Washington’s Forgotten Town…and It’s Tie to The Trump Family
Washington State boasts plenty of history, and while all states have their share of communities and towns that have come and gone, the Evergreen State has some of the most interesting. One such town experienced the highest of highs before it went out of existence.
The same year that Washington became a state, 1889, the town of Monte Cristo was discovered by Frank Peabody and Joseph Pearsall. The two were prospectors who found their way the town through forest which is now part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Peabody stayed in Monte Cristo until his death in 1930 (and is buried in the town), Pearsall pursued gold in the Yukon in 1902 and was not heard from again.
There's Gold In Them Thar Hills
In the 1890's the town boasted a population of roughly 2,000 people and had eight mines that were actively operating. Gold, silver, lead, zinc, and copper were the majority of ores being mined in the town south of Mt. Adams.
The community began to attract a number of prospectors as well as entrepreneurs, some already established and some looking to establish themselves in the growing community. One well established businessman, multi-millionaire John D. Rockefeller, had made investments in nearby Everett and provided the funding to build the railroad to ship ore from Monte Cristo to Everett.
In 1894 the mining prospects were still attracting a number of people to the area. One such person arrived that year after selling his establishment named The Dairy Bar in Seattle and filed a gold placer claim on a piece of land in Monte Cristo.
That person was Frederick Trump, the father of future real estate mogul Fred Trump, and grandfather to the future President of the United States Donald Trump. Frederick Trump began building what would become the family business in Seattle with that initial real estate purchase.
The Trump patriarch would establish a boarding house in Monte Cristo and two years later, in 1896, the became the first member of the family to win political office when he was elected Justice of the Peace. Trump would be one of the few to turn a profit in town as in the summer of 1894 Rockefeller began to pull investments from the area beginning the towns decline.
What Happened to Monte Cristo
The town had a number of things going against it, but the biggest was it's location. It was prone to avalanches and floods, a pair of which ended the town's prosperity. A pair of floods in 1896 did serious damage to the railroad, roads, and bridges, and a flood in 1897, which was a major washout, led to a number of mining companies going bankrupt.
In the decades that followed, Monte Cristo's population continued to decline until it truly became a 'ghost town' in the 1930's. A number of efforts to make it a tourist town were tried and failed from the 30's up to the 80's. A major flood in 1975 caused extensive damage but the washouts caused in 1980 ended any further attempts to make Monte Cristo a tourist attraction.
Almost all residents were gone by the mid 80's but stepping in was the Monte Cristo Preservation Association to steward the land. In 1994 the MCPA purchased the town properties and mining claims and began working in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.
You can visit the forgotten town of Monte Cristo as it is part of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Park. The Barlow Pass Trailhead will lead you to the Old Monte Cristo Townsite Trail. There you can see a town time forgot with one or the original buildings from the 1890's still standing.