AJ Splawn, Robbers Roost, and Wicked Parrots
Andrew Jackson (A.J) Splawn – 7/30/1845 – 3/2/1917
Splawn, known both as A.J. and Jack, was born in Missouri on July 30, 1845. With his widowed mother, Nancy, and several siblings, he came west at age 6 on the Oregon Trail to the Willamette Valley.
At age 16 he hired out Major John Thorp and started from the Klickitat area with a herd of 2-year-old steers headed for the mining settlements in the Caribou country of upper British Columbia. It was an expedition of 800 miles, to the Lower Yakima Valley over the Konowac Pass to the Moxee Valley, over the Selah Ridge through the present Firing Range [Yakima Training Center] to Badger Pocket, over the Colockum Trail to the Wenatchee Valley and then following an old fur traders’ route to Fort Kamloops. At Cache Creek he was left alone with the herd during the winter of ’61-’62. The next spring, he and Thorp took the herd on to the Caribou country and sold the beef. This was one of the first cattle drives into Caribou country and was one of the reasons why Jack Splawn was elected to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
He and Ben Burch established the Robber’s Roost Trading Post, the first of its kind, in Kittitas County in 1870. In 1871, a man known as John A. Shoudy, and his wife, Mary Ellen Shoudy settled in the Kittitas Valley. Upon their arrival they purchased Robber’s Roost from Splawn. In 1883 Shoudy became the founder of Ellensburgh, which he named after his wife, Mary Ellen Shoudy. The post office changed the spelling of the town’s name to Ellensburg in 1894.
In the 1880s Splawn introduced into the Pacific Northwest the first purebred Hereford cattle imported from England and established the famous Springdale Ranch in Cowiche Valley.
In the early 1900s, Splawn, now living in Cowiche, got into politics. He was elected to the Washington State Senate, representing Yakima County from 1903 to 1905. The following year, he made an unsuccessful bid for governor on the Democratic ticket.
He joined with other businessmen in 1907 to establish the Yakima Valley Transportation Company, which provided trolley service in the city. Splawn, as the company’s president, took the controls on the trolley’s inaugural run on Dec. 24, 1907.
In 1911, he moved to North Yakima and became the first mayor under the new commission form of government. He served until 1915, and during his administration cleaned up the opium dens and got prostitutes out of the central part of the city. He then served as police chief for a year.
Splawn died on March 2, 1917, from a disease he contracted
from a parrot in a pet store.