Stories from Alumni
C. Jim Vache (64)
Working title: So That's Why I Am
I was born on April 17, 1946 in Richland Washington. Under the bubble of the HEW, as a dream I had as a teenager had it. That dream was that we in the old West Richland neighborhood -- Sheltons, Harris', "Pearsons/Conklins, (itdepends on the year), Ables/Gants, Stevens lived under a bubble while the rest of the world exploded from the products of Hanford's competitor in the Soviet Union. The safe little world was still safe, but I searched under it edges for a way toescape. Escape to the starry world that shone down on me that night in early adolescence.... But the stars went on forever in that desert sky. It was like the image in Immortal Beloved, as the boy Beethoven escaped from his wrathful father, ears bleeding, to fall face down in a pond that had captured all the light of all the galaxies, and took him to her bosom.
My parents were transplants as all the Hanfordites were. To a giant bubble on the Columbia river they came. It was a place sealed from the world as much as those kids who live in isolation bubbles to prevent infection. The infection of the outside world had to be avoided to complete the bomb that began as scribbles by Einstein and a letter to FDR. They had come from Denver, on a longer trail from Bridgeport, Conn, immigrants in thrall to the Dupont war machine. Our family was already four, and I was the 5th. Of the time before about 1952, I remember little. What I say here is family myth, and in the late 40s, fragments of memory, or wisps of family stories that became my memories.
At some point in 1943, the Western siren sounded again. DuPont had a secret plant out there somewhere, and recruited thousands of technicians and people with experience with steam plants, armaments and the war effort to go there, sight unseen, jobs unknown. These were factory people, not the scientists and engineers who knew what was going on, and not the construction gangs that built the place. Daddy always said that he thought this Hanford place, being on the Columbia river, would be like the mountain country that he loved up in the foothills of the Rockies. If he had been to Walla Walla, the illusion would have been complete, since it, only 50 miles from Hanford, was also on the edge of spectacular and rough mountain terrain, in this case, the Blues.
But, of course it wasn't. Rather, Richland was a made up town in the sage brush desert, built from scratch from cookie cutter designs, owned by the government and managed by DuPont as part of the effort to cook the ingredients for the bomb, though people at my dad's level knew nothing of this. Kennewick was a sleepy little farm town, surrounded by mint and alfalfa fields, dotted with orchards. Pasco was a railroad town, a stop for the NP and the SPS between Spokane and Portland. It had the only people of color in SE Washington, brought to build the railroads and to labor in the roundhouse, cordoned into a ghetto two dusty streets wide.
There were few choices for places to live for a family. The two little towns, and the Wye were bursting to overflowing, and the little box houses in Richland were hard to come by. Many families started their lives in the area with Father in the dorms, and the rest of the family waiting elsewhere until houses became available. We know that our family was late enough in the tidal flow west to get a home right away, after along trip by train with other families going to the same place.My parents made friends on that train that lasted through their lives. Imagine being hurtled along in the dark across the Western prarie to an unseen destination, united only in secret fears and patriotic commitment. Those trains were the hot house for quick growth of family and friends. Like those on the wagon trains of the 19th century, these new immigrants had left family and comfort far, far behind. I think the nature of the experience is why so many, like my parents never considered Richland to be home.
Not only was it a made up town, it was in the desert, subject to scouring sandstorms, awful heat in the summer and bitter cold wind in the winter. Scratched out of sage brush, Richland in those early days was subjected to the severities of the weather of the central basin in a way that was different from the new settlers experiences, and which marked their memories forever.
The refuge became the little houses that sprang up faster than the tumbleweeds that blew through regularly, Our first house was a 2 b. prefab on Winslow street. It still stands today. These houses had perhaps 500 square feet of living space, thin walls, no yards, except sand, and little in the way of ornamentation. But they became the temporary abode, and refuge from the wind. Scattered through the town were bigger cookies, these being the churches that the government built. Ours was Christ the King, Roman Catholic, but no different on the outside than the CUP, Baptist, Lutheran or Methodist.
The churches became social centers for the workers and their wives and children. They were also places where social and economic barriers, so prevalent in the housing patterns, broke down. Fr. William Sweeney led the Catholic folk. He, too, of course was an immigrant, sent from Boston to the wilds of the Yakima diocese as a missionary, to be followed later by a flock of eccentric Easterners and true Irish to minister in the wilds of the atomic kingdom.
