White Bluffs Spokesman
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White Bluffs (Wash.) - Newspapers.
In 1826, the Hudson Bay Company established a trading post on White Bluffs Landing on the east bank of the Columbia River in present day Benton County, Washington. At the time, members of the Wanapum tribe resided in fishing camps and villages along the Columbia River from Priest Rapids to Richland. A ferry that crossed the Columbia River here was integral in making White Bluffs a trading hub between British Columbia and the mines in Idaho and Montana. After effective irrigation was introduced to the Priest Rapids Valley in the late 1880s, many farmers flocked to White Bluffs and established farms and orchards. As the population in White Bluffs grew, so did the need for a weekly publication. In 1907, the White Bluffs Spokesman was founded as an independent weekly newspaper, circulating among a population of 300 across Benton County.
The first editor of the newspaper, Angus Cameron Hay, brought his experience as founder and editor of The Hinckley Enterprise in Hinckley, Minnesota in 1894. Hay edited the Spokesman from 1907 to 1914, while also serving as the local postmaster. Seeking a better climate for his health, Hay relocated to Sequim, Washington where he owned and operated the Sequim Press from 1914 until his death in 1931. Following Hay's departure from White Bluffs, the Spokesman came under the ownership of Elton John "Tom" O'Larey and his wife Jane "Jennie" Martine Blair O'Larey. Like many others, the O'Lareys were attracted to the irrigated farmland in the Priest Rapids Valley, land that was heavily promoted by railroads, and moved there in 1911 to establish an apple orchard. In 1938, they sold the paper to George Robinson Chase and his wife Dorothy.
The Spokesman followed the events of Benton County, including farming news and local and state affairs. The rural community became deeply entwined in federal ventures and events of international significance. In the early 1920s, White Bluffs was administered by the Department of Conservation and Development as a "soldier settlement" colony for WWI veterans. The paper covered the topic until the project was abandoned in 1925.
With the great power generators, Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams, nearby, White Bluffs underwent even more serious changes when the area was cleared for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Residents of White Bluffs and the nearby towns of Richland and Hanford were forced to evacuate in 1943 for the development of the Hanford site, a production center for plutonium reactors associated with the Manhattan Project. Many residents were given only 30 days to evacuate their homes and farms. Although the federal government did provide some compensation for their land, many harbored bitterness over low appraisals and successfully sought higher compensations in court. The local Wanapum lost all rights to fish and hunt their native land. Like contemporary Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated in internment camps during the war, the Wanapum were not compensated for their losses.
While no residents of White Bluffs remained after 1943, the farms, fences, and orchards still stand today in their 1943-conditions. Before all the residents moved out, the White Bluffs Spokesman relocated to nearby Kennewick and merged with The Kennewick Courier-Reporter to become The Kennewick courier-reporter and the White Bluffs spokesman for the last five months of 1938. Beginning in the new year of 1939, The Kennewick courier-reporter absorbed the reporting coverage of White Bluffs over the WWII years, operating until 1949. Like the ruins remaining of White Bluffs, the White Bluffs Spokesman encapsulates the experiences and history of a community that was unexpectedly separated and has in many ways been forgotten.