If you travel a mile south of McCleary and pass the intersection where the Mox-Chehalis Road East joins Mox-Chehalis Road, you will see no trace of the once promising community of Sine. Yet early in the 20th century this settlement counted 52 resident families and had a school with 85 students. Sine had a post office, grocery store, dance hall, and shingle mill. If not for Henry McCleary, it is possible this area would have been known as the home of the twin towns of Summit and Sine.
The Sine family left their home in Monongalia County, West Virginia (on the Pennsylvania border) in March, 1891. The trip to the new State of Washington required 10 train changes. Upon arrival they spent their first week with George Wade, a relative of Mrs. Sine, up the Wynochee. The final leg of the trip to what would later be known as Sine was made by oxen team.
The family consisted of Joseph Jackson Sine (1840-1917) who was known as Jackson, his wife Lydia (1847-1914), son George and daughter Ida. Jackson Sine had purchased the land from Hugh Byles. At that time what is now within McCleary city limits was home to three homesteads: Jake Anderson of Norway to the south, the Beck family of Denmark to the north, and the Mommsen family of Germany to the east. The embryonic village of Summit was a bit north, built around the railroad tracks. In those early days, as Ida would recall, "It was customary for them to carry an axe when visiting neighbors and when going to the woods for berries because there were no trails. A new trail was blazed on each trip." Charles DuBois in 1913 commented on the Sine area retrospectively, "At that time there was only a blazed trail to Summit and all was timber. Grouse were so thick they were often killed with stones."
According to Building a Town, "Mr. Sine furnished logs for the first sawmill run by a man named Hayes ... The sawmill at Sine cut timbers about 6 to 7 inches thick, and laid them for a road from Sine to the railroad at Summit. That road went through what is now the town of McCleary."
The same source tells us that stage drivers, "acted as official shoppers for the women along the road. They very oblingingly tried to buy and return with anything that was asked for." Ernie Teagle covered this topic as well, "They carried a shopping book, and bought everything from needles to dress goods. Farmers ordered seeds, or feed; the mill men would have them bring parts from the depot, or a half beef for the cook house. The stage was usually loaded, and if you went down with it in the morning, you needed to reserve a seat for the return trip. The horse drawn stages, going around the old road to Elma, required about five hours each way."
An important step in establishing the community took place in 1893, when residents built a school with lumber donated by Jackson Sine. The first class roster, according to the memory of daughter Ida over 60 years later: Jim and David Barrie, Ted, Edith and Arthur Elliot, Dale Craft, Iva and Maggie Murphy, Cora Bennett, John, Jim and Jose White, and Ida Sine. Sybil Simpson was the first teacher. The Sine School was open 3 to 6 months a year.
In 1894 Ida married Orris Isaac "Hod" Murray (1853-1941), who had come to the area from Wisconsin in 1889 and ran a stage line for a short time. Ida and Hod had ten children.
Sine's largest employer arrived in 1898. The shingle mill, owned by Mallory Brothers of Olympia, was purchased by A. Deming.
Sine appears to have escaped major damage from the big 1902 forest fire that wiped out Rayville and White Star, but "all three meals were cooked by lamp light and the chickens did not leave their roost," according to Ida Sine Murray.
The Feb. 11, 1905 Elma Chronicle reported, "O.I. Murray has moved in the dance hall at Deming's Mill. He intends keeping a store there, but will give a dance tonight." The July 15 issue had this cryptic news: "A dance at Sine to-night. Everybody come and have a good time, for this is the last one that will be given there."
Hod had also established a post office, officially known as Sine. Most sources agree on Feb. 11, 1905 as the date, but disagree on the identity of the first postmaster. Sometimes Hod has the distinction, sometimes it is Ida.
Unfortunately for Sine, a younger community to the north was developing at a much faster pace, as Henry McCleary acquired the Beck and Anderson homesteads. In the winter of 1906-07, the Deming Mill left Sine. In 1909 the Sine School closed as the district consolidated with McCleary. Historian Ernie Teagle gives Nov. 30, 1910 as the day the Sine Post Office closed.
Newspaperman Norman Porter wrote about the demise of the Sine Post Office: "The idea of having an official town name of McCleary naturally appealled to Henry-- and he began giving the matter some thought. The post office department in Washington reported that there were already enough post offices in this valley to cover the population. (There was, at that time, a post office at Rayville, three miles west of McCleary, too). So Henry called in Grandpa Craft, the Summit postmaster, and Hod Murray, the Sine postmaster, and offered a deal. (There was no need to call in the postmaster from Rayville-- the shingle mill has shut down and the post office had closed right between two days). Henry built a postoffice building, and postmaster's residence, about where the present city hall now sits. Grandpa Craft was to be the postmaster, and Hod was given a position with the rapidly expanding McCleary Mill company. In return, both postmasters wrote letters to Washington recommending that the two offices be consolidated in a single post office, to be named McCleary."
And with that, Sine faded into history. The Sine School became a chicken coop. Ida Murray kept Sine's history alive as one of the gatekeepers of McCleary area lore. She lived long enough to help dedicate the new McCleary Post Office in 1962. Her son Herb, and his wife Helen were very active in starting the McCleary Museum and contributed many of the primary source documents we have about Sine.
In the late 1990s the Sine area became a political issue when the McCleary City Council annexed 200 acres which was marked for development by the giant Oakwood Homes corporation. In a highly unusual move, yet typical of the independent streak of McCleary residents, Jim Jarvis led the effort to have the 200 acres de-annexed through petition and public vote. This was apparently the first time Oakwood encountered a democracy at work, and they didn't know how to respond. But that chapter can wait for a future historian.