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Early Settlers in Walla Walla

"Fraud! Walla Wala's First Election"

by Shaun Reeser


On January 11, 1862, the Washington Territorial Legislature selected E.B. Whitman and other prominent citizens to serve in the interim city government of Walla Walla until the spring elections. This election, held on April 1, 1862, helped to shape the course that the city would take over the next few decades. This course was marred early as the editors at the Washington Statesman decried the election as fraudulent.

The men that the legislature selected to serve in the governmental posts were all considered prominent citizens. Whitman was appointed as one of the five councilmen; the others were H.C. Coulson, B.F. Stone, D.S. Baker, and M. Schwabacher. Both Coulson and Schwabacher were ineligible for the office and James McAuliff and George E. Cole were appointed as replacements as chosen by the council. B.P Standefer was selected by the legislature as mayor, George Porter as marshal, and James Galbreath as recorder.(1) They held these positions until the election was certified on April 10, after which those chosen directly by the people took their places.(2)

Prior to the casting of four hundred twenty-two ballots on April 1, 1862, a group calling themselves the “Citizens’ Ticket” ran an ad in the Statesman during the final two weeks of March before the election. In it, they called for E.B. Whitman for mayor, Walter DeLacey for Recorder, A. Seitell for marshal, D.S. Baker for treasurer, L.W. Greenwell for assessor, Authur I. Chapman for Surveyor, and I.T. Reese, J.T. Abbott, C. Jacobs, B.F. Stone, and B. Sheideman for councilmen. After the ballots were counted, Whitman did indeed become Walla Walla’s first elected mayor, all those listed for councilmen were elected, and Chapman was elected surveyor.(3) Porter was elected to the post that he already held, that of marshal, while neither the incumbent nor the Citizens’ Ticket nominee won the position of recorder, W.P. Horton won that spot. Additionally, E.E. Kelly was elected treasurer.(4)

In the April 5, 1862 issue, however, the editors at the Washington Statesman (hereafter WS or Statesman) insinuated that the voting judges did not adequately perform their duties in making sure that only eligible voters cast ballots. The article cites that some individuals living miles away were allowed to vote. They allege that there should be no more than “three hundred bona fide voters … and yet nearly five hundred votes were polled….”(5)

In actuality, 422 ballots were counted, but according to the editors, that is still more that 100 illegal ballots. They editors write that they “make no allegation against those gentlemen who say in judgment upon the qualification of voters who presented themselves at the polls on last Tuesday, so far as their intention to do right was concerned; but it does seem to us that the whole affair was managed very loosely…” and that if this behavior was allowed to continue then “illegal voting and ballot-box stuffing will very soon become the order of the day.”(6)

If the Statesman’s editors are correct in their assertions that there was such a discrepancy in the voting then at least one, and possibly three, contests may have been awarded to the wrong person. These include the position of recorder, marshal, and treasurer, with the last being separated by only 19 votes in the final count.

Although the accusation of fraud certainly could have changed the outcome, it did not. This is because no entity pursued the allegation and the election results were certified on April 10, 1862. Perhaps this was a mistake on the part of the judges allowing ineligible voters to cast a ballot or perhaps it was an attempt by the Stateman’s editorial board to cast aspersions on the candidates for one reason or another. Whatever the case may be, the men certified in the election moved forward and did their best to shape and mold the newly incorporated city of Walla Walla.

Endnotes:

1. W.D. Lyman, History of Old Walla Walla County: Embracing Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin Counties, (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing, 1918), p.116.
2. “Council Proceedings,” Washington Statesman, April 12, 1862, page 2.
3. Lyman, p. 116.
4. WS, ibid.
5.WS, April 5, 1862, p. 2, col. 3.
6. Ibid.