Ferry county, of which Republic is the capital, was set off from Stevens county, the mother of so many political divisions in eastern Washington, in 1899. Immediately thereafter, it was organized. Its area is 2,323 square miles, its territory, extending from the international boundary line, on the north, to the Columbia river on the south, and from the Columbia and Kettle rivers on the east, to Okanogan county on the west. The United States census of 1900 gave Ferry county a population of 4,562, but the past three years have increased this number to 4,646.
But the history of the territory now comprising Ferry county antedates its organization by a number of years. And this history centers in the county seat, Republic. Long before the amputation of its territory from Stevens county, from the Okanogan, from Kettle Valley, from the Sans Poil, from the Columbia river, over the high mountain passes, trails converged and finally met at almost the identical spot where the business portion of Republic Camp now stands.
John WELTY was the first white man in Republic, and is said to have made the first mineral location. This was the "Black Tail", and was made February 20, 1896; shortly before the opening of the north half of the reservation to mineral entry which was on February 21, and four years before the north half of the Colville Indian reservation was thrown open to homesteaders. WELTY passed the winter with one O'BRIEN, a squatter, and when the United States government threw open the north half - even before that - he was in a position to avail himself of the earliest possibilities, which, it appears he did rather precociously. February 24, G. M. WELTY, of Colville, a brother of John WELTY, came to the future camp and located the "Quilp" and other claims.
The white man's history of Ferry county dates from February 21, 1896, when the north half of the Colville Indian reservation (of which the north half of Ferry county was a part) was thrown open to mineral entry. To M. H. JOSEPH, of Republic, a well known writer on mining matters, we are indebted for information in regard to the early settlement of the county.
The 21st of February, the date on which the north half of the Colville Indian reservation was declared open for the entry of its mineral lands, the state of Washington was destined to present to the world a new mining district which, through its peculiar mineralogical conditions and rich developments, would command attention from every quarter. It is snugly situated in the northwestern part of Ferry county, amidst timber and grass-covered hills, which are divided by small valleys and winding streams, with excellent grazing and agricultural lands in every direction. No mining region is more favored by natural facilities for prospecting, or offers greater inducements for investment (sic) of capital.
The day following the opening, Thomas RYAN and Philip CREASER, who had prospected through the Coeur d'Alenes, British Columbia and Washington, were grub-staked by James CLARK and Charles P. ROBBINS, to prospect in the reservation. RYAN had heard of a rich ledge on La Fleur mountain, and thither the prospectors wended their way only to learn upon reaching the locality the disheartening truth that this coveted prize had already been secured by others. At Nelson, they encountered Alan BLACKBURN and John and George WELTY, who had made some locations on Eureka creek, a small tributary of the Sans Poil river the very day the north half of the reservation was thrown open. The WELTYs were returning from Nelson to their camp with a spring wagon loaded with prospecting supplies for the Black Tail mine, the first bona fide location on the creek, of which John WELTY was the locator. RYAN and CREASER were striking westward to where they had heard there was placer ground, but the WELTYs, knowing of some big quartz ledges near the Black Tail, induced the former to join them.
RYAN and CREASER camped on the night of February 26 at TONASCET's ranch, on the Sans Poil river. The surrounding country was a veritable prospector's paradise, with an abundance of water and timber, the finest grazing lands imaginable and game of all kinds on wing and afoot. The quartz ledges, too, were conspicuous by their bold croppings. The day after their arrival, they trailed up Granite creek, another branch of the Sans Poil river, and industriously began prospecting. The Sans Poil and Last Lode claims had been taken up, in addition to the Black Tail, and RYAN and CREASER located the Copper Bell, Iron Mask, Lone Pine and Last Chance. The Trail and Tenderfoot were taken up, and the WELTYs secured the Micawber. It was not until the 5th or March that the Republic and Jim Blain claims were located by RYAN and CREASER, who, when setting up the discovery stake on the former, little dreamed of the magificence (sic) of the prize they were securing. A few days later, CREASER returned to Rossland, taking with him samples of quartz from all of the different claims he and RYAN had located, but the highest assay value obtained was $2.06 in gold per ton. Yet, believing that where there was gold it was possible to find pay shoots, CREASER returned to the camp with fresh supplies on the 22nd of March and began prospecting on the Iron Mask claim. This resulted in finding nothing of higher value than $4 per ton. He drove a small open cut on the Lone Pine croppings and secured a sample that assayed at $36.17 per ton.
