South Hill Pioneers—the Mosolf Family
by Carl Vest
One of the earliest families to settle on South Hill was named Mosolf. George Mosolf and his wife Theresa, along with two children, arrived in the late 1870s. Some accounts give their coming as 1876 while others say 1879.
The Mosolf’s came from California. George was a native of West Prussia. He was born in 1837. Theresa was a native of Bohemia. George spent the first 20 years of his life in Germany and was a brewer by trade. He had immigrated to New York in 1857, lived a while in Wisconsin, and later went to California, arriving there about 1874. Theresa was born in 1850. She immigrated to Virginia but subsequently moved to California and worked as a housekeeper in San Francisco. It was there the two met and married. They later moved north to Washington Territory.
After coming into the northwest the Mosolf’s acquired land on South Hill. Some accounts put their holdings at 180 acres, while other writings say it was 120 acres. Some reports say they homesteaded while others declare the acreage was purchased from the Northern Pacific Railroad. Land records show they settled on about 100 acres. The place they chose was a dense forest on the hill above Puyallup which would later be known as Puyallup Heights. To locate it today, move north from the South Hill Mall, on Meridian Avenue, toward the Puyallup Fair Grounds. As you crest the hill look to the right and in the distance you will see the Sunset Apartments. These buildings are the approximate location of the farm.
Just how the Mosolf’s traveled to South Hill is not known. But records do show they used Steilacoom as their shopping center after they arrived. Such usage would indicate they probably reached their settlement using the old Military Road that connected Steilacoom and the Hill. In the beginning neither Tacoma nor Puyallup was a part of the activities of the Mosolf family. It could be that they didn’t know Puyallup existed when they first arrived.
It must be recognized that the roads and streets we now use between the Hill and the valley areas did not exist in the late 1800s. When the Mosolf’s arrived there was no Meridian Avenue. Family history records tell of family members at a later date walking to Puyallup for supplies. They used foot paths. One regularly used trail went first to Meeker Junction, and then to Puyallup. Using this conduit it has been estimated that about eight miles of walking was required for a trip. Meeker Junction is the railroad intersection at about present day Shaw Road and Pioneer Avenue.
Over the years the family cleared the land. In keeping with George’s early training they initially grew hops for the brewing industry. For a while this was a successful business. Later they switched to berries and fruit. At times the family was well known for its red raspberries and strawberries as well as crops of cherries. Today the old farm is planted in housing.
Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.