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At the confluence of the Snake River, which bends sharply west at this point, and Asotin (Ind. “eel”) Creek, a bold mountain stream walled in by bluffs several hundred feet in height. The protected triangular flats were for generations a favorite camping ground of Native American bands. Few settlers came to the fertile land along Asotin Creek until the close of the Nez Perce war in the late 1870s stimulated rapid homesteading. Two settlements, Asotin and Asotin City, were started within half a mile of each other.

In 1881 J. J. Kanawyer built the first ferry on the upper Snake River and began operating it from Asotin at the mouth of the creek, and in the same year Frank Curtis erected a sawmill here. Except for a few rough mountain trails, the only means of transportation was the river. Heavy democrat (light farm or ranch) wagons rolled in from the back country with cargo, chiefly wheat and lumber, headed for Lewiston. The bitter rivalry between the two settlements ended with the removal of the business houses to the younger settlement at the mouth of the creek; and in 1886, by an act of the Territorial legislature, the name Asotin was adopted for the combined settlement. Reminiscent of these early boom days is the Fryxell Opera House, an old-fashioned frame structure, once the center of community social life.

Today Asotin is the center of vineyards and orchards and wheat farms and the threshold to the Grande Ronde Valley. The town is still a river freighting point, although most of the traffic is now handled by motor truck. The Asotin County Sentinel, started in 1883, is published weekly; its editor, David Grew, is the author of several novels.

It was settled after the Nez Perce Indian War in 1878. A river crossing ferry was built in 1881 by J. J. Kanawyer. The name was approved October 27, 1883, by the Washington Territorial Legislature for the Nez Perce word Hashotin, meaning Eel Creek, for eels were once found in the stream. For a there were two rival towns platted next to each other: Asotin and Assotin City, both vying to become county seat. The former was successful, which included an act by the Territorial Legislature, in 1886, to change the spelling of Assotin City by eliminating one “s.”

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Full Gospel Church

Built in 1899 as Grace Presbyterian, this little Carpenter Gothic church, with its tower and belfry, is the second oldest in the county. It is visible from the roads and from the Snake River and sits in Chief Looking Glass Park, now owned by the City of Asotin and used as a community events facility