Edwall, Washington

The Farming Community of Edwall, Washington

This small farming community is called Edwall, so named for the Swedish immigrant brothers Eric and Peter Edwall who initially homesteaded the site in the 1870s. The Edwalls decided to settle in this area after noticing the abundant water supply and fertile soil as they drove cattle from Spokane Falls to Moses Lake while working for Ben Snipe, a prominent cattle rancher in the region. They bought adjoining 160 acre plots, Eric married Anna Westerburg in 1883 but the union lasted only until 1890 when Eric Edwall died, leaving his widow childless. Peter Edwall inherited his brothers plot, married his widow and together they adopted a son, Axel Peterson.

The town itself came into being when the Great Northern Railroad in 1892 announced plans to build a rail route through Eastern Washington, Peter offered the rail line free right of way through Eric’s corner. The Railway accepted his offer and would later donate a school house to the small town as a sign of appreciation. The railroad began building towards Spokane in 1896 which instantly created a boomtown out of Edwall. At its height the population of Edwall numbered 300 in 1905 with many stores, a creamery, and a butcher’s shop. A high school was built in 1909, first out of wood and then out of brick after a fire destroyed the original school only a few years after it was completed. An artesian water vein was discovered in 1911; the term artesian refers to water confined under ground having enough positive pressure to flow freely up to the surface when tapped unlike regular wells that have to use pumps to bring water to the surface. Edwall was one of only two towns in Big Bend country to have artesian water and a large number of wells were drilled.

Two forces caused the decline of Edwall. The first was the appearance of automobiles which allowed farmers to travel quickly and easily to larger cities to do their shopping. The second was a serial arsonist who from 1915 to about 1930 would burn down businesses and homes randomly at night in roughly two month intervals. He was later caught and sent to the Medical Lake sanitarium but the damage was done. In 1900 there were 31 places of businesses in Edwall which had dwindled by 1920. After the fires in the early 1920s buildings were not replaced or needed due to cars, better communication and transportation facilities led to a steady decline of Edwall's population. In 1957 Edwall's High School closed due to a lack of pupils and so Edwall students attended Reardan, Sprague and Davenport schools. Currently Edwall is a part of the Reardan-Edwall School District. The former Edwall School is now the Christian Heritage School, a private Christian non-denominational school. Edwall was a bustling boom town that has quietly faded into a sleepy farming community of around 600 residents.