The earliest "European" settlers in Cowiche Valley were visionary, hearty people. When they came to their new home they brought all they owned with them, and hoped they could make it work where they landed. They were looking for unclaimed land of their own, a place to make their home. They came in homemade wagons with their horses and other stock with only the clothes they wore, and their determination. They came to land covered in sagebrush that had to be grubbed out in order to plant, rattlesnakes in great numbers and rocks, with no water, no housing, no fencing, no schools, no churches and plenty of nothing to see for miles. They were at the mercy of the weather, their health and dreams. Out of that beginning, they put down roots that have taken hold and branched out to create communities. "Upper Valley History Project" ...bringing the region's history to life.
Do you think the winter of 2016-2017 in the Cowiche Valley was deep and cold? Consider this bit of history:
In 1882 the snow on the north and south forks bottom lands of Cowiche Creek was four feet deep and crusted over with ice. John Polly of Tieton had 200 head of horses at the head of the creek in the mountains who were trapped there. He offered Philander Kelly, a 35-year-old settler of the found a band offorty head penned in by snow and attempted the snow & ice. He then started out to get help presumably, after having abandoned his snowshoes for some reason. Days & weeks passed and no sign of Kelly. A search party was organized in February and Kelly's frozen body was found buring in the snow. He was later buried in the Cowiche/Natchez Cemetery, it's first burial.
Lillian Willard, a community memeber was lead cook/dietician in the Cowiche School District. She gathered a group of youngsters in the 1940's ages 12 and under and created the first youth riders drill team in the Tieton and Cowiche area. It was the first such group was of the Mississippi River. They performed at the Central Washington State Fair and in 1939, the team and Ms. Willard welcomed Gene Autry, the king of cowboys to Yakima. He and his horse Champion performed at Parker Field on the present site of Yakima Valley Community College. At that time, the young people and their horses were hauled to Tahoma Cemetery where they unloaded and then rode down the hill to the Yakim Air Field to meet Autry and his group from the plane. In 1998, Mr. Steve Shelton had Mr. Autry sign a copy of a picture of Ms. Willard and the posse and that picture was later sent to Ms. Willard.
The Living Christmas Tree in Tieton Square was planted in 1936 by the Tieton Garden Club members and decorated bor the tree-lighting ceremony each year thereafter. It was the long-standing central Christmas service in Tieton on a December Club when the lights were turned on for the season. To the lasting sadness of many people in the community the tree cut down as a safety hazard in 2013. In the years since, the flagpole in the park square has been decorated to resemble a tree and decorated.
Article Copy: A LIVING TREE is the center of Tieton Christmas activities. Planted in the town square some 20 years ago, the tree has grown to impressive size. Working on decorations are, from left to right, Melvin Linse, George Linse and Norman Willey.
The cemetery began in 1880 when A.J. Splawn donated six acres on the bluff off of the old highway to Yakima above N. Pioneer Way just north of Summitview. The first burials were in 1881 which Philander Kelly who froze to death in a winter blizzard. The last burial was in 1970. The causes of death in the cemetery was from old age, Typhoid, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis and accidents. Infant mortality rates were very high in the 1800's and 1900's. Out of 50 documented burials in the cemetery, 43 were the result of disease. The Cemetery Association began in 1909 to purchase, maintain and improve the land the cemetery covers. A fence was erected in 1949 after a prank that moved and destroyed headstones made this a necessity. At a later date, the Association made the decision that since there was no water available at the site and no active use of the cemetery, the grounds would be left in their primitive state.
Article Copy: Located on a hilltop two miles southeast of Cowiche is the Cowiche & Naches cemetery, pioneer burial round which is being put back into good ccontition after many year of neglect. The photo show progress of the work. Volunteer labor and donated materials have been used on the project which is an undertaking of the cemetery association. Officers include: President, Clifford Thompson; vice president, Mrs. Frank Collins; secretary-treasurer, George Parks. Others working on the project include James Monahan, Frank LaBarr, Paul and Abe Lewis, Bill Willard, Jess and Ted McLean, Roy Parks and Heber Thompson, Property for the cemetery was deeded to the community in 1889 by A.J. Splawn.
Two years after the peace treaty with the Yakima Indians had been signed, (in 1857), Col. George C. Write and his command were engaged in a fight with the Yakima's on the south bank of the Naches River near Eschbach Park. It was there Col. Wright built what the early settlers called the Basket Fort, built with bottomless baskets filled with willow branches, earth, and stones which made up the foundation.
A.J Splawn came to Washington Territory in 1860 at the age of 15 and proceeded to file on Cowiche land. In an 1888 Tax List, records show A.J owed $5,448 in taxes for his land in Cowiche. His ranch was named "Springdale" on the south fork of Cowiche Creek. A.J imported hereford cattle from England stock to his ranch and his involvement in the growth and establishment of land holdings covered much of Washington state. He married late in life and his wife, Margaret Larson Splawn ran his Cowiche ranch from his death in 1917 until 1950.
In 1926 the Washington State Fair included a pack horse and Chariot Race event…200 race horses boarded on the fairgrounds.
The price of Gold, newly minted, in 1933 was $33.20 per ounce … and in 1934 there was a Yakima Polo Club and a Wiley City Polo Club. Things in the valley have changed but it’s nice to reflect on our valley's history.
Jim’s Garage began in 1945 with the original location next to the C P C Warehouse and along the railroad tracks. The Second location was across Naches Avenue from the CPC building and the third location was the Upper Valley Farm Service which opened in 1976. That building now contains two newer businesses.
The Cowiche telephone company started in 1905. Cowiche had only 3 telephone customers. In 1908, ten customers… in 1909, Eleven… in 1911, 48… in 1931 168 customers, which included Tieton customers since Tieton did not have a telephone company. Traffic hours to use the lines were 6AM to 10PM.
Early pioneers William and Elizabeth Louden came to live in Cowiche in 1885, and when William died leaving Elizabeth with four small boys, she made her living by milking their cows and taking butter to Yakima to sell. She later married Colin Carmichael and they founded Yakima City Creamery, originators of the Maid O Clover brand and makers of Carmichael Ice Cream. Their creamery was at the junction of W. Walnut and 5th Avenue, north of the Lions Pool site.
In 1905 the pioneers of Cowiche conceived the idea of the Tieton Canal, precursor to Yakima-Tieton Irrigation District that brought in the valleys first irrigation water in 1911. The Yakima-Tieton was the first project of its kind to pay all of its indebtedness to the federal government
Cowiche was settled in 1885 by a sheep rancher named John Cleman, (you may have heard of the mountain that was named after him)…and Anson White who came here originally as a surveyor for the government. The original town was located north of Cowiche Creek at the junction of Cowiche Mill Road and Pioneer Way
Newland’s Pharmacy began in 1930 with William Newland and continued as a pharmacy with Will’s son Bill Newland until 1990, when Bill retired. The building still stands, and home to another business today, in The City of Tieton.
Tieton State Bank was built in 1917 and that building still stands today. It closed in 1933 as a result of the stock market crash of 1929 and began a new life as Tieton Café.