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Northern Kittitas County Historical Society (NKCHS)

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Cle Elum FIRSTS
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NORTHERN KITTITAS COUNTY HISTORY

 

1883             Thomas Gamble and Walter Reed buy a quarter section of farm land in what

                    later becomes Cle Elum.  Indian name for Cle Elum is Tle-el-um meaning “Swiftwater.”

 

1886             Reed plats 65 acres of his land into a townsite and builds the Reed Hotel next to               

                    the Northern Pacific rail lines after it reaches Cle Elum in October.  His partner, Thomas  

                    Johnson, moves his lumber mill from Wilsonville in Grant County to the outskirts of town

                    anticipating a building boom. Two miles to the northwest, the Northern Pacific Coal

                    Company opens the No. 1 mine and sends their Vice President, Logan Bullitt, to plat a

                    town he dubs Roslyn.  Walter Reed’s cabin becomes the first school in Cle Elum and

                    is used until 1890.

 

1887             Northern Pacific Railway completes rail service over Stampede Pass which connects

                    Cle Elum to Seattle, and finishes the Stampede Tunnel the following year.

 

1888             Roslyn incorporates as a city in Washington Territory. In late July, a fire starts on  

                    Second Street and burns the entire business district.

 

1889             Roslyn businesses rebuild and the town is reincorporated after Washington gains     

                    statehood.

 

1891             A forest fire burns to the edge of Cle Elum, destroying Pennsylvania Avenue’s

                    business district.

 

1892             Roslyn's No. 1 Mine explodes May 10th and kills 45 miners, becoming the

                    worst coal mine disaster in Washington State history. Aid pours in from surrounding              

                    communities and from across the Pacific Northwest.  Four months later, the McCarty Gang

                    robs the Ben Snipes and Company Bank in Roslyn. They missed the company’s payroll,

                    some $40,000 in gold coins that had been stashed in the company store over the weekend,

                    but none of the five robbers were ever convicted of the crime.

 

1898             Northern Pacific Coal Company becomes the Northwest Improvement  Company (a

                    subsidiary of Northern Pacific Railroad)  and build their flagship company store on  

                    Roslyn’s corner of First Street and Pennsylvania Ave.

 

1900             John Balmer, hearing Kittitas County has more days of sunshine than any other

                    region in the state, builds the Balmer Greenhouse in Cle Elum and operates a

                    lucrative business for 28 years.

        

1901             The Northwest Improvement Company (N.W.I.)  builds their second company

                    store in Cle Elum. Cle Elum’s first “crank and holler” telephone is installed in the

                    Stafford Mercantile General Store on Pennsylvania Ave.

 

1902             Teasdale Williams forms the Cle Elum City Band who initially wear green

                    uniforms, but later change to maroon and black. The band’s most famous leader, James                  

                    Bertello, moves to Cle Elum in 1905. Under his direction, Bertello’s Band becomes an upper  

                    county icon for nearly 50 years.

                

1903             Cle Elum is incorporated.  N.W.I. General Manager, B.F. Bush, fronts the money to      

                    build a recreational center in Roslyn for his employees. The Roslyn Athletic Club (later   

                    the Y.M.C.A.) becomes the center of Roslyn social activities.  President Theodore  

                    Roosevelt’s train stops in Cle Elum where 4,000 people gather to see him.

 

1904             Frank Carpenter opens the Cle Elum State Bank and two years later moves

                    his enterprise into a new brick building on First Street.

                

1906             The Roslyn Cle Elum Beneficial Hospital is built on Hospital Hill in Cle Elum. It

                    burns down in 1909 and is replaced with a brick structure.

 

1908             Two carloads of N.W.I. blasting powder explode during unloading about three

                    quarters of a mile from downtown Cle Elum. The wife of one of the miners living 

                    in a nearby tent is killed along with three N.W.I. employees and four miners.

                

1909             A transcontinental car race from New York to Seattle marks the opening of the

       Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (A.Y P.E.).in Seattle. To the delight of Cle Elum

                    spectators, the drivers of the winning car pull up in front of the Cle Elum

                    State Bank and take a short nap before heading over Snoqualmie Pass.

                    The No. 4 Mine (better known as “The Shaft”) explodes Sunday, Oct. 3, killing

                    10 men doing maintenance work on the mine. The Roslyn Fire Department,

                    aided by the Cle Elum Fire Department, fight several roof fires ignited by

                    embers from the explosion.  The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad  

                    completes its line over Snoqualmie Pass and through South Cle Elum where they build   

                    a depot.

