German brothers named Proebstel, their wives and offspring made up one of the largest families settling in Clark County in the early days. A community east of Orchards was named for the family, and a church still carries the Proebstel name.
Four brothers arrived here from Missouri in time to take donation land claims in the early 1850s. Andrew took out a claim just northwest of Orchards, and John, Valentine and Jacob Proebstel settled near what is now Proebstel. Andrew departed in several years for the Midwest, and his land was purchased by Jacob Proebstel.
At least two other Proebstel brothers also lived in Clark County in the early days.
J.C. Proebstel, born in 1854, a son of John Proebstel, remembered that the family residence was a log cabin chinked with mud and moss to keep out skunks, wood rats and bad weather. Indians were the nearest neighbors, and wolves, bears and cougars prowled the Proebstel area.
J.C. Proebstel also recalled:
“Our roads were pack trails. We subsisted chiefly on game and fish and berries. Our stock fed on the grass of the native meadows. To establish our livestock we would exchange pigs for calves, colts for cows, a cow and a calf for a horse.”
A visitor to the Proebstel area in 1876 reported Jacob Proebstel Sr. was growing grain and clover. At the nearby John Proebstel farm, the owner had cleared a large amount of brush and logs. He told the visitor “there is no country in the world” he preferred to that area. A post office named Proebstel was established in 1886 with Francis and Herman Proebstel, two sons of John Proebstel, in charge at the start. Several other postmasters also were on duty before the office was discontinued in 1907.
Although farming was the Proebstel’s main occupation in the earliest days, some of the family eventually went to Vancouver. William W. Proebstel was proprietor of the Exchange Hotel on Main Street between Third and Fourth streets in the 1880s, and the Reception Saloon in the same vicinity in the ’90s. Andrew J. Proebstel, a son of Jacob Proebstel Sr., also was active in the business district.
He worked for a while for his brother, Jacob Jr., who owned a general merchandise store, and later was in business with partners at several stores. He aided his son-in-law, Frank Wilcox, in establishing an auto company in 1907 and spent much time in that business in later years, in addition to serving as bailiff at Clark County Court.