The Lewis and Clark party passed through the Native American hunting grounds here in 1805, but the first permanent white settlement wasn’t until some time later. Dr. Marcus Whitman, a doctor and Presbyterian missionary arrived in 1836 and established a settlement he called Waiilatpu. The Cayuse, suffering from measles that Whitman could not cure and resentful of Whitman and his party’s aggressive conversion techniques, massacred 15 of the settlers in 1847, including Whitman and his wife. This put a bit of a damper on local white settlement until the Treaty of 1855 reopened the region to American migration.
In 1856, Col. Edward Steptoe built Fort Walla Walla at Mill Creek to keep the peace. The surrounding town was later named Walla Walla, meaning “Many Waters” in the Cayuse tongue. In 1859, the city was named the county seat and has since witnessed many booms and busts, from a minor gold rush in neighboring Idaho to disastrous fires that razed the entire town to the renaissance in the local wine industry that has made the town well known today.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition