Sawmills Polluting River !!


In 1879 the village is new.  It has 19 new buildings and a few log homes.  The growth is caused by speculation that the railroad is coming....

In June 1880 the Northern Pacific Railroad arrives in town.  The Village has grown to include 48 stores, some houses, and now it has 350 people.  Everyone is looking for the next best move to happen for them to make their fortune.  Just six months later by January 1881 the earliest business polluters of the Spokane River start in business and freely dump their waste into the river. 

The first to pollute is the Cannon and Warner Sawmill.   They have repeatedly been caught dumping sawdust in the river.   Their sawdust is destroying the Indian fishing at the Falls. 

  The California Brewery on Main Street has also opened in the spring of 1881.  The brewery is also dumping lots of foul water and waste debris into the River.

  When the railroad arrived in June 1881 building to the corner of Howard Street, and north of Riverside Avenue - the town exploded in excitement. 


For two years it was not clear if the railroad would come to town or bypass the Village.  A lot of people speculated and many won.  Land sales were brisk.  Many businesses opened.  A lot of railroad people moved into town and built houses.  The dynamic change of fortune was clearly evident all over town.

In order to mark the relief everyone felt, the Village celebrated the arrival of the railroad  with a huge July 4th festival.  The event included oratory by prestigious town fathers, 300 yard sprint horse races between the settlers and the Indians, greased pig chases for the youngsters, a tradition fresh baked pie booth, and the popular tables filled high with wonderful foods.

Next spring in 1882 the streets of Spokane Falls are filled with larger throngs of strangers. There are now 525 people in the Village.

In the next two months by the summer of 1882 there are now 720 people in the village.    In the next 18 months by the winter of 1883,  the town has swelled to 1,000 people, mostly living near the Falls.   Stacks of travelers trunks litter the new railroad depot.  Twenty four months after the railroad has arrived, housing is scarce.  The city also lacked rentals.  Investors are sought to build more housing in the Village. 

By 1884 the city STINKS!    It is filled with dead animals, trash, and lots of debris.   By the summer of 1884 there are now 3,000 people in the Village.  A lot of this growth is because of the arrival each month of new miners by the hundreds chasing new wealth.   

By now the City is filled with a lot of things that are dangerous to the health.    The citizens know that sewage is becoming a problem, but they have no plan to stop the dumping.  For the past four years people have been carelessly throwing their garbage, dead animal carcuses, and raw sewage into the river above the Falls.   The Village still lacks sanitation.  People just sweep all their debris into the river.   Sewage still runs freely in dug ditches pointed and run to the river.    The filth seeps into the ground water.  The open sewage troughs have no covers.

All this pollution halts in 1884.  On April 12, 1884 the city elects a new group of councilmen.   Their first item on the agenda is the building of a new sewer system.  The city council plan is to spend a staggering $500,000 to build a sewer plant away from the river.   But the city has no money.  For the next few years financing projects is the most pressing business of the city government.

The city issues "warrants" which are just promises to pay sometime in the future.  Contractors and laborers need cash.  So the city sells speculative warrants to the Roberts Brothers, local lenders, at a steep 25% discount.   The sewer bonds also pay 6% yearly interest and are callable.  That is harsh terms just for the immediate use of the Roberts cash.   The Roberts Brothers expect 100% payback from the city.  The city pays off the workers building the sewer system. 

When the first class sewage system is completed a few years later, the city starts a street by street waste collecting system.  By now the city is in over $800,000 debt using warrants.    Eventually it all works out.

Growth has its good and bad....

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