Situated on a level piece of
ground in the bed of the Grand Coulee, the picturesque, and perhaps one
of the most interesting of the small communities in the Grand Coulee
area from a historical point of view lies; Coulee City, Washington.
Located at what was known as early as 1858 as the middle pass across the
canyon - the site where Coulee City now stands was for many years known
as McEntee's Crossing of the Grand Coulee.
As is so often the case, the history of an area is the story of the
unflinching and energetic characters who came out west in search of
adventure and found it in the taming of the wilderness.
Phillip McEntee was that kind of man. In 1877 from Ming in Bear Gulch,
Montana, came to Washington and joined a group of surveyors who were
trying to locate and lay out a road from Ritzville by way of White
Bluffs. The party camped that winter near Lake Chelan and by the spring,
the records show that the area had impressed Mr. McEntee. After the
surveying job was complete, McEntee bought cattle with the money he
earned and returned to build the first log cabin in the spring of 1881
on what would be the outskirts of Coulee City.
During this time when this portion of the state (then a territory) was
uninhabited except by Indians and an occasional white man. Mr. McEntee
would start from where Coulee City now stands with a herd of cattle,
drive them across several hundred miles of unbroken wilderness up into
British Columbia where he would sell them to miners, together with his
pack horses, and make the returning journey on foot.
During the following few years, other pioneers entered the area. Among
those who shared the hardships of this wilderness were Dan Paul, John R.
Lewis, Tony Richardson, Charles Sprague and others - but it was now 1888
that enough settlers were in the area to warrant the establishment of a
In June of 1888 Mr.. George R. Roberts who had come to Douglas County in
1883 opened a general store about 3/4 of a mile north of the present
business portion of town. A post office called McEntee, in honor of the
first settler, was established. The town of McEntee was enlarged in the
fall of 1888 by the establishment of a second store and blacksmith shop
by Levi Salmon, and Dan Twining opened a saloon.
The little village of McEntee lost its identity with the platting and
building up of the town of Coulee City in the spring and summer of 1890.
The town was platted and dedicated in the spring of 1890 by Levi Salmon.
The post office of McEntee was transferred to the new location and was
thereafter known as Coulee City. Coulee City's history really dates from
the building of the Central Railroad to that point, or more properly,
from the contemplated construction of the road to the crossing of the
Now we find a meat market operated by Dan Paul, a barber shop, Hill and
Evans Dealers in Lumber & Coal , a Restaurant operated by John Brown,
Adron and Thruman Livery Stable, Frank A. Lasekamp selling men's clothes
and shoes, Bisbee and Cooper, Builders.
In June 1890, the Coulee City News said "Only surprise is pictured on
the faces of those who visit our city after only a few weeks absence.
They hardly realize that in so short a time such substantial business
houses could be constructed."
In 1892 Owen Wister stayed a short time in Coulee City. Owen Wister is
the author of "The Virginian".
With a population of about 300 at this time, this little western town
was in line for the advent of land settlers and a new grand future
dawning for the region west of the Grand Coulee known as Big Bend
In 1901, early pioneer Everett Rice and his family moved to Coulee City
from Missouri, and farmed here most of his life. By 1906, binders,
headers and threshing machines were in use on the farms. Between 1900
and 1925, prices for a bushel of wheat fluctuated between 41 cents and
$2 a bushel. The crop of 1916 produced 16 bushels per acre.
In 1902 there were 7 gambling halls in town, and also that year
notorious killer Harry Tracey came through town. Folks cut bits of tail
from his horse as a souvenir. In 1906 Clifton Ham and Archie Tucker
began planting orchards northeast of town. By 1910 over 300 acres of
orchards produced 90 rail cars of peaches, pears and apples.
In 1903 the Coulee City population was booming at 122. By 1907 Coulee
City became incorporated as a fourth class city. In 1924 the name of the
town was shortened to Coulee. In 1910 the Sunset highway (now known as
highway 2) was completed from Spokane across the Big Bend.
The first town Marshall was also hired in 1907, and in 1908 the citizens
voted the town dry and it remained under prohibition until 1932.
In 1911 Charles Weller started a gasoline-powered generating plant in
Coulee with an initial capacity of 25 kilowatts. With 2 miles of line,
he served 100 customers and 20 street lights. Cement sidewalks were
poured on Main St. in 1916. The town issued bonds for a sewer system in
When there was talk about diverting the Colombia river for irrigation,
the builder of the Panama Canal, George Goethals, came to survey the
site. He stayed at the Thompson Hotel while in town, but his report was
negative on the feasibility of building a dam.
Through good times and bad, outlaws and in-laws, storms and drought,
Coulee City continues to thrive. Ours is a proud heritage; one those
hardy and courageous pioneers would look upon with favor. Coulee City no
longer bears a strong resemblance to the town as it first appeared in
1890. Gone are the farms and grazing areas that once bordered the town
on the north. This land is now under the waters of Banks Lake which
provides water to irrigate over one million acres in the Columbia Basin
area. Banks Lake and Sun Lakes State Park-to the south of the city-
provide fishing, swimming, boating and camping areas. Hunting, hiking,
horseback riding, cross country skiing and golfing are also enjoyed in
the coulee. Add to that scenic wonder Dry Falls, and the Last Stand
Rodeo on Memorial day. These attractions combine to make Coulee City a
major recreational location and perfect place to visit - not to mention
a great place to live!