By J.Lee. Fulton, written in 1940
From Douglas it was a long drive of 17 miles across bleak plains to the head of Foster Creek thence down Foster Creek to the confluence with the Columbia River. About three miles down the river we came to Tetter's Ferry where we crossed over onto the Indian reservation. Our next point of interest was Lumsden's store located on the Okanogan River two miles above its mouth. Here we forded the Okanogan getting back on "our side" of the river.
A mile or two down the Columbia small creeks out of the mountains and along this creek were two or three settlers. Up this creek, we followed a dim road that finally ended on Mason's flat on a small body of level land on the North Slope of Chiliwist Mountain. Here our road ended entirely with the Chiliwist Mountain between our desired destination and us. Up to this time, not more than four wagons had reached the Methow Valley. The first wagon to enter the valley belonged to N. Stone who settled on the flat just below Heckendorn. N. Stone, Harvey Nickell, John Hartle, and Tony Cogswell plotted it. The second wagon was that of Harvey H. Nickell. While I think there were two other wagons that had gone in the fall before, that is, 1888. I do not remember who they were at this time.
While the old Chiliwist Indian trails crossed over the mountain from near this point it was impossible for wagons to follow the trails so a new pass had to be sought out. Our predecessors accomplished this but to follow tracks made by the wagons the fall before was quite a task. We finally succeeded and ended our journey after about an eight-day trip. As you can see this was a very roundabout way to reach the Methow Valley from the Ellensburg country and was soon shortened somewhat.
Considerable interest was being shown in the mining industry in the northwest portion of Okanogan County. Some development had started that required machinery. This called for shorter and better transportation facilities. The first step to meet this need and which meant much to the Methow Valley was the installation of a ferry by John Lowry about two miles below what is now known as the town of Brewster. This began operation in late April or early May 1889. The keen competition between Ellensburg and Spokane had caused capitalists in Ellensburg to get together and build a steamer to operate between Moses Coulee and up-river points. This steamer known as the City of Ellensburg began operations about 1887.
Until the coming of the railroad to Wenatchee in 1893, its cargoes were transported by wagons over the Wenatchee Mountains to the docks at Moses Coulee, there loaded onto the steamer for up-river points. When the railroad reached Wenatchee in 1893 this was all changed and Ellensburg lost its up-river trade. Soon after this, the name of the steamer was changed to Selkirk the name of its first captain. Under this name, it plied the upper Columbia for many years contributing greatly in the up building of that part of the Columbia Valley basin. Just here I may add that shipping point from which the Methow Valley received its freight during its earlier years was Virginia City located above what is now the approach to the Brewster Bridge. The agent and small storekeeper was "Old Virginia Bill." If he didn't have what you wanted, he had "plenty of it coming up on the boat."
With the opening of the Central Ferry and the building of a wagon road up Paisley Canyon considerable distance was saved especially for those coming from the Ellensburg country desiring to reach the new Mecca.
Probably the first ranch location in the Methow was made by one Joe White from Okanogan. A very late frost in 1887 killing and doing much damage so completely discouraged him that he was ready to sell his claim to the first man to come along. Mr. Thurlow was that man making the deal in the late summer or early fall of that year. 1898 had accomplished considerable road building up and down the Methow. As settlers pressed up the river from the mouth, short lengths of road were built…also down the river from the main valley.
In 1898, the state undertook to complete the road up the river from the mouth to the valley proper by using convict labor. While they were successful in making the road passable, there were three slides that were both uncertain and unsafe. However, as it cut out the climbing of the mountain people would take chances and travel the river road and of course, this could be of advantage to Pateros.
Brewster, not wanting to lose the valley trade located and sponsored another road over the mountain. It was less a climb and better grade and shorter that the old Bald Knob road. This proposed new road followed the course of the first road to enter the valley. Leaving the main valley a mile below Silver it went across the hills to Benson Creek following the creek to its source taking the east fork over Brewster Mountain and coming out at Brewster instead of the north fork over the Chiliwist Mountain towards Okanogan. This new road completed in the fall of 1899 and soon drew most of the travel from Bald Knob road.
Fulton was born in Boise, Idaho in 1865 and lived in the Ellensburg area before exploring and settling in the Methow Valley in the Bear Creek area in 1888. He wrote this history in 1940 at the age of 75.