The first winter school for farmers was held in 1916 at the Washington State College research and experiment station in Puyallup. It offered a variety of classes including veterinary medicine, plant pathology, dairying, and the most popular by far, the poultry course. Farmers just starting out could learn the finer points of raising hens and eggs, planning a 10-acre poultry ranch, and record keeping.
In 1921 Judson Wilcox and his wife Elizabeth took the poultry course alternating weeks in Puyallup and Roy to tend the livestock and children at their farm. The class gave them the foundation for what is today one of the most successful free range and organic egg businesses in the country, one that is operated by their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
By 1922, more than 850 students had taken courses through the winter school. While most were from Pierce County, students from Seattle, Olympia, and Issaquah joined the ranks. According to the small paper annual published by the 1922 poultry class, “Interest in the Poultry Course continues unabated, 100 having enrolled. This is the largest class in the history of the school.”
There was even a class yell:
“Incubator, brooder, Shoup house, kale,
With these four standbys, we can’t fail.”
The annual is dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. George Shoup, the station’s poultry specialists. Percy B. Rowley, one of their 1922 students, described them as godparents and credited them with helping him find a way of life. “I owe this man so much,” he wrote on a clipping from a Pierce County newspaper that details George and Hermie Shoup’s history and influence.
While there are very few records from that time in Puyallup, and even less about the Shoups, Rowley’s own papers offer details about the couple and the poultry school. He donated them to WSU’s Manuscripts and Archives and just last winter archivist Cheryl Gunselman curated the materials and scrapbooks and uncovered some brief histories.
WSC Puyallup winter instructors in the 1922 annual. Standing-left, W. T. Johnson, Instructor in Veterinary Medicine, specialist in poultry diseases; Arthur Frank, Instructor in Plant Pathology; J. L. Stahl, Instructor in Horticulture. Sitting-left, Geo. Shoup, Instructor in Poultry Husbandry; Mrs. Geo. Shoup, Instructor in Poultry Husbandry; W. A. Linklater, Principal; M. E. McCollam, Instructor in Farm Crops; H. E. McNatt, Instructor in Dairying. Courtesy WSU Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
George R. Shoup was born in 1873 in Champaign, Illinois. He served in the Spanish American war as a non-commissioned officer and in 1902 married Hermie Andrews of Dubuque, Iowa . The Shoups moved to Whatcom County in 1907 where they bought a small farm and taught themselves to raise poultry. Their success attracted widespread attention and drew an invitation to teach poultry farming at the station in Puyallup.
Starting in 1915, the Shoups contributed to the station’s monthly bulletin on subjects like poultry houses, feed, brooding, poultry house equipment, costs of starting a commercial poultry business, baby chicks, grading eggs, winter eggs, laying out a poultry ranch, and a poultryman’s daily schedule.
They managed the station’s 2,500-bird flock and designed a number of poultry buildings like the open-front brooder house described in a 1921 bulletin, and the Puyallup laying house, which in 1927 merited its own 52 page bulletin with descriptions and drawings. For $1.25 per set, farmers could order eleven separated blueprints for a 200-bird house measuring 20 x 30 feet. “As complete and simple as it is possible to make them.”
Though George Shoup was killed in 1927 in a one car rollover near the station, his wife continued teaching until 1929. They may be a lesser-known piece of Puyallup’s past, but the Shoups were a vital part of farming in the region and the reason many people got into and succeeded in raising poultry.
Articles by George Shoup in the Washington State College Puyallup state bulletin
The Puyallup Laying House.
by Geo. R. Shoup, Poultryman.
Plans and tips for building a laying house for poultry in Western Washington, from the April 1919 Bulletin (PDF)
An Open Front Brooder House.
by Geo. R. Shoup, Poultryman.
Plans and tips for building a brooder house for poultry, from the March 1921 Bulletin (PDF)