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Bit of HiStory Bonus: The Witty and Relentless Ella Wintler

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The Clark County community loves the water. We want to get close. Fortunately there are many places to do just that. One of the most popular spots is Wintler Park, a 12.5 acre riverfront park that offers spectacular views of Mount Hood, picnic tables and benches, a restroom, and walking paths.

The park is named for the Wintler family.

Wintler Park, on the banks of the Columbia River, is just off SR-14 between I-5 and I-205. The 5-mile Columbia River Renaissance Trail ends here. Photo courtesy the City of Vancouver.

Michael and John Jacob Wintler appear to have been ambitious and adventurous brothers. They were born in Switzerland and set out for the new world as very young men; Michael at 24 and John as a teenager. Both landed in New York state. They both would eventually cross the Isthmus of Panama and continue on to Clark County, Washington.

John married Sarah Butler, who was said to have driven a span of mules from Carthage, Missouri to Vancouver several years earlier. They went on to have nine children, the youngest of whom they named Ella.

Ella Wintler was born in 1885 in Vancouver at the family home at 10th and Esther Streets. She was a bright little girl, who graduated from Vancouver High School in 1903, one of a class of twelve. She almost immediately began teaching school.

She taught at Lake Shore, Rock Creek and Charter Oak. With that experience, she enrolled at University of Washington and graduated in 1910, the same year women won the right to vote in the state of Washington.

She moved north to Mount Vernon, Washington and taught German there for six years before returning to Vancouver to teach German, English and social studies at her old school. She involved herself in the community, and in local politics. (No surprise that she’d be interested in politics with her newly gained suffrage, and a father who proudly noted that his first vote as an American citizen was for Abraham Lincoln).

Ella never married. She became the quintessential image of the “old maid schoolteacher” but her students or her peers had best not try to cross wits with her. She spoke in a gravelly voice, with a rapier wit.

She retired from teaching in 1936 and ran for the legislature. The local newspaper opposed her vigorously, and when she won, they proclaimed that evil had triumphed, but they could get rid of her in two years. Well, they didn’t.

Ella served us well, concentrating mostly on children’s issues and education. In an unusual stance in those days for a Republican, she strongly supported public power. She pointed out that Clark County had voted for and supported their public utilities commission as she fought efforts to dissolve them.

Ella took wins and defeats with the same poise. She first served in the 17th legislative district, then the 49th. Her modest apartment was in the Central Court apartments, now the Academy Condominiums at 13th and C Streets.

She said of her ups and downs, “I’d lose when Franklin Roosevelt won and win in the off year.” She left the legislature in 1964, after ten election wins, when she was defeated by Dan Marsh in a Democratic sweep.

Those who had so adamantly opposed her in her first campaign now stepped up to heap praise and honors on her. After one such tribute, where wholehearted praise had been showered upon her, she rose and said, “Had I not been raised with four brothers, I would shed a tear. But I was. So I won’t.”

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About Author

Pat Jollota retired from the Los Angeles Police Department and came to Vancouver to find a new career in historic preservation. She was curator of education at the Clark County Historical Museum for 22 years, while almost concurrently serving for 20 years on the Vancouver City Council.

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