Ainsworth & The Building Of
The Northern Pacific Railroad.

Story By: Ted Van Arsdol

      In 1880, the Pacific Northwest was a region relatively remote from the rest of the United States, with a population of only a little more than 22,000 in its three largest cities-Seattle, Tacoma and Portland. More than two-thirds of these resided in Portland.
      The Northwest had gotten a boost from gold rushes in the 1860s but the excitement had ebbed considerably by the late '70s. And the remaining mines were relatively distant from the coast, mostly in Idaho and Montana.
      Then 125 years ago-in 1879-residents of the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound region received news that they had hoped for, the kind of news that promised grandiose results. This was the start on a railroad that would link the region's cities with the Midwest and East, bringing in tourists, tens of thousands of new residents and building up the region's economy.
      Surveys for a northern transcontinental railroad dated back to the mid1850s, but the Civil War had stymied plans for construction in the 1860s. In the early '70s, the Northern Pacific Railroad had constructed a line from Kalama on the Columbia River to New Tacoma (now Tacoma) but economic problems delayed more work. Now the NP was ready for a much bigger project, and the area that today includes the Tri-Cities would play a major role in the effort.
      Specifically, the NP was focused on a desolate patch of sand and sagebrush at the mouth of Snake River. No good roads were available there, but it was accessible to steamboats traveling up the Columbia River. Here the NP proposed to start building a railroad line northeast to Spokane Falls. The site was more than 200 miles from any supply depot, and in the first 120 miles of the route selected for the railroad the country was almost entirely uninhabited.
      At the river junction, the NP was ready to assemble lumber, ties, great numbers of horses, wagons, railroad workers, well diggers, iron for rails, railroad cars, one or more locomotives, sawmill machinery and all other essentials for a project that would alter Pacific Northwest history in a major way.
      In addition to building northeast and east to a linkup with other construction forces in Montana, the railroad would connect with the Oregon Railway and Navigation Co. at Wallula. The OR&N was going into action in 1879 too, and would build down the Columbia toward Portland. Plans also were under way to build a line across the Blue Mountains, to link up with the new track on the river at Umatilla. All of this would lead to a climactic event in 1883, the arrival of the first transcontinental NP train in Portland.
      Later in the decade the NP started work on its Cascade branch, heading from Kennewick through the Yakima Valley and finally over the Cascade Mountains to Puget Sound. The Vancouver Independent of July 17, 1879, reported a town had been laid out at the mouth of Snake River and named for John C. Ainsworth. Machinery for a sawmill had been delivered there.


      Ainsworth, a Portland resident born in Ohio in 1822, had been active in steamboat transportation on the Willamette and Columbia rivers. He also was involved in construction of the NP line north of Kalama, and was president of the Oregon Steam Navigation Co., which had been incorporated in 1862 during the gold rush heyday. This firm was succeeded by the OR&N CO.
      In the summer of 1879 Jack Carrolton was in charge of a huge raft driven down the Clearwater River in Idaho Territory to Snake River to provide foundation timbers for the large sawmill at Ainsworth. His contract called for a million feet of timber to be delivered by late August. In the meantime, Silas R. Smith had started to saw logs from the Yakima and Clearwater rivers at Ainsworth. Smith was a veteran of steamboat activity in the early days of Oregon Territory.
      Wallula at this time was the closest town to Ainsworth, and was at the western end of the Walla Walla and Columbia River Railroad. This was a rather primitive business that required three hours for a one-way trip between Wallula and Walla Walla. Since 1861, Wallula had been a stopping place for steamboats. One of the biggest days for that hamlet was Sept. 30, 1879, when a crowd cheered and shouted as a steamboat pulled away from shore with laborers and mechanics, headed for work at Ainsworth. The boat's piercing whistle joined in the celebration. H.M. McCartney, NP assistant general superintendent, led the departing workers.
      Graders started work at 1 p.m. Oct. 2, 1879, at Ainsworth, with Gen. John Wilson Sprague, NP superintendent for the West Coast, turning the first shovel of dirt. He planned to keep the shovel as a memento of "the happiest day the company has seen in six years." The NP official had served as a major general of United States Army volunteers in the 1860s, and was general superintendent of the Oregon Steam Navigation Co. From 1877 to 1879, when he was chosen for the NP job, with headquarters in Tacoma.


      The new "town" at the mouth of Snake River reminded one observer of a mining camp, because workers lived in tents, while a store owned by the NP and a blacksmithop were operated out-of-doors. Surveyors were laying out the community, S.R. Smith owned a large ferry charging $4 for a two-horse team and 50 cents for a footman to cross Snake River, and passenger service to the new town was provided by a coach leaving Wallula every morning.
      Prospective settlers already were moving north, seeking the best potential wheat land as far as the site of present-day Spokane. In October they took over thousands of acres for future tillage. Five hundred workers, white and Chinese with teams and other necessities, moved across the treeless terrain preparing the selected route for railroad ties. And in November, 10,000 ties were unloaded at Wallula, then sent ahead to Ainsworth.
      But providing water for 450 men and 40 teams scattered from nine to 21 miles from Snake River was turning into a problem. Some wells that were dug failed to produce water. In November, teams were hauling water from a 127-foot well operated by a windlass, 21 miles northeast of Vancouver.
      Soon after work started, the NP was advertising for help:
      "TEAMS WANTED. Steady work all winter and prompt pay. A limited number of teams wanted to do plow and scraper work on the NPRR at the mouth of Snake River. Two-horse team and driver, per day $3.50. Fourhorse team and driver, per day $5.00. Feed furnished at camp for 1-1/2 cents per pound. Board $4.50 per week. Team owners can furnish own feed and board if they desire. Work to continue until spring. Free ferriage at Snake River. Apply to C.W. Colby with Blalock, Son & Co., or by letter to H.M. McCartney, engineer, NPRR, Walla Walla."
      A Mr. Graves was in Pendleton, Ore., seeking teams, and residents there also were told that wood was scarce in the 30 miles being graded north of Ainsworth.
      In November one newspaper noted that the NP was constructing 125 railroad cars in its Tacoma shops. These would be shipped up the Columbia River to Ainsworth for the NP's Pend Oreille division. A Tacoma mill was producing lumber for the cars.
      About this time John C. Ainsworth learned that Henry Villard had purchased 125 miles of railroad iron to be used in constructing track from Wallula to Celilo, Ore. work that would eventually be part of the transcontinental route linking Portland with the Midwest. Iron also had been acquired to construct a line into the Palouse country in 1880. The steamboat Church had made at least two trips from Portland to the Cascades (near present-day North Bonneville) with iron for Ainsworth. It was then reshipped up the river. And the ship Tecumseh was mentioned as arriving at Astoria, Ore., from New York, with iron for the NP.
      Early in 1880, the Oregon Railway and Navigation Co. was busy, with many workers on tracks along the Columbia River in Oregon. Numerous Chinese were among the crews, and received 85 cents for a day's work, less than the pay for white laborers. Umatilla was flourishing again, after more than a decade in the doldrums. In the 1860s the town had boomed as a stopping place and supply center for miners traveling to and from southern Idaho Territory.
      The NP dispatched 100 mule teams in the spring of 1880 to work on its line northeast of Ainsworth. Nearly 60 miles had been graded, and more such work had begun between Ainsworth and Wallula.
      One newspaper described Ainsworth and the railroad "front" in July:
      Hawley Thome returned...from a brief visit to Ainsworth and up the line of the Northern Pacific Railroad. He says Ainsworth is as hot as the business end of a pair of blacksmith tongs, and as sandy as an eight-cent cigar. "The track is laid firmly and well for 26 miles or more and is being extended as fast as the arrival of material will admit. Grading is completed nearly the whole distance to Spokan Falls (Spokane was spelled without the 'e' at the time.)

