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Great Northern Railway

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The Great Northern Railway and the Wenatchee Development Company
Build a New Town

Great Northern Railway 2Although located as a mid-point between Spokane and Seattle, the Wenatchee Valley was largely inaccessible because it is surrounded by mountains. Despite topographical limitations, the City's great potential as a productive agricultural region and business center did not go unnoticed. With this vision in mind, a group of Seattle businessman formed the Wenatchee Improvement Company in December 1890 to acquire property and build a town.

The Great Northern Railway would eventually help spur development of new towns and provide important transcontinental service for many communities along its vast route through the upper Midwest, northern Great Plains, and the Pacific Northwest. In early 1892, the Wenatchee Development Company, in close consultation with the Great Northern Railway, surveyed and platted the present site of Wenatchee. On May 6, 1892, this plat was filed with Kittitas County (Chelan County had not yet been created), and lots were placed on the open market the same month. Within five days, $100,000 worth of property was sold.

By the late 1890s, Wenatchee was growing considerably and the need for a new county became clear. Ellensburg was the Kittitas County seat, but was separated from the Wenatchee Valley by a range of mountains. It proved inaccessible during the winter except via Spokane or Seattle by railroad, making it difficult for Wenatchee citizens to make the trek to Ellensburg for business purposes. The state legislature created Chelan County in 1899, carving it out of the existing Kittitas and Okanogan Counties.