When it comes to the famous explorers, Lewis always comes before Clark, and when it comes to local histories, Lewiston always seems to get more attention than its companion city across the Snake River, Clarkston.
In her new book, “Just Add Water: From Barren Jawbone Flat to Bountiful Clarkston, Washington, 1890-1940,” area historian Carole Simon-Smolinski aims to shed new light on its creation story.
Simon-Smolinski has written books about Lewiston’s territorial past, detailing its origins as a supply center and jumping off point for 1800s miners and as a port for sternwheel riverboats. She assumes Clarkston hasn’t gotten as much attention because people perceive its beginnings as more “humdrum and boring.”
“That view is wrong, which I attempt to set to rest,” the Clarkston native said.
Both Simon-Smolinski and her husband, Max, graduated from Clarkston’s Charles Francis Adams High School. Adams was the grandson of John Quincy Adams and great-grandson of John Adams, the sixth and second U.S. presidents. It was his vision that spurred Clarkston’s creation. In “Just Add Water,” Simon-Smolinski details how it unfolded.
While Lewiston got its name in 1861, Clarkston remained a barren land locals called Jawbone Flat. Access to water was the main reason it remained undeveloped, Simon-Smolinski said.
“At the time, whereas Lewiston was at river level and water could be reached through shallow wells or a ditch through town, the Clarkston area sat too high above the river for those conveniences. Remember, at the time the river was 40 feet lower than now,” she said.
In 1896, under Adams’ vision and direction, Eastern investors launched an ambitious irrigation and power project helmed by engineer Cassius C. Van Arsdol and publicist and promoter Edgar Libby.
When the community was platted in August 1896, it was called Lewiston, Wash., but the post office thought that would be confusing and requested another name, Simon-Smolinski explained. It was briefly called Concord, but most of Libby’s promotional literature referred to it as Vineland. It was incorporated in August 1902 as Clarkston.
“This book is the story of their venture — the things they accomplished, the dreams they dreamed and failed to accomplish — and the four irrigation and power companies that oversaw Clarkston, Vineland, Clarkston Heights and Clemans Addition development and growth,” she said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Carole Simon-Smolinski signing “Just Add Water: From Barren Jawbone Flat to Bountiful Clarkston, Washington, 1890-1940.”
WHEN AND WHERE:
2-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, And Books Too, 918 Sixth St., Clarkston.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 14, Artisans at the Dahmen Barn, 419 N. Parkway, Uniontown.