Nearly 130 years after graduation, Chehalis commencement booklet to be displayed at Lewis County Historical Museum


A group of historians, professional and amateur, watched last week as W.F. West High School students delicately adjusted the pages of a small booklet.

“Chehalis Public Schools, commencement souvenir,” the cover states. “Chehalis, Washington, June 3, 1898.”

More than 120 years after the souvenir was printed to celebrate Chehalis’ senior class, Paul Holman, of Tigard, Oregon, watched as it was digitally preserved for future generations.

“That’s totally exciting to me, totally exciting,” said Holman, who donated the document to the Washington State Archives. “I love history. I love museums.”

A fourth-generation family heirloom, the piece of Lewis County history will go on display at the Lewis County Historical Museum starting Wednesday through Jan. 30. In addition to the commencement booklet, Holman also donated a pamphlet for the 1893 commencement of the Chehalis School District.

Holman, State Archivist Heather Hirotaka and Chehalis Superintendent Christine Moloney watched last week as the school’s advanced photography students digitally archived the documents, which are only slightly tattered and stained from 135 years of wear and tear.

Moloney said the booklet is “an incredible document about our Chehalis School District.”

“We want to make sure we honor it,” Moloney said. “Our photography students are involved, which is an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. So, it’s going to be preserved forever in the state archives.”

Passed down from generation to generation, Holman received the booklet after his mother passed away in 2016.

“We got everything because the family said, ‘Oh, there’s only one guy doing genealogy in our family, so he gets it all,” Holman said.

“I love history, I love my family,” Holman said. “I’m back to 5 B.C. in one of the lines. It’s just fun to do.”

Working full time, Holman said the book sat for “a long time” before he eventually went through the box. After discovering the document, he started to explore how to preserve it, “because I didn’t want it to sit there and rot,” he said.

Printed to celebrate the school’s commencement, the book’s cover page notes, “The school is the kindergarten of citizenship.”

Graduates from the class of 1898 included John W. Alexander Sr., who later attended the University of Washington.

He served as the president of Security State Bank from 1910 to 1964.

The Washington State Archives, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State, is tasked with preserving and overseeing historical records and ensuring public access.

The archives include five branches spread throughout Washington in Bellevue, Bellingham, Cheney, Ellensburg and Olympia, which are climate-controlled environments with 60-degree temperatures and 40% humidity.

“So, we’re really about preserving the longevity of the document and then making it accessible,” Hirotaka said. “Because we can have all of the treasures in the world, but if you don’t know we have them, what good do they do, right?”

The archive preserves the state constitution, which Hirotaka said is displayed on “special occasions.” The document, officially adopted in 1889, is about eight years older than the book Holman donated.

“As the family said, everybody in this little booklet has a story, and it’s our job to tell those stories,” Hirotaka said. “It’s our job to make them accessible and available.”

Hirotaka said the archives typically receive inquiries from local governments throughout the state and can be selective about what they accept. However, “it’s not super frequent that we receive things that are more than 100 years old. It's pretty rare.”

“So this is definitely a unique situation and a special treat for us, to be involved and be able to be involved and incorporate it into our collection,” Hirotaka said.