mid-1850s, the Kittitas
Valley saw little
encroachment by pioneer settlers. But in 1853 the first immigration wagon
trains passed through. Miners followed, and cattlemen supplied those mines.
These first adventurous families were the Splawns and the Thorps, and they
united in 1863 with the marriage of Charles Splawn to Dulcina Thorp. Early
settlers focused on the valley of the Taneum Canyon,
which provided shelter for their wintering cattle, as well as water, and
fertile soils for agriculture.
late1860s, settlers were beginning to trickle into the Kittitas Valley.
Charles and Dulcina Splawn were among them, as well as Tillman Houser, who
brought his family over Snoqualmie pass to settle on Coleman Creek, Martin
Dervan and his wife, and F.M. Thorp. Irrigation ditches were begun and cattle
running gave way to farming.
1878, James L. Mills walked over the old trail from Puget Sound and saw great
possibilities in the Kittitas
Valley. He built a saw
mill, diverting water from the Yakima River
to turn its wheels. But he was no ordinary business man. He was tinkerer and
an inventor. Not content with a simple sawmill, he devised a way for the same
wheels to power the grist mill which Oren Hutchinson created to provide feed
for livestock and flour for the local residents. The reservoir for this
system also served as a log pond for the saw mill. Added to these was a
second reservoir to serve as an ice pond. Much later, in 1906, the same
wheels that turned the mills would be used to generate electricity. To be
sure, many others had a hand in this development, but it seems clear that the
vision and the guiding hand were Mills’.
words must be said about the importance of Hutchinson’s North Star Mill. Although we now
take enriched flour for granted, in the latter part of the 19th
century, the nutritional content of flour ground with the wheat germ intact
was vast improvement over flour ground without the wheat germ, and
contributed greatly to the health of settlers in developing communities.
However, the presence of wheat germ also meant that the flour would spoil
quickly, especially in the heat of summer. A local mill allowed area
residents to process smaller quantities of wheat at a time. In addition, the
grist mill processed other grains for animal feed. Locals were able to
"fatten out" stock intended for market and to keep their working
stock in better condition.
the town of Thorp, as we know it today, might never have come to be but for
the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad. While some of the initial
settlement was undoubtedly influenced by the confluence of trails which would
eventually cross Snoqualamie
Pass, it was the
location of the Cascade Spur that ultimately determined the location of the
town. The Northern Pacific had been working its way up the canyon of the Yakima River. In 1895, it reached the head of the
canyon and a depot was built there. The town of Thorp developed around this depot. The
first development was directly related to the railroad and included
maintenance facilities, shipping facilities and warehouses. But the railroad
also brought opportunities for business and employment. Three blocks were
plotted around the depot. Houses and businesses sprang up in these blocks. Small
farms appeared around the edges.
many western regions, settlement and development patterns in the Kittitas Valley were greatly influenced — one
might even say determined— by developments in transportation. The addition of
a Milwaukee Railroad depot in Thorp, the establishment of bridges across the
previously imposing barrier of the Yakima River, and the eventual location of
Highway 10 all played vital roles in the changing population and economic
conditions that shaped this small community and continue to influence it