Julie McDonald: Rayton descendants share recollections of early years


Lois Keen. Jim Stafford. David White. Alice Forth. LeeRoy Wisner. Joanne Clark. Gene Crocker. Dorothy Mueller. Sharon Johnson. Edith Duncan. Jo Moon.

Those are only a few of the many descendants of John and Angeline (Smith) Rayton, who individually settled in Lewis County in the 1860s and married at Claquato Church in 1875. The Rayton family history is filled with love and family picnics, tragedy and heartache, and even a ghost story.

After my column about the family of Howell Abraham “Abe” and Neomi (Allender) Black, who settled in the Boistfort Valley in 1887, Susan Remund called to ask if I’d heard about the ghost who lives in their barn. As I mentioned previously, when John “Plug Ugly” Yockton died during the hop harvest in September 1901, his family requested that the Black family store his body in their barn. Years later, the Hogue family lived in the Black farmhouse, which is where John Hogue grew up.

“According to John Hogue, it was in our barn and, because it was left there for a while, his ghost still lives there,” Susan Remund said. “When John was over here visiting, he asked if we had ever seen the ghost in the barn because he had seen it. John said the ghost sits on the crossbeam up in the barn. Bear in mind, John Hogue was a good storyteller.”

Unfortunately, John Hogue, a well-known water witcher, or dowser, who found water for more than a thousand local wells, died in May 2018 at the age of 92. He attended Boistfort schools, worked in the Kaiser shipyards, served as a first gunner in the Army during World War II and later as a chauffeur for military and civilian personnel during the Nuremberg Trials on war crimes. He later worked at a sawmill and drove a truck for Weyerhaeuser. He was married for 73 years to Doris Steiger. I wish I’d had the chance to interview the Hogues before they passed away. Their son, U.S. Army SP4 John Michael Hogue, died in combat on July 23, 1968, in Binh Duong Province during the Vietnam War. He was 21.

Lois Keen of Centralia, whose mother was Dora (Rayton) Orloske, penned recollections of her parents and grandparents for her three daughters— Sharlynn, Jolene, and Renell. Inspired by her Grandma Anna (Black) Rayton, she always enjoyed a love of local history as a fourth-generation Lewis  County resident. She worked as a bookkeeper, served as the Lewis County Historical Museum’s newsletter editor for six years, and authored a book about old barns. She’s also a member of the Daughters of Pioneers of Washington. Her mother graduated from Adna High School in 1927, and all four of Dora’s daughters — Alice Hjelomstad, Lois, Sharon Johnson, and Maxine Duncan — grew up on Twin Oaks Road and graduated from Adna, too. Their brother, Larry, died shortly after birth.

For more than a century, Rayton family members gathered for potluck picnics in local parks, such as Rainbow Falls, Alexander Park, and Wallace Pond in Toledo, usually in July around the birthday of their ancestor Angline (Smith) Rayton, according to Keen. Picnics have featured a magic show, tug of wars, baseball games, and gunnysack races. In 2006, they chartered the Chehalis-Centralia steam train to visit Ruth, Washington, and crossed the Chehalis River Valley land near Twin Oaks Road first purchased by John Rayton. The Rayton family even established a high school scholarship at Adna High School.

Much of the family’s history is recorded in the book “The Rayton Family: Then to Now,” compiled by June Strovas of Longview. Family members contributed write-ups of their ancestors. What follows are tidbits from that book, which is dedicated to the descendants of John and Angeline Rayton.


Albert Hayes Rayton

John and Angeline’s eldest child, Albert Hayes Rayton, was born on March 31, 1877, at Claquato and farmed in Curtis, raising hops, milking cows, and delivering supplies with a wagon and horses. He married Rhoda M. Rice and later May J. Swaze Holland. He died in 1961. His children include Elmer Rice Rayton, who remained in Chehalis, and May Rayton Brown, who was raised in Oregon by a maternal aunt and uncle after Rhoda died in childbirth. Albert’s second wife, May, had five children from a previous marriage.

