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Bush Family Still Lives on Original Land Claim
The Olympia News - By Bernice A. Sapp – September 13, 1945

The hundred year old Bush Estate on Bush Prairie, named for George Bush, who came west by ox-team with the Simmons party, basks in the shade of a huge butternut tree, the seeds of which Bush brought with him from his home in Missouri.

Conditions were different in those days.  Then there were no roads, only a dusty trail made by oxen feet across the prairie.  Now a paved highway runs alongside what is left of the once 640 acres of Donation Land Claim some of which is in the present Olympia Airport.  Slim planes stand in rows, where once sleek oxen plowed the furrows.

This airport vastly improved by the government was a necessary link in a chain of airports used the prosecution of the war just ended.  Well, they had wars too in those days… wars against the Indians, when all the settlers fled to the blockhouses.

One of the first and most famous of these was on the Bush place, underneath the butternut tree and poplar trees.  A stockade was built of saplings about 14 feet long, placed on end in a trench dug several feet deep with towers or forts at diagonal corners from which to watch for Indians.  Inside this enclosure were the cabins of the settlers.  All of this was in the years of 1855 and 1856.  This fort was always known as Bush’s Fort.

Here the families of the early settlers fled, and lived until all danger was over.  John Bush, the grandson of George W. Bush and the son of William Owens Bush, who crossed the plains with his father in 1844, can tell you all about where the old blockhouse or stockade stood, occupying about an acre of ground on the old place.  Here are the old houses once occupied by some of the Bush families... the Gaston House, the Reichel House, the John Bush House, and an immense barn.  There is an old-fashioned well on the place, worked by a pump, which has been the only means of getting water for these hundred years.

The Des Chutes River flows by a few hundred yards away, furnishing plenty of water for the stock.  A bridge which once spanned this river has long since fallen into decay.  Near this is the site of the George Foster Logging Camp.  Logs were hauled on a tramway across the Bush place and loaded onto the Port Townsend Southern Railway, which used to run parallel with the present highway to tidewater, where the logs were dumped.

Owen Bush and his son-in-law, George Gaston, had a logging camp out near Chein Hill near Tenino.  He had a farm there, where John Bush was born over 80 years ago.  John is still spry, gets around the farm a lot, but with failing eyesight.

Time was when all the six stalwart sons of George Bush of George Bush and Isabella James Bush, William Owens, Joseph T., Reilly B., Henry Sanford, and Jackson January, (Lewis N. Bush was born after the family arrived here) ran the ancestral acres.  Now, they including the parents are buried in Pioneer Union Cemetery on Littlerock Road.

John Bush enjoys the distinction of being the only heir living on an original donation claim west of the mountains.  His daughter, Mollie and her husband “Red” West, the former singing patrolman, live there with their children.  His daughter, Belle of Olympia, is a frequent visitor.

Bushes have always been noted for their hospitality and generosity.  The Bush farm was the stopping place between the settlement of Olympia and New Market (Tumwater) and Cowlitz Landing.  Night or day the Bushes kept open house to all comers – no one was turned away without being fed or sheltered.

It is related that George Bush refused a fabulous sum for all of his grain by Seattle speculators, in a year when grain was scarce.  He said he preferred to give his grain to his neighbors for seed in the spring.

Exhibits prepared by William Owen, consisting of samples of grain and produce grown on the Bush farm won metals and diplomas for Bush, from the World’s Fairs in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Buffalo.  Besides these medals won by Bush, personally the County of Thurston and the Territory and State of Washington were also awarded medals for the best exhibit of grains made by any section of the United States. These medals and diplomas are on display in the Tumwater Centennial Exhibit at the State Museum.

The Bush School, one of the oldest schools in Thurston County, was located on the Bush place, and was operated for over half a century until its consolidation with Tumwater School a few years ago.  Many of the pioneers learned their three R’s in this school.