"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

1880s: A growing influx of white settlers

By on July 25, 2017 in Columnist with 1 Comment

Rod MolzahnChange was rumbling towards the Wenatchee Valley like J.J. Hill’s steam locomotives.

It was 1881. The next decade would bring growing population, farms where there had been sagebrush and towns where none had been. By mid decade all of north central Washington was sharing in the progress.

For the P’squose people in the valley the decade would threaten their life, way and culture. For the Indians a single event in 1881 was the alarm bell.

There was a handful of white men in the lower valley who had made a sort of village of crude cabins and tents scattered around the Miller/Freer trading post at the confluence. They prospected, trapped, cut timber, raised some stock and grew gardens but they never moved up the valley.

There were also large numbers of Chinese miners working the banks of the Wenatchee River but they showed no interest in claiming land.

The Indian’s bulwark against up valley expansion was Article 10 of the 1855 Yakima Treaty that guaranteed them a township (6 miles by 6 miles) sized fishery reservation at the forks of the Wenatchee (the Wenatchee/Icicle confluence).

In the spring of 1881, Alexander Brender, a young man from Yakima, rode into the lower Wenatchee Valley leading a pack animal but he didn’t stop there. He continued over an old trail near Horse Lake and down into the upper valley. He was looking for a place to settle.

Indians tried to dissuade him with stories of cold winters with deep snow and boiling hot summers but Brender was persistent and found a canyon in the Old Mission (Cashmere) area to his liking. Much to the Indians dismay they had their first white neighbor.

In the spring of 1882, Tallman Tripp and Arzilla Tripp with their young daughter, Eva, fought their way over Colockum Pass with a wagon of possessions. They claimed 160 acres fronting on the Columbia River near Fifth Street. They were the first white family to settle on the Wenatchee Flat.

That same year the upper valley gained two more white men when D.S. Farrar claimed a homestead in Nahahum Canyon and Billy Bourgwardt settled at the mouth of Alex Brender’s canyon.

1883 was busy. George Washington Blair and his wife, Margaret, settled on 160 acres between Washington and Fifth Streets bordering on Western Avenue. They brought four young daughters and an older son.

Christopher Columbus Rickman and his wife homesteaded across Western from the Blairs. Their daughter was born the next year, the first white child born in the valley.

Deak and Lucy Brown put down roots in “Brown’s Flat,” later Monitor. Up on the Waterville Plateau the Corbaly family, Ole Ruud and the Titchenal family claimed homesteads within days of each other.

1884 brought the extended Burch family to take up adjacent homesteads on “Burch Flat” near the west end of the Odabashian Bridge. It was there, the next year, they built the first ferry in the valley to cross the Columbia. It was a steam powered side-wheeler that operated for five years before being replaced by the Wenatchee Ferry at the foot of Orondo Street.

Homesteading in outlying areas began to take hold in 1884.

The Zimmermans were the first to settle in the Squilchuck. The A.H. Bills family liked the mouth of Stemilt Creek while James Fulwiler took his family up into the Stemilt hills. Frank Thorpe, lawyer and teacher, took land up the Colockum and Lewis Detwiler with his family settled near Orondo.

There was a population surge in Wenatchee and the surrounding area in 1885. More new people than in any previous year arrived, a record not broken until 1892.

Good homesteads with water on the Wenatchee Flat were becoming hard to find. New arrivals were forced to either buy existing homesteads or look to surrounding possibilities like Squilchuck, Wheeler Hill, Malaga and East Wenatchee.

The upper valley continued to fill. George Brisky claimed his land in the Icicle Valley, causing more anxiety for the P’squose.

Chief Moses was given a reservation by the government in 1879. It was to be for Moses’ people, the Sinkius/Kwachin as well as for the P’squose, Entiat, Chelan and any other northern tribes not already living on the Colville Reservation.

The reservation stretched from the south shore of Lake Chelan to the Canadian border and from the crest of the Cascades to the Columbia and Okanogan Rivers.

None of the intended Indians ever moved there, not even Moses. Only the Indians already living on the land stayed.

In 1884 the government bought back the reservation and in 1886 it was opened for settlement. Homesteaders were waiting. A new wave of families spurred the growth of towns at Lake Chelan and in the Okanogan and Methow valleys.

In the Wenatchee Valley, in 1886, Herman Simmons brought his family to a homestead along the Columbia River, where the tracks of the Appleyard now run, south of the budding town of Wenatchee.

That marked the beginning of a small community that called itself “South Wenatchee” for years until big Wenatchee expanded to include it.

That same year at the southern foot of Badger Mountain, now northern East Wenatchee, Fred Kamholz took a homestead. Others followed him and the area of orchards and farms came to be called “Southside.”

Historian, actor and teacher Rod Molzahn can be reached at shake.speak@verizon.net. His third history CD, Legends & Legacies Vol. III – Stories of Wenatchee and North Central Washington, is now available at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center and at other locations throughout the area.

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  1. Daniel Davis says:

    Thank you for the article. Descendants of the George Washington Blair family still reside in Wenatchee. I am a descendant of the “older son” of Margaret Blair, he was Charlie Davis, he married and had a son Isaac S. Davis, my grandfather. Charlie died in 1890 leaving his homestead to his young wife and son. My dad (90) still resides on what remains of the original Davis homestead. Again, thank you for the good history. Daniel Davis.

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