(Native American Name: Klála)
|— Unincorporated Town —|
|Platted||July 9, 1895|
|Named for||Fielden Mortimer Thorp|
|• Total||1.2 sq mi (3.2 km2)|
|• Land||1.2 sq mi (3.2 km2)|
|• Water||0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)|
|Elevation||1,637 ft (499 m)|
|• Total||240 (CDP)|
|• Density||221.2/sq mi (85.4/km2)|
|• Surrounding area||695 (ZCTA)|
|Time zone||Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)|
|• Summer (DST)||PDT (UTC-7)|
|GNIS feature ID||1527125|
Thorp (pron.: //, US dict: thawrp) is an unincorporated town and census-designated place (CDP) in Kittitas County, Washington, United States. The population was 240 at the 2010 census. The surrounding area (ZIP Code Tabulated Area) had a population of 695 as of the 2010 census.
The town of Thorp is 99.36 miles east of Seattle, Washington, 9.29 miles northwest of Ellensburg, and 15.21 miles southeast of Cle Elum (pron.: //, US dict: klee-EL'-uhm). It is located at the picturesque narrow west end of the Kittitas Valley (pron.: //, US dict: KIT'-i-tas) where high elevation timber lands of the Cascade Range, with mountain lakes and vacation homes, give way to horse country and cattle ranches surrounded by rich, irrigated farmlands noted for Timothy hay, alfalfa, vegetables, fruit, and forage production.
Thorp is named for Fielden Mortimer Thorp, recognized as the first permanent white settler in the Kittitas Valley. He established a homestead at the approach to Taneum Canyon (pron.: //, US dict: TAYN'-uhm) near the present-day town of Thorp in 1868. Klála, an ancient Native American village and the largest indigenous settlement in the Kittitas Valley at the arrival of the first white settlers, was located about one mile above the current town site.
The main line of the Northern Pacific Railroad used to run through the town of Thorp, and it was considered an important shipping point at one time. Currently the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe uses the rail line through the town, but the train no longer makes stops.
The town site of Thorp is above the flood plain of the upper Yakima River at an elevation of 1,637 feet (499 m). It is situated near the river's west bank directly opposite the Hayward Hill slide area and Clark Flats, near the southeastern approach to the Yakima River canyon at the foot of Thorp Prairie. To the southwest of the town is Taneum Canyon, and to the west is Elk Heights, Morrison Canyon and the Sunlight Waters private residential subdivision. Ellensburg, the county seat, is southeast of Thorp.
North and northeast of the town of Thorp along the Yakima River channel is the gradual upward lift of the Thorp Drift, marked by an elevation change due to the incline onto the terminal moraine that marks the furthest advance of the Thorp Glacial stage. Here the Thorp Gravels, which are named for the town of Thorp and the Thorp Glacial episode, are exposed along the ancient river channel in what is known as the "Slide Area". The gravels were formed at the terminus of the Thorp Glacial advance approximately 600,000 years ago.
The Thorp Gravels themselves are believed to be between 3 and 4 million years old. The whole structure is composed of individually layered belts of gravel and sand which are not well consolidated, continually weather, and are prone to continuing erosion and landslides averaging 30 degrees. The area is rich with wildlife, including bald eagles and osprey who hunt for prey along the river. It is also a crossing point for deer and elk who often can be seen at dawn and dusk heading to the river for water.
Northwest of the town site of Thorp at the junction of SR 10 and Thorp Highway, the Yakima River emerges from the river canyon parallel to a basalt flow, the uppermost layers of which have been dated to 10.5 million years. The Thorp Prairie sits atop the basalt flows and ends at a deep canyon of Miocene columnar basalt structures carved by Swauk Creek whose headwaters are at Blewett Pass along US 97 to the north. The Thorp Prairie deposits were also delivered by the Thorp Glacial episode.
About 7 miles west of Thorp, the first glimpses of the Columbia River Plateau are seen where the Yakima River has cut into the westernmost edge of the basalt plateau. The Columbia Plateau basalt formed when lava poured out of fissures in the ground across eastern Washington during the Miocene era, 17 to 20 million years ago, erupting intermittently for over 10 million years. Many layers of basalt successively flowed over one another, back when the area was still flat. Subsequent to the Miocene lava flows, the volcanoes of the Cascade Mountains actively erupted, depositing ash, cinders, pumice and mudflows that eventually inter-fingered with the alternating basalt layers throughout the region.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Interstate 90 drops through the Thorp Drift, which marks the oldest and furthest reaching known glacial moraine in the Kittitas Valley. Changes in the types of vegetation become more evident in this area. The changes are the result of a drop in elevation of about 1,400 feet from the summit of Snoqualmie Pass to Thorp, and a significant drop in precipitation of about 107 inches average a year at the summit of Snoqualmie Pass, to 42.94 inches average a year at Thorp.
At the bottom of the Thorp Drift moraine the view opens up into the Kittitas Valley which is deeply buried in river gravel deposited by the ancient Yakima River. This valley is a syncline that creates the Ellensburg Basin located between Mission Ridge to the north and Manastash Ridge to the south. The Ellensburg Basin, more formally called the Ellensburg Formation, holds nearly 4,000 feet of rock, sand, and gravel that accumulated over a period of 2 to 10 million years during the Miocene and lower Pliocene age.
The warmest month of the year at Thorp is July, with an average high of 77.2 °F and an average low of 51.8 °F. The coldest month of the year is January, with an average low of 16.5 °F and an average high of 34.3 °F. Temperature variations between night and day tend to be relatively large during summer with a difference that can reach 30 °F, and fairly limited during winter with temperatures hovering at or below freezing for most of the day, and often dipping below zero at night.
Temperatures generally drop significantly in October, while rainfall rises from less than half an inch to nearly 5 inches average per month. This trend continues through late autumn and winter, with a marked drop in precipitation beginning in April which coincides with a gradual rise in temperature into late spring and summer.
