1. How big is Thurston County you ask? According to the U.S. Census, the county has a total area of 774 square miles. Within that area, 722 square miles is land and 52 square miles is water.
2. As of 2021, the population of Thurston county includes 297,977 people, 123,026 households, and 114,556 families. The Olympia, WA population includes 55,919 people alone.
3. Other cities include Lacey with a population of 54,461, Tumwater population 25,844, Yelm population 10,707, Rochester population 4,854, Grand Mound population 3,957, Rainier population 2,486, Tenino population 1,958, and the smallest populated town of Bucoda with just 589 residents.
4. At the beginning of the 21st century, Yelm was the 10th fastest growing city in the state in regard to population and was a commercial hub with a thriving farming industry. However, the economic devastation of the 1930s took its toll on the area’s commercial demand.
5. Thurston County is the eighth most populated county among Washington State's 39 counties and is among the fastest growing counties in the Pacific Northwest. Olympia is the 24th largest city in Washington and the 40th most highly populated state capital.
6. Thurston County was named after Samuel R. Thurston, the first delegate to Congress in 1849 from the new Oregon Territory, part of which later became Washington.
7. Native Americans had been residents of southern Puget Sound long before the first documented European settlers passed through in 1792. Archaeological excavation and carbon dating have shown traces of humans at Tumwater Falls on the Deschutes River as far back as 2,500 to 3,000 years ago.
8. Tumwater is the oldest American settlement on the Puget Sound.
9. The small city of Rainier, once a railroad stop in the 1870s, was first settled in 1890 and named for its amazing views of Mount Rainier.
10. Bucoda, formerly the town of Seatco, was home to the first prison in the Washington Territory in 1878. Known as “Hell on Earth,” inmates were put to work cutting firewood, clearing roads, as farmhands or at the local sawmill. Cell blocks were small, unheated rooms with a bucket in the corner serving as a bathroom.
11. Tono, Washington (just 20 miles south of Olympia) is a ghost town in Thurston County. At its peak in the 1920s Tono had over 1,000 residents, 125 houses, a hotel, a hospital, a general store, and a school. The town thrived until 1932 when popularity of diesel locomotives began to supersede railway transport. Afterwards mining operations slowed and most of the residents began to move away. By 1950, there were only a few buildings and residents left in Tono. The last full-time residents of Tono were John and Lempi Hirvela, who moved there in 1923 and resided in Tono until 1976.
12. The first Thurston County Fair was held in 1871 and the fair aimed to get settlers excited about moving to the area by showcasing the best livestock, industry and other goods Washington Territory had to offer. In the fair’s early years there were such categories as the best oatmeal with milk, and best section of wooden water pipe.
13. The Tenino Chamber of Commerce issued wooden scrip in 1931 after the local bank closed during the Great Depression. The scrip was accepted as valid currency at businesses in town. History repeated itself in 2020 during the COVID pandemic when the city reproduced the scrip using the original press.
14. Known for is amazing water, back in the 1930s, a survey identified 96 artesian wells around Olympia.
15. A fun fact is that Olympia Beer was the 26th oldest beer in America. It was created 7 years after Washington even became a state and The Olympia Brewing Company set the standard for all new innovations in the beer business until 1983 when the company was sold to Pabst Beer. But the secret to their success will always remain: “It’s the water.”
16. In the 60s and 70s Daredevil Evil Knievel was sponsored by Olympia Beer.