E.T. Pybus was a Steel Driven Man
On April 6, 1961, Wenatchee Pioneer and industry builder Elias T. Pybus died at the age of 87.
At the time of his death, Pybus’ small village blacksmith shop at the foot of Orondo Avenue had grown into one of the major industries in Wenatchee.
Born in North England, E.T. “Tom” Pybus was the son and grandson of blacksmiths. His father was fascinated with America and soon the family blacksmith shop was set up in Corwith, Iowa, where his father found he could earn more in a single day than he paid his apprentice in England for a whole week’s work.
Tom grew up learning the blacksmithing trade. He married Nellie M. Tucker on July 4, 1900, in Minnesota and continued to live in the Midwest with his family until his wife found the winters unbearable.
They, along with their baby Jesse, headed west with the intent of settling in California, but stopped in Yakima first to visit friends.
Tom found work as a blacksmith there on the Tieton Canal until winter, and then he worked for the Bureau of Reclamation.
He purchased part ownership in a ferry at White Bluff along with an alfalfa patch. The alfalfa patch was eventually traded for a little house on Malaga Street in Wenatchee. The year was 1911.
Tom’s first impression of Wenatchee was of board sidewalks, dusty streets and a stifling hotel. He used to say the whole valley seemed like a furnace.
Soon Tom started working for Bert Richardson, who operated a blacksmith shop at Orondo Avenue and Columbia Street. Bert sold the shop to Charley Ogilvie, but soon Tom became the owner with a $100 down payment. One of his earliest large jobs in 1914 was building a fleet of wagons for the Merchants Delivery service. Several merchants who consolidated their deliveries to customers used the service.
A fire in the shop in 1918 led to the expansion of the business. He bought [the] lot on which the old shop stood and two adjoining lots.
Pybus got into the auto repair business with the purchase of a spring furnace to repair broken auto springs. By 1921 the pioneer blacksmith shop had expanded and in 1929 the enlarged building covered a quarter of a block.
From 1911 to 1950 the Pybus Steel Company witnessed the transition from horse and buggy days to to the era of tremendous construction and growth in North Central Washington.
Pybus Steel,under the guiding hand of Wenatchee pioneer and industry builder Elias T. Pybus, continued to grow both in business operations as well as in its buildings throughout the middle of the last century.
It had already expanded from the original blacksmith shop and added added additional brick buildings march up Orondo Street from Columbia. During the early 1930s, Tom Pybus had built a 60 by 60 foot foundry on Worthern Street below the shop buildings.
Along with boasting the best equipped machine shop in Eastern Washington, Pybus was known for being able to fabricate heavy parts and equipment.
Created were such items as log jammers for mills, steel spray tanks for orchardists, steel parts for building the dams at rock Island, Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph and Rocky Reach, manhole covers for the city of Wenatchee, huge refrigerated vans for long hauling of perishable food, 15,000 gallon steel tanks, even a custom-built fire truck for the town of Garfield.
The list goes on and on.
World War II brought work from the Navy and Air Force when the first telescopic torpedo-handling crane was built in the Pybus shop.
In 1950, a 100-foot addition was built on one end of the foundry building.
After the war, the company concentrated primarily on the production and fabrication of steel but Pybus didn’t have room to store large amounts of steel.
An advertisement for 100,000 pounds of steel took Pybus and son Don on a trip to Pasco to examine the carloads of steel dumped on a vacant lot. One look and they knew they had the makings for most of a giant framework for a steel building.
They brought the pile home, spread it out and from it constructed an 80 by 120 foot frame for a storage building to house retail steel.
Another “deal” came to them for the exterior covering of the building when a carload of corrugated roofing was delayed from being shipped to Japan by a strike in Seattle.
This building is unique in that it is a full block long with a railroad track, straddled by a lifting crane, running the entire length. It stands today at the food of Orondo Avenue and is now owned by Morris Steel.
Pybus’ son Don took over the company in the 1950s and became the president in 1960.
In 1964, the company was sold off in parts. Clem Jordan, who had been with the company for 27 years, took over the presidency of the E.T. Pybus Co., and the Pybus Steel Co. Doug Miller bought the automotive parts store and Bob Holland bought the machine ship and moved into the building on Orondo Avenue about 1969 and continues to operate from this site today.
Tom Pybus was also busy in the community with church involvement as well as being the president of the Wenatchee WMCA when the Boy Scouts of the region were organized and initially sponsored by the Y.
Pybus was named “Pioneer Honor Citizen of Wenatchee” in 1956. The Pybus family included children Jessie, Helen and Don.
Today, the former Pybus buildings on Orondo Avenue appear much the same as when first built by Pybus.
The evolution of this corner building on Orondo Avenue and Columbia Street is a reflection of the early days of Wenatchee history when men came with little but a trade and stayed to build a future.
Every time tom Pybus had a little extra money, he would buy another load of brick.Consequently, not all of the brick came from the same batch, so the variation in color and hardness is apparent. The original part of Pybus’ shop now houses Silk Screen Printers and this portion has been altered with new windows and interior remodeling.