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About Okanogan County and it's History 
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(CLICK ON) Okanogan Courthouse as it appeared on completion in 1915. The building was renovated in the 1990s
County Courthouse 1915
The historic town of Okanogan is the county seat of Okanogan County and the gateway to north central Washington, and southern British Columbia, Canada. Many historic buildings remain including the Courthouse, built in 1915, and the Methodist Church, built in 1921. Okanogan County was created in 1888 from Stevens County, and is an Indian word for "rendezvous. It is situated in the north central part of the state west of the Cascades and bounded on the north by Canada. Now days Okanogan county's main industries include apples, lumber, mineral mining and cattle ranching. Cattle ranching led to Okanogan's most notable celebration More...
(CLICK ON) Clock still sits on main street Okanogan, was a gift given by the Coulee Dam Hydro Electric project 1940s
Okanogan Street Clock-1940s

Click on pictures to view larger pictures!

3 young gals waiting for the Brewster satge coach to Conconully 1890s
Brewster wins the finest apples in the world award!
Town of Brewster early 1880s
Brewster to Conconully Stage Coach 1880s, trip would take all day. Little over 1 hour by modern car!
Steam Boat on the Okanogan Columbia River 1880s
Swee-o-lum eary Indian settler to the Chiliwist area 1890s
Waiting for the stage 1880s
Brewster wins apple award!
Downtown Brewster 1880s
Brewster Conconully stage 1880s
Steam Boat Okanogan/Columbia
Chiliwist Indian Swee o lum
Two little Colville Indian babies 1880s
Dr.CR Mckinley Resided in Brewster 1880s. Local Doctor and Farmer/Rancher
Dr.J.I Pogue operated an orchard on the flat above Omak. Pogue was responsible for the creation of Omak in 1907
The first hotel in Winthrop. AKA The Sullivan Home, made of logs and clay for insulation
Loop Loop Jim 1941 Rancher located in Pleasent Valley
Pard Cumming's Ferry Dock in Okanogan. Ferry broke loose in flood of 1894 ended up in Monse!
Two Colville Papooses
Dr.CR Mckinley Brewster
Dr.J.I Pogue Doctor of the Okanogan
First Winthrop Hotel 1880s
Rancher Loop Loop Jim  1940s
Okanogan Ferry Dock 1894
Three young gals out for a casual ride. Fanny and Hellen Bruce and Mertie Parker in the 1890s
Mother and Child on horse back 1890s. Horse has a bob tail. Indians used this method for horse indentification
Methow Valley Trading Post 1880s. AKA Pateros Trading post. Typical Trading Post of the time
This is how the Town of Twisp appeared around 1902. Twisp was orginally named Silver
1890s Peterson's Blacksmith shop in Winthrop. Note the stack of worn out horse shoes at the right, these were collected in the first year of business!
1890s Colville Indian girl getting ready to ride into town on her horse. Note the typical Teepee's of the time
Riding Skirts of the Gay nineties
 Poka-Billy Ann & Child 1890s
Old Pateros Trading Post 1880s
 Town of Twisp early 1900s
Winthrop Blacksmith Shop 1890s
Young Colville girl 1890s
©Photo's "by permission of Caxton Printers Ltd."  (From Copenhagen to Okanogan)
If you happen to have historic pictures from around the Okanogan County area, we would enjoy to have you share them here with us. We would gladly post them on this page and give full credit to the owner of them! Contact us....

A number of native Indian tribes lived in this area long before the first white settlers. The 700,000-acre Colville Indian Reservation is within the county and remains an integral part of the area. The first settlers came here for furs, shortly thereafter gold and silver were discovered. The first area orchard was planted in 1858. The town of Okanogan began as a trading post near the mouth of Salmon Creek by Frank "Pard" Cummings in 1886 when the Chief Moses Indian Reservation was thrown open to white settlement. Okanogan was originally named Alma for Alma Kahlow, the daughter of a Prussian farmer. The town's name was changed to Okanogan in 1907. For at least several hundred years prior to contact with Europeans, the indigenous peoples of The Okanogan consisted of three major bands of a group called the Northern Okanogans or Sinkaietk, the Tokoratums, the Kartars, and the Konkonelps. They spoke as many as seven dialects of the Interior Salishan or Interior Salish language related to the languages of Puget Sound tribes, but very different from the other languages of the Columbia basin. 

The Okanogans led a semi-nomadic existence, starting in permanent camps through the winter, then leaving to hunt bears in the spring, catch salmon in the summer, and hunt deer in the autumn. One of the most prolific fisheries was at Kettle Falls where the Columbia dropped as much as 20 feet. Women gathered any of 100 varieties of nuts, roots, and berries. Permanent camps consisted of teepee-like longhouses covered with hides, bark, and particularly tules, which grew along water courses. Each house was 12 to 15 feet wide and as long as 150 feet, housing a dozen or more people. Summer huts were covered with transportable mats woven from tules. 

The Okanogans traded with other tribes to the south and across the Cascades to the west. In the late 1700s, the Okanogans acquired horses from other tribes both for transportation and for food. In 1782-1783, a smallpox epidemic may have cost the lives of a third to a half of the people in the Okanogan. 

