This Week Then: Four King County Cities Celebrate Birthdays

Plus: The start of the Columbia Basin Reclamation Project

By Alan Stein

Pushpin in Map, Seattle, WA

August 29, 2019

This story was originally published at HistoryLink.orgSubscribe to their weekly newsletter.

Cities Start to Grow

Four King County cities share a birthday this week on August 31. On that day in 1995 Shoreline incorporated. Homesteaded in the 1890s, the community grew slowly over the years until the completion of Interstate 5. The resulting growth led its residents to seek autonomy, and it is now one of the largest cities in Washington with no central business district.

In South King County, Covington incorporated on August 31, 1997. It too began in the 1890s, as a small stop on the railroad from Kanasket to Auburn. Lumber and farming boosted the town’s early economy, but after nearby communities like Kent and Auburn swelled during post-war suburbanization, Covington residents looked to incorporation as a way to control their own growth. 

On August 31, 1998, Kenmore incorporated at the northern tip of Lake Washington. Named by shingle mill owner John McMaster in 1901 after his earlier home in Kenmore, Ontario (which was in turn was in turn named for the town of Kenmore, Scotland), this community also saw incorporation as a way to control suburban growth. And the same can be said for Sammamish, which incorporated on August 31, 1999, after an unsuccessful attempt to annex to Issaquah.

Let the Water Flow

The confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers was a travel hub long before Lewis and Clark arrived there in 1805, and for decades thereafter. Fittingly, in 1884 the Northern Pacific Railroad saw the spot as a junction for rail lines from Puget Sound, Portland, and Spokane. Less than four years after the first train crossed the bridge from Kennewick in 1887, the town of Pasco — named for the windy and dry Andean town of Cerro de Pasco — incorporated on September 3, 1891.

And dry it was. Early attempts at irrigation met with failure until 1918, when William M. Clapp, an Ephrata attorney, proposed constructing a dam on the Columbia River for the benefit of all nearby communities. Thus  began the Columbia Basin Reclamation Project, a Herculean effort that took three decades to complete.

After years of studies and surveys, President Franklin Roosevelt, soon after taking office in 1933, authorized the construction of Grand Coulee Dam. The dam’s generators began producing electricity in 1941, which helped meet increased electricity demands during World War II, most notably for a secret military project in South Central Washington.

After the war was over, Columbia Basin Irrigation Project officials shifted their emphasis from using the dam for power production to its primary purpose, and in 1948 a Pasco farm received the first water pumped from the huge irrigation project. Four years later jubilant farmers in Grant, Adams, and Franklin counties celebrated the first Columbia Basin Water Festival to commemorate that historic event.


Making the Grade

On September 4, 1882, the first students at Whitman College attended classes in Walla Walla. Over the years, Whitman has matriculated such notable alumni as U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Nancy Evans, Major General Frederick Gilbreath, Jeannette C. Hayner, Frances Owen, Mary Randlett, and Adam West.

Welcoming Trade

On August 31, 1896, the Japanese freighter Miike Maru docked at the Seattle waterfront, beginning the Japanese Steamship Company’s regular run between the city and Japan. The voyage was arranged by railroad “Empire Builder” James J. Hill and helped spur the creation of the Port of Seattle in 1911, as well as the growth of the city’s Japanese American community.

Norwegian Made

On August 30, 1909, the Viking, a replica longship constructed by a Norwegian-American boatbuilder, Sivert Sagstad, landed at Seattle’s Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in celebration of Norway Day. The boat was sailed to California in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition and later ended up in San Diego’s Balboa Park, where it was destroyed by fire in 1936.

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