Colfax residents vote to incorporate their city on January 14, 1879.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 9/19/2010
  • Essay 9577
On January 14, 1879, residents of Colfax vote to incorporate.  The vote is 77 for, 27 against.  The town had grown rapidly since 1870, when James Perkins and Thomas Smith first selected the site as the location of a mill they planned to build on the Palouse River. Colfax is located in Whitman County in Southeastern Washington just west of Palouse and not far from the Idaho border.

The mill proved a magnet for other settlers.  The town site was platted in February 1872.

Duly incorporated, Colfax held its first election for city officials on February 8, 1879.  William H. James (1832-1920) won the mayoral election.  Councilmen included James Ewart (1832-1915), Dewalt Wolford (b. 1825), Charles D. Porter (b. 1840), Hezikiah Hollingsworth (b. 1842), Leonard T. Bragg (b. 1851), Jacob Hoover (b. 1846), Charles G. Austin (1846-1925), and  James A. Perkins.  Al Phelps was marshal.  The council elected the following officers: Lewis P. Berry (b. 1842), clerk; Jacob Hoover, city attorney, Leon Kuhn (1845-1913), treasurer; Rev. M. S. Anderson, assessor and collector; William Oyster (b. 1852), street commissioner; John G. Porter (b. 1823), health officer.

The Washington Territorial legislature passes the act incorporating the city of Colfax on November 29, 1881. It is unclear why so much time elapsed between the vote to incorporate and the territorial legislature's action. The act appointed certain Colfax citizens to fill important roles in the city's government until an election could be held.  Appointees included Jacob H. Bellinger, mayor; Lewis Berry, city assessor and city clerk; Chester H. Warner (b. 1843), David S. Bowman (b. 1828), Hezikiah Hollingsworth, Porter Sullivan (b. 1824), and Julius Lippitt, common council; and John M. P. Snyder (1829-1913), marshal.

On April 6, 1891, following Washington's 1889 statehood, Colfax was reincorporated as a City of the Third Class as defined by state laws. Of 110 ballots cast, 96 were for reincorporation, and two against, with the balance of voters evidently abstaining.

Sources: W. H. Lever, An Illustrated History of Whitman County, State of Washington (San Francisco: W. H. Lever, 1901); Edith Erickson, Colfax 100 Plus (Colfax: Edith Erickson, 1981), p89; "State of Washington, County of Whitman, City of Colfax," Municipal Articles of Incorporation Washington State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Olympia; "An Act To  Incorporate The City of Colfax," Laws of Washington 1881, Office of the Secretary of State, Olympia.

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