On January 7, 1911, Krupp incorporates as a fourth-class town. Within a decade, the town will change its name to Marlin -- but never make the change official with the State of Washington, leading to both confusion and amusement over the years. The town, which may never have had the 300 people legally required to incorporate at any time in its history, nevertheless will carry on for more than a century in the face of a slowly shrinking population and revenue base. By 1970, it will be the smallest town in the state. Marlin is located in Grant County, about 25 miles northeast of Moses Lake.
Henry Marlin was the first recorded Caucasian settler in the area that later became Krupp, settling in the valley east of the present townsite in 1870 and establishing a cattle ranch on Crab Creek. But while Marlin may have been the first settler, the settler most responsible for the creation of Krupp was George Urquhart (1847-1916), a Scottish immigrant. Urquhart purchased Marlin's property in 1876, and he was later joined by his brothers, Donald (1853-1931) and John (1864?-1925). However, there was little development for the next 20 or so years. The few farmers and ranchers in the area raised cattle initially, but wheat replaced cattle as the primary commodity by the early twentieth century.
In 1892, the Great Northern Railway (Great Northern) put a line through what would later become Krupp. During the nineteenth century, it was common for small towns to spring up along a rail line, and that's what happened: Around 1900, a community began to form at a spot just north of the rail line (the line later became the town's southern boundary) and just south of Crab Creek in a picturesque little canyon. F. A. Wingate opened the first business, a large general store, in Krupp in 1901, and from there other businesses followed -- a hotel, two banks, two churches, a railroad depot, a school, a jail, a saloon/tavern, and later a garage and a hardware store. There was a newspaper, The Krupp Signal, from 1908 to 1917, and even a community band.
Urquhart platted the town on July 14, 1902, and Krupp's population was reported to be 55 in 1903. The community grew rapidly during the decade of the 1900s, but it's debatable whether it had the necessary 300 residents then required by the state for incorporation when local residents voted on the question on December 28, 1910. It passed by a vote of 40 to 7, and became official when the results were filed in the secretary of state's office on January 7, 1911. Krupp's first mayor was John Urquhart. The first town councilmen were Lawrence Beck, A. H. Carr, Howard B. Lee, B. F. Paff, and J. W. Weeks. H. C. Braemer became the town's first treasurer.
From Krupp to Marlin
In September 1918, Krupp residents and farmers from surrounding areas voted to petition the post office and the Great Northern to change the town's name to Marlin, in honor of Henry Marlin. But the primary motivation was patriotism. America was then embroiled in the Great War, later known as World War I, against Germany and its allies. There was a large munitions factory in Germany with the Krupp name, and the town felt stigmatized having a name that was associated with the enemy. The post office and Great Northern made the change, but the town's name was never officially changed by the State of Washington. To its residents, it made little difference. To them, and nearly everyone else, the town became Marlin. The two names have brought both confusion and amusement over the years, but because the town is so small, it's worked out without any real problem.
Despite being damaged by at least two big fires in its early history, the little town did well in the early twentieth century. Krupp (Marlin) recorded 106 residents in the 1920 U.S. Census and 101 in 1930, but by the mid-1930s its best days were over. Great Northern closed its station there in 1933, and the state's growing highway system didn't go through Marlin. In 1934, the Farmer's Bank of Krupp, a mainstay since 1908, moved to Odessa. Nevertheless, Marlin's population held in the high 90s until the 1960s. Even the destruction of two grain elevators and a warehouse from a fire in November 1953 at the Krupp Union grain warehouse -- a big loss for the small community -- did not dramatically impact the town. Residents quickly rebuilt the elevator.
The decline began to accelerate in the 1960s. The school in Marlin graduated its last class in 1964 and closed in 1966, and the town lost nearly half of its population, dropping to a population of 52 in 1970. Marlin suddenly was the smallest town in the state, with only a handful of remaining businesses. It has remained so in each of the state censuses since, with the exception of 1980, when Hatton (Adams County) took the title for the ensuing 10 years. Though the 2020 Census results for Marlin were not yet available at the time of this writing, its position as the state's smallest town was secure, with various estimates giving it a population of about 50.
Slow Fade, A New Day
By the 1980s Marlin's barbershop had closed. The tavern closed in 1983, and the grocery store in 1988. Marlin survived a disincorporation scare in 1986, but no new growth came to the town. Its two churches, both of which had served the community for a century, closed in the early 2010s. In some places the buildings remained, while others were taken down. Still, a cadre of residents stayed, volunteering their time to serve in the necessary offices to keep the town alive. Monthly meetings between the council and the mayor were held in the Central Washington Grain Growers' elevator. To the people of Marlin, there was nothing unusual about this. They did not want to disincorporate because that meant turning their fate over to Grant County. It was simply a matter of being able to control their own destiny in their own home.
A visit to Marlin in the summer of 2021 revealed a town that measured about six-tenths of a square mile, or approximately 380 acres. An old fire truck, parked in a lot just west of the street, greeted those entering town. There were perhaps 20 houses, many scattered among a few square blocks west of Urquhart Avenue, Marlin's main street. On Urquhart Avenue itself, trees grew from old combine tires placed at intervals along the side of the road. Though it was midday there was virtually no traffic, either vehicle or pedestrian. In some cases, it was hard to tell if certain buildings were open or closed. (Two examples were the tiny city hall, which operates out of a former church building, and the community center, which makes its home in the former school gymnasium.) Nothing seemed to be happening. At first glance, the silence seemed to vindicate the stories written of the town's slow death in various articles during the preceding few decades.
But from the top of the hill north of town, Marlin stood out in an attentively irrigated, verdant green valley, contrasting with dry brown hills and dusky green sagebrush above. Its wheat fields and farms were similarly well-kept. The community was still there. It was just different than what it had been. And to this writer, it seemed that the predictions of Marlin's pending demise were off point. For the time being, the community would live on.