Early Wenatchee Stories: Brender Canyon’s Namesake
Brender Canyon’s Namesake
WVMCC Board Member and Collections Volunteer
This is the story of the first European settler to discover what is known today as Cashmere, WA. His name was Alexander Bartholomew Brender and he was the first settler to find the picturesque canyon west of Cashmere which now bears his name.
Brender was born in Germany in 1851. He came to America at the age of 17 and became a blacksmith apprentice which helped him find work through his travels west. As he traveled further west, he joined a party of buffalo hunters that paid him 25 cents per hide. He managed to provide about 30 hides a day. Brender became a military scout for an expedition under the command of General Nelson Miles during the Indian Wars. It is not known how long Brender was a scout or his whereabouts up to 1875.
In 1875 he worked for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, then he farmed for a while in Colorado. From there he traveled to San Francisco in 1878, where he purchased a team and wagon with tools, and boarded a steamer sailing to Portland, Oregon. Two years later he arrived in Ellensburg where he met an old grizzled trapper that told Brender of the beautiful Wenatchee Valley that could make a good homestead site. In March of 1881, at the age of 30, Brender started for the Wenatchee Valley via Colockum Pass with his horses, wagon and provisions to start a new life.
After stopping at the Miller-Freer Trading Post in the settlement of Wenatchee, Brender was directed to an old Indian trail up the Wenatchee River. No Europeans lived up the Wenatchee River, there were several Indian camps. The local tribe members were not pleased to see a white man, but were friendly towards Brender. He traveled up the Indian trail west of the present town of Cashmere and found a remarkable, quiet canyon to build a cabin. There were plenty of trees for building and fuel, along with several springs for water and good soil for growing.
Brender built a log house, cut wild hay, planted potatoes, onions, beets and tobacco. He would transport and surplus vegetables up to the Blewett mining camp and sell them to the miners. With his blacksmith skills, he made most of his own tools and helped other settlers coming into the area. He learned the Chinook language and the local tribes people were often guests at his log home.
Month after month he did not see another European in those early years and he was getting lonesome. So after a long courtship by mail with a potential bride from Texas, he married Samantha Trout in 1888, a young widow with three small children in Ellensburg, WA. Together, they had two additional children born in Brender Canyon.
They lived in Brender Canyon for many years where he planted the very first pear orchards in the Cashmere area. When Brender later told people that fruit planted in the valley would be very productive and profitable, they laughed at him. He lived to 89 years old and died in 1940 on his property in the home he remodeled in 1908.
Ken Cramer is a Wenatchee Valley Museum Board Member and regular volunteer in the museum Collections Department. As Ken and his wife, Bev, work through the reference files that have been collected over the past several decades, they come across many interesting stories. Ken is writing these blog posts to share some of these stories with others.