There is significant variation in rainfall throughout the year, with December and January receiving a mix of rainfall and snow, averaging 9.06 and 7.94 inches respectively. Rainfall during summer is, on average, less than half an inch each month with July receiving the lowest monthly average precipitation of the year at .07 inches.
Surrounding area 
As of the census of 2000, there were 273 people, 103 households, and 74 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 221.2 people per square mile (85.7/km²). There were 107 housing units at an average density of 86.7/sq mi (33.6/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 93.41% White, 1.10% Native American, 1.83% from other races, and 3.66% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.20% of the population.
There were 103 households out of which 44.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.3% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.2% were non-families. 24.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.65 and the average family size was 3.17.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 33.0% under the age of 18, 4.8% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 26.0% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 113.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.8 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $33,125, and the median income for a family was $45,625. Males had a median income of $31,250 versus $22,500 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $17,772. About 5.6% of families and 5.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.2% of those under the age of eighteen and 19.2% of those sixty five or over.
Native Americans 
The Kittitas Valley was occupied by the Kittitas (Yakama Ichishkíin Sínwit: Ki-tatash) or Upper Yakama tribe, as well as hunting and food gathering parties of Cayuse and Nez Perce. The area was rich in wild berries, fish and game, and neighboring tribes annually converged on the valley in April or May to harvest Indian onions (Allium spp.), Indian potatoes (Claytonia lanceolata), and breadroot (Lomatium canbyi). The various tribes engaged in horse trading with early British and American fur traders, and had peaceful relations with Jesuit Catholic missionaries who preceded them.
In the 1840s, white settlers began to pour into the Oregon and Washington territories, bringing with them a measles epidemic and other diseases deadly to the indigenous population. That, coupled with cultural differences such as plowing the ground, which was seen as desecrating the spirit of the earth, led to confrontation between Native Americans and white settlers.
The Kittitas did not have formal political unity under a permanent central authority that is characteristic of tribes. Rather, they were made up of a number of small, locally autonomous bands or villages under the authority of one or more chiefs. At the time when white settlers first passed through the Kittitas Valley, their principal chiefs were Teias and Owhi.
The largest indigenous settlement in the Kittitas Valley at the arrival of the white settlers was Klála, a village of around 500 people located about one mile above the present town of Thorp along the Yakima River opposite the mouth of Taneum Creek. Further up the river, about six miles northwest of present-day Thorp was the village of Tátxanixsha, and four miles below Thorp was a village of around 400 people called Yumi'sh.
Among the earliest records of Native American interaction with frontiersmen in the Kittitas Valley took place in 1858, the summer of the Yakima War, when a large contingency of Wanapum from Priest Rapids camped at the head of Taneum Canyon very close to where the town of Thorp is now located.
They were led by Smohalla, the legendary dreamer-prophet associated with the Washani or "Dreamer Movement" among the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Smohalla claimed that visions came to him through dreams, and he preached a return to the original way of life before white influences which included ritual music and dancing. His speaking was called Yuyunipitqana for “Shouting Mountain".
Rumors floated that Smohalla was preparing for battle. An exchange took place in which Rev. George W. Kennedy, a frontier Methodist preacher, traveled to the location of the camp in an attempt to make peace as he had become alarmed that such a large assembly meant hostility. By all accounts, Smohalla was not easily intimidated. "He looked like a king. Stolid as a statue," Kennedy said of meeting him. The preacher exhorted, "God had made us all brothers and not enemies" and "the Great Father want[s] us all to live together in peace on earth."
If that is true, Smohalla demanded, "Why has the white man taken our lands from us? Has the white man any rights here in [the] Kittitas that the Indian has any right to respect? The Indian came first."
It was, Kennedy conceded, "an unanswerable speech ... And I promised utmost friendship on the part of the white brothers. We gave them our hand shake and pronounced benediction of God on them, and Chief Smohalla agreed to accept that as the Pipe of Peace."
Thorp pioneers 
Until the mid-1850s, the Kittitas Valley saw little encroachment by pioneer settlers. But in 1853, the first immigrant wagon trains passed through the area led by David Longmore. During that same year, George B. McClellan conducted a survey of the valley on behalf of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and two years later Charles Splawn briefly passed through the area.
"It was on the fourth day out that we came to the beautiful Kittitas valley. This valley, as it looked that day to me, a boy of 16, was the lovliest [sic] spot I had ever seen. To the west stood the great Cascade range; to the north rose the snow-capped peaks of the Peshastin to guard the beautiful valley below where the Yakima River wound its way full-length, while from the mountains on the north flowed numerous small streams and the whole plain was covered with a thick coat of grass."
Fielden Mortimer (F. M.) Thorp is recognized as the first white settler in the Yakima Valley, prior to his subsequent move to the pleasant surroundings of the present-day town of Thorp. Rudimentary county government was formed in Yakima County in 1865, and business was transacted at the home of F. M. Thorp near Moxee until another suitable location could be found.
Settlers began to trickle into the Kittitas Valley with the opening of the Snoqualmie Wagon Road in 1867, which approximated the modern-day route of Interstate 90 past Thorp, from Seattle to Ellensburg. Among these first adventurous individuals were F. M. Thorp and Charles Splawn, whose families had united with the marriage of Charles Splawn, a brother of Senator Andrew Jackson Splawn of Yakima, to Thorp's daughter Dulcena in 1863.
In 1868, they became the first permanent white settlers in the Kittitas Valley, building the Thorp and Splawn homesteads at the head of Taneum Canyon on the banks of Taneum Creek. This location, not more than a mile from the present town of Thorp, provided ideal shelter for their wintering cattle, as well as offering water and fertile soils for agriculture. Charles Splawn operated a tavern, or roadhouse, at this location which served as an overnight stop for travelers crossing the Snoqualmie Trail.
Shortly thereafter, the F. M. Thorp and Charles Splawn families were joined by their friend Walter J. Reed, the second settler in the Kittitas Valley, who later established the community of Cle Elum. Tillman Houser, another early settler who brought his family over Snoqualmie Pass to settle on Coleman Creek, entered the valley on June 16 of that same year, and was later joined by Martin Dervan and his wife. The first post office in the Kittitas Valley was established as Taneum Station at the home of F. M. Thorp in 1869.
