Julie McDonald: Many Lewis County residents trace ancestry to Raytons and Blacks


John and Angeline Rayton were busy raising their family in the Chehalis Valley when the Black family left Iowa and traveled west, settling at Curtis on a farm today owned by Rene and Susan Remund.

Like the Raytons, Howell Abraham “Abe” and Neomi (Allender) Black had 11 children: Alice, Levi, Edmond, Anna, Benjamin, Nancy “Ida,” Willis, Eva Lena (who died at 17 on July 4, 1930), Walter, Susie and Dean.

Their daughter, Anna, a native of Richmond, Iowa, was 7 when the family moved to Curtis in 1887. When Anna married Leonard Franklin Rayton on Oct. 26, 1904, at the Boistfort Community Church in Curtis, the couple united two prolific pioneer families. Anna refused to date Leonard initially because she was two years older than him, but he finally wore her down.

“Grandma always said for their honeymoon, ‘they went upstairs,’” said Lois Keen, 86, of Centralia, a granddaughter of the couple.

Today, descendants of the Raytons and Blacks populate Lewis County. In fact, a decade ago, grandchildren of the original settlers gathered for a bus tour of the Boistfort Valley to learn more about their ancestors. Among those were Danny Rayton, Janice Rayton, Edith (Rayton) Duncan, Linda Sullivan, Sheila Schiminesky, Maxine Duncan, Lois Keen, Jo Moon, Virgil Rayton, Sharon Johnson and Linda Moon. Tim Sayler, a fifth-generation descendant of the Blacks and Raytons, drove the bus.

Both Leonard Rayton and Anna Black completed only grade school as they needed to work to help support their families. Leonard helped farm the 300-acre Rayton place and purchased 40 acres of the farm when he married Anna. She worked for her uncle, Ben Allender, owner and operator of the Iowa Restaurant and Boarding House. Later, they bought the Rayton family farm, where Leonard was born, across the Chehalis River from Littell. They had four children — two sons, Norman and Lowell, who went into partnership on the dairy farm with their father, and two daughters, Eva Stafford and Dora Orloske.

The Black and Rayton families both grew hops, which made sense since Herman Klaber, a Portland businessman known as the “King of Hops,” had established his large Klaber Hop Farms nearby. Workers flocked to the Klaber farm to pick hops during the harvest season, including members of the Cowlitz and Chehalis Indian Tribes. Clarence Youckton recruited Chehalis natives for the harvest, where workers could earn good wages of a dollar a day.

In mid-September 1901, Clarence’s father, well-known Chehalis Native Skookum “John” Yockton, nicknamed Plug Ugly by settlers for a battered plug hat he wore for years, was killed near Klaber either when he fell from his horse or the beast ran away and overturned his buggy. He and his family were in the Chehalis Valley picking hops. To avoid cutting their work short, the family asked Anna’s father, Abe Black, if they could store his body in the Blacks’ hayloft while the families finished harvesting hops.

“Anna and her sister, Susie, were required to milk the cows, morning and night, all the while the mourning natives sobbed and beat on pots and pans to ward off evil spirits,” Keen wrote in “The Rayton Family: Then to Now,” compiled by June Strovas. “This continued daily until the family returned to their homes near Oakville.”

Neomi Black told her daughters to make the best of it and pick wildflowers to place on the elderly native’s body. They did so, which pleased the mourning natives, Keen wrote. The Youcktons loaded his body onto a wagon when they left and buried him in the Indian Cemetery near Grand Mound. According to a Nov. 2, 1967, article in The Daily Chronicle, which stated that his body was hung up in Charlie Long’s barn, a wood slab marking his grave states “Skookum Yockton — 1901, age 99 years.” Skookum means “strong.”

Keen remembers other stories of her grandmother’s family. Her great-grandmother, Neomi, had died in May 1934, before Keen was born, but she was 10 when her grandfather Abe passed away at 90 in February 1948.

“I remember Abe being very frail, hard of hearing, and walking with a cane,” she wrote. “His hair was sparse and snowy white, matching his thin beard. His later days were spent hugging an iron stove for warmth, even though he was clad in Long John underwear all year round. He would sit around the house with his feet on a metal stove guardrail, tilting back on his rocker… He spat frequently into his cuspidor or spittoon with amazing accuracy. When it came to financial matters, the word skinflint could be used to describe him.”