Northern Pacific Engine #9, Spokan Falls, W.T., 1888. The 74,200-pound locomotive No. 9, one of the
Northern Pacific's first road engines, stands here at a muddy road crossing in Spokane Falls.
Delivered to the railroad in June 1871, this engine, as with others of this class, operated on the
mainline in the early years.

      Harkness and Co. mill at Ainsworth, from which the supply of lumber and ties is to come, started on the 3rd of July, and soon ran through the quantity of logs on hand...as soon as the drive down the Yakima can be used the mill will begin in earnest...
      Phillip Ritz's contract for grading is being vigorously prosecuted...Beyond Ritzville Mr. J.B. Harris, one of the most experienced railroad builders in this country, has several hundred Chinamen at work making grades and preparing bridge approaches.
      At Ainsworth a new building for the engineer corps will be completed...two sleeping and lodging cars have just been completed for the accommodation of the employees...
      The engines on the road are of the largest size and of great speed...A line of stages will be put on next week."
      Frederick Billings, NP president from 1879 to 1881, outlined some of the Cape Horn in South America for the Pend Oreille Division, which was the name for the effort supervised from Ainsworth. Six locomotives and full equipment for a machine shop also were shipped, and two more locomotives were sent overland from San Francisco. Wheels and springs were sent from the East, and necessary cars for the division were to be constructed at the company's shops in New Tacoma. By the time of a NP stockholders meeting in September all the needed material had arrived at the Columbia River except for one ship with cargo.

      One locomotive arriving from across the Great Plains and getting its first use at Ainsworth weighed 30 tons and had been built at the Baldwin works in Philadelphia. The other newly-arrived locomotive, labeled No. 13 and weighing 25 tons, had labored on Tacoma tracks for two years and came from the Pittsburgh Works. Material for the construction of 100 flatcars and boxcars also arrived at Ainsworth, via The Dalles, in 1880.
      A big flywheel, 14 feet in diameter and said to be the largest every manufactured on the Pacific coast outside of San Francisco, was headed upriver to Ainsworth in 1880. The six-ton flywheel from Willamette Iron works was accompanied from Portland by an engine and boiler and was to be installed in the Harkness and Co. mill at Ainsworth.
      In early May, a visitor to Ainsworth wrote that the NP engineers had been fortunate to find an easy grade for the railroad, along the Esquatzel, Washtucna and Providence coulees. "The first and greatest obstacle encountered in constructing the grade was the scarcity of water," the writer explained. "The road for the first 30 miles runs through an alkaline, sandy, sagebrush country, almost in . the center of a coulee and does not strike water until the 70th mile. The company expended large amounts sinking wells, and succeeded in getting water in about one out of every four started. For the first four miles water, dipped from the Columbia, was hauled from Ainsworth to the front, and after numerous sinkings water was reached eight miles out.. For a considerable period the number of men and horses employed on the work was governed by the supply of water from the first well. Well diggers were kept busy, however, and fortunately found water again 21 miles out at 128 feet. A railroad historian identified this location as Eltopia. He also noted three other locations further along where water was available-Bluff Wells (Mesa), Twin Wells (Hatton) and Well No.7 (Lind). Each of these was served by a windmill pump, elevated water tank and station house at an early date.
      By early May track had been laid for 17 miles and supplies were transported to the construction crews. The most difficult job encountered by the NP was "a summit cut" on a divide between the Esquatzel and Providence coulees, about 60 miles from Ainsworth. This was 1,200 feet long and required excavation averaging about 25 feet deep, three fourths of it through solid basalt. Thirty teams were busy there, along with dozens of workers.
      "Firewood for the camp kitchens is obtained in sagebrush," one newspaper noted. "The roads made by the teams are so dusty that in many places it is necessary, when driving faster than a walk, to tie handkerchiefs over the face to prevent being choked."
      During much of 1880 other men were bringing logs and ties down the Yakima River, heading for Ainsworth and working under stress, as one news report mentioned:
      "The men driving logs down the Columbia suffer some hardships, being almost constantly in the cold water. Many of them are becoming afflicted with swelled legs, rheumatic ailments and other troubles consequent upon exposure."
      As early as December 1879 the loggers had been busy in the Cascade Mountains in five to seven feet of snow, . breaking roads to the upper Yakima River for logs to be rafted out. Harkness and Co., which had received supplies including peaveys overland from The Dalles, Ore., was in charge of men getting out ties, in addition to preparing a drive of about 10 million feet of logs. Nine batteaux were ready for use in the log and tie drive, along with two wanigans, described by the Yakima Record as "a kind of flat boat on which the cooking for the outfit is to be done." The work of moving ties and logs down the river continued for a considerable time in 1880. Rafts of ties also were floated down the Clearwater and Snake rivers, headed for the same destination, Ainsworth.
      The mill at Ainsworth began working on logs from the Yakima River in early July, while dozens of men continued rafting on that stream.
      In July, H.M. McCartney, chief engineer of the NP's Pend Oreille division, reported the first logs from the Yakima area had been used for booms. The big drive that followed was scheduled to be rafted in the Columbia River and floated to the Ainsworth mill.
      Alonzo Leland of Lewiston, Idaho, who visited Ainsworth in the late summer, was not impressed by the town site "sand heaps with little or no vegetation." But he said the streets were macadamized (paved with crushed rock) and adorned with shade trees. He also noted that the NP had constructed about 25 buildings. One restaurant served visitors, and the company maintained a large boarding house, a few workshops, company offices and quarters for NP officials and their families. The town sawmill, a mile up the Columbia River, was cutting timber for a trestle, the first sizable one on the route, about 30 miles from Ainsworth. Meanwhile, OR&N steamboats from further down the river were delivering rails at the town and the NP had built an incline so that its cars could reach the bank of Snake River and load freight directly on boats.
      Leland also mentioned OR&N activity east and southeast of Ainsworth. The railroad had 1,200 men grading 40 miles of road from Walla Walla to Grange City on Snake River at the mouth of the Tucannon River. A branch line to Dayton was planned to cross Snake River, and from there the OR&N expected to continue to Colfax in Whitman County.
      Another big force of OR&N men was busy in mid-August laying track from Wallula down the Columbia River.
      The Ainsworth mill provided ties in early November for construction of a narrow gauge railroad track between Wallula and the Snake River landing south of Ainsworth. This would be changed later to standard gauge as part of the transcontinental track also passing through Ainsworth.
      Despite all the railroad activity along the Columbia River and elsewhere, no arrangements had been made for a depot at Wallula and. other plans to tie it in with the new line. The situation there was reported by one newspaper:
      Wallula is fast becoming 'the deserted village' of the upper Columbia. The iron horse now snorts some distance away, and those who once received half dollars from passengers stopping for meals and lodging are now seeking other quarters. It is only visited now by the Snake River boats as a way station. The population has principally all moved to Texas Ferry (on Snake River), where they will try to make a livelihood at various avocations. It was never destined for a building site, and is the most forlorn place that man ever saw. The winds howl around buildings, and the sand taken up the hurricane can only be likened to a simoon (a sandy wind of the Sahara and Arabian deserts).
      In late November, a Walla Walla news correspondent passing through Wallula reported that once noted stopping place was "a crumbling ruin," and the only visible signs of activity were men loading railroad iron and another crew tearing down the Rescue Hotel. His main objective was Ainsworth, and to travel there he and other members of his party boarded the locomotive Mountain Queen, which carried them over the new track from Wallula Junction to Snake River. Here the group climbed into a small boat and crossed over to the north shore where they were greeted by General Sprague and Chief Engineer McCartney.

