You’d have to know it was there to drive to Bucoda.
Tucked away from busy Interstate 5, Bucoda is a small residential town located on Highway 507 between Centralia and Tenino. Today, the town has a population of around 700, but it was once an active hub for mining and logging.
Settled in 1856 by Aaron Webster, Bucoda was first known as ‘Seatco’ from the Coastal Salish word “Tsi-at-co,” meaning “devil” or “ghost place,” according to the Thurston County Historic Commission.
Seatco was the site of Washington Territory’s first penitentiary. After a controversy involving prisoners being used for mining labor, the penitentiary was relocated to Walla Walla in 1887.
The name was officially changed to Bucoda in 1890, which was derived by using the first two letters of the last names of J.M. Buckley, a railroad executive, Sam Coulter, a local businessman, and J.B. David, a Portland investor. The town was incorporated as “Bucoda” on July 7, 1910.
The community’s economy has always been dependent on forest products and nearby coal mines, all the way back to Webster’s first sawmill in 1857. Today, there are few businesses in Bucoda, and the town is considered more of a bedroom community for surrounding cities like Centralia, Tenino and Olympia.