The earliest European race settlers in the Cowiche Valley were visionary, hearty people. When they came to this 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 the dreams they had. Out of that beginning, they put down roots that have taken hold and branched out to create communities. There was a common mind-set that they were all in this together.
Louis and Melissa Weddle Lanch were the first settlers on the North Fork of Cowiche Creek in 1879. Melissa died in 1895 at age 29 and their son Francis Marion(Frank) had eight children but died at age 50 in 1934. Louis married a second wife Augusta Mohr who died in 1897 and had given Louis six children. Louis helped build the first school in Tieton in 1896 and lived until 1925. Louis and Melissa and Augsuta are all buried in Cowiche/Natchez Cemetery.
They came to Cowiche in 1902 from Missouri to the A.J. Splawn Ranch where they took up working on his cattle ranch for $50 a month. Wes and Margaret had been married ten years at the time. They bought a team of horses to work with for $138. In 1910 they purchased 66 acres in Tieton with a deed signed by President William H. Taft. They had three sons, all of whom were charter members of the 4-H Club which Margaret began. Wesley had a matched pair of Belgian mares he sold to the United States Reclamation Service for work on the Tieton Project. He received double their price because of the project engineer Guy Finley who was in need of the horses.
They came to the Yakima area in 1911 where he worked in the orchards for Richey Gilbert. He later in 1929 moved to 13 acres of orchard and dairy farming in Cowiche. They had 12 children and their son Phillip Walter began his 20 acres, 14 in fruit and the rest in open land and milk cows. Walter was the beginning of Keller Fruit with his own fruit label and connected with Tieton and Northwestern Fruit in Gleed. Walter and Eleanor had four children who all have one position or another in Northwestern Fruit. In his son Richard's case, there was also involvement in Upper Valley Farm Service in Tieton, previously Jim's Garage.
Oscar was born in Sweden and when he came to the U.S., he spoke only Swedish which created some unusual avenues in his life when he arrived at the border to be admitted. Those in charge of the entrants could not pronounce or spell Oscar's name so it was changed to Chambers. Chambers was the name Oscar used when he filed on land in 1931 but by the time 1940 came up, he had his land ownership name changed back to Tjarnberg. Oscar became driver of the school bus for Cowiche schools and maintained the kid wagon as it was called and the horses that pulled it. In the winter, he attached runners to the wagon and it became a kid sleigh. He had three sons, two of whome became orchardists, and one a medical doctor.
In 1913, he hauled the first elk in Tieton in on the train and when the train wrecked in Naches, the elk escaped into Tieton and their descendents still populate the mountains there. Matt ran a team of horses for the building of the Tieton Canal (Yakima Tieton Irrigation District). Edna became justice of the peace and judge in Tieton in 1963 and was from a pioneer family who came to this area in 1863. The Hagarty's had four children. Edna was also the secretary to the Rural Fire Protection Agency in 1949.
Anson White built the first creamery in Cowiche. It had a water wheel with a separator and churn where he produced butter in 20-lb. blocks with the product name "Meadowbrook". Second and third creameries existed into the late 1920's. When these creameries were gone, farmers would haul their cream in large cream cans into Yakima and turn their cream over to the Yakima City Creamery and collect their cream money.
The Old Stevenson Family house, built in 1919, sits near the spot on North Pioneer Road that Forefather John Wellard Stevenson homesteaded in 1870. He was the first permanent European settler in the Cowiche area. A small cabin near the house is wallpapered with 1888 Washington Farmer magazine pages.
Harry Wetmore was a neighbor of John Russell whose ranch in the Tieton Basin was done away with by the creation of Rimrock Dam. Harry worked for the U.S. Reclamation Service and the Tieton Canal which was the beginning of the Yakima-Tieton Irrigation Project. Harry was eventually assigned to District 5 located on Cowiche Creek and he moved to Tieton in 1935. Harry and Ruth had two sons, Doyle James who married Cleora Amos of an old-time settler family and worked for Boise-Cascade Lumber Co. as a heavy equipment operator. Cleora was born and raised in Cowiche and lived there from 1916 to 1946 when she and Doyle moved to Naches. Harry and Ruth's second son was Wesley Earl, a 1939 graduate of Tieton High School and a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
A.J. Splawn came to Washington Territory in 1860 at the age of 15 and proceeded to file on Cowiche land. An 1888 Tax List record that A.J. owed $5448 in taxes for this land in Cowiche Creek. A.J. imported hereford cattle from England to stock 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. A.J. was an author, rancher, senator, banker who was very involved in the establishment of the Great Northern Railroad and may other enterprises in this area of Yakima and the Cowychee Valley.
When Vern Clark came to Tieton on the train in 1919, the town site consisted of two grocery stores, one drugstore and five houses. There were no fruit trees then but lots of grain being raised and shipped out on the railroad when the train came first to Naches and later to Tieton and Cowiche. Vern first worked on the construction of Rimrock Dam for five years and as an engineer in cold storage plants. From there, in 1938, he owned his own repair shop where he built and repaired farm equipment. He built a device that adapted to farm tractors called the Tieton Lift that allowed fruit to be transported in bins that held 34 bushels of fruit at one time as opposed to apple boxes that held only one bushel. He also built the "Yellow Dragon" orchard heater that was an answer to using smudge pots for frost control. He was on the City Council in Tieton for 20 years and mayor of Tieton 2 years. He was chairman of the commission that organized the first Fire District in Yakima County. When he was a member of the Tieton Rifle Club, it was already 50 years old.
Bernice Dilley, a prominent resident of Tieton, Washington, was born in 1904 and had many involvments in the progress and survival of Tieton. Her family settled first in Cowiche in 1911 when Bernice was seven years old. She graduated Cowiche High School and went to Ellensburg Normal School to receive her teaching certificate. She taught school for awhile and then moved to a ranch on Dilley road in Tieton with her husband, Alger. She published a cookbook entitled "God Bless Good Cooking". She also wrote down home columns for the Yakima Herald Republic newspaper for seventeen years. She was very involved in the community and at various times was postmistress, city clerk, city council woman, and was part of the Circle 12 Women's Club.
FASHIONS of 1910? - Costimes, dating from 1865 to 1960 were worn at the fiftieth anniversary party. A 1960 sewing machine whipped-up these dresses worn by Mrs. H.R. Praetorius, far left, and Mrs. Wilbur Nelson, far right, but Mrs. George Moore, second from left, is attired in an authentic Parisian dance hall dress, and Mrs. Ray Strait, second from right is wearing a 1916 creation.