Page 2 — Riverside 100 Years
The Chronicle — December 11, 2013
County’s trading centered on Riverside
By Dee Camp The Chronicle
IVERSIDE – The city hasn’t always been called Riverside, and for a time it was a bit upstream, but by 1900 it was Okanogan County’s foremost trading center and its promoters had their sights on even loftier goals. A Seattle syndicate promoted “Okanogan City” in 1897, but the effort failed despite some heavy campaigning by the Palmer Mountain Prospector newspaper in Loomis. On June 18, 1897, the newspaper said, “A new town is spring up in the county, of which but little has been said and not a great deal known even by those living within a radius of a few miles. The fledgling that is gradually coming into existence without blare of trumpets, an elaborate blue print plat, and a giltedge prospectus that promises abundant riches to every lot investor, is to be known upon the maps as Okanogan City, and is located at the junction of Johnson Creek with the Okanogan River, the highest point of navigation reached by the steamer Ellensburg.” The new town was slated to have a hotel, general merchandise store, livery stable and “another structure where the interior of man may be irrigated with such fluids as may suit the fancy,” the Prospector said. “There is no good reason – with the opening up of surrounding mines, light craft navigation of the river and the occupancy of the agricultural lands in the valley – why Okanogan City should not in time become quite a flourishing place.” Even though Okanogan City failed, steamboats continued to unload supplies at the site at the mouth of Johnson Creek, historian and former Chronicle Publisher Bruce A. Wilson wrote in his book,
Riverside’s centennial celebration: 1-6 p.m. Dec. 14 at Mount Olive Grange Hall, 317 N. Main St.
George Ladd/Okanogan County Historical Society
The Occidental Hotel in Riverside about 1913. The building — and much of the downtown area — was destroyed by fire in 1916. “Late Frontier.” Supplies were stored in tents and warehouses until they could be moved. For a while, the site was called “Republic Landing,” in an effort to convince shippers that goods destined for the booming mining camp at Republic could be shipped economically from the site. In 1898, Frank J. “Pard” Cummings, already a mover and shaker in Okanogan’s predecessor, Alma, opened a store in a tent about two miles north of the mouth of Johnson Creek, Wilson wrote. James E. Forde of the Loomis firm Ellis & Forde, erected a warehouse nearby. But a small island in the Okanogan River gave steamboats trouble, so Forde platted Riverside at its present location, below the island. Uriah Ward had settled on land now occupied by the town, but John Kendall later secured a patent to the site, according to the 1904 “Illustrated History of Stevens, Ferry, Okanogan and Chelan Counties.” Cummings moved his
Riverside 100 years © 2013 The Omak-Okanogan County Chronicle Owned and operated by Eagle Newspapers Inc. Roger Harnack, publisher Garrett Rudolph, managing editor Dee Camp, section editor Lynn Hoover, advertising manager P.O. Box 553, Omak, WA 98841 509-826-1110 • 800-572-3446 509-826-5819 fax • www.omakchronicle.com
store to the present site – the same area abandoned earlier — and Ellis and Forde later moved their warehouse to the site and also opened a store. A post office was established in
1900, with Kate Edwards as postmistress. Forde platted the 160-acre town site Sept. 5, 1902. Another 40 acres were added later by the Riverside Townsite Co.
“Though only a few years old, the town has a population of about 200 people and is gaining rapidly,” the book said. “The buildings of Riverside are all new and substantially constructed.” Steamers from Wenatchee could reach the mouth of the Okanogan all year and in summer could go up the Okanogan as far as Riverside during the summer. Beyond that, McLoughlin Falls prevented further navigation. Stage lines at Brewster and Riverside connected other areas of the county. In 1904, the town had two stores, two warehouses, two saloons, one hotel, one restaurant,
Frank S. Matsura
The North Star passes through the drawbridge at Riverside sometime before 1913.
Congratulations on celebrating 100 years!
The Chronicle — December 11, 2013
Riverside 100 Years— Page 3
Riverside boasted early movers The Chronicle The 1904 “Illustrated History of Stevens, Ferry, Okanogan and Chelan Counties” listed several prominent early Riverside residents. Among them: Rita Dawe collection
Early day Riverside, with the bridge on the right. By 1904, the town had two stores, two warehouses, two saloons, one hotel, one restaurant, one blacksmith shop and two lawyers.
Trading from 2 one blacksmith shop and two lawyers. A ferry took traffic across the Okanogan River. Riverside was the hub and supply point for the north half of Okanogan County and outfitting point for the “South Half” of the Colville Indian Reservation, the book said. It was the principal woolshipping point in the county, with hundreds of thousands of pounds going out annually. In 1902, the value of incoming freight and outgoing products was placed at $1.25 million. In June 1903, the Okanogan River reached its highest point in years, but despite the threatened flooding disaster, only one building – the Columbia and Okanogan warehouse – was vacated. Residents took the high water in stride – or rather afloat – with the 1904 history book reporting that people used skiffs to traverse Main Street. “There was a sufficient stage of water to enable steamboats to land at the rear of the Glenwood Mercantile Company’s store,” the book said. On Aug. 15, 1903, townspeople met and decided, on a vote of 37-8, to sell $1,500 in bonds to build a school building. “The new edifice was erected and is considered one of the finest in the county, and the course of instruction is under a competent corps of teachers,” the book said. J.D. Williams was the school district clerk. “Riverside is ambitious. Its citizens confidently expect to secure the location of the county seat within its limits at an early date,” the 1904 book continued. “The Great Northern Railway Company has had a survey made for a branch line from Wenatchee along the Columbia and Okanogan rivers to tap the valley of the latter stream.”
Rita Dawe collection
Riverside’s train depot. The railroad’s arrival was one of several blows to the young city. An irrigation system also was proposed for thousands of acres of land. The town’s population peaked at about 350, Wilson wrote. But for all the town’s lofty dreams, it lost in a 1908 county seat election (the county seat remained in Conconully) and the railway, which moved up the valley in 1914, put the steamboats out of business.
Two more blows came in 1916, when two fires leveled much of the business district. Despite the setbacks, the town rebuilt but its population never quite matched the 350 figure. The 1920 Census showed 209 residents, followed by 218 in 1930, 192 in 1940 and a low of 149 in 1950. Since then it’s been on the rise; as of last year, the city had a population of 283.
John D. Williams. He came to the county in 1899 was engaged primarily in the stock business. He built the first business house in Riverside and by 1904 was operating a retail liquor store featuring “a choice stock of liquors and tobaccos.” He had other business property in Riverside “and has been prospered in his enterprises.” He also had an interest in the ferry at Riverside.” Frank J. “Pard” Cummings. The Maine native was “a leading merchant at Riverside.” He came to the county in 1896 and brought his family to the county next year. “He is now conducting a business establishment near Riverside, at a place called Alma, and is one of the substantial and leading citizens of the community,” the book reported. John Kendall. He was wellknown in the county, and a prominent businessman and town site owner in Riverside. He owned a large livery and feed stable. He came to the area after he married Olive Thomas, whose parents lived in the Riverside area. Kendall and his wife took up a homestead on 182 acres in 1895. Forty acres of the estate were sold for the town site. Mr. Kendall
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Okanogan County Historical Society
Mr. and Mrs. George Cooper, owners of the Hotel Cooper. owned an interest in the town site, and the rest of his land adjoined the town. “The farm is fenced and all under cultivation, being supplied with irrigating water from Johnson Creek,” the history book said. “He raises abundance of cereals and had 45 acres sowed to alfalfa, which produces three crops annually. He has six acres in orchard, which bears plenty, of peaches, apricots, prunes, pears, apples, and so forth. A good residence makes the place beautiful and valuable, while outbuildings and other improvements are in evidence.” He built the hotel, which he operated for four years and then sold. He also had an interest in the ferry. The Kendalls were members of the Methodist Church “and are known as progressive and upright people,” the book said. They had
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Rita Dawe collection
One of two fires to hit Riverside smolders in the spring of 1916. The first destroyed 12 buildings, with a loss of $25,000. The second, six days after the first, started in an empty barber shop and took out a block of buildings for a loss of $50,000. Both blazes were fought by a bucket brigade, since the town’s water system was undergoing repairs.
Page 4 — Riverside 100 Years
The Chronicle — December 11, 2013
Longtime Riverside businesses thrive By Jennifer Marshall The Chronicle RIVERSIDE – It’s one of the smallest towns in Okanogan County, but a few longtime businesses are thriving. There’s DeTro’s Western Store, 107 Main St., which has persevered for around seven decades. “We’re the only true Western store in this valley,” owner Mike Lavezzo said. “That’s all we do. That’s all we are.” The DeTro family purchased the store in 1946. At the time it was a general mercantile owned by Lee Frank, who bought it when it was called Blackwell’s, Lavezzo said. “It had groceries, hardware, your jeans and boots; it had everything,” he said. The DeTros transformed the shop to sell only Western gear, including saddles, tack and clothing. It has been that way ever since. Bunny DeTro, who now lives in Omak, said she and her husband,
Rita Dawe collection
Riverside Commercial Co. eventually became DeTro’s Western Store, which still does business on Riverside’s Main Street. Russ, moved to Riverside after being discharged from the
Canadian Air Force. His father, “Pop” DeTro, had family in the area
and purchased the store for his son and daughter-in-law. He converted upstairs offices to an apartment where Russ and Bunny lived and raised their three children, Jim, Scott and Ginger.
They lived there until they sold the store to Lavezzo’s brother, Dave Lavezzo, in 1987 and they moved to Omak.
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Rita Dawe collection
Finely dressed couples stand outside the Riverside Drug Co. Rita Dawe collection
A cafe in Riverside in about 1920. Mrs. Cummings’ daughter, Audrey, is at right and Edna Lyons is at one of the tables. The other woman is unidentified.
Movers from 3 two adopted children, George C. and Relta Marie. George Cooper. The British native owned and operated the Hotel Cooper, which was a two story structure with 12 sleeping apartments besides other rooms
“and is furnished and handled in a very tasty and pleasant manner. Mr. Cooper enjoys the patronage of the traveling public and is esteemed a genial and affable host,” the book said. James E. Forde. Forde was president of the Washington Commercial Co. He entered a partnership with George H. Ellis and
they operated general merchandise businesses in Loomis, Oroville, Republic, Riverside and Conconully. “Each store is the largest in its respective town and they are all well supplied with a choice and complete stock of general merchandise and are all doing a splendid business,” the book said. He and Ellis also owned the original town site at Riverside.
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Riveside 100 Years— Page 5
Looking back at Riverside through the years
Riverside’s Main Street, with DeTro’s figuring prominently, in 1966. George Ladd/Okanogan County Historical Society
The Okanogan County Fair in 1913, in Riverside. The Carpenter ranch was across the river on the extreme right. The Okanogan River spills over its banks during the 1972 flood. The Riverside bridge shows at far right.
The Riverside Grocery in 1976. The building still houses the store.
Business from 4 Riverside “was a very friendly town,” DeTro said. “I was from the city, from Toronto. Everybody wanted to invite me to a party or to join this club.” In 1994, Mike Lavezzo took over ownership from his brother and has operated the store ever since. “I was a cowboy, and I fit into it,” Mike Lavezzo said. He and his brother opted to keep the DeTro’s name. “You could change the name after 40 years, but people are still going to call it DeTro’s so we aren’t going to mess with that,” Lavezzo said. “The DeTro family did such a great job with the store for 40 years, the store is known really from hours away from here. I’ve
been with people a long ways from here who know about this store.” Since taking ownership, Lavezzo has updated and tripled the inventory at the store, which takes up 5,500 square feet of a 10,000-square foot building. There’s a separate leather shop in back, and the store’s employees clean and shape Western hats, hem jeans for men and women, oil saddles and more. “There’s a lot we do here that’s all geared toward taking care of the Western people that are a majority of this county,” Lavezzo said. “That’s what’s kept us alive.” He said working in a small town like Riverside has been “rewarding and humbling.” “Riverside’s a great town, a small town, so everybody knows everybody. I like the location of it,”
he said. Although he’s 63 now, Lavezzo has no plans to close up shop. “We’re thankful that the people of Okanogan County have supported us all these years and we hope that they will continue. We hope that we can still provide what they need,” he said. Two additional businesses have been going strong since 1990 – Dave’s Gun and Pawn, 112 N. Main St., and Margie’s RV Park and Pottery, 202 Kendall St. “Riverside’s a nice town to grow up in. It’s just homey,” Gun and Pawn owner Kim Anderson said. Her late stepfather, Dave Schwilke, opened the shop in 1990 and they sell “a little bit of everything,” Anderson said. “Guns and reloading supplies, hunting supplies, some tools, some saddles
once in a while.” She said she appreciates the “small town attitudes. The customers are all nice. We get customers from all over though, not just here.” The same holds for the RV park, which is tucked in a quiet spot off U.S. Highway 97. “You get to meet so many different people, from all over the world. That’s probably the interesting part,” owner Margie Mefford said. In her time running the park, which she opened the week of the 1990 Omak Stampede, she has met campers from Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Tasmania, Thailand, Australia and other farflung places. Some live in their RVs yearround on the 2.5 acres there, and
the site has even played host to five weddings, Mefford said. She keeps pottery on display, a side gig that is “more of just a hobby,” she said. A tavern, the Riverside Bar and Grill, still stands in an Old Weststyle building even though it closed a while ago. “It’s opened and closed over the years,” said Mefford, also the town’s mayor. The last owner, originally from Soap Lake, closed the tavern and returned to his hometown when he developed health problems, Mefford said. She couldn’t remember exactly when the tavern closed. High school students built the tavern as a project, according to resident Kate McPherson, whose late husband grew up in the area.
Page 6 — Riverside 100 Years
The Chronicle — December 11, 2013
Longtime city residents reminisce By Garrett Rudolph The Chronicle RIVERSIDE — As the town approaches its centennial celebration, local residents reminisce about the often colorful past that brought Riverside to where it is today. In many ways, the town hasn’t changed much over those decades, said Bob Sutton, who’s lived in Riverside for nearly 86 years. He was the son of Dick Sutton, who was one of the town’s original pioneers. “It was a good place to raise hell, and I done lots of that,” Sutton said of the old days. He remembers people — other people, he said — would tip over outhouses as a Halloween prank — including one time knocking over a toilet as a startled man sat inside. He remembers skinny dipping in the old concrete cistern tank at the cemetery, which was fed with water from a windmill. The old bridge that ran through town and crossed the Okanogan River was a source of summer recreation. Sutton and longtime Riverside resident George Frank both said they’d jumped off the main deck level into the river before, but had never ventured higher up the structure. “I’ve seen it happen, but I’ve never done it before,” Sutton said. Another popular prank included moving the gravestone marker of Frank Watkins, a horse thief who was famously shot and killed by an unknown gunman in 1904. The bullet holes still remain at the location of the shooting, at
“ I think about where I’d like to live and I keep coming back to Riverside. Mayor Margie Mefford
” what is now the Riverside Grocery, 102 N. Main St., town Clerk Sharma Dickinson said. While some things have remained the same, Frank said the town has changed a lot over the years. At one point, Riverside was known as one of the prettiest towns around, he said. “The town was something to be proud of,” he said. The old-timers shake their head at the shape the town’s in now, he said. “The people themselves have to take the pride,” he said. Still, Riverside remains a nice place to live, former Mayor Gene Layton said. “Every time I go somewhere to visit, I think about where I’d like to live and I keep coming back to Riverside,” Mayor Margie Mefford said. She described the town as “quaint” and “charming.” One recent change with the
Riverside’s current bridge, in 1969. The old bridge had different levels from which town daredevils jumped. town was the city adding a granite columbarium to the cemetery. Mefford said there’s only one other one like it in the county. “It’s really nice looking,” she said. It was installed in the middle of November. Mefford said the city has been looking at building a new sewer plant and adding new water meters, but those plans have been
Tree-lined Riverside on April 20, 1961. The school, which later became a gold-panning concern, stands on the hill overlooking town.
put on hold due to a lack of funding. The city also abandoned its annual RiverFest celebration over the summer. “It’s been an off-and on thing for probably 30 years,” Mefford said. “It just got where nobody wanted to handle it.” Mefford said she hopes somebody will eventually resurrect the festival, but it “would have to be some younger people.” Many local residents may say the town hasn’t changed a great deal, but at one time it wasn’t quite so tiny. Prior to being incorporated, Riverside hosted the first Okanogan County Fair in 1905. In the years that followed, the town featured a hospital, a school and even a zoo that kept coyotes, rattlesnakes and a lion. During Prohibition, the town had its share of bootlegging stories. Frank remembers that as a child, he hauled in firewood for Mrs. Cooper, whose husband owned the Cooper Hotel. Each day, she would give him one piece of candy for his troubles. The high school’s last graduating class was in the 1950s, but the primary school remained open until the 1970s. Mefford, who moved to town in
1976, said a lot of people at that time were sad about the school closing. “They never could get the quality of teachers they needed,” she said. The bell from the school now resides in the park. Sutton said that bell has been stolen a few times over the years. He said he was never involved in any of the thievery, but as a youngster, he would sneak into the bell tower, grab hold of the rope and ring the bell more than a few times when he wasn’t supposed to. The town had been a major hub of Okanogan County in those early years, shortly after incorporation on Dec. 22, 1913. One major event stalled the growth of the town. The railway came through in 1914, negating the town’s importance of being at the head of the Okanogan River for riverboat travel, such as the North Star ferry, which ran from Wenatchee to Riverside until 1915. Tragedy would consume much of the original layout of the town. During a one-week stretch in 1916, three-quarters of the town was destroyed by a pair of fires — the first of which was said to have been started by a business owner who wanted to claim the insurance money on his property.
The Chronicle — December 11, 2013
Riverside 100 Years— Page 7
Rusty Bunch drives off into history By Al Camp The Chronicle RIVERSIDE – If you visited town from the late 1980s to about four years ago, the main street would look almost like it did after the town was incorporated in 1913. That’s because The Rusty Bunch (also known by other rusty names) maintained a workshop in the middle of town and often parked their stock vehicles outside. Or they drove them from one end of town to the other on errands (often in a bare-bones 1925 Dodge). Three of the five founding members – Dave Schwilke, Troy Watkins and Don McFarland – have since driven off into history and are deceased. The Chronicle was unable to contact Chuck Graham, who lives north of town, but did catch up to the fifth member, Ted Ford, who is fighting multiple sclerosis in Brewster. The memory of those vehicles, from a 1918 Dodge to 1931 Fords, remains vivid for many. Ford said the loosely knit group would park their cars and trucks on Main Street near Schwilke’s car shop – formerly a gas station. They started getting together at Schwilke’s garage in the 1980s, where they worked to restore vehicles to pristine stock condition. The men also were associated with the Friendly OK Car Club. “We got tired of waiting to go places,” said Ford, formerly of
Al Camp/The Chronicle
