Tenino’s Oregon Trail Days

Tenino’s Oregon Trail Days Remind of Storied Past

For Tenino, Oregon Trail Days is both its biggest festival and a reminder of its long, storied history.

The event, which takes place July 25-27, features a variety of activities and events including a parade through town and live music. The annual Rock and Gem show, sponsored by the Washington Agate and Mineral Society, begins on Friday and continues through Sunday at Parkside Elementary school. Polished stones, beads, jewelry and rock tumblers will be for sale by dealers.

The first settler in the Tenino area actually located directly on the old Oregon Trail, according to a brief history of the area compiled by Art Dwelley. Stephen Hodgen, a Maine native who came to California in 1849 during the gold rush, moved north to what is now Tenino and settled on the trail where it turned north to Tumwater and the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trail continued eastward to Yelm Prairie and Fort Nisqually, according to the history.

Hodgen became the area’s first postmaster in 1860. At the time, the region was referred to as “Coal Bank,” according to Dwelley, and the post office kept that name until 1873. When the railroad from Columbia reached the Hodgden’s farm in 1872, a station was built and named “Tenino.”

After settlement, Tenino emerged as a major source of sandstone which was used in construction all along the West Coast. Sandstone buildings, quarry sites, trail markers and the city’s old train depot act as reminders of this history today. Much of that history is on display at the Tenino Depot Museum, which is open Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. The museum is also available for special tours, which can be arranged by calling Jean and Norm Montgomery at 360-264-7273.

In addition to Oregon Trail Days, the city is also home to the Antique Motorcycle Club Swap Meet August 15-16. The Quarrymen Car Club also displays on average more than 100 classic cars for the viewing of visitors and automobile enthusiasts.

The Monarch Contemporary Art Center and Sculpture Park is another attraction near Tenino. The Monarch center is an 80-acre public sculpture park and a center for the visual arts. Classes, workshops and international sculpting and ceramic symposia are held at the Center. Located on S.E. Waldrick Road between Old Highway 99 and Military Road, the Park features the work of over 80 talented regional, national and international artists. The park is open from dawn till dusk year-round, while the indoor gallery is open from June 1 through Sept. 4 by appointment only.

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