"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Early newspaper couple circulated around

By on April 23, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

Rod MolzahnBy Rod Molzahn

George Blair parked his wagon on the main street of Ellensburg where his horse, “Old Sam,” could get a drink and a meal.

Blair pulled back the tarp uncovering a load of his Wenatchee Valley peaches and put up the for sale sign.

It was the fall of 1890 and one of his customers that day was Frank Reeves, the young publisher, along with his wife Belle, of Ellensburg’s first newspaper, The Ellensburg Register.

They had moved from Post Falls, Idaho earlier that year where they both taught school and Frank worked part time for the Spokane Spokesman newspaper.

During his time with the Spokane paper, Frank met Judge Thomas Burke and Morgan Carkeek, Seattle businessmen and developers, who were trying to raise interest in their new town site on the Wenatchee Flat.

They told Reeves that a newspaper in the town was needed.

Wenatchee’s first newspaper publishers, Frank and Belle Reeves. Photo from Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center 005-74-284.

With the group was Judge George Turner boosting the new town of Ellensburg. Judge Turner said the new town needed a democratic leaning newspaper. The Reeves decided on Ellensburg and by the summer of 1890 they were publishing their weekly paper.

Just months later George Blair and his peaches came to town.

Belle Reeves recalled the story of the peaches in a 1913 Wenatchee Daily World story.

“Frank bought some and, on finding out they came from Wenatchee, said he wanted to go to that place.”

The following spring he sold the Ellensburg Register, packed a few things and headed over Colockum Pass.

Belle stayed behind for a week then came over with their belongings and the metal type they kept back from the sale of the Register.

During that week Frank went to Waterville and bought a “Washington hand press” from L.E. Kellogg when his paper, The Big Bend Empire, merged with the Waterville Emigrant.

Frank hauled the press down the Corbaley Canyon Road and crossed the Columbia on the ferry to Wenatchee.

Belle was waiting with the type and on May 17, 1891 she set that type for the first issue of the town’s first newspaper, the democratic leaning Wenatchee Advance.

The Reeve’s arrival in Wenatchee swelled the white population in town to 108, too small to create much news. Belle said, “When we first came here we had to write about the hills as there was nothing else to write about.”

That was not entirely true.

The Wenatchee Development Company, headed by Judge Burke, Morgan Carkeek and other Seattle investors, wanted to move the existing town, “Old Town,” from the Miller and Springwater intersection a mile south to a location along the Columbia River adjacent to the proposed route of the Great Northern tracks.

There was strong resistance to the plan.

In exchange for a small building and lot in the new town the Reeves had agreed to use their “democratic” paper to promote the town move. They were successful.

Belle and Frank Reeves published the Advance for two years before selling the paper to O.B. Fuller and L.E. Kellogg, the man who had sold them the press from Waterville.

Frank and Belle moved to Leavenworth and started that town’s first newspaper, The Leavenworth Times.

Belle recalled “the newspaper business in that small community did not prove to be very profitable so it was necessary to have several sidelines.”

She was elected recorder for the District of Leavenworth. Since the town sat on the dividing line, the Wenatchee River, between Kittitas and Okanogan Counties, Belle recorded deeds and mining claims and sent the papers off to either Ellensburg or Conconully depending on which side of the river the transactions occurred.

Belle had learned short hand during normal school in Kansas. She was hired to take depositions for the Leavenworth Justice Court.

In the 1896 state election campaign she was correspondent for the Spokane Spokesman and the Seattle Post Intelligencer charged with taking down and reporting on political speeches. She also taught short hand to Leavenworth school students.

In 1900, Chelan County was formed with Wenatchee as the county seat.

The Reeves sold the Leavenworth Times and moved back to Wenatchee.

Frank opened a law office. He had gotten a law degree in Kansas before he and Belle married in 1899 but he couldn’t practice because he was not yet 21.

His practice in Wenatchee was an immediate success. He was the first elected prosecuting attorney for the new county and served two terms.

In 1914 he was elected to the state legislature from Chelan County, a life-long democrat in a strong republican district.

By the early 1920s Frank Reeves had given up the law business and turned his attention to managing their 100-acre orchard.

With the burden of her occupational sidelines lifted, Belle became involved in a long list of social and community service groups from the Good Templars and the Whitman School PTA to the Wenatchee Garden Club.

In her words she became “a joiner” until “there were no more days or nights in the month.”

All that joining led to her election in 1922 to the state House of Representatives from Chelan County.

On a Friday, three days before the election, a group of Belle’s friends, unhappy with the available candidates, proposed that Belle run as a write-in candidate. She won and went on to serve eight sessions until February of 1938 when Governor Martin appointed her to complete an unfinished term as Secretary of State.

She was elected to the office in 1940 and re-elected in 1944 by the largest vote ever cast for a public official in the state of Washington. Belle Culp Reeves died in office in 1948 at the age of 78.

Frank Reeves never saw those successes of his wife.

In 1933, while sitting in the House Chamber in Olympia listening to his representative wife deliver a speech to the legislature, a sudden heart attack took his life.

Historian, actor and teacher Rod Molzahn can be reached at shake.speak@nwi.net. His third history CD, Legends & Legacies Vol. III – Stories of Wenatchee and North Central Washington, is now available at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center and at other locations throughout the area.

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