Early in April, RYAN and CREASER parted company, the former to prospect in Okanogan county, ant the latter on O'Brien and Rabbit creeks in the eastern part of the camp. CREASER returned in June and worked alone from that time until the following March, driving a tunnel to crosscut the Lone Pine lode. The work developed a vein fifteen feet in width, and the samples from it ran as high as $72, while assays were had from the croppings running over $300 per ton. Since that over three thousand claims have been located in this district. Up to 1900 there had been about 12,500 locations recorded in Ferry county, of which a great number were amended locations. Near the latter part of October, 1896, CREASER went to Rossland and sold a one-eighth interest in the Republic and Jim Blaine caims (sic) to Dennis CLARK, retaining a like interest himself. In the following December, Dennis CLARK came to the new camp and met Thomas RYAN, one of the discoverers of the Republic mine. An open cut had been dug across the croppings on this property and they immediately went to work and took up two feet of the bottom of it, gaining a depth of eight feet on the ledge with unexpected rich results.
In March, 1897, the Republic Gold Mining and Milling Company was organized, and active work was begun on the property. Charles P. ROBBINS, one of the grub-stakers of RYAN and CREASER, was the first president of the company, and managed its affairs with economy and good judgment. In the meantime, Patrick, the elder of the CLARK brothers, bought the first of the 50,000 shares of treasury stock that was offered for sale. He had won his way up from a common miner by natural shrewdness, business tact and good judgment. As a successful mine operator, he had become famous in the Coeur d'Alenes and British Columbia, and was the leading spirit in the affairs of the War Eagle Company at Rossland, B. C. At the first annual election of the Republic Gold Mining and Milling Company, he succeeded Mr. ROBBINS as president, and from that day dated the industrial growth of Republic Camp.
News of a rich strike on the Lone Pine claim had been heralded abroad, and on April 18, 1896, there were sixty-four men in the camp. On that day a meeting of twenty-four miners assembled at a spot where the Okanogan mail trail crosses Eureka creek, and organized a mining district, named it Eureka and a number of claims were recorded.
The summer of 1898 was marked by a flood of gigantic proportions and disastrous results. It occurred in the latter part of May, and the early days of June. During the whole of one week the Columbia river was a raging, seething torrent; the Kettle river was far out of its banks, and the two streams carried ruin and desolation to the surrounding country. Tributary streams were similarly affected with the result, general wreckage of bridges and ferries. Stage travel was interrupted; for three days mail service was completely abolished. At Curlew, the ferry went out and many freighting teams were delayed. The new bridge at Hall's (across the Kettle river between what is now Ferry and Stevens counties) was carried down the foaming, swollen stream. A chrashing (sic) thunderous land-slide occurred at "Rock Cut". The cause of this untoward event, involving immense cost to a number of counties and many individuals, was recent warm rains, which hastily melted the vast bodies of snow in the mountains, thus suddenly swelling the rivers and tributary streams. No serious casualties to human beings were reported from this flood, but there were a number of narrow escapes.
*** (An account of A. W. STRONGs experiences crossing the "Rock Cut" slide)
The first rumors concerning the opening of the south half of the Colville Indian reservation to mineral location proved to be without foundation, and like Dead Sea apples, turned to ashes on the lips. This false report came on June 8, 1898. To this expected opening a large class of people, of various pursuits and ambitions, were looking with no little anxiety. It had been stated that the official opening would transpire at 12 o'clock, a. m., of that date. Midnight came and passed; the morning hours wore away into the russet streaks of daylight, but the official order for the ardently anticipated opening did not arrive. Then enthusiastic expectancy sank to pessimistic depression. No one appeared to know of any other date when it would be legal to locate mineral claims on this promised land. Meantime the region contained two thousand or more men who had either "spotted" ground, or were seeking locations. A few had settled down on quartz boulders and made no physical exertion otherwise than to change location notices daily. At times they would pause and give tongue to hoarse, but emphatic, curses of the Washington authorities for not passing the bill and its numerous and varied riders.
But these harrowing scenes incident to hope delayed which maketh the heart sick, became a closed incident Thursday, June 30, 1898. On that date, the south half of the Colville Indian reservation, which had been set aside for the wards of the nation during the administration of President Grant, was thrown open to mineral entry.
*** (The story of "the rush")
The rush to the "South Half" of the reservation in 1898 was a stampede of vast proportions, excelling even the scenes incident to the opening of the "North Half" in 1896. In the 1898 hegira, some sections of the "North Half" were well nigh depopulated. Within one week after the president had signed the bill, it was conservatively estimated that fully five thousand mining claims were located in the "South Half". More than four hundred men crossed the line from Republic.
