History of Walla Walla Washington
History of Walla Walla Washington 1805 to 1899
History of Walla Walla, Washington. A City So Nice They Named It Twice.
Credits: The source of historical information in this article is Robert Bennett's book, Portrait of a Western Town 1804 - 1899 (published 1980)
Walla Walla's earliest recorded history began centuries ago with Indian tribes who lived on the Columbia River Plateau in Oregon and Washington. So in part, the timeline includes the history of the Pacific Northwest.
1805: The Lewis and Clark expedition traveled through what is today the City of Walla Walla, Washington. They continued to the mouth of a small river flowing into the Columbia River. There they met a group of friendly Indians who told them their name for the small river was "Wallah Wallah," meaning "many waters." So Lewis and Clark decided to call the Indian tribe by the same name as the river.
1858: Our city was originally called Steptoeville, named after the officer in charge of the fort. On May 17, 1858, at Pine Creek, he lost a battle with 800 to 1,000 Coeur D’Alene, Palouse, Spokane, Cayuse, and Yakama Indians who attacked. Colonel Steptoe and his men put up a good fight but were badly outnumbered.
The history of Walla Walla, Washington has been clearly imprinted in the timeline by pioneer farmers and merchants.
Settlers were attracted to the city due to its beauty, mild climate, fertile farming soil, and close proximity to the fort. Agriculture played a vital role in the valley's development, and orchardists found that fruit trees did very well.
1865: By the mid-1860's Walla Walla found itself in the middle of the gold rush and became the supply point for Idaho and Montana miners.
1865: Life seemed to go quite well for Walla Walla until a decision to close the fort in 1865 caused great security concerns for settlers. One-third of the city was burned later that year, along with the city records, county assessment rolls, and plat books.
The biggest problem was the lack of a railroad for transportation. Freight had to be brought to Walla Walla by steamboat and wagon teams at the rate of ten dollars per ton for the 31-mile trip.
1864: As the population was growing, settlers were seeking more profitable methods and crops to farm. In 1864 dryland wheat was attempted to be grown on the upland hills around Walla Walla. The horse and mule were used extensively in nearly every phase of farming, and it proved to be critical for the wheat crops. As many as 40 animals could be harnessed together for plowing and cutting the wheat.
1882 The Reverend had initially planned to share the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with the Zulus in Africa, but a war between Zulu tribes prevented his voyage. His mission board sent him instead to the Oregon Territory.
The School proved to be a difficult mission, remaining open, then closing, opening again, then finally ending in 1882.
1883: A new charter was issued to Whitman Seminary in 1883, and the name was changed to Whitman College. Reverend Ellis had given $10,000 and donated his property to keep the college alive.
The US Government reopened Fort Walla Walla in 1873 due to the unrest of several Indian tribes in southern Oregon. This proved to be a great benefit to the Walla Walla Valley as safety was a high priority for current citizens and supply merchants.
Walla Walla's continued to prosper, and building within the heart of the city was fast-paced. Unfortunately, another large fire occurred in 1875, destroying all of the wooden structures on the main street's north side.
The Reverend had initially planned to share the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with the Zulus in Africa, but a war between Zulu tribes prevented his voyage. His mission board sent him instead to the Oregon Territory.
The school he started in Walla Walla proved to be a difficult mission, remaining open, then closing, opening again, then finally ending in 1882.
A new charter was issued to Whitman Seminary in 1883, and the name was changed to Whitman College. Reverend Ellis had given $10,000 and donated his property to keep the college alive.
The year 1884 would bring in the first mechanical wheat harvester with the use of a combine thrasher-header, and by the late 1800s, machinery began to take the place of the horse and mule. It would be many more years before machinery would replace them.
Another large fire consumed a section of wooden buildings on the Northside of the main street near the second street in 1881 and another fire in 1887 near the third and main streets.
Improvements continued in spite of tragedy, and Walla Walla received the first electric lights in 1888. The Post Office instituted mail delivery, so it was no longer necessary to personally pick up the mail.
Walla Walla was approved for a penitentiary site by the Territorial Legislature in 1886, and its first convicts arrived in 1887. They were guarded by ten men and by Company A of the National Guard. Walla Walla's population was 4,500 by 1889.
2022: The Walla Walla Valley is one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit or choose to live in. Still prized for its rich fertile soil and agriculture. You need only drive a few minutes outside the city to see an abundance of crops.
Wheatfields still dominate the vast majority of the landscape outside the city limits. There you will also find Alfalfa hay, barley, and canola, peas, corn, and grapes.
Closer to town, you will find many smaller fields of the famous and great tasting Walla Walla Sweet Onions, potatoes, beans, many fruit trees; apples, peach, pear, and grapes, and a variety of berries.
Walla Walla Best Small Town
Walla Walla has been recognized multiple times as having one of the best small-town main streets in the USA. The city population grew to 32,921 and the county to 61,195 in 2022.
Visit Walla Walla Washington and you will find that even with a growing population, the downtown area has managed to keep that small-town charm and friendly atmosphere.
The streets are lined with trees, and beautiful flower baskets decorate the town in the spring and summer, where you find shop owners anxious to invite you into their boutiques, shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Visit our page titled Walla Walla Resources to find information about Places to Visit in Walla Walla Washington.
Credits: The source of historical information and History of Walla Walla, Washington in this article is Robert Bennett's book, Portrait of a Western Town 1804 - 1899 (published 1980)