A Brief History

Settler William "Bud" Wilson had the first claim and built the first log cabin in 1868 where Ellensburg now stands. Cowboys A.J. Splawn and Ben Burch moved a 14 x 18 hewn log house to a spot nearby so they could open it as a store in 1870. John Gillispie, a young settler, made a sign for the store and dubbed it "Robber's Roost." Settlers were few and the post depended on trade in furs and horses with Native Americans to buy supplies. In 1872, John A. Shoudy bought the store and 160 acres of land. A Civil War veteran, he had come to the valley in 1871 as part of a business plan of his family in Seattle to create an improved road connection with the Yakima country. In 1873, John started postal service in Ellensburgh. John and his wife Mary Ellen platted the town and it was officially filed in April 1875. John named the new town Ellensburgh for his wife.

Between 1878 and 1883, the town grew dramatically. A bank was established, Hook and Ladder Company Number 1 was organized, the first newspaper, Kittitas Localizer, was published July 12, 1883. With a population of 2,768, it became the county seat of Kittitas County formed in 1883. The City of Ellensburgh was first incorporated on November 26, 1883 under a territorial act effective January 1, 1884. A second Charter of Incorporation was enacted by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Washington on January 28, 1886. City government was officially formed with the first election on February 26, and the first council meeting on March 2, 1886.

The first train of the Northern Pacific Railroad reached Ellensburgh March 31, 1886, helping to fuel a boom in building and population. The first telephone was installed in 1889 to connect two downtown stores. It wasn't until 1889 that Washington became a State, and Ellensburgh could have become the capital if a fire had not destroyed most of the city on July 4, 1889. The fire started in J.S. Anthony's Grocery store on the east side of Main Street, between Fourth and Fifth. The town recovered quickly, with brick buildings rising to replace the former wood ones. The first water system, and the City's sewer system, one of the first in Washington, was installed in 1889. In 1889, Ellensburgh became the home of Washington State Normal School, now Central Washington University. It opened in 1891. The City purchased the private electric lighting system from John Shoudy in 1890. The post office changed the spelling of the town's name to Ellensburg in 1894. The public library was begun in 1910.