Downtown, Education, Puyallup

Why Daffodils for Puyallup Valley?

Puyallup Daffodils

If you were to ask a Puyallup resident, circa 1880, what the most common crop in the Valley is, they would of course answer…? Hops??? Yes, it made many farmers Millionaires at the time, but today there is no trace of this crop in Puyallup. What about Daffodils you ask? Well, here’s how it all happened.

In 1865 the Puyallup Valley was covered in Hops. By 1900, there were nearly none left due to an hop aphid infestation, as well as a growing problem with mildew ruining the plants. At the time, hops was considered the best plant for the valley soil and climate, but growing frustration with failed crops had farmers looking to plant a different crop.

It is uncertain who brought the first daffodil bulbs to the Puyallup Valley, though many credit either Mary Ann Boatman, Emma Darrow Carson or Ruth Kincaid McCarty from their homes in the Midwest. While they added beauty to the garden around the homesteads, few would have foreseen the importance of the flower to financially save Puyallup’s farmers after the failure of the Valley’s Hop Crops. The first person to plant his fields with the Daffodil bulb was George Ward Lawler in the year 1910.. He had a plant stand in Fife at the time, and who’s business mostly consisted of selling his beautiful flowers to the upper class who passed on their new horseless carriages. So successful was Mr. Lawler during his first year, the next year Lawler expanded operations, purchasing 9,000 bulbs from England and Holland, importing some of the finest varieties. While all varieties were expensive with the high costs of shipping, Mr. Lawler had some exquisite bulb varieties that cost as much as $75 each, a fortune in that time. The daffodil farm had grown to 15 acres by the early 1920’s, on leased land in North Puyallup. It was at this time George Lawler needed to expand, but was unsuccessful in his efforts to lease or buy adjoining property to expand his increasingly successful operation. He finally left the Valley in the early 1920’s, moving to Roy, Washington where he continued to thrive growing daffodils and other bulb varieties. But, despite his absence from Puyallup, valley farmers closely watched his success. At this same time, domestic bulb growers in other parts of the country were complaining to the US government about unfair competition from Holland in undercutting the domestic prices of flowers. The USDA eventually placed an embargo on Dutch bulbs, and encouraged US farmers to pick up the slack to fill consumer need. At the same time, the USDA named the Puyallup Valley as one of the most ideal places in the nation in which to grow daffodils. Add to this a huge shipment of bulbs imported into Seattle, but unclaimed by its original purchaser. That was all the encouragement the Puyallup Valley many farmers needed.

In 1924, W.H. Paulhamus called a meeting of local farmers. He finally persuaded Charles and William Orton to purchase the unclaimed shipment. The Orton’s then in turn persuaded their many farmer friends to purchase some of the bulbs. Together, the farmers purchased the abandoned shipment, planted the bulbs, and this began Puyallup’s affiliation with the Daffodil.

Concerns about disease and insects led the United States to ban the importation of flower bulbs from Holland on January 1, 1926. The ban, “Quarantine #37,” changed bulb growing in the Puyallup Valley from a minor to a major industry almost overnight. In April 1926, a short 100 days after the ban took effect, the Puyallup Valley Tribune could brag that “the largest daffodil field in America – is right here in our own city. That same year, the Puyallup Valley Bulb Exchange was formed to promote and market the bulbs to the World.

Also popularizing the beauty of the flower and its burgeoning importance to the valley was the precursors to today’s Daffodil festival. When the Bulb Exchange was formed, Mrs. Charles Orton opened their home to visitors to view their beautiful home, view the daffodil fields and eat wonderful cakes while sipping tea. More than 400 visitors arrived to their home! So successful was the event that Mrs. Orton decided to make it an annual event. Many view this as a precursor to the Daffodil festival that started 8 years later in 1934.

