WINTHROP: Northwest History

August 21, 2022 at 12:30 p.m.
The Old West is alive and well in Winthrop. This postcard of Winthrop is from the 1970s.
The Old West is alive and well in Winthrop. This postcard of Winthrop is from the 1970s.

Winthrop is the tiny Old West town in eastern Washington with antique boardwalks and the Okanogan National Forest in the backyard.

The history of Winthrop Washington in the Methow Valley began when Native Americans lived along the banks of the Methow, Twisp, and Chewuch rivers. The Native Americans lived off camas root, picking berries, fishing, and hunting.

The first white men to visit the valley were trappers in the 1800s. But it was in 1883 when the lure of gold brought the first white settlers.
The three most prominent of these settlers were James Ramsey, Ben Pearrygin, and Guy Waring, the last of whom settled at the forks of the Chewuch and Methow rivers in 1891. He and his family settled in a home they called the “Castle.” The castle is now the Shafer Museum.

The Old West*

On August 21, 1853, world traveler Theodore Winthrop finished his tour of Washington Territory at Port Townsend. During his travels he met with Chief Kamiakin of the Yakama Tribe, and at one point travelled with Lokout, a Yakama scout and son of Chief Owhi, before they had a falling out.

Winthrop later novelized his adventures in The Canoe and the Saddle, which was published in 1862, a year before his death. Winthrop's name was later given to a glacier on Mount Rainer, a hotel in Tacoma, and the town in Okanogan County.
In 1891 Guy Waring arrived in Winthrop with his family and built a trading post to supply local townsfolk, ranchers, and miners. Waring also became the town's postmaster but caused a bit of a hubbub when he tried to change the name of the town to Waring. The locals had already chosen the name Winthrop, and as much as they liked their new neighbor's store, the original name was kept.

Business was good for Waring, and in 1897 he incorporated the Methow Trading Company, which soon started acquiring land and platting the town. Waring continued to expand his business venture but ended up losing a lot of money trying to grow apples.

Although he moved back east in 1916, the trading company limped along financially until it was finally dissolved in 1934.

After the mines closed, nearby ranchers in the isolated valley struggled through the Great Depression and beyond. Looking to revitalize the community, business owners decided to restore the business district with an authentic Western theme, using old photographs and history books as their guide.

Soon after the North Cascades Highway opened in 1972, Winthrop became a popular destination for new generations of travelers looking to make a trip back to the Old West.

Planning a trip to Winthrop? 
Many visitors take the incredibly scenic Highway 20, including a stop at the North Cascades Visitor Center and the stunning views at Diablo Lake Overlook.

If you’re planning on traveling the North Cascades Highway soon, the National Park Service has some suggested highlights along the route (  
Consider the Vintage Wheels Car Show on September 17th for the 47th annual event. More Information

* The Old West portion of this article is courtesy of, the free online encyclopedia of Washington state history.
The opening paragraphs are courtesy of  

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