My father's work at the plant consisted of secret stuff. Then, and into the 60s, we did not know what he did, except in the most general of terms. Secrecy and security were everywhere. Men, it was said disappeared if they talked too much in the beer halls. They knew they were doing something important for the war effort, they just did not know what it was. Until August of 1945, that is. Then, in a blaze of heat and light nearly visible at Hanford, Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki were incinerated. The secret was out -- we had manufactured the stuff that ended the war. A huge celebration ensued. It seems almost pagan from our vantage point now--celebrating wildly the creation of a weapon that killed thousands of civilians! But that is hindsight, and we can no longer truly enter into the world of the 40s, where internment of citizens seemed right and just, and mass destruction a justifiable response to uncontrolled aggression. All I know is that out of this maelstrom came me--almost exactly 9 months after the dropping of the bomb. I have long thought that all of us in Richland with late winter and early spring birthdays were the spawn of the fiery heat of pent up passion and the end of the war, and the world as they, our parents knew it.
Rick Maddy (67)
Here is one of those weak history papers that I had to write at Eastern. Plagiarism abounds, but thought some would like to read it.
This is what was going on before 1943 in Richland and surrounding area:
The Tri-Cities, White Bluffs, and Hanford are a small piece of the Channeled Scablands. The Scablands are a part of the basalt plateau that covers much of southeastern Washington. The plateau consists of layers of lava that poured out onto the crust of the earth during Miocene times. Layer after layer of the lava spread over 200,000 square miles of the Pacific Northwest. This was approximately 10-20 million years ago.1
On the Snake River, below Monumental Dam, artifacts have been found, which archaeologists believe were probably traded to the local Indian population. These artifacts included olivetta shells from the Pacific coast, strung like beads; nephrite, a form of jade from British Columbia; and obsidian from Glass Butte, Oregon, used to make arrowheads, spear points, and knives. Remains have also shown that natives foraged for seeds, roots, and berries. Fish, mainly salmon, was a main staple from the beginning of Human time. Game was also eaten, and some of it came from outside the river country.2
English explorer, Francis Drake, sailed along the Pacific coast to Oregon, but may have reached as far north as British Columbia. Many historians argue between the 38th and 48th parallels as the possible range of his voyage. He named it New Albion and claimed the land for England. The name, New Albion, would appear on maps of the West, but was later shifted north to designate the coast of Oregon. Controversy and argument aside, Drake's travels inspired other English explorations to the area.3
The Spanish, lethargic in their exploration, had seen the Pacific Northwest, but they kept their records secret and did not make any charts or take any possessions in the northern regions. Russians also explored off the coast and kept their activities secret. Exploration by the Russian, Vitus Bering, kept the Russian interests alive to the region. The Russians explored from the north and the Spaniards came from the south. In 1776, the Englishman James Cook, on his third voyage, wedged his way in between the two and made claims for his country.4
Captain James Cook explored the Pacific Northwest coast looking for the fabled Northwest Passage. On board Cooks ship was the American John Ledyard. Ledyard saw the importance of the area and its commercial value and possibilities. After returning home and speaking to possible investors, he was brushed aside as a "crackbrain." Ledyard, being persistent, headed for Europe. In Paris, he talked at length with the American Minister, Thomas Jefferson, about the possible fur trade and natural resources he saw in the Northwest.5 Jefferson never forgot what he was told during the meetings with John Ledyard and during his term in office as President he will send Lewis and Clark to this western frontier. In London, another shipmate of Ledyard, Lt. Rickman, fired the imagination of adventurous English merchants by telling them about the abundance in the Northwest country.6
Explorer Robert Gray, sailing under the American flag on his second voyage to the Pacific Northwest, met with Captain George Vancouver. Gray suggested to Vancouver that all signs indicated a great river nearby. Vancouver, having excepted the opinion of 1789 explorer John Meares, told Gray he was mistaken because, "the surf line extended continuously from cape to cape." Spurred on, Gray turned southward and carefully explored the coast.7 It seems almost uncanny the way America has always been blessed at just the right moment in history by either the ignorance or folly of others. If Meares or Vancouver had explored the coastline with more care and seen the Columbia River, or a man of genius like Jefferson had not been president, the course of America would have possibly been so drastically altered we would not be able to recognize the boundaries of today. On May 10, 1792, Gray found and named the Columbia River in honor ofhis ship Columbia Rediviva. Ignoring all claims of England, Spain,Russia and the Indians, he claimed all the land about for the United States.8
In 1804, Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) on an overland exploration to the Pacific Ocean. One objective, among many, was to find an all water route across the northwestern part of the country. Lewis will keep one of the best records in his journal of any of the previous white explorers, European or otherwise, about the Indian Nations. Several of the explorers with Lewis and Clark took note (visual observation and written) of the country they saw and the people they meet. Upon their return, a few wrote books, articles, and some lectured about their personal experiences. Because the exploration was a military operation, Lewis and Clark, by orders from Thomas Jefferson, wrote their comments down during the exploration. The entire Lewis and Clark expedition was encamped at the junction of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. When they first arrived at the Snake River, they named it the Kimooenim, after considerable linguistic help from the Nez Perce.9 Later, they renamed it the Lewis River. Their campsite was probably located near where Sacajewea Park now lies.
