Tacoma Illustrated

Tacoma Illustrated
Her History, Growth & Resources
A Comprehensive Review of the 
City of Destiny
Chapter 4


By Holice, Pam, and Deb

Extra special thanks to Holice B. Young for transcribing this book.  The excellent work she does continues to help many researchers!  Thanks also, to Pam Rietsch, for sharing her books with genealogists!


Page 18



Wheat has made cities. Some of the greatest cities on the American continent owe their growth largely to the wheat trade which has come to them because of their situation at the outlet of some great wheat district, their railroad facilities, or their position on some great river, lake, or better yet, one of the two great oceans. To their location Chicago, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Duluth owe their greatness as grain markets or grain exporting cities. Tacoma is thus blessed. Her situation makes her the natural outlet of the great grain producing districts of Washington, Idaho and Oregon. She has the best railroad facilities of any city in the Northwest, and she is situated on Puget Sound, the great inlet of that greatest of oceans--the Pacific.

Tacoma has more than this. She has at her back one of the greatest wheat producing districts of the world. The grain region tributary to Tacoma includes a number of the largest counties of Washington, Idaho and Oregon, making in all a territory considerably large then many of the Eastern States possess, and certainly much more fertile and productive.

If an Eastern farmer gets twenty or twenty-five bushels of wheat per acre from his farm, he thinks he is doing well. The Washington farmer's acres average fairly well at fifty bushels to the acre, though a higher average is not unusual. The grain district in the southeastern part of Washington is known as the Walla Walla wheat district. This district also includes the Northeastern part of Oregon and several counties in the western part of Idaho. The other great grain district of Washington is known as the Inland Empire. It comprises the region lying between the Snake River and the Columbia River. This grain district is also known as the Big Bend country, from the fact of its being bounded on three of four sides by the great Columbia River. There is no real dividing line between the Walla Walla grain district and the Inland Empire. The two districts together comprise the whole of eastern and southeastern Washington, but the opposite boundaries of the grain producing region as so far apart that it more convenient to know the grain region as two wheat districts. The Walla Walla wheat district is the older of the two in the matter of cultivation. Wheat has been grown in this region for over twenty years, and the land now produces as much wheat per acre as it ever did. This district is connected with Tacoma by two entirely different lines of railway. To begin with, the Oregon & Washington railroad, better known as the Hunt Railway system, taps the leading centers of the wheat district. The Northern Pacific Railroad and the Oregon Railway and Navigation company's lines both traverse the grain region also. The wheat is brought by the farmers to stations along one of the three lines of railroad and sold. The grain is bought by one of several elevator companies, or by private wheat buying firms. The Northern Pacific Elevator Company, which is the most important one buying what in this district, has wheat elevators or warehouses all along the lines of the Northern Pacific and the Oregon and Washington railroads. This company, which is one of the wealthiest in the Northwest, has it great elevators at Tacoma where all of its grain is shipped to be transferred tot he vessels that are to carry it to Europe. The wheat buyers and elevator companies buy the wheat and store it in the warehouses or elevators along the railroads until they are ready to ship it to Tacoma. The Oregon and Washington road is a feeder of both the Northern Pacific road and the Oregon Railway & Navigation line, though now, by a close traffic agreement, most of the wheat sold along the line of that road is transferred to the Northern Pacific line for shipment to the tide water.

The wheat picked up on the Northern Pacific and Oregon & Washington roads is shipped over the former line to Pasco Junction and thence over the Cascade division of the same road to Tacoma. The other route by which wheat is shipped to Tacoma is over the Oregon Railway & Navigation company’s line to Portland, Oregon, and thence to Tacoma over the pacific division of the Northern Pacific road, or by water to ocean vessels or steamships. The latter route is the longest, but the charges for the shipment of grain to Tacoma are the same, whichever route it comes by. The cost for the transportation of grain to Tacoma is $4,70 per ton. The wheat from the Inland Empire is shipped over the Northern Pacific road or its branches.

