THE TINY TOWN: Wilbur, Washington
THE TINY TOWN: Wilbur, Washington
When I’ve driven back and forth between Wenatchee and Spokane, like many travelers, I’ve taken the 90. I’m the type of guy who just wants to get to my destination quickly. But on one trip to the east side of Washington, my car’s GPS (I’ve named it Pam….which is the word ‘map’ backwards) suggested taking an alternative route of State Route 2. For a moment I thought to myself…why not? One of my new year resolutions was to get out. Another was to simply slow down and enjoy the travel. And I don’t mean going under the speed limit. That’s when I noticed the tiny town highlighted, Wilbur.
I was telling a few co-workers that I wanted to actually drive to Wilbur to spend some time in Wilbur, each one of them said, “Oh! The Friendliest Little Town!”, and, “You’ve got to have a burger at Billy Burger Drive In.”
Now, grant it, I am relevantly new to the state of Washington, but I was surprised that everyone at work knew about Wilbur and that they all mentioned the best burger buy and the town’s slogan.
Back in the day, Johnny Carson mentioned on the Tonight Show that it was against the law to ride an ugly horse in Wilbur, Washington. Apparently, it’s true. It was signed into law in 1894. But it was repelled 100 years later.
Wilbur has a population of just over 800. At its peak in the 1960’s there were about 1300+ residents that called Wilbur home. A town an hour west of Spokane, was more or less ‘founded’ when the federal government set up a post office on the land owned by Samuel Condit called, Wild Goose Bill’s Ranch. There was talk to name this town after the ranch, Goosetown. But someone noted that it was a silly name, and they wouldn’t want to live in a place called Goosetown. So it was named, Wilbur. Which was Samuel Condit’s middle name. Ironically, there are several towns in other states that are named Wilbur, and it’s considered one of the more sillier names for a town.
Soon the Central Washington Railroad came though. And of course where there’s a stop on the tracks and a river, or in this case, Goose Creek, named for Wild Goose Bill, a town began to develop in 1889 with a few hundred residents. It was a slow growth once established with hotels, a bank, and a lumber mill. But with a a successful wheat harvest in 1897, the population grew with visitors stopping in. The population started to decrease in the 1960’s, as more people decided to travel the newer, wider path of US 395, and later Interstate 90.
Wilbur gained a noticeable spot on the map with some national news coverage in July 2007 because of the so-called mysterious crop circles that suddenly popped up over night in a wheat field, just north of town.
So what about today? Well, you don’t have to know that Wilbur is called, The Friendliest Small Town to figure that out. It’s the typical small town feel with a cute little downtown where those who happened to be walking the sidewalks are always smiling at ya as you cross paths. And there’s no need for the famous yellow arrow sign point to an In-N-Out, when you have of course you Billy Burger’s on 804 NE Main Ave. A classic look to the building that was established in 1955. One of the burgers you have to have is the Alien Burger with Invasion Rings. Named shortly after those crop circles first appeared in Wilbur. While sippin’ on a chocolate shake, you can’t help but notice co-owner Kathy Clark’s collection of salt and pepper shakers. Way to keep your town on the map.
And who wouldn’t want to live in Wilbur? You’re far enough away from the crazy ‘big’ city of Spokane, yet close enough to fly out to visit other small towns in the US named, Wilbur.
By the way, whatever happen to the namesake of Wilbur, Samuel Wilbur Condit? He died at the age of 62 when he and another man shot each other to death on Jan. 21, 1895.