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

The plain truth about Beaver Valley

By on May 31, 2017 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Rod Molzahn

A group of archeologists working for the U.S. Forest Service in 1986 began a survey and exploration of lands along the Rod Molzahnupper Wenatchee River. Just downstream from the river’s beginning they found signs of house pits and fire pits.

Four layers were excavated revealing habitation from 300 years B.P. (before present) for the top layer to 8,000 years B.P. for the deepest. Stone and bone projectile points and tools were found at all levels. It’s believed by some scientists that deeper layers hold even older evidence.

Signs of more village sites have been identified all along the river to the beginning of Tumwater Canyon.

The people of these villages hunted deer and elk as well as smaller fur bearing animals. They fished for whitefish and salmon and built large middens of discarded river mussel shells. There were village sites scattered along the river all through the valley that now holds the village of Plain.

The people of the villages lived their lifestyle with few changes for 8,000 years, fishing, hunting, gathering berries, digging roots and moving with the seasons.

In the early 1800s a small number of European men arrived and made a deal with the native people. The Indians could trade fur pelts to the white men in exchange for new technology; metal and cloth — knives and axes, shirts and pants. Sometimes they got smallpox and measles along with the technology.

The fur trade held sway through the 1830s until the natural resource — fur bearing animals — grew thin.

The traders stopped coming and the people of the villages went back to their now changed life in the valley.

Contact with white men held at almost zero until the late 1850s. In 1856 Colonel George Wright and a contingent of army soldiers made a show of force march across the mountains from the Kittitas Valley to the Wenatchee River at the mouth of Peshastin Creek. They were looking for renegade Yakima Indians.

The soldiers didn’t travel up the river to the valley and its villages but word of the white men surely found its way to the village people.

Two years later soldiers did come to the valley. Lt. George Crook and 60 men came looking for Yakima and Sinkiuse Indians accused of attacking a party of white miners at the Wenatchee/Columbia Confluence.

At a village near the site of modern Plain they found and executed four of the accused then, low on food, returned down the Wenatchee River to their main camp at the Columbia Confluence.

By 1860 nearly a thousand Chinese placer miners were panning for gold along the Wenatchee. Some had worked their way to the upper river and were mining through the Plain valley and up the Chiwawa River as far as Alder Creek.

By 1880 the Chinese were gone and the village people (who called themselves P’Squose) had the valley to themselves again. Over the next 10 years settlers and farms moved up the lower Wenatchee Valley towards the Tumwater Canyon.

Beaver Valley and its villages, difficult to reach, were overlooked.

That ended in 1891 when Edom (Charlie) Shugart homesteaded on a big flat that would, in time, bear his name. John Mathews must have claimed land about the same time because he sold his claim to W.W. Burgess the next year.

The arrival of the settlers marked the beginning of logging the forest that covered the valley. Fields had to be cleared for crops and stock, fences built to surround them and houses and barns put up. The P’Squose people had neighbors.

In 1893 a government survey crew came to the valley to locate a six mile square (township size) reservation at the confluence of the Chiwawa and Wenatchee rivers. The reservation was for all the P’Squose people living along the Wenatchee River from the Columbia River to Lake Wenatchee.

The 1855 Yakima Treaty with the U.S. government had promised the P’Squose people a township sized reservation surrounding the great salmon fishery at the forks of the Wenatchee and Icicle rivers.

No P’Squose people ever moved to the reservation at the Chiwawa.

In 1904 the Lamb Davis Sawmill began operation in Leavenworth. The company owned 55,000 acres of timber in the Lake Wenatchee, Chumstick and Beaver Valley areas, They intended to log it all.

For the growing number of farmers in Beaver Valley logging was an income bonanza. The promise of irrigation for cropland came to the farmers in 1911 when a real estate development company bought substantial land holdings from Lamb Davis to plat into farms. They built a 13-mile long irrigation ditch to serve the farms. The company went bankrupt but the irrigation ditch survived.

The farmers had always called their home Beaver Valley. When the Wenatchee Park Development Co. was formed and platted out their farmland they also applied for a post office. They said the town was called Wenatchee Park.

The postal service turned that down saying it was too easily confused with the town down river.

A list of new names was submitted including Beaver Valley. A postal bureaucrat in Washington D.C. chose the name Plain.

Historian, actor and teacher Rod Molzahn can be reached at shake.speak@verizon.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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