Washtucna: A History

Washtucna: A History

Washtucna stands in the floodplain of the Great Missoula Floods, which carved out the familiar crevices including the Washtucna and Grand coulees. The silt and loam left behind created a land perfect for wheat. However, Washtucna, named after a Palouse Indian chief, began as a small horse ranch south of Spokane and Fort Colville in 1878. The ranch was home to George Basset, originally from Iowa, and his wife Alice. By 1891 it had grown to a town sustaining several wheat farmers with an output rivaling the Midwest. The town was officially incorporated in 1903 and by 1909 the population had grown to approximately 400.

Located in Adams County, it was considered a thriving community with access to the railway system due to its heavy production of wheat. The 1909 Census noted that Washtucna (along with Ritzville and Lind) had “schools, churches, warehouses, mercantile establishments, and all enjoy an abundance of prosperity from the marketing of the crops.” In 1903, the first council meeting was held and the first ordinances for the town were written down.

Mayor Charles T. Booth presided over the meeting and it was ordered and written by the temporary clerk that $500 would be put aside for the Treasury of Washtucna. Booth remained mayor until at least 1906.

Wheat continued to be the main source of the town’s wealth, but as the years went by growth stalled and cities such as Spokane and Seattle grew. Echoing many small rural towns, Washtucna’s population declined due to the consolidation of agriculture, smaller families, and the closing rail system. However, today the town is still home to over two hundred people and doing well. Just recently, five Washtucna Elementary School students lobbied for Palouse Falls to become known as the State waterfall. The students officially submitted House Bill 2119 and gave their reasons as to why Palouse Falls should be recognized.