The day is Thursday, October 17, 1805. Clark writes, "Having taken dinner, we set out and proceeded seven miles to the junction of this river and the Columbia which joins from the N.W....In every direction from the junction of these rivers the country is one continued plain and rises from the water gradually . . . great quantities of a kind of prickly pares and much worse than any I have seen of a tapering form and attached in bunches . . . no wood to be seen in any direction." The Indians called the river, described here in the words of William Clark, the Tapteal [Tap-tiel, Tapteel (narrow river)]. Today we call it the Yakima River.10 Clark also commented, when visiting with the Yakima Indians, on how industrious and established they are, but they suffered from eye disease and blindness, presumed to be from blowing sand and the glare from the desert and river. Many of the Indians teeth were gone due to eating unwashed roots. Over the years, the sand had ground their teeth off.11
The next day, on a vocabulary of
languages field trip, Lewis and Clark visited the local
inhabitants (I presume near their camp at present day Sacajawea
Park). The tribe called themselves Sokulk. A few miles north was
a people that called themselves Chimnapum. The Chimnapums lived
at the mouth of the Yakima River. These tribes intermingled, and
in some areas lived together. Their languages differed little
from a previous tribe encountered east of here and known as the
Chopunnish (pierced nose). Exploring with two Sokulk men in a
small canoe, Lewis ascended the Columbia and landed on an island
full of Indians drying Salmon. Lewis was informed they were
drying the salmon for food and fuel. He states in his journal,
"the multitudes of dead salmon on the shore and floating in
the river is inconceivable." He can see salmon at a depth of
15 to 20 feet because the water was so clear. He was disappointed
to not find out where, or how far, they must travel to get the
wood used for their drying scaffolds.12
In the journal and dated October 22, Lewis described a talk with one of the chiefs at a fishing site they were at. The chief said some of the dried fish was for "the whites who visit the mouth of the Columbia." I wonder if Lewis or Clark questioned if the whites had ever come this far inland from the mouth? By whites, I am referring to Euro-Americans. I did not find any narrative on this question in the journal. As a young man growing up in the Tri-Cities, I heard many comments about the blacks living in Pasco. It is embarrassing to now know that Clark's slave, York, had been with the expedition and a central figure among the Indian's curiosity. For example, they wanted to see if his color could rub off. He worked as hard as any of the soldiers. There had been talk among the soldiers about the laziness of the Negro race. York would prove how biased the misconception was. He was unique individual to all. The comments about Pasco's black community were cheap and unwarranted. No less of a credit to Pacific Northwest black history is Marcos Lopez in the company of Robert Gray, the first recorded black to visit this region.13
In 1810, the Canadian North West Company (CNC) established Spokane House for the purpose of fur trading with the Indians. The trading post was located at an apex formed by the Skichew (Spokane) and Spokane (Little) Rivers. The general area had long been a fishing and camping ground for Middle Spokan (this is the correct spelling) Indians. Chief Illim-Spokanee lived near the trading post.14 John Jacob Astor in 1811 sent a company to Astoria and established the American Pacific Fur Company (APFC). Two years later, the APFC opened a post at Fort Spokane to compete against the CNC.15 David Thompson, a British explorer and geographer, explored parts of the Upper Columbia and eventually the Lower Columbia to the mouth. He mapped the entire Columbia River and these maps were used by trappers, explorers, missionaries, and others for a-long time after because of their accuracy and fine detail.16
Alexander Ross, a member of the 1811 Astor scouting party writes, "the landscape at the mouth of the Eyakima surpassed in picturesque beauty anything we had yet seen." Robert Stuart, another member of the Pacific Fur Company, scouting the Columbia River forty-five miles upstream from it's union with the Snake River, passed through a dramatic series of seven swirling rapids. Along the shore, the Wanapum Indians were conducting a religious ceremony for their reverence to the river that gives them plenty. Seeing their careful attention to their leader, Stuart named the stretch Priest Rapids.17 During this period, it is possible that many people passed the future sites of Richland, Pasco, Kennewick, White Bluff and Hanford. The Columbia River was the fur trader's road, especially for those coming from the mouth that had come to the Pacific Northwest by sea. This was a time when the unknown eastern side of the Cascade Mountains was being quickly checked out by the fur trappers. Joint occupancy by Americans and British was being promoted by the governments of both nations. Still, the semi-arid, future Tri-City site had yet to be seen for anything but a passing point.
