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's main claim to fame will come a year later, when police from more than two dozen jurisdictions prevent hippies and rockers from congregating nearby for a planned three-day festival. 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 (some accounts say 1871) 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 and at least one of his brothers purchased Marlin's property in 1876, but 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 the summer of 1901, and from there other businesses followed -- at least one and possibly two hotels, two banks, at least two churches, a railroad depot, a school, 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 the county assessor reported Krupp's population at 45 or 55 (accounts differ) 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 (1864-1925), George's younger brother. 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 1906, 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 structures.
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. 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.
Hippies and Hutterites
In May 1971, promoters announced there would be a three-day rock festival held a mile or two south of Marlin in mid-June. Up to 50,000 people were expected to attend the event, billed as Sunrise '71. The locals wouldn't hear of it. They successfully obtained an injunction prohibiting the festival, and the day before it was to start, promoters confirmed it was canceled. But it was too late. Some people were already en route, and others, indifferent about the cancellation, were coming out anyway. At this point, hundreds of police from 16 counties and 10 cities, supplemented with state troopers, converged on the scene, matching and sometimes outnumbering the number of mostly young people gathering at the site. The police stopped traffic and searched vehicles, first confiscating band equipment and later food, reasoning that once the revelers got hungry, they'd leave. "We're going to starve those hippies out," affirmed one officer ("Lawmen Thwart ..."). Eventually the police established roadblocks and prevented entry entirely.
In 1975, a group of Hutterites established the Marlin Hutterian Brethren colony approximately five miles southwest of Marlin. Hutterites, a communal religious group, are pacifists who believe in living simply and off the land. In Marlin, they make their living from cattle and crops. Women wear long, plaid dresses; men wear black or dark pants and suspenders. They call themselves "the plain people." The colony's population has fluctuated around 100 over the years, living in a quiet, orderly community in the middle of nowhere. Though referred to by some of their neighbors as "the Hoots," the colony's residents have succeeded in their new home and have earned a measure of respect.
Slow Fade, A New Day
By the 1980s Marlin's barbershop had closed, and so had its tavern. The town grocery held on awhile longer, but it too was gone by the late 1990s. In the early twenty-first century the community center, which had been established in the gymnasium of the former school, closed. So did City Hall, which had been operating out of a former church building. Marlin's remaining two churches, both of which had been in the town 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. 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.