Grandview -- Thumbnail History

  • By Kate Kershner
  • Posted 9/25/2013
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 10627

The town of Grandview, located near the eastern border of Yakima County in South Central Washington, was formed when two small groups of settlers in the Yakima Valley came together to create a town site in 1906. The town incorporated in 1909, shortly before the Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company built a railway through town. Fed by the Sunnyside Canal and aided by the Reclamation Act of 1902 that provided federally funded irrigation systems, Grandview developed an agricultural economy based on the cherries, grapes, apples, and assorted other fruits and vegetables grown in the Yakima Valley. In later years, food processing plants also became a staple Grandview industry. By 2010, nearly 80 percent of the 10,862 residents were Latino.

A "Grand View" 

William Denison Lyman's 1919 history reports that the earliest settler known to have made a home around Grandview was Colonel H. D. Cock, "conspicuous in the Indian wars and later the first marshal of Yakima," who was living around the future town site in the mid-1860s (History of the Yakima Valley, 736). A few decades later, two groups of settlers began a more formal settlement in the area. One group made their homes around what is now Bethany Road in northern Grandview, and others settled near what is now Euclid Street. In 1893, the Sunnyside Canal made its way to the area, providing water to the families near Euclid. Before that, water was hauled from the Yakima River. By1903, each settlement had a small schoolhouse that operated three months out of the year.

In 1895, the future town site of Grandview was conveyed to the Northern Pacific Railway Company and then sold to the Yakima and Kittitas Irrigation Company. After trading hands a few more times, a 40-acre portion of the town site was sold to Edward McGrath in 1903 and he eventually built a home there. In 1905, the town site was selected as the terminus for the Sunnyside branch of the Northern Pacific Railway. According to the 1927 History of Grandview Washington, when two representatives from Granger Land Company and the railway came to inspect the area, they marveled at the "grand view" that came with a clear day: the peaks of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams could be seen, along with closer Snipes Mountain. They later remembered the lovely scenery when naming the city, and "Grandview" was christened.

In 1906, the existing two little settlements came together to form the town of Grandview after the Granger Land Company platted the land, selling the plots for $100 to $400. By May 1906, Mrs. A. E. Sykes built the first building that came to stand on the land in what is now the center of town on Division Street. She used the rear rooms for her own home, kept lodgers upstairs, and put a post office in the front. Iowa transplants Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Fleming built the first store in Grandview in July 1906. Soon a hotel, bank, drugstore, cafe, hardware store, and livery also opened for business in town. The Grandview Herald, a weekly newspaper (in 2013 still published online), printed its first issue on March 4, 1909. In his 1919 history, Lyman found the Herald worth noting as a "bright, active, well-conducted" paper (History of the Yakima Valley, 524).

Railroad Tracks and Irrigation Canals 

The Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company started construction on a railway line and depot in the center of Grandview in 1907. The line traveled from Walla Walla to Yakima, with Grandview at its center. The first train passed through town on March 22, 1911. With the bustling industry both around the railroad and using its services, the Yakima Valley's little towns suddenly didn't seem so remote from each other. Lyman noted that "The region along the [Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Co. line] from Parker Bottom through Zillah and Granger to Sunnyside and Grandview is almost like a continuous village, so numerous are the stations and so frequent the houses" (History of the Yakima Valley, 795).

Grandview residents decided to incorporate in 1909. An election was held on September 18, 1909, and certified two days later. 37 residents voted for incorporation, with three votes against. The new town also nominated John Monroe as Grandview's first mayor. While just a townsite, a group of area had residents petitioned for a saloon. The locally published history recounts that "the petitioners were amazed at their sudden and absolute failure" -- when an election was held in 1910 to consider the sale of alcohol, "a canvass of the votes revealed a decided 'No'" (History of Grandview, 10). Records show that only 12 voted for the sales, and with 50 opposed.

Arguably the biggest event in Grandview history was the introduction of meaningful irrigation. Before irrigation, the desert lands of the Yakima Valley were by and large unable to produce any kind of significant regular crop yield. The Sunnyside Canal began operation in 1892, along with private irrigation systems. The unregulated use of Yakima River resources led the government to pass the Reclamation Act of 1902, which called for federally funded irrigation projects. In 1905, the Yakima Project was authorized under the Reclamation Act. By 1910, the Yakima Project was beginning to operate, and a century later 2,100 miles of the project's canals still irrigate much of the Yakima Valley. Lyman noted in 1919 that Grandview "has a more completely diversified line of productions than most any of its neighbors. Fruit of all kinds, potatoes, corn, alfalfa, sugar beets, grain, fine stock -- everything, in fact to be produced in this climate" (History of the Yakima Valley, 805).

