Albert Mead

Albert Mead

The year 1905 was significant for Prosser, Washington. It was not only the year that the City of Prosser became the seat of Benton County, but it also hosted what was reported as the biggest Fourth of July celebration to date in Central Washington. The celebration planning was extensive with advertisements placed in newspapers as far away as Spokane, Washington.

The merriment of the holiday celebrations began on the evening of July 3rd when a train carrying Washington State Governor Albert E. Mead, Washington State Land Commissioner E.W. Ross and other area leaders arrived at the Prosser Train Depot. Waiting to greet them was a crowd of citizens from Prosser, Sunnyside, North Yakima, Kennewick, and Spokane.

By the morning of the Fourth of July, a reported 5,000 people had gathered in Prosser to participate in the festive events. Celebrations started early in the morning with a twenty-one-gun salute. A planned balloon ascension attempt followed, although failed. (Another attempt of a balloon ascension occurred in the evening but failed as well. Both ascension attempts were reported as the only blunders of the occasion.)

Afterwards, Prosser streets were overflowing with spectators to watch the parade. Riding through the streets of Prosser in a decorated carriage, Governor Mead and other officials were the stars of the parade. They were followed by various bands, the Prosser Fire Department, and several floats. After the parade, Governor Mead gave a speech to the crowds. Throughout the day friendly competitions, sporting events and other festivities occurred. A ball was also held that evening to mark the occasion.

The morning after the Fourth of July, the second reason for Governor Mead and Land State Commissioner Ross’s visit occurred. Along with other officials, they traveled back to North Yakima by train where they spent the day meeting with the Yakima Commercial Club and various other committees from Sunnyside, North Yakima, Prosser, and Ellensburg. The preplanned meetings were established to discuss the states newly proposed land selections for reclamation through the Federal Desert Land Act, also known as the Carey Act. Local valley leaders and committees were in opposition to the state determining which lands were to be reclaimed when it was the Federal Governments responsibility. They also expressed deep concern that such reclamations would affect the irrigation and agricultural success of the valley. After the meetings Governor Mead and Land Commissioner Ross agreed with local leaders. They decided that the state would withdraw from selecting any lands in the region for reclamation and agreed to notify the Secretary of the Interior of their intent.

After the departure of Governor Mead and Land Commissioner Ross local leaders of Benton, Yakima and Kittitas County were pleased with the results of the meetings. Area citizens were also pleased with the success of the Fourth of July festivities in Prosser.

Ellen Allmendinger can be contacted at email History@SunnysideSun.com

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