The official separation of Ferry from Stevens county, and its organization into a new political division occurred in 1899. It was at first proposed to name the new county "Eureka".
***(news article from "The Pioneer", January 7, 1899)
On the evening of January 5, 1899, there was a meeting held in Republic, to decide upon some course of action looking to the formation of a new county. At this meeting there was perfect unanimity of sentiment. Appropriate committees were named to carry the project to a successful conclusion. January 6 one of these committees circulated a subscription paper and within a few hours realized the generous sum of $1,210 to defray the preliminary expense incident to the contemplated organization of a new county. Much more was, also, subscribed as a reserve fund to be drawn upon if needed; but of this latter money none was called for. The executive committee selected A. W. STRONG as a suitable person to repair to Olympia and present the matter to the legislative assembly. This he did, being accompanied on this special service by W. C. MORRIS. It had been decided to name the proposed new county "Eureka". The petition for the formation of the new county was signed by 605 persons, and the limited time allowed for the presentation of the document deprived many of the pleasure of signing it.
Thursday, January 12, Representative Mount introduced a bill for the organization of a new county to be called Eureka, to be included within the following boundaries: "Commencing where the Stevens and Okanogan counties' boundary lines intersect the Columbia; thence following the Columbia to Kettle river; thence up the Kettle river to the International Boundary line, westward along the boundary between Stevens and Okanogan counties; thence along that line southerly to the place of beginning. Eureka is to assume its proportion of the debts of Stevens county, on the basis of the assessed valuation of its property as shown by the 1898 assessment rolls."
This bill located the county seat at Republic, gave the governor the power to appoint three commissioners; they to appoint the other county officers. This bill provided, also, that the governor should appoint a superior court judge; all these officers to retain their positions until their successors were selected at the regular biennial election in 1901. The bill passed both houses of the legislature February 16, 1899. The name "Ferry" was substituted for that of "Eureka" before the measure passed the house, the name being in honor of the first governor of the State of Washington. In the house there was only one vote against the bill; the vote in the senate was 24 aye, 5 nay. The bill carried an emergency clause and at once became a law, following its signing by Governor Rogers. On the afternoon of the 16th, the friends of the bill were somewhat alarmed for its safety. Senator Schofield, who vigorously opposed the measure, moved to reconsider the vote by which the bill was passed. On motion, his motion was tabled, and this action served to spring an argument as to whether the bill itself had not been tabled. No little consternation ensued among its advocates, and in this threatening emergency while the parliamentary point concerning the life of the bill was being warmly discussed, the document was rushed into the house, and that body promptly concurred in all the Senate amendments. The only active opposition to the measure came from Northport and Bossburg, Stevens county. For several months, Northport had cherished the possibility of becoming the capital of Stevens county, and her citizens immediately realized that the formation of a new county would block that greatly desired project. The bill was signed by Governor Rogers February 18, 1899, and March 4 he announced his appointment of county commissioners.
March 11 the initial meeting of the Ferry county commissioners was held at Republic. H. L. PERCY, D. W. YEARGIN and L. P. WILMOT constituted the board appointed by Governor Rogers. H. L. PERCY was elected chairman, and for a temporary clerk, S. I. SPIGGLE was chosen. Mr. SPIGGLE was also appointed the first auditor of the new county. Other officials named by the commissioners at subsequent meetings were: George A. GRAHAM, county superintendent of schools; J. M. BEWLEY, justice of the peace; W. C. MORRIS, acting prosecuting attorney; Henry WAISMAN, sheriff; L. H. MASON, treasurer; J. W. GRISWOLD, deputy sheriff; Merton E. JESSEPH, county clerk; R. B. Thomas, surveyor.
Agitation for the erection of a county court house began in April, 1899. March 17, the commissioners had designated as a court house a building then owned by the county, and in which the justice of the peace held his court sessions. Offers of land for a site were made by J. W. McCANN and associates, and also by the Delaware Mining Company. The latter offer, embracing the whole of Block 10 of the Delaware addition to Republic, was accepted. May 15 the contract to erect a court house was awarded to Thomas L. GRANT for the sum of $3,974. On the morning of June 3, the building temporarily used for a court house burned, and all the proceedings of the county commissioners and a few other records were destroyed. Fortunately most of the records of Ferry county were in Colville at the time, not yet having been transcribed from the Stevens county records. Following the fire, work was at once commenced on the court house building, a shack having in the meantime been run up as a temporary auditor's office. Mr. GRANT was also awarded a contract for the construction of a fire-proof vault to cost $1,120. October 5 the new court house was completed and accepted; in January, 1900, the county officials occupied it.