Northern Pacific Passenger Engine No. 154, at Sprague, W.T., 1887.
Engineer T.J. Allen & Fireman William Hougbton.


      "These gentlemen harnessed up an iron horse and took us over to the big steam sawmill, which was turning out bridge material and ties at the rate of 60,000 feet, board measure, every 11 hours with a 125 horsepower engine," the visitor wrote. "A large force of men were busy pulling hewed ties out of the Columbia and piling them up...The steamer Yakima tows rafts of ties and lumber down from the mouth of the Yakima, making two trips each day. A kind of bight in the Columbia, formed by Rose Island, is used for boom purposes and was partially full of logs, ties and telegraph poles. The logs are rolled onto an enormous flat car...and then hauled to the mill with a rope several hundred feet in length-the car returning to the water propelled by its own weight. "There are now employed at Ainsworth 400 men about equally divided between whites and Chinamen. There are about 100 other persons in the place, including women and children."
      Harkness, the mill operator, was experiencing difficulties in the fall. Men he employed at Ainsworth struck, took charge of the mill and logs and demanded their wages. The NP paid the strikers and took charge of the mill and logs. Men who had participated in log and tie drives were headed up Yakima River to tie camps in the late fall to get out logs during the winter. But there had been trouble at the Harkness boom at the river's mouth-it broke, and timber and ties were swept down the Columbia. General Sprague chartered a steamboat and went in pursuit.
      Later a Yakima River ice jam carried away many logs and ties. People living along the Columbia retrieved some wood, and were paid a small salvage fee by the NP for their efforts. A steamboat picked up the runaway ties, while the logs were left to be sawed into lumber by a portable mill, and the lumber was to be towed to Ainsworth.
      About the start of the new year, 1881, the NP contracted with George H. Smith to get out more logs and timber from the upper Yakima River. He was to get his money when these were brought to the river bank, and the company assumed responsibility for the log drive. The NP also installed a new boom in the river, two miles upstream from the Harkness boom. Meanwhile, men continued busy further down the Columbia River bringing in equipment and supplies for the NP, and the OR&N Co. was still working on its line. In October the OR&N started construction at Celilo on a big ferryboat designed to carry trains across Snake River at Ainsworth, between the two ends of track. This was to be a sidewheeler big enough to carry 15 cars on a double row of tracks (another story said 11 cars and one engine). The boat's name, announced later, was the Frederick Billings, in honor of the man who served as NP president from 1879 to 1881. The boat's captain would be William Polk Gray, who had worked on upper river steamboats since the 1860s and later was a leading promoter of Pasco.

      One visitor in early 1881 reported "considerable bustle" at Ainsworth, which contained the NP shops, five stores, two restaurants, four saloons, a Chinese washhouse and some other buildings "of rough and temporary structure."
      "The residents are of the most cosmopolitan class," he wrote. "During my stay I witnessed four street brawls and was told that this recreation was no unusual occurrence for that place. I visited the railroad shops and became acquainted with Thomas E. Roberts, the master mechanic, from whom I learned he had under him 100 men. He has seven 35-ton engines-Baldwins-three of which are on construction at the front. The shops are supplied with first-class machinery."
      The visitor noted that Frank Dodge, assistant superintendent under John C. Ainsworth, was locating a place on the river for a wharf boat and a landing for the ferryboat that was expected soon. But he was skeptical about any long-range future for Ainsworth-"there is nothing to build up a place in the surrounding country."
      But the town did have nearly four years of life remaining. It would be important as a ferry crossing, also as the base for workers building a new railroad bridge over Snake River. Finally, it lost its reason for existence when the Northern Pacific Railroad began work on its Cascade division in late 1884, and the new town of Pasco was established a short distance West.

