Travelchick

My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Lester, WA: the Ghost Town’s Latest

Now just a glimpse of its former self, the ghost town of Lester, Washington was once a thriving community located in a picturesque spot in the Cascade Mountains near Stampede Pass.

Lester, WA

Lester, Washington was born and prospered at the hand of the Northern Pacific Railroad which began traveling over Stampede Pass in the 1880’s-1890’s. The town was named after the first telegrapher at the station. In the 1950’s when railroad activity began to decline, Lester’s population also embarked on a downward spiral. Finally, in the 1980’s, all railroad activity across Stampede Pass ceased. That along with legislation by the City of Tacoma (the town was located in Tacoma’s watershed) forced the eventual death of Lester.  The road was closed, the residents were asked to leave, and Lester, WA became a ghost town

Gertrude Murphy, last living resident of Lester, WA

There was one woman, however, who refused to sell her land to the watershed. Gertrude Murphy, a former school teacher of Lester, lived out the hundred year lease on her house, unwilling to leave her home. Gertrude fought in vain to save some of Lester’s buildings as historical relics and, when her own house burned down, relocated to a cabin outside the center of Lester, spending summers there until her health prevented it. She died on October 2, 2002 at the age of 99. She was the last living resident of Lester, and was celebrated as such, receiving former students, reporters, and welcoming visitors who came to see Lester. Some feel that the last remaining bit of Lester died with Gertrude, but the children and grandchildren of its late residents still remember the stories of a school, library, train depot, tavern, ranger station, and houses that were at one time occupied by over 1,000 residents! Indeed, many people remember their grandfathers working for the railroad to Lester, their grandmothers living in cabins among the trees, their parents attending dances on Saturday nights, and the town lives on on their memories.

In recent years, rails through Lester are being used again by the Burlington Northern.  Tacoma watershed authorities have reluctantly agreed to allow foot traffic into Lester, and the children and grandchildren of former residents can hike into this memory-filled ghost town to remember the people whose lives began and ended there.  I, too, was interested in this mysterious little spot in the forest along the Upper Green River.  My first and second attempts to visit it were ill-timed and wholly unsuccessful, but I persevered. Lester, WA was my ghost town obsession.

The lonely clearing

In August of 2009, I was at a turning point in my existence, about to make a decision that would change the trajectory of my life forever, and I needed time alone to think, to just be.  A pause before a leap.  I knew that the solitude of Lester would be the perfect place for such a thing, and the way it called to me with a voice of adventure made it impossible to resist.  I jumped into my less-than-trustworthy car on a Saturday night and drove the 4 hours to Lester, arriving after dark.  I turned left at the fork in the forest service road before reaching the Lester gate and then turned left again and bumped down a barely used set of tracks between trees into the forest, inadvertently subjecting my car to a couple of large rocks hidden between the ruts by long grass.  I drove until I reached a dead end at a small stream.  I crossed the stream and pitched my small, borrowed tent in a clearing that almost appeared to be meant for such a thing.  I cooked dinner in my lonely campsite using the crudest of utensils and crawled into my sleeping bag.  It was my first time camping alone (and in a ghost town, no less) and I felt small in the empty forest.  At least I hoped it was empty.  I drifted off into an uneasy sleep before hearing a sound, a loud disturbing sound that grew louder and louder every second and shook the ground underneath my prone body until I felt  that I must ask myself a question that I SHOULD already know the answer to: DID I pitch my tent on the railroad tracks?!?


Build small fire, sit close.

The stream I camped by

I guess this USED to be a road....

I don’t know how late I slept in the morning, but after my frightening experience with the too-close-for-comfort trains during the night, I felt I might have needed the extra rest…  Reloading my car and retracing (more carefully this time) my tracks from the previous night, I made my way to the Lester gate, feeling incredibly satisfied that at last I was going to give Lester my undivided attention and the time I knew it deserved.  Armed with my camera and a backpack of snacks and water, I slipped through the gate and hiked down the dusty dirt road…

This road must have once led to this.... remnants of civilization right here at my campsite.

The first two times I made it to the Lester gate, there was a trailer parked here on the right-hand side.

You're on foot from here

Lester is at the end of this road.

car I found alongside the road

stove inside the white house

I think that drying rack used to be green...

Notice the soap and towel dispensers. I thought that odd for a house.

back porch of the house by the tracks

I spent the rest of the day exploring every nook and cranny of Lester- imagining what the town must have once looked like, searching for clues as to what the residents may have left behind.  The only remaining buildings (besides the new warehouse, which I didn’t try to enter) are a couple houses close to the south side of the tracks, the nearly tumbled outbuildings of those houses, and a house, trailer, and shed which are obviously more recently occupied though now given over to mice and decay.  I spent hours tromping through the woods searching for anything the might be missed from the road, but all I really found were a few masses of twisted metal.  The ground in the trees undulates in a curiously rippled sort of way and I believe it is due to the way the town was bulldozed to the ground.  I wonder what one would find if they dug down.  I did find an interesting old car along the road on the way to Lester in a spot that appeared to be an old dump of sorts.

