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How the city of Krain was founded

Lodge 218 President

DENVER - Matt Malnarich of Enumclaw, Wash., reporting to the editor of "American Slovenes," a history of pioneer Slovenes in America, stated that he was firmly convinced the first Slovene men who migrated to California were Stefan Kocevar and Joseph Stukel of Semica, Slovenia.

These two men were in the state as early as 1858 prospecting and digging for gold. Kocevar returned to the old country in 1865 where stories he told his hometown friends stirred great interest, especially when he talked about gold and showed them American gold pieces he said were worth 50 goldinars each.

Upon his arrival in San Francisco in 1877, Matt Malnarich met fellow countrymen, Lawrence Pasic, Jakob Klemencic and John Jaksa from Semica; Jurij Jorge from Otok in Bela Krajina and a man by the name of Koc'ija from C'rnomelj. He stated that in those times it was not uncommon for a Slovene man to travel a hundred miles or more to visit another Slovene if he learned where his fellow countryman had settled. Sometimes it took up to two weeks to complete a visit of that nature.

He, in return, was visited by other countrymen including John Ogulin and a few whose names he had forgotten. Such visits generally occurred out in the country where men were prospecting for gold in the surrounding mountains.

They all had legal authority to dig for gold on their individual sections of land which Americans referred to as "claims".

Matt did not stay in California very long. He continued traveling and exploring in the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

The land on which the city of Spokane is built he found still inhabited by Indian tribes. A trading post where Indians came to trade animal furs and other goods for the ordinary necessities of life was also located there.

Two Slovene missionaries were known to be active in the area. As there were no roads to travel on, Matt had to rely on his horses to get around. Most of the country he traversed was desolate wasteland on which wild wormwood grew in abundance.

At Pas he found a mail station from which mail was forwarded to Walla Walla; in [E?]Allensburg [sic] he stopped to water his horses and found, to his dismay, he had to pay one dollar and a half for the water.

Crossing the mountains he arrived in the [western] eastern [sic] part of Washington and was amazed to see a complete change of landscape. Instead of desert and sage brush, it was green forests and verdant valleys traversed by streams and dotted with lakes.

There were no roads or wagon trails. After scouting the land in all directions he proceeded to file a petition for free homesteading rights on a section that consisted of 160 acres. Within a short time he purchased another 160 acres from a railroad company.

Although the land was completely under water, his inherent Slovene instinct led him to believe the flooded land would be exceptionally fertile once the water was diverted. He immediately dispatched a letter to his cousin, Joseph Parich in California, urging him to come out there, as there was much additional land available for homesteading. His cousin arrived shortly, bringing along his wife and three small children.

There was plenty of work to be performed. Drainage ditches had to be excavated to divert the water and a road constructed to connect with his next door neighbor who lived 20 miles away. The new settlers subsisted mainly on wild game they hunted and whatever food they could raise on the land.

Matt Malnarich arrived in the state of Washington and established the new community in the year 1881.

Two years later a public school was constructed as more families began arriving. Matt and the fellow countrymen who arrived after him decided to name their new community Krain (after Krajn in Slovenia) thereby assuring that it would remain part of the area's history that the first pioneers who founded the community were Slovenians from Kranjska (Carniola).