Antoine Bertram was a Yakama Indian who moved to the Thorp area with the Charles Splawn and the F. M. Thorp families. He farmed the area with his first wife Emma Pahofta, the daughter of Indian John (for whom Indian John Hill, and the Indian John Hill Rest Area on Interstate 90 between Cle Elum and Thorp are named). Later in life he married Emma's sister Lucy Pahofta. Antoine helped Thorp and Splawn tend their cattle. Keneho, another friendly Indian of Yakama descent, was paid ten dollars by Charles Splawn for each trip to carry the mail over the Snoqualmie Trail to and from the Taneum Station post office.
Among the mysterious landmarks in the Thorp area is stone slab marking a grave at Tamarack Springs in the Taneum Canyon, which reads, "A White Woman's Grave." This grave belongs to the wife of Al Williams, whose wife was killed at the springs in 1870. Williams and his wife were traveling through the area and became lost. They were directed by an Indian to follow the Tamarack Trail, since it was the closest route to a settlement. In hurrying to their destination, the woman's horse stumbled over a log and fell. A letter written by Charles Splawn explains the tragic events:
"Because his wife was expecting a baby, they started to go to a settlement. The horse Mrs. Williams was riding fell while jumping a log. The child was born prematurely and the mother and baby died. Williams buried his wife and child as best he could. And rode down into the valley. He afterwards came back to remove the bodies. Thorp, Splawn and Rego advised him not to. They told him she was a pioneer's daughter and a pioneer's wife and she should rest in a pioneer grave."
Years later, according to the late Mrs. W. D. Bruton of Thorp, a marker was placed over the grave by Matt Pointer, who rode the area with his cattle, to mark it as a white woman's grave so it would not be vandalized. Eventually, a fence was built around it and rocks placed over it to protect it from livestock. After the death of his wife, Williams went to the Puget Sound area and operated a ferry at Nisqually River and eventually moved to California where his brother owned a stage line. Today, the grave is located off Road 3120 on land owned by the Washington Department of Natural Resources in a small fenced area across a meadow from the springs.
The Thorp-Splawn Pioneer Cemetery is located about a mile southwest of the town of Thorp on the north side of Interstate 90 in a field that is visible from the freeway. There are two Splawn and two Thorp graves, plus twelve unmarked graves. Ten of the twelve are descendants of F. M. Thorp, and two are unidentified. The marked graves are Dulcena Heelen [sic] and Violet Vivian Splawn, and Fielden M. and Margaret Thorp. The Thorp-Splawn Cemetery was neglected until 1964, when the Terra Firma Garden Club of Thorp restored the plot. However, putting the markers over the right graves was impossible due to years of decay and it is uncertain whether the markers correctly correspond with the individuals buried there.
Other early settlers in the Thorp area were Herman Page, J. H. Stevens, W. D. Killmore, A. T. Mason, George O’Hare, George and Jacob Forgey, John Newman, and John C. Goodwin. Goodwin was later appointed the first sheriff of Kittitas County upon the first meeting of the county commissioners in Ellensburg on December 17, 1883. John Ellison and Amy Childs of Thorp were both members of early settler families in the area, and at the time of their marriage in 1884, received the first marriage license granted in Kittitas County.
In the 1870s, the area that would become Thorp was known as Pleasant Grove and was part of Yakima County. On July 6, 1872, the Pleasant Grove post office on the west side of the Yakima River was established at the ranch of John S. Vaughn, and the Taneum post office was discontinued the following year on April 7 due to an unnecessary overlap in service. Despite being one of the earliest locations in Kittitas County to be settled, Pleasant Grove would remain sparsely populated for the next decade, with cattle ranching as the primary occupation.
By the early 1880s, farming was beginning to take hold in the area around Thorp, and the open range began to shrink. In 1880, the Pleasant Grove post office was moved close to where the small commercial center was beginning to form with the establishment of a sawmill and, three years later, a gristmill. The new settlement hoped for the eventual establishment of a railway depot as the Northern Pacific Railroad had made its intentions clear that it would soon come through the valley close to where the village was located.
Mill town and railroad era 
In 1878, James L. Mills traversed the trail over the Cascade Mountains from Puget Sound by foot, and saw great possibilities in the Kittitas Valley. He built a sawmill west of the current town site in 1879, diverting water from the Yakima River to turn its wheels. The sawmill had a capacity of 7,000 feet daily.
Not content with the sawmill, Mills devised a way for the same wheels to power the North Star Mill, a gristmill that Oren Hutchinson had built at the town of Thorp in 1883, to provide feed for livestock and flour for the local residents. The mill was best known for its leading brand "Tip Top".
The Pleasant Grove post office was moved in 1880 to a site near the mills and changed its name to Milton post office to reflect the name of the small settlement that had sprung up at that location, which was named for Milton Young. It was housed in several farm houses northwest of the current town site of Thorp until 1884, when it was re-established at the Thorp gristmill through the instrumentality of James L. Mills, who named it "Oren" after Oren Hutchinson. In 1889, the name of the post office was changed to "Thorp" to conform with the name used for the settlement by the Northern Pacific Railroad, and, in 1895, the post office was moved just down the road to the location of the depot that was built there and the town site that had been platted around it.
It was the system of water delivery that made the mills at Thorp possible, and the farming lands around Thorp are the oldest irrigated section in Kittitas County. The Manastash Canal was completed in 1875, followed later in the same year by the Taneum Ditch Company. The Westside irrigating canal that runs just south of the town of Thorp was begun in June 1889, and water was first used in 1890. Utilizing water diverted from the Yakima River, it is about 14 miles long and averages 12 feet wide. The original cost for building the Westside Canal was $30,000.
