Neatly laid out on the flat floor of Kittitas Valley, Ellensburg is in approximately in the geographic center of the State, and has preserved much of its early Western atmosphere. Stooped prospectors, and leather-jacketed students once mingled with sedate professional men.
Originally called “Ellen’s Burgh,” after Ellen Shoudy, wife of John A. Shoudy, one of the original settlers, the town dropped its “h” by order of the Post Office Department. It is the seat of Kittitas County.
The first settlement here was picturesquely styled “Robber’s Roost”; this name appeared on the sign of a log trading post, the only structure in the valley at that time. The building was erected in 1867 near a spring, now within the city limits, by Wilson, the renegade. Wilson sold out to A. J. Splawn, a young and adventurous cowboy who called it Robber’s Roost after his outlaw predecessor.
In 1872, Ellensburg consisted of a general store, saloon, post office, blacksmith shop, and a few residences. Growth was more rapid after 1883. With the coming of the long-awaited Northern Pacific Railway in 1886, the town was incorporated; when the Milwaukee arrived in 1907, Ellensburg boomed.
Gold from the Swauk Creek district continues to pass through. Farming and dairying, stabilized by irrigation, were supplemented by coal mining in near-by mountain communities.
An annual rodeo, staged for a three-day period ending on Labor Day, is second in the Pacific Northwest only to Pendleton’s famous “Roundup.” The event brings to the city leading professionals in riding and roping and spectators from all portions of the State.