It was a time for mountain men, trappers, and military men to wander through. Historians are still trying to figure out where these men wandered. As for the men that write about the Columbia Basin, they will remark about the profusion of fish, waterfowl, rattlesnakes, lizards, grasshoppers, and "the remarkably stout and long-winded horses . . . which range in droves in most fertile plains" of the lowland desert. They also never fail to mention the sandy soil, the wind, and the dust the two create when combined.18
In addition, the area can be dangerous. After leaving Astoria on April 4, 1814, a party of ninety men was coming up the Columbia River. At the mouth of the Yakima River, they heard yelling from a child. Stopping to investigate, the party found the Indian wife and children of Pierre Dorion. Dorion and five other Canadians, under the command of the Astor Company, had been massacred on the Snake River. Dorion, his wife, and children, had been with the now famous Overland Astorians in 1811-1812. The woman and her two boys had escaped. It was a dangerous situation for the traders, for clearly many area Indians were unfriendly and willing to kill them.19 Hudson Bay Company (HBC) voyagers had become familiar with a long line of bluffs on the east side of the Columbia above the Yakima River after having passed them many times. The bluffs were called Marl Banks, or White Bluffs. The mountains to the southeast, visible for many miles from the site of the Tri-Cities, were called "les Montagnes Beleus." They had been named by French Canadian trappers from the HBC. The English translation "Blue Mountains" came later and is still used today.20
In 1829, a dispatch from Simpson admitted Fort Nez Perce (1818) was not very productive and the area not rich, But HBC needed to accommodate the Indians and keep on friendly terms. If they disbanded the fort it would leave too large a gap in the middle Columbia River area. This could pose a great danger for expeditions coming through the area if the Indians were abandoned.
Beginning in the 1830's, the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers began mapping the west to promote westward expansion. The Wilkes Expedition was sent to Oregon to gather information under the direction of the corps. Robert E. Johnson, during the 1841 expedition, circled through the Spokane country, turned south to Fort Walla Walla (Fort Nez Perce then), and returned to Puget Sound through the Yakima Valley. Their route took them through present Kennewick and northeast on what is now Highway 240. Highway 240 is known to Washingtonians as the Vantage Highway. Samuel Parker, businessman and reverend, (an odd combination if I may say so) left his horses with the Wallawalla Indians during the winter of 1835-36. In the spring, he was amazed to find the animals "in fine condition." He noted, "This shows the superior mildness of the climate and the nutritive quality of the prairie grass." Although the natural desert impressed him, Parker also noted "There is such a want of summer rains that some kinds of grain cannot flourish." The Tri-City area receives approximately 6 to 10 inches of rain annually. This is one of the lowest annual rain falls in the Pacific Northwest.21
In 1847, Father Pascal Ricard and four
Oblates of Mary were assigned the task of establishing a mission
on the Yakima. Chief Yellow Serpent (Peo-peo-mox-mox) of the
Wallawallas gave them land near the site of the West Richland
bridge where it crosses the Yakima River. Chem-na was the Indian
name for this area. The St. Rose of Chem-na mission was not used
long because of the lack of wood. (In 1856, Yellow Serpent would
be killed during the war.)
In July 1848, after the Whitman massacre, Chief Kamiakin of the Yakima Indians invited the Oblate priests to found a new mission for his people on the Athanum River near present Yakima (city). This mission was burned during the Yakima Indian War. During the Cayuse Indian War all the missionaries would leave the Columbia River Basin.22
1853 was a pivotal year for the area. Washington became a territory and Congress passed a bill authorizing a survey for a route suitable for a northern railroad that also included a provision for wagon roads. Lieutenant Tinkham did a reconnaissance for the Northern Pacific Railroad up the Yakima River and over the Cascade Mountains. In 1854, the James Doty party, surveyed the Yakima River from its mouth. A road made possible by these surveys increased travel through what is now the Hanford Atomic Reserve.
In September, 1853, the Longmire Wagon Train decided to traverse an unknown route that took them through present day Finley, Kennewick, Columbia Park, Richland, West Richland and the A.E.C. land. Longmire writes, "From the Yakima River we had been followed by a band of Indians, who kept the women and children in perfect terror . . . We took the road going northeast for two days when we discovered we had taken the wrong road. We had no compass, and would have known little more if we had one. We saw before us a perpendicular bluff . . . which we learned later was White Bluffs on the Columbia."23
Washington Territory was growing. Population in 1850, 1000; 1860, 12,000; 1870, 24,000; 1880, 75,000; 1890, 357,000.24 Washington Territory involved the states of Idaho and parts of Wyoming and Montana. It is a sparse population for such a huge area.
These were difficult times for the Indians. The white men were like the grasshoppers. Some years were worse than others, but every year brought more to devour their lands. First the explorers, then the missionaries, steamboats, railroads, and the discovery of gold. They knew there was no way to stop the pioneers from coming and taking their land.
