On June 24, 1908, the Board of County Commissioners of Spokane County files with the Washington Secretary of State its declaration that Deer Park is incorporated as a municipal corporation of the fourth class to be known as the City of Deer Park. The county commissioners' declaration was issued on June 23, 1908, and certified the results of an election held three days earlier in which voters approved incorporation and elected a mayor, five councilmen, a treasurer, a clerk, a marshal, and a police judge. The incorporation comes nearly 20 years after Deer Park began as a new settlement on a siding of the Spokane Falls & Northern Railroad 22 miles north of Spokane in largely rural Eastern Washington. The City of Deer Park, incorporated as a noncharter code city, is located on the southeastern edge of the Okanogan highlands in the northwest corner of Spokane County.Call of the North
Located in the heart of the original homelands of the Spokane Indians, which spanned three million acres of present-day Northeast Washington, North Idaho, and Western Montana, the small community of Deer Park developed from a railroad stop established in 1889. President Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) set aside the 159,000-acre Spokane Indian Reservation approximately 15 miles west of the area in 1881, the same year the first Northern Pacific train arrived in Spokane, then known as Spokane Falls. Within a few years, the fertile valley sprawling north of the Spokane River became a homesteading destination, especially for Scandinavian and other Northern European immigrants attracted to region's familiar climate and forests. By 1885, several farming families had settled Wild Rose and Half Moon prairies just south of what would become Deer Park, generating enough of a market for early newcomer Rowland Hazard (ca. 1837-?) to open a general store and establish a post office. The area's first sawmills started operating at this time as well, giving railroad investors who were already eager to access the rich timber and mining districts of the Colville Valley and southern British Columbia farther north even more impetus to build a new line from Spokane Falls to Canada.
Wild Rose and Half Moon prairies continued to grow and develop through the 1880s and beyond. However, once railroad and mining magnate Daniel Chase Corbin (1832-1918) completed the Spokane Falls & Northern Railway Company's much anticipated new line with a stop five miles north in August 1889, the center of the area's commercial activity quickly shifted to the site surveyors had named for the abundant deer roaming amid a park-like setting. William Hopkins Short (1863-1930) and his brother-in-law, George Crawford, recent arrivals to the area, wasted no time in seizing the immediate opportunities that the new railroad and a devastating fire in Spokane earlier that summer afforded. The partners rented a portable sawmill and set it up on the new siding at Deer Park where they took over the local timber industry by producing most of the lumber that would rebuild Spokane, the hub of the region known as the Inland Empire. Within a year, Short and Crawford had purchased the rented sawmill as well as the surrounding land, and from these holdings, a town emerged. Although Deer Park's initial burst of development in the early 1890s slowed during the lean years that followed the nationwide Panic of 1893, the relatively new but tight-knit community persevered and took hold as a promising addition to the Inland Empire.
A Town Becomes a City
By 1899 Deer Park boasted nearly 300 residents and several stores, a church, a school, a hotel, and other services that fanned from the site where Short and Crawford set up shop 10 years earlier. Local business leader Peter J. Kelly (1858-1908) circulated a petition to establish a town and incorporate the bustling community. What became of Kelly's petition remains uncertain in the historical record, but by the end of 1906 Deer Park still had not organized as a town. Meanwhile, the community had doubled in population and its only revenue at the time was a $300 license fee charged to each of the three saloons in Deer Park. Although the fees were enough to provide a marshal, the closest sheriff was in Spokane, prompting growing popular support for municipal incorporation. This time Short and other prominent members of the Deer Park community took the lead in exploring the matter. Finally, in June 1908, a special election was called to bring law and order to the rapidly growing "wild little town" (Fisher and Bennett, 33).On Saturday, June 20, 1908, Deer Park residents went to the polls. Of 98 votes cast, 85 approved the incorporation of Deer Park. The results were promptly submitted to the Board of the County Commissioners of Spokane County, which in turn declared Deer Park a fourth class municipal corporation to be known as the City of Deer Park. The board also certified the votes cast for several officers and a city council, declaring A. J. Peters elected as mayor; J. T. Grove as treasurer; F. E. De Voe as clerk; Joseph Reuthinger, C. G. Gilger, R. R. Grove, Charles Tippin, and William Short to the new city council; Jesse R. Meeker as marshall; and J. A. Neaville as police judge. Although the county commissioners' declaration does not specify, some of these officials appear to have been elected on an interim basis. Another election was held six months later that placed W. D. Phillips in the mayor's seat along with J. P. Grove as the new treasurer. Charles Griffith, George Harrison, L. D. Chapman, Charles Wilbur, and O. P. Kelly replaced the previously elected council.
The 1908 incorporation order did not include a charter that outlined the Deer Park's government structure or schedule for elections. However, the government structure is implicit in the county commission's order and remained unchanged as of 2016. Other records suggest that municipal elections were held annually in the early twentieth century and that election frequency might have changed a number of times through the century until the city transitioned to its current four-year cycle. Deer Park was reclassified as a noncharter code city in 1972, retaining its corporate status. Also at this time, the "town of Deer Park" was curiously renamed the "city of Deer Park." Most of the details surrounding the developments related to Deer Park's original incorporation have received little to no attention in local histories or extant news articles and remembrances from the period. Instead, the continued promise of wealth in lumber and agriculture, particularly apple orchards, captured the attention of early twentieth-century residents who shaped the enduring legacies of this small but vibrant community nestled among the lingering forests of Northeast Washington. The original documentation of the Board of County Commissioners order to incorporate Deer Park in 1908 is preserved at the Washington State Archives in Olympia while the Clayton-Deer Park Historical Society holds records of the town's earliest pioneers and economic development.