This was the site of Washington Territory’s first prison back when the area was called Seatco—from the Coast Salish/Upper Chehalis word “tsiatko,” which means “spirit” and refers to legendary beings ranging from hairy Sasquatch-type creatures to more dangerous night spirits that indigenous locals blamed for mysterious deaths. The prison, described as “hell on earth,” closed in 1887 and burned down in 1907. A commemorative stone in a park near the Skookumchuck River is all that exists of its memory today.
Bucoda gradually shed its dark reputation with the arrival of settlers and industry. The haunting grounds were renamed Bucoda—a combination of the last names of James Buckley, Samuel Coulter, and John David, three late 19th-century investors who sought to steer the town toward a better reputation. By the 1870s, the Northern Pacific Railroad, coal mines, sawmills, and other construction industries had taken root, making it so lucrative that it later earned the moniker “the town with the million-dollar payroll.”
While the past may be buried, Bucoda today calls itself “the world’s tiniest town with the biggest Halloween spirit.” Population approx. 600, Bucoda becomes the spooky capital of the Northwest every fall—so much so that in 2021 the town voted to embrace its dark side by renaming Bucoda BOO-coda for the month of October. All in good fun, no evil spirits allowed.