The Treaty of 1855 gave the Americans the land that is now the Tri-Cities, and a vast area from " . . . ; thence down the Snake River to its junction with the Columbia River; thence up the Columbia River to the white banks below Priest Rapids; . . ."
The tribes involved with the treaty were the principle groups; the ones with the largest population. They were the Yakimas in the middle, Palus to the north, Cayuse in the south, Nez Perce in the east, and the Umatillas to the west. There were smaller bands and other chiefs and sub chiefs among the larger group. For the lack of knowledge, and simplicity, the government made Chief Kamiakin the "Chief" of all the tribes. What the government gave the Indians was certain land rights known as reservations. The chiefs signed the treaty with an X and Issac Stevens initialed their individual marks. Some small tribes, because they were not written into the treaty, lost virtually everything, as if they simply did not exist. This lack of governmental sensitivity is the basis of several litigations in federal courts that are ongoing today.
Not surprising, the greatest cause for the Yakima War of 1855-1856 was the failure of the United States to make the treaty good. The treaty of June 9, 1855 was not validated by the U. S. Senate until March 8, 1859. It was not proclaimed by President Buchanan until April 18, 1859. During this time, eager white settlers started grabbing untitled Indian land as they wished. This was occurring before Indians had received any compensation what-so-ever.25 The Indians, feeling cheated and betrayed, felt the only course of action was war. They had signed the document and had given up everything they knew. The Indians did not understand United State's policy and "red tape" that took months to execute. Despite the unrest, the westward movement continued. There was no stopping the Americans from coming to the new land.
The discovery of gold did little to the Tri-Cities area except White Bluff, Walla Walla, and Wallula. From 1859-1868, the Cariboo Trail saw many miners come from Wallula to Ringold. From Ringold, they headed north to Fort Okanogan and onward into British Columbia gold fields. The Oregon Steam Navigation Company wanted to promote Portland trade in the western Montana gold fields and have its own freight service as the carrier. A depot was built at White Bluffs for this purpose. White Bluffs Road, 1860-1870, headed northeast, crossed the Cariboo Trail, and went on to Spokane. From Spokane, miners headed to the gold in Idaho, which had been split from the Washington Territory in 1863, and Montana.26
In 1860, the crossing at White Bluff was being ran by a non-Indian, Thomas Howe. An old homesite of the Wanapums, it was named for the white bluffs along the east bank of the river. White Bluffs (Tacht was its Indian name for centuries) was one of the first settlements on the Columbia River in the Washington Territory. Indians had long used the crossing, which was better than the powdery amalgam of sand and volcanic ash at Vernita, Wahluke, and at the foot of Priest Rapids.
Cattlemen started using the small town
for a cattle crossing. One of the first big cattlemen was Ben
Snipes. He and some other cowboysherded cattle to the Fraser
Valley, always crossing at White Bluffs. As more stockmen came,
the over grazed bunchgrass could no longer hold out.
Two winters, 1880-1881 and 1886-1887, were severe. In the 1886-1887 years, the [Tri-Cities] area had three feet of snow and the temperature dipped to -21 degrees. The cattlemen never recovered from their losses and as more settlers arrived range land became scarce. Because of these two harsh winters, gravity flow irrigation systems started being built by individual farmers so they could grow alfalfa and rye grass.
Many prospectors came to White Bluff and vicinity to stay, but their expectations of gold were unfounded rumors. Late in the 1860's the mines were abandoned because they became fruitless. Traffic also declines, but a ferry and small store at the location operated continuously into the 1870's.27 On the west bank, the town was platted and in July, 1907 was established. More than a ferry crossing now, the town had a library, hotel, graded streets, schoolhouse, and a weekly paper.
An influx of new Americans started arriving: Chinese. They too wanted a piece of the "golden pie." They arrived by working for the railroads, or came by stage or wagon, and once here strike out for the mines. They stayed and did heavy digging at Ringold Bar, about 15 miles up river on the east bank of the Columbia River from present day Richland. After the whites abandon various gold digging sites, the Chinese, very much more meticulous and thorough with their gold digging, stay and reap the benefits. Later, racial misunderstandings combined with Euro-American ethnocentrism will cause the Chinese their own period of hard times in the new territory.