Another event is credited to the current Daffodil festival roots. During the same year, the Sumner Chamber of Commerce held an annual banquet, which was decorated in grand displays of daffodils, not only in the banquet hall but on each of the diners tables. It was that banquet that in 1935 changed its name to the Daffodil Festival Bulb Banquet, and a flower show and official bulb farm tour maps were created. So popular was this event, that Express trains were organized to bring spectators to the valley to view the carpets of daffodils.

As stated above, the Daffodil festival began in 1934. The person who had great influence in this decision was Lee Merrill, a Tacoma photographer who recognized the waste in seeing the beautiful flowers die on the vine. At this time in Puyallup’s history, it was the bulbs that were valued, the flowers were a “by-product” of what the farmers really valued. In 1934, Merrill suggested the flowers be used to decorate floats and a more formal “Daffodil Festival” be held. He suggested that a true festival needed a queen, and certainly needed a street parade. So, for that first parade, a queen was chosen. Ms. Elizabeth Wotton was stopped on Meridian Street and asked to be the queen. She accepted this rather odd, but wonderful invitation. And so began the Daffodil Festival that still brings beauty, history and the events that are among the most cherished among valley residents to this day.

Those of us raised in Puyallup remember as children seeing a yellow carpet of the flowers lining the valley, but today’s children may find it difficult to understand our connection with this beautiful flower. Were there was once 40 daffodil farmers, there are now only five. And, their acreage is much smaller; less than half of what it once was. Not only are there less fields, but there are less blooms. One of the last major daffodil producers in the Puyallup Valley is the VanLierop bulb farm. With sophisticated methods of refrigeration, most flowers are picked before they bloom—to bloom later, when its best for the retailer.

So, now you know some of the story behind the growth, and the slow demise of our cherished flower. I very much hope we can keep some essence of the flowers importance to our Puyallup community. But, I fear, that the daffodil will be forgotten, just as the history of the Hop’s of the late 1800’s is largely forgotten.

Downtown, Education, Puyallup

Amazing Pictures of Puyallup’s History

We found these amazing pictures of Puyallup’s history. You must see them and share with your friends. Oh how times have changed in Puyallup downtown. What do you think?

Clearing trees in Downtown Puyallup.  1889
Clearing trees in Downtown Puyallup. 1889
Downtown Puyallup in 1883
Downtown Puyallup in 1883. Town Shops.
This view of Puyallup, taken from Central School's tower.
This view of Puyallup, taken from Central School’s tower.
Puyallup's Train Station.  1888
Puyallup’s Train Station. 1888
Downtown Puyallup 1890
Puyallup in 1890, Meridian St. looking South. Photo from Beta Womens Club Collection, Puyallup Public Library.
Downtown, Puyallup

Ezra Meeker History & Photos

Ezra Meeker History

Ezra Meeker, was born December 29, 1830 in Huntsville, Ohio, the son of Jacob Meeker and Phoebe Meeker. By the time he was 10 years old, the Meeker family had moved to Indiana, near Indianapolis. Even at this young age, Ezra Meeker had a pioneering spirit, insisting he walk and explore; he walked nearly every step to Indiana.

In 1851, he married his childhood sweetheart, Eliza Jane Sumner, and together they headed out west in search of land. After a bitter winter in Iowa, they joined the Oregon trail immigration, finally arriving in Kalama on the Columbia River. In 1853 they moved to McNeill Island, then again to Tacoma. After an unsuccessful mercantile venture in Steilacoom, Ezra moved his family to Puyallup in 1862. Until now, he had ignored the valley, preferring to live in other parts of the Puget Sound. In the 1860’s many settlers ignored the valley because the extremely dense vegetation and forest made land very difficult to clear. Soon however, the fertile soil underneath this thick vegetation was discovered for its ability to grow healthy and abundant crops, and settlers began the back breaking work of clearing small plots of land. It wasn’t until Meeker began to see the potential of reaping great profit from the land that he chose to settle in Puyallup. In fact, at first, Meeker only cleared the land immediately around his cabin, and in that narrow path, amongst the un-cleared stumps that still remained is where Ezra planted the first Hops in the valley.