Upstairs in one of the houses- notice all the mouse droppings. The smell of mouse urine up here was overpowering! Gross!

view of yellow house from back porch of white house

cheerful red

posted inside barn

Most of the barn is gone.

Some of it is still standing...

...but not for long!!! :O

shed

cabin

cabin

trailer

remnants

foot traffic is forbidden from this point

It used to be a slide. Was there a playground here once?

I think we all know what this was.

tart but delicious

Maytag?

my edible souvenir

When my curiosity was finally sated, my skin sun burnt, and my clothing filthy, I walked back the way I came, triumphantly bearing a few stalks of persistent rhubarb harvested from a long-abandoned garden (I cooked and ate them with strawberries and they were delicious!)

I hope you enjoy this sampling of the pictures I took.  I feel that Lester is definitely worth the trip.  I found the area beautiful, peaceful, and a wonderful place for the imagination. Oh, and I returned home relaxed, renewed, and ready to make my decision. Thank you, Lester!

© Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Travelnole and Travelchick-girl unstoppable with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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April 2, 2010 - Posted by | Attractions, Ghost Towns, Lester, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

83 Comments »

  1. I love ghost towns. They draw me in, in a sort of lonely forlorn way.

    Comment by The Sister | April 2, 2010 | Reply

    • We should visit a ghost town together sometime then! 😀

      Comment by travelnole | April 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for sharing your pics, nice to see Lester agian. I worked in a neighboring town & have a partner who grew up near there. he recalls some of the stories from the era when Lester was a place people lived. Some of the old stories included Indian women picking berries on the ridge above the town w/ babies strapped on, or the farmer who castrated his son @ 17 to keep him home tending the farm. It didn’t appear from those I met that it was glamorous, but a hard life & the real shame was Scott Paper’s take over & the battle the people of Lester fought & lost to keep their land. Some of those roads mentioned were “secret” and allowed residents to come and go for years, the watershed required a pass to get in & prior to that the environment from Scott was pretty hostile. What is seen coming in now is a lot of alternative people living their lives used to protecting themselves. There are bears, cougars & wolves but caution should be used around the people who feel that it is their home & have the ability to protect it. If you have a gun permit, you might want to carry it with you, it’s not creepy but scary at times.

      Comment by Mike's Mom | April 22, 2010 | Reply

      • Wow, what interesting stories! Thank you so much for sharing. I wish that the land could talk. Regarding the people there now, are you referring to those living closer to the highway or are there others still living deeper in near Lester?

        Comment by travelnole | April 22, 2010

  2. Lydia, that’s awesome! What a cool historical adventure. My brother Jay & I did something like that once on a smaller scale. Great article.

    Comment by Jonathan | April 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks 🙂

      Comment by travelnole | April 2, 2010 | Reply

  3. […] *NOTE: I have now seen Lester! Read the story here […]

    Pingback by Lester: Washington’s Best Ghost Town « Travelchick- girl unstoppable | April 2, 2010 | Reply

  4. Great article! I was doing a google image search of Lester and came across this. Lester has been a part of my life since I was little, creating the hobbies I have today. Its a wonderful place stories and memories from the past come alive for me. The Northern Pacific Railway train depot, Gert Murphy and her niece, the cabin in the woods and the trestle are my most favorite memories I charish. If you are on facebook Lester has a page there! Hope to see you all there to share photos and memories!

    Very Respectfully,
    Bryan

    Comment by Bryan Ilyankoff | May 25, 2010 | Reply

    • It’s nice to meet another fan, Bryan! Thanks for sharing your memories. Lester is really a special place 🙂

      Comment by travelnole | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  5. About 20 years ago when I was more brave, and possibly more stupid, I took an old barely functionable comapany van and loaded in my son, daughter, and some grub and ventured into what my son insisted was a short route from I90 to Mount Rainier. It was not a shortcut, and it used all of our fuel to find any source of civilization in the forest.As we were using our last few drops of gas, we found our way to a deserted town, named Lester. We pulled into a drive of the only looking habitable residence. With no other rescue in sight, we obtained gasoline from an old lawnmower and left ten dollars as payment. How thankful we were for that gas. (We later learned that a woman lived alone in the town, and was curently in the hospital.) Many times my mind has traveled back to Lester, it’s complete solitude, wondering whatever became of the town. Thank you for this update.

    Comment by Ethel Peretti | July 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Wow, what a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing, and I’m happy you were able to finally find out what happened to Lester. I so wish that I could have seen it back when you did!

      Comment by travelnole | July 7, 2010 | Reply

    • What an excellent adventure! … and excellent telling of the story. Cheers & Thanks

      Comment by Mike Cowan | January 31, 2016 | Reply

  6. After graduating high school at Ellensburg, Wa. early into ww2, I worked for a short time for the NP railroad in Lester, I worked in the round house servicing the engines. My job also was to operate the turn table. The last time I visited lester, it was still a living town. Sad to see what happens.

