Thursday, November 16, 2017

District 37, Crescent Valley School District, Gig Harbor

District 37, Crescent Valley School District, Gig Harbor

Joseph Goodman - He first lived in Samuel Jeresich's cabin behind spit, but since area was military reservation, he built home and farm in Crescent Valley (Crescent Drive near Drummond intersection)

Joseph and Rose Goodman, along with their children, arrived in the Gig Harbor area in 1883.  Joseph was a Civil War veteran having served in the 45 Wisconsin Voluntary Infantry.  The education of their children was of foremost importance.  This is why three of their children remained in Tacoma to finish high school when they arrived.  At first Joseph taught his and the Jeresich children in the evenings after he finished his farm chores.  By 1886 the local Gig Harbor tribe of the Puyallup-Nisqually tribe loaned him their potlatch house to use as a schoolhouse.  His daughter Anna was employed as the teacher, and now the student body included the Novak children as well as the Jeresich and Goodman children. 

The community was experiencing growth, which meant a new school house was needed.  In 1887, the school house was finished, but before a teacher could be hired the citizens needed to form a school district.  Joseph Goodman took it upon himself to see that this was done.  As Therese Hogan wrote in her “The Early Years of Education in the Gig Harbor Area and the Goodman Family”, August 9, 2000 paper:  Joseph Goodman walked several miles to get a petition signed and to conduct a census.  He walked north along the Kitsap County Line, west to Purdy, east to The Sound.  The southern point is unknown as to where he walked but his effort resulted in one of the largest school districts in the area.  He obtain the names of every school age child.  At this time funds were allowed to schools for the number of school age children in an area, although they were not required to attend.  With the documentation of a proposed school district and the names and head count of school age children Joseph Goodman traveled across The Narrows by row boat, 10 miles to Tacoma, and met with the County Superintendent of Schools and “others”.  His proposal mapped the largest school district in the area, which would be designated District #37.  Joseph Goodman was a trustee and a clerk of the school board for many years.”.

This area became Crescent Valley School District #37.  The Harbor History Museum has a hand drawn map of the area which identifies it as:  beginning at the point where the shoreline of Puget Sound known as Colvos Passage intersects the north boundary line of Pierce County T 22 N R 2 E thence west to N W For. of Sec. 17 in said T & R thence south to S W For of Sec 29 thence west to N W For of Sec 31 thence south to SW For of Sec 7 T 21 N R 2 E thence east to the intersection of the said line with the shoreline of Puget Sound thence along said shore line in northernly direction to place of beginning.  There was a conflict in the descriptions of boundaries with District # 36, both of them evidently being given section 31.  It was left with District #37.  Later (5/3/1912) the Lincoln School District in Gig Harbor was formed of most of the lower half of sections 5 and 6, section 8 and most of section 7.  Earlier when #79 was formed part of the southeast corner of 7 had been transferred to it.”

The school District as described above contains numerous land patents, and there are no land patents associated with the district itself.  By 1941, all the greater Gig Harbor Community schools were incorporated into on district, that being Peninsula School District #401. 

In 1887 another building had been constructed to house the school and the students fas the student free as more people settled in the area, and the school district identified was so very large.
Crescent Valley School, Winter

By 1915 another new school building, which we currently remembered as the Crescent Valley School aka The Masonic Temple was built.  This last building is still standing and is located at 3025 96th Street NW, Gig Harbor.  (It was recently purchased by the City of Gig Harbor and adjoins the City Park).  It was built by E. L. Major & F. C. Bradshaw of Olalla, WA.  Unfortunately I have been unable to trace these two men.
Crescent Valley School, West Side with fire escapes - 1948

Crescent Valley School, Rear View, Boys bathroom at end of woodshed, Steps leading up to main floor.  March 1948.  Frank Owen Shaw

The following information was found in the Research Room at the Harbor History Museum.

“The following material was written by Mrs. John H. Insel for the Tacoma News Tribune:

“When the Crescent Valley school building is sold this Saturday at public auction to the highest bidder, another district school will join “the little red school house” in history.

“This notable landmark, located at the head of Crescent Valley, one half mile northeast of Gig Harbor, was constructed in 1915 by Pierce County School district No. 37 to provide a school for the large number of children in the fast growing community.  Heretofore, the children had attended the two room school house which was built in 1887 at he head of the bay on a site donated by Dr. A. M. Burnham who came to Gig Harbor in 1884.  The building has since been divided, one room now houses the Peninsula Gateway, weekly newspaper at Gig Harbor, and the other is a part of the Edward New house.

“Directors of the district at the time the Crescent Valley School was built were Peter Alvestad, Homer Benson, and Arthur Peterson.  The two story frame building with its distinctive tower that is visible at a long distance was dedicated in August, 1915, with Principal Nash of the Bellingham Normal School giving the main address.  Contractors who erected the structure were Major and Bradshaw of Gig Harbor.  The building originally had two rooms, but an increase in enrollment necessitated building a third room in the basement.

