Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Early Teacher was Woman/She Went Along Halloween

Tri-City Pioneer
Tri-City Herald, Sunday, 1 October 1961

Stately blue-eyed blond Ella Parker Stair was born in the state of Nebraska during the 1850’s. She married D.W. Stair when she was twenty. They moved to Yakima City, Washington Territory in 1877. She was the mother of three sons—Clarence, Dean and Richard.

D.W. Stair was a lawyer and quite prominent in the pioneer legal profession. He was Probate Judge of Yakima. He enjoyed farming. They had a farm near Yakima on Ahtanum Creek. He passed away in 1896.

Mrs. Stair had a sister, Rose, in North Yakima who was the wife of A.E. Larson, a prominent lumber dealer and capitalist. She also was a cousin of Fred Parker, a well known Yakima attorney who in his youth, was a pony express rider.

From 1883 to 1885 Mrs. Stair was county school superintendent of Yakima County. It was during her term of office that Kennewick was granted a school district in 1884. Her maternal instinct was her ruling passion. Those that she taught were not merely her pupils, they were her children. She not only instructed them in their school lessons, but moulded their character to meet the problems of their future lives. I always felt that after attending her classes one had a second mother.

Mrs. Stair was a relative of the Dole family of Hawaii. They were famous for the production of pineapples. While she was principal of the North Yakima High School, every summer she boarded a Dole freighter at Portland and took a leisurely trip to the Hawaiian Island, returning to North Yakima in time for the opening of high school in the fall.

Her niece, Miss Eva C. May, who was a graduate from Colorado College, taught German and other subjects in the high school. She had a very sunny disposition and was blessed with a beautiful face and figure. She married Miles B. Cannon, a large lumber distributor who passed away several years ago. Mrs. Eva C. May-Cannon is still living in Portland.

High school social activities during the pioneer days were quite different from those of the present. In those days there were literary societies, ice cream socials, hay rides and picnics. The means of travel were horse drawn wagons in the summer and sleighs in winter’s snow. Mrs. Stair chaperoned them all. Each year on Halloween Eve, the students went on a prowl. Mrs. Stair always accompanied them to see that youthful enthusiasm did not lead to destruction of property. There was no ‘trick-or-treat’ threat in these pioneer celebrations. This came on the agenda when outside plumbing moved inside and fence gates were made so that they could not be lifted from their hinges.

Mrs. Stair radiated helpfulness of all who came in contact with her. She was courageous. In defiance of the Washington State laws, each morning she opened her school by reading a chapter from the scriptures. Her uplifting influence was felt and cherished by all who knew her. She retired from teaching school after spending nearly a half century in her chosen profession. The later days of her life were happily spent visiting the families of her children and those of her former students. In the twilight of her life she married Professor Von Ogle, a prominent educator. In their happy companionship they visited all points of interest in the United States, Canada, Alaska, Mexico and South America, also Europe Asia and a portion of Africa and of course the Hawaiian Islands. They really sailed the seven seas.

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