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J. J. Downing and S. R. Scranton file claims and build a sawmill at Spokane Falls in May 1871.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5132 : Printer-Friendly Format

In May 1871, J .J. Downing and S. R. Scranton file claims and build a sawmill at Spokane Falls. It is the first American settlement at what will become downtown Spokane. Both men will sell their claims two years later and move on.

Downing and Scranton arrived along the south bank of the Spokane River leading strings of packhorses. The men were the subjects of arrest warrants held by the U.S. Marshal in Montana alleging livestock theft. Finding the site by the falls unoccupied, Downing claimed 160 acres on the south bank and Scranton filed on 160 acres on the north bank. They built a hand-powered sawmill using logs floated down the river.

Two years later, Downing sold his claim to James N. Glover for $2,000 and moved on. In August, a group of special deputy constables arrived at the falls seeking Scranton's assistance in connection with the disappearance of livestock in the Colville area. Shortly after that, James Glover returned with a load of lumber. When Glover learned that the deputies were looking for his neighbor Scranton, he thought that Scranton might be willing to sell out.

With the assistance of an informant, Glover found Scranton in a thicket across the river, crouched over a buffalo robe with two pistols and a repeating rifle. Scranton readily agreed to Glover's offer of $2,000 and the deal was closed late that night. Scranton was not heard from around Spokane Falls again, but Glover earned the title Father of Spokane.

Joseph C. Brown, "The $2,000 Led to a Title: Father of Spokane," The Rainbow Seekers: Stories of Spokane The Expo City and The Inland Empire (Spokane, WA: Wescoast Publishing Co., 1974), 11; "The Other Half of Spokane Sold for $2,000," Ibid., 15.

Travel through time (chronological order):
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Sawmill at Spokane Falls (1872), 1897
Courtesy Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture

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