|The first white men to view the Yakima valley were
from the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. In 1847, Catholic
missionaries came to the valley to minister to the local Indian tribes.
Paschal Ricard and E.C. Chirouse, oblate fathers, established the
mission in the Ahtanum area. The mission was called St. Rose. The
mission was moved to Moxee Valley in 1849 and called St. Joseph. The
mission moved again to Ahtanum in 1852. The fathers abandoned it during
the Yakama Indian wars of 1855. When troops found a keg of powder buried
in the mission yard they assumed the fathers had been supplying ammo to
Indians. So they burned down the mission.
During the 1850s and 1860s, permanent parties of settlers begin to
arrive. The first permanent settler was F. Mortimer Thorp who settled on
Moxee Creek in 1860. In 1853, the Longmire wagon train came through with
155 people and 36 wagons. They reached the Columbia at Wallula. Here
they whipsawed lumber out of driftwood and made a boat to go across.
They followed the Columbia to the mouth of the Yakima. They followed the
Yakima a few miles then turned north toward Wellspring near Rattlesnake
Spring. They followed Cold Creek then to Selah. From there they followed
the Wenas Creek to the Naches River. They crossed the river 68 times
before reaching the summit. Eventually they made the long way down the
mountains and got to the Nisqually Prairie where they settled. Some
other early settlers were J.B. Nelson, William Parker, John Allen,
Andrew Gervais, Nathan Olney, L.F. Mosier, Mr. Warbass, Alfred Henson,
and Capt. James Barnes.
In 1865, Yakima County was officially established. Development of the
town proceeded rapidly after that. In 1867, Egbert French came to Parker
Bottom and opened the first general store in the valley. H.D. Cock came
from Olympia and settled near Mabton. He established a ferry service and
general stopping place for travelers. Also that year, Father Napoleon
St. Onge rebuilt the mission on the Ahtanum. Father St. Onge published
the first catechsim of Catholic prayer and doctrine in the Yakima
language. In 1868, Charles Carpenter came and raised the first hops in
the valley. In 1869, Sumner Barker opened a general store that became
known as Barker Bros. Eli Lachapelle started a ferry on the Yakima. And
Frank Spon came to Ahtanum and built the first sawmill in Yakima Valley.
In 1871, an irrigation ditch was built to divert the Ahtanum Creek. It
was the first ditch built by white man. Indians built one many years
earlier to irrigate Chief Kamiakin's crops. Jock Morgan came to
Toppenish and started the first dairy ranch in the valley. In 1875,
Catholic sisters were sent from Ft. Vancouver to set up a chapel and
small catholic school. In 1878, James Gleed arrived and raised the first
alfalfa hay in the valley. He was also one of the founders of the Naches
Canal Company, known as Gleed ditch. The Stairs came and Mrs. Stair
became school superintendent for many years and taught in the public
schools. In 1879, the first newspaper called the "Yakima Record"
published by R.V. Chadd. By the end of the decade there were 3,000
people in the county.
The original town of Yakima City was located where Union Gap is now.
When Northern Pacific wanted to bring the railroad through, several
homeowners refused to sell. So the railroad rerouted their line further
north and called it North Yakima. Using an abandoned boxcar, a railroad
depot was started on north Front Street. North Yakima officially
incorporated and was named the county seat on January 27, 1886. By
January 27, 1889, water mains, fire plugs, and hydrants had been
installed to sell water to the residents. By December 15, 1889, the
telephone company started operating. On September 4, 1890, the
electricity was turned on. By the turn of the century, there were nearly
15,000 in the county.
In 1885 the old Yakima City Hall was built, just south of the depot. The
building held all city offices until 1949 when a new building was built.
In 1909 a bigger and better depot was constructed and is now home to
Grant's Brewery Pub (America's oldest brewery pub) and some county
offices. In 1887, developer A.J. Switzer built an opera house, which
housed the city's first theater. The theater was on the second floor and
had a level floor and small stage with only three seats. It was lit by
kerosene lamps and heated by two stoves. Opening of better
equipped theaters ended this theater. The Opera House is now home to a
variety of small businesses. Other new businesses that year included the
Hop Lee Laundry and the Sen Lee Laundry. Between 1898-1899, Switzer
built the Lund building on the corner of north Front Street and Yakima
Avenue. The "Alfalfa" saloon operated until approximately 1910 when it
was sold and converted to a men's clothing store. In 1902, the
Commercial Saloon building was built just south of the opera house. The
commercial saloon was on the main floor and the top two floors were a
boarding house. Horace M. Gilbert built a house in Yakima in 1898.
Gilbert devoted much of his time to developing land in the lower Yakima
Valley. He was instrumental in bringing irrigation to the valley, after
which he purchased orchards west of the city.
In 1907, a group of Yakima businessmen built the Yakima Valley
Transportation Company (YVT) to provide electric street car service to
North Yakima. In 1909, the Union Pacific railroad took over the YVT and
extended its lines into outlying communities. By 1913, most expansion
lines were complete include those to Selah. Line Car #1 was built new as
a freight locomotive for YVT in 1909 and is still used as a maintenance
car. Steeple Cab #298 was built new in 1923 and still hauls freight
cars. When the Union Pacific ended freight service on the YVT in 1985,
it donated all the track, rolling stock, parts, and machinery to the
city so the museum of electric railroading could be preserved. In 1918,
the word "north" was dropped from the city's name.
Dowty Aerospace Yakima was started as a small business venture by Ray,
Henry, and Roy Decoto in 1921, as an auto repair shop. It was at the
corner of 16th and Lincoln. Later they made coal tokers, sprayers, and
irrigation equipment. In 1941 Boeing brought them into the aerospace
business. Boeing asked the brothers to build target locators and relief
valves for the B-17 flying fortress bomber. Decoto Aircraft as it was
then known moved to the Yakima Air Terminal in 1953. It was sold in 1979
to the Dowty Group, a British manufacturing conglomerate. They are now
making parts for the F-22 stealth jet fighter, the new F-18, and the
Citation 10 private airplane. For the 777 they make hydraulic fuses that
insure its landing gear stows and deploys correctly and valves for the
anti-skid braking system. More than 132,500 of the 777s more than 3
million parts were made specifically for that plane. Dowty was among the
top 10 supplies of the B-2. It designed and built 8 major parts of the
bomber. They also made the device on the aircraft carriers that hold and
release F-14s and F-18s in place with engines blasting and catapulting
them when ready.
In 1994, the population was 59,740. Today agriculture is still the
largest employer, followed by wood and paper products, industrial
machinery, and retail. There are over 4,200 farms in the valley. The
county is the national leader in apple, fruit juice, mint, winter pear,
and hop production. It ranks first in number of fruit trees, and fourth
in value of fruit grown. It is also second in the country in wine
production, growing about 40% of the state's total grapes. Other top
crops include cherries, pears, asparagus, peaches, onions, and plums.
Beef and dairy cattle are important products too.