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The Alderton Connection

By Jerry Bates

Not much is left of Alderton. I’ve noticed it doesn’t even show up on some current area maps. I assume our readers know where Alderton is, if not, its the little cluster of buildings a mile north of the intersection of Old Military Road and State Route 162 (Valley Ave.) as you head towards Sumner.

Looking Back
Let’s go back a hundred and twenty years, or so. Alderton wasn’t always so obscure. For early residents of the hill, say prior to 1888, Alderton was the closest center of activity, where you went for supplies, mail, church and general contact with the world beyond lonely farm and tall trees.

Old & new building The Alderton store 1913, seen here with the much-remodeled store of today. Just north of the store (not seen in these views) is the old Alderton School and gymnasium built in 1915, still standing.

Strange as it seems to us nowadays, there was a time when living on the hill didn’t mean you belonged to Puyallup. There was no road to Puyallup until 1888 — years after many families had already occupied the hill. The story is often told of the early settler Alois Kupfer, living on the hill six months before discovering where Puyallup was. At that time travel was oriented east and west across the hill following the Military Road not north and south following Meridian Ave. E as today. For many early hill families a trip to “town” would mean following the Military Road down the hill to Alderton, not down the hill to Puyallup. Back then Alderton was approaching its heyday, a thriving new community, larger than Sumner to its north, sitting astride the Military Road and a rail line running north and south.

The lure of Alderton for these hill families rapidly diminished after a road up the hill from Puyallup was completed in 1888. But one significant South Hill connection to Alderton remained for many years after that, and is still vivid in the memories of many local old-timers. A landmark business during the early commercial era of Willows Corner was the Howard Annis Chevron Station; the owner’s grandfather, Orson Annis, was the “Ezra Meeker” of Alderton.

A town is born
During the early days, the site of Alderton was the proverbial fork in the road. After descending into the Puyallup River valley following the Naches Pass route across the Cascades and arriving at the river, the road went off in two directions. One way was to Seattle the other crossed the river at the Van Ogle’s farm, then traveled the remaining width of the valley floor and wound its way up the hill and on to Steilacoom.

Orson Annis and his family were among the first to homestead in the valley on the west side of the Puyallup River, at today’s site of Alderton, in 1869. In 1876 the Northern Pacific Railroad completed a spur from the Wilkeson coal mines and sandstone

quarry to Puyallup. A train passed Alderton every ten minutes. There were many stops for wood along the route to feed the wood-burning locomotives; one of these was just west of the Annis homestead. Annis saw the potential for a future town. He and a neighbor, Mr. Oliver, gave the wood stop the official name of “Alderton,” inspired by the heavy stand of alder trees in the area. Annis and his sons cleared the land, planted fruit trees, built a sawmill, a store and hotel. Annis later became the first Postmaster and ticket agent, thus earning him the title by people of the valley “Father of Alderton.”

Annis legacy continues on South Hill
In 1936, Howard Annis, grandson of the early Alderton founder, took over a small service station at the Willows Corner (39th Ave. SW & Meridian E.). He and his wife, former Ada Kilian, ran the business themselves. As time went by the business grew and he employed two men full time, plus remodeled and expanded the station.

Annis Station
The Howard Annis Chevron Station, a landmark of Willows Corner for many years. Today the Payless Shoe store occupies this site at the Willows Corner (39th Ave. SW & Meridian E.)

Howard had space leased to Henry (Hank) Alflen, who was the service station mechanic. Hank later moved his repair business to a new location and named it Hilltop Service, which still operates today at its original location just as Meridian E. crests the Hill, across from Meridian Firs Apartments.

Orson Annis, probably never dreamed the future would see his growing town no longer on maps and the dark old growth forest on the hill behind him being covered with thousands of homes and a hectic commercial corridor.

If any of our members/readers have any info on Howard Annis and the old service station, stories, memories, pictures, please let me know so we can fill out this brief history. Contact the South Hill Historical Society, see link on the navagation bar on the left of this page.

Old Annis Farm House

This is the Orson Annis (Father of Alderton) farmhouse built in the late 1880s. It stood, until about five years ago, directly across from the current Alderton Grocery/Food Mart. Orson Annis like many of his peers at the time became affluent thanks to hop growing. Economic hard times of the late 1890s, plus a hop-killing aphid and the cost of the poison to kill it, put most local growers out of business. For Orson it meant selling the house he built to L.M. Hatch and his store to Andrew Perfield. The Hatch’s son, Miles Hatch, went on to make the house and acreage the center of valley daffodil, tulip and hyacinths activity. The flower-growing farm then known as the “Hatch Ranch” had such a beautiful setting with stately trees and a backdrop of intensely colored fields, it became a large tourist attraction. The ranch was recognized nationally when it earned a two-page color spread in the 1961 Saturday Evening Post magazine.