At the first meeting of the commissioners, the sale of warrants was considered, and at a subsequent meeting, March 31, it was decided that Chairman PERRY should proceed to Spokane and other points, if necessary, for the purpose of negotiation the sale of warrants to an amount not exceeding $50,000. Mr. PERCY visited Spokane, Tacoma, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. Warrants to the amount of $40,000 were disposed of to W. E. BELL, of Spokane, at par, and carrying eight per cent interest.
During the summer of 1899 Ferry county was infested by a gang of horse and cattle thieves, who operated boldly and extensively. No animal staked out at night was safe from these stock peculators. The general rule of these thieves was to run the animals out of the county and dispose of them. Such as were not at once taken out of the country would be driven to a comparatively safe place, cached, and upon the offer of a reward, the thieves would arrogantly appear with the stolen property and receive it. But this was carrying things with too high a hand, and the citizens of Ferry county appeared to awaken to this fact. In the latter part of June, Charles McDONALD, a notorious and vicious character, and who was thought to be at the head of this gang of stock thieves, was shot and killed by Deputy Sheriff GRISWOLD, while McDONALD was resisting arrest. His partner, Frank DRAPER, was taken into custody. It was hoped that this tragic event would put a stop to the "rustling", but the evil continued unabated for quite an extended period thereafter.
The act creating Ferry county, by the state legislature, stipulated that Ferry should pay to Stevens county, its share of the indebtedness of the latter county prior to the sub-division. October 17, 1899, warrants in favor of Stevens county to the amount of $16,872 were ordered drawn by the auditor of Ferry county in settlement of this indebtedness. In 1901 funding bonds to the amount of $60,000 were issued. Charles P. BENNETT, of Republic was the highest bidder. These bonds bear interest at the rate of five and one-half per cent per annum, interest payable semi-annually; at par. and a premium of one-half per cent due in ten years. The bonds were issued to E. D. Shepard & Company, BENNETT's bid having been awarded to this firm.
November 5, 1900, Ferry county was raised from the 27th to the 22nd class. This was done upon the report of the county assessor who stated that on November 1st the county contained a population of 4,500 and less than 5,000. Following is the population by precincts from the 12th United States census, 1900; Curlew precinct, 250; Nelson precinct, 241; Republic precinct (including Republic city, 2,050), 3,318; Colville Indian reservation (part of), 753; total for reservation in Ferry county, 1,477. Grand total, 4.562.
The months of November and December, 1899, were rendered extremely disagreeable to the inhabitants of Ferry County. It was a winter long to be remembered by the "Oldest Inhabitant" as the "rainy winter". Each day of soaking rain, and these days were many, addend to the mud, and the roads leading to Republic Camp became almost impassable. Teamsters were discouraged, and many of them ceased their efforts to haul freight. Hundreds of tons of freight billed to Republic were piled up in the depots of Marcus, Bossburg, Grand Forks and Wilbur. Even with light loads it required from nine to twelve days to make the trip. Freight rates from Marcus rose to four cents a pound, or $80 per ton, and even at these exorbitant rates, very little was brought in. Business was paralyzed on account of the small stocks of goods on hand, and in many of the necessaries of life there was a famine. The mining industry was, of course, greatly hampered by these untoward conditions.
Saturday morning, July 13, 1898, Martin TONASCET, chief of the Okanogan Indians, committed suicide at his ranch near the mouth of Toroda creek. TONASCET was about fifty years of age, the son of one of the most eminent chiefs of that tribe. When the son was chosen chief, he was considered a wealthy Indian, owning many head of stock and controlling a great deal of land. At the time of the tragedy, TONASCET was intoxicated, and after raising a disturbance in his family, seized a rifle and shot himself to death. He left a brother, Batise, who at present resides on the ranch.
At the hour of noon, October 10, 1900, the "North Half" of the Colville Indian reservation (which in 1896 had been opened to mineral entry), was made available for homestead locations. During the year previous to this event, Indian agents had been engaged in allotting to the wards of the nation tracts of land - eighty acres to each native - and as a result the very choicest lands had been taken. But considerable excellent land still remained and for more than two months before the official opening, homesteaders had been coming into the reservation for the purpose of examining the country. They came with outfits - a majority of them - but quite a number of people made the trip on foot, packing blankets and camp outfits. Whenever a man discovered a piece of land suitable to his taste, he made for himself a camp, and settled down to await the time when he could legally post his notice of location. Others, however, made their residence in Republic, Marcus and other towns adjacent until the hour of opening arrived.
