The seat of Franklin County, spreads its attractive public buildings, landscaped grounds, and business blocks over a level desert plain at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers. The city is an important division point on the Northern Pacific Railway, and the majority of its skilled workers were employed in the roundhouse and machine shops. Pasco remains the hub of the social, political, and commercial activity of the large farming population in the vicinity.
Although the Pasco district was traversed by early explorers, adventurers, and fur traders following the near-by Snake and Columbia Rivers, the history of the present city dates from 1880, when the rails of the Northern Pacific reached the site. The name Pasco is said to have been bestowed by a railroad surveyor, when extreme heat, rust, and sand storms reminded him of the disagreeable conditions in the Peruvian mining city, Cerro de Pasco. Prior to the development of Pasco, the county seat was at Ainsworth, a lusty railroad center a few miles away, with a population of 5,000. Ainsworth deteriorated as Pasco flourished, until not a stick now remains of it.
Incorporated in 1891, Pasco grew steadily. Most of the city’s industrial activity was centered in plants which bordered the railroad tracks in the eastern part of the town. These included the Pasco Union stockyards, the Miller Addison Icing Plant, and freight terminals, grain elevators, and sheds. The city was served by the Washington Motor Coach and Union Pacific stages, and several good hotels and restaurants catered to visitors.