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History of Ellensburg

About Ellensburg

Ellensburg, the county seat of Kittitas County, lies three miles from the junction of the Yakima River and Wilson Creek, at Washington's geographic center. The Kittitas band of Yakama Indians and other Columbia plateau tribes congregated around the location. The town was formed in 1871 by John Shoudy and Mary Ellen Stewart Shoudy, who platted the first streets in 1875.


Ellensburg Expansion

The town expanded substantially between 1878 and 1883. A bank was created, Hook and Ladder Company Number 1 was formed, and on July 12, 1883, the first newspaper, Kittitas Localizer, was launched.

With a population of 2,768, it was established as the county seat of Kittitas County in 1883. Ellensburg was formed for the first time on November 26, 1883, under territorial legislation that took effect on January 1, 1884.

On January 28, 1886, the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Washington passed the second Charter of Incorporation. The first election was held on February 26, 1886, and the first council meeting was held on March 2, 1886.

The Northern Pacific Railroad's first train arrived in Ellensburg on March 31, 1886, fueling construction and population boom. In 1889, the first telephone was constructed to connect two downtown establishments.

Ellensburg on Map
Ellensburg on Map

Latest History

Washington did not become a state until 1889, and Ellensburg may have become the capital if a fire had not destroyed much of the city on July 4, 1889. The fire originated in J.S. Anthony's Grocery on Main Street's east side, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues.

The town swiftly rebounded, with brick buildings emerging to replace the previous wooden ones. The first water system, as well as the City's sewer system, was built in 1889, making it one of the earliest in Washington.

Ellensburg became the site of Washington State Normal School, which is now Central Washington University, in 1889. It first opened in 1891. In 1890, the City bought the private electric lighting system from John Shoudy.

In 1894, the post office altered the spelling of the town's name to Ellensburg. The public library was established in 1910.