About This Place
Cle Elum is a city in Kittitas County, Washington, United States. The population was 1,872 at the 2010 census. Only an hour and a half's drive from Seattle, Cle Elum is a popular area for camping and outdoor activities.
The founders of Cle Elum were Thomas L. Gamble (later known as Judge Gamble) and Walter J. Reid. Mr. Gamble took up a Quarter section of land in Section 26, Township 20 North, and Range 15 East, in April, 1883 with the intent of farming the land. Mr. Reed took a claim adjoining Mr. Gamble's on the West. On those two preemptive claims the town was laid out. The date of these filings was three years prior to the discovery of coal. Scattered discoveries of coal ledges had been made in 1883 and 1884, but in 1886 a definite discovery of a large ledge of good coal in paying quantities made it clear that a most important stage had come in the history of the region and populations in the region began to increase. Meanwhile, the Northern Pacific Railway was seeking a route over the Cascade Mountains.
Some assert that the selection of the Stampede Pass was determined by the coal discovery. In the Spring of 1886 the railroad engineers under Mr. Bogue and Mr. Huson were making their survey through the region with the intent of establishing a station. At the site of the future city, a Northern Pacific Railway station was named Clealum after the Kittitas name Tle-el-Lum (tlielləm), meaning "swift water", referring to the Cle Elum River. In 1908, Clealum was altered to Cle Elum. The name was given to the river, the city, and Cle Elum Lake. Walter Reed entered into a partnership with Thomas Johnson of Ellensburg and laid out sixty-five acres as a site. This was legally dedicated on July 26. of 1886. Mr. Johnson had owned a sawmill on Wilson Creek, in Grant County and he moved the mill to the new location in the vicinity of the new town. The partners, Reed and Johnson, established what was undoubtedly the largest mill up to that time in central or Eastern Washington, cutting 40,000 feet of board lumber per day. At the same time, Frederick Leonhard, who with his brother-in-law, Gerrit d'Ablaing, had been carrying on a mill on Cooke Creek and later on the Naneum, moved to the vicinity of Cle Elum. They cut a large part of the lumber for the Stampede Tunnel.