Promptly at 12 o'clock, m., of the 10th, this opening was officially announced by the ringing of the fire bell in Republic. The merry peal of this bell was not heard by those who actually contemplated taking up land. No, they were off and away, looking after their interests. Having lived long in the realms of blissful anticipation, they had taken Time by the forelock, posted their notices, and when the hour of noon had arrived, made a bee-line to record their entries. Contrary to expectations, there were no tragedies. In a number of instances, two or three men met on the same piece of land; instead of drawing weapons and "getting the drop", they simply posted their notices and proceeded to "make improvements", satisfied to leave the matter in the United States land office for adjudication. The land in the immediate vicinity of Curlew lake was in great demand, as was, also, the timber land east of the brewery, near Republic. In both of these places there were many who claimed the same tracts, but all appeared to take the conditions coolly. In one instance, two notices were posted on the same tree. Two hostile camps were located near by, but no use was being made of shot guns, although there were half a dozen in sight.
In this "race for a home" were a number of ladies, and among those who were successful in having their claims recorded were Phoebe YOUNG, Elizabeth BEECROFT, Mary G. SMITH and Leona KOONZ. The experience of Miss BEECROFT in securing an eligible piece of land is told in the Republic Pioneer of October 13.
***(Narrative of Miss BEECROFT's experience)
On the 10th and 11th, two hundred homestead entries had been recorded in the land offices at Republic, Waterville and Spokane, and the filings continued to pour in for some time afterward.
From the earliest days of the settlement of Ferry, even before its segregation from Stevens county, the air was vocal with "railroad talk" and speculation. Surveying parties traversed the county as early as 1898, and each succeeding year, rumors were rife to the effect that "the railroad was coming that summer." Numerous routes were surveyed - one connecting with the Central Washington at Wilbur, Lincoln county, and others with the Spokane Falls & Northern. It was not until the summer of 1902 that a railroad penetrated the county. And then there were two of them, both roads reaching Republic, the objective point, at nearly the same time. These roads were the Kettle Valley line (colloquially known as the "Hot Air" line) connecting with the Canadian Pacific at Grand Forks, British Columbia, and the Washington & Grand Northern at Marcus, and passing through Grand Forks.
April 12, 1902, was the date set for the initial trip of the "Hot Air" line into Republic. This was, however, a trifle premature, as the road was not completed at that date. But the formal opening took place, as specified. One hundred excursionists from Spokane and other points were met at the end of the railroad by Republic citizens, and an elaborate banquet was first in order. Then followed the driving of the golden spike in North Republic, where it was intended to erect a depot, which depot is still a castle in the air. W. C. MORRIS, attorney for the Kettle Valley line, and T. W. HOLLAND, manager, drove the spike. A Grand Forks band was present, and dispensed instrumental harmony. The city of Republic was en fete, and a general good time was enjoyed by all, despite the fact that the road was not completed until two or three months later. The Washington & Great Northern arrived within the city limits about the same period.
The struggles of this latter line are worthy of historical reference. In 1898, a charter was secured from congress authorizing the construction of a railroad up the Sans Poil to Republic. The following year this charter was secured by the Great Northern Company, but it expired by limitation in the summer of 1900. During this period, D. C. CORBIN, at that time owner of the Spokane Falls & Northern railroad, had carefully examined the country and decided upon the route which is now followed by the Great Northern Republic branch from Marcus, Stevens county. On two separate occasions, Mr. CORBIN appeared before the parliament of the Dominion of Canada, asking for a charter to enable him to construct the twelve miles of road which the contour of the country compelled him to build in southern British Columbia in order to reach Republic. But each time that he appeared, he was refused permission to do so. Eventually Mr. CORBIN's road passed into possession of the Great Northern railroad company. The latter organization was more successful in winning over the members of the Canadian parliament, and permission was secured to traverse the coveted twelve miles in Canadian territory, thus reaching Republic, which is, temporarily, the terminus. The decidedly adventitious aid secured by Mr. J. J. HILL, in this enterprise, was in the form oa an old provincial railroad charter, known as the Victoria, Vancouver & Eastern, which was purchased by the Great Northern railroad company from McKenzie & Mann, the Canadian owners. This charter was subsequently strengthened by a Dominion franchise granted by the Canadian parliament, something which Mr. CORBIN had been unable to secure. The branch from Marcus to Republic is eighty miles in length. Along the entire route the grades are light, and no expense has been spared to construct a perfect railway. Some rather heavy rock work was encountered during the construction of the Washington & Great Northern railroad, but no heavy grades or sharp curves were resorted to in order to circumvent natural difficulties.
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