Surely Goodness

Say hi to Don Trosper


Don Trosper is retired, but he doesn’t know it! He works hard at his hobby, but I guess that it’s not really working, as he loves it. Don Trosper is a well-known personality in the local Tumwater scene, especially among lovers of local history. He’s written a score of self-published local history books and, through them, shared what is a passion of his life.

Making history fun

He first retired from a radio career in 2017 and then retired again in 2022 after working for seven years as the public history manager at the Olympia Tumwater Foundation (OTF), a 501(c3) organization. “I am not a professional historian! “He is quick to point out. “I don’t have the credentials or take the scholarly approach. But I love history, especially from the side of story-telling, lore, and legend. That’s what makes it fun.” He describes himself both as a folklorist and storyteller.

The Tumwater We Never Knew by Don Trosper.
The Tumwater We Never Knew by Don Trosper.

The Tumwater we never knew

Perhaps that’s why Don’s latest book, The Tumwater We Never Knew, has the byline, “For people who love history but don’t realize it.” It features 40 little-known stories, many humorous, about Tumwater from the early days of 1845 to modern times up to 2021, featuring a wide range of Tumwater citizens, locations, and events!

Toward a good cause

He is now raising funds to reprint the first book, plus print a new independent book project as a follow-up, The Tumwater We Thought We Knew. It will also be printed through Gorham Printing in Centralia and will contain 50 illustrated short stories.  Story 38 is offered here, gratis as a sneak preview from the author. The project goal is $7,000. To date, $5,610 has been received. Though the book will not be published by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, it is planned to be sold at the park gift shop to support the popular Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls. (A little-known fact is that the Brewery Park, with its walking trail and historic buildings, is not a part of the City of Tumwater. It is a private park of the OTF and, therefore, privately funded.)

The Trosper family

It’s not surprising that Don Trosper got involved in history. His great grandfather John Samuel Trosper (the eponym of Trosper Road, the sign for which you can see on I-5) arrived from Kansas in 1892 with his family. They were related to Jessie Ferguson, a pioneer who helped create Tumwater, the first American community in what is now Washington State. Don’s great-grandmother, Sarah Jane, was Jessie’s sister who died in Kansas, never reaching the northwest. “Uncle Jessie” arrived in Tumwater in 1845 with the Michael T. Simmons-George Bush party wagon train. They came on the Cowlitz Trail, an extension of the Oregon Trail, proceeding from Oregon, crossing the Columbia River into land claimed by the British. Ferguson was only about 21 years old at the time and, as a single man, he was granted a half section (320 acres). In 1895, he invited his family to share in the land. Don’s great-grandparents bought part of the Ferguson half-section and the family has lived there ever since. Today, they still own 25 of their original acreage. Bordering Trosper Road, four generations live on the property or nearby. Always a kidder, Don quips, “People see Trosper Road and ask, ‘have you lived here all your life?’ I say, ‘Not yet!”  Sadly, one of the homes on-site recently burnt down.

Through the Olympia Tumwater Foundation

During his time at the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, he promoted Tumwater’s heritage through history talks, tours, videos, and articles with the Schmidt House Facebook page and their larger emailing list. Live talks, tours, and visits from tourists were some of his favorite activities. “I’ve been researching and compiling stories continually, building files for a wide variety of topics and time frames of our history since our founding in 1845. I love interpreting that heritage to the public, making the local stories come alive.”

Giving talks

This week, Don has given talks to the DuPont Historical Society on animals in Tumwater history and to the Daughters of the American Colonists in Tumwater on the history of Tumwater. With “the daughters,” he spoke for a few minutes as he clicked through his slideshow and then asked, “By the way, how much time do I have?” The regretful answer was, “Well, you have five minutes left – our programs are scheduled for only 20 minutes of our meeting time.” “Oh dear,” he said, “I just got started.” Then, a commotion arose amongst the ladies in the room, and finally, someone called from the back, “We want to hear it all!” That did it – he was approved to continue and passed the hat at the end, after another half hour, with verbal appreciation expressed throughout the room.

Join Don Trosper for Riverwalk

Don leads the FREE Tumwater history walks at Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls. The Riverwalk Guided History Tour is a walk along the Deschutes offered twice monthly through September. Join Don on Tuesdays at 5 PM. People can sign up for the free events through the City of Tumwater website or the Parks and Recreation office. Meet at the park office overlooking the upper falls. The tour takes about an hour and makes a loop down one side of the river trail and back on the other.


  • April 2nd and 16th
  • May 7th and 21st
  • June 4th and 18th
  • July 9th and 23rd
  • August 6th and 27th
  • September 10th (last scheduled tour)

 Feel free to contact Don to schedule a talk with your group or to donate to the book project:

Shirley Stirling, of Lacey, writes about good things people in Thurston County are doing. If you’d like to nominate someone to be profiled, contact her at or comment below.


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  • Terrilovesanimals

    Hi Don! Great to meet you! You sound like a great person to be around and learn things from! I bet you know all about Palermo Valley too! My dear friend Pat, before she moved to live with her daughter and then passed away, shared with me pictures and history of the valley. She had other neat pictures of this area from WAY back. Ah, the days before the freeway and before that!

    Saturday, March 23 Report this

  • elexarus

    What do you know about the history of the "Trosper Lake Salmon" run?

    Monday, March 25 Report this