To a great extent, the town of Thorp owes its existence to the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad. While some of the initial settlement was undoubtedly influenced by the convergence of wagon trails which would eventually cross Snoqualmie Pass, it was the location of the Cascade spur that ultimately determined the location of the town. In 1887, the Northern Pacific Railroad reached the town of Thorp, when the railroad’s management built a sidetrack out one mile west of the current town site and named it after the intrepid pioneer F. M. Thorp and his family.
It took two years to build the Northern Pacific line from Old Town, now Union Gap, to Thorp. Chinese laborers or "coolies" were brought in first to build the Northern Pacific spur, and again to extend the Milwaukee Road through the Kittitas Valley. A Northern Pacific section house was located at Thorp where men of the regular crew boarded, while Chinese laborers and other members of the work gang had their own sleeping cars.
In 1895, with the extension of the main line to the site of the current town, the railroad station was moved and the town was laid out. The town of Thorp developed around this depot, with the first developments including the construction of maintenance facilities, shipping facilities and warehouses.
The current town site was settled by the Newman family in 1878. On July 9, 1895, a three-block town site was platted around the site of the Northern Pacific depot by John M. and Sarah Isabel Newman. In May 1900, Milford A. Thorp, a son of F. M. Thorp, added Thorp's Addition, incorporating into the town site the land he had purchased in 1885 from James McMurray. Houses and businesses quickly sprang up, and small farms appeared around the edges.
The first store in Thorp was opened by J. E. Veach in about 1895. The first hotel was the Thorp House, established by A. St. John in 1893. The hotel was superseded by the Tanum House [sic] in 1903, which was built and operated by J. F. Duncan.
The Ellensburg Dawn newspaper wrote in the spring of 1901 of the promising little town:
"The little village of Thorp, nine miles up the road, is one of the nicest little places in Central Washington. It is quiet, no saloons to mar the pleasure of the inhabitants, has a good church, a good public school building, a sawmill and a good flouring mill, both of which are operated by water power, a manufacturing establishment--land roller and box factory, and in fact you can get about all the accommodations in Thorp you can get in many towns of much larger population. We are glad Thorp is in Kittitas County."
In 1907, the energy from the water wheel at the North Star Mill was utilized to power a steam generator having a 40-horsepower dynamo, which furnished electricity for laundering clothes two mornings each week, and for lighting homes for a few hours each evening. This gave Thorp the distinction of being among the first towns in Washington to have electricity, and the smallest unincorporated town in the Northwest to have electric lights.
The addition of a Milwaukee Road depot in 1909 meant that Thorp was the first rail stop where the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad and the Northern Pacific Railroad crossed paths, making it an important shipping point at one time. The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad operated its headquarters for building operations in the Lower Kittitas County, including the shipping in of supplies for the area, out of its Thorp depot. The pay office of employees and the commissary were also located at Thorp.
The U.S. Postal Service carried mail to and from Thorp by railroad cars of the Northern Pacific. Rather than stopping and losing precious time, RPO (railway post office) cars featured a large hook that would catch the mailbag in its crook on the way past the station. A daily passenger train ran east to Ellensburg and points beyond, stopping in Thorp around 11:30 a.m. and returning around 4 p.m., followed by another westbound train at 11 p.m.
Boomtown and beyond 
Through the first few decades of the 20th century, the town's economy remained steady with the population reaching its peak at around 400 people. Eugene B. Brain wrote of the flourishing town of Thorp, as it was poised to enter into its boomtown era, in The Coast magazine:
"The people of Thorp are prosperous and well-to-do. The business interests are represented by two general stores, a fine hotel, drug store, restaurant, livery, meat market, blacksmith shop, saw mill, flouring mill, numerous fruit packers and shippers and other pursuits [...] with a bright present, a prosperous and large future lies before the town. Thorp is bound to grow and with its enterprising and progressive residents a magnificent town is assured--a town of wealth and importance for Kittitas County."
Then in the late 1920s and 1930s, Thorp experienced a remarkable economic boost despite the Great Depression that had descended upon the nation.
This period of growth and prosperity was led by an influx of timber workers from the Taneum Canyon, where the Cascade Logging Company maintained a portable logging camp. In 1928, Thorp became one of the headquarters for the Bureau of Reclamation's Kittitas Division of the Yakima Project which focused on construction of the Highline Canal, an event that brought yet more activity to the town.
This coincided with the establishment of Camp Taneum as Company 4771 of the Civilian Conservation Corps at nearby Taneum Canyon, bringing as many as 189 young men from as far away as New York to work at the camp, many of whom frequented the town of Thorp for shopping and entertainment. Camp Taneum was disbanded in July 1938, and its enrollees transferred to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and Little Rock, Arkansas for reassignment.
The boost in the economy brought workers into the town, spawning the need for social venues which, with the absence of liquor during the Prohibition era, made Ellison's Hall a great attraction. Located at the corner of Railroad Street (Thorp Highway) and First Street, Ellison's offered lively smokers on Saturday nights. It was also the home of many parties hosted by the Ladies' Aid Society, and dances featuring local favorites like "Larry's Harmony Aces" and "Pinky's Roamers".
On the morning of May 24, 1938, a serious fire burned several small businesses to the ground, including the Thorp Hotel, and a mercantile along with the clubhouse on the second floor above it which was home to the Thorp Odd Fellows and Rebekahs lodges.
The Thorp Hotel had been operated as the "Tanum House" [sic] first by J. F. Duncan and then by Frank and Callie Mattox. The name was changed sometime in the 1920s, and subsequently operated by Harrison and Nancy Barrett from 1924 to 1930. At the time of the fire it was operated by Ray Long.
None of the businesses destroyed in the 1938 fire were rebuilt, and the business district of the town was again struck by fire on the afternoon of August 16, 1943, when another commercial building was burned. The blaze threatened a serious conflagration, and was extinguished by state forestry crews with the assistance of a pumper from Ellensburg.
