An 80-acre plat constituting the town of Ellensburgh is recorded in the names of John A. and Mary Ellen Shoudy on July 20, 1875.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 12/03/2005
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7550
On July 20, 1875, Ellensburg founder John Alden Shoudy (1842-1901) files an 80-acre plat comprising the town of Ellensburgh in his name and the name of his wife Mary Ellen Stuart Shoudy (1856-1921).

John and Mary Ellen Shoudy came to the Kittitas Valley in 1871 from Seattle.  John Shoudy and his brother-in-law, Seattle banker Dexter Horton (1825-1904), were part of a group of Seattle citizens attempting to establish a wagon route over the Cascade Mountains.  The Shoudys bought the stock of a tiny trading post called Robber's Roost and the 160-acre land claim surrounding it from cowboy Andrew Jackson Splawn (1845-1917).  Splawn had been operating the post for only a year.  In 1872 Shoudy replace the cabin with a frame building, the settlement's first, and moved his store into that structure.

Although most accounts of this seminal Ellensburg property transfer describe Shoudy as buying the Splawn's claim, Splawn gives this account in his memoir Ka-mi-akin:

"The call of the mountains and plains was too constant for me to remain long in any one place.  In the early summer of 1872 I sold my stock of goods to John A. Shoudy.  Afterwards I made him a present of my squatter's right to the 160 acres of land comprising the present site of Ellensburg" (p. 306).
Most accounts state that this transaction occurred in 1871.  Whatever the case, it seems clear that Splawn was occupying the land but had filed no official claim, which means there would have been no record of a land transaction between Splawn and Shoudy.

The Shoudy plat include 24 blocks on the west half of the northwest quarter of section two, township 17 north, range 18 east, Willamette base and meridian.  Seven streets, numbered 1st through 7th, ran east and west.  The streets running north and south were Water, Main, Pearl, and Pine. Block 8 was reserved for a courthouse and Block 14 was set aside for a park.  At the time the plat was filed, the land platted was part of Yakima County, and therefore the plat would have been filed in Yakima City.  In 1882 the wooden courthouse that held Yakima County records burned down, presumably destroying Shoudy's original plat map.

W. D. Lyman's History of the Yakima Valley Washington, Vol. 1, written in 1919, states:

"The period of the first four years after the platting of the town was one of slow growth.  In 1878, seven years after Mr. Shoudy's arrival and three years after the platting of the townsite, there was but a small group of business places.  These were grouped around the crossing of Main and Third streets.  They consisted of the store of Shoudy & Stewart, Jewett's saloon, Becker's blacksmith shop, a hotel conducted by Mrs. James Masterson, the post office and a "hall" in Shoudy's store.  There were a few residences.  In 1879 A. A. Bell and H. M. Bryant started a store in the old building which had been built the previous year during the scare from the Moses Indians.  Hence that store was often referred to as the 'Stockade Store' ... Beginning in 1883 there was rapid growth" (p. 645).

Ellensburgh (the "h" was dropped at the request of the United States Post Office in 1894) was ideally sited in the heart of the Kittitas Valley about three miles from the confluence of the Yakima River and Wilson's Creek.  The area had long been an important gathering place for the Kittitas, Yakama, and other tribes and after a few years began to attract non-Indian settlement in and around the Shoudy claim nucleus. 

The Shoudys filed plats for Shoudy's First Addition on January 13, 1882, Shoudy's Second Addition on August 11, 1885, and Shoudy's Third Addition on June 13, 1888.  Other settlers filed plats as well, 20 plats between 1888 and 1889 alone.


Sources: W. D. Lyman, History of the Yakima Valley Washington, Vol. 1 (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1919), p. 644; A. J. Splawn, Ka-mi-akin -- The Last Hero Of The Yakimas (Portland: Bindords & Mort, [1917] 1944); HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Kittitas County is established on November 24, 1883" (by Paula Becker), http://www.historylink.org (accessed November 15, 2005).

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