      A large Northern Pacific construction force had left Ainsworth far behind by 1881 and 1882, laying tracks far to the northeast, beyond the Spokane area, aiming for an eventual link-up in Montana with other gangs of workmen moving westward.
      But Ainsworth at the mouth of Snake River remained a vital link in the massive railroad construction projects of the NP and Oregon Railway and Navigation Co. that would bring major growth to the Pacific Northwest.
      One visitor, quoted in the Walla Walla Union of June 4, 1881, said Ainsworth was populated by "rough and grimy men who have been unloading boats, loading cars and handling steel rails, ties and lumber or working in the shops." Many men also were required in the job of constructing a railroad bridge over the Snake River.
      While playing this notable role in Franklin County and Pacific Northwest history, Ainsworth also was earning a more lurid reputation, mostly for crime and vigilante justice. And some visitors deplored the town's desolate appearance, on a sandy, sagebrush riverbank. In fact, one historian claimed recently that the town was "a hellish place" and "the most God-awful community ever opened to human habitation in the Pacific Northwest"
      Among Ainsworth's more notable residents was H.M. McCartney, who departed in March 1881. This NP engineer, who had been in charge of construction on the NP's Pend Oreille division extending from Ainsworth, was transferred to the Clark's Fork division, between Lake Pend Oreille and Deer Lodge, Mont He was replaced by H.W. Fairweather, formerly local manager of the Walla Walla and Columbia River Railroad for the OR&N Co. Fairweather worked under Gen. John Wilson Sprague and was said to have "the task of starting up the N.P. business in eastern Washington."
      Sprague had been in charge of Northern Pacific's construction between Kalama and Tacoma in the early l870s and supervised later construction in the Pacific Northwest until, as explained by one writer, his "health failed" in 1882. But a few years afterward he was a banker and mayor in Tacoma. A newspaper story in the spring of 1882 said Sprague and Fairweather were the only storekeepers worth mentioning in Ainsworth, "and they keep a plain, limited stock."
      In March 1881, a correspondent described Ainsworth as "a great workshop" for the NP. John H. Stone was superintendent of the big sawmill, 150 feet long and two and one-half stories high, fronting on the Columbia River. Surrounding the mill were blacksmith and carpenter shops, stables, offices, boarding and bunk houses and private residences.
      A big roundhouse with 10 stalls was another prominent landmark, and machine shops covered more than three acres, supervised by Thomas E. Roberts, formerly of the Baldwin locomotive works of Philadelphia. Other town facilities at the time included a hospital, post office and Wells Fargo & Co. office.
      A visitor to Ainsworth in 1881 described the place:
      "On railway guide maps the town of Ainsworth is very prominent, but at first view all of this consequence is dissipated. It consists of about 30 common rough-board houses, set on sand. There isn't a tree within 15 miles. Every man built his shanty or house to suit his fancy and without any reference to plan of streets".
      "Take out the few buildings used by the railroad company, the one hotel and a residence or two, and the rest of the houses are occupied by sharpers of both sexes, who live by fleecing the laboring men of their earnings. In a month or two, the railway people will pull up stakes, and Ainsworth will be reduced to an agent's shanty, with the chances that he will not sell tickets enough in a year to pay for a cancellation stamp."
      One memoir of those days mentions saloons, dance halls and other "dives" flourished at Ainsworth. Residents sometimes used guns to settle disputes and even a sandbag was wielded "sand was everywhere," and a sandbag was said to be effective when used against an adversary. The writer hinted, too at the fate of victims: "The yellow water of Snake River told no tales and gave up none of its secrets." Statistics apparently are incomplete on casualties in this town, which lacked its own newspaper to report events.
      Two Ainsworth fatalities were a lame man named Reddy and his partner, accused of robbing drunks. Vigilantes buried the two undesirables at the edge of town; Reddy's grave was marked with his crutches and his buddy's last resting place was decorated by two whiskey bottles.
      In March 1881, a civilian effort to suppress the town's opium dens ended with a hanging that received widespread publicity. A committee headed by a gambler, Alonzo Babb, burned down one of the opium dens. Shortly afterward, restaurant cook Dick Osborn (or Osborne), also known as Black Dick, stabbed Babb, who died. Irate citizens gathered, took Osborn into custody, tied him up and deposited him in a saloon back room.
      Soon a mob totaling about 100 masked citizens formed, escorted the killer to an improvised scaffold on a high fence and hung him. Two other proposed targets of vigilante "justice" quickly left town. "Quiet again reigned supreme in Ainsworth, no questions being asked or answers given to curious fact finders," one writer reported. A newspaper headline elsewhere in the region concluded, "A deserved doom." An unnamed justice of the peace and constable had been involved in the incidents earlier, but apparently were ineffective.
      "Some of the daring and worthless trash indulged in terrible threats, and some even claimed to be the cock of the walk and challenged the town, but the quiet element still banded together for the occasion and gave these bravos and cutthroats a half hour's time to leave the town and they obeyed," the Vancouver Independent reported.
      In late April another example of Ainsworth "justice" was noted: "The vigilantes gave T.E. Smith notice to emigrate. He refused to go and threatened to shoot the first man that laid hands upon him. On the night of the 8th, he found himself surrounded by about a dozen disguised men who marched him quietly down the river and sent him on his lonely way to Wallula. He was charged with being a sneak thief."
      Vigilantes also stepped in when another resident got some backing from ajudge in Spokane, where the prisoner had been sent on a charge of stealing a pair of blankets from a boxcar. The judge ruled that the man, Dan Sullivan, had been arrested illegally.
      After Sullivan returned and proclaimed that the vigilantes "didn't amount to much," masked and armed residents confronted him in a saloon. They escorted him to Snake River, put him aboard a boat and told him not to return, under penalty of hanging.
      A traveler arriving in the spring of 1881 noted that Ainsworth was the headquarters of the NP east of the Cascade Mountains and gambling saloons and dance houses "are in full blast" He also described the town as "drear, damned and distressing," with its only redeeming feature a restaurant operated by J.W. Shull.
      In the same year, 1881, the town was gaining some notoriety as the suspected base for horse thieves operating in the Yakima Valley which was then a popular habitat for openrange livestock. One source estimated that 1,500 horses had been stolen in Yakima and Klickitat counties by late 1881. Some had been ferried across Snake River at Ainsworth.
      Yakima county officers had arrested two horse thieves "beyond Ainsworth," and were taking them back to Yakima, "where it is expected they will grow to a tree limb."
      One sign that a more traditional form of justice was starting to take hold at Ainsworth was the transporting of a saloon keeper to jail in Colfax after he was found guilty of selling liquor to Indians.
      Also, the arrival at Ainsworth of a newly-built steamboat, to carry railroad cars and passengers, was a more welcome type of news. The boat connected with both ends of railroad track at Snake River.
      The Walla Walla Union of June 18, 1881, commented: "The Frederick Billings is a large sternwheeler boat driven by two engines.. .She can carry 11 cars and one engine at a load. In crossing the river the boat has to turn around, as her load has to be put on and taken off at the bow. She is in command of Capt. William Gray, an accomplished steamboat man and pleasant gentleman."

Steamboats on the Columbia & Snake Rivers were numerous in the early days.
Shown above (L-R) are the Mountain Gem, Hannaford & the Gerome, Moored
at the Ainsworth dock circa 1906. Captain W. P. Gray was in command of
the Mountain Gem. He was also captain of the train ferry
the Frederick Billings.