The realization that the fire might have been more serious, coupled with the previous fires in the town, gave impetus to a movement that had been underway at Thorp for some time regarding the purchase of fire equipment. An emergency meeting of the town residents was held on the evening of August 19, 1943, to discuss the town's response to the problem. Kittitas County Fire District No. 1 was organized in that same year at Thorp, and is the oldest fire protection district in the state. The volunteer fire department's small fire house was topped with the large bell that originally hung in the belfry of the old Thorp school house. The bell is now an artifact at the current fire station which was recently built adjacent to the old one. The original fire house was subsequently sold and has been converted to an artist's studio and residence.
The boomtown days began to subside with the departure of the canal workers and the winding down of nearby logging operations. The local economy greatly suffered with many businesses closing never to reopen, and the boom era had essentially come to a close by the end of World War II.
The Northern Pacific Railroad depot at Thorp was officially closed on July 1, 1952. The Northern Pacific cited a steady decline in shipments and competition from trucks as the reason for the closure. The last shipment of freight moved from Thorp via the Northern Pacific line was on May 9, 1952.
In 1967, ground was broken at the site of the 1938 fire by the Ellensburg Telephone Company which acquired the land to build a local telephone exchange office for the Thorp area. The building, which cost $25,000 to complete, was cut into service in May 1968, and is still in use. The exchange office was originally equipped to handle 400 subscribers.
The construction of a two-lane steel truss bridge over the Yakima River west of Thorp in 1936, prepared the way for the designation of the Thorp Highway, from State Route 10 (SR 10) to US 97, as SSH 3M (Secondary State Highway 3M) in 1937. In 1953, the highway through Thorp was deleted from the state highway system.
The location of U.S. Route 10 (now State Route 10) north of Thorp in 1926, and the eventual opening of Interstate 90 in 1968, all played vital roles in the changing population and economic conditions that shaped the small community.
Thorp Cemetery 
The Thorp Cemetery is located about a mile south of the town along Thorp Cemetery Road. Herman Page, a farmer who came to Thorp from New York, gave land for the cemetery and he is buried there. Markers denote graves dated as early as 1890, however Herman Page started Page's Grove, a 10-acre timber culture, and claimed his 160-acre homestead as early as 1875.
The title was transferred to the Thorp Methodist Episcopal Church in the late 1880s, and it was subsequently operated by the Thorp Odd Fellows Lodge until 1940 when the lodge folded. In 1962, it was placed under the management of Kittitas County Cemetery District No. 1.
Local legend holds that the cemetery is haunted by the ghost of a young Indian woman by the name of Susie, who was tragically lynched around the year 1890 at Thorp, by persons unknown in the area. Documents held by the Kittitas County Genealogical Society confirm her death as "caused by hanging by unknown person," listing her father as Salmon La Sac. It is reported that she has been seen riding a white horse, and weeping sorrowfully among the tombstones on moonlit nights. The cemetery is often listed among "haunted places" in Washington state.
The cemetery is restful and well cared for, and remains an active place of burial for departed loved ones of the Thorp community. Visitors, especially those fascinated by the legend of the Indian girl and her ghost, are encouraged to show respect for those resting there, and for the rights and privacy of visiting families.
|Thorp Church of Christ
Charter Roll of 1895
|Myra Barnett, Robert Barnett, Retta Barnett, Eldora Briggs, William Briggs, Lena Burns, Frances Childs, Mary Childs, Hannah Childs, Warren Childs, George DeShazer, Nancy DeShazer, Allie Ellison, Eugene Ellison, Maud Ellison, Ruth Ellison, John Ellison, Lewis Ellison, Deborah George, Ellis George, Dee Goodwin, Lillian Goodwin, Olive Goodwin, Martha Mattox, William Mattox, Jennie Osborn, Florence Snyder, Dora Stultz, Philip Stultz and Laura Turner.|
Several Thorp families that came from Polk County, Oregon, had a heritage in the Stone-Campbell Movement. Although they had been meeting as a group since 1890, the Thorp Church of Christ was not formed until 1895. The primary movers in launching the new congregation were Mary Childs and Sarah Goodwin. Their work was successful, but Sarah Goodwin is not listed on the charter roll of 1895 because she had already passed to her eternal reward by the time the church was fully established.
The first services were held at the Thorp school house, with a permanent church structure being erected in 1897. Early ministers signed one-year contracts to serve the community with most moving on to other congregations after only a short period of time.
The town of Thorp was also the home of the Thorp Methodist Episcopal Church for many years, however that congregation was disbanded sometime in the 1930s. The steeple on the Methodist Episcopal church was cut off, and it served variously as a Grange hall, clubhouse and the Rodeo Renegades square dance hall until recently when it was sold and converted to a residence.
In 1949, Teddy Leavitt formed a short-lived Bible college at Thorp, which was affiliated with the Thorp Church of Christ. The church structure fell victim to fire on April 13, 1950, and as a result the college was relocated to Selah, Washington, where it continued as the Central Washington Bible College until 1977. After the 1950 blaze, the Thorp Church of Christ was quickly rebuilt in the same location.
The Thorp Church of Christ became the Thorp Community Church in 1981. It is located near the intersection of Goodwin Road and First Street in Thorp, and continues to minister to the spiritual needs of the townspeople.
Historic Thorp Mill 
The Thorp Mill began operation in April 1883, as the North Star Mill. The four-story gristmill, built by Oren Hutchinson, provided farmers throughout the Kittitas Valley with the convenience of local processing for wheat crops, as well as serving as an important hub for community activities.
In the latter part of the 19th century, the nutritional content of flour ground with the wheat germ intact was a vast improvement over flour ground without the wheat germ, and contributed greatly to the health of settlers in developing communities. However, the presence of wheat germ also meant that the flour would spoil quickly, especially in the heat of summer. A local mill allowed area residents to process smaller quantities of wheat at a time. In addition, since the gristmill processed other grains for animal feed, locals were able to "fatten out" stock intended for market and to keep their working stock in better condition.
The mill utilized Yakima River water brought to the area through a system of canals. A horizontal water wheel powered both the gristmill and a nearby sawmill. An ice pond and log pond were located nearby, as well. The ice pond was used for recreational skating, and from it ice was harvested to chill the train cars that carried local fresh produce to market.
Kittitas Valley farmers brought their wheat crops to the Thorp Mill in wagons, and the grain was ground into flour, bran, or feed for livestock. Initially the grain was processed between huge stone burrs that had been brought laboriously via wagon from The Dalles, Oregon. In 1895, the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad depot enabled importation and installation of more efficient steel roller burrs. The railroad also provided local farmers with an easy means to sell their flour throughout the Puget Sound region.
Thorp School District 
Thorp School District No. 400 is located at 10831 Thorp Highway in Thorp. Long a point of pride and center of community life in the town, it provides fully accredited academic, athletic and extra-curricular programs for all grades K-12, as well as a pre-school program. Education has been of paramount importance to the citizens of Thorp since its founding, and Thorp schools are well known for having a rich educational legacy.
Early days 
When District No. 9 of Yakima County (Kittitas County was not separated from Yakima County until 1884) was formed, those who petitioned for its creation would have had no way of knowing that they were part of creating the foundation of the Thorp School District, the first public school system in what is now Kittitas County. In July 1873, a letter was sent by W. H. Crockett, on behalf of the local populace around the site of present-day Thorp, to the Yakima County Superintendent of Schools requesting the formation of a school district. From the letters that would follow, it appears that the new district was approved, but almost immediately a group of residents were petitioning to split-off the southern portion of the district.
A petition to divide Thorp School District No. 9 was received by the Yakima County school superintendent’s office on January 11, 1875. Twelve members of Pleasant Grove community, southwest of the current town site of Thorp, asked that the superintendent grant them permission to separate from the Thorp School District.
The boundaries that would separate the southern section of District No. 9 from its northern neighbor were a point of contention for the next five years. The confusion was settled in January 1880, when Yakima County School Superintendent George W. Parrish, granted the formation of District No. 10 which encompassed the area around Splawn School on Taneum Creek. The formerly southern section of the district around the town site of Thorp reverted to the original District No. 9. It is not entirely clear where classes were conducted during the subsequent decade, however in 1885, then 7-year-old Glen Mason arrived in the Thorp area and recalled that school for District No. 9 was held in a one-room log school on the ranch of Jim McCollough in the upper valley.
On November 7, 1887, District No. 9 purchased a one-acre parcel of land from William Andrew Forgey near the present-day intersection of Sisters Road (then an extension of Goodwin Road before Interstate 90 cut it off from the town) and Thorp Cemetery Road, and by 1891 a school house had been built there which became known as the Mills School. Constructed of finely fitted and painted shiplap siding, the building was 24-feet wide and 36-feet long with 14-foot high ceilings, making it stand apart from the log school houses that were common in the area.
When the town of Thorp was officially platted around the Northern Pacific Railroad depot in 1895, residents of Thorp School District No. 9 voted to move the Mills School building a half-mile down Goodwin Road to the newly formed town. The idea of moving the school house, however, was rejected by those who lived in closer proximity to it and a dispute followed. In order to prevent the school house from being moved, the residents around Mills School formed Goodwin School District No. 46, cutting off the town from a school house. The town of Thorp and District No. 9 would go without a proper school house for several more years.
A proper schoolhouse 
Not to be thwarted by their adversaries in the upper valley, sometime in 1895 the people of the town of Thorp devised a scheme to move the school down the road to the town site. One night, the men of Thorp secretly entered the Mills School and absconded with the school equipment and necessary accoutrements, transferring them to a room above the dance hall in the town—from that day forward, school has been held at Thorp. When the community built its church, classes moved from the dance hall to the church.
Then in the spring of 1900, just months before a fresh enrollment of 99 students were to arrive at its doors, the first Thorp school house was completed. Located just a few blocks west of the train depot at the current location of Thorp High School, it was a one-story, two-room structure with a footprint of 46-feet by 50-feet.
In 1904, Goodwin District No. 46, which had split with the Thorp district just eight years earlier, was reunified with it to form Thorp School District No. 27, becoming the first consolidated school district in Kittitas County.
In 1912, the original two-room school house was moved back a few yards, and a new two-story school house added on to the front of it by John Newman and Glen Mason. The building had a capacity of 200, utilizing the old school house which was attached to it in the back, as a gymnasium and classrooms for mechanical arts and home economics. During the early years there were eight grades and three years of high school, but only two years were accredited. The first day of school in this building was September 12, 1912. The first principal was Amos Foster.
Over the next 26 years, the Thorp School District would continue to absorb the smaller rural school districts that surrounded it. In 1917, Thorp School District No. 27 consolidated with Splawn School District and became Thorp School District No. 45. In 1929, the district again consolidated, adding nearly 60 students to its enrollment, to become Thorp School District No. 102. Finally, in 1942, Thorp Prairie School District No. 29 was consolidated with District No. 102, forming the present boundaries of Thorp School District No. 400.
Pride of the community 
By 1932, the district’s enrollment had exceeded the seating capacity of the Thorp school house, and with the town benefitting from an influx of workers from the Highline Canal project and logging operations at Taneum Canyon, plans were drawn up in 1935, for a new brick elementary school to be located next to the existing school house at Thorp. Built in 1936, at a cost of $41,000 during the depths of the Great Depression and partially funded by the WPA, the new elementary school became known as Thorp Grade School. One of the earliest celebrations to be held in the new gymnasium at the school was an Armistice Day program on November 11, 1936, which was led by the district's beloved longtime superintendent Victor Karlson.
Thorp Grade School still stands today, and has been used continuously by the district since its construction. A finely crafted red brick Colonial Revival structure, it was designed by noted architect John W. Maloney. After the construction of the grade school, the old school house continued to serve the district as Thorp High School until 1957, when it was razed to make way for a one-story, modern cinderblock structure in the same location. The new Thorp High School was opened in 1958.
The district was twice considered for consolidation with the nearby Ellensburg School District, first in 1944, and again in 1983. In both cases, a small but vocal group of consolidation proponents were defeated by a massive and well-organized opposition of community leaders and concerned citizens. In the first instance, out of four hearings on the subject only one vote was cast for consolidation with hundreds opposing it. In the second instance, after months of public campaigning by merger supporters accompanied by an intense debate among voters and community members, the question of consolidation was brought before the seven-member Kittitas County Committee on School District Organization. At the conclusion of a 4-hour public hearing on the evening of March 1, 1983, before an overwhelmingly anti-consolidation, standing-room-only crowd at the Thorp High School gymnasium, the committee voted unanimously to reject consolidation of the district.
Voters in the district approved a $1.4 million bond measure for school construction on February 7, 1989, by a margin of nearly 80 percent. The 20-year bond was matched by $927,000 in state funds to renovate and expand the 1958 school building. The building, which was billed as the "first high-tech school in the county," included the addition of ten new classrooms, a library, a gymnasium with seating for 450 people, a computer lab, a student commons area, a music/band room with sound-proof folding doors that doubles as a performance venue, and administrative offices. Opened in the spring of 1990, the facility now houses all district students under one roof. The 1936 red brick building was subsequently renovated to provide additional instructional space and classrooms for the growing needs of the district, while preserving its classic architectural integrity.
Thorp High School 
The Thorp High School mascot was originally the Red Devil, a now controversial slang term relating to Native Americans, however a vote of the student body in 1921 changed the mascot to the Tiger, while the school colors remained red and black. Thorp High School competes as a 1B member of the WIAA North Central Washington Conference.
The high school yearbook, the Hialitza (pron.: //, US dict: hi-ya-LIT-zuh), was first produced in 1922, and, although it has experienced some recent interruptions, has been published annually by the town's high school students to chronicle the events of each school term. The name of the publication is attributed to the Chinook language:
"When an Indian traveling through a mountainous country reaches the top of a mountain he unconsciously stretches forth his hand and says Hialitza which when translated means a panoramic view or great sight. The name stands for the great outdoors and that which lies beyond in the distance. So this record is symbolic of the Seniors who now look back over their four years in High School as in a panoramic view and into the future years they see only a haze in the distance. Thus upon reading this publication one looks upon a panoramic view of the Students and Student Activities of Thorp High School."
Thorp High School places in the top 18% out of 322 high schools in Washington's state high school rankings. The rankings are calculated by taking the standardized tests for Math, Reading, Science and Writing used by Washington to determine the proficiency level across varying grades and subjects for high schools in the state. This places Thorp as the highest rated high school in Kittitas County, well ahead of all neighboring districts in the area none of which are even ranked in the top 100.
On April 28, 2011, the White House announced that President Barack Obama had selected Thorp High School science teacher Dawn Sparks as a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Sparks was one of only 85 math and science teachers from across the nation to be selected, and one of only two from the state of Washington. Winners of this Presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation and an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress.
Thorp’s Teaching American History Grant, To Preserve and Protect Our Future, in partnership with Central Washington University's media production department, received two Regional Emmy Awards. The first award, given in 2008, was for the production of the DVD "Moments in American History". The second Emmy Award was bestowed on June 5, 2010, in recognition of Thorp's TAHG production of the website Moments in American History. The website became the second most popular destination on iTunes.
Thorp Community Day 
Thorp Homecoming and Community Day is an annual celebration taking place in early October, coinciding with the autumn harvest.
The event begins with a pancake breakfast at the Thorp Fire Station, and a parade through the town. It culminates with various community-oriented activities including the Fall Market at the Thorp Tractor Company, which generally attracts more than twenty local vendors featuring anything from handcrafted furniture, clothing, jewelry, art, antiques and fresh local produce.
The Harvest Carnival, held at the historic Thorp Grade School building, offers old-fashioned games such as apple bobbing, the ring toss and pumpkin bowling. Proceeds from carnival ticket sales go to support student activities at Thorp High School. An open house at the historic Thorp Mill is also a highlight of the celebration, which also includes live entertainment from local musicians.
Points of interest 
- Iron Horse State Park - Part of the Washington State Park System, Iron Horse State Park follows the path of the now defunct Milwaukee Road between the Cascade Mountains and Yakima River Valley, between Cedar Falls on the west and the Columbia River on the east. Access is on Thorp Depot Road near Interstate 90 exit 101 at Thorp.
- The Thorp Mill - One of Kittitas County's oldest landmarks, the historic grist mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers a unique perspective on the history of Thorp and the surrounding area.
- Thorp Grade School - Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was erected in 1936 and continues to serve the educational needs of the children of the town of Thorp. During hours of operation, visitors can check in at the district administrative offices in the modern building next door. A look inside the old school house reveals finely crafted hardwood floors, intact mouldings and a wood paneled gymnasium.
- Northern Pacific Depot - The Northern Pacific train depot was originally located adjacent to the railroad tracks near the corner of Thorp Highway and Second Streets. It was subsequently moved to its current location along Thorp Highway near the east entrance to the town.
- Old Thorp Fire Station - Fire District No. 1 was established in 1943, and is the oldest fire protection district in the state. The old fire station is located near the corner of Main Street and Thorp Highway adjacent to the new fire station. The building was recently sold and converted to a residence.
- Old Thorp Post Office - Located near the corner of Main Street on the Thorp Highway, closeby the old fire station, the old Thorp Post Office operated until the 1990s when a new structure was built a few blocks away. The old post office is now undergoing renovation as a residence.
- F. C. Porter Store - A start of the 20th century dry goods store on the corner of Thorp Highway and Second Streets, this building now houses a printing business. One of the oldest surviving commercial structures in the area, it originally opened around 1895 as J. E. Veach Dry Goods and was the first store established at Thorp. It was subsequently acquired by the Porter family who expanded the building around 1912 to include integrated living quarters in the back which was common in small town businesses of the era. It is a classic example of late 19th century false-front commercial woodframe architecture.