All during this period the Wanapum Indians stood on their ancient homeland watching it be invaded by strangers. The Wanapums had not signed the peace treaty in 1855. They said they were not at war and did not want to be farmers on a reservation. They lived among the white settlement at White Bluff fairly peaceably. The Army sent officers of increasing ranks for several years, but the Indians never left.28
River boats had been on the Columbia as far north as the foot of Priest Rapids and routine steamboats started in 1859. The Colonel Wright had come as far as Priest Rapids in that year. Captain William P. Gray, the son of the Oregon historian, W. H. Gray, and a licensed Northern Pacific river boat pilot, took the first steamer, City of Ellensburgh, to Wenatchee from White Bluff in 1888. He had a history of exploits in running rapids and the Priest Rapids run was of historical significance. Gray was also the ferry captain at Ainsworth, at the mouth of the Snake River and later piloted the ferry from Pasco to Kennewick. W. P. Gray spent the last years of his life in Pasco coaching Columbia River pilots.29
Ainsworth was a railroad town built in 1879 with the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad and named after John C. Ainsworth, a Columbia River boat captain and head of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company. In September 1883, eleven carloads of salmon passed through Ainsworth. This was the first coast to coast shipment by the NPRR. Track was coming from all directions by 1883. The first train crossed over the Snake River on April 20, 1883. The town of Ainsworth quickly died after the railroad transferred their machine shop to Pasco.
Pasco is near an old Indian village they called Kosith (At the Point of Land). It was one of the largest villages along the Columbia. Kosith was an eel fishery. They were caught at night with hemp nets, hung on racks, then smoked and dried like salmon.
In 1883, Whitman county was broken up and Pasco became a part of Franklin County. Pasco was laid out in 1885 with eighty foot wide streets. The old Ainsworth Hotel was moved there and remodeled. Several other buildings survived the trip from Ainsworth. All the buildings in Ainsworth that were not moved were burned. By 1889, Pasco was largely a tent city. In 1891, the city was incorporated, but was still being ridiculed in the northwest press as a city that, "does not seem in immediate danger of being fulfilled [in becoming a city]."30
The need for a new river crossing was soon realized. The railroad started building an incline on the southwest bank, across from Pasco. Track coming from Union Gap would end at the incline in Kennewick. By 1912, this line ran daily from Yakima to Walla Walla. Cargo was ferried across the river from the incline in Kennewick and shipped out by rail in Pasco.
Ferrying would be the mode of transportation across the Columbia River until October 21, 1922, when a bridge was built between Pasco and Kennewick. Captain W. P. Gray was in the first car to cross the bridge. This bridge would eventually be known as the "old bridge." Several years later came the "new bridge," until the building of the newer "cable bridge." Today, the "old bridge" has been torn down. The new bridge has become the "blue bridge" (it was still painted blue the last time I looked) and the cable bridge is the new "new bridge." In 1926, Pasco got an airport and on April 6, 1926, the first arrival of airmail landed from Boise, Idaho.31
Kennewick, known as Anhwash by the Wanapums, was a boom camp of tents, boarding places and saloons. H. S. Huson of the Northern Pacific Irrigation Company named Kennewick from the Indian Language meaning "Grassy Place." The Wanapums of today do not know the word Anhwash. Huson may have gotten the name from the Chamnapum. This tribe was like the Wanapums, even speaking the Wanapum language. There is the possibility the Chamnapums knew the word Anhwash (I can find no information to confirm or discredit my guess). Kennewick had an earlier name of Tee-He, a name that had a few jokes being past around. Historically, it was called Huson, before Huron (Huson and Huron are not the same person) himself named it Kennewick.
Benjamin Rosencrance is noted as Kennewick's first settler because of his settling at the "Y" in 1878. Charles Conway had the first post office in his store in the 1880's and the town was incorporated in 1904. By an act of legislature, Benton County was authorized March 8, 1883. The county was named after Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri.
The Northern Pacific petitioned to have the townsite of Kennewick vacated in 1895, but by 1898 it was still struggling to become a city, only needing some nurturing. The 1903 Pasco Express wrote that Pasco and Kennewick would become the St. Paul and Minneapolis of the West. That vision still has possibilities in the years ahead into the twenty-first century.32
In 1878, Benjamin and Mary Rosencrance came to the "Y." This was where the road from the north, bringing travelers from the White Bluffs ferry and the Old Indian Road from the Upper Yakima, met the east-west road from the Wallula ferry to Prosser Falls. They had come to Washington because of the vastness of the area with so much bunchgrass for their stock. On an 87-acre ranch, Mr. and Mrs. Rosencrance operated stock and ran the stagecoach station. Staples were bought at Walla Walla once a year. They ate fish, game, beans, bacon, dried fruit and made jelly out of currants. Mrs. Rosencrance did not see another white woman for the first six months of her marriage.
In 1888, the Homestead Laws were enacted and Rosencrance moved his family to present day Richland. They took up 1700 acres of land north of the "Y" across the Yakima River on the Richland side. In 1889, Lena was the first child born in what is now Richland. The Rosencrance persuaded Mr. and Mrs. Harry Van Horn to take up a homestead on the Yakima River flood plain. For a dollar a day, she taught the Rosencrance children. The children went to her place by wagon or sled and brought their own chairs. The Van Horn school was located north of the new cemetery at the Swift Street exit. In the same year (1889), Washington Territory became Washington State. During the great flood of 1894, the family watched their orchard and barn wash away. The barn was located approximately at the present corner of Lee Boulevard and Goethals Drive. Before the Columbia River was controlled by dams, the area saw several floods throughout the years.
