Ritzville, Washington

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Ritzville is a city in Adams County, Washington, United States. The population was 1,736 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Adams County.[3]



The first settler in what would become Ritzville was William McKay in 1880. The town would be named after Philip Ritz, who had settled in the area two years earlier.[4] By December 1880, Ritzville's town-site had been platted by John W. Sprague on behalf of his company, The Northern Pacific Railway. In 1881, McKay built the first house on the townsite. The Northern Pacific grade was under construction in the vicinity and McKay's home was used as a makeshift hotel for the workers and associated transients.

With the railroad came a new wave of settlers to the area. In the summer of 1881, McKay erected the first store and the railroad built a depot nearby, which also served as a hotel, theater and meeting hall. At that time the fledgeling village had a population of around 50 and the school consisted of a lean-to against a house. The town's water supply was the railroad tank because it was not thought that water could be found in the ground. The first religious services were held in Adams County in Ritzville in April 1882 at the McKay Home and the First Congregational Church was soon organized, a church would be built in 1885. The post office was established in 1883 by J.L. Johnson of Walla Walla who also purchased McKay's store. Soon afterwords, many more businesses would set up shop in town. As the 1880s wore on, the town was beginning to realize its position as a major wheat shipping point in the Big Bend Country and it continued to grow.

When the town's water supply from the railroad tank began to stretch thin, a search for underground water was initiated. At first, no water was found but a well was finally struck 1 mile east of the town-site. Most of the land-owners in town agreed moved towards the well with the exception of a large hotel, which couldn't be moved. Water was eventually found at the site and the town was allowed to stay where it was. By 1887, Ritzville had three general merchandise stores, one drug store, one saloon, two blacksmith shops, two lumber yards, two livery stables, one harness shop, two hotels and a large, two-story wooden schoolhouse with an attendance of 100.[5]

On June 6, 1888, a fire caused by a defective flue, wiped out nearly all of the business section of town.[5] Ritzville had no fire department at the time and its citizens were unable to combat the flames effectively. Rebuilding went underway quickly resulting in the town's first brick building in 1889 built by the town's first mayor, N.H. Greene. It still stands and is currently part of the Ritzville Historic District.

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