History of Zillah
Zillah is an agricultural community located in Yakima County, Central Washington State. The peaceful rural town sits in the midst of abundant tree fruit orchards and vineyards in the heart of the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. The city was founded in 1891 when the Sunnyside Canal project opened up irrigation in the dry sagebrush shrub steppe lands alongside the Yakima River.
The townsite was named after Miss Zillah Oakes (ca. 1872-1953), the daughter of Thomas Fletcher Oakes, the Northern Pacific Railway president who was a strong proponent of the building of the irrigation canal. The story is told that the 19-year old Miss Zillah was the only female on the arduous trail-breaking journey to what is now Zillah. After she fell off the wagon into a creek on the trip, the entire party agreed the town should be named after her, the youngest member of their expedition.
Soon after the Sunnyside Canal started flowing in 1892, Zillah’s Freeman Walden planted what proved to be a model fruit orchard on 80 acres. By 1902, he had 5,000 apple, pear, cherry, plum, prune and apricot trees. Walden reported that he netted the extraordinary profit of $10,000 in 1902.
Zillah grew to become a residential and business center in the heart of one of the richest agricultural regions in Washington State. The town officially incorporated on January 5, 1911 and had a population of 647 in 1920. Zillah made national news in 1922 with the building of the Teapot Dome Service Station — a teapot shaped building to highlight the national Teapot Dome Scandal.
In recent years, Zillah has become known for its 20+ excellent wineries, many of which win prestigious awards at regional and national wine competitions. Tasting rooms in the wineries draw in tens of thousands of visitors throughout the year. In the 2010 census, its population was just over 3,100.