By Luke Ellington

(Source: Wikimedia Commons. Image by Williamborg, 2008)

Timeline of Withrow

1883Douglas County established
1886Waterville voted county seat
1906Jack Withrow offers refuge for land surveyors
1909Great Northern Railway’s spur line laid through Withrow townsite
1919Nine year drought begins, Population approximately 700
1928Nine year drought ends, Population approximately 350
1985Mansfield spur line abandoned, trains stop running through town

Founding Family Names

Many families and individuals took part in the formation of Douglas County settlements in the late 1800s. 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 Withrow:

Andrews, Ayers, Badger, Cordileer, Ewing, Jordan, Kane, McDonald, Murray, Okland, Peterson, Philips, Polson, Sall, Sawyer, Turner, and Withrow.

A Look Back

In 1906, when surveyors for the Great Northern Railway reached the site of present day Withrow. Only one man lived there. Jack J. Withrow, a successful wheat rancher, probably never guessed that letting a crew of surveyors stay in his home would result in having a town named in his honor. The Great Northern Railway Mansfield spur line reached Withrow in 1909. With the rail line came people hoping to help Withrow boom into the prosperous town it was for many years.

The trains passed daily through Withrow, between Mansfield to the northeast and Wenatchee to the southwest. Within a couple years, Withrow had a grain elevator, a livery stable, and a productive well dug 600 feet deep. Feeling on top of the world, Withrow held a 4th of July celebration in 1913 with a parade that included draft horses, farm equipment, and Model T’s decorated with crepe paper and streamers. By 1915, Withrow had its own town band, which played at dances, concerts, and other events. The post office moved out of James Andrews’ hardware store and into “The Old Moran Building.” In this flourishing time for the town, the streets of Withrow bustled with businessmen and salesmen as they traveled the rails.

(Source: Blogger (MB Line). Image by The Withrow Banner)

During the winter of 1915, Withrow found itself buried under snow and without mail for 17 days. For fear of future isolation, a group of Withrow residents headed by George Turner decided to build an independent telephone system to connect the homes by phone. At a cost of $25 per home, the phone system covered 15 miles and ensured that Withrow would never again be unable to communicate.

In 1920, Withrow was larger than the county seat of Waterville. The rail town boasted a school, a butcher, a bank, a barber, three grocery stores, two hardware stores, a pool hall, a community hall, two blacksmiths, a drug store, a garage and two lumberyards. A gas street light even controlled traffic in the center of town.

The nearly decade-long drought between 1919 and 1928, however, proved disastrous for the town’s economy. The businesses withered, the bank failed, and the availability of cars in the 1920s meant that residents could go further away to shop. As the population dwindled, the school eventually had to be shut down. The street light in the center of town was smashed with rocks. Withrow’s survival seemed to rely upon the railroad that had originally given the town life. Records and remains from this time in Withrow’s history are scarce, but it is clear that the town did not disappear. It simply changed.

Withrow Factoids

Over 1 million bushels of wheat were shipped out of Withrow in 1916.

Verel Ewing was the first baby born in the town.

(Source: Blogger (MB Line). Image by Stan F. Styles, 1961)

In the 1970s, Withrow was rediscovered as a quaint rail and farm community. The population in the town was around 30. At that time, the remaining general store served as a grocery store, a hardware store, a post office, and a tavern. It had been built by the Withrow Trading Company in 1918. There was also a tractor outlet, three churches, and the two grain elevators. In the 1985, however, the railroad spur was abandoned.

Most of the buildings in town have been torn down or used to house old farm equipment, but the community remains. One of the largest remaining buildings in Withrow is the old general (“everything”) store, which now serves as a residence.

Residents of Withrow today appreciate the affordability of that areas land, electricity, and water. The small family farms are being bought up every year, and there are fewer and fewer farmers. Little evidence remains of Withrow’s boom period, but it remains one of the great stories of Douglas County history.

(Source: Panoramio. Image by Chris Metz, 2013; Attribution No Derivative Works license, no changes)