      Gray, who had two decades of experience already on Columbia and Snake River steamboats, was destined to become the most noted booster for Ainsworth's successor, Pasco, in later years.
      In the meantime, the OR&N Co. was continuing active with its railroad construction on and near the Columbia River in Oregon. Crews had started laying track from Umatilla to Pendleton, Ore., in early February 1882. Eventually the Northern Pacific would be able to coordinate with the OR&N so that trains could carry passengers all the way on its own lines and the OR&N to Portland, the Oregon metropolis.
      But so far the sagebrush land along the NP northeast of Ainsworth had not attracted any big influx of homesteaders. A Colfax newspaper guessed that irrigation might make a big difference later. Meanwhile, dry land grain farming was a likely alternative for settlers, and the NP was reported to have laid out towns at Paha, 75 miles from Ainsworth, at Ritzville, 10 miles further, and Hariston, 98 miles from Ainsworth.
      In early 1882 the Ainsworth mill, the largest in eastern Washington, was still cutting up logs from the Yakima River area. When this was completed in several months, the NP expected to move the mill activity to Missoula in Montana.
      But the attention of Ainsworth residents was now focused also on plans for a bridge across Snake River where trains would be able to cross, thus eliminating the need for the steamboat Frederick Billings. Rock was required for the new span, and was to be transported from Granite Point on Snake River two miles above Wawawai and five miles above the site of to day's Lower Granite Dam. Some rock also would come from a quarry near Lake Pend Oreille.
      The NP had awarded a contract for constructing the bridge's eight piers to D.D. McBean, at a cost of $250,000. Completion date was announced as April 1, 1883. Phoenix Iron Works of Phoenixville, Pa., had received an order for iron work on the bridge's draw. The Ainsworth span, costing nearly $500,000, was to be finished before the first train from New York City arrived in 1883.
      A Vancouver newspaper reported progress on gathering stone for Ainsworth:
      "Workmen are busily engaged at Granite Point getting out and trimming the granite blocks for the piers and foundation of the Northern Pacific bridge. There are some 40 or 50 men employed, mostly Italians, who seem to be adapted to this kind of work.
      "The granite is of excellent quality and projects out on both sides of the river under the basalt formation, and can be traced for miles, even up the north fork of Clearwater. It is the only granite in the country that crops in great quantities; all the other is basalt, pure and simple." The job at Granite Point could be a warm one, as one laborer wrote:
      "In our boyhood we read of hot places in the tropics but I think this is about as warm as any portion of the world under the sun. It is situated between two high bluffs of granite, with no chance for a cooling breeze."
      The steamboat Spokane was towing rock from Granite Point to Ainsworth in three barges, capable of carrying 30 tons of rock each. Trains also sometimes hauled rock over OR&N lines, southeast from Snake River to Walla Walla and then on to the river across from Ainsworth. This latter route was used at times when the river was too low for steamboat navigation.
      The barges were intended to be dual purpose-useful for carrying wheat from farms in later months and years.
      In the late winter of 1881-82 and following spring and summer log drives were continuing down the Yakima River, with a final destination of Ainsworth. Also in the spring, reinforcements were moving up the Columbia River through Ainsworth toward the construction "front." Hundreds ended up at Cabinet Landing, on Lake Pend Oreille, which was taking on a notoriety of a type recently associated with Ainsworth.
      "Reports from Cabinet Landing show a deplorable state of society," the Weekly Standard of Portland reported. "There are in the neighborhood of 1,500 men in town and no officers of the law. Everybody carries a revolver, and shooting scrapes are very numerous."
      The NP work force in the area totaled about 6,000 and Missoula was one of the company's next destinations.
      NP officials were attempting to beautify the vicinity of railroad stations on the new line in early 1882. They had purchased more than 50,000 trees to plant along the tracks between Ainsworth and Sprague "to break the wearisome monotony of the journey," as one observer noted. But a planting effort by a would-be farmer several miles from Ainsworth was a failure. He plowed land and planted potatoes. Then a strong wind interfered. "He does not know the whereabouts of his soil, but thinks it is now in the neighborhood of Colfax," a newspaper related. In the summer of 1882 a new location on the NP line began receiving a little publicity. This was Palouse Junction (later Connell), described as located in "a waterless, sandy region fit only for the abode of rattlesnakes and coyotes."
      However a branch railroad would be built from there to the Palouse country, and 300-400 Chinese were involved in grading and driving teams. They struck for higher wages and received an increase to $1.50 per day, still 50 cents lower than the pay for white men. The NP was paying $4 for teams on the job. Water was hauled eight or nine miles from Bluff Wells (Mesa) .

The steamship Frederick Billings, was operated by Captain W.P. Gray
to ferry railroad cars across the Snake River for the
Northern Pacific Railroad while the bridge at Ainsworth was being built.
It later was used to ferry rail cars across the Columbia River
between Pasco & Kennewick while the railroad bridge was being
built from 1884-1887. Photo was taken in 1883. .

      Although the Snake River bridge was not completed yet, a long journey was possible on the NP north and northeast of Ainsworth, and along the Columbia River through Wallula and other towns such as Umatilla and The Dalles, Ore., in 1882, with the sternwheeler crossing at Snake River included.
      Wallula Junction was one of the stops en route, and 200 to 300 travelers were passing through there daily in 1882. A hotel planned for construction there was expected to be "one of the best in the territory." But a visitor in 1882 was not impressed by the Wallula site. He wrote:
      "The town has not one redeeming feature of utter desolation, and one feels thankful that nothing but a small hamlet of a few houses stands in such a desert spot"
      This passenger's opinion may have been reinforced by a windstorm in which "the fine alkali dust sand filled the air almost to suffocation." A little further along on his trip, the traveler got a look at Ainsworth, which he claimed "unworthy to note in history or romance, except for its kinship to Wallula for sand." But he observed that a great amount of rock had been gathered at Ainsworth for' bridge construction, and he concluded the town would "gather a few ducats" when the span was completed.
      Despite the drawbacks this traveler described, he was enthused by this new mode of transportation which he had boarded at The Dalles and would carry him on to Ritzville and other places on the NP line. He wrote:
      "To the old settler who 'worked his passage' over the arid plains and grassy plateaus of eastern Washington on the back of a cayuse, the present means of transport appears so wonderful as to bear a resemblance to the tales read in our boyhood of Arabian Nights entertainment."
      About the start of August 1882 the head of the log drive for the NP had reached the mouth of the Yakima River, and a steamboat was towing large rafts to the Ainsworth mill. Men and teams had left Yakima City (the present Union Gap) to collect ties that had been stockpiled at various places along the way. Near the end of the month log towing to Ainsworth was still under way and approximately 150 loggers turned up at the town, where they spent money freely. "Whiskey and beer suffered terribly for a few days, and the streets of the sagebrush city were scenes of great excitement," one weekly reported.
      At least some of the newly-arrived ties were to be used in construction of the branch railroad line from Palouse Junction.
      Late in the year work also was progressing on the railroad bridge at Ainsworth. Some of the men employed had returned to Ainsworth from the construction "front," many miles east of Spokane. Work continued night and day on the bridge, and one writer commented that the town was now "livelier than it ever has been."
      The NP had constructed an icehouse with capacity of 800 tons at Ainsworth, and planned a l2-stall roundhouse, to be used partly for light repairing. A village of mess and bunk houses had sprouted around the sawmill for J.H. Stone's big force of workers who had brought in 350,000 ties for Palouse Junction.


