Yelm, Washington

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Yelm is a city in Thurston County, Washington, United States. The population was 3,289 at the 2000 census. Yelm ranked 10th of 279 eligible incorporated communities in the state of Washington for population growth between 2000 and 2005. As of April 1, 2010, the population of Yelm was estimated to be 5,900 people, ranking it as the 107th most populous city in Washington.[3]



The word "Yelm" comes from the Coast Salish word "shelm" which means "land of the dancing spirits" their interpretation of the shimmer mirage caused by heat rising off the prairie.[6]

The Yelm Prairie was originally inhabited by the Nisqually Indian Tribe and provided good pasture for their horses. The first permanent European-American settlers came in 1853 to join the Hudson's Bay Company sheep farmers who were already conducting business in the area.

James Longmire, one of the first American settlers had this to say upon arriving in Yelm:

With the coming of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1873, Yelm began to prosper, having found an outlet for its agricultural and forestry products. Its economic base was further enhanced when an irrigation company was formed in 1916, making Yelm a center for commercial production of beans, cucumbers, and berries.[6]

Yelm was officially incorporated on December 8, 1924.[6][8]

During the Great Depression high maintenance costs and an unstructured water distribution plan bankrupted the Yelm Irrigation Company.


Yelm is located at 46°56′29″N 122°36′23″W / 46.94139°N 122.60639°W / 46.94139; -122.60639 (46.941515, -122.606305).[9]

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