The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Shelby Taylor

An appreciation for Jean Allyn Smeltzer, Klickitat County's unofficial historian


Jean Allyn Smeltzer is living history.

She has contributed much to her community, the Presby Museum, and, of course, The Goldendale Sentinel through her compilation of records, reaching far back into Klickitat County’s rich history, making her recently announced retirement a loss for her many fans.

Aside from her multitude of documentation and books, Jean has spent her time submitting weekly features for the past five years to The Sentinel through her feature column Looking Back, which sites Sentinel archives dating back 100 years and more.

Jean was born in Goldendale in 1936 and graduated from Goldendale High School in 1954 and married her husband Roy in 1956. Her interest in historical information began during her time in Portland, when she joined the Genealogical Forum and began studying her family research.

Jean’s rich family history can be traced to all four of her great grand-parents who immigrated to the county: the Allyn and Miller families in 1879; Linden in 1881; and Korthase in 1906, according to Jean’s research.

Her first book, dedicated to information on Klickitat County, was published in 1972 titled, 1860, 1870, & 1880 Census of Klickitat County, Washington Territory. In 1976, she published Klickitat County, Washington Death and Birth Records.

It was after her father’s passing in 2003 that Jean began working on her family stories by researching the newspaper archives at The Sentinel office. Today, Jean has compiled three booklets and 17 books, eight of which are about her family.

For the past five years The Sentinel has been the beneficiary of Jean’s contributions through her weekly feature. Her addition of local historical information added a unique component to the community.

“It will seem strange not to see Jean seated at a table in our office, poring over our bound volumes of The Sentinel that go back to 1918,” says Sentinel publisher Lou Marzeles. “We were proud to dedicate our special section Headlines & History a couple of years ago to her. Jean is a treasure, and we’ll miss her. We hope she goes on doing all the things she loves to do.”

Jean’s fellow Klickitat County Historical Society board member Bonnie Beeks says of Jean: “The greatest thing about having Jean Smeltzer as a part of our Historical Society is her commitment to the subject—history. She is a real stickler for the facts and hates to see anything about Goldendale misrepresented. A thorough researcher, she has spent countless hours reading past Sentinels at the office on Main Street and on microfilm at the library.”

Congratulations on retirement, Jean. Thanks for everything!


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