Dedicated to the citizens of Mason County, Washington since 1886

Shelton's beginning

David Shelton and his family took up residence in Sawamish - now Mason - County in 1853. They built their first home at the edge of Big Skookum (Oakland) Bay, approximately where the Shelton Yacht Club is today, and the area became known as Shelton's Point. Most new arrivals were settling at Oakland, approximately halfway between Shelton's Point and what is now Bayshore, which had been officially designated as the county seat; however, a small community began to form at the Point.

By 1879, David and his wife, Francis, owned 900 acres, some in Cota Valley and some on the prairie north of the valley (Mountain View). According to Michael Fredson's "Oakland to Shelton, the Sawdust Trail," Shelton's Point was "crowded on the hill at the edge of Shelton's claim ... waiting for David Shelton to sell." Will Freeburger, who arrived at the Point as a boy in 1885, said there was one hotel and the Pioneer Saloon.

Residents of Shelton's Point had to travel 2 miles up the bay to Oakland to get their mail. For several years, they got groceries from Mrs. McDonald's small store at Arcadia (then known as Arkada), or from Olympia. When the Mason County Journal began publishing in December 1886, much of the advertising was for Olympia businesses, each of them promising that all orders sent from Shelton by steamboat would receive prompt attention.

Around 1884, the Satsop Railroad Company started driving dock timber into Big Skookum Bay and laying track through Cota Valley to the timberlands beyond. On June 6, 1885, David Shelton filed his first plat of Sheltonville. He surveyed the land in Cota Valley and laid out a town pattern oriented to the railroad line. Lots were of generous size and sold for $100 each. The town was meant to be called Cota, but Sheltonville was the name written on the plat. The town's first postmaster, C. F. White, soon decided to shorten that to Shelton. In December 1886, there were fewer than 25 buildings in Shelton, with 75 residents. A year later there were more than 60 buildings and 249 people living in the townsite.

In early 1887, Grant Angle's Journal reported that there were two hotels, two boarding houses, four saloons, one boot and shoe store, two general stores, two blacksmith shops and one newspaper. David Shelton, fondly known as "Uncle Davy," was the town's first mayor. A small schoolhouse, with an average attendance of 30 children, had been built in the vicinity of what is now Tozier Brothers. The stern wheeler Willie connected the community with the outside world, carrying passengers, freight, and mail. The first big civic celebration took place July 4, 1887. The Journal described it as "a pandemonium of sound from exhilarated human beings." There were foot races, horse races, greased pole climbs, a shooting match and log rolling, culminating in a grand ball and fireworks. The two hotels served over 500 free dinners.

As Shelton grew, Oakland was becoming a ghost town. An election to choose whether Shelton, Union City, Arcadia or Kamilche should become the new county seat was held on April 28, 1888, with Shelton coming out the winner.

The fabric of pioneer life was built around the lodges and churches. The Masonic Lodge moved from Oakland to Shelton in 1887. The Ancient Order of United Woodmen put up a two-story building at Third and Railroad in 1889, and the Odd Fellows Lodge, organized entirely of men who had come from Michigan, erected their first building in 1893. Church organizations followed similar lines. David Shelton gave building lots to each of the first four Shelton churches (Methodist, Baptist, Catholic and the Episcopal Ladies Guild).

The State Bank of Shelton was formed in March 1893, and by 1901 Shelton could offer almost everything a community could ask for, including hotels, drug stores, restaurants, saloons, ladies' millinery, livery stables, a bakery, two blacksmiths, three barbers, two doctors and three lawyers. There was a telephone exchange with 60 phones and connections to Olympia and Seattle. A water system was piped from a spring reservoir, and there was a volunteer fire department with 1,000 feet of hose. Journal editor Angle stated there was still need for a laundry, plumber, painter, electric light plant, creamery, and door and shingle mills. By 1904, the first five of these had been established. W. H. Kneeland built the Shelton Electric Company at the southeast corner of First and Kneeland. It consisted of a 100-horsepower engine and a 75-kilowatt generator, and could power about 1,300 lamps. Customers paid 15 cents a month for a lamp in a bedroom, 75 cents a month for a lamp in a shop.

In an August 1905 supplement to the Journal extolling the attractions of Shelton and Mason County, Grant Angle described the town as "conservatively managed and kept within its means. Its splendid water system is more than self-supporting; streets are kept generally in fair condition; most of the homes are well-kept, with lawns, gardens, trees and shrubbery, and the occupants are generally content."

Jan Parker is a researcher for the Mason County Historical Museum. She can be reached at [email protected]. Membership in the Mason County Historical Society is $25 per year. For a limited time, new members will receive a free copy of the book "Shelton, the First Century Plus Ten."


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