North Central Washington in the 1900s

« Posted on Aug 13, 2006 »

The following descriptions of Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties is from the 1909 publication, “A Review of the Resources and Industries of the State of Washington”.

CHELAN COUNTY (early 1900’s)

Chelan County is one of picturesque beauty and abundance of both developed and undeveloped wealth. It faces the Columbia River eastward, while its back rests against the peaks of the Cascades, 5,000 to 6,000 feet above the sea. Lake Chelan is the largest fresh water body in the state, fifty miles long and one to four wide, and lies 400 feet higher than the Columbia River.

Chelan County has 2,000 square miles, much of it mountainous and full of minerals. Its population is at present about 14,000.


Horticulture, agriculture, lumbering, stock-raising, mining and dairying all flourish on the bountiful natural fitness of the county for these occupations. The climate is attractive. It is a sunshiny county.


Steamers ply up and down the Columbia River. The Great Northern railway crosses the county through the valley of the Wenatchee River and the Washington & Great Northern railway is projected along the western boundary of the Columbia River.


All kinds of temperate zone fruits mature here in wonderful perfection and abundance. The valleys run with water from the mountains to irrigate the lands, and furnish vast power, much of it undeveloped. Hills in the western part of the county are timbered and all the vacant lands are grass covered. Over 1,000,000 fruit trees have been planted in the last three years in the county.

The mountain foothills are full of mineral veins of copper, gold, silver, lead and molybdonite. Some have been producing for twenty years. Trout in the streams and game on the hills add to its attractiveness.

Principal Cities and Towns

Wenatchee is the county seat and largest town, having about 3,500 people. It is located on the Columbia River near where the Great Northern railway crosses it. It is the chief distributing center for the county and much other territory, chiefly north of it.

Leavenworth, westward of Wenatchee, and also on the railroad, has a population of 1,200 and is a division point.

Chelan, at the foot of Lake Chelan, has about 700 people.

Cashmere, on the railroad, is of about equal size.

Lakeside, Peshastin and Entiat are smaller towns, all thriving and growing.

DOUGLAS COUNTY (early 1900’s)

Douglas County occupies the big bend of the Columbia River, having about 1,800 square miles of territory. Formerly there were 4,500 square miles. The last legislature carved the county in two, giving Grant County the southeastern part, about 2,700 square miles of territory, and leaving 1,800 to the northeastern part, with the old name. The bend of the Columbia on the northeast and Grant County on the southeast, compose its boundary. This division boundary follows the northeastern bank of the Grand Coulee, and following its general direction meets the Columbia River where the Great Northern railroad touches its valley, thus putting all of that railroad in this new county, excepting only a few miles of the railroad along the banks of the river in the southeastern corner of Douglas County. Douglas County is essentially a high plateau, some of it 1,500 feet above the main bank. Waterville is the county seat, and considerable land along the valley of the Columbia is being irrigated and proving to be of great value for fruit and grain growing.

In the southeastern part of the county are some lands covered with black basaltic rocks, but the great bulk of the lands are rich in a volcanic ash soil, and produce large crops of grain without irrigation. A wrong view of the county can easily be impressed upon the traveler by rail; he will see so many of the basaltic rocks from the car windows but once up out of the canyon which the railroad follows, he will find himself in view of an expanse of wheat fields so vast and rich as to astonish him.


As already indicated, this county is essentially a grain producer. Wheat and oats are marketed in large quantities. Fruit-growing and stock-raising are important adjuncts to the county’s wealth. It is comparatively new, and lands can be had at very reasonable prices.


As now constituted, Douglas County will rely wholly upon the steamboat crafts on the river to get its grain to market. Its trade, however, is too vast to be passed by, and already two lines of railroad, the Washington & Great Northern and North Coast, are projecting into the very center of its vast wheat fields. With these roads completed as projected, Douglas County will have easy access to both water and rail transportation, and renewed importance will be given to its farming industries.

Cities and Towns

Waterville is its chief town and county seat. It is among the wheat fields, in a broad plain, about seven miles east of the Columbia River, to which it is connected by good roads for stages and freight wagons. It has one of the U. S. general land offices. It has good schools and churches, water and electric lighting systems, both owned by the city. It has a population of about 1,200 people, and is well supplied with business houses, flour and feed mills, a brick yard, bank, etc.

Bridgeport, a town of some 400 people, is situated in the northern part of the county on the Columbia River east of its junction with the Okanogan River, and is an important wheat-shipping point, having a regular steamboat service. A bank, flour mill, warehouses and general stores are serving the community, but other industries await the newcomer.

