’t find something?

Below is a slide show of a few examples of this detailed data gathering. Remember we are looking for raised railroad bed of about 5 feet and a raised berm across from that. That should narrow the options.

I did this analysis in three sections. First was 392nd north to the Coal Creek Bridge, next was from the other side of the Coal Creek Bridge to 384th and last was north of 384th towards where an old spur used to exist.

Before we get to far along I want share one of the three videos I took noting all the 100 foot markers and interesting things along the way.

Speaking of the Coal Creek Bridge. Yikes that place scared the crap out of me. I was walking the railroad and decided I wanted to get to the Veazie Abandoned Station location without driving around. So, I figured no brainer, I will walk across the bridge.

This little video showing the rushing creek under the bridge. Right after I shot this I walked over and realized that those beams are open and I was only one slippery step away from falling. Not a good thought to have running around your head in the middle of nowhere.

Even after all that work we were finding only dead-ends. We had broadened our search range and I carefully documented every foot of the track. We kicked around in the brush avoiding ant hills and blackberry bushes. The search for any clue of those buildings and the trash heap went on for weeks for naught.

Frustration set in as we kept coming up empty handed. In the past we found old places and felt the victory of winning. Not this time. Defeat surround us.

That was when we noticed the telegraph lines in the photo. Eureka! We all shouted and knew we had a solid clue. That clue had been right there on the NPRR maps all along. They had clearly marked Sunset Telephone/Telegraph on the west side of the railroad.

I dug into my research files around Enumclaw history, there I found a rough map of this phone company. Check it out below with township lines and added the sections next to some of the names added in color. Veazie is around the center of this map.

Here is a close up look at how it is labeled on the NPRR maps. These telephone lines went for miles and miles along the NPRR from just south of the Veazie School north to the Palmer Kanaskat Junction.

Sunset Telephone & Telegraph about 20 feet from railroad tracks

This solved the question of the glow. The photo must have been taken facing east on the west side of the track with the Sunset telephone lines between the photographer and the track. That means the sun is a morning sun in the eastern sky.

With that clue in mind we searched several places. First we looked across the track from where the Veazie Abandoned Station and the original road ran parallel to the railroad on the west side. Next was along a spur that was just north of 392nd and east of the old Veazie School. Rounding out the list we looked around both sides of the coal creek bridge too. Still we continued to come up short with empty hands.

One day when I popped out of the brush, I meet a gentleman looking at a car for sale beside the road. He had heard from a friend that the bars and whorehouse for Veazie used to be north towards Cumberland. As I drove home I stopped where he directed me and talked to a family there. They talked about coal in the area. So did coal bring the bars or the logging camp?

At home I looked at my old coal mine maps and found there was an old spur off the railroad headed right towards that bar area. That led us to investigating the NPRR railroad’s northly section. We gave it the same detailed inspection as the other areas with 100 foot markers and a lot of photos/video.

Here is that northern search area with the hundred foot markers noted. The bars and whorehouse would be close to the upper left corner slightly off the map. In the end this was a bust too.

NPRR map of section north of 384th Street SE – note Veazey mis-spelled see Multi faces of Veazie article for more info on that.

This next photo shows how the earth still is raised where the spur went off to the northwest.

Were we at the final dead end. Was the very first Veazie to be lost forever?

In one last desperate move, I decided I would ask the Washington Historical Society if there was more info on the photo. All we had was “General View of Village and Horses – Veazie & Russell’s Camp, Enumclaw, Wash.” My hope was they had a clue such as notes on the back.

Remember Serendipity? The response I got was beyond my wildest dreams. The answer started out with no they had nothing else on the photos and I went oh well in my head. But the response did not stop there. They had gone a step further and found the original Post Office Application for Veazie, WA in May of 1890. That document was attached in the email response.

I opened it and found an old document filed by John Russell, the first postmaster and the half owner of Veazie & Russell Logging. It had a very detailed description of where the post office would be. Basically it said it was south of the Coal Creek Railroad Bridge.

US Post Office Veazie Application 1890

Over the Moon describes how we felt at that moment.

In the next couple of days we were on site and the pieces fell into place. The measurements on the application were a bit off but we succeeded in finding the very First Veazie. That one moment of asking for help yielded the ultimate clue.

We had actually walked right over the site. There is nothing left there. The years had not been kind to preserving any relics or clues. Without this clue we would have never known where the town was.

I had surmised weeks earlier (while in despair) that the NPRR had graded and pushed the land around when they removed all the spurs and sidings. Coupled with the building of the pipeline, in the 1920s west of the railroad, the landscape of the area was drastically changed. I was right the town/logging camp had been obliterated. That is except a little bit of Serendipity.

Here you go, a peek at the First Veazie. It was here right next to the railroad in the photo below. Nothing left but the whispers in the trees and an old photo in a museum.

Veazie Logging Camp – long gone next to the railroad

This is the fourth chapter on my Veazie findings. (links to the prior three are – The Elusive Veazie, Which was first? Veazie or the Railroad? and Many Faces of Veazie. Like my other series, I will develop a directory of articles. Should have enough to do that soon.

Remember Times are a changing.  Blink and all will be changed. Literally, a town can disappear into the fog.

Foggy place of lost dreams next to the Veazie Gravel Pit and NPRR on 392nd SE.

4 comments

  1. Thank you!!! It was/is a labor of love for sure. What a great mix of going to a new place, hiking, learning about railroads and sparking my historical researching bug.

    There are about 3 to 5 more articles to come on this little spot in the Northwest. What is funny is the next one is on the Powder House I found. Spent some time yesterday researching the history of explosives and trying to find more on the two quarries there at Veazie.

    Keep up the good work yourself!

  2. Wow what an adventure. Some serious hard work and determination. A melancholic reminder of the indifference with which the sands of time shift and cover peoples’ lives through the ages. Thank you for sharing this story.

    • I do love a good puzzle but to find the history so erased only shows that we only value the moment. That shows in a lot of things including how we have lack of respect for facts plus our political and personal relationships.

      This lost history phenomena is not just old 100 year old towns and camps, I recently found that my old High School also lost it’s history thread. What I think I learned from that investigation on Tyee Totem Mascots was that it only takes one big disruption in the passing of the baton and boom the facts are gone. A very fragile thing our stories are.

      History is a collective agreement to honor and retain our story. When that agreement becomes lost then we become lost ourselves.

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