A 125-year-old book reveals a lot about our state

ACROSS OUR STATE by Jerri Honeyford


Jerri Honeyford

Each biennium of the legislature, a manual is published with the rules of the proceedings of the legislature and the people involved. Since we’ve been coming to Olympia, it has always been bound in red so is nicknamed the little red book.

Imagine my surprise when a gentleman we know found the first legislative manual on EBay, purchased it, then let us look at it. What a piece of history! It is full of 125-year-old facts.

Like all legislative manuals it begins with the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Washington. It gives the rules of the House and the rules of the Senate.

From that point on, it differs greatly.

The 1889 version tells the story of becoming a state, of the growth of the railroad, of the oldest person, of populations and lands and water crafts, of shipping, of lumber exports, even the history of some of the counties.

The first general election of the State of Washington chose the governor, Elisha Ferry, and all the state elected officers. It also ratified the newly written constitution by a vote of 40,152-11,879, turned down women’s suffrage (35,613-16,527) and turned down prohibition (31,487-19,546). The state capital vote was Olympia 25,496, North Yakima 14,711, Ellensburg 12,833 and others less than 2,000. If Ellensburg and Yakima could have joined together to pool their votes, we would have had our state capital quite near!

The 34 counties of the State of Washington in 1889 were divided into 24 districts. Representation was by population of the district. The first House of Representatives held 70 men - 62 Republicans, seven Democrats and on Independent. The first Senate was composed of 35 men, 34 of them Republicans. Six of the senators were born out of the country - in England, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Wale, and Canada. Eight of them had served in the Union Army during the “rebellion”.

Our county was assigned to the 9th district, which was combined with Douglas County. Our senator in 1889 was J.M. Snow, who was born in Maine and came to Washington Territory in 1869. He was trained as a civil engineer and a surveyor. After helping to survey the territory, he was appointed as Seattle city engineer. In preparation for statehood, Snow was appointed probate judge for Douglas County.

Our county also had one representative, 34-year-old John Cleman, a farmer from North Yakima. He was born in Oregon in 1855 and moved with his family to the Wenas in 1865, farming in the area we now know as Selah. Cleman was a Yakima County commissioner when elected to the House.

The population of the state was 239,544. Yakima County was populated by 1,416 men over the age of 21, 725 women over 21 and had a total population of 4,408 men, women and children. Tribal members were uncounted.

North Yakima was the county seat. All the county officers were men with the exception of Miss Hilda Engdahl, the School Superintendent. The county commissioners were J. Stevenson, D. Sinclair and J.M. Brown.

The nearest Superior Court was in Ellensburg and serviced Klickitat, Kittitas and Yakima counties. There were three Justices of the Peace, one each in North Yakima, Wenas and Prosser.

Yakima County listed 12 post offices: Brown, Cowiche, Fort Simcoe, Kiona, Moxie, North Yakima, Prosser, Tampico, Tehe (Kennewick), Webb, Wenas (Selah) and Yakima (Union Gap). As you can tell, Benton County was formed later out of Yakima.

There were 62 banks in the state. The two in Yakima County were both in North Yakima - First National Bank and Yakima National Bank.

Those are some of the facts from this small, old volume. Next wee,k we’ll tell some of the stories.

‑ Jerri Honeyford, wife of Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside), provides her “Across our State” column while the couple is in Olympia.


Comments are subject to moderator review and may not appear immediately on the site.

Please read our commenting policy before posting.

Any comment violating the site's commenting guidelines will be removed and the user could be banned from the site.

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment