Colfax is named for Schuyler Colfax, vice president of Ulysses S. Grant. The city’s location is the natural result of the intersection of two rivers and three systems of rails. The first significant industry was logging and lumber milling, but ranching and wheat farming soon followed and a flour mill was added. The arrival of people to Colfax came relatively late in the settlement of the west, in the late eighteen sixties and was finally incorporated in 1873.
The topography of the area is a vast region of steep rolling hills. It The earth is rich and deep, with top soil up to a hundred feet thick. The system of hills is known as the Palouse Hills and the area as the Palouse.
The first white settlers in the area claimed the vast acres of tall bunch grass as grazing land. It wasn’t until the late 1870s and 1880s, that the land was not taken seriously as farming land. It was the influenced by immigrants from Eastern Europe who were familiar with similar climatic conditions, farmers began cultivating the Palouse hills and growing winter wheat, a crop that was planted in the fall and harvested the following summer. With the development of mechanized farming techniques, the Palouse produces enormous crops and farming units have developed into hundreds and even thousands of acres.
Colfax is located 16 miles northwest of Pullman on Highway 195, sitting at 1962 feet. It serves as the seat of Whitman County and has a population of ~2,748. The region is one of the worlds leaders in the production of peas, lentils and barley.
The combination of retail and service businesses and government entities continue to this day. The lifestyle of Colfax provides its citizens with a unique blend of small town and rural living.