At the bottom of this page are some links to websites for a deeper look at the history of Ferry County:
Approximately 500 hundred million years ago an assembly of collisions was in motion triggering an event on the western reaches of what is now North America. Deep in the ocean basin, between a chain of volcanic islands and the continent, marine hotsprings deposited the heavy metals - gold, silver, zinc and copper. The ever moving Pacific plate pressurized against North America 450 million years ago compressing rocks against and often over the shoreline. This thrust extended from what is now southeastern Nevada thru central British Columbia. Thus the birth of the Kettle River Range and many other mountainous groups within the inland Pacific Northwest.
The collisions and subsequent compressions changed 45 to 50 million years ago creating a very dynamic time for this area. The resulting pile of lifted rock was so thickened and unstable it fell apart under its own weight. Massive sliding planes of blocks reversed direction. The entire Kettle River Range slid west and rose in a band that runs the length of what we now know as Ferry County. In the foothills of the Kettle River Range, the mountains now known as Johnny George Mountain to the south, Storm King Mountain to the west and Vulcan Mountain to the north all shouldered up during that slide forming domed blocks and creating valleys filled with debris eroded from rising mountains. Volcanic vents spewed hot basalt allowing gold and silver to deposit near the surface. Under layers of volcanic ash fossils of Dawn Redwood (metasequioa) and the world’s oldest rose family leaves were entombed in lake beds near Republic WA.
The Kettle River Range, like the Okanogan Range, and the Selkirks - are foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Over the course of the last two million years, from what is now the Canadian north, the mile-high ice sheets of the piedmount ice flow encompassed all but the tallest peaks of these mountains. Ice Age glaciers carved valleys in these predominantly north to south mountain ranges, the ice grinding off sharp edges, leaving rounded mountain summits.
With the retreat of the glaciers a lush rich landscape emerged. Salmon followed the rivers to their headwaters spawning in each stream, creek and tributary. Mountain forests and meadows became home to moose, deer, and elk. Berries thick on the bushes attracted the black bears. The Kalispel tribal legend tells of scouts who once mistook a valley for a huge lake because it was so thick with blue camas blossoms.
Within two to three decades of the trade mentioned above, up to three-quarters of the native population perished to smallpox, tuberculosis, and measles, diseases to which they had no resistance. Simultaneously missionaries came to save Indian souls, forcing native religions and language underground.
In the late 1800's the Indians were confined to reservations. Soon after American fur traders were living in Fort Colville, near the Kettle Falls combined efforts with the settlers, the military and missionaries to restrict native access to fishing at Kettle Falls.
“There’s gold in them there hills” and “free land” was the cry that lured further settlement to the valleys surrounding the Kettle River Range and while the miners and homesteaders were plentiful the promises of quick riches and easy living did not hold true. The peak settlement population of this area which had established by 1910 had dropped by half when the year 1920 arrived. The only gold found in quantities rich enough for commercial mining was in the area of Republic WA. Today, according to the Colville National Forest, empty mines pock the hillsides, and rotting cabins stand in abandoned fields throughout the Kettle River Range.
The Kettle River Range today is a mixture of land use schemes. Recreationists value the area for it’s trails, remote beauty and as a platform for outdoor experiences from simple to advanced in scale. Hunting and fishing make up a large part of the recreational activities in this area. Conservationists have movements afoot to establish what they have classified as critical landscapes set to be aside in roadless and wilderness areas. Development of private lands on the lower slopes and in the foothills of the Kettle River Range continue unchecked causing a situation fire managers call the WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) where land conversion is occurring in the fire-prone forest areas. Timber is still harvested, gold is still mined, livestock are still grazed and the local communities depend on these resource extractions for their economies.
I’ll close this history portion of the Kettle River Range page with words from the Colville National Forest, the primary keeper of these unique and rich mountain landscapes, “The Colville National Forest has not been entirely tamed into an urban playground like some national forests closer to large cities”.
The Ferry County Historical Society
Kettle River History Club/Friends of the Ansorge
History Link, Ferry County, A Thumbnail History
Secretary of State, Legacy WA, Ferry CountyXX