The history of Winthrop Washington in the Methow Valley begins when Native Americans lived along the banks of the Methow, Twisp and Chewuch rivers. The Native Americans lived off of camas root, picking berries, fishing and hunting. The first white men to visit the valley were trappers in the 1800’s.
But it was in 1883 when the lure of gold brought the first permanent white settlers. Three of these settlers were James Ramsey, Ben Pearrygin and Guy Waring. Waring stopped at the forks of the Chewuch and Methow rivers in 1891. Here he and his family settled a home they called the “Castle.” The castle is now the Shafer Museum.
Although Waring is the acclaimed founding father, the town is named after Theodore Winthrop, a Yale graduate, adventurer/traveler and gifted 19th century author. The town was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1893. Waring’s original Duck Brand Saloon (considered the best run saloon in the country by numerous church publications) was built in 1891.
It survived the fire and is now Winthrop’s Town Hall. Waring’s “Methow Trading Company” operated for 49 years beginning in 1897.
Owen Wister, Waring’s Harvard roommate, wrote The Virginian, America’s first western novel, after honey-mooning in Winthrop.
Western Restoration History
In 1972, when State Highway 20 was nearing completion over the North Cascades, several business people began planning for travelers passing through the town. Mrs. Kathryn Wagner and her husband Otto came up with the idea of a western restoration. All of the local merchants pitched in financially and Mrs. Wagner paid the balance for the reconstruction, painting and new signs. Westernization codes regulate the look of new construction even today.
The architect and designer was Robert Jorgenson of Leavenworth, Washington. He who wanted “to make the design as authentic as possible in order to preserve the spirit of the valley”. The original signs were created by Chet Endrezzi.
Cattle drives, medicine shows, pack trains and the mystique of the old west are still part of the Methow Valley experience. Almost completely surrounded by National Forest, State Game Range and Wilderness areas, Winthrop and the upper Methow Valley beckons adventurers of all kinds. The heritage of Winthrop is celebrated on Mother’s Day weekend during our annual 49er Days event.