Douglas, Farmer, Jameson, Mansfield and Hollister are growing agricultural centers.

GRANT COUNTY (early 1900’s)

Grant County occupies about 2,700 square miles of what was formerly Douglas County, comprising the lands southeast of the Grand and Moses coulees, bordering on the southwest on the Columbia River, with Adams and Lincoln counties on its eastern border.

Ephrata is the county seat, on the Great Northern railway. The northern part of the county is traversed by the Great Northern railroad, and has developed into a vast region of grain production without irrigation, although originally supposed to be valueless for cereal-raising.

The southern part is new and comparatively undeveloped, but is crossed by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway, just now giving this new county great impetus. The southern portion of the county has long been a grazing ground for herds of cattle and horses, but it is thought now it will be turned into a prosperous region of small farms.

While the county is cut by several coulees, it is chiefly composed of large areas of bench lands, comparatively level, barring a range of hills in its southwestern corner called Saddle mountains. There is considerable water in the county, Moses Lake being quite a large body of water with bordering swampy lands, about in the center, and Wilson Creek (at Crab Creek), in the northern and Crab Creek, in the southern part, furnishing considerable stock water.


The lands tributary to the Great Northern railway already produce great quantities of grain and livestock, and these will continue to be its staple crops until irrigation may come in and stimulate fruit production, for which it is thought much of the lands will be suitable.


Both the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railway systems are in the grain fields of the northern part of the county. The Milwaukee road crosses the southern part, the N. & S. is projected along its western border, paralleling the Columbia River, which is navigable, thus affording all the county, excepting the central portion, good facilities for marketing its products. As the county develops, beyond question branch lines will penetrate this portion, and Grant County will become as well supplied as any other portion of the state with facilities for commerce.

Cities and Towns

Ephrata, the county seat, is a small village on the Great Northern railway about midway of the county and the center of a large wheat-growing section. Its transformation into an important town is rapidly going on, the new county government calling for a variety of new occupations to center here.

Wilson Creek, near the eastern border of the county, is a larger town whose chief industry is marketing grain. It is an important distributing point, with prospects of larger growth.

Quincy is a station on the Great Northern and is also an important wheat-shipping point.

Soap Lake, on a lake of the same name, is noted as a resort for the rheumatic.

Bacon, Coulee City, and Hartline are stations on the Northern Pacific railway in the northeastern part of the county.

Grant County is new, but has large undeveloped resources, and is awaiting the newcomer with abundant offerings for his energy and labor.

OKANOGAN COUNTY (early 1900’s)

Okanogan, the largest county in the state, lies on the northern boundary just east of the Cascade peaks. It has an area of 4,500 square miles and a population estimated at 13,000.

About one-fourth of the county, a district of great latent resources, is still within the Colville Indian reservation, but is soon to be thrown open to settlement.


This county is endowed with great natural resources and a delightful climate, and is destined to become thickly populated.

The mountains and their foothills have large and numerous veins of metals and are covered also with extensive forests. The rolling hills of the south and center are rich in agricultural possibilities, suitable for stock, and great crops of cereals and fruits. The Okanogan River and its branches drain the greater portion of the county, rising in British Columbia and flowing south through the center of the county and joining the Columbia River on the south boundary. The Methow River drains a large portion of the western part and makes a paradise for the frontiersman along its sloping sides.


Until now the rivers and wagon roads are the only paths of commerce. But into this blossoming empire the railroads are looking with longing eyes. The Great Northern, however, has already tapped the northern boundary and projected a line down the Okanogan and Columbia Rivers to Wenatchee. Other railroads will follow, as the prize is too great not to be divided.

Principal Towns

Conconully, the county seat, is situated among the foothills and mines west of the Okanogan River. In addition to the mining industry, the raising of sheep and cattle is followed by the citizens. The town has a population of about 500 people.

Oroville is the chief town on the railroad, near the northern border, and is the terminus of the road. It has about 500 people and is growing. It is an important ore-shipping point, surrounded also by good fruit-raising and agricultural lands, yet unirrigated.

Brewster, at the junction of the Columbia and Okanogan rivers, has a population of about 200, and is an important grain and fruit-shipping point.

Okanogan is on the river of the same name, about midway between Brewster and Conconully, and to this point the steamers ply in the higher waters of the river.

Twisp is a growing village in the Methow Valley, devoted chiefly to fruit-growing and mining. It is an important distributing center.

Pateros has steamer connection with Wenatchee, and is an importing, growing center.

Beck, Bonaparte, Anglin and Bodie are other new and growing commercial centers.

Chesaw, in the northern part, and Nespelem, in the southeastern part, are important locations.

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