I was raised from my birth on a “farm” of sorts in a small community on the South Prairie-Carbon River Road between the Pierce County towns of South Prairie and Orting, Washington. I spent the first 18 years of my life in a converted school house that was once know as the Arline School. The school lay on 13 acres of property that bordered the eastern side of the road and was made up of everything from swamp to hillside – and even an acre or two of hilltop.
The Meitzler family moved from a rented house in Tacoma out to the Orting Valley property in August of 1942 (1), having purchased purchased the property in March from Sam Riddle (2), who lived on the next property to the south. Our home was a converted school that had been built about 1912, purchased by Joe Case of Orting, and had been used of dances and social functions. After Joe passed away, the school was remodeled into a home for Joe’s widow and children (2). Where the school had a very high ceiling and one massive room with cloakrooms, the house now had two stories, with four bedrooms upstairs, two storage rooms upstairs, two bedrooms downstairs, kitchen formal dining area, living room and an indoor restroom in what had been a cloakroom. Sam Riddle purchased the property from the Case family and later sold it to my parents, Theodore and Virginia Meitzler, as mentioned above.
My parents both loved plants and flowers. Now that they lived out in the country, and they had the space to grow their plants – starting off as a hobby, of course. Dad supported the family in various ways, including working as a salesman, working at Rainier State School, logging for a winter near Kosmos, Washington, and working at the Woodland Park Floral Greenhouses in Sumner. By 1956, I was six years old and my folks were full-time greenhouse operators.
THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE MEITZLERS
But wait – this isn’t to be the story of a family, but of a community, that being the community of Arline Mills. It’s quite a story, and one that will take many chapters, in this case, blogs. For you see, I’ve wanted to tell this story for nearly 30 years, but could never quite find the time. So – I’ve now decided that one blog at a time, I will shed a bit more light on Arline Mills. I have a lot of data, and I plan to include copies of pictures, original documents, and most anything else that helps to tell the story. Since this is my first blog on the subject, I’m going to invite my readers who might have ANY further information about the community, it’s inhabitants, and their descendants, to feel free to share whatever they may know. Use the comments section after any Arline Mills blog and/or email me personally at: Lmeitzler “at” gmail.com.
HOW THE TOWN GOT ITS NAME
I’ll compile a full chapter or more later on about the Orville Rankin Biggs family, but at this juncture, let’s just say that Orville Biggs had struck it rich in the Alaska Gold Rush and had come back down to the Seattle area looking for ways to invest.(2) He settled on going into the timber industry, and came to the Orting – South Prairie Valley just after the turn of the century, building a sawmill and mill pond at the very base of the hillside against which we lived years later.(4) Biggs (1860-1904), and his wife Elizabeth Louise Hodges (1858-1928), had three children, one stillborn, and the others being Arline (1891-1939) and Erma Louise (Pearl) (1893-1981).(3) Orville Biggs named the town for his daughter, Arline, and called it Arline Mills.(4)
Arline Biggs went on to marry Edgar Gott, who, with his cousin, Bill Boeing, formed Boeing Aircraft Company. Gott was the first president of Boeing. Many years later, the county decided to name the short (a couple hundred yard) connecting road that ran between the Pioneer Way, over the railroad bed, to the South Prairie-Carbon River Road. They named it Arline Road – the only reminder of what the community was once named. However, somebody messed up in the sign shop. I still remember seeing the new road sign, and doing a double take – for instead of saying Arline Road, it said Airline Road. I will guarantee that the folks at the county had no idea of the connection between Arline and the airlines, but lets just say that it’s the “rest of the story.”
To be continued…
(1) Theodore Canfield Meitzler Obituary, The Country Gazette, March 1999. Original copy of the newspaper in the Meitzler Personal Research Library, Bountiful, Utah.
(2) History of Arline, Pierce County, Washington, June 30, 1997. Note – Geanellen Doty Kuranko, and her daughter-in-law have done extensive research on the South Prairie-Arline Mills area. Thanks to the Kurankos, much area of the area history is today preserved.)
(3) Family Group Sheets for the Biggs family, obtained from granddaughter, Mary Louise Clay, of Gresham, Oregon. Originals filed in the Meitzler Personal Research Library, Bountiful, Utah.
(4) Postmarked Washington, by Guy Reed Ramsey; chapter about the Arline Mills Post Office.