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Then & Now: Downtown Colfax

Town was renamed to honor U.S. vice president

Colfax, the county seat of Whitman County, was settled in the 1860s and incorporated in 1873. The town was originally called Belleville but was renamed to honor Schuyler Colfax, a vice president under Ulysses S. Grant.

The town sits in the heart of the Palouse, a region named for the indigenous Palouse Indians. Located at the confluence of two forks of the Palouse River and close to Palouse Falls, the region is known for growing wheat, lentils, peas and barley. Colfax officials once aspired to the state land-grant college, now Washington State University, but Pullman was chosen.

Colfax is the home of the Palouse Plowing Bee and the Palouse Empire Threshing Bee. The town is the birthplace of Yakima Canutt (rodeo champion and stuntman), John Kitzhaber (Oregon’s governor) and Robert Osborne, primetime host of Turner Classic Movies.

On the Web: Find more historical photos compared with present-day scenes at

Jesse Tinsley

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