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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on place-based stewardship education. Since 2001, a partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department (KNRD) has supported this newsletter and allowed us to expand class offerings through EPA funding. Further staff support comes through Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA). Many thanks to our partners and to you, our readers, for your continued enthusiasm for "digging" into the natural history and culture of this part of the world.

PEND OREILLE COUNTY CENTENNIAL 1911-2011

Honoring The Past - Looking To The Future


Faith McClenny

This year, our beautiful Pend Oreille County is celebrating its centennial. The event was commemorated June 1st with a special program in front of the county courthouse in Newport. The impressive program was opened with the presentation of colors by the Spokane Air Force Color Guard unit. Special speakers included Tom MacArthur, who portrayed 1911 Washington Governor Marion E. Hay; County Commissioners Diane Wear, John Hankey and Laura Merrill; Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mary Selecky; Sheila Stalp from the office of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers; Senator Bob Morton, and Francis Cullooyah, who presented the Kalispel Indian Tribe story. Special music was provided by the Frog Island Singers of the Kalispel Tribe, and the Sadie Halstead Middle School Band. Registered voters, who had lived in the county for many years were recognized. Articles from the time capsule from the courthouse cornerstone were displayed and a beautiful quilt made by Terri Ann Hedtke was auctioned off. Many people wore beautiful 1900 costumes.

In the afternoon, the North Pend Oreille Valley Lions Club furnished their 1920s era passenger train cars to take a large group to Cusick, and on to the Kalispel Tribe Camas Center where they enjoyed a delicious dinner similar to the one served to Governor Hay who visited the new county in 1911. The centennial theme has been and will be included in various events throughout the rest of the year. The Newport Miner has been publishing the highlights of the past years that will be included in a special centennial book.

Prior to 1911, what is now Pend Oreille County was part of the much larger Stevens County that stretched for 25,000 square miles from the Idaho border to the Columbia River. From 1879 to 1911, nine counties were carved from Stevens County. Between 1900 and 1910 major changes took place along the Pend Oreille River Valley. The Great Northern and the Idaho & Washington Northern Railroads brought in hundreds of homesteaders and settlers. The pioneers cut down trees, cleared land and built homes and farms. A number of communities such as Newport, Ione, Metaline Falls and scores of others sprang up. Major businesses, such as the large cement plant in Metaline Falls, and sawmills including the big Ione Panhandle Lumber Company were started. Agriculture flourished throughout the area.

Along with growth of population and businesses came serious discussions about several problems. One problem was the lack of adequate roads to the county courthouse in Colville. It took settlers in the Pend Oreille Valley almost a week to take care of legal business at the courthouse.

Another problem was that of equal and fair representation in the State Legislature in Olympia. At that time, each county had one representative to the legislature. Out of the 77 voting precincts in the Stevens County at that time, the east side only had 17. Then there was the realization that many of the tax dollars from the east side of Stevens County were going to projects to benefit the west side. So in 1906 when the valuation of the east side reached almost a million and half dollars, voices were beginning to be heard for some kind of change. There were some efforts of compromise but none really solved the problems.

After a number of hot and stormy discussions, groups were formed under the leadership of Fred Wolf, lobbyist, and owner/publisher of the Newport Miner, and Fred Trumbull, an attorney from Ione. At the opening of the State legislature in early 1911, Newport businessmanS.T. Appleman, Stevens’ County representative, and Senator Oliver Hall of Colfax, were able tosway the legislature towards the idea of creating a new county. Oliver Hall had close ties to Ione and the Sullivan Lake region and was sympathetic to the division. On March 1, 1911 the bill to create a new county was passed and signed by Governor Hay.

The new county included almost 935,000 acres and was about 67 miles in length and around 23 miles in width. Towering mountains, the wild north-flowing Pend Oreille River, streams and lakes, miles of virgin forests, rich ores and the fertile flood plains in the Calispel, Pend Oreille, and Little Spokane River valleys were part of the new county.

Following the division was the question of a name for the new county. Several names were suggested such as Allen for John B. Allen, the first United States Senator from Washington and Calispel. However, Fred Wolf felt the name Pend Oreille was familiar to most people in the area. The name came from the early French Canadian fur trappers who claimed the early Indian tribes wore shell earrings. On May 1911, Governor Hay took a special trip to tour the new county. He received warm welcomes with much fanfare, parades, and speeches from the residents in all the little towns. The Newport Miner had flowery words to describe his trip:

“He sat in the observation car, to observe the unrolling of the exquisite platform of the fertile fields, beautiful woodlands and snowcapped mountains as his special train whirled alongside the mirrored Pend Oreille River.”

After his long exciting trip throughout the county, the Governor was treated and honored by a special dinner with music and speeches in the new Martin Hotel in Newport.

The past hundred years have brought many changes to our area. This centennial year, we honor the past and look to the future.

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