Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Earl Newell Steele comes to Olympia, 1903

Doan's Cafe, Olympia, WA 1906 (UW Digital Collections)
From a longer piece I'm working on about E.N. Steele, Olympia lawyer, civic leader, oyster booster and treaty rights activist:

Earl Newell was born outside of Des Moines, Iowa in 1881. After graduating from State University of Iowa, he made a short tour of the west. Once in Olympia, he sat down for a dinner of oysters. That meal sealed Olympia for Newell.

Steele tells the story in his unpublished manuscript, "Letters to Grandpa" about a chance meeting with an old friend and an oyster lunch kept Steele in Olympia:
I again met people from Seattle who strongly advised me to locate in Seattle. Two of my classmates in college had located. But again some thing told me “No, see Olympia first.” So I listened, but I had to change at Centralia to get to Olympia. And that proved to be the most fortunate decision of all. We arrived there about noon. Not knowing where I was going I started toward what appeared to be the business district. I had not gone more than a couple of blocks till I met a young man. We took a good look at each other.

Then he stopped facing each other and he almost shouted at me “Pete Steele, where did you come from?” “Roy MacRenalds, where did you come from?” I then recognized him, for he said “Pete”, and I had not heard that since I left school in Perry, Iowa, We had been friends in school. We had both lost track of the other. After a little chatter he said he was on his way to lunch and asked me to go with him. We went to Doan's Oyster House. He ordered Doan’s oyster pan roast. As they served it he said, “Pete, after you eat this you will never want to leave Olympia.” He had spoken more than he knew. I had never eaten any thing I enjoyed so much.
So Steele stayed. He started out as a teacher in Tenino, but eventually entered the law practice in Olympia in 1903.

Steele’s love for Olympia is obvious in his writing. He was either a great salesman for Olympia or the rest of his Iowa-based family (four brothers, sister and mom and dad) had tenuous ties to Iowa. Within months of Earl settling in Puget Sound, all seven of them made the trek west to Washington State.


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