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Mike Horan’s legacy

Editor’s note: A version of this story first published in The Confluence, a historical quarterly magazine produced by the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center. To learn more, visit wenatcheevalleymuseum.org.

In the “first come, first served” days of homesteading in Wenatchee before 1900, newcomer Mike Horan picked one of the prettiest spots to settle his family. He wasn’t the first to live on the 130-acre property at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers; he purchased it in 1895 from Sam Miller, co-owner of the nearby Miller-Freer Trading Post. Horan moved his family into an abandoned trapper’s cabin, onto which he added a kitchen and loft, and began building a larger home on the north side of the Wenatchee River. He completed the beautiful two-story, Queen Anne-style home in 1899.

Orphaned at age 12, Horan headed west from Massachusetts and made a meager living delivering horses, working in the cattle and mining businesses, and as a butcher. He moved to Tacoma and then to Roslyn, where he opened a butcher shop and married Iowa native Margaret Rankin. When a competitor opened another butcher shop nearby, the Horans moved to Wenatchee in 1889 — first to a small house in town and then to the confluence property. Mike raised cattle, opened a meat market and contracted for large deliveries of beef to construction crews. Like many early Wenatchee settlers, he also planted fruit trees.

Mike Horan family 1902.jpg

The Mike Horan family in 1902 included, from left, Margaret holding baby Kathleen, Esther, Mike holding Walt, William and John.

Mike Horan grew pears, apricots and peaches, but it was his apples that set him apart.

At the first National Apple Show in Spokane in 1908, he entered an entire carload of apples in mixed varieties: Winesap, Rome Beauty, Winter Banana, Spitzenberg, Esopus, Newtown Pippin, Arkansas Black and Delicious. He directed his crew to hand-select the nicest apples and display them along a long wall, slanted six boxes high with three rows of red interspersed with one row of green. He was awarded the grand prize: $1,000 cash — worth more than $32,000 in today’s dollars. His win solidified Wenatchee’s claim to be the Apple Capital of the World! Returning home by train after the show, he was met with a torchlight parade of ecstatic citizens who chanted,

Who’s all right?

Mike Horan!

A-P-P-L-E

We-We-Wenatchee

Rah, rah rah!

Mike, Mike, Mike!

Horan served his community as county commissioner, city councilman, school board member, co-organizer of Washington State Horticultural Association and vice president of Columbia Valley Bank.

His beautiful home remained in the hands of his descendants until 1982, when it was sold and converted to a restaurant. After 120 years, the building — now deteriorated — was demolished in 2019 and the property sold to the Chelan County PUD.

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