When the Yakima Project first began, several businessmen staked out the Grandview Orchard Tracts, a plat of about 1,000 acres, each tract irrigated by a gravity supply system. Local historians recounted that before the land was fully planted and cultivated, the area around Grandview was nearly deluged with unwelcome guests: "They poisoned, trapped, shot and clubbed to death jack rabbits literally by the thousand," before humans finally won the land war (History of Grandview, 21).

The region was already trying its hardest to attract visitors and residents. One 1912 feature story in Sunset magazine (the monthly publication of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company) raved about the fertile land, the irrigation systems, and Grandview's distinct advantage over (what was then) much cheaper Canadian land. Author John Scott Mills wrote, "I do not mean to be uncharitable concerning the country across the line, but having seen both localities it is mystifying to me why a good American citizen will swear allegiance to the English government to take up a homestead in Canada when he can make a better living on a ten-acre tract in the Yakima valley and enjoy some of the comforts of life as he goes through the seasons" (Mills).

History of Grandview

Grandview was also fortunate to have a fine recorded history through much of its earlier existence. The History of Grandview Washington was published by the Grandview Pioneer Association, with photos contributed by renowned Northwest photographer Asahel Curtis (1874-1941). The book itself was first printed in 1927, but diligent local historians and hobbyists added supplements up until 1956. From the book one learns some of the less newsworthy -- but no less pivotal to those who lived there -- events of Grandview life through the early to mid-twentieth century.

Tucked between paragraphs about the formation of Boy Scout troops, graduating seniors, and obituaries, it is noted that in 1928 the first salesman to travel by airplane visited the town, selling cotton fabrics. Also included is the construction timeline of Grandview City Park, from the 1924 purchase of the tract to the 1928 installation of a "beautiful drinking fountain" for the cost of $96 (History of Grandview, 78). There's mention of a neon sign reading "Grandview" installed at the highway in 1932, and an "event of quite general interest" in 1951 when the city welcomed its first guide dog, who assisted a Grandview teenager (History of Grandview, 224).

By 1921, Grandview was being lauded (or at least publicized) as a quintessential "jackrabbits to riches" story as the editor of the Grandview Herald wrote a glowing feature detailing the $20 million in crop returns from the estimated $1.25 million funding of the Yakima Project. With the coming of the Depression (including the 30-day closure of the Mabton Bank in 1933), the town faced losses. But as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) economic recovery program kicked in, a string of improvements began to take place. In 1935, the WPA built a 500-seat ballpark with bleachers, using both federal and city funds.

Growing and Changing Population 

By 1944, a census was taken that found Grandview's population had grown to 1,863 residents. The town was now large enough to be considered a third-class city, a higher designation than the original incorporation as a town of the fourth class. One of the contributing factors to population growth was no doubt the forced evacuation of residents from Hanford and White Bluffs, some miles northeast of Grandview in Benton County, as the government began construction of the Hanford Engineering Works (responsible for the development of the atomic bomb). Also in 1944, a housing authority was formed in Grandview to deal with an expected growth in population. By 1950, the city's population had reached 2,497.

As always, agriculture dominated the daily life of Grandview. In 1937, wine-making began to emerge as a business -- the National Wine Company built its distillery that year, and built a large addition in 1949. In 1952, grass seed was cited as a new cash crop, and 19 farms introduced sprinkler irrigation systems to water their harvests. And as agriculture boomed (or busted, depending on the year) the racial make-up of Yakima County and Grandview changed.

During World War II, labor was in short supply in the Yakima Valley. The shortage was due not only to military enlistment, but also to the forced internment of more than 1,000 valley residents of Japanese ancestry, many of whom held jobs in the agricultural economy. The Bracero Program, begun shortly after the war in response to the labor shortage, allowed Mexican citizens into the U.S. as guest-workers. While most did not stay permanently, the program introduced Latinos to the economic possibilities in the Northwest, and encouraged a migrant population in the area. By 1971, a Seattle Times article mentioned that Grandview's movie theater showed Spanish-language films on weeknights, with movies in English on Friday and Saturday, and that a Mexican American officer received the highest grade in the Grandview police training school.