    Comment by victor monacelli | January 23, 2011 | Reply

  7. Thanks for the story and pics of Lester WA.
    Supposedly, a couple of miles down FR 52 from FR 54 was a town called Weston. It’s completely gone now. I am planning to get back up there this year and visit them both. By the by, what was this big decision and was it to pose for the picture on Google Maps for Lester WA. entitled ‘Hot Rails’

    Comment by James | January 26, 2011 | Reply

    • Lol, um….. no, the Hot Rails chick is not me!! I don’t think that’s the kind of decision that would be a huge turning point in my life (or maybe it would?). That’s kinda funny, though. I had never noticed that part of that picture before….

      Comment by travelnole | January 28, 2011 | Reply

  8. My great grandfather died in a train collision in Maywood a small town beyond Lester. Do you know if it is possible to get into that area and/or who you would obtain permission from?
    Thank you for sharing the wonderful pictures and post!

    Comment by Olivea | February 7, 2011 | Reply

    • Well, it looks like Maywood was in what is now Tacoma’s watershed, about 8 miles west of Lester. You can hike to the western boundary of Lester, but beyond that…. You could try to hike it to where Maywood was but, even if it wasn’t illegal, it would take about 2 and a half hours. You could try contacting the City of Tacoma to obtain permission to hike in, but I don’t know if they grant those types of requests.

      Comment by travelnole | February 7, 2011 | Reply

      • Thank you for the advise! I will let you know if I have any luck obtaining permission.

        Comment by Olivea Engbrecht | February 9, 2011

  9. Hi, My Great-grandparents lived in Lester until 1950 – worked for the RR. My dad would spend his summers up there but not after ’50. We went up there in ’91 and saw many of the old cars and buildings still standing but no people were present. We took a few pics -including the train station. We decided to drive to the town to celebrate the 20 yrs since our last visit and it was hardly worth the trip. The natural beauty is there but most of the town is gone. some new tracks and storage buildings are there but that’s it. We rode our bikes in – against the rules, I know. But who is going to stop us? We did see the RR vehicles go past ( complete surprise) and none of the guys returned our waves. Who cares about bikes?? So, we did meet two folks walking with a rifle… yikes. But they seemed nice. Well, that’s probably the last time we’ll visit unless a train brings us up there Greg

    Comment by Greg | September 2, 2011 | Reply

    • I lived in Lester in the late 1940’s. Would be interested to know who your great grandparents were. thanks
      Dick Osburn

      Comment by Dick | December 19, 2015 | Reply

      • We were Joe DeVito and wife Nina DeVito with three daughters, Jeanne, Rose, and Nina, Settled Hot Springs 1928 with NP, then moved to Humphrey as Section Foreman NP then Section Foreman Lester 1959-1967. I am the grandson Mitch DeVito-Michell. Lived with my grandparents 1953-1964. I go to Lester, Nagrom, Maywood, Stampede, Humphrey, Eagle Gorge, whenever I get the chance. Last trip three years ago. Visited the original homestead in Hot Springs (go past the west end bridge one mile then head directly south half a mile and off Rock Creek is the house) which is laid flat and buried but part of our old Model A Ford is still visible. We lived in the NP Section House in Lester. Then we torn the Roundhouse down along with the old NP Hotel and used the lumber to build our new house next to the NP Section House at the West end. We were one of the last families to be driven out after a lengthy court battle signaled the end for all. The attorney was expensive but we felt it was worth it. The old court records are something to read—my grandfather told the judge in a very moving statement what it meant to be an American immigrant and then have the government steal property you settled, 160 acres, as Homestead. Great memories, people, hunting, fishing, school (the original was at Scott Paper), and the Star of Stars, The North Coast Limited which only stopped twice–as far as I know–in Lester. The whole town turned out for the occasion. I spent hours in the Depot with the telegraph operator who tried to teach the ropes. I lived for the train, I loved all the trains–I still do! Mitch

        Comment by northcoastlimited | December 20, 2015

  10. I visited lester last year and found it a very cool place, I noticed on the map forest service roads that come in from greenwater, wa, On Oct 9 2o11 if that was a sunday I tried to make that journey in a two wheel drive chevy blazer and got as far as where the road was washed out before a small bridge, decided to turn back and come back next sunday the 16th with 4 wheel drive jeep cherokee, I made it a lot further but still didn’t make it to lester, road gets really bad, the only way in from that side is dirt bike, quad, hiking, horse, or a real serious 4×4 vehicle with a winch or a buddy with a winch. I love lester it is a very neat place.

    Comment by Adam Cameron | October 17, 2011 | Reply

  11. My family lived in Lester from 1950 to 1959. My dad was a telegrapher at the depot and my Mom worked at the Tavern and taught Sunday school. We are still in touch with other families that listern Lester. I have a photo of the town when it had a school, store, tavern, a depot and many homes. I could email it to anyone interested.

