Index is the creation of Amos and Persis Gunn, who platted the townsite on their mining claim in 1893. The Gunn family realized the potential of its location along a sweeping curve of the newly completed Great Northern Railway. Bordering the North Fork Skykomish River in the Cascade Mountains, surrounded by scenic peaks, and along the original trail to the gold and silver mines of nearby Monte Cristo, they had visions of establishing a community based on mining, logging, and recreation.
By the beginning of the twentieth century nearby granite quarrying, the large Index-Galena saw/shingle mill, and ore extraction from the Sunset copper mine on Trout Creek added economic opportunities. A population of some 600 lived in homes, a half dozen hotels, and nearby lumber camps by the start of World War I.
Changes in the economy and the Depression of the 1930s closed most of those employers, causing the population to drop sharply. In 1942 the small high school graduated its last class. Many early wooden framed commercial buildings also burned or were taken down, leaving only a few still standing as reminders of the early years. Among these are the Bush House hotel (state historical register), Redmen’s Wigwam (national historical register), and former Index Tavern, now home to Outdoor Adventures Company. Most original houses remain, some moved due to river flooding and erosion.
Incorporated in 1907, the town now has approximately 160 residents, making it the smallest in western Washington. It is home for the grade K-7 Index School District #63 and Snohomish County Fire District #28, which also serve nearby residents. With its spectacular river and mountain setting, recreation now dominates the local economy. The town’s story is told in more detail at the Index Historical Society’s Pickett Museum and also in available books.
Copyright © David A. Cameron, Ph.D., President, Index Historical Society
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