With the building of the Central Washington Railway in 1889, Govan was designated as a place on the map. The discovery of a large sandbank in the area in the autumn of 1890 created a boom-town atmosphere as a crew of workmen, complete with steam shovel, extracted sand for the railroad construction. The name is derived from R. B. Govan, a construction engineer employed by Central Washington Railroad.
A post office was established in 1889 in Govan’s railroad depot. By 1898, the post office was moved to the general merchandise store of Almon J. Smith, who was the first officially appointed postmaster. Daily stops were make by a passenger train, and the postmaster had the additional duty of providing messenger service between the post office and the depot. Trains provided mail service to Govan until 1954 when they were replaced by trucks.
Govan grew from a railroad depot into a small town in 1898 when several merchants and 76 citizens lived in the community to support the main industry of grain and fruit exports.
The 1909 Directory of Lincoln County described Govan as a “village of grain shipping stations on the railway,” with a population of 115. Listed as part of the community were the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, one grain elevator and several warehouses, two general stores, two hardware stores, a drug store, saloon, hotel and public school. The State Bank of Govan was well established and the community was served by the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company.
Govan’s C.B. Monroe Cemetery was located about a half-mile west of town. Only eight graves were recorded from 1904 to 1908, but it is believed several others were also buried there. Other burials of Govan residents were either in Almira or Wilbur cemeteries. The marked graves were moved from Govan to Wilbur Cemetery in 1975.
Govan has been the scene of several unsolved murders. Reported in the December 16, 1902 issue of The Wilbur Register as the “most brutal crime ever committed in this county” was the axe murder of Judge J.A. Lewis and his wife, Penelope. The elderly Lewises kept sums of money about the house. It was believed that robbery was the motive.
A masked assassin gunned down C.S. Thennes in the Govan saloon in April 1903. Thennes, who owned a livery barn and stable, died without divulging the name of his murderer, although his wife and the bartender were confident that they recognized the man. A suspect was arrested and tried for the crime, but was never convicted.
Mrs. Lillie L. Lesnett, a former mail carrier for Govan rural Route 2, was murdered at her farm on August 29, 1941. Her son, Wes Murray, disappeared at the same time. In June 1948, a boy riding horseback about a mile south of the Lesnett home discovered a skeleton which was identified as that of the son. Mother and son evidently died about the same time, but the case was never solved.
A major blaze in 1927 nearly wiped out the town's business district. Govan’s eventual demise was hastened in 1933 when the community was bypassed by U.S. Route 2. The only retail store remaining in business by 1940 was the Govan General Store, with the owner doubling as postmaster.
Source: Lincoln County A Lasting Legacy ed. by Donald E. Walter (Davenport: Lincoln County Centennial Committee, 1988);