Naches: A History of the Town Where the Orchards
Meet the Forests
by Patricia Brown
The year was 1853 when bright flags of autumn signaled members
of the Longmire wagon train that winter with its snow-shrouded passes
was on its way. Through the Selah Valley, over the hump to the Naches
Valley, and across the Cascades went the long queue of wagons, its
members little dreaming that the path their wheels marked would
be well rutted by others following their pioneer course before the
town called Naches would come into its own. Thus the history of
the community of Naches begins.
With sights set on coastal turf, most of the people in these wagon
trains pushed on toward the Pacific. Still, some stayed behind,
opting for the mild climate that nurtured their hopes of claiming
this land for their own.
They planted the seeds of orchards and went about establishing
herds of dairy cows and cattle. The people themselves who were first
among the westward movement of white settlers to claim the Naches
Valley traced patterns of lineage to Anglo-Saxon and Scotch forbearers.
They were a hearty breed, determined to build and maintain their
With a steadily growing number of young families came the need
for a school closer than the Wenas. The school spawned by Naches'
early settlers became known as the Eureka (or "Yreka")
School. This tiny outpost of learning located originally on the
flat east of the Allan brothers' property became the foundation
for the formation of East Eureka School District #12 which was renamed
School District #83 in 1908.
Religion too, was early a part of Upper Valley daily life. Presbyterians
in search of a church traveled to Yakima during the 1870s to attend
services until Naches could petition for a separate organization
in 1884. Doubling as chapel, the Eureka schoolhouse hosted weekly
services for the Naches Presbyterian Mission.
Having attained such community accoutrements as school and church,
this gateway to the pass, this loose settlement of orchard and agrarian
interests was beginning to take on the appearance of a town.
"Natchez" it was called at first. Gateway to the pass
for some, it was the entry point to a quiet valley for others.
Homesteaders bearing the names Denton, Hecox, and Sinclair were
joined in 1905 under the aegis of West and Wheeler Land Company
to form the town site. Today, the main section of Naches stands
on this original site.
The Northern Pacific Railroad came to Natchez in 1906, but it was
the shuttle train tagged "Sagebrush Annie" that would
establish a twice daily commuter link between Naches and the Yakima
Shortly after the 1906 appointment of the Upper Valley town's first
postmaster, William H. Bennington, the town moved to change the
spelling of its name from "Natchez" to "Naches".
While names may be changed or rearranged, the spirit of the place
has remained very much intact during the century or so since the
Naches Valley's original settlement. A small town bent on staying
small, Naches has never been in any great hurry to catch up with
its more urban neighborhood to the east.
Relying on fruit and forest for employment of its townsfolk, Naches
has always set a careful guard around its community sense of independence.
History shows that lumber for the first store on Main Street was
hauled from the Wenas Mill for Harry Painter. Continued growth brought
the town's incorporation in 1922. A population of 300 made use of
Naches' businesses, post office, church, school, and Painter's store.
Lewis Smith was the town's first mayor.
Orville Smith and Charles Dower added a circular sawmill to the
town's limited industry in 1935. So successful did the mill's operation
prove that the Orr brothers, Stanley and Perry, joined Smith and
Dower to help boost output. This sawmill was later purchased by
Cascade Lumber Company.
With the advent of such thriving business ventures, Naches residents
saw the need for a volunteer arm of community service to watch over
their little town.
Founded in 1909, the Naches Commercial Club played an important
role in accomplishing such nuts and bolt community tasks as better
roads as well as laying the groundwork for community celebrations
which are remembered each year as Naches residents deck out the
town for Sportsman's Day.
Naches remains a small town. People who live there value the town's
scale and its built-in opportunities for getting to know their neighbors.
Located at a point where forests of pine and fir meet domestic orchards
full in season of the fruit that put Naches on the map, this Upper
Valley gateway to the Cascades can look back on a century of measured
progress in the business of putting in practice the theory "small
We're proud of our town's history and look forward to building
on that history for a future we can be proud of as well.
Interesting Stories of Naches' History:
The First Wagon Train over
To learn more about Sagebrush Annie see this Ellensbur gDaily Record article from March 25, 1960 - So Long Sagebrush Annie
and this Photo of Sagebrush Annie