Mattawa, Washington, may be a small town, but it has a rich history full of notable events that have shaped the area. From national tragedies to local triumphs, here are seven historical events that have taken place near Mattawa.
1. Japanese-American Internment: During World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated to internment camps across the country, including several near Mattawa. The Tule Lake Segregation Center, located about 200 miles away in California, held approximately 25,000 Japanese Americans at its peak, many of whom had been forcibly removed from their homes in Washington and other Western states.
2. Hanford Site: From the 1940s to the 1980s, the Hanford Site, a nuclear weapons production facility, was located just 40 miles north of Mattawa. The site produced plutonium for the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the legacy of its radioactive waste continues to impact the area today.
3. White Bluffs Bank Robbery: In 1959, a group of criminals attempted to rob the State Bank of White Bluffs, located about 40 miles north of Mattawa. The robbery went awry when the bank's president, George Haydu, was shot and killed. The culprits were eventually caught and sentenced to life in prison.
4. 1980 Mount St. Helens Eruption: Though it occurred just across the state line in Washington, the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 was felt throughout the Pacific Northwest, including in Mattawa. The eruption was one of the deadliest and most destructive natural disasters in U.S. history.
5. The Columbia Basin Project: In the 1930s, the federal government launched the Columbia Basin Project, a massive irrigation system aimed at bringing water to drought-prone areas in central Washington. The project led to the creation of much of the farmland around Mattawa, and transformed the region's economy.
6. Blast at the Priest Rapids Dam: In 1956, a fire and explosion at the Priest Rapids Dam located approximately 20 miles south of Mattawa, resulted in the deaths of five workers. The incident occurred during the dam's construction and led to significant changes in workplace safety regulations.
7. Big Bend Community College’s Founding: In 1961, Big Bend Community College opened its doors in nearby Moses Lake, providing affordable higher education opportunities to Mattawa-area residents. The college has since become an important part of the community, offering a variety of degree programs and vocational training opportunities.
In conclusion, though Mattawa may be a small town, it has a history full of significant events that have impacted the area and the country at large. From natural disasters to man-made tragedies, these seven events are just a small sampling of the town's multifaceted history.
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