The Rusty Bunch got a bunch of their cars together on Riverside’s Main Street in late May 2005. They included Don McFarland of Omak and his 1930 A coupe; Ted Ford of Omak and a 1931 Ford A coupe (what he liked to say a Ford with a Ford); Chuck Graham of Riverside and a 1931 Ford sedan; David Schwilke of Riverside and a 1929 Ford sedan; Michael LaMotte of Omak and a 1931 Ford sedan; and Preston Todd of Omak and a 1931 Ford roadster. Farther down the street is a 1925 Ford speedster and a 1926 Dodge. Omak. “The other bunch was a really good bunch of people. But if we wanted to go to the Dairy Queen, we’d have to give a month’s
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notice. We just wanted to go. We did not want to wait around.” “That group would take off and go,” said former member Ed
Lehrman, 82, of Omak. “They would go to Winthrop or Twisp and have a cup of coffee just to drive. They were not hesitant to get out
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and go.” Lehrman still has a trophy from
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Page 8 — Riverside 100 Years
Rusty from 7 the club for his 1928 Chevrolet dump truck. Many of the early members banded together and took off for a road trip to Montana. “We went to Montana just because we could,” Ford, 71, said. “The other bunch said you will never make it in those old rust buckets. We had one flat tire. That was the only problem.” “They just wanted to branch off,” said Lehrman, who was one of the early presidents of the Friendly OK Car Club. “They wanted to do more running around and fooling with the rigs.” The rusty club often participated in RiverFest and afterwards would sit down to an old-fashioned barbecue during a club meeting. “We’d have a barbecue every so often,” Ford said. “We’d usually have a spit with meat on a stick.” At the 2006 RiverFest, members displaying cars included Ford with his 1931 Ford Model A Coupe (five window); Bill Armstrong of Riverside with a 1931 Ford Model A coupe; Don McFarland of Omak with a 1926 model T roadster pickup; Mike LaMotte of Omak with a 1931 twodoor sedan Model A Ford; Dave Schwilke of Riverside with a 1930 Model A Ford coupe and a 1928 Ford two-door sedan; and Mike Stargel of Methow with a 1930 Model A coupe. The club disbanded about four years ago, when Schwilke died. “That was really a loss to the club,” Ford said. “Everybody really liked him and we had a place to go.” The club had been rebuilding a Model T from the ground up. “They were working on a Model T truck, really from scratch,” Lehrman said. “They got some parts from me. They found parts not only in the valley, but elsewhere. They got some doors in Montana.” “They had it all done when Dave died,” Ford said. “Dave was working on a 1918 Dodge, putting it back to original. We were stock. We didn’t build hot rods. We built stock cars.” Lehrman remembers getting a ride in the Model T. “It was nice,” Lehrman said. “He was sharp on that old Model T. He took me for a ride in it a couple times and I really enjoyed it.” Paul Yarnell, 73, of Omak, said the club formed because they liked working on older vehicles. “They were all members of the Friendly OK Car Club,” Yarnell said. “The Friendly OK Car Club and the rust bucket bunch would be there (RiverFest). When Dave passed away, everybody pretty much split up after that.” Lehrman said Watkins had a
The Chronicle — December 11, 2013
“ We went to Montana just because we could. Ted Ford
” Ford Model A, which he sold Jim Freese, who was the son of the car’s original owner, Wilbur Freese. Joyce Todd said her husband, Preston, died in the summer of 1911. The couple moved to Riverside in 1990, she said. “He was there when Omak had its centennial parade (about a month before he passed away),” said Joyce Todd who is working to frame photos of her husband with his cars. “It was a sad situation, but you have to regroup.” McFarland’s wife, Joyce, said when her husband passed away the family’s dog, Rapsy, “missed him terribly. “She is gone now, too. She lived to be 15.”
Al Camp/The Chronicle
Rapsy the dog enjoyed riding in Don McFarland’s 1930 A coupe.