First Airplanes Arrive in Lewis County
by Vic Kucera and Karen L. Johnson
It seems that Stromer overheated his engine flying against strong winds from Tacoma, and was forced to land in Yelm. Winds forced him down again near the Taylor ranch in Tenino. After cooling the engine, Stromer took off again, but hit a knoll, breaking his rib and five stays on the biplane's understructure. Still undaunted, Stromer ordered replacement stays from Tacoma. This next morning, several Chehalis businessmen tracked Stromer down. Undere some pressure from the contingent (we assume), Stromer "became tired of waiting and took his jacknife and whittled out the stays from rough lumber" (Lewis County Advocate, July 10, 1914). Stromer successfully took off, then finally landed outside Chehalis at the state training school grounds (now Green Hill School). According to the Chehalis Bee-Nugget, hundreds of visitors immediately went out to see the flying machine. Even this landing was not without incident: Stromer hit soft dirt in an oat field, damaging a stay and rudder, and was momentarily stunned. But repairs were again quickly made and flights were viewed by local residents for the following week, including "illuminated" flights at night.
In addition to his flights over Centralia and Chehalis, Stromer also planned to fly west to Adna and south to the Napavine-Winlock area, hoping to add to his record for long distance flights. However, these plans were ruined a week later when Stromer's biplane finally became a total wreck. He attempted to rise from Waunch's Prairie, just north of Centralia, but couldn't clear wire encircling the field. The plane did a somersault and crashed. A group of onlookers, which had gathered in the very early morning hours, ran to the biplane, expecting to find Stromer dead. Not so. Stromer left town in an automobile and headed to Tacoma without his biplane, a somewhat disappointing ending to his career as a Lewis County aviator.
LEWIS COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY & MUSEUM
599 N.W. Front Way, Chelais, Washington
Volume 26 - No. 4 December 2004