Ezra Meeker was actually about 20 years behind the first valley settlers, and was not a founding father as many today believe. In part, it was a serious lack of money that finally convinced him to come to the valley. Ezra had very little money. For a coat, it was said he used a blanket with a hole cut in it for his head. He and his family lived in a tiny cabin (on site of our current Puyallup Library & Farmers Market – which Eliza helped to start) for the next 26 years (until his Mansion would be built). During this time, his only source of income was helping other landowners clear their land. That was until his Hop crops began to make Ezra Meeker and other land holders very rich – at least for a while…

A brief History of Meeker Days

Ezra Meeker Day’s began in 1939 when a group of civic leaders formed the event to promote the life and spirit of Pioneers as exemplified in the life of our community founder, Ezra Meeker.

The Day’s of Ezra Meeker, as it was called at the time, was cancelled for the years during WWII. In 1946 the celebration was revived, but then marred by tragedy. A popular event during the celebration was a Cops and Robbers type play, featuring the Kangaroo Kourt and Keystone Kops. During the performance of the play, a community member perished in a fall from a roof while attempting to “escape” the Keystone Kops. The event continued another two years, but finally cancelled as this tragedy weighed heavy in the minds of the community.

However, nearly 20 years later, the Puyallup Boosters and Puyallup Jaycees revived the event as a summer promotion. In 1978, the name was changed to the current Ezra Meeker Days, continuing the tradition of honoring the Pioneer spirit which gave root to our Puyallup community.

Ezra Meeker Statue
Ezra Meeker statue located in Puyallup, Washington Downtown.
Ezra's wagon
In 1852, Ezra Meeker and his family came west by wagon over the Oregon Trail, eventually settling in the Puyallup Valley. As the years passed and cross-country travel became easier, Meeker worried that people wouldn’t understand the hardships of the early settlers. Beginning at the age of 75, he made several trips across the Oregon Trail and urged its preservation. He supported his project by selling his books and photos.
Ezra Meeker's Oxen Dandy and Dave
Believe it or not, Meeker’s Oxen, Dandy and Dave were “preserved” by a taxidermist and are on display at the Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma, Washington
Ezra Meeker Wagon Display
Also on display is one of Ezra’s Wagons used on at least one cross country trek. Carvings in the wood and writings on the covering canvas mark dates and locations along his journeys.

 

Downtown, Puyallup

Accommodations

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Puyallup is a fun place to visit. The Washington State Fair brings in people from all over the region, sports tournaments bring people to the area, people come for business, or just to enjoy the beauty of Washington. With so much happening in the area Puyallup has several accommodations that will fit the bill for any stay. Many hotels have easy access to freeways, dinning, and shopping. You will be sure to enjoy your stay.

Holiday Inn Express

The Holiday Inn is located five minutes from downtown Puyallup. It serves a complimentary breakfast daily, and each room has a microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker. A gym is accessible during you stay, and a free pass to Bally Total Fitness Center (next door) is provided upon request.

Hampton Inn & Suites

Located in downtown Puyallup, this accommodation offers free Wi-Fi, a continental breakfast and gym, in a contemporary design. Hampton Inn & Suites provides a comfortable and memorable stay for guests.

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott                               

Located near the Washington State Fair, the Fairfield Inn & Suites is extremely close to downtown Puyallup and local amenities. The hotel offers an indoor pool and hot tub, free Wi-Fi, a continental breakfast, and gym. It has everything you could need for a stay in Puyallup.

Best Western

Located in South Hill, the Best Western is a full service hotel that offers comfort and wonderful customer service. It has great freeway access, and is only a short drive to downtown Puyallup, the mall, and restaurants. This is a great stay if you want the best of both downtown Puyallup and the South Hill area. There is great patio seating, full bar, and indoor pool (for those rainy Washington days).

Northwest Motor Inn

 Northwest Motor Inn is located in downtown Puyallup. It is an economical choice of stay that allows you to enjoy nearby amenities. It is extremely close to the Washington State Fair and has great freeway access.

best western