    Comment by Laura | October 19, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi my name is Rick Nuzum
      I would love a copy of that photo you have.
      Do you remember my family Joe and Bonnie Nuzum?

      Comment by Rick Nuzum | September 23, 2012 | Reply

      • yes i do
        i had a
        lot of fun with Joe he would pull you kids on a old car hood in the snow with his snowmobile
        my name is Ron Rogers we rented a mobile when we first got there, what a fun time

        Comment by ron rogers | January 28, 2013

      • If you get a chance read my post on 1travelshich.wordpress.com. I knew your sister. I threw a snowball at her which badly bruised her arm. The next day the school principal beat me with the Lester Paddle, I had it coming. Please tell her I should have been kinder and I’m sorry. Mitch
        fmichell@icloud.com

        Comment by Mitch (DeVito) Michell | November 5, 2015

      • wish i had more on Lester & the people that held out there,,,, i knew Joe & Bonnie when she 9
        (usally) came to Auburn to get Meat for Log cabin Lunch 1976-77?

        Comment by Dick N dons meats Auburn | January 26, 2017

    • You mention your Mom taught Sunday School – do you know anything about Episcopal church services that were held in Lester? I work for the Episcopal diocese and we held services in Lester in the 50’s and 60’s and I’m trying to find out where they were held and anything else I can about church work there. Anything you – or anyone else – might be able to tell me would be great. Thanks, Diane Wells

      Comment by Diane Wells | January 24, 2013 | Reply

      • I recall coming in late one Saturday night around Christmas time in deep snow. I drove a 2WD 1949 Dodge pickup, but it handled the snow really well. When I got to Humphrey, there was a Jeep Cherokee chained up on all four wheels blocking the road completely – sitting sideways with nowhere to go but over the bank. Of course I spent the night there waiting for those folks to return for their vehicle. When they did, I found out they were a pack of Presbyterians. Sorry. I don’t know much about Episcopalians, but I DO have my druthers regarding them pesky Presbyterians…..

        Comment by Mike Cowan | January 31, 2016

    • There is a facebook page for Lester, it would be very nice of you to post pictures there

      Comment by Pam Newcomer | February 25, 2013 | Reply

    • I would love a copy of the photo! I am Gert Murphy’s great niece

      Comment by Pam Newcomer | April 9, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Laura, my name is James My family lived next to the school in the late 50’s to 1962. We lived by the school, next to the teacher housing. Our neighbors were the Dumpis family. My father Arthor worked for Northern Pacific as a signal maintainer. I was the youngest of 6 children Maybe you can recognize the names of my mother Geneva and older sisters Shirley,Janis, Mary Jane,Reanna and Letha. I would very much appreciate your pictures of Lester, Thankyou Jim

      Comment by James Norvell | August 20, 2013 | Reply

    • I would love to see the photograph.

      Comment by Zane | December 3, 2014 | Reply

    • I would love to see an old photo of Lester. We hiked there today, the history is quite fascinating.

      Comment by Kennedy Singleton | August 10, 2015 | Reply

  12. I lived in Lester for awhile as a young girl. My dad worked for the Scott Paper company. Mrs Murphy was my teacher. I have very fond memories of Lester and it sickens me to know that the town has been bulldozed under. My grandfather used to have a little green camper there in which he built a cabin onto it and made it into a very nice campground. My grandpa built a four seater outhouse.You talk about family togetherness. lol We went trout fishing with them, and had family get togethers alot. If my memory serves me the tavern was just across the creek from it. We would walk across a big log to get across the creek. My brothers and I would walk up the Friday Creek trail and pretend that a bear would be coming and we would run back to the cabin.
    I can remember being in school and finding out that our President of the United States had been shot. That was President John F. Kennedy. In someways I feel that I am part of the history of Lester even though we only lived there a short while,unlike Mrs. Murphy who has lived there forever. I lived just one house down from the post office. We would walk to the forest department and visit with the men if they were around. We would walk to school in which we would have to cross the railroad tracks. My brother was close to having frost bite on his hands one time by the time we had gotten to school. I’m sure we didn’t have to walk to far; maybe 1/4 mile…you kind of lose since of distance as you get older. I hope to go back there real soon before I get to much older in which I’ll probably not recgonize anything other than what is still in my mind…oh so many fond memories!!
    Thanks for sharing the pictures and bringing back memories.

    Comment by Thersa Barnett | February 1, 2012 | Reply

    • hi-thersa-my-name-is-billy-martin-i-remember-your-family-and-you-and-rich-i-think-your-dad-was-known-as-tex-i-also-went-to-school-there-me-and-richie-was-in-the-same-grade

      Comment by billy-martin | June 2, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Theresa,
      I remember you and your parents. I baby sat you from time to time. I was always afraid to walk home (across the tracks) after dark.Tex. was thoughtful and would walk me home..

      Comment by Shirley (Norvell) Steffenhagen | August 19, 2013 | Reply

  13. Would love to here more from people still interested in Lester. My family lived there from 1958 to 1980
    My parents owned The Log Cabin Lunch Cafe.

