Colfax celebrates 150th birthday

The celebration will have a parade along with street vendors



“We’re going to host music and giving out free bike helmets and just encourage people to come out to the Perkins House,” said Nancy Rothwell, Perkins House coordinator and Whitman County Historical Society member.

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen Reporter

This year the City of Colfax will turn 150 years old and will hold a celebration starting on Saturday and ending on Sunday.

Nancy Rothwell, Perkins House coordinator and Whitman County Historical Society member, said the WCHS will be partaking in the celebration.

“The celebration is this coming [Saturday and] Sunday,” Rothwell said. “We’re going to host music and giving out free bike helmets and just encourage people to come out to the Perkins House.”

Valerie Gregory, Colfax Mercantile co-owner and WCHS director, said the Colfax Mercantile will be participating in the anniversary celebrations by having sales and a few vendors outside. In addition, there will be a parade and multiple sidewalk stands for the celebration.

“They’ll have a beer and wine festival going down at the park, and a couple bands down there,” she said. “It’s just a fun event for the entire family.”

Gregory lives in Steptoe but has operated a business in Colfax for four years and has been a member of the WCHS for six years.

They decided to open because of the historic buildings they have in Colfax and the reasonable pricing, she said.

Gregory said some of the pros of operating a business in Colfax are the local people passionately support her business and there are a lot of great parking and places to shop nearby.

“We have really great traffic flow even though it’s a small town that only has about 2,800 people,” she said. “Probably our cons are that in the winter it gets pretty cold with the weather. When school’s out that tends to affect us a little bit.”

Another positive of operating a business in Colfax is the opportunity to see the diversity of the goods sold in the area, with each business having a different purpose and specialty, Gregory said.

“We have retro candy and Western wear and Western decor, but down the street, we have a great plant shop. For a small town to have a modern plant store, it brings people from all over,” she said.

Gregory said she would describe the community as very supportive of small businesses, with other small business owners helping each other out.

It’s a close community. I consider tons of people my friends just for being there. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the people in Colfax,” she said.

Colfax has a great history, they have made it through floods and were very ingenuitive in knowing what they had to do to make the town survive, Gregory said.

Colfax was founded when James Perkins, the namesake of the Perkins house, arrived with his first wife, Rothwell said. Perkins knew the area would be a good place to establish a town because of the two rivers that came together there.

The location of the river made him choose the area because he could float logs down, she said.

“He knew that people were going to be building houses and that they would need lumber so the river could provide that transportation, he was quite the visionary,” Rothwell said.

Colfax was originally known as Belleville, which was named after Perkins’ girlfriend at the time, she said.

“When [Perkins] married Jennie, his wife, she suggested he change the name, so they came up with the name Colfax, which was meant to honor the Vice President of the United States, whose name was Colfax,” she said.

Colfax is notable for hosting the first Republican Party meeting in Washington, which was held in Perkins’ house, Rothwell said. Perkins would remain an influential figure in politics in the years to follow.

“He was asked to run for governor of the state and other offices in Washington D.C. but he stayed in Colfax and put his energy into Colfax,” Rothwell said. “It’s because of him that it became the county seat.”

The spirit of Colfax has been rejuvenated in recent years, there has been an embrace of the city’s history and the leadership has taken an active role in managing the city, Rothwell said.