Establishing the identity of original South Hill pioneers has long been an objective of the South Hill Historical Society.
When Township 19 was surveyed in 1872, only three names were recorded for people they encountered who lived on the hill. All were located along the old military trail. Those individuals may have been temporary squatters and not permanent pioneers, however, since their names do not show on subsequent records.
One pioneer, Carl F. Muehler, was not listed on that map but has been positively identified as one of our community’s earliest settlers. (The name Muehler in some documentation is spelled Muhler.)
Muehler, also known as “Swamp Muehler,” settled on the southern end of South Hill, just east of present-day Thun Field. The intersection of 160th Street and 110th Avenue is the approximate location of his farm.
We know about the site because the Federal Land Office issued him a Homestead Certificate, No. 926, based on a patent dated March 1, 1879. It was for 80 acres.
Muehler added to his holdings when he received a second Homestead Certificate, No. 2042, based on a patent dated July 20, 1886. It was for an additional 80 acres.
He apparently arrived on South Hill in the 1870s, according to the records.
Muehler was a hop farmer, a native of Germany. He made a will on Aug. 11, 1904, and he declared his age at the time to be 69. Therefore, he would have been born sometime in 1832. He was age 47 when he first acquired property on South Hill, and he was 54 when he expanded his holdings. He died in 1912.
When the hop farm was first established, there was no road system on South Hill. The Muehlers’ access to markets for their crops was to use trails on the inclines toward Orting. It gave them access to the Puyallup River and to the transcontinental railroad.
The lack of a transportation infrastructure continued to plague them and others until the creation of the Ball-Wood Road in the 1890s.
The importance of Ball-Wood Road (now Meridian Avenue) and the Muehler farm can be appreciated by examining its original path. The road began just outside Puyallup, continued south and up the north side of South Hill, and it eventually ended exactly at the Muehler farm.
The road — the first one planned on South Hill — was built specifically along the center section lines of Township 19 until it reached a point at about present-day 152nd Street. At that place, it was built east for about a half-mile to the Muehlers’ farm. That project made it possible for them to have market access through Puyallup.
That the Muehlers were influential pioneer farmers also can be recognized by another road name, a path that runs due west from the farm — present-day 160th Street. It has the historical name Muehler-Berger Road, which was a thoroughfare that connected the farm to contemporary Canyon Road.
Although, during the early days, the road did not go straight west as it does now.Carl Vest, Ph.D., is a research director and founding member of the South Hill Historical Society. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.