      Wallula was getting a boost, too. One hundred Chinese workers were clearing an area where the NP would build a roundhouse, car sheds, a turntable, a 52,000 gallon water tank and woodsheds. The company also had decided to furnish and operate the depot hotel.
      In 1882, railroad construction workers had narrowed the gap between the eastern and western ends of the NP track east of the Bitterroot Mountains, but completion of the line was still many weeks ahead in 1883. But the NP and OR&N railroad activity was showing some dramatic results already, and one of the greatest was the impact on transportation of wheat on the Columbia River below Wallula and The Dalles.
      The first through train along the Columbia did not leave Portland until Nov. 20, 1882. But a historian wrote that the opening of the OR&N line along the river already had "ended forever the business of one of the most profitable steamboat routes in the world," and the owners had begun sending their vessels down over the Cascades to the lower Columbia River, for possible use there. (The turbulent Cascades of the Columbia were drowned out later by the pool behind Bonneville Dam. )
      Low water in Snake River was a problem in the winter of 1882-83 when the Frederick Billings ferry was reported "laid up" for a while. Also, the steamboat Northwest damaged its bow when it banged into a bridge pier during' a river crossing. The Rover, with S. Smith as captain was crossing the Snake and Columbia rivers regularly, with teams and freight.
      Meanwhile, 300 men worked on the new bridge, where the piers were taking shape slowly.
      In the spring of 1883, the surging force of Snake River was creating problems for the bridge builders. A derrick was washed away from the south bank, then a breakwater installed in 1882 near the central pier was torn out of the river bed, and floated down into the Columbia; it was composed of more than 100 piles, and was bolted together. About the same time a barge moored to the north bank broke loose and drifted downstream, with three men and a donkey engine aboard. The steamboat Almota towed them back.
      After all these problems, D.D. McBean gave up his bridge contract to the NP, which prepared to complete the project.
      Considerable iron for the bridge was loaded on railroad cars at Portland in June 1883, heading upriver.
      The Weekly Standard at Portland reported on Aug. 31 that the bridge piers and one abutment were completed.
      "About 300 men are engaged in work on the bridge, sinking caissons and working on unfinished piers," the story commented. "A boarding and lodging house furnishes part of the men with shelter, while the rest board around. Large piles of granite for the bridge are accumulating. It is brought down by train from Riparia.
      "The incline opposite Ainsworth dock to be used in carrying cars to the barges and ferry boat, to be carried across the river, is about completed. The one on the other side will be completed in about two weeks."
      In the meantime, Ainsworth continued to live up to its reputation at times for unsavory activity such as brawls and shootings. One 1883 incident stirred vigilante talk:
      "Mike Berry, better known as Seattle Mike, got into a row with his woman at Ainsworth, and they were having it out hot and heavy when a man named Jack Moran interfered to stop the fight. Mike was greatly angered and shot Moran four times, though not fatally. Mike was taken to the calaboose and heavily chained. Fears were entertained that there would be a lynching but law and order prevailed." .
      In another fracas, the Wells Fargo agent was shot and killed in a dispute over timekeeping on the bridge job.
      But all the difficulties and problems involved in the huge railroad project that had been started at Ainsworth four years earlier would fade in the public view, as final results at the construction became evident.
      The NP celebrated the first transcontinental train trip between New York City and Portland in 1883, and this soon became a popular route for many Americans. Later in the decade the NP completed a rail line through the Yakima Valley to Puget Sound, spurring additional travel and widespread interest about the Pacific Northwest among residents in other parts of the nation.
      The connecting of two ends of Northern Pacific Railroad track from east and west in Montana was the occasion for rejoicing all along the new route in September 1883, and Ainsworth joined in the general elation.
      Nearly four years had passed since General John Wilson Sprague had turned the first shovelful of dirt for the NP at the mouth of Snake River on Oct. 1, 1879. Now, following a golden spike ceremony in Montana, trains would be able to travel all the way between Minnesota and the Willamette River of Oregon. The first evidence of this change was a special train carrying dignitaries and other passengers from Montana, en route to a large and gala reception in Portland.
      Two hundred visitors spent a considerable time at Ainsworth and feasted on watermelons in picnic style. A New York Sun correspondent described Ainsworth as "an unthrifty collection of unpainted shanties." He also wrote:
      "The population largely consists of stranded roughs, harlots, Chinamen and hogs. One of the first men I encountered on the street was a Chinaman with his throat half cut. He was looking for the sheriff".
      "The streets are a mixture of dust and sand, ankle deep except where they are paved with old playing cards and broken whisky bottles. In every direction from the little settlement stretch for miles dreary plains of the same mixture of dust and sand, covered with sagebrush. Everything is dry except for the river. That rushes along past the town as if ashamed to stay in such company."
      But the NP and some Ainsworth residents were eager to show the visitors that the country might have a big potential for agriculture, and pointed to the efforts of Frank Schuneman and Henry Gantenbein as proof.
      Schuneman, a German blacksmith, had difficulty supporting his wife and children in the East and decided "this Sahara, tufted with sagebrush, might not be as bad as it looked," a reporter on the train trip wrote. Schuneman bought some land at $2.60 an acre and began to raise a crop without artificial irrigation, although some scoffed at his efforts and called him a fool. Schuneman said he was getting 40 bushels of wheat to the acre, and also raised grain and a variety of vegetables which were said to be larger than "the kinds we are accustomed to see in the East" He had struck water at 28 feet in his well but did not use it to irrigate his fields.
      Gantenbein grew melons and vegetables on sagebrush land west of Ainsworth. Henry Villard, NP president, had given him a windmill and pipe but Gantenbein did little irrigating. He used no ditches, only a pipe and hose.
      Ainsworth was only one of a number of stops along the route to Portland, the last part of the trip on Oregon Railway and Navigation Company tracks along the Columbia River. Portland was especially jubilant about the new link with the Midwest, and the Vancouver Independent reported on Sept. 13 that "the whole city and thousands from neighboring towns were out in holiday attire" to celebrate the arrival of NP President Henry Villard and his guests. The crowd cheered a parade, three miles long on decorated streets, and enjoyed "a grand concert" and an illumination in the evening.
      At Ainsworth, more trains were arriving. As rapidly as work was completed, the NP shipped men, horses, teams and camp equipment to the railroad's Cascade Division. This was a new line that would be extended from the Columbia River through the Yakima Valley and eventually to Puget Sound.
      And there was traffic in the opposite direction, too. Eleven cars of salmon, the first such NP shipment, passed through Ainsworth en route to the East.
      Meanwhile, work continued on the Snake River bridge at Ainsworth. From 300 to 400 men were employed on abutments and piers, an effort continuing night and day.
      But the biggest news was the start of work on the Cascade Division, where men were said to be "throwing up dirt with a vengeance" between Ainsworth and Yakima City (the present-day Union Gap). Workers started laying track on the first 25 miles west of the Columbia River about Nov. 1, and the NP also moved a locomotive there to pull a construction train. The company brought in a new ferry to haul materials for the first 25 miles, unloading at a place called Cottonwood Landing five miles above Ainsworth on the Columbia River. The NP expected completion of the first 25 miles of new track by Christmas 1883.
      Even before much Yakima Valley construction had been completed, some of the rowdy atmosphere of the railroad activity had been noticed far ahead of the end of track. The valley's main town, Yakima City, was on the town's proposed route, and the Signal newspaper there observed on Aug. 25:
      "It is very apparent that the peace and quiet of Yakima will from this time forward be remembered as a thing of the past. Large numbers of strangers, railroad graders and a good sprinkling of roughs will infest the streets, and fights and disturbances will be common.
      "A savage-looking individual from the front challenged the town to single combat Monday evening. The aweinspiring appearance of the belligerent struck terror into the ranks of the Yakimanians and no man dared to meet him on the field of battle.
      "Heretofore the people of Yakima have been in the habit of going to bed at night leaving all the doors and windows open or at least not fastened. The safety of property wherever left has been remarkable. But the time has come when the public must be on their guard. Hundreds of roughs follow the construction force of the new railroad, and a few of them have already made their appearance on our streets, and several houses have been entered by prowlers."
      Meanwhile, back on the Columbia River, Wallula Junction continued to take on a more stable appearance. A new hotel was the main attraction but several other businesses including saloons also were active. The NP and OR&N, whose lines connected at this place, were building more than four miles of side tracks in late November, and the OR&N had started construction on a freight house.
      About this time Ainsworth residents were discussing a plan to organize a new county. The town was part of Whitman County, and a long trip to Colfax was required for people with any business involving a court. An effort to change the situation had failed, as explained by the Walla Walla Union of Nov. 17: "Ainsworth sent a man with a petition and $300 to Olympia to work on the triple division of Whitman County, but the man kept right on to California, and did not visit the capitol. Hence, Ainsworth is out $300 and the petition."
      On Dec. 1, the Union reported: "Whitman County has been sliced into three parts, forming Franklin and Adams counties. J.W. Schull, C.M. McBride and D.W. Owen are appointed county commissioners with authority to appoint a sheriff and other officers. The county is attached to Walla Walla county for judicial purposes, and the county seat is located temporarily at Ainsworth."
      The first and possibly only promotional material on Ainsworth, described by a newspaper writer as "a handsomely printed and illustrated circular," was released about this time. The publication predicted that Ainsworth was "destined to become one of the greatest inland cities on the north Pacific coast on account of her superior geographical position." It predicted a "fruit and wine garden" would be developed along the Columbia between Ainsworth and Priest Rapids, and that any kind of fruit that could be grown north of California would thrive in the area. Thousands of acres of grain land were being rapidly settled (the promoter claimed) and Ainsworth was "centrally located in an immense cattle and horse range." Gantenbein's addition to the town was shown on the circular, and the location of proposed Franklin County buildings. The Ainsworth publicity was a forerunner of an intensive promotion of towns and irrigation plans in the area that took place in the late 1800s and following years.
      In December 1883, Ainsworth had a population of 700 to 800, and "almost every branch of business was well represented," while the piers of the Snake River bridge were starting to look quite conspicuous, one paper reported. Another commented that "the people here have unlimited confidence in the future of the town-bridge or no bridge." Eight trains a day were passing through, and considerable fruit tree planting was noted.
      The NP had started to run trains over its new Palouse and Columbia River Railroad, running from Palouse Junction (Connell) to Colfax. Stations opened were Sulphur at nine miles, Kahlotus, 18 miles from Palouse Junction, Washtucna at 29 miles, then Endicott. At Palouse Junction, the NP had built a six-stall roundhouse and a water tank, served by a 175-foot well. Plans also were announced for a hotel and depot.
      And Wallula continued to get attention from railroad officials. The NP had completed a 10-stall roundhouse there by March, and a four-stall roundhouse was nearly finished. New shop buildings also were ready for their machinery.
      The first train crossing of the new Ainsworth bridge was scheduled in April 1884, and this change would eliminate the need for trains to delay long at the town. Also, residents saw other indications that the town was in trouble. Fire had razed some of the buildings and by early April half a dozen businesses had moved away, mostly to the Coeur d' Alene mines in the Bitterroot mountains. Residents staying behind wondered what would happen when the approximately 300 bridge workers were terminated.
      "Good towns and cities," one resident commented, "have sprung on weaker foundations than we possess and it would seem strange if we, with our fine situation and good country (for fruit unsurpassed), should pass into nothingness because a bridge (truly a good one) has been built and the builders gone away."
      County Commissioner D.W. Owen had planted fruit trees at his farm and started a nursery. Also, experiments with grapes and berries in the area had indicated good results. Residents were discussing the possibility of opening a route to the new Okanogan mines in northern Washington, and had petitioned for the start of mail service between Ainsworth and Yakima City.
      In the meantime, supplies were moving out of Ainsworth en route to the NP construction "front" in the Yakima Valley. One of the caravans consisted of a long train of wagons, drawn by mules with small bells dangling from the harness.
      On April 10, 1884, the Snake River bridge at Ainsworth was ready for testing by trains with loaded cars. Light loads were used at first, then the regular freight trains with about 30 cars were sent over the river. Their weight produced "hardly perceptible strain not exceeding a half inch deflection of the spans," said one writer, who added:
      "The bridge is 1,541 feet long and has an elevation of 12 feet above high water. It consists of six spans besides the draw, and rests upon nine piers and abutments, and is believed to be inferior in strength and beauty to no structure of its kind in existence."
      During the successful tests, men operating whistles on the railroad engines sounded a salute to the nearby Snake River ferry boat. The steamboat Frederick Billings responded with three long whistle blasts. That could be construed, a newspaper writer observed, as "tokens of joy at her release from long and arduous duty" or "a lament at the termination of the long period of pleasant work" carrying passengers and trains across the river at Ainsworth.


