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Elberton Rail Bridge | by PNW-Photography
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Elberton Rail Bridge

The history of Elberton is typical of many early Whitman county settlements. Nestled in the valley at the confluence of the north fork of the Palouse River and Silver Creek, it provided an attractive location to establish a town. Elberton flourished for a while, and then went into irreversible decline.

 

In the 1870's, attracted by the river and abundant timber, Giles D. Wilbur built a water powered sawmill here that provided lumber for many early area barns and homes. In the next decade the Oregon Railway and Navigation Co. built a rail line through the valley. The town was plated in 1886 by Sylvester M. Wait, and named in honor of his son Elbert. By 1888, Eberton had a flourmill, post office, two general stores, a blacksmith and wagon shop, two grain warehouses, a livery stable, and a church.

 

The 1890's saw continued growth, and the planting of fruit trees as a major crop. At the turn of the century, Elberton had a population of over 400, “the world's largest prune dryer”, the flourmill, and the county's poor farm. The Elberton picnic, commemorating the town's founding, was held for three days in June from 1893 until 1924. It was one of the annual highlights for Whitman County “old timers”.

 

After the turn of the century, having cut all the nearby timber, the sawmill moved to Idaho. Following a devastating fire in 1908, and serious flooding in 1910, Elberton began to decline, giving in to increased competition from other towns.

 

Today, most of the buildings are gone, but you can still find where homes once stood by the remnants of old foundations, non-native trees, and in spring, daffodils that appear in long forgotten flowerbeds. Pine forest is slowly reclaiming the old pastures and fruit orchards.

 

The Whitman County Parks Dept. now owns much of the former town, preserving the land for future use.

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Uploaded on November 30, 2018