The earliest settlers of the Wenatchee Valley had to find a profitable crop for their small allotments of land.

The solution arrived with Philip Miller, a 37-year-old German native, who set foot into the Wenatchee Valley in 1872. He was the first to plant apple trees in our region with huge success - in the abundant Wenatchee sunshine. 

With the opening of rail travel across Stevens Pass in 1893, Apples, wheat, and other crops found their way onto the iron horses of the Great Northern Railway. Merchants from Seattle to Minneapolis would take in the harvest of our region.

In 1902, thirty years after Phillip Miller’s arrival - and many fruit orchards yielding huge bounties -  the iconic Wenatchee phrase “Apple Capital of the World,” was born.

The Arrival of Rufus Woods

In 1904, Rufus Woods, a young Nebraska native, relocated to Wenatchee. After serving as editor at both the Wenatchee Republic, and then the Wenatchee Advance - he took over as editor and publisher to the Wenatchee Daily World in 1907.

The year is 1908

A band played to a large gathering during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new black pipeline bridge. The completion of this bridge - brought irrigation water from Dryden to Rock Island.  Now, with water to properly irrigate fields on both sides of the Columbia - fruit production went to a whole new level.

Wenatchee Wagon Bridge over Columbia River (1910) CREDIT: Washington State Historical Society
Wenatchee Wagon Bridge over Columbia River (1910) CREDIT: Washington State Historical Society

The Newfound Economic Boom Needed Sanitary Solutions.

The early unpaved streets of Wenatchee struggled with horse manure. Garbage and sewage created problems for both downtown businesses and homes. From 1907 through 1909, Rufus Woods passionately addressed this foul problem and heavily encouraged town planners to address it.

Downtown Wenatchee (1908) CREDIT: Wenatchee Daily World
Downtown Wenatchee (1908) CREDIT: Wenatchee Daily World

‘Putrid Premises are the provinces of Pig Styes and Slaughter Houses’ was one of his well-served rants. In another, ‘filth accumulated in backyards and alleys' and their attendant 'putrefaction’ -Rufus Woods, Wenatchee Daily World

The early solution for the frighteningly awful conditions - was men cleaning up the sewage, each spring, when the town dethawed from a long winter. 

Pressure applied by Rufus Woods, to encourage our planners to clean up the town worked.

A  rudimentary sewer system was put in place in 1909, that simply diverted the raw sewage into the Columbia River. This was how our valley handled it until the year 1955.

There was some initial kickback from downtown merchants and homeowners who didn’t like the new “taxation.”  

Sanitation problems remained

The arrival of adequate refrigeration did not arrive until the early 1920s. Before pasteurization was commonplace, many children died of milk-borne diseases, such as bovine tuberculosis and typhoid.  

The harshest moment in this terrible era - was the summer of 1913. Many Wenatchee Valley families lost their young children. Rufus and Mary Woods also experienced the unthinkable - losing their first two children. 

‘Later, two more children were born. One of them, Wilfred, followed by his son, Rufus II, who would carry on with the Wenatchee Daily World.’ -

Rufus Woods (circa 1921)
Rufus Woods (circa 1921)


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