      The boat, with William Polk Gray as captain and his brother Al Gray, pilot, was transferred to a new railroad incline on the Columbia River above Snake River, coordinating with an engine on the track that had been constructed there. Further west, Nelson Bennett was busy as contractor on the new line of the NP's Cascade Division.
      By late June, the $2-million Snake River bridge, painted dark brown, had received its finishing touches and was turned over to the NP, while all construction machinery was stored at Ainsworth. General Adna Anderson, the NP's chief engineer since 1880, described the new span as "one of the best iron bridges on the continent," with masonry piers sunk to the rocks. Anderson had a long history in U.S. railroading, dating back to 1845.
      The bridge was just one more reason why NP officials could do a little bragging about the company accomplishments. The Clarke County Register at Vancouver told some of the story on June 19: "The Northern Pacific is the largest railroad in the world. An average of 100 trains are constantly moving on it. Sometimes the number is as high as 150. The rolling stock of the road, if made up into one solid train, would occupy 56 miles of tracks."
      But the loss of bridge jobs at Ainsworth was causing residents to start considering possible alternative plans for the area. It probably was an important factor in the formation of a company by J.D. Tumey and A. W. Gray to bring water from the Palouse River by way of Washtucna Lake and Palouse Junction to Ainsworth. One optimist noted that if the plan succeeded "it will irrigate almost all of this entire county, as the ditch is to come in at one extreme comer and run almost diagonally across the country." This project was the forerunner of a lengthy struggle to bring water to the parched Franklin County terrain.
      The NP was offering land for sale in the lower Yakima Valley, and about the start of August 1884 six carloads of steel rails had arrived at Ainsworth for the Cascade Division. Shortly afterward, a train was making regular trips to the end of new track, near Prosser.
      The NP had built several miles of new railroad to connect the main track with an incline on the Columbia River, and Ainsworth businessmen were wondering whether their town would be the principal community in the future, or that role would be taken by an upstart at one of the two new railroad inclines on the Columbia. A new community was taking shape at one of the inclines, where Kennewick is now situated. This was called Huson, in honor of NP engineer H.S. Huson, and was home to several boarding houses and saloons.

