Local Host Towns

Our local area of Okanogan Highlands in Northeastern Washington has towns that are still host to residents and visitors as well.  The local culture in these small towns is strong on community with high support for traditional events and programs where all that attend are fed really well.

The Active Molson Grange Supporting CommunityThe active little towns of Molson, Chesaw and Havillah are about 110 years old and although they might have a few ghosts, they still have residents, churches, cemeteries and community halls. Some have other facilities like stores, taverns, library, museums or parks. There are still interesting historic buildings in Chesaw, Havillah and Molson, as well as the storyboards around the Highland loop that tell about former towns and depict pioneer life in the early 1900's. The exhibits in the Molson Museums represent more than Molson as donations came from Chesaw, Havillah and parts in between and beyond.

Chesaw is located about 19 miles east of Oroville, WA, was populated years before 1896 by a Chinese man named Chee Saw and his Indian wife.  They were early farmers and their log cabin was near one of the best places for the main trail to forde Myers Creek.  That spot became known as Chee Saw's Forde.  Later Americanized to "Chesaw".  By 1900, the Chesaw community had between 200 and 250 mining residents and land was open for homesteading.   Turmoil brewed between miners and farmers.  Chesaw was a busy place with blacksmiths, millinery shops, general stores, a bank, a doctor, woman lawyer, newspaper, undertaker, stage line, a school in 1906, apartments, a dance floor, hotels and more.

In the early 1900's, conflicts between mining and agriculture were ongoing.  By 1910, mining gave way to farming.  Log structures were replaced with sawed lumber buildings.  The homesteaders had a tough time and many were in debt and left to find work.  Winters were hard and many sold their land to neighbors or just left.  Farming and ranching for some continued and roads were built.

By 1909, Chesaw hosted an annual fair.  The annual Rodeo began in the mid 1940's and has been held every year since on 4th of July.  Vehicles and equipment came into more common use and cattle from the Highlands were known to be of high quality.  Schools were consolidated. in 1948, the Chesaw students were sent to Molson School.

Havillah is about 15 miles northeast of Tonasket and began to be settled around 1900 with the homesteading.   At first, there were many Methodists, but soon Havillah became a German Lutheran farming community. The little white church in Havillah, built in 1905, is still open to visitors every day. Please sign their guest book.  The big news was Havillah had a gristmill by 1904. Then a flour mill and a store by 1905.  That year Havillah also got a post office and had it until 1946.  By 1914-15, the flour mill was converted to a schoolhouse. Within a few miles of Havillah were a few families with sawmills.  Brick making was another family business in the local hills.  In 1937, the high school students were bused to Tonasket.  In 1970, the Havillah school closed and all the students were sent to Tonasket.  Farms and ranches grew in size until the late 1970's when the trend reversed.  Few large ranches or farms are left today.

Molson is actually three towns in one and is 15 Miles Northeast of Oroville and also was settled about 1900.  Originally, there were developers of the time involved, a George Meacham and the Molson family from Montreal, Canada. Mining claims were staked and the town-site platted and buildings for businesses erected. There was a newspaper, three stores, an attorney, a doctor, a drug store, three saloons, a dance hall, livery barn, blacksmith, assay office and a hotel.  Since prospecting did not develop as expected, the population dropped from 300 to around a dozen in 1901.  The railroad and homesteaders were expected, but no clear land titles brought problems.

Old Molson became a ghost town and New Molson was the focus.  There was still a livery with stage between Molson and Chesaw, a hotel, blacksmith and a bookkeeper. In 1904, a general store was added and news in 1905 was of a new railroad.  By 1905 the Molson area was growing again with the railroad construction which supported eight saloons.  The Potter Mercantile came in and the Parry General Store expanded.  In 1909, a land war ensued when J.H. McDonald filed claim on 160 acres for a homestead that included 40 acres already in the Molson town-site. Since clear title could not be obtained, New Molson was platted and businesses sprang up.  By November 1906, there were about as many businesses in New Molson as Old Molson.

There are many colorful stories about the conflicts between the towns.  However, in 1914 a schoolhouse was build on neutral territory called Central Molson, to serve the area.  The schoolhouse was used until 1969.  In 1919, all sections of Molson were incorporated as Molson. In the late 1920's, Molson declined.  A mill closed, Canadian mining declined, later the railroad was abandoned, customs was closed and businesses followed.  The nation's depression was another problem.

In the decades that followed, we had machine shops, restaurants and some stores.  Mostly, Molson became a residential community.  In 2003, residents Carl and Penny Cole built and opened the Molson Library which they keep open 24/7/365. This is very popular with locals and visitors alike.  We thank Carl and Penny for their thoughtfulness, generosity and support of literacy.

The Molson Grange has been strong since 1935 and has provided the structure for the sense of community we have today.  Originally, Molson Grange was formed in 1911 and disbanded in 1913.  It started up again in 1935.  In 1940, the Molson Grange bought the Molson Trading Co. building, it still has today.  Over the decades, Molson Grange supported many community projects which are listed in our history books.  The Grange was a promoter to start the Molson Museum Association and later in the 1980's the Molson-Chesaw Fire Department.  Molson Grange has hosted Pinochle Parties, every Monday evening in winter, for over 60 years.  The Grange has hosted roller-skating, Friday evenings in summer, for over 50 years.

Currently, the Molson-Chesaw Fire Department known as Okanogan County Fire Protection District No. 111, and has 110 square miles to defend against wildland fire.  We have our Molson (fire truck) Hall next to the Molson Grange Hall.  Other active fire halls in our district include: Fields Hall, Chesaw Hall, and Rawhide Hall.  We are an all volunteer department of about 50 members.  We meet monthly for training as well as have special training at other times.  Fires can happen at any time and volunteers are taken from work, dinner or fun to defend neighbors' property.  Lightning in a dry climate in summer is our biggest threat.  Burn barrels are illigal in Okanogan County.