Stone store built by Henry Boston

Stone store built by Henry Boston

The origin of the name of Tyler, ten miles southwest of Cheney, is obscure.  In 1880 the townsite was originally platted as Stephens, then Stevens.  Who was Stevens?  Some people think it may be Isaac Stevens, first governor of Washington Territory and he was a member of the early 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.

Pioneer Sam Showalter - Gift of Lois McKinley Merrill

Samuel Showalter in the 1920s.

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.

The NPRR laid track through Stevens in May of 1881 on the way northeast to Spokane Falls.  Soon after, Henry Boston built a stone building at the town site opening the first store on December 8, 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.

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

Tyler School class Christmas 1899 - Gift of Lois McKinley Merrill

Tyler School class Christmas 1899

The post office at Stevens was established June 7, 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 Tyler.

View of Tyler from the Northern Pacific Depot

View of Tyler from the Northern Pacific Depot

The Tyler railway station 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 around 1902, he would pick up guests in a spring wagon from the Tyler depot.  Tyler remained a supply and jumping off point to a number of fishing and hunting spots and resorts.

Ad People's Market in Tyler 1912


The Tyler school taught classes through high school until the late 1930s then continued with classes for the first through eighth grades.  It also had two horse barns with room for 16 horses. The children brought their own feed for the animals.  Students wanting high school courses, later on, went to Cheney or Edwall.

Tyler School classroom circa 1943 - Gift of Carol Betz

Tyler School classroom circa 1943

Later, the 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 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.  In 2008 the Dickerson family re-opened the Tyler store along the highway, however, it closed in 2013.

Map 1912

Compiling a comprehensive history of our area is an ongoing project.  Corrections and additions are most welcome. Contact: Director@cheneymuseum.org