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N.N. Brown – Hotel man traveled far & wide

By on July 29, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Rod Molzahn

Rod Molzahn

“Three meals and a bed, $1.25 – $2.00 a day.” 

The Republic (the Wenatchee Daily World’s competitor) ran that advertisement in 1912 for the Elberta, Wenatchee’s finest hotel. 

The Elberta was owned by Noah (N.N.) Brown and his brother, George. 

N.N. and George were brothers to Deak Brown, the first settler in the Monitor area. 

Deak had been writing glowing reports of the Wenatchee Valley to his brothers in California, letters that persuaded them to join him in his new found paradise. In 1885 they agreed to make the move.

George and N.N., with his wife, Addie, planned to meet Deak at The Dalles but he wasn’t there when they arrived. They went on to Goldendale where they found brother Deak. 

From there they headed north with horses and a fully loaded wagon. When they attempted to ford the Yakima River, the wagon high centered on a large rock. All the contents had to be completely unloaded and carried to the north shore before the wagon would float free.

Once they reached the Wenatchee Valley, George claimed a homestead near Deak’s. N.N. took over a relinquishment homestead from Tom Owens, a friend of Deak’s who had moved on. 

George raised cattle on his land. N.N. and Addie lived in the one-room cabin on their land for six months then obtained a patent on the land by paying the government $2.50 per acre.

The Brown brothers: from left, George, Noah (N.N.) and Deak.

N.N. was not a farmer. After getting title to his homestead, he moved to Ellensburg to engage in his first love, the hotel business. 

He bought the Forrest Hotel and ran it profitably until 1889 when a town fire destroyed most of Ellensburg including the Forrest Hotel. 

Not ones to be easily beaten, N.N. and Addie spent the next six months traveling in Europe.

On returning to Washington, N.N. opened a hotel in Dayton, operating it until moving back to Wenatchee in 1891. In the spring of 1892, anticipating the coming of the Great Northern Railroad, N.N. hired Jake Miller (nephew of Phillip) to build Wenatchee’s first hotel, the Watson. 

Jake Miller recalled that the hotel was built board-and-batten style with green lumber. It wasn’t long until the lumber began to warp and cracks grew between the boards. 

Pages from many and varied newspapers were tacked up over the cracks to keep the wind at bay. Hotel guests could lie in bed and read the news, new and old, from their choice of many towns and cities.

The year 1892 also saw strong anti-Chinese sentiments take hold in Wenatchee. 

In March a public meeting was held to find a solution to the “Chinese problem.” The vote, led by Mike Horan and Frank Reeves, was nearly unanimous. Only N.N. Brown refused to approve the measure “to see that no Chinamen were permitted to locate within the limits of Wenatchee.”

After a year, N.N. sold the Watson Hotel at a good profit. He moved back to Ellensburg where he opened a large restaurant. He did well in spite of the financial depression that gripped the whole country from 1893 on for several years.

In 1896 N.N. sold the restaurant and moved to Yakima to operate a hotel there. That lasted only a short time before the Klondike gold rush in Alaska got his attention. 

He reached Dawson in September of 1897. He wasn’t there to dig for gold but for the business profits to be made from the men who found the gold. 

N.N. quickly took a job as the night clerk in a Dawson hotel at a salary of $450 per month. While working at the hotel N.N. turned a good profit when, along with partners, he platted and sold the lots in the new town of Eagle City. 

In 1899 N.N. was carrying mail by dogsled from Nome to St. Michaels, a round trip that took over 40 days.

The sojourn to Alaska ended the next year when he returned, once again, to Washington State. 

N.N., along with brother George, opened a hotel in Reardon, near Spokane. The brothers owned the Hotel Reardon for several years. 

George found a wife there in the person of Marguerite Lutzhoft, a hotel employee recently arrived from Germany.

In 1901, once the Hotel Reardon was up and running, N.N. and George returned to Wenatchee and bought the Bell Hotel. They closed the hotel and did extensive remodeling and updating then re-opened as the Elberta. 

Rufus Woods recalled that when he first arrived in town in 1904 the Elberta was “the principal hotel in Wenatchee.”

It’s not clear when N.N. and Addie divorced but in 1906 he married Jessie Walton. Three months later George married Marguerite and brought her back to his homestead in Monitor where he built her a new house.

N.N. was never interested in public office but was always interested in the public good. 

He was a strong advocate for the apple industry and a charter member of the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce. He was a great booster of the community in all ways and took an active part in pressing for the 1908 construction of the wagon/irrigation bridge across the Columbia as well as the need for the state to buy the bridge and make it part of the highway system. 

By then N.N. and Jessie were spending winters in California and summers hunting and fishing on the upper Entiat and Methow rivers.

N.N. had been a prolific writer for years contributing many columns to the Wenatchee Daily World. He wrote extensive travelogue descriptions of he and Jessie’s California winters and their summer “hunt and shoot” outings. 

Their favorite Methow hunting was on what N.N. called the north fork of the Methow, now known as the Chewuch River. 

In December of 1912, in a Wenatchee Daily World story, he described a hunt when Jessie Brown got a deer. 

“We saw a spike buck standing on a ledge not over 50 yards away. Mrs. Brown’s chance had presented itself. I handed her my 30-30 and resting it against the side of a pine tree she took aim and fired. The buck fell, shot through the small of the back. 

“She had the distinction of being the only woman who had shot and killed a deer in that region.”

Their frequent hunting and fishing trips with friends up the Entiat River earned N.N. the title of “Mayor of Silver Creek.” 

He summed up his love of the outdoors in a 1912 article. “If business interferes with your pleasures or health, get off a couple weeks, go into the high mountains, rusticate, hunt, fish, eat camp cooking, drink pure water, forget business and come back a new person.”

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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