    Comment by Rick Nuzum | September 23, 2012 | Reply

    • Rick
      How are your parents Joe and Bonnie i had so much fun with them i had 5 kids back then maybe you new them we lived by the school

      Comment by ron rogers | January 28, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Rick My name is Jim .My family lived in Lester from 1958- 1962 ? My father was Art and Mother Geneva. I have 5 older sisters. Shirley,Janis,Maryjane,Reanna Letha. These are some of the people we new .Rosco and Eilen Rainey kids Carl and DeeDee, Walter Roundtree kids Patty,Margret,Pete,Eddie,Nancy,Skip. Dick and Bessie White kids Gary and Gloria Harold and Mildred Dumpis kids Arvad and Irene. Dave and Rick Nusum. Jimmy, Margie and KRISSY MANAKE. MARSHA,SUSIE,JULIE CARLA BISHOP. MIKE AND PEGGY MCGEE. STEVE JONES, CHARLES AND MARY MUNCH KIDS EARL, MARK, PAUL AND MARGIE. JERRY PARKS. VICKI BAILEY. RICK AND MIKE KERLE. DON HAHN. LAURA AND LINDA PAYTON TEX BARNETT AND THERSA. ROB,ROY,AND MIKE SMITH, THERE ARE MORE,HARD TO REMEMBER EVERYONE THANKYOU JIM

      P.S. PLEASE EXCUSE TYPING KEYBOARD STUCK

      Comment by James Norvell | August 20, 2013 | Reply

  14. I was married to Gertrude’s great nephew for 20 years, we had the family reunions up there. The old school house was the last building to be torn down. We would wake up to herds of elk in the yard. It was amazing up there! I am glad i got to be apart of that for many years. Gert was an amazing woman! Nothing stopped her!!! I want to share this article on my facebook page, GREAT pics of the old town. Connie (McCrea) Jackson

    Comment by Connie | December 22, 2012 | Reply

  15. […]  TravelChick […]

    Pingback by Lester, WA | Finding Washington | February 1, 2013 | Reply

  16. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments from the people that actually lived in Lester. Does anyone know if the NP Trestle is still in use (or even standing) and if it is accessible without a 4 x 4? Thanks, Ted Eggleston

    Comment by Ted Eggleston | March 16, 2013 | Reply

  17. Nice pictures, your campsite invokes memories of my grandfather and I would go up that road (mid 1960’s) to where there used to be a grade crossing. We would pick berries back in there and then cross the tracks and head back to “town” via the former Weston Loop. In the mid 1990’s I took my children to Lester to meet Gertrude Murphy, she was living at Friday Creek at that time. I knocked on the door and introduced myself and my kids to Gert, she invited us in and offered up Oreo cookies and Root Beer to the kids just like she had did to me when I was a little kid. Every spring/summer I can’t wait for the snow to melt on Stampede Pass so I can make my annual pilgrimage into Lester. Today I am in the process of recreating Lester on my 24′ X 14′ N-Scale model railroad, just building a shrine to my childhood.

    Comment by Mike McGee | May 12, 2013 | Reply

  18. I also lived briefly in Lester as a child. my step father worked at Scott paper co. We knew a family with 5 children with the last name of White. There was a snowy night when i Must have been 6 or 7. A bear had entered our back porch ,and was eating our garbage. My mother Diana Powell was home alone with myself a my infant Brother. She grabbed us and fled, leaving our belongings behind, and caught the train to Cle Elum .I have not been back there since then. I remember a Boy I little older than me. His Name was Jeff. Our family’s lost touch around 1974. I wonder what became of them?

    Comment by Tammy ( Bell ) Bean | July 26, 2013 | Reply

  19. what-year-did-you-live-there-my-step-dad-drove-log-truck-for-scott-paper-the-whites-were-friends-of-mine-what-was-your-last-name

    Comment by billy-martin | August 2, 2013 | Reply

    • Possibly Around !970 by brother Billy was around 2. My step fathers name was Ray Powell. He worked for Scott Paper.My last name however was Bell.

      Comment by Tammy ( Bell ) Bean | August 2, 2013 | Reply

  20. My Parents, Art and Geneva Norvell, and my siblings and I lived in Lester in the early 60’s. Dad was with NP. We lived in the Railroad house just next to the school. The Dumpus family was our neighbors. I often wonder what may have happened to the Rainey, Dumpus , MaGee and White families. The memories I have of Lester and the people we came to know and love are still very cherished ! Would love to hear from any of you that may share these same memories and the wonderful times we had growing up in this beautiful area..
    Shirley Steffenhagen (Norvell)

    Comment by Shirley (Norvell) Steffenhagen | August 19, 2013 | Reply

  21. hi-shirley-havent-seen-you-since-we-were-kids-hope-youre-well-billy-martin

    Comment by billy-martin | August 21, 2013 | Reply

  22. I went to school in lester Washington 1st thru 12 graduated in 1972 Dezi dzintra dumpis now mathews Harold and mild a dumpis were my parents do I know any one visiting this site

    Comment by Dezi mathews | September 22, 2013 | Reply

    • I worked for your dad for a year in 1973. It was one of the most memorable years of my life. On my first day there he asked me if I could play chess. I said I could. “You any good,” he asked? “Better than you,” I replied. “Ooooh, veel see about zat,” he said. So we copied the lineup and drove back to Friday Creek. I spent that morning getting thoroughly trounced – and I AM a good chess player. Your mom was a sweetheart too. I came back a couple of years later for a visit, and she had a pet coyote! What a hoot…. (I have a picture of her hugging the critter.) I think you had moved on when I was there, but we met a couple of times. You had a younger sister…. Irene, was it? Hope all is well with you. Cheers!

