Saturday, December 21, 2013

Where is Forest, Washington?

I found some postcards from my wife's side of the family that were from 1909. They were to Martha (Morey) Wisner, wife of Lawrence S Wisner. They were living in Waukegan, Illinois from 1900 till about 1910 when they were in Stockton, California. But then I saw this postcard and it was sent to the town of Forest, Washington.

Aug 1909 Irene (Wisner) Anderson to Martha (Morey) Wisner

So this was postmarked August of 1909, and it looks like they were living in the town of Forest in Washington, but where is that? There is not much of an address, just the town. Then I saw it again in another postcard from December of 1909.

Dec 1909 Alice to Martha (Morey) Wisner

So since there were there for at least a few months, they had to be living there. I tried to look up Forest, Washington on Google Maps and came up with like a thousand hits. They have a few trees in that state. So I found the fact that they were living in Washington for at least a few months, maybe up to a year, significant because I thought they went straight from Illinois to California.

So I searched some more and couldn't find anything. I figured it was a small town that probably changed it's name. I went on and went to the 1900 census and started looking at the available districts for Washington. I went county by county until I found one that said Forest, and I found it in Lewis County!

Lewis county rang a bell in my mind. Someone else from the family had been there I thought. So I looked up the other towns in the county and the ones that caught my eye were Napavine and Chehalis. Napavine is where Lawrence S Wisner's father George Wisner had died. George had left Illinois sometime after 1901 and in 1905 he died in Napavine. Lawrence was still in Illinois in 1906, so I wonder if he moved to Forest because it was near where his father was working.

I wanted to find out where Forest was on a map. After searching for a while I found out about 2 sentences on the history of that town, from "The Origin of Washington Place Names" written in 1923 by Edmund Meany:

FOREST, a postoffice in Lewis County, was established and named by W. R. Monroe in March, 1897. On October 1, 1897, it was moved a mile and a half southeast to its present location by the postmaster, Joseph Grenner. The place is usually called Newaukum Prairie.

So I kept searching and finally found an old map of Lewis County. And I got lucky because it happened to be from 1909, when the postcards were written.

Lewis County Washington ca 1909 Crop

It may be hard to see, but Forest is under the L in Chehalis. And just to the southwest of Forest is Napavine! So Lawrence did move to the area where his father was. My guess would be because he knew work would be there. Mystery solved, at least the mystery of where Forest is.

Update: As I was going through some more photos I came across this one that says it was the school that Ray C Wisner went to in Washington. I'm assuming that this is near Forest.

1909 Ray C Wisner at School near Forest, WA


  1. Hey Luke, your post caught my eye. I got curious and I wanted to find that place on google maps. I'm in the right area, but not sure exactly where the town was. Check it out: 46.606821,-122.841096 maybe you can see something. Who knows.

    1. That's where my guess was, where the river starts to fork.

  2. I believe it was in between Napavine and Onalaska, maybe along Jackson hwy? Forest napavine rd leads you from I5- Jackson hwy, I travel that rd everday.