Benton County Pioneer Life

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Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area

Fire Drove Pioneer Here/ Charles Beach Built City

Tri-City Pioneer
Sunday, 2 April 1961

Charles Jayson Beach was a chunky built man of about 180 pounds. He always wore his black beard cut in a Gen. Grant style. His face resembled Gen. Grant’s but was slightly fatter. He was a very intelligent man. In his younger life, he had developed a new process in the manufacture of white lead, which was outstanding. He was on his way to financial success. The city of Chicago, where he lived, was booming.

Disaster struck. On Oct. 8, 1871 the great Chicago fire struck and for four days it was a holocaust. Young Beach, his wife Harriet, young son, Frederick, and baby daughter, Daisy, escaped with their lives. The city was in ruins. With his savings hoarded in gold coin, he purchased a railroad ticket for himself and family to the new sawmill town of Ainsworth, Washington Territory. He had a boyhood friend living there, who had been writing him to come west to Ainsworth where everything was booming and wages were high.

Arriving in Ainsworth, he contacted his friend. He at once secured work as a millwright. Through frugal living he saved. With his earnings, he purchased 30 acres of land on the salt grass flats in what is now Kennewick. The sawmill had been built. The steel railroad bridge had been completed. Ainsworth was now becoming another construction ghost town.

Beach built a house and dug a well on his 30 acres and moved his family from Ainsworth and settled down. He now had one more in his family, a son Harry who had been born in Ainsworth.

Beach and his keen mind saw the future possibilities of the region and with his new-found friend, Capt. Lum, platted the townsite of Kennewick. He built the Beach Hotel which he operated for several years, until the panic of 1893. Then he moved to Ellensburg to be a millwright there in the Northern Pacific car shops. His oldest son, Frederick, attended the University of Washington in downtown Seattle for a few years. He became a railroad mail clerk, was taken suddenly sick and died in a mail coach. Daisy Beach graduated from Ellensburg Normal School and taught school for several years. She married Frank Emigh and moved to Spokane. Harry, the youngest child moved to Spokane also.

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