WA Secretary of State Blogs

Grant County Goes From Abraham, Lincoln to George, Washington

 From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

Wilson Creek, a small settlement in east central Grant County had a newspaper called Wilson Creek World. It ran from 1907-1943, and WSL has issues from 1913-1938 available on microfilm (which you can request on interlibrary loan).

The Wilson Creek World contained mostly agricultural and local social news. At the head of the title you can find the motto: “The Land of Diversified Farming : Home of Prize Winning Throphies [sic].” But the issue for January 27, 1915 had a fanciful cartoon that made me take notice. A train conductor is announcing a stop to his passengers, “Abraham, Lincoln!” On the wall is a “Map of Lincoln and Washington states.” The western half is Washington, with Seattle as the capital. The eastern half is Lincoln with Wilson creek crossed out and replaced with “Abraham” as the  capital city.

The single-panel cartoon’s caption:

The Way the Trainman will Announce Us Then

“According to the Spokane Chronicle of Tuesday evening, Senator Hutchinson has placed before the United States senate a bill to divide the state. If this step is taken we suggest that our town be called ‘Abraham’ instead of Wilson Creek, and that we be given first attention when the selection of capitol is made. This valley with its scenic hills would surely be a beautiful location for a legislative center.”

The idea of forming a new state east of the Cascades is actually older than the State of Washington itself. Michael J. Trinklein, in his book Lost States : True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It  (2010), starts with the premise, “Idaho makes no sense,” and then goes on to describe the long history of attempting to create a new state in a region where Spokane would serve as the commercial hub.

In many of the proposals, the new state is called “Lincoln.”  Trinklein writes, “It’s worth noting that the proposed name of Lincoln hasn’t changed despite dozens of plans spanning more than a century. I’m not sure why. It’s not like Honest Abe ever felled any trees in the region. Besides, a state named Lincoln would cause a big license plate problem. All the Illinois plates that say ‘Land of Lincoln’ would be really confusing if there was another land of Lincoln.”

When I was a librarian at WSU in Pullman in the mid-1980s, a proposal was floated around and endorsed by several city councils in the region to create a 51st state carved out of eastern Washington, western Montana, and northern Idaho. Depending on where you lived, the vapor state was called “Washidamont,” “Montidawash,” or “North Idaho.” The idea continues to this day.

Senator Richard Ashton Hutchinson (1853-1921) was a colorful character and Democrat who had represented the Spokane area in the State Legislature either as senator or representative since 1891. In Rogues, Buffoons & Statesmen by Gordon Newell, the author wrote the senator “had earned the name of ‘Slippery Dick’ as a result of his ability to evade voting on bills that might compromise him …” This nickname would set Hutchinson off on a “crescendo of rage.” Newell includes a footnote, “Historical note: This was several years before Richard M. Nixon was born.”

Creating a new state was apparently an ongoing Quixotic quest of Hutchinson. When Don Brazier wrote about the 1915 Session in his History of the Washington Legislature 1854-1963 he mentioned, “As had become customary, Senator Hutchinson of Spokane stirred up a controversy with the introduction of a joint memorial calling for the creation of a new state, Lincoln. It was to consist of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.” The issue was so tied to Hutchinson that it was mentioned in his funeral notice: “He was one of the active proponents of dividing the state and forming the new state of Lincoln from eastern Washington and northern Idaho.”  (Mr. Brazier’s amazing book is available both in hardcopy and digitally from WSL)

Although the State of Lincoln has yet to become reality, the idea of a presidential city/state did come to pass in west central Grant County in 1957 with the incorporation of George, Washington. A friend of mine had a grandfather who lived there in the 1960s, and when my pal would ask the operator if he could make a collect call to George, Washington, the operator would hang up, thinking she was getting a prank call.

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One Response to “Grant County Goes From Abraham, Lincoln to George, Washington”

  1. Photo Restoration Says:

    Having a state called “Lincoln” can only be a good thing a my opinion what a good idea!