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Okanogan: Natural beauty meets rich history

The town site of Alma began in 1886 as a trading post established near the mouth of Salmon Creek by Frank J. “Pard” Cummings. The town site was platted in 1904 by J.W. O’Keefe and named for W.R. Kahlow’s daughter, Alma.

The town included the Alma Hotel, a general store and a livery barn. A new town, North Alma, was platted north of Salmon Creek in 1904. It housed the Pogue post office and the Davidson and Richards general store.

Second Avenue was home to several businesses, including a harness shop, restaurant, general merchandise shop, meat market, barber shop and real estate office. At the time, the town had a population of around 200 and served as a trading center for the mid-valley area.

In 1905, the town's name was changed to “Pogue,” in honor of pioneer orchardist Dr J. I. Pogue.

In 1907 city residents voted to adopt the new name “Okanogan,” and the post office name was changed to Okanogan on July 1, 1907. Mail first came to Okanogan from Brewster.

Harry J. Kerr, a banker, was elected mayor. Councilmen were Chris. Pein, C.A. Lindsay, Chas. Ostenberg, Dan J. McDonald and E.E. Stromgren. Harry E. Stark was elected treasurer.

At the first council meeting, Nov. 1, 1907, the council employed Judge William Compton Brown as clerk and legal adviser.

The county seat moved from Conconully to Okanogan in 1914, after a lengthy process. Other aspirants included Chelan, Riverside and Omak.

Construction on the present-day courthouse was completed in 1916.

Okanogan now sits surrounded by rolling hills of sage and tree-covered mountains adjacent to the Okanogan River.

Today, the city remains the seat of Okanogan County government and offers a range of shopping and tourist amenities.

Being the county seat, Okanogan is also home to the historic Okanogan County Courthouse. There’s also the Okanogan County Historical Society Museum, Okanogan Fire Hall Museum and Wilson Research Center (history and genealogy) which feature an expansive history of the county as well as many Frank S. Matsura photographs.

Matsura, a famous Japanese photographer who called the Okanogan his home before the turn of the last century, captured many early-day photos of the life, people and progress of Okanogan County.

Outside the museum is a replica of an early 1900s Western town and a replica of the town’s original fire hall.

The museum is located at the north end of Legion Park, which also offers a farmers’ market each Saturday morning from May through October.

Okanogan is a gateway to outdoor activities and the Colville Indian Reservation. From fishing to cross country skiing, and hiking to bicycling, the possibilities for adventure are endless .

As the spring transitions to summer, residents and visitors alike can make a splash in the city’s swimming pool in Alma Park.

Across the Okanogan River, the Central Valley Sports Complex offers baseball, softball and soccer fields, a children’s climbing toy and a paved fitness trail.

Just up the road from the sports complex is the Okanogan County Fairgrounds, which is home to the Okanogan County Fair each September. The grounds is home to numerous other trade and equestrian events throughout the year, too.

Okanogan Days, a community celebration hosted by the Okanogan Chamber of Commerce, is held first Saturday in June and includes a parade, street vendors, live music and more. The event typically coincides with Okanogan High School graduation.

The chamber also hosts a fly-in at the Okanogan Legion Airport in September, Harvest Fest in October and the Farm Lights Festival and Lighted Tractor Parade celebration right after Thanksgiving.

New this year, a Food Truck Festival is planned April 29.



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