Timeline of Prosser's History
This is a timeline spanning from the pre-colonial period to today. This is only the tip of the iceberg—if you're looking to learn, come in for a visit and see our collection.
For thousands of years, native Yakama People camped near a series of waterfalls in a bend in the river at the arid place that would become Prosser. The river, which the Yakama called Tapteal, produced a bounty of salmon each spring and fall. Salmon served as a dietary staple for Yakama men, women, and children. Tapteal would later be named the Yakima River by 19th Century European-American explorers.
Colonel William Farrand Prosser, a veteran of the Civil War and an agent of the United States Department of the Interior, first surveyed the area in 1879. He and his wife Flora claimed their own homestead near the site of the ancient Yakama fishery in 1882.
To encourage settlement, William and Flora Prosser established a post office, platted their homestead as a townsite, and encouraged the Northern Pacific Railway to select their property as a location for a train depot. Their work paid off between 1884 and 1886 when the Prosser post office was approved by the United States Postal System and the townsite of Prosser was officially recorded. Northern Pacific tracks reached the townsite in 1884 and the depot opened it doors to travelers in 1885. In 1886, Colonel Prosser was elected Yakima County Auditor and he and Flora moved to the City of North Yakima.
A few hardy settlers arrived in Prosser. Because large-scale irrigation was not yet available, most engaged in dryland cattle or sheep ranching. Some early residents even rounded up wild horses from the nearby hills and trained them for sale as saddle mounts. Lewis Heinzerling constructed a flour mill at Prosser Falls in 1887, encouraging further settlement. Prosser's first house of worship, the Methodist Church, welcomed worshippers in 1895. The City of Prosser was officially incorporated in 1899 with a population of 230 people.
In 1902, the United States Congress approved the Reclamation Act and directed the might of the U.S. government to construct massive irrigation systems in the American West. The act created a series of dams and catch basins that made America's deserts productive centers of commercial agriculture. Prosser too shared in the bonanza. The area's rich volcanic soil, long growing season, warm days paired with cool nights, transformed the countryside around Prosser into an extremely productive agricultural district. In 1905 Benton County was carved out of the eastern portions of Yakima and Klickitat Counties and Prosser was chosen as the county seat. in 1907 a power plant began to provide electricity to the community. It was during this time that modern schools, public buildings, churches, downtown buildings, and homes were constructed in Prosser.
During the past century, the population in and around Prosser has grown to exceed 10,000 people. World wars have commenced and concluded, horse power has given way to internal combustion and electric engines, local agriculture has grown to include premium wine grape production, scientific research has provided a healthier and more comfortable standard of living, and local residents are connected to people and issues worldwide via electronic devices.