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First county seat of Okanogan County is established at Ruby City on March 7, 1888.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5438 : Printer-Friendly Format

On March 7, 1888, the first county seat of Okanogan County is established at the mining town of Ruby City. Seven months later, voters disgusted with the unruly nature of Ruby City, will move the county offices to Salmon City, which is renamed Conconully. In 1914, the county seat will move for the last time to Okanogan.

In the 1880s, silver was discovered in the Okanogan Valley and Ruby City became a center of production. The town also became one of the wildest towns in the West. The area was part of Stevens County and miners, ranchers, and businessmen with official business had to trek 200 miles to the county seat in Colville. In 1888, local residents managed -- over the stiff opposition of Colville politicians -- to get a bill through the Territorial Legislature establishing Okanogan County.

Three county commissioners were named in the bill to establish the county: rancher William Granger, Ruby City store owner George Hurley, and Harvard-educated cattleman Guy Waring. The three met in a log cabin in March 1888 to organize a county government. Ruby City and Salmon City both vied for the honor of being county seat. In his memoir, Commissioner Waring described how, "Whores, thieves, and drunkards, and other notorious citizens of the mining town were on hand. They were agreably drunk, and seranaded us so loudly that it was difficult for anybody inside the ranch house to hear himself speak." By the next day, the partisans had swung Granger to their cause and Ruby City became the county seat.

County officials set up shop in leased space in Ruby City, but the treasurer was so distrustful of the place that he hid the treasury in a baking powder can buried on his farm. In November 1888, the voters of the county moved the seat to Salmon City, which was renamed Conconully. Ruby City's fortunes faded with the Panic of 1893 and the crash in silver prices in 1899, and was eventually abandoned.

Conconully fought off several efforts to move the county seat to Chelan (which eventually formed its own county). Riverside took a run at being the county seat in 1908 and even built a courthouse. Twisp and Oroville tried in 1911. In 1914, the agricultural communities of Okanogan and Omak contended mightily for the honor. Okanogan won that election and by Christmas 1914, Okanogan was the county seat of Okanogan County.

David L. Chapman, "Everything Rolled Downhill: A Brief History of the Okanogan County Courthouse," Columbia: The Magazine of Northwest History, Winter 1999-2000, pp. 18-23. See Also: Guy Waring, My Pioneer Past (Boston: Bruce Humphies, Inc., 1936).

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Cabin at the head of Johnson Creek on John Perkins' ranch where Okanogan County was organized in March 1888, n.d.
Courtesy UW Special Collections

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