When the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed in 1986, it had far-reaching consequences for the migrant and immigrant workers in the Yakima Valley. The act granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants who were in the United States prior to 1982; it also punished employers who hired undocumented workers. What resulted was a mad scramble by immigrants in the region to find proof that they were living in the area before 1982. Not an easy task for those who paid rent in cash, didn't have tax returns, or had no employment history to point to (often the case, due to an employer's lack of records).

Making History 

The undocumented population in Grandview continued to fear deportation. In 1999, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began another crackdown, this time even more rigid. Officials pored over payroll records for those with phony registration numbers, and then ordered 13 fruit packinghouses in the Yakima Valley to fire 700 workers. But the news wasn't always bad; Grandview's Latino population made history in 1998, when the city's mayor, Jesse Palacios, was elected the state's first Latino county commissioner.

In 1988 voters in Grandview approved the creation of the Port of Grandview (as of 2013, the most recent public port to be established in the state) to promote the development of food processing and other industries. Olsen Bros. became one of the Port's most significant tenants when the company built a $2.4 million, 20,000-square-foot organic blueberry-packing plant that opened in 2010. The Port also worked with Wal-Mart, Inc. to bring an 880,000-square foot grocery distribution center to Grandview in 2003. 

Grandview continues to grow agriculturally and as a location for food processing. Companies like FruitSmart, JM Smuckers, Welch's, and Shonan, Inc. have food processing plants in Grandview that take advantage of the fruit and vegetable harvests. Grandview even received some international attention when the Northwest Cherry Growers hatched a plan to increase sales of cherries in Asia, already the largest export market for Northwest cherries. The growers hired a popular Taiwanese pop star to film a music video/commercial hybrid in a Grandview orchard, using cherries as an analogy for love. It was a hit on MTV Asia, and Taiwanese stores could hardly keep up with demand.

Grandview's population was 10,862 at the time of the 2010 census. In 2013, the city has seven parks, including a seasonal swimming pool. Nearly 80 percent of the population is Latino.

Sources: History of Grandview Washington (Grandview: Grandview Pioneer Association, 1927); HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Grandview voters create state's newest port on November 8, 1988" (by Jim Kershner), "Yakima County -- Thumbnail History" (by Paula Becker), "Wapato -- Its History and Hispanic Heritage -- Thumbnail History" (by Gonzalo Guzman), "More than 1,000 persons of Japanese ancestry are forced from the Yakima Valley in response to Executive Order 9066 on June 4 and 5, 1942" (by Paula Becker), and "The Bracero Program: Crossing the Border to a New Life" (by Cameron Holt), http://www.historylink.org (accessed August 30, 2013); L. H. Darwin, "Yakima Valley Has Wonderful Future," The Seattle Times, December 22, 1912, p. 21; "Water Transforms Barren Land into Fertile Valley," Ibid., November 20, 1921, p. 11; Don Duncan, "Grandview's Chief of Police is a Product of Small-Town Stability," Ibid., May 25, 1972, p. D-1; Terry McDermott, "Immigrants: New Fears -- Some Could Face Deportation Because of Immigration Reform," Ibid., November 2, 1986, p. E-1; Paul Andrews, "A Bitter Harvest, Part One and Two," Ibid., October 18, 1987, p. 10; James E. Lalonde, "The Glut of '87," Ibid., July 12, 1987, p. C-1; Nicholas K. Geranios, "Farm Clinic Sees World of Diseases," Ibid., September 26, 1988, p. C-8; "Grandview Man's Win Makes History," Ibid., September 17, 1988, p. B-2; Barbara A. Serrano, "Fuming Follows INS-Ordered Firings," Ibid., February 28, 1999, p. A-1; "Believe It, Dudes, I Spent Cherry Season In, Like, An Orchard," Ibid., October 22, 1999, p. E-2; "Freeway Changed Yakima Valley Forever," Ibid., October 28, 2002, p. B-3; Hal Bernton and Lornet Turnbull, "News Goes From Bad to Worse for Growers," Ibid., August 31, 2007, p. A-19; "Food Processing," Yakima County Development Association website accessed August 30, 2013 (http://www.ycda.com/target-industries/food-processing/); "Quick Facts," City of Grandview website accessed August 30, 2013 (http://www.grandview.wa.us/); "Order of Incorporation, Grandview," approved September 20, 1909, Register of Incorporated Cities and Towns, Records of the Secretary of State, Washington State Archives, Olympia, Washington; United States Census website accessed August 30, 2013 (http://factfinder2.census.gov).

Related Topics:   Cities & Towns

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