      Comment by Mike Cowan | September 10, 2014 | Reply

    • Remember me Mitch (Frank Michell) DeVito. Lester school 4th grade 1959. Your dad was my grandfathers (Joe DeVito) best friend. Mitch

      Comment by Mitch (DeVito) Michell | November 5, 2015 | Reply

  23. yes-dizintra-my-parents-rented-one-of-your-parents-cabins-my-name-is-bill-martin-me-and-arvid-y-use-to-fish-at-friday-creek

    Comment by billy-martin | October 10, 2013 | Reply

  24. Hi, Everyone! My father and I have enjoyed your comments. He used to spend his summers in Lester when he was a teen. This would be in the mid to late 50’s. His grandfather, Richard Griffin, engineered the helper train for the NPRR. His grandmother, Ginnette Griffin, would fix breakfast for the crew that came up out of Auburn each day. He remembers swimming in the Green River out behind the railroad depot with the Roundtree kids. He would love to contact this family, if anyone has info. about them. He thinks the boy’s name was Richard. He also remembers driving an old Studebaker one ton pickup up and down the road to the tavern and back. We both would love to have any pictures you have of old Lester. In addition, he would love to contact any people who have memories of his family or the Roundtree family.

    Comment by Bobbie Dysart | November 30, 2013 | Reply

    • I lived in Lester in the late 1940’s. I remember some Roundtree kids I used to play with. Pete Roundtree had only 1 arm. Would love to see any pictures, particularly the old school.

      Comment by Dick | December 19, 2015 | Reply

      • Didn’t Roundtree loose his arm in the washing machine ringer? I’m post #30 can I provide u with any specific info or help. Regards, Mitch DeVito

        Comment by northcoastlimited | January 31, 2016

      • I have some photos from 1975 or so. I was taking down the water tower. There was Roger and Raina (sp?), Harold Dumpis, Deedee Rainey’s daughter, and a few others. If I knew how to post them, I would do it. I have abandoned Facebook for cause.

        Comment by Mike Cowan | January 31, 2016

  25. Hi! I worked as a telegrapher for Northern Pacific Railroad in Lester, Washington during the summer of 1969. I left at the end of the summer to start my junior year in college. I always wanted to come back to visit the town but was not able to. I am really sorry to hear that the buildings have been demolished by a bulldozer. I worked from 3 PM to 11 PM and on my 2 days off I called the conductor on the radio and asked if he would give me a ride to Seattle on the passenger train or freight train. It was really fun to ride with the Conductor in the caboose on the freight train or in the locomotive with the engineer. I remember the day shift’s telegrapher’s name was Basil Buck. I lived upstairs in the train station and had a stove and refrigerator to make my own meals. I visited the tavern once and ate at the restaurant twice during the summer. A complete meal there was three dollars and I thought that was really expensive! I remember there was an old water tower tank near the track for old steam engines for the steam era. My job as a telegrapher there was to receive train orders from the train dispatcher in Tacoma, sell passenger tickets, and to type up bills of lading for railroad cars filled with logs from the logging camp. I also operated a switch from inside the depot that let one train take the siding while another passed by. Typing train orders from the dispatcher to hoop up to the engineer and conductor was stressful as if I copied or typed the train orders wrong there could be a head on wreck between opposing trains on the same single track. I also had to be finished typing and reading it back to the Tacoma dispatcher before the freight trains arrived. They didn’t stop. I tied the train orders with a string and attached them to a Y shaped pole on the side of the depot near the track. The engineer and conductor would put their arm through the loop to retrieve the train order and bills of lading. I also worked closely with the Scott Paper Co. yard foreman to physically get RR car numbers off loaded cars ready to be shipped. I day hiked on a trail once about 5 mi to a lookout tower on top of a mountain and I got a real good view of Mount Rainier. The trailhead started a short distance from the depot on the other side of a stream. I remember there were some high voltage transmission tower lines not very far back from the school and the electricity made some humming sounds. Does anyone know how long Basil Buck worked as a telegrapher there after I left end of August 1969? I had some real good memories of working that summer at Lester and really enjoy reading other people’s comments. Thanks. I wish I had a video camera back then! All my photos taken there have disappeared unfortunately.

