WALLA WALLA — A definite article will be returned to the name of a 165-year-old road that was named after the city that was named after the fort that was named after a French word for stone.
As work is finished on the current Myra Road grade-lowering project, new signs will be added, includes signs for the cross street of The Dalles Military Road.
“Most of us have been guilty of inadvertently shortening it from time to time,” city engineer Neal Chavre stated. “The new signs should be spelled correctly.”
And they are spelled correctly, much to the relief of Crystal Krebs.
“It is my pet peeve. It is The Dalles Military Road,” said Krebs, 77. “We are a little, old town, but you ought to be correct.”
Over the course of several years, Krebs said she has contacted the city on several occasions to try and get them to return the definite article of “The” to “Dalles Military Road.”
She has also noted other inaccuracies in local street nomenclature, such as Home Street instead of Home Avenue or Bryant Street instead of Bryant Avenue.
“I worked for the city, which is why I do not understand why these things can’t be done because they ordered the signs,” Krebs said. “I think it matters to people a lot who live on these.”
Local historian Dan Clark agrees and he went on to explain that “dalles” is French for “stone,” and that is why the fort located 150 miles to the east on the Columbia River was called Fort The Dalles.
“It is not Dalles. It is The Dalles. That was the name of the geography for that part of the river that couldn’t be navigated by boat,” Clark added.
In Walla Walla in 1858, if you were head to Fort The Dalles you would take the road that currently follows The Dalles Military Road, 12th Avenue, Larch Street, Peppers Bridge Road, across the Walla Walla River and on to eventually join the Oregon Trail.
It should be noted, however, that the local road to Fort The Dalles should not be confused with the infamous road purportedly built several years later between Fort The Dalles and Fort Boise, which eventually became the center of a land fraud controversy.
Clark admits it never bothered him to have “The” missing from “Dalles,” but it did bother Mary Grant Tompkins, who grew up in the Valley and prefers to keep road names like the originals.
“That was the original name for the road as far as I have known it,” Tompkins said.
Even more important to Tompkins, however, was the spelling of Pettyjohn Road, named after her ancestor Jonathan Pettyjohn.
Like Krebs, she has fought the good fight of using the right name for roads, streets and avenues. And she even managed to get the county to fix one “Petty John” road to the historically proper “Pettyjohn.”
“They (Walla Walla County) changed one of the signs to Pettyjohn, and then in the meantime I have seen at least one other that was spelled with a space and two names,” Tompkins said.