A post office was established in 1905 and in the same year a wooden bridge was built across the Yakima River. This was the start of Richland.33 Richland was called Ahowpa (sticks). It was an Indian winter camp.
Richland was named in 1904 for Nelson Rich, a Prosser settler of 1883, a store owner and extensive landowner who died in 1932 at age 88. Rich and Howard Amon founded the city. Nelson Rich purchased the Rosencrance acreage first. Later, Amon would buy the same property from Rich. This sale would lead to controversy.
Benton was Richlands first name chosen during a contest in 1904 conducted by Amon to name the town, but the name only lasted a few months. The post office said it was to much like Bentsen in Pierce County. Richland became the second choice, and it was here that the controversy about just how and where the name originated starts. Was the name because of the rich land around the area, or was it named for Nelson Rich?
When I was small, my father took me to one of his "work" friend's house. Cadon (unsure about the spelling, but pronounced Kay-don) Bruce was different by most standards in Richland at this period (late 1950s) of time. When at work, he would occasionally eat fried grasshoppers for lunch, etc. My father told me it was probably for shock value, but I never believed that. This man was really different. Bruce had gone into deep Mexico (Yucatan) and brought a wife home with him. He had a brother living in Mexico with Indians that had accepted him and I believe Cadons wife was from this tribe. I will never forget her because she could not speak English and was cooking the hottest chili I had ever put in my mouth. In 1950s Richland, foreigners, including Hispanics, and not being able to speak English was really rare and unusual.
The reason I tell this story is that Bruce had on his walls one of the largest collections of arrow and spear heads I have ever seen. He dug them up at the mouth of the Yakima River on the northwest side. The Richland/Pasco bridge goes almost right over the top of his dig sites. This is near the "Rose Bowl" (the Richland sewer). I remember this collection so vividly because I have not seen one so monumental, even at museums. The collection was better than the one at the little museum at Sacajawea State Park that was open so many years ago. I might as well add that the skeletal remains of an Indian in that museum was the source of a few bad dreams for such a small tike.
I wish I knew where Cadon Bruce was or if he was still alive. He has a collection that should belong to all of us (with his permission, of course). At the time, there were no laws against digging for arrowheads and on any given Saturday you could see several diggers working their small site. Any moral obligation to the makers of these points was nil.
My mother dug up a rose colored spearhead (3) during one dig. Several years later, I dropped it and broke it in half. I do not know what happened to it after that. Oh my, the things we take for granted!
The town of Hanford, known for
centuries as Chanout (Water Whirls Around) by the tribes, was one
of the principle Wanapum camps. Hanford was named for Cornelius
H. Hanford, a federal judge from Seattle, who was president of
the Hanford Irrigation and Power Company.
Land withdrawn in 1902, was opened to homesteading in 1909, and the F. M. Wiehl Company of White Bluffs was busy bringing in homesteaders. The land was sold with water rights and in the spring of 1909 a quarter of a million fruit trees were planted. The Hanford intake canal had been completed in 1908. Also, in 1908, Hanford built their post office.
In 1893 the Benton Land and Water Company began irrigating. In 1908, Horn Rapids, with Allen and Down's Lower Yakima Irrigation District ditch on the east side and Kennewick's Northwestern Improvement Company ditch on the west side, the Tri-Cities was under full irrigation. All of the townships were under irrigation by 1910.
Railroad tracks, ditches and pipe, farming, and orchards were the hub of the job market in those years. All the towns had newspapers. River freighters were busy on the Columbia. In 1911, Amon deeded some of his land along the Columbia for a park that is still enjoyed today. It was officially opened July 4, 1936, but had been in use since Amon deeded the land. 1921 was the last year the newspapers published river boat schedules.
The cities grew slowly, but surely. New schools, churches, libraries, telephone service, electric lights, automobiles and other "modern" amenities came to town. People came and stayed. In 1920, Richland had 1,042 area residence, White Bluffs, 387, and Hanford, 429. Growth was steady and the towns weathered a world war and a depression. Nothing, other than ordinary progress, occurred for many years.
One day in December, 1942, Colonel Franklin T. Matthias and two men from the DuPont Corporation, Gilbert Church and A. E. S. Hall, came to look the land over for a secret military project. They were a team from the Manhattan Department of the Army Corps of Engineers. Their decision would cause the desert towns to grow and change forever.
On the outer areas, the landscape was the same as the day Lewis and Clark had come through. Today, areas such as Rattlesnake Mountain have changed little, but every space is now developing and would be unrecognizable to the Lewis and Clark explorers.
