History of Rural Ferry County, WA: A County Without Traffic Lights

From the Folks at Hansen Woodland Farm....

Dr. Randall Hansen standing at Ferry County's Sherman Pass Unique in many aspects, Ferry County, located in Northeast Washington, is only accessible via the highest year-round maintained mountain pass, aboard one of two ferries, or through a foreign country. The county has a population of 7,551 and is 2,203 square miles in size (2010 U.S. Census), bordering Stevens County to the east, Lincoln County to the southwest, and Okanogan County to the west. The nearest major city is Spokane, about 120 miles southeast of Republic. In terms of population, Ferry County is the fourth smallest in the state.

While mining, timber, and agriculture were the core businesses that drove the economics of the county (and the railroad) in the past, the focus today is more on revenues from tourism, hunting and fishing, and outdoor recreation.

Present Day: In the more than a century since its founding, Ferry County remains a fairly rural county; its population not even doubling in more than a century. In fact, Ferry County is Washington's most rural county (based on population per square mile). Most of the county's population growth has occurred in the past 30 years.

Major towns in the county include: Republic (County Seat), Curlew, Malo, Danville, Barstow, Boyds, Inchelium, Keller, Laurier, and Orient.

It's a county in which you will not find one traffic light, where the roads are lightly traveled -- often shared by cars, logging trucks, and bicyclists. Most retail outlets, restaurants, and motels are unique and local establishments, with just a handful of national chains.

According to the 2010 Census, the age of the population in the county was spread out with 19.8 percent under the age of 18, 61.3 percent from 18 to 64, and 18.9 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47.3 years. The ratio of men to women is 52-48. About three-quarters of the population is white, with another 17% American Indian. The estimated median household income for Ferry County residents in 2009 was $37,538

Hunting, fishing, and tourism play major roles in Ferry County's economic condition. In terms of business, there were 133 non-farm business employing 737 people in 2009. The top non-governmental employers were in the construction, hospitality, and agricultural, forestry, fishing, and hunting industries.

Historic Ferry County landmark, the Ansorge Hotel, Curlew Three major state highways travel through the county, State Road 20 -- the Sherman Pass National Scenic Byway -- is an east-west passage, while State Road 21 and U.S. Highway 395 are major north-south passages on west and east sides of the county.

Ferry County has several places on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Ansorge Hotel (Curlew), Creaser Hotel (Republic), Curlew Bridge (Curlew), Curlew School (Curlew), Fairwether-Trevitt House (Republic), Nelson-Grunwell Store (Danville), J.W. & Elizabeth Slagle House (Republic). The Orient School building (completed in 1910) is one of the oldest continuously used schoolhouses in Washington state.

Continue reading more of the story of Ferry County...

  • Cultural and Historical Heritage of Ferry County
  • Railroad and Rail-Trail History of Ferry County
  • Natural Resources of Ferry County
  • Other Resources Unique to Ferry County

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    Hansen Woodland Farm sign