Wapato is incorporated on September 16, 1908.

  • By Alan J. Stein
  • Posted 7/25/2013
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 10433
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On September 16, 1908, the Washington State Legislature approves the incorporation of Wapato as a Fourth Class City. Originally named Simcoe, Wapato is located south of Yakima in Yakima County, within the boundaries of the Yakama Indian Reservation.

Wapato was founded in 1885 as Simcoe, along the Northern Pacific Railroad in Yakima County in south central Washington. The railroad stop was approximately 15 miles northeast of Fort Simcoe, a United States Army fort built in 1856, but given over to the Yakama Indian Agency in 1859 for use as a school. The similar names created much confusion in the community's early years.

In 1902, United States Secretary of the Interior Ethan Hitchcock (1835-1909) appointed Alexander E. McCredy (1868-1950) as Indian post trader at Simcoe. McCredy's wife Alice (1873-1955) was named postmistress, at which point the town's name was changed to Wapato to end all confusion.

Platted and Incorporated 

Alex McCredy platted Wapato in 1905, by which time the community was growing steadily thanks to the construction of the Irwin Canal in 1896 and the ensuing agricultural boom. The year 1905 also saw an influx of Japanese workers from Hawaii, recruited by the Northwestern Land Company to work on a nursery south of town.

By 1908, Wapato had more than 300 residents, the requisite number by state law to allow a community to incorporate as a city. Wapato voters approved incorporation in August 1908, by a vote of 61 to 6, and John Forsythe Douglas (1861-1929) was elected mayor. The Washington State Legislature approved the incorporation on September 16, 1908.

Some of Wapato's first ordinances included the appointment of a city attorney and a police justice, prescribing a time and place for council meetings, and providing for the licensing, impounding, and killing of dogs. Unfortunately, the council forgot to introduce an ordinance announcing elections and the city officers had to hold their seats for another year until one was passed.

Sources: W. D. Lyman, History of the Yakima Valley, Washington, Vol. 1 (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1919); Stronghold in the Yakima Country: The Story of Fort Simcoe, 1856-1859 (Olympia: Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, 1956); "New Corporations," The Seattle Times, September 17, 1908, p. 2; "Wapato Officers Hold Over," The Seattle Times, December 17, 1908, p. 2; "Wapato City Council Ordinances, 1908-1988," available at Washington State Digital Archives website accessed July 24, 2013 (http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov/Search).

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