Notable people 
- Barton Porter - Author of Listen to the Millrace (Seattle: M. J. Stone Co., 1978, ISBN 0-9601888-0-0, ISBN 978-0-9601888-0-2), a story about Porter's childhood years in start of the 20th century Thorp and the fascinating people who lived there. The book contains seven pages of color illustrations from paintings by the artist Mike Casad. Porter's family owned the F. C. Porter dry goods store in Thorp. The building still stands at the corner of Thorp Highway and Second Street and houses a printing business.
- State Rep. Margaret Leonard - In 1969, Margaret (née Johnson) Leonard became the first woman ever elected to the Spokane City Council, a position she held for ten years which included serving as Spokane's first female mayor pro tempore. She subsequently served as representative of the 3rd Legislative District in the Washington State Legislature from 1981 to 1983. Her political career began in 1961, when she organized a successful citizen campaign to defeat an unpopular city housing ordinance in Spokane. As a tax advisor, she hosted her own radio program, and also served as a staff writer for the Spokane Falls newspaper.
- 2nd Lt. Leon W. Ellsworth - 2nd Lt. Leon W. Ellsworth, United States Marine Corps, 5th Division, was a member of Marine Observation Squadron Five (VMO-5) at the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was shot down and killed behind enemy lines at Iwo Jima on March 21, 1945, after risking his life to take photos and gather details of enemy emplacements on the island. Operating from his exposed cockpit to complete 26 low-altitude sorties over enemy positions despite intense anti-aircraft fire, he relayed critical intelligence data to the American invasion force. For his exceptional heroism and valor, 2nd Lt. Leon W. Ellsworth was posthumously awarded the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
- State Rep. James B. Brain - James Brain was elected in November 1950, to represent the 13th Legislative District in the Washington State Legislature. He died of a heart attack at his residence in Thorp on December 18, 1950, just three weeks before he was slated to assume office. Long a prominent member of the local Democratic Party, Brain served two terms as Kittitas county clerk and two terms as county commissioner from District 3. He retired from the county board of commissioners as its chairman.
- Dr. William "Gene" Brain - Recipient of the Central Washington University Distinguished Alumni Award for the College of the Sciences, Gene Brain received the Distinguished Service Award from the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists in 1990, as well as the Distinguished Alumni Award for the University of Washington School of Dentistry in 1993. In 1994, the Seattle-King County Dental Society honored Dr. Brain with the Award of Special Merit, and that same year he also received the Award of Merit from the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists. He served as president of several organizations, including the American Association of Orthodontists, the University of Washington Dental Alumni Association, the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists and the Washington State Society of Orthodontists. In addition, he was a member of the Central Washington University Board of Trustees, and the Board of Visitors.
- Lt. Col. Claude Thorp - In January 1942, Gen. Douglas MacArthur authorized Lt. Col. Claude Thorp, former Provost Marshall of Fort Stotsenburg, to infiltrate the Japanese lines on Luzon Island in the Philippines, and establish a spy post in the mountains. After the American surrenders at Bataan and Corregidor, Lt. Col. Thorp organized the illustrious Luzon Guerilla Force (LGF), and established the "Bamboo Telegraph" which consisted of tubes of bamboo being struck with Morse-Code-like beats and relayed throughout the countryside. Lt. Col. Thorp was captured by the Japanese on October 29, 1942, and held as a prisoner of war until his execution on November 1, 1943. However, his men fought on until the American invasion in January 1945, which in part owed its success to the sabotage operations they conducted against the enemy.
- Hazel B. Dunnington and Geraldine B. Siks - Sisters and nationally acclaimed co-authors of numerous award-winning books on children's literature and drama, both had long and distinguished careers in their own right. Hazel Brain Dunnington served as Professor of English Literature at Central Washington University, and Geraldine Brain Siks served as Professor of Drama at the University of Washington at Seattle.
- John C. Goodwin - Early Thorp settler, he was appointed the first sheriff of Kittitas County at the inagural meeting of the county commissioner in 1883.
- George B. Brain, Ph.D. - Dr. George B. Brain, who influenced public education and policy nationwide, served as the Dean of the School of Education at Washington State University from 1960 to 1983. He received his M.A. in Education from Central Washington State College in 1950, his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1957, and became the state’s youngest ever school superintendent in 1953 when he was hired by the Bellevue School District. Washington State University's Brain Library at Cleveland Hall is named in his honor, as is a WSU scholarship for students seeking advanced education degrees.
See also 
- Thorp High School
- Thorp Mill - Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
- Thorp Grade School - Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
- Thorp Mill Town Historical Preservation Society
- Kittitas County, Washington
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Kittitas County, Washington
- Thorp Mill Town Historical Preservation Society
- Thorp School District No. 400
- CWU Brooks Library, Thorp Historical Photograph Collection A collection of photographs dating from the late 19th century to the early 20th century consisting of various historical images of town of Thorp. .
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Thorp, Washington|
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- Genealogy.com, Leon W. Ellsworth 1945. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
- C. James Quann, WSU Military Veterans: Heroes and Legends, Tornado Creek Publications (2005), pp. 39.
- Daily Record (Ellensburg, Washington), “James B. Brain taken by death,” 1950-12-19, pp. 1.
- Daily Record (Ellensburg, Washington), "Boards of two counties name new legislator," 1950-12-19, pp. 1.
- "Brain named CWU Distinguished Alumni of the Sciences," Central Washington University Press Release, 2004-10-18.
- Bataan Diary, United States Philippine Island Forces (USPIFs). Retrieved 2011-10-12.
- Daily Record (Ellensburg, Washington), "Colonel Thorp leads guerilla band in Luzon," 1944-01-25, pp. 1.
- Daily Record (Ellensburg, Washington), "Col. Claude Thorp listed as killed," 1945-11-28, pp. 1.
- Julie Titone, "We lost a legend: Longtime WSU dean, educator George Brain dies," Washington State University Press Release, 2011-07-18.