Fred C. Schnebly, 74, who was born in the Kittitas Valley of a pioneer family, was a director, board president and outstanding leader in the creation and operation of the Kittitas Reclamation District, and for more than 50 years was one of the best known cattlemen of the Pacific Northwest, died at the Valley General Hosptial Tuesday evening [April 12, 1955]. Death followed an illness from a kidney infection started last September.
His father and all his brothers were likewise leaders in the cattle industry of the Northwest, as his son is today. His father was the late P. H. Schnebly, one of the first cattlemen to operate in the valley and his grandfather, David J. Schnebly, was Ellensburg’s first newspaperman, who founded the Ellensburg Localizer, the predecessor of the Daily Record.
Schnebly was born on the Schnebly homestead in the Fairview District and all of his life has operated the old Smith ranch, now in charge of his son Henry Schnebly. He was born November 12, 1880, and attended the Ellensburg schools and Washington State College. He was married September 27, 1905, to Marguerite A. Nelson, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. James P. Nelson, also early valley pioneers. She survives him. The family had planned to celebrate Mr. and Mrs. Schnebly’s golden wedding anniversary this coming September. He also leaves two daughters, Mrs. Max Charlton and Mrs. Edward Smith; a son, Henry J. Schnebly, and eight grandchildren, all of Ellensburg and a foster son, Clair Schnebly, of Everett. Mr. and Mrs. Schnebly had also helped to put several other boys through school.
The following brothers and sisters also survive: Dorse, Frank, Rufus and Robert Schnebly and Mrs. John Paul and Mrs. John Howell, all of Ellensburg, and Mrs. C. C. McGranahan of Bellevue. A son, Frederick; a sister, Lillian, and a brother Joe, preceded him in death.
The Schnebly family has for a half century been among the largest cattle operators in Central Washington. Yesterday Fred Schnebly talked to his son about the operations on the ranch, and while realizing his own condition was very serious, insisted that no matter what happened the drive of the cattle to the spring range must start this morning.
He was on the board of directors of the Kittitas Reclamation District for 27 years and when he resigned his son succeeded him. He was president during the engineering and construction of High Line and men close to the biggest development in the history of the valley give him credit for much of the accomplishment.
“Fred Schnebly did a wonderful job for the district, the individual farmers and the valley,” said Gaylord Sterling, District Secretary-Manager this morning. “He was absolutely fair in handling every controversy and everyone agrees that his own sacrifice of creek rights so that the project might be build successfully, was a tremendous factor in making the whole program a success.”
And before him, his father P. H. Schnebly had for many years been one of the high line leaders. Fred Schnebly went on the board of directors January 1, 1919 and was elected district president June 3, 1924. He was president during much of the engineering and all of the construction and the land settlement. He resigned and refused to run for reelection as of December 31, 1945.
F. A. Kern, counsel for the district all those years recalls that back in the days of controversy as to whether the big canal was to be constructed there was bitter fighting. One member of the board resigned and both sides agreed on Schnebly for appointment to fill the post. “From the time of his appointment harmony came to the board,” continued Kern. “His ability to bring harmony and his willingness to sacrifice personally paved the way for construction and that was a contribution this valley should never forget.”
He belonged to the Kittitas County Cattlemen’s Association, the Washington State Cattlemen’s Association and the Fairview Farm Bureau and had been elected an honorary life member of the Ellensburg Lodge of Odd Fellows.
The Rev. Laurence M. Arksey will officiate at the services Saturday April 16, at 2 p.m. in the Evenson Funeral Chapel. Burial in the IOOF Cemetery will follow.
Contributed by: Shelli Steedman