    Comment by Larry Wandschneider | January 8, 2014 | Reply

    • I worked in Lester in 1973 and saw Buck on a regular basis. A few years later – 1979 or so – I was working at Steilacomb and ran into him. He was still working as a telegrapher, although I don’t recall which location. Harold Havens was still dispatching, and Duke Tone was just retiring then. If you remember, he used to write a column for the credit union newsletter entitled “Turns in the Road.” When he retired, I wrote a spoof column that they published in its stead entitled “Tone’s in the Road.” In 1975 I bought that water tower from the BN for $1. I dismantled it piece by piece with the intention of rebuilding it elsewhere as a sort of cabin. When I realized that wasn’t going to work out, I scrapped the steel, and I gave the redwood to Harold Dumpis. He planned on using ti to panel his living room out at Friday Creek, but I never got back to find out if he was able to use it or not.

      Comment by Mike Cowan | September 10, 2014 | Reply

  26. So how far in is Lester? I drove up there today, parked at the “No cars past this point” bridge and walked about a mile (down to just past the first turn in the road, at the 7 1/2 sign) and saw nothing in the distance. Was it much futher? Was I on the wrong road?

    Comment by desslok1984 | August 29, 2014 | Reply

    • I think you probably just needed to go a bit further and you would have been there. 🙂

      Comment by travelnole | September 10, 2014 | Reply

    • About a half of a mile further you would have been where the school used to be.

      Comment by Mike McGee | September 10, 2014 | Reply

  27. I have worked for the various phone companies covering Lester and the Stampede Pass weather station for 17 years. Today we were repairing the phone cable a half mile west of the BSNF yard. The phone cable was recently severed when a tree came down hitting the pole which then leaned across the tracks, and t0again hit by the next train. Thank you storm for providing me with an opportunity to work in one of the best settings in Washington. During our break we walked behind the last two houses and found a few old intact bottles that were exposed from the recent flooding from a storm. We saw 4 herds of elk on our way in as well, the most I have ever seen. Sadly the barn is almost to the ground. The two houses will not be far behind. There really isnt much left, the airfield is gone, and the river will likely take the newer road out in the next few years, if that long. All of the old glass insulators from the poles are long gone, along with the telegraph lines. BSNF removed poles and lines about 6 years ago just outside of town. The watershed owns, and barely maintains the last remaining inhabitable house near the east gate. It would have been nice if one of the last 2 houses in town were saved by someone, but I wont hold my breath. Sights to see are cars in various locations, a cabin, the covered trailer in the woods, and various appliances scattered throughout the wooded areas. More and more is gone every year, mostly overgrown. Many foundations remain but you have to look hard for them. I have been told there was a cemetary near the newer sideout location, rumor is that a casket was exposed during placement, and had to move track over. BSNF and the Centurylink hut are the only actively used buildings. Someday I hope to find the hot springs, gps cords found online go to nowhere, I suspect the RR or City of Tacoma Water may have filled them in to keep people out. So much history destroyed by both Tacoma Watershed, BSNF, and vandals.

    Comment by Rocky | January 12, 2015 | Reply

    • The railroad was a prime element in the history of that area, and did far more building, and very little if any destruction. You might consider leaving them out of your comment about vandals and the City of Tacoma watershed, both of whom HAVE destroyed much of historical value. Indeed, back around the turn of the last century up to the second world war, there were many hundreds, if not a couple thousands of people living in Weston, Lester, Maywood, Nagrom, and Stampede. The area was built up by the Scott Paper Company and the Northern Pacific. It was confiscated by the City of Tacoma, and its people scattered to the wind.

      Comment by Michael Cowan | January 14, 2015 | Reply

  28. What a great article and conversation.
    A couple of the logging camp buildings, one bunkhouse and the saw shop, were rescued before the big destruction in Lester; they’ve been reconstructed in Buckley Washington at the museum there.
    Does anybody know of pictures of the logging camp in its heyday after WWII?
    Thanks

    Comment by Bruce Hansen | May 8, 2015 | Reply

  29. I have recent pictures of the hot springs and the area where the old resort once was. I had to sneak in there last year (2014) to do this. I attempted again this year but the water dept. has stepped up their patrol and they’re not messing around – nice folks, they just don’t want you physically in their water. Tacoma only owns 15% of the watershed which is why there’s not a fence around the entire thing like “other” watersheds. I wish they would issue permits to explore (for a fee) to hikers. Supposedly the Skopamish Indians (now called Muckleshoot) can gain access for ceremonies and hunters can get one issued – good luck on that!

    Comment by Old Hippie | July 23, 2015 | Reply

    • Oh wow! I’m so excited that you have photos of the hot springs! I wanted to try to find it, but ran out of time. I’d love to see those pictures. Have you checked out the Lester Facebook page?

      https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=111363525549037

      Comment by travelnole | July 23, 2015 | Reply

      • The hot springs exist but all pools and cave have been removed via dynamite which is unfortunate because people (and wildlife) have clearly gathered here for a really long time.

