Ft Wright Needs 1000 Free Acres


It came as total surprise to the leaders of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce.  Major Hampton, head of the Army for the northwest, recommended Spokane as the site of a new army post.  He also wants to abandon  all other army forts in the area. 

December 5, 1894 

In 1893 General Carlin of the US Army reported favorably on Spokane being an excellent place to site a new army post.  The clincher is the number of railroads heading out in every direction.  It is a transportation center of a very large area.

No steps were taken until the spring of 1894, when Spokane responded.  The city had formed a Bureau of Immigration and that committee was offering to gift the 1,000 acres the army demanded to build the post. 

Three sites were offered.  One site is located in Cook’s Addition, somewhere along Grand Boulevard on the top of the south hill.  A second area is in Linderwood Addition, somewhere along Division on top of the north hill.  The third is just west of the River in Twickenham Addition, across the river from Twickenham Park.

General Carlin liked the Twickenham site.  The rocky bluff in the rear and the winding river along the front with a level plateau in the center appealed to him as the best place to site a large army post.

Nothing more happened until October of this year when AA Newberry went to Washington DC.  He met with top brass and the upshot of the deal proposed was if Spokane would gift the army the 1,000 Twickenham acres plus free water – the deal was agreed to.

There was a problem.  That area had already been platted and sold to many owners.  All of them would have to agree to gift or sell back their land so the clear unencumbered deeds could be given to the army.

It is decided that JPM Richards, head of the Spokane and Eastern Trust Bank, will be the collector of the deeds.

The committee has gone to work.  It is a slow, tedious process to contact each owner and convince them to gift or cheaply sell their land.  It involved 56 separate owners and not all favor doing this deal.  Many do not live in Spokane and can only be contacted by mail.

Twenty Nine (29) owners settle for nominal amounts and/or agree to the gifting of their lots.  But there are still 27 holdouts. Some are simply thinking it out and not yet decided.

It is clear to the holdouts that the longer they wait, the more they can get for their lots.

Subscription committees are forming to scour the city for donations and secure land to trade.

The amount needed will be $15,000 in money and $23,000 in tradeable land to be gifted by the citizens.  The best guess numbers are based on other people and the settlements they have accepted.  The selling feature is that the new army post will give Spokane a yearly payroll of $500,000.

Bill Norman, head of Washington Water Power sets it off by gifting 125 acres of Twickenham on the high plateau fronting the river.   F Lewis Clark gifts 20 lots in Nosler Addition, worth $2,000.  Henry Nichols gifts 16 lots in his Bellevue Addition, worth $1,000.

Some give cash.  Holly Mason Hardware gives $500.  Doc Brown gives $500. So do Binkley and Taylor, prominent attorneys.  Also land owner The Rosenhaupt Brothers pledges $500.  So do the Chamberlin Brother, another large land holder.

The committee is expecting each bank and every brewery to pledge $1,000 each – but so far none have.

Yesterday Mr Wayne agreed to trade his 120 acres in Twickenham West for equal valued land.

And there are concerts being held.  The one just held raised $1,200.   The selling point appears to be that the government is about to build $500,000 of buildings and an equal payroll, so everyone benefits. 

The next big idea is to put up a giant Christmas tree, get at least $1,000 of prizes donated, and sell everyone a raffle ticket.  Sixty Eight merchants stepped right up and pledged to donate the $1,000 for the prizes or equivalent goods.    On December 20, 1894 the city gathered in a giant gala party and the most important event of the evening was the reading of the winners of the gifts under the giant Army Christmas Tree.  At least $2,000 was raised.

The fever has spread to many outlying towns.  Bunches of tickets are being sold.  Merchants are offering gifts for the raffle.  If it continues, this promises to be the greatest event Spokane has had all year.

A very unusual event happened.  A rancher said that his wife had dreamed that ticket #56 was the one that would get the gold watch prize.  He had been ordered to get that ticket.  The number had been sold and it was too late.  The rancher placed a $2 bill in in the hands of Herb Nichols on the committee and said “just get that ticket back”.  It is not known if the ticket was ever gotten back and turned over to the rancher.

Another $161 of prizes arrived from 16 merchants and it looks like the one event will have way more than needed.  Banker Rutter pledges 30 turkeys.

At the end of the tree party, $2,700 has been raised for the Army Post committee to use as they see fit.  5,566 tickets have been sold at $0.50 cents each.  After expenses the net will be $4,515.18.  1,200 presents were given out.

The Final Push

By February 1895 if was determined that the committee lacked $18,000 cash and $8,000 in real estate to get the necessary fund to complete buying the 1,000 acres for the army.  Now the committee started to lay heavily on the banks, larger manufacturers, and wealthy people in the community to make substantial donations.  The push added $5,500 to the total.  Then the Hypotheek Bank gave $10,000 in real estate and $1,000 in cash and it became the biggest donor.

A week later the committee met and the mood was blue.  They were discouraged and lost for ideas on where to get money. There was a new call for volunteers to help and that push might have saved the day.  A list of 30 prominent men was suggested and a plea to get them to help went out.

At the same time, the appropriation bill for paying for the fort has cleared both houses of congress and is awaiting the president’s signature.  This is certainly the moment when things are at the edge.

The next week in desperation the committee pleaded with the State of Washington to make up the $8,000 shortfall.  It had opposition from Vancouver and Walla Walla because both cities would lose their existing forts.  Things are precarious.

On February 15th there was still a shortage of $3,000 in cash and $7,000in real estate.

The Great Northern Railroad gifted $3,000 of surplus land.  It is the extra land they were gifted by residents but never used when they entered Spokane.  The County Commissioners have decided to contribute the refund of taxes collected on this real estate – making the total just approaching the goal.

Then a breakthrough happened.  Andy Newberry got the last holdouts of their Twickenham property to lower their demands.  This meant the deal was just at the edge of having sufficient funds to get the 1,000 acres deeds traded.

By March there was actually 1,062 acres in escrow – more than was necessary.

It took some time to get the actual exchange.  In fact, in one instance it took another 8 months to finish the deal.  But the agreed-to terms were all that were necessary.

The largest holdout and the last sale occurred legally on November 20, 1894.  JL Pickett handed over his deed for lots 11 thru 18 on block 39 and lots 14 and 15 on block 37.  The 9 lots are being traded for $3,000 and title has been given to the bank.

November 1894

Spokane’s gift to the city to get a new army post was recognized by Congress today.  The 1,000 acres of free land donated to the government to build a new Army Post is now a done deal.

There is now $50,000 appropriated by Congress to begin construction of the buildings. 

Captain Robinson of the Quartermaster Corp has been assigned the job to build the new fort.  He is leaving San Francisco to relocate in Spokane.  Capt Bill Riley will assist him as the number two man.

In October, 1895 the deeds were sent to the Army, finishing the deal.  On October 18th the Army accepted the deeds, guaranteeing the new army post.  The final number was $40,000 in real estate and cash raised.  350 legal documents were exchanged including deeds, mortgage releases, and judgements resolved.   Giving clean titles takes a lot of work.

May 20, 1896

It became obvious that the government has underfunded the new army post.

 Things are going so strongly in the actual plans that Congressman Hyde strongly protests the rather small amount of $50,000 for the new Army Post. 

The House of Representatives committee has therefore promised they will raise the amount from $50,000 to $100,000, after having reduced the new amount from $125,000 downward.

The new amount has passed and it is being added to the earlier $50,000 amount.

Over time a lot more money will be appropriated by Congress and Ft Wright as it is built.







Read More Return Home