River Steamboat Captain William Poke Gray.
Long time supporter & builder of Pasco. Organized the
Pasco Land Bank & Served a term as Pasco mayor.
Died on October 26, 1929. He was hailed all over
the Pacific Northwest as a great man.

      However, the name was changed to The Incline, when NP officials told residents that towns could not be named after railroad officials-this was a new edict. A Chinese laundry had opened for business in one tent, and Captain William Polk Gray of the Frederick Billings was constructing the first building on the west shore. Trains were running from there, as far west as 25 miles.
      Ben Rosencrance, a livestock owner residing near the Yakima River, was supplying beef for the railroad construction workers, and teams for NP subcontractors.
      Reports were circulating in late September that the NP planned a new town about two miles north of Ainsworth. In the meantime, fires were reported in Ainsworth, where only two buildings were insured. Incendiary fires "grow too luxuriantly here to suit the insurance companies," a newspaper correspondent commented.
      In early November, 400 Chinamen arrived at Ainsworth to work on the Cascade Division. One observer reported "considerable excitement in Kennewick-lots going like hot cakes." General Adna Anderson, the NP's chief engineer, reported that 90 miles of track between Ainsworth and Yakima would be completed by Jan. 1, 1885. Considerable work remained on the division, especially crossing the Cascade Mountains, where some tunneling would be required. The NP had completed a depot and water tank at Prosser.
      Late in 1884, Captain Gray was constructing a home in what is now Pasco and anticipated planting orchard trees and grapes. Flat cars were carrying several empty houses to the same vicinity and to the Columbia River incline, these had been occupied by railroad bridge workers. By early December the NP established an agency at Pasco, at what was said to be the intersection of the main line with the Yakima branch, and appointed William Laughlin as agent.
      At least by December the new settlement west of the river was named Kennewick, although the county already had a post office named Konnewock. Residents were considering a suggestion that the place be renamed Homily, in honor of an Indian chief, Homily. A camp at the mouth of Yakima River was called Homily.
      Kennewick, the temporary headquarters of the Cascade Division, could claim about a dozen houses already, also two saloons, three eating houses and Captain Gray's hotel.


      In describing the NP's selection of a town site for Pasco, the Walla Walla Union commented: "It is located in the midst of that tropical triangle between the Snake and Columbia, which abounds in sand, sagebrush and homed toads. The town is called Pasco because that's its name." Pasco owes itís name to V. C. Bogue, a construction engineer for the Northern Pacific Railroad, who had successfully constructed a railway across the Andes Mountains in South America. The highest point on that railway was a mining town named Cerro de Pasco, noted for being a windy and dusty place. Mr. Bogue was reminded of that place in the Andes so much that he named the new Northern Pacific townsite "Pasco".

Pasco's First Depot.
Built in the 1890's by the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Shown here in 1901.


      A Yakima man named Lynch was planning to sink a well for the railway water tank at Pasco, and residents would be supplied with water if they would provide the pipe to connect to their homes and dig it in. Among the first businesses opened were a saloon, restaurant and barber shop. A hotel and other buildings were transferred from Ainsworth, and by early in 1885 "pretty much all Ainsworth except the sand" was reported to have moved to Pasco or across the Columbia River to places on the NP's Cascade Division. Even Ainsworth's role as a railroad station was terminated, on March 14, 1885.
      Ainsworth's residents tore down some of the remaining houses and used them for firewood. And finally, after all the last people had departed, 20 acres of broken glass marked the site where thirsty railroad workers had relaxed after hard work and also caroused during off times.
      All had been part of a vital and lively chapter of NP history that started in at Snake River's mouth. Through the efforts of so many men-whites and Chinese-the company had opened what one historian called "the northern tier of states," by completion of 1,675 miles of rail between Duluth and Wallula Junction.              {END}

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