Marcus Oppenheimer, eponym of Marcus, Washington, settles on the Columbia River near the Canadian border in 1862.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 7/27/2007
  • Essay 8232

In 1862, Marcus Oppenheimer (1834-1901) settles on the Columbia River near the Canadian border in what will be Stevens County. He opens a store to purvey goods to miners traveling north to Canada, and he and his brothers, Joseph and Samuel, eventually diversify into steamboats, freight lines, and flour milling. He is the only Jewish immigrant to Washington to have a town named after him.

Marcus is located 75 miles northwest of Spokane. It came into being when a British survey team including geologists, naturalists, and 45 engineers put up buildings there to begin a survey of the international border in conjunction with the United States team based at Fort Colville. The survey crews completed their work in 1862, and Marcus Oppenheimer, who arrived from Kentucky, immediately filed for a homestead on the ground where the British Boundary Commission buildings stood.  He platted a town and opened a store to provide goods to miners and prospectors moving through the area on their way to Canada.

In 1880 the Spokane Falls and Northern Railroad linked Marcus to the mining country in Canada and a later railroad, which became the Great Northern, connected the community to the Okanogan agricultural lands. Marcus became a center of shipping and logging. The town was incorporated on October 18, 1910.

In the 1930s, Marcus was one of the largest towns forced by the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam to move to higher ground. The community's original site was inundated by Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind the dam.

In 2003, Marcus was a residential community with an estimated population of 164. It is the oldest continually occupied white settlement in Stevens County.

Sources: The Jewish Experience in Washington State: A Chronology (Seattle: Washington State Jewish Historical Society, 2007), 5; Molly Cone, Howard Droker, and Jacqueline Williams, Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003), 12-13; "Cities and Towns, State of Washington Dates of Incorporation, Disincorporation, and Changes of Classification," Municipal Research and Services Center website accessed July 27, 2007 (; Ruth Kirk and Carmela Alexander, Exploring Washington's Past: A Road Guide to History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990), 45-46; "Marcus Oppenheimer of Marcus, Washington," website accessed July 27, 2007 (

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