In March, 1943, White Bluff residents were told to pack up and move. No questions would be asked or answered and fair prices would be paid for their land. Most moved to the cities of Pasco and Kennewick. Camp Hanford (a.k.a. North Richland) became the headquarters for construction until Richland could be built up to accommodate the workers. Richland's fate was not yet known, and rumors circulated that it might eventually be taken off the map.35 Camp Hanford ballooned to 51,000 and was the largest civilian construction camp (CCC) in the United States. By March, 1945, the workers were quartered in Richland. Camp Hanford closed down, and became a ghost town laced with blacktop roadways leading to no where. A wrecking company paid $103,000 for the $17,000,000 deserted city.36 I learned how to drive on these roads leading to nowhere when I was 11 years old. My 16 year old neighbor, Dick Choate, was my teacher.
I came to Richland in 1955, via Yakima and Benton City, and grew up in a three-bedroom pre-fab (short for prefabricated house). These houses were built by the government to last ten years. My father had remodeled ours, as most Richlanders had after the government sold them to private citizens in the 40's and early 50's. In 1978, my son was born in Richland. At the time, we (my wife, daughter, son and I) lived in a two-bedroom pre-fab that had been in its original condition since 1943.
Today, the Tri-Cities is laced with the names of its past. The streets in "old" Richland are named after project engineers, in alphabetical order, starting with Adams. Schools in all three cities: Lewis and Clark, Jason Lee, Sacajawea, Captain Gray, Kamiakin, Carmichael Junior High (after S. P. Carmichael, Superintendent of schools in the 1920's), Hanford High School, Spalding, Marcus Whitman, and Tapteal, ring of the past. There are other names, too. For example, Fred English, the druggist at Hanford for many years, is the name of the Tri-City's juvenile detention center. But one name is missing. Streets, schools, buildings, not one place, is known as Rosencrance, and I do not understand why.
Sherry Nugent Dupuy (62)
Re: A Letter From the Alma Mater (See Stories)
Dear Mr. Cameron:
As a courtesy, we are sending you a copy of this letter we recently wrote your 15 year old daughter in response to a query we received from her.
"Dear Ms Cameron:
Thank you for your letter. Yes, we are pleased to report, your father's old high school is still standing and our library was able to find yearbooks dating back to his graduation. In fact, a few teachers even remember your father, which I will get to in a moment.
In answer to your first question: In every picture existing of your father, he is well shod, wearing what I believe were called "earth shoes" back then. Also, the weather here is moderate with any snow generally lasting from December to March, hardly the entire school year. Thus, his descriptions of how he "struggled to school" in the mornings, do as you suggested seem a bit exaggerated. In fact, our bus logs are (remarkably) still intact and show that not only was your father a registered user, but that his parents paid an extra ten dollars a month for door to door delivery.
I am sure there were days your father was "sharply dressed" as he put it. However, in every single picture I was able to uncover, he was wearing the same thing: bell bottom jeans with with white strings trailing onto the floor, horizontal rents in the knees, and no belt buckle. His T-shirt has a message on it that is easily communicated with hand gestures. His hair hangs below his shoulders and looks as if it were exposed to a lot of wind. Perhaps he rode the bus with the windows down.
As to academics and "concentrating on the basics", one must remember the times: the "basics" back then may very well have embraced some of your father's elective subjects, which included "Personal Citizenship", "Ecology", and one which apparently was called "Relevance". We have no record of what if anything was taught in these classes. What records we do have show that your father did indeed take Geometry, just as he claims. In fact, he took it his sophomore year, repeated it his junior year, and repeated the course again his senior year - Geometry was required for graduation.
Now, as to Mr. Muggins, who had your father in a class called "Problems of Modern Relationships", Mr. Muggins does not wish to dispute the claim that your father always had his homework done early, he merely wants to point out that no matter when it was done, it was always late. In fact, he remembers your father as having the most outrageous excuses for not being prepared, including having to evacuate his house because it was infected with the China Syndrome.
Your father was not, sad to say, President of the Student Council. Perhaps he is confusing student government with a social group called "The Slackers" which was as Mr. Muggins recalls, a group of boys who sat in the hallways and made loud groaning noises when an attractive girl passed by. Your father was assistant vice president of this club and to our knowledge the only past member not currently serving time in a federal penitentiary.
One thing IS completely verifiable: Your father's name is, indeed, carved above the door to the school. Please be advised now that we have noticed it, it will be sanded out and refinished at a cost of $300. We would appreciate it if your father would pay for the damages without having to engage a lawyer.
The honor roll to which he referred to is not hanging over the door, but on a wall outside my office. I will leave unanswered the question of whether his name is on it.
Thank you very much for your letter which we found most amusing. Mr. Muggins sends his regards to your father.
Sherry Nugent Dupuy
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