Creation of Meridian Avenue
by Carl Vest
Meridian Avenue is the traffic artery through South Hill. It is also the community’s oldest planned road, dating from the late 1800s. The route was created by the actions of local citizens and Pierce County government working together. That process is noteworthy as it illustrates a moment in the history of South Hill.
It was on December 29, 1888 that the Pierce County Commissioners received a petition to “lay out” and “establish” a new thoroughfare on South Hill. The road was to begin at the Puyallup “town” line and proceed south for approximately five miles, ending at the corner of a farm owned by Carl Muhler. The request was signed by 87 local citizens and was accepted by the Commissioners on February 4, 1889. A bond in the amount of $200 was required to pay for the survey and was furnished by Harvey M. Ball and George Wood. When the road was completed it was named in their honor.
The survey for the road was done during a five day period starting on April 30, 1889. J.C.Kincaid and William Shuman were appointed as the “viewers.” They hired three assistants: John Spencer, Veriin Raymoure and C.D. Bailets. During that period land distances were measured by dragging an iron chain over the route and so C.S. Bailets was employed as a chainman. A chain consisted of 100 links and was 66 feet long. Also, it was customary to mark established survey points by cutting notches or symbols onto trees. To do this, and to clear the way where necessary, two ax men were engaged: George Mercy and F.M Atinnette. So the survey party consisted of eight people.
The survey was started at the Puyallup town line at about the point where today’s Meridian and Pioneer avenues intersect. It was recorded that the first couple of miles were over cleared land and on a gently rising slope. At most points there were no trees nearby to make marks and so stakes were used to identify distances. By mile three thick groves of timber had been encountered. This would have been at the top of the hill around present day 112th Street.
Working south, through miles three and four, large trees were encountered as was considerable swampy land. Distances were then recorded by marking trees, both fir and cottonwood, which were noted as being up to 24 inches in diameter. Mile four ended at today’s 144th Street.
At about present-day 160th Street the survey team turned east and ended its work at the corner of today’s 110th Avenue. This was roughly five miles from the starting point. It was documented that as the farm was approached the land became less swampy.
The bill for surveying the road was $102.30. Kincaid, Sherman and Raymoure each received $10 for five days labor. Spencer and Stinette were paid $12. George Mercy was paid $12 and Bailets two dollars. Other charges were made for writing and platting the results and for mileage. The invoice was dated May 7, 1889.
Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.