The Brief Town of Sine, Washington

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.

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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.

Comments

The Brief Town of Sine, Washington

Hi,

Ida Murray was my grandmother. I always believed that she was the main postmaster of Sine.

Cheers,

Bert Murray

Ellicott City, Maryland

Hi Bert. Any info you have

Hi Bert. Any info you have to enhance this Sine article is most welcome! I was fortunate enough to get to know Herb a little bit in his last years. He was good friends with my father. It was a treat to listen to the two of them swap stories.

Town of Sine

Hi Steve, Sorry I took a year to reply, alot has been going on. Mom (Helen Murray) passed away this Jan. I do have a family Wade history (someplace in storage), that might have some additional on Sine. Also a remote relative with the name of Sine contacted me a few years ago. If I find her first name again, she might have more information. It might be noted that the little creek at the junction of East and West Mox Chehalis Road is officially Sine Creek. I hope most of the source information is in the McCleary Museum. Steve what is your Dad's name? I might know him. Cheers, Bert Murray

Bert

I was saddened to hear about Helen's death a few months ago. She was a gutsy woman who spoke her mind and got things done. If I'm not mistaken, she attended the dreaded, terrible and radical Evergroove State College when she was an older student, very brave for an Eastern Grays Harbor County person at that time. She had a lot to do with the formation and early development of the McCleary Museum, which is where I met her. Much of the info we have on Sine is due to her work.

My father's name was Bill (he died a year before Helen). He was one of the speakers at Herb's memorial. I have fond memories of watching the two of them attempt to outdo each other in the art of storytelling. Dad and Herb both had that West Virginia/Southwestern Virginia old timey mountain background, and it came through in the way they spun their narratives.

Herb was one of my favorite people ever here in McClearyville. A real sweet man who had a knack for making strangers feel at home. He was funny and kind. I'm sort of glad he isn't around right now for his own sake. Can you imagine what this good labor-oriented man of the woods who supported the normal working person would've made out of the current political condition of our country today? Herb was my kind of guy.

Helen and Herb

Later in life Mom did attend Evergreen, and did quit well.(She graduated in her 50's). She was also one of the driving forces that created the McCleary Museum.

I don't think I knew your Dad but his name sounds very familiar. I am sure I heard it thru my Dad.

You are absolutely right about Dad (Herb). He would be 92 next month, and would be very unhappy with today’s political climate, and the state of the timber industry. As a kid, I would listen for hours to his war and logging stories. He lived thru some amazing times (as many of the people of his generation, no doubt including your father). He started working in the woods at 14, “greasing skids” for steam donkeys, work for the CCCs, fought in the South Pacific (His dresser draw included several purple hearts), and live to see man land on the moon. As you know he was always active in helping the community (mainly thru the VFW), especially if someone was down on their luck.

Thank you for your kind words,

Bert

More info on Sine, please

I recently purchased a piece of property where the neighbors tell me the old Sine post office once stood. I have also heard that there is an old cemetary hidden across the street. Since I had never before heard of Sine and now live here, I would LOVE to learn more! I have put in a call to the McCleary Museum for more information and plan to visit this weekend, but can anyone out there give any more details? Thanks, Angela Wilder

Info on Sine

Hi Angela Where did you buy your property. Except for a my Dad's ashes spread where the Sine mill use to be (That would be on Smith's place) I don't think there is a cemetary that was part of the town of Sine. I might be able to find a old plan how the town was laid out, let me look for it. If there is still a log across the creek (That was the base of the dam for the mill) you might find some bricks, links of chain, and maybe even a saw blade. Not much else would be left. Who are your neighbors? Cheers, Bert Murray

Old Connections

Hello Bert, First off thanks for the update to the Sine history Stevenl pardon if I got the name incorrect. I am currently a life time member of the McCleary historical society not very active but always interested. But what caught my eye was a name I haven't heard since high school Bert Murray I was one of your classmates at good ol Elma high school. My Father (Forrest Beerbower) and yours as you noted were very active in VFW and the affiars othe the VFW of looking after fellow veterns and others in need. I too am saddened to here of your mother passing I remember a couple of visits at her/your home in her later years. I had purchased a piece of property back in 1979 just up Foreman Road ajoining the 58 acres Oakwood purchased. How about a little sour grapes, about a year or so before Oakwood purchased the property I was trying to buy that property from Port Blakley Tree farm but they were not interested in selling it I do not know why they just logged it. Anyway I have sold my property on Foreman Rd road a couple of year back to my daughter and her husband just so they could raise my grandson in the country. Anyway back to why I was writing there at the intersection of Mox Chehalis Rd East & Mox Chehalis Rd on the south side of the road where in my opinion runs some of the prettiest sections of Sine creek and where you must have played in the creek as a young McCleary Wildcat a struture has been built that most defininatly is distracting at best. Probably sour grapes again on my part because I attempted to purchase this property as well because of the creek. Steve B.
Steve

Elma High School

Hi Steve, Sorry for the long time to response. I don't log on very often to this site. It as been a very long time since I heard the name of Beerbower. Yes our fathers had a lot in common. Do you now live off Foreman road? I imagine it now has houses up and down it. Yes I use to ride my bike all over the area by Malone and Mox Chehalis roads. When I was in high school I would ride dirt bike up down the logging roads with Richard Einert, Billy Andersen, Mike Maloy Glad to hear from you. Bert Murray

Wow.

Is that cool or what. (regarding the hookup which just happened)

yeah

This is why stevenl is the OlyBlog blogger of the year. He's dry ice on Halloween.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

He deserves it...

...and I don't see any challengers to the title, except maybe you, enpen.

Steven, thanks for these vitual tours

There is nothing I enjoy more than getting behind the wheel of a car and cruising the countryside.  Route 66 was made just for me.

When you take us on these virtual tours of places no longer existent, I can close my eyes and see everything.

Do you ever recall the "entering" and "leaving" signs of "Carlson, WA" on Highway 7, about halfway between Elbe and Morton?  As a kid, we drove the Hwy 7/Hwy12 route to Packwood when Skate Creek Road wasn't open.  Dad told me about his father and a partner owning a small cedar mill along side the road, near Old Round Top (a creek) before Hwy7 was a two lane 55 mph thoroughfare.  This was my dad's real dad, not the stepfather that raised him, thus he had limited memories of spending time there working during summers.

Of course, down the road a piece, was the "big city" - Mineral.

My youth was spent not far from there camping along side the banks of East Creek, that runs through Pleasant Valley, tying into the Nisqually River and Alder Lake.  Dad was a commercial painter, thus we never had Disneyland money so Army/Navy surplus gear (putting up the tent was a family chore) and fishing poles at East Creek was our entertainment.  A farmer let us camp on his land where there was a huge cedar, so tall and full that we could build the camp fire under it and stay dry in a rainstorm, without burning the limbs of the tree.  Ice chest?  Nope, ice cost money.  We put our persishables in the creek, never to be touched by fishermen working their way by - that included Dad and Mom's beer. Dad would take the farmer into Elbe so that he could get a shave and haircut on Saturday.  It was his way of paying for our rental.

There is my walk down memory lane.  That's for sharing yours.

The Anonymous ThurstonBlogger