“The first primary teacher was Miss Lucy Goodman of Crescent Valley and the other teacher was a Professor Hatch.”

In a later column, Mrs. Insel tells of the sale of the school and the plans for he future use of the building and site:  

“Plans for a new Masonic temple on the site of the Crescent Valley school, one-hale mile northeast of Gig Harbor, were announced Saturday by the Masonic Temple Association.  Excavation for foundations and basement will be started as soon as weather permits.  The second story and tower of the school building which occupies the site will be razed and the interior of the lower floor will be remodeled to conform to the new architectural plan for the building.

“‘Architects’ plans, drawn by Mock & Morrison of Tacoma, show that a 30 X 39 foot addition with basement will be built on to the west end of the present structure.  The first floor level will have a 38 X 46 lodge auditorium, an adjacent anteroom and preparation room.  The basement, besides a 30 X 40 foot banquet and social hall, will contain a modern, fully equipped kitchen.

“There are separate chapter rooms for Waconda Chapter, No. 217, Order of the Eastern Star, and Waconda assembly, No. 122, Order of Rainbow for Girls.

“At present the Masonic Lodge is housed in private quarters in the Community Hall.”

A newspaper article, presumably Tacoma News Tribune although note noted, tells us that the drive to acquire a new lodge building originally started in 1943.  At the time they were meeting in private quarters in the Community Hall, owned by Herman Uddenberg, Post No. 1854, VFW.  The Masonic group then formed the Gig Harbor Masonic Temple Association in 1946.  Byron L . Conan was the worshipful master of the John Paul Jones Lodge.  

A booklet entitled “Freemasons in Gig Harbor” written and produced by Joe Hoots in 1997 tells us that the Masons were active in Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula area prior to 1920, although much of its history has disappeared.  However the booklet provides much history of the organization from the 1940s forward.  He states that “We do know that eighteen local sojourning Masons became charter members that established John Paul Jones #271 F & AM in 1926.”

The City of Gig Harbor Parks Page has this to say about the adjoining park:  Located at 3303 Vernhardson Street, Crescent Creek Park is still known to long-time residents as "City Park". The park's large, open air structure, natural creekbed, and specimen trees represent an important historic landscape that embodies Gig Harbor’s early rural lifestyle. It was the first (and for many years) only park within city limits. It signifies a national economic period of significance with architectural characteristics of a type, method of design, and construction typical of WPA projects around the country. Although the Park is not currently listed, the WPA structures at City Park are eligible for Gig Harbor's Register of Historic Places.
The site was originally owned by Crescent Valley School (built 1915) and was used as a playground.

The first homesteaders to stake claims in the Crescent Valley appeared as early as 1883, and made a living off the valley land through ranching, farming, and dairy operations. In 1915, the Crescent Valley School was built and remained the primary school house for the valley until it closed at the end of the 1946-1947 school year. Crescent Valley School owned the stretch of land along Vernhardson Street upon which the WPA recreational structures had been built near Crescent Creek. With the school set to close, the school board donated this piece of land to the town of Gig Harbor in 1946 to be used as a park. This park soon became known simply as Town Park. 
Now, at the end of 2017, we await to discover what the City of Gig Harbor has in store for this property.

  • Old Town, Gladys Para
  • The Early Years of Education in the Gig Harbor Area and the Goodman Family by Therese Hogan, August 9, 2000
  • Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room
  • Harbor History Museum, Research Room document with Mrs. Insel’s article
  • Washington Dept of Archaeology & Historic Preservation
  • City of Gig Harbor Parks

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.


  1. E. L. Major was Elmer Lincoln Major. He lived in Gig Harbor for quite a while.

    Elmer Lincoln Major, B ca. 1861 in Pennsylvania, D 11-26-1942, age 81

    1910 census listed as E. L. Majors in Gig Harbor, farmer
    Susey Majors
    Jennie Majors, Cora Majors, Elma Majors
    Martin Carey

    1920 farmer in Gig harbor

    residence Gig Harbor 1940

    Buried in Fraola Cemetery in Olalla

    Attached is a rather strange story about one of his kids.
    Corra Major loses memory 1924 .jpg

    1. Thank you so much for your information. As a child, I and my family lived in the farmhouse on Crescent Valley Rd. I remember having a visitor come by. A woman and her husband. She said she had lived there at one time. Her age made me wonder if she was on of Elmer's daughter's. The memory of her visit is a delightful and cherished memory of my childhood.

  2. It was not possible to attach the article which is said to be attached. It has been printed and is available for reading in the Research Room.

  3. Hello Harbor History Museum. I am so glad to read this article! I have been trying find info regarding Elmer Major. I believe he may have built the farmhouse that I and my family lived in when I was a child, back in the 60's. The farmhouse is on Crescent Valley Rd. past Crescent Lake, on the corner of Crescent Valley Rd and 196th. The house was built in 1920 and will soon see it's 100th birthday. How about that? I am hoping to read the article about Elmer's daughter, Cora in your Research Room. Thank you for your post. Sincerely, Jan Rouse

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