Elmer was married twice and, with his second wife, Helen Sara Prill, had one daughter, Joanne Joylene Rayton, born in February 1935. He built a house on his father’s farm where he raised his daughter. He ran a Shell station in Chehalis and later worked as a truck mechanic for Ivar Floe Company.

Joanne married Henry Arthur “Art” Clark and raised five children — Cheryl Lynn Coleman, Larry Clark, Kimberly Florek, Brenda Vassar, and Kevin Clark. Joanne volunteered with the Southwest Washington Fair and Lewis County Food Bank. She also sold Avon and Bee Line clothing.

John Henry Rayton

The second son, John Henry Rayton, who went by “Henry,” was a farmer who served as a Lewis County commissioner. He was 17 when he married 15-year-old Mary Catherine Gray in August 1895. Mary’s mother was murdered in Tennessee by a slave who was later hanged, leaving Mary to help raise her younger brother.

Henry and Mary likely lived for a time on the Cowlitz Prairie near Toledo, where his father owned land. He and his older brother, Albert, later bought the Cowlitz farm from their father.

Henry and Mary had seven children — John Thomas (who died during his first year), Clarence L. (who died at about 12), Charles Theodore (a World War I Army motorcycle courier and later lumber worker), Floyd Henry (a heavy equipment salesman), Lester Roosevelt (an automobile mechanic and later fishing tackle businessman in Westport who lost two fingers when a Winchester shotgun perched on a Ford Model T running board slipped and fired), Pearl Elizabeth Nelson (a trained bookkeeper and stenographer whose husband worked for the State Highway Department in South Bend and later at Olympia Brewery), and Agnes Mary Wisner (who lived on Deep Creek and worked as a cook for the Washington State Department of Corrections). 

Henry’s grandson, LeeRoy Wisner, the son of Agnes, recalled a story about his grandfather, Henry Rayton. When a bear raided the hog pen on the Cowlitz Prairie farm, he shot and killed the bear with his Winchester 97 12-gauge shotgun. He also shot many moles in his yard.

Henry gave his grandson LeeRoy a new Winchester 67A 22 single shot rifle for his birthday when he was about 10.

When he was a 29-year-old District 3 Lewis County commissioner, someone told Henry he needed to sign his John Henry, which he proceeded to do — literally.

He resigned as a commissioner when the family moved to a large riverside farm in the Adna area in 1910. He later served as commissioner from District 2.

When the farmhouse burned down in 1931, Henry and his daughter Agnes hauled out a heavy washtub filled with canned food.

The family grew a large garden, raised chickens, milked cows for Darigold, and butchered a hog every fall. Henry’s wife, Mary, donned a red knitted cap and milked the cows each morning before breakfast. She cooked delicious breakfasts and Sunday meals on a large woodstove and spent her egg money for extras.

Once a week, Henry dressed in a suit with silk-fronted vest and pocket watch with chain to play cribbage at the Olympic Club in Centralia. He always wore a mustache and carried Black Jack gum in his shirt pocket as treats for the grandkids.

The Fayette schoolhouse on the family’s property near Deep Creek Road was moved across a field and used as a storage shed albeit with a cupola on the roof for a bell.

“Mary’s father and brothers owned gold mine claims in the Spirit Lake area of Mount St. Helens,” Strovas wrote. “Agnes remembered as a young girl, the family driving up there each summer in Model T Fords … to work and prove up on the mine claims. She and Mary would pick wild blue huckleberries on the slopes of the mountain, and Mrs. Harry Truman would bake some pies for them in exchange for some of the berries.”

Strovas wrote that copper from the Gray family mines owned by Mary’s family was used in the statue of Sacajawea in Longview.

After Mary died in 1952 of complications from a stroke, Henry married Oral McLaughlin in 1959.

When he died of a heart attack at 86 in June 1964, Henry was survived by his brother, Leonard, two daughters and a son, 12 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.

I’ll share more next week about the children of John and Angeline Rayton.


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