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three men stand outside business building

The origins of this community’s names “Stevens” and “Tyler” remain a mystery.

map showing location of Tyler
Tyler, southwest of Cheney

The origin of the name of Tyler, ten miles southwest of Cheney, is obscure. In 1880, the townsite was originally platted as Stephens, soon after changed to Stevens. Who was Stevens? Some people think it may be Isaac Stevens, first governor of Washington Territory and a member of the pre-Civil War railroad route survey team. It is just as likely, however, that railroad Superintendent General John Sprague named the spot after his co-worker, S.V. Stevens, supervisor of the track laying operation.

The Northern Pacific Railway station at the town site was named Tyler. There is a story that it was named, as a joke, for a Montana man who had sued the railroad for damages. If true, Tyler does indeed have a unique origin.

Overview of Tyler depot and business district
View of Tyler Depot and business district

The NPRR laid track through Stevens in May of 1881 on its way northeast to Spokane Falls. Soon after, Henry Boston, who had previously had a store at Marshall, built a stone building at the town site opening the first store in the community on 8 December 1881. Other early settlers in the district included John S. Moreland and his bride Aura Gilpatrick who homesteaded 160 acres in November 1879. His holdings grew over time to 1200 acres. Mr. Moreland also engaged in the general merchandise business and was postmaster of Stevens in 1889. His friends Mart and Cassie Marsten followed him to Stevens in 1880.

one-story stone building
Stone store built by Henry Boston
Sam Showalter standing in a field
Samuel Showalter about 1920

Samuel Showalter brought his family north from California and Oregon to homestead near Tyler. His descendants are still living and farming in the area.

The post office at Stevens was established 7 June 1882, with Mary Clarke as postmistress. For about ten years the little town of Stevens contained the Tyler railway station, then in 1892, the citizens voted to rename the town’s post office and community to Tyler.

Boxcars on the railroad tracks, houses, and business buildings
View of Tyler from the Northern Pacific Depot

The Tyler railway depot was home to a railroad section crew, a water tank, and stock yard. By 1900 Tyler had a school, grain warehouse, cattle stock yard, a hotel, and several other businesses. When Frank L. and Rosella Bunker started a resort at the south end of Williams Lake about 1902, he would pick up guests in a spring wagon from the Tyler depot. For many years Tyler remained a supply and jumping off point to a number of fishing and hunting spots and resorts.

Students & teacher of Tyler School
Tyler School class Christmas 1899, First Tyler School

The Tyler school conducted classes through high school until 1936 but continued with classes for the first through eighth grades until it merged with Cheney in 1958. The school also had two horse barns with room for 16 horses. The children brought their own feed for their animals. Students wanting high school courses, after 1936, chose to go either to Cheney or Edwall.

Students and teachers pose at front entrance of the school building
Student body of second Tyler school, 1927

In 1916, the first Tyler Grange was organized, but it was disbanded during the first World War. It was re-organized by Ira Shea in 1928.

Tyler Grange #610 used the schoolhouse until the firestorm of July 1960 swept through part of Tyler “faster than men could run” destroying the schoolhouse as well as several houses. The Grange planted 1,000 trees in the area to reforest the burned area. They also built a new hall for the community next to the foundation of the old school. They celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2016. Members continue to host the annual Tyler Daze celebration.

Group portrait of members of the Tyler Grange
Members of the Tyler Grange, 2023

The state highway through Tyler was re-routed north of the original business district, and in 1965 the I–90 freeway, while building an interchange near the township, by-passed the community. In 1974 the Tyler post office closed, and mail delivery was turned over to a rural route originating from Cheney.

Today, you can still see evidence of Tyler’s busier past. Henry Boston’s original stone building still faces onto what was once the main street.

cars in front of store building
The new Tyler store near the freeway exit was a community gathering spot 2008-2013.

In 2008, the Dickerson family re-opened a mid-century store along the highway, however, it closed in 2013.

1912 plat map of Tyler
Tyler in 1912
Image of Gerald the Museum Mouse

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