The wheat is gathered up on the main line of the road, the Spokane Falls and Palouse branch, and the Washington Central road, which is another branch of the Northern Pacific. The Northern pacific Elevator Company also has wheat warehouses and elevators along the line through the wheat district of the Big Bend country. After the wheat is bought and stored in the warehouses and elevators along the railroad, it is shipped by rail to Tacoma. Arrived in Tacoma, the wheat is stored in the immense elevators and warehouses. Among the principal firms exporting wheat from Tacoma are Balfour , Guthrie & Co., the Portland shipping company, C. Caeser & Co., McClaine, Wade & Co., Reese, Redman & Co., the Puget Sound flouring and Milling Company, the Tacoma Warehouse and Elevator Company, the Northern Pacific Elevator Company, Reed & Co., and Dusenberry & Co.

Tacoma has an aggregate warehouse and elevator capacity of over 4,000,000 bushels of wheat. It is the only seaport in Washington which has elevators or warehouses, and her grain handling and shipping facilities are vastly superior to those of any city on the pacific Coast, with the single exception of San Francisco. Among the large elevators and warehouses here are the Northern Pacific Elevator Company’s new elevator, just completed, the warehouse of the Tacoma Warehouse & Elevator Company, the Puget Sound Flouring & Milling Company's warehouses, and the new elevator now being built by the latter company. There is a large flouring mill at Tacoma which uses nearly 1,000 bushels of

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wheat per day, and the Puget Sound Flouring & Milling Company is now erecting a large flouring mill, one of the finest in this country, which will, when completed, turn out flour from 1,000 bushels of wheat per day.

Nearly 10,000,000 bushels of wheat can be stored in the elevators and warehouses at Tacoma and along the railway lines through the grain districts. As the wheat comes in, after the wheat harvest begins in the summer, the warehouses and elevators at Tacoma are quickly filled up and then the grain is stored in the grain district to be shipped on to Tacoma after the export shipment to Europe by vessel begins. It will thus be see that, though Tacoma is a young city and has not shipped any grain until within the last two or three years, she already has one of the best and most fully equipped systems of handling wheat, that there is in existence in the world. The method employed at the Northern Pacific elevator company's big elevator is a good example of how the wheat is handled after it reaches Tacoma. The cars of wheat are taken right into the elevator and there unloaded by steam power at the rate of a car every ten minutes on each of the two tracks which pass through the elevator. The wheat is carried to the top of the elevator, and emptied into immense bins. As this is written, the British iron bark Dumbartonshire is loading wheat at this elevator. She is the first vessel to load there, as the elevator was completed only a few weeks ago. When the vessel has reached the right position, one of the grain carriers is set in motion. There are two of them, and they carry the wheat from the elevators to the vessels at the rate of 2,400 bushels per hour. With these two carriers, two large vessels cane be loaded at the same time and at this rate a large vessel can be readily loaded in the extremely short space of three days.

In 1887, the ship Persian sailed for Europe from Tacoma with 45,000 centals of wheat valued at $50,000. This was the first cargo of wheat shipped from Tacoma, and the only cargo for that year. During the year 1888 there were shipped from Tacoma twenty-nine cargoes of a total weight of 1,517,040 centals, or nearly 3,000,000 bushels of wheat. The value of these twenty-nine cargoes aggregated $2,127,974. This jump at a single bound from shipping one cargo of wheat in 1887, to twenty-nine cargoes in 1889, demonstrated that Tacoma was to be a great grain shipping port. The export of wheat from Tacoma for the year 1889 will at least double that of last year. A vessel's expenses incoming in from, and going out to the sea from Tacoma, are several hundred dollars less than a vessel's expenses in going up to Portland from the sea and back again. the grain buyers now have representatives in the grain districts, and the farmers are selling their wheat at from 62 to 66 cents per bushel At #4.70 per ton for transportation, the rate per bushel is about 14 cents, so that the wheat is worth from 76 to 80 cents per bushel at the very lowest price when it reaches Tacoma. The Tacoma Produce Exchange was incorporated several months ago. The exchange has an office in the Chamber of Commerce building, and daily market reports are received from the principal grain markets of the world.




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