|Earliest known residents in the East Wenatchee area|
|1805||Lewis and Clark explore lower Columbia River|
|1883||Douglas County established|
|1886||Waterville voted county seat|
|1893||Great Northern Railroad builds first steel bridge across Columbia River|
|1908||First wagon bridge across Columbia carried irrigation water to east side|
|1931||Trans-Pacific flight of the “Miss Veedol” belly-lands at Fancher Field|
|1935||48 to 46 vote incorporates East Wenatchee as a Fourth Class City|
|1936||Douglas County voters approve formation of Douglas County PUD|
|1951||Four-lane Columbia River Bridge built (later renamed in honor of senator George Sellar), approximately 390 residents|
|1969||East Wenatchee becomes a Non-charter Code City|
|1976||Olds Station Bridge (later renamed Odabashian Bridge) built entirely of reinforced concrete|
|1987||Clovis Point artifacts found in East Wenatchee orchard, approximately 2,700 residents|
|2004||Approximately 8,250 residents|
|Present||Approximately 13,200 residents|
Founding Family Names
Many families and individuals took part in the formation of Douglas County settlements in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some names appear in many historical accounts and biographical sketches, while others have been lost to time. These are some of the names which have survived in books about East Wenatchee:
Clark, Cox, Dyer, Hoyne, Jacobson, Heminger, Kamholtz, Kern, Kuntz, Olson, Patterson, Porter, Pullen, and Wallace.
A Look Back
Few stories of the early settlers remain. Many journals and reports have been lost to fires, and countless tales were told but never recorded. We know that men, women, and children endured immeasurable hardships to arrive on this land, a rocky desert that offered little protection from the dramatic seasonal shifts. They risked their lives and invested all they had for the opportunity to prosper. But while Mark Twain saw the age of westward expansion as “gilded,” it is difficult to see much glamor in the toils of Douglas County’s pioneering folk. However, the dry scabland along the east side of the Columbia River, once considered uninhabitable, has flourished through a combined vision for a vibrant community.
Origin of the Name
While exploring this area in 1805, Lewis and Clark recorded the name “Wah na a chee” in reference to the river and nearby Indians. The name “Wenatshapam” was also used in early treaty documents. “Wenatchi” is the Yakima Indian word describing a river coming out of a canyon. Richard Steele’s An Illustrated History of Stevens, Ferry, Okanogan and Chelan Counties provides additional information on the name, as was only available then. Steele explains that the word means “boiling waters” to the Yakima, “good place” to other Patois tribes, and “robe of the rainbow,” the latter based upon the myth of the Blood Daughter of the Widowed Moon. These variations became more commonly pronounced and spelled as Wenatchee by early settlers.
East Wenatchee is one of the youngest cities in Washington State, but the land has been inhabited for a very long time. In addition to being a concentrated business area, Grant Road is the site of the most impressive archaeological find in East Wenatchee’s history. On May 27, 1987, Moises Aguirre and Mark Mickles discovered tools from the ancient past that made them locally famous. During the routine installation of an irrigation line, the men uncovered fluted “Clovis” point tools.
Prehistoric Clovis Points
These unique prehistoric tools date back nearly 12,000 years, making their owners the first recorded people in America. During excavations in 1988 and 1990, nearly 70 stone and bone artifacts were collected from various dig sites. The monumental discovery prompted debate over the rights of the state, land owners, Indian tribes, and archaeologists. In late 1990, the excavation site was filled in and covered with trees. The Eastmont School District recognized this discovery’s significance by naming their new middle school Clovis Point. [More information is available at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Culture Center on Mission Street in Wenatchee]
(Source: Blogger (Dale Drinnon). Image by Unknown)
For many centuries, tribal bands of the Colombia-Sinkiuse regularly traveled through this land on routes between the Okanogan and Priest Rapids areas. These nomadic bands, like the Methows and Wenatchi, traveled cyclically with the seasons to harvest fish, game, and plant-based foods. David Thompson recorded in an 1811 report to the Northwest Company that 800 Sinkiuse were staying in an area just south of present day East Wenatchee. Few others lived in the area when Chinese gold miners began establishing camps in the 1860s.
In 1888, two years after Waterville had earned county seat honors, Harry Patterson became the first official homesteader on the east side of the river. He operated a ferry service when the Columbia would allow it. Many ferries were devised and tested in those days, some even powered by sails or horses. Dugout canoes were reportedly lashed together to carry wagons. Irregardless of the method, ferry crossing was a slow and difficult process. Disasters were common. However, the east side had not yet established an economic center and still relied heavily on Wenatchee. When Great Northern Railway lines reached the valley, then crossed the river in 1893, the scene was set for expansion in Douglas County. Early settlers included Henry Cox, D. J. Dyer, O. E. Heminger, Frank Kuntz, Charley Olson, Roy Pullen, and O. V. Wallace.
Today, many pedestrians and athletic enthusiasts take advantage of the “walking bridge,” as part of their journey along the extensive Apple Capital Riverfront Loop Trail. This bridge has historically served as much more. Completed in 1908, it provided the first form of reliable transportation between the Wenatchee area and the still sparsely-inhabited lands to the east.
