Northern Pacific Railroad establishes Pasco on November 28, 1884.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 2/14/2003
  • Essay 5194

On November 28, 1884, the Northern Pacific Railroad establishes Pasco at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers. Northern Pacific Engineer Virgil G. Bogue (1846-1916) names the site after the Andean mining town of Cerro de Pasco in Peru, which was also windy and dry.

In 1879, the Northern Pacific began construction on a bridge across the Snake River and built the town of Ainsworth on the north bank. In 1883, Franklin County was created out of Whitman County and the county seat was set at Ainsworth. In 1884, the bridge was finished and the Northern Pacific abandoned the town, moving its operations and buildings two miles up the Columbia.

The new location (Pasco) served as a junction between the rail lines from Seattle and Tacoma, Portland, and Spokane. The railroad built a one-stall roundhouse for steam locomotives and housing for employees. A ferry landing with tracks allowed cars to be transported across the river to Kennewick until a bridge took over traffic in 1889. The landing was called Hummely and Melton before Bogue picked the name of Pasco. The company housing was painted Indian red with a bottle-green trim, and the street became Red Row.

The county courthouse moved to Pasco in 1887 and Ainsworth was officially "vacated, set aside and annulled" (Oberst, 17) in 1898.


Walter A. Oberst, Railroads, Reclamation And the River, A History of Pasco, (Pasco: Franklin County Historical Society, 1978), 6-7, 15-19.

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