Whitehorse, WA


The first Whitehorse Mercantile circa 1890s
Photo from Bruce Seton

Whitehorse, WA, begins with a remote mercantile serving the needs of prospectors, trappers, farmers and the families that made their livelihoods working in the forest and mills.  The first mercantile opened its door in the 1890s supplying what was needed by the local people and some travelers coming up with the train.  At this time there were to distinct communities resultant of the countries settlers came from.  Whitehorse to the south of the railroad consisted of Catholic French Canadians, Scotch- Irish and to the north of the tracks were the Protestant Scandinavians.   The name, Swede Heaven Road is a reminder of these earlier times. There was no highway at this time and the road connecting Arlington with Darrington was a very rough and winding road regarded by many is simply untravelable.  By 1900 the State Route from Arlington to Oso was being mapped out.  In 1904 the county appropriated $600.00 to improve this section of road  employing 18 men.  Washington was growing and there was talk of these road improvements someday reaching all the way to Darrington.    During the 1920s although the railroad was operating at capacity truck traffic was increasing. 

The Whitehorse Store after moving across the field to the gas pumps, circa late 1960s
Photo from Ron White

Henry and Addie Bennett purchased the old mercantile in the mid 1920s and built a fine family dwelling and new store with a gas pump.  At night they would turn on the brightly flashing lights that were installed around the store to be sure any motorist wouldn't miss their chance to buy gas.  Later circa 1930 Stanley Ritchie and his father purchased the store moving it across what is now Old Mine Road to the east where they owned land.  Part of the old store was used in the rebuild project and part was new construction for the modern gas station.  Trucks became a standard for hauling logs and lumber.  Not only did traffic increase on the highway but homes began to move closer to the highway.  Improvements were made from Arlington to Oso and  the road was maintained as a State Secondary Highway.  Providing gasoline was the wave of the future for the increasing vehicle travel.  Cecil Traylor tended the store for several years.  When he wasn't busy with customers he worked his loom creating rag rugs which he sold out of the store.

The last days for the old store in 1996, photo by Martha Rasmussen

After Cecil had a falling out with Stanley Ritchie over a wage dispute, he built another store across the highway on the northeast corner.  Competition and rivalry between the two stores could be remembered by many.  Eventually, circa 1938, Celcil Trailor sold his store the the Tewiligers and they ran it for several years changing the name to the Twilleger Store.  The stores changed hands a couple more times, Gilbert, White, Anderson & Waters, Frable.  The Twilleger Store eventually closed leaving just the Whitehorse Store.  The old Twilleger Store building still remains on the corner as a dwelling today.

1945 receipt from Cecil Trayor's Store

Old timer Finas Skeers recalls the old Whitehorse Store, " They did a good trade there.  I drove a log truck for Stanley Ritchie and would get my gasoline there."  Finas remembered the store clear back from 1923 when he started school across the street when the "new" Whitehorse School opened.  He had a bit of a crush on Alice, the Bennett's daughter and would take her out to Bennettville to the square dances.

Many locals & visitors have fond memories of the Whitehorse & Twilleger Stores, ice-cream cones, a place to visit over coffee and if you are one of the lucky ones, you may remember Hazel Bryson's famous homemade wild blackberry pies with ice-cream.

Doing business in the 1990s at the old Whitehorse Store, photo by Martha Rasmussen

By 1957 the Arlington - Darrington Road, SR 530, from Oso to Darrington was designated as a State Secondary Highway, gravel gave way to pavement and over time the narrow road was widened to two lanes.  The near by mill town, Fortson closed and merged with the Three Rivers Mill in Darrington.  The Darrington School District consolidated closing the Whitehorse School and bused the students to town.  The road that once brought commerce and the need for gas pumps to the Whitehorse Store now began to encroach closer and closer to the store. 

The 3rd and current Whitehorse Store shortly after opening, photo by Dan Stern

In 1996 store owner, Kerry Frable made a tough decision looking at the unlikely chances of getting permits to remodel and upgrade the old store with the highway so near by.  Once again the building after so many years will be replaced and further away from the road.  He knew that customers would miss the old store with it's creaky wood floors, old country charm and that sense of flavor as you walk in to another era.  For years the mercantile was the focal point for the Whitehorse community, for their famous ice cream cones or a quick bite to eat.  Get the big fish you just caught weighed or pick up your bait to go catch that fish.  One thing still remains, that steadfast backdrop of Whitehorse Mountain and the history of this community.