 

1910             In early March, an avalanche rips through the Skookum Copper Mine on the Teanaway    

                    Ridge. A few months earlier, the mine had won top prizes at the A.Y.P.E. for its high     

                    quality ore. The mine’s outside workings were destroyed and the mine company later  

                    filed for bankruptcy and never rebuilt.  The Roslyn School District population grows to    

                    approximately 1400 children and the Roslyn High School is completed.  N.W.I. builds its  

                    third company store in Ronald.

 

1911             South Cle Elum is incorporated.  The federal government begins its postal savings

                    program which encourages immigrants to deposit savings in their local post office   

                    instead of hiding it under their mattresses. Roslyn soon has the highest savings rate for

                    a city its size in the state.

 

1912             The Roslyn Hotel catches fire, but no one is injured except for the cook who

                    jumped from the second story window to escape the fire.  Roslyn’s Y.M.C.A. also burns    

                    and is replaced by a two-story wood frame building with double stair entry (which

                    becomes City Hall in 1918).

 

1913             Excavation begins at the west end of Cle Elum’s Second Street on the Kittitas

                    Railway and Power Company line, a proposed electric railway between Cle Elum and   

                    Salmon La Sac that would access mines in the Fish Lake area. A log depot is built at      

                    Salmon La Sac before French financiers back out with war threatening in Europe. The

                    electric rail line is never built.


1915             Washington State's second annual Mine Rescue and First Aid Meet is held in

                    Cle Elum with 13 teams competing on Pennsylvania Avenue and at the ballpark on third  

                    street.  Safeway opens a store in Cle Elum.

 

1916             A February storm dumps over five feet of snow, collapsing roofs and shutting down

                    railroad traffic. Ronald, Roslyn and Cle Elum are cut off from the rest of the world until  

                    crews dig out rail lines.

 

1918             Fire starts on Cle Elum's Pennsylvania Ave. and burns much of the downtown area.

 

1920             The road between Cle Elum and Roslyn is paved after upper county voters approve a

                    road bond.

 

1923             Pacific Northwest Bell builds a new brick telephone building on the corner of Cle  

                    Elum's First Street and Wright Ave. The Eagles Temple and the Episcopalian  

                    Church on Second Street are also completed.  The Cle Elum Echo and Roslyn's

                    Cascade Miner merge and become the Miner-Echo, the official newspaper for Upper

                    Kittitas County.

 

1924             No. 3 Mine in Ronald is closed down for three years while N.W.I. modernizes

                    its operation to make it competitive in commercial markets.

                

1928             A still underneath Falcon Hall in Ronald explodes, killing the operator and burning 30

                    homes. The still was one of the largest in the state supplying moonshine for many

                    establishments in Seattle.

 

1932             The second annual Pacific Northwest Ski Tournament is held at the Summit Lodge two

                    miles from town on the Cle Elum Ridge. Over 3,000 spectators watch ski jumpers  

                    launch from a 75 ft. jump tower, one of the most challenging in the nation.  The Bureau

                    of Reclamation dam on Lake Cle Elum is finished and work begins on the canals and

                    lateral work.

 

1934             The Western Coal Miners’ efforts to supplant the United Mine Workers of America's in

                    upper county leads to a bitter coal mine strike requiring outside law enforcement to

                    restore the peace.

                

1936             Cle Elum builds a swimming pool and the Miner Echo moves to its new location on the

                    corner of Second Street and Pennsylvania.

 

1937             Coal in No. 7 Mine in Cle Elum is exhausted and the mine is closed.

 

1944             A forest fire sweeping the Cle Elum Ridge destroys the Summit Ski Club Lodge and ski

                    jump where annual ski jump tournaments were held in the 1920s and early 1930s.

                    Roslyn's Knights of Pythias building on Second Street burns, destroying the Rose

                    Theatre.

                

1947             No. 5 Mine closes due to decreased coal demand.

 

1955             The N.W.I. store in Roslyn closes.

 

1963             The No. 9 Mine closes, which ends mining in the Roslyn Cle Elum Coal Field.

 

1966             Cle Elum switches to automatic dialing, the last telephone office in the Pacific

                    Northwest Bell Telephone service area covering Washington, Oregon and Northern Idaho.             

                    Fire destroys the Ronald sawmill, which employed 50 men and provided the largest payroll in

                    upper county.