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William Clark of the (Lewis and Clark expedition) Corps of Discovery was the first to map the Okanogan River based on his interviews of Indians at the mouth of the Snake River in 1805. David Thomson of the North West Company was the first European to visit the Okanogan River when his expedition paddled past the mouth down the Columbia in July 1811. A few months later, David Stuart and Alexander Ross of the American Pacific Fur Co. built a log cabin at the mouth and called it Fort Okanogan. This became a base for trading goods for beaver pelts collected from the north by Indians. Fort Okanogan was taken over by the North West Co. in 1814, which sold it to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821. The paths up the river became the Okanogan Trail. 

Territorial Governor Issac Stevens (1818-1862) signed the Walla Walla Treaty with tribes of the Columbia Basin in May 1855. He regarded the Yakima Chief Kamiakin as representing the Okanogan bands to the north, even though Kamiakin did not even speak their language. Stevens met, but never signed treaties with the northern tribes before war between the Indians and the whites broke out. The Indian War of 1855-1856 did not really touch the tribes of The Okanogan.

Pioneers
The honor of being the first American to settle Okanogan County falls to one of two men, Hiram Francis "Okanogan" Smith (1829-1893) or John Utz (b. 1824). Utz was a "shadowy backwoodsman" (Wilson, 67) and moved on, but Smith stayed to became a prominent commercial and political leader, so Smith is often identified as the county's First Citizen. In the 1850s and 1860s, few pioneers made their homes in The Okanogan, but many miners arrived to dig gold and silver. With the departure of the Hudson's Bay Company, former employees took up farming in the Colville Valley. 

The Okanogan tribe and other tribes of north central Washington Territory never signed treaties ceding their lands to the U.S. Government. In 1871, Congress authorized the president to establish reservations by executive order and Ulysses Grant created the Colville Indian Reservation in 1872. This was to be home to about 4,200 Methows, Okanogans, San Poils, Nespelems, Lakes, Colvilles, Calispels, Spokanes, and Coeur d'Alenes. White settlers whose homes fell within the vast area protested and had the Colville Valley in the east subtracted. At one time, all of today's Okanogan County was an Indian Reservation. But miners and settlers lobbied the government relentlessly until the reservation was reduced in 1886 to the contemporary Colville Indian Reservation, home to the Colville Federated Tribes. 

Gold! Silver!
Gold strikes in New Caledonia -- the Okanagan (Canadian spelling) and Fraser River valleys of British Columbia -- in 1858 attracted prospectors from California to the region by way of the Columbia River. These incursions triggered Okanogan County's one battle of the Indian wars, an ambush of a 160-member party of miners at a defile called McLoughlin Canyon (named for the leader of the party) on July 29, 1858. Three miners died and several more were wounded. The U.S. Army launched a punitive expedition into the valley, but they turned back without finding anyone to punish. The following spring, the Army established Fort Colville at Mill Creek in the Colville Valley.

The boundary between the U.S. and Canada ran through Lake Osoyoos and was marked only with a Canadian customs station at what would become the town of Osoyoos. As miners discovered gold and silver, a precise boundary was needed to clarify claims. From 1858 to 1861, surveyors from the Royal Engineers and the U.S. Army established a boundary starting at Point Roberts and running to Montana. The location of the border was determined sometimes through scientific calculation and sometimes through consensus and compromise. The engineers cut a 60-foot swath through timber and erected stone markers to mark their survey. Since most of the traffic was northbound in the early years, the U.S. did not establish a Customs Port of Entry until 1880.

Once Indian title to most of the Okanogan had been extinguished in 1886, miners were free to exploit the gold and silver there. The ensuing mining boom saw the founding of Ruby City (later Ruby), Conconully, Solver, Loop Loop, Oro (later Oroville), and other camps, and the construction of some substantial mines and stamping mills. Chesaw comes from the Chinese chee-saw or good farmer and a cordial host and is the only municipality in the U.S. named after a Chinese. In 1890, the non-Indian population of the county numbered 1,509. 

The end of the boom came with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, the drop in the price of silver, and the Panic of 1893. Mining continued to be an important activity into the twentieth century, but Okanogan County was never more than fourth in gold production in the state. 

Modern Times
Now days Okanogan county's main industries include apples, lumber, mineral mining and cattle ranching.
Cattle ranching led to The Okanogan's most notable celebration and athletic event, the Omak Stampede. This annual rodeo was first held in August 1934. Publicity Chairman Claire F. Pentz proposed a horse race involving a wild plunge down a sandy bluff and across the Okanogan River to the arena. Most riders were Native Americans and the winner received a cash prize, a saddle, and a belt buckle. Winning was a significant accomplishment for residents of the Colville Reservation. 

The 55-second, one-fourth-mile Suicide Race became the most popular -- and most controversial -- of the county's annual events. Some horses were injured and a few had to be destroyed. When two 13-year-old riders were hurt, the minimum age was set at 16. Horses had to be five years old. Animal protection advocates persuaded some sponsors to withdraw in the mid-1980s and pressured organizers to stop the event.

If you have historic pictures from around the Okanogan County area, we would enjoy to have you share them here with us. We would gladly post them on this page and give full credit to the owner of them! Contact us....

 

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