Yelm is a city in Thurston County, Washington, United States. The population was 6,848 at the 2010 census. Yelm ranked 10th of 279 eligible incorporated communities in the state of Washington for population growth between 2000 and 2010.
The word “Yelm” is said to come from the Coast Salish word shelm or chelm, meaning “heat waves from the sun”, referring to heat mirages.
The Yelm Prairie was originally inhabited by the Nisqually and provided good pasture for their horses. The first permanent non-indigenous settlers came in 1853 to join the Hudson’s Bay Companysheep 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:
“Having received due notice from the Hudson Bay company not to settle on any lands north of the Nisqually River we crossed the river and went to Yelm prairie, a beautiful spot. I thought as it lay before us covered with tall waving grass, a pretty stream bordered with shrubs and tall trees, flowing through it, and the majestic mountain standing guard over all, in its snowy coat, it was a scene fit for an artist. Herds of deer wandered at leisure through the tall grass.”
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.
Yelm was officially incorporated on December 8, 1924.
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 (46.941515, −122.606305).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.69 square miles (14.74 km2), of which, 5.68 square miles (14.71 km2) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) is water.
As of the census of 2010, there were 6,848 people, 2,299 households, and 1,712 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,205.6 inhabitants per square mile (465.5 /km2). There were 2,523 housing units at an average density of 444.2 per square mile (171.5 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.6% White, 3.3% African American, 1.8% Native American, 2.3% Asian, 0.9% Pacific Islander, 2.8% from other races, and 7.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.4% of the population.
There were 2,299 households of which 53.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.7% were married couples living together, 17.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 25.5% were non-families. 20.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.95 and the average family size was 3.40.
The median age in the city was 29 years. 36% of residents were under the age of 18; 8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 32.3% were from 25 to 44; 16.1% were from 45 to 64; and 7.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.9% male and 53.1% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,289 people, 1,216 households, and 807 families residing in the city. The population density was 584.4 people per square mile (225.6/km²). There were 1,323 housing units at an average density of 235.1 per square mile (90.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 86.17% White, 1.79% African American, 2.22% Native American, 1.73% Asian, 1.16% Pacific Islander, 1.58% from other races, and 5.35% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.35% of the population.
There were 1,216 households out of which 41.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.2% were married couples living together, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.6% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.26.
In the city the age distribution of the population shows 32.0% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 31.4% from 25 to 44, 16.6% from 45 to 64, and 10.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 88.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $39,453, and the median income for a family was $45,475. Males had a median income of $32,037 versus $24,474 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,865. About 7.9% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.3% of those under age 18 and 6.8% of those age 65 or over.
To a large extent, Yelm acts as a bedroom community for residents working in the surrounding cities of Tacoma, Olympia, and Centralia. Yelm also hosts a large number of military families who are currently or were formerly stationed at nearbyJoint Base Lewis-McChord.
Parks and recreation
The Yelm City Park was donated by Chuck and Wilma Demich, in 1950. Located at the corner of SR 507 and Mossman Avenue, the park is approximately one city block in size. It has a kitchen, covered facilities, a playground area, skateboard park, picnic tables, public restrooms, and a softball backstop. A number of community events are held at the Yelm City Park each year, including Prairie Days, Christmas in the Park, Family Fun Day, an annual car show, the Yelm Lions Easter Egg Hunt, and more.
Yelm is home of the first Class A Water Reclamation Facility and distribution system in Washington. This system reclaims all of its wastewater, using it in local irrigation and added to recharge streams. The water also is used in Cochrane Park, a 8-acre (32,000 m2) wetland park that includes a catch-and-release pond for rainbow trout.
The City of Yelm is an elected Mayor-Council form of government, and a non-charter code city. As described in the Yelm Municipal Code and Revised Code of Washington, certain responsibilities are vested in the City Council and the Mayor. The current mayor of Yelm is Ron Harding, who was elected to the position in 2005, took office in 2006, and re-elected in 2009 to a term ending in 2014.
Members of the City Council include Joe Baker, Russ Hendrickson, Robert Isom, Mike McGowan, Don Miller, John Thompson, and Tracey Wood. Other positions are that of the City Administrator Shelly Badger, Clerk Janine Schnepf, Community Development Director Grant Beck, and Court Administrator Maryam Olson. Mark King is Fire Chief and Gary Carlson serves as Fire Marshal. The Human Resources Manager is Janine Schnepf, the Librarian is Nicole Thode, the Program/Project Manager is Stephanie Ray, the Prosecuting Attorney is Brent Dille, and the Public Works Director is Tim Peterson. Todd Stancil serves as Police Chief.
The Yelm post office serves the surrounding unincorporated Thurston County residential communities in the Bald Hills of Lake Lawrence and Clearwood.
Public schools in Yelm belong to the Yelm School District. Its elementary schools are Fort Stevens, Lackamas, McKenna, Millpond, Southworth, and Yelm Prairie Elementary School. Its secondary school system includes Yelm Middle School, Ridgeline Middle School, Yelm High School, and Yelm Extension School.
Yelm is also home to the private school Eagle View Christian School.