About Adams County

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Adams County, which is part of Foreign Trade Zone #203, is centrally located in Eastern Washington.
  • A wide variety of crops are grown in Adams County. Check out USDA's CropScape maps to see what our farmers raise and where.
  • The county is considered a transportation hub with Interstate 90, U.S. 395, State Routes 17 and 26, Burlington Northern Sante Fe railway and Columbia Basin Railroad.
  • The Port of Othello manages the Bruce Industrial Park four miles east of Othello. The port operates the Bruce Water System, which has the ability to deliver 222,000,000 gallons of water to future users.
  • Served by Avista and Big Bend Electric Co-Op, Adams County enjoys some of the nation’s most economical electricity.

LOCATION 

county_map_smallAdams County spans 1,925 square miles of southeastern Washington in the semi-arid shrub-steppe region of southeastern Washington State, surrounded by neighboring Grant, Lincoln, Whitman, and Franklin Counties.  Adams County is where the channeled scablands meet the palouse region. 

Adams County's two most populous cities are Ritzville and Othello. Ritzville is located in the northeastern corner of the county at the junction of I-90 and US 395, making it a popular stop for travelers. Ritzville is an hour's drive from Spokane. Ritzville is the county seat and all elected governmental county services are located at 210 W. Broadway.

In Othello, located in the southwestern corner of the county, State Routes 26, 17, and 24 converge. Othello is an hour's drive away from the Tri-Cities region, and a half hour drive to Moses Lake.  Othello sees steady growth due to irrigation available from the Columbia Basin Project. Othello Public Services Building houses the Building and Planning and Integrated Health Care departments at 425 E. Main St.


Online Maps
Printable Maps

LOCAL ECONOMY

The county is known as one of the state’s agricultural and livestock ranching focused regions. Wheat, corn, apples and potatoes (among several other crops) are grown annually here.

Today, Adams County is one of the largest wheat producers in the state. Eastern Adams County is mostly dryland crops – wheat, canola, camelina, sunflowers, etc. The western portion of the county, known as the ‘panhandle” is far more diverse agriculturally thanks to the presence of canal irrigation. Around Othello, a diverse selection of fruit and vegetable crops are raised.

COUNTY HISTORY

1883
- Adam's County's Articles of Incorporation were approved by William A. Newell, Governor of Washington Territory, on November 28, 1883 whereupon Adams and Franklin counties were formed out of existing Whitman County. The first county minutes were recorded on December 19th, 1883 and established Ritzville as the county seat. 

1885
- The first structure used as a courthouse was a wooden home, purchased from Nelson H. Greene for $500. It was located on the corner of present-day Washington St. and Broadway Ave. in Ritzville.

1890
- First Decennial Census of Adams County population records 2,098 residents.

1892
- It wasn’t long before the growing county government outgrew the courthouse. On December 28, 1891, the Adams County Commissioners (Philip L. Kretzer, James Smith, and Albert S. Elder) approved a bond for a new courthouse. A construction contract was awarded to Burnham and Clapp of Spokane, Washington on Feb. 23, 1982, for the sum of $19,945. The new courthouse was a two-story brick building with a four-story tower and a stone basement.

The structure was built on the site of the present-day courthouse, directly in front of where the current building sits. It was completed and officially accepted by the commissioners on August 20, 1892. The jail was moved to the basement of the new courthouse and had living quarters for the sheriff or his deputy. The old, original courthouse was sold to Henry A. Bier in 1901 for $1,650. The house was moved to a new location and still stands today with considerable modifications. 

By 1897 wheat farming has become a successful venture.

1900
- Decennial Census of Adams County population records 4,840 residents, a 130.7% increase.  By 1909, Adams County described itself as the “bread basket of the world,” with Ritzville taking the honor of being the largest inland wheat exporter in the world in the early 1900s.

1905
- “A number of officials also appeared before the board [of county commissioners] and asked that an addition be built to the court house for the accommodation of the auditor and treasurer who require more room on account of the increase in business.” The architectural firm of Preusse and Zittel of Spokane began drawing plans for the proposed addition in March 1905. Adams County Commissioners (Joseph M. Batten, Henry J. Allert and Fred Kembel) approved the new addition in May of 1905.

The offices of the auditor, treasurer and commissioners were enlarged while the superior judge had a private room leading to the courtroom. More room in the basement for jail purposes and new vaults were planned.  Work began in June with Spokane contractors Hastie and Dougan supervising the project. By August, the auditor, treasurer and assessor’s offices were also moved out of the courthouse to make room for the remodeling. When completed there was once again ample room for all of the departments of the county government. The sheriff’s office and jail remained in the basement. The cost of the addition was $12,247 and the project was completed in October 1905.

1910
- Decennial Census of Adams County population records 10,920 residents, a 125.6% increase.
Adams County dryland wheat farmers soon found that the region was so dry that they must let their fields lie fallow every other year to conserve enough moisture in the soil to raise profitable crops. Tilling disturbs the soil and encourages moisture loss, so leaving the fields cropless for a year is a method to retain moisture and regain some nutrients by leaving the ‘cap’ intact.

1920 - 1940
- Decennial Census of Adams County population records 9,623 residents in 1920, a 11.9% decrease; 7,719 residents in 1930, a 19.8% decrease; and 6,209 residents in 1940, a 19.6% decrease.

In the original budget proposal for 1940, Commissioners (G. G. Plager, Walter R. Johnson, and Henry Danekas) appropriated $65,000 for remodeling and building an addition to the courthouse. At the time, space was being rented in two buildings on main street for the prosecuting attorney, county agent and vault room. 

After some discussion and a presentation by Architect H. C. Whitehouse of the firm of Whitehouse and Price of Spokane, Washington, the commissioners were considering a new courthouse at a cost of $120,000. At the time, the county had $310,000 cash on hand with $106,000 in current expense and $139,000 due in delinquent taxes. The new courthouse would be a three-story main building with a two-story jail at the rear. The main building would be constructed of brick and face Broadway.

Construction was completed by December 1940. Razing of the old courthouse was completed by the end of May 1941 and the entire project came in at the projected cost of $120,000. It was dedicated on September 5, 1941.

1943
- Columbia Basin Project Act is signed.

1946
- First contract for earthwork, canal lining, and structures on the East Low Canal is awarded to Winston Brothers Company and Utah Construction Company on October 25, 1946 by the USBR.

1949
- Construction of the Potholes East Canal begins.

1950 - 2010
- Decennial Census of Adams County population records continual growth, recording 18,728 residents in 2010.