        Comment by Old Hippie | July 24, 2015

      • That is unfortunate. 😦

        Comment by travelnole | July 24, 2015

      • for security reasons please send me an e-mail address for pictures – thanks!

        Comment by Old Hippie | July 24, 2015

      • Sure.

        withhope@live.com

        Comment by travelnole | July 24, 2015

    • I would love to see your hot springs photos, or any photos of the Lester area. My sister and nephew are visiting and we hiked to Lester today. I’m quickly becoming obsessed with the town and it’s history. Thanks…..Kennedy

      Comment by Kennedy Singleton | August 10, 2015 | Reply

  30. I recall one time that Harold and I were returning from Kanaskat on the motorcar, and spotted some guy hanging out around Nagrom. Harold screeched the crummy to a stop and yelled at the guy, “HEY! Vat you up to here?” The guy said he was with a cable TV outfit and they were contracting with the Burlington Northern to put their cables on our pole line. Harold simply looked at the guy and said something to the effect of…”Ven I climb zees poles to fix zee signals, my gaffs cannot be blamed for gouging your cables………”

    The guy said, “Just a minute.”

    He went back to his truck and returned with a brand new half gallon of bourbon and gave it to Harold.

    Later on… MANY YEARS later one, there was never any cable strung between Kanaskat and Stampede. Harold Dumpis was one of the finest men I ever met in 33 years on the railroad. I’ll never forget him, and honor his memory.

    Comment by Mike Cowan | January 31, 2016 | Reply

    • Harold was my grandfather’s (Joe DeVito) best friend. I spent many hours enjoying Harold’s company at our house. He was a kind gentle giant with a fantastic personality. I too will never forget him, we hunted, rode the rail in speeders, and allegedly dynamited the Tacoma Watershed gate on the West end! We owned 160 acres in Hot Springs, built a homestead 1929, and worked the land. We were one of the last forced out 1970 when we lost our property in King County Superior Court after Tacoma appealed our initial win stemming from an earlier court victory. We were compensated a pittance of the property’s worth. It was completely covered with old growth timber which Tacoma quickly sold off. Lost our house too which was just west of the depot. My grandfather, Harold, and I built that house using timber we salvaged from the Lester Hotel. Great memories followed by sad times. To all who are listening; anyone recall the Koss Brothers on the South side of the Green River at Humphrey? True mountain men. I spent many hours at their farm learning the ways of the land. What Tacoma did to them was criminal. Visited all these places just 5-yrs ago on a hunting tag. Great time–started at Eagle Gorge, Humphrey, Nagrom, Hot Springs, Lester, and Stampede Pass. The Tacoma Watershed Agents we very kind to me recalling my grandfather fondly and his efforts to roust them. They invited me to their Lester HQ for coffee and updated me on all the history since we left. My great thanks and appreciation to them as they probably guessed what it meant returning to an area which raised four family generations.

      Comment by northcoastlimited | January 31, 2016 | Reply

      • There was something almost magical about living in Lester. I was only able to be there for one year, transferring to St. Paul, Minnesota in January of 1974. Years later (1998 or so) I was able to return as foreman of a mobile signal crew that was helping with the reopening of the old NP line from Auburn to Ellensburg. It was just not the same, of course. Things always change, and sometimes it seems better to just leave the old memories undisturbed.

        Comment by Mike Cowan | February 1, 2016

      • When I was a kid in Lester in the late 1940’s I remember a girl named Rosie DeVito, I think she was about my age. Went to school in Lester. My teacher was Mrs. Walters.

        Comment by Richard Osburn | February 15, 2017

  31. Tacoma, the ssshole of the Pacific Northwest, has no use for the vast area of land that they have STOLEN from the honest settlers of the Green River valley area. What has transpired up there over the last 60 years or so has been a communistic land grab – nothing more or less than that. Forkem all and piss on their graves !!!!!!!!

    Comment by Marvelous Mike Cowan | June 11, 2017 | Reply

  32. Rosie DeVito is my mom’s (Betty DeVito) younger sister. She lives in the SF Bay Area and is doing very well. She’s not savvy with the internet. She still loves gardening, the outdoors and animals. Maybe you also recall Rose’s younger sister Nina DeVito. I just heard from Vicki Bottom who indicates there is an annual picnic at Friday Creek every year. Would love to know more about the event and I would definitely attend if invited. NorthCoastLimited. Frank/Mitch/Michell (DeVito). Hot Springs 1919-1949, Humphrey 50-59, and Lester 1959-1972, San Francisco 1946-1977, and San Diego 1977-present. Still have 51 Italian family members in Auburn and Kent. I go to Lester every year and when I get lucky, on the hunting lottery, I use the opportunity to visit all the restricted areas. Let’s hear it for the Northern Pacific Railway–Sometimes late at night I can still hear train whistle and love it!

    Comment by northcoastlimited | June 19, 2017 | Reply

    • For more information about the annual picnic, check out the Lester, WA Facebook page. Someone recently mentioned it there.

      Comment by travelnole | June 19, 2017 | Reply


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