A successful hop grower, dairy farmer and devout Christian, Abe often quoted the Bible in his everyday speech and used “thee” and “thou,” which reflected his ancestors’ Quaker affiliation, Keen said. Abe was a teetotaler who drank whiskey only for medicinal purposes. After his wife passed away, Abe moved from the farm to a small home in Chehalis and hired a live-in housekeeper and caregiver, Mrs. Triplett.

“Each morning upon rising, Abe took a shot of whiskey to get his blood flowing and his bones moving,” Keen wrote. “As he aged, he napped more and more throughout the day.”

He always kept the whiskey bottle beside his bed. Occasionally, he grew confused and took twice his normal swig of whiskey … or more.

One afternoon, Keen’s grandmother Anna received a call from the housekeeper saying she needed to come quickly because her father had suffered a heart attack and lay dead on the front room floor. She had shaken him and tried to revive him with a wet cloth, but he failed to respond.

Anna cried and told her to call the mortuary. She called Leonard in from the hayfield, and he drove their Plymouth sedan into town. She also called her sister Ida, asking her to let the rest of the family know.

They arrived to find the hearse parked in front of the home, but Mrs. Triplett rushed outside, crying, “He’s not dead. He’s not dead.”

The mortician examined the lifeless body on the floor, only to see Abe stir and mutter the words, “By Kracke, what’s going on here?”

“The strong odor of alcohol made an assumption easy,” Keen wrote. “Abe had just passed out from an over-medication of too much whiskey.”

Afterward, Mrs. Triplett dispensed his medicinal firewater.

A few months later, in February 1948, Abe did die. He was buried beside his wife at the Boistfort Cemetery.

Keen remembers her grandmother Anna Rayton as a great storyteller who regaled her with stories of her childhood and life on the farm. Keen was a good listener. Her grandmother belonged to the Twin Oaks Community Club.

Her grandfather, Leonard Rayton, grew hops for two years on a farm in the Curtis community before going into the dairy business. He was a charter member of the Lewis-Pacific Dairyman’s Association in 1919 and served as its president. The association joined Darigold, a cooperative formed in 1918 as the United Dairymen’s Association and, after a contest two years later, took on the name Darigold. He served 42 years on the Darigold board of directors, many of them as chairman. He also served 18 years on the Twin Oaks School Board and remained active in the Holstein Club and Grange.

“He was looked upon as honest and knowledgeable,” Keen said. He also served as treasurer at school and church.

Ralph Roffler, former Washington State University extension agent in Lewis County, wrote a feature for the Daily Chronicle in June 1955 about Leonard and Anna Rayton when they marked 50 years in the dairy business, only months after the couple celebrated their golden anniversary.

When their son Norman’s wife gave birth to a son, Virgil, on the family farm, he became the third generation born in the old home.

Leonard started with a dozen dairy cows of mixed breeds but bought his first purebred Holstein in May 1920 and stuck with the breed. He later had 65 Holsteins and milked 30 of them, selling his milk to a condensing plant in Chehalis.

He also grew 40 acres of peas as well as grain and hay, watching the agricultural industry morph from horse-drawn plows to gas-powered tractors and electric pumps, refrigeration and milking machines. In the old days, Rayton said, a trip from Curtis to Chehalis took three hours with a good team hauling a full load cresting Crego Hill. Today, it takes only minutes.

“Probably the first 50 years are the hardest,” Leonard told Roffler. “After that, it kind of becomes a habit.”

Anna passed away on May 11, 1960, at St. Helens Hospital in Chehalis after suffering a stroke at 79. Leonard died of cancer nine years later at the age of 87. When Leonard died, he had 16 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren. The Raytons were buried at Claquato Cemetery.

What’s interesting is a search for “Anna Rayton” popped up a notice that she “was adjudged insane” and “committed to Steilacoom,” but that June 1909 article referred to Mrs. Anna L. Wuestney Rayton, the third wife of Leonard’s father, John. Her first husband, Lt. Charles E. Wusestney, who died in February 1898 at Napavine, was editor of The People’s Advocate newspaper and a member of the Populist political party, which apparently created problems in probate for his wife and two sons after his death.


Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at memoirs@chaptersoflife.com.