(Source: WSDOT via Wordspress (JRSHERRARD). Image by Unknown)
Current “Walking Bridge” under construction, looking toward East Wenatchee
Along with the ease of transporting people and goods, the bridge brought hope and opportunity to the East Wenatchee area in the form of irrigation water. The pipeline system that was built across the bridge came from the High Line Canal, which is now called the Wenatchee Reclamation District canal. Irrigation waters allowed vast tracts of orchard to be planted, turning the East Wenatchee area into a thriving agricultural hub.
On this untamed land, early settlers were only able to thrive by harnessing all that nature offered them. They drank from the Columbia and ate animals that were nourished by its presence. It was only a matter of time before the true power of the Columbia River would be fully harnessed and distributed equally. In 1930, an initiative was passed authorizing county citizens to form their own public utility district. Since the 1936 county vote to form Public Utility District No. 1 of Douglas County, citizens have been offered reliable, low-cost hydroelectric power. This came from the Bonneville Power Administration, in the beginning, then from the Wells Hydroelectric Project and Rocky Reach Dam.
The Trans-Pacific Miss Veedol Flight
The men that first put East Wenatchee on the maps would not come by horse, wagon, car, or even train, however. On a cold, foggy October night in 1931, Hugh Herndon and Clyde Edward Pangborn flew eastward over the Cascade Mountains with no landing gear. Exhausted from piloting the first non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean, the two decided to belly-land near Fancher Field, a small airfield near the current site of the Fancher Heights subdivision. Pangborn had grown up in Douglas County and wished to see his mother and brother, who lived in East Wenatchee.
(Source WordPress (cesardagord). Image by Unknown, 1931)
(Source: Wikimedia Commons. Image by Sampsonsimpson20, 2009)
Replica of the Miss Veedol on display in Misawa, Japan
News of their trans-Pacific flight crossed the world in record time and made the pilots stars. Though they would never break records for circling the globe, their most memorable flight took them from Misawa, Japan to East Wenatchee, Washington, effectively putting those city names next to each other in the history books. Many decades later, it is clear as you drive the streets of East Wenatchee that the historic flight of the “Miss Veedol” has not been forgotten. Adopted as the East Wenatchee city theme around 2001, signs of the historic flight as well as the city’s connection to Misawa are visible everywhere you turn. Delegations are regularly sent between the two communities to honor this connection.
Being so close to the booming City of Wenatchee (established as early as 1811 and incorporated in 1893), East Wenatchee did not have a municipal identity of its own until much later than most communities in Douglas County. The City of East Wenatchee was not incorporated until March 11, 1935. In 1951, with the construction of the Columbia River Bridge, now dedicated to Senator George Sellar, business traffic began flowing up Grant Road. Valley Mall Parkway, formerly known as Main Street, had been the hub of the town for many years. To restore consumer interest in the businesses located in some of the oldest buildings in East Wenatchee, a major renovation project of Valley Mall Parkway was undertaken in 1996.
In the early 1900s, there were as many as 12 schoolhouses operating independently in the East Wenatchee area. The process to consolidate was long and required the development of new, larger school buildings and efficient bus systems. The relatively few students wishing to continue beyond 8th grade had to travel to Wenatchee’s high school. East Wenatchee did not graduate a high school class until 1958. Eastmont, as the district is known today, has an annual budget of approximately $38 million and operates a high school, a junior high, two middle schools, and five elementary schools. Paw-prints painted on surrounding streets lead students to Eastmont High School, the domain of the Wildcats.
Since the population boom following the completion of the “walking bridge” nearly a century ago, East Wenatchee has not looked back. The humble community remains a peacefully rural backdrop to the modern shopping and residential living areas that have flourished recently. Looking beyond to the barren hillsides, it’s not hard to imagine a time when dirt roads and running water would have been luxuries. Early surveyors declared the land unfit for habitation, yet because of the work of proud East Wenatchee residents (past and present), the community continues to grow.
City of East Wenatchee’s Mission
“The mission of the City of East Wenatchee and its employees is to maintain the trust of and give quality service to all who live in, work in and visit the City of East Wenatchee.”
East Wenatchee’s Annually Anticipated Events
- Fred Meyer East Egg Hunt: April
- Les Schwab Classy Chassis Parade and Car Show: May
- Town Toyota Wings and Wheels Festival: October
- Wings ‘N Wishes: December
To commemorate the first non-stop trans-Pacific flight, the annual Wings and Wheels Festival is held on the first weekend in October. The festival kicks off with a Big Band dance out at the airport and offers something for participants of all ages. Events include a car show, motorcycle stunt rally, fly-in of the “Miss Veedol” replica at the airport, airplane and helicopter rides, food and craft vendors, a carnival, a petting zoo, the Red Apple Flyers, and the Nitro Dash for Cash remote control car show.
Since 1985. East Wenatchee’s most popular annual event has been the Les Schwab Classy Chassis Parade and Car Show. The Classy Chassis is held the Friday evening prior to the Apple Blossom Grand Parade, which takes place in Wenatchee. From Eastmont Community Park the valley’s vintage and unique cars and trucks line up then take to the streets. The vehicles honk, burn rubber, rev their engines, and do anything else they can to excite the crowd, which lines both sides of the street down Grant Road and along Valley Mall Parkway.