In 1881, the Washington legislature empowered the county commissioners to float bonds to build a new courthouse and jail. It was completed in 1883 at a cost of $44,000. On Feb. 25, 1890, it all went up in smoke.
Fire broke out about midnight on a cold and windy night. It started in the rear office of County Clerk Elwell's office and quickly spread to the front of the building and up the tower. Great pieces of burning wood fell off the building, which was consumed in less than an hour. Not even the foundation could be salvaged.
All 15 people, including five prisoners, asleep in the building escaped harm. But many records were lost. Forty-year-old probate records were destroyed, along with records of the Superior and District courts, Sheriff, superintendent of schools, and surveyor. The loss of records, especially land claims, made life difficult for county residents and courts for years.