SPOTLIGHT ON THE SPOKANE REGION
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The Midnight Kidnapping
A November 1880 election between Spokane and Cheney for the county seat of Spokane County resulted in vigilante justice and mob law at midnight March 21, 1881.
Spokane had been given the temporary County seat in 1879, because J N Glover, one of the Spokane Falls' founding fathers, had approached the Olympia legislature to create a second county on the east side of the state. To form the new county, Steven’s county was split in two.
Cheney and Spokane were the main contenders for the county seat. The location of the county seat was an important political issue at the time. Winning the seat, meant more traffic to and from the town for both political and business reasons. The town that held the county seat also held the county courthouse and the judges who worked there.
The November 1880 election showed Cheney to be fourteen votes ahead of Spokane. A recount was conducted, and Spokane was named the winner by two votes. A number of Cheney men under the leadership of John Still, the Cheney Justice of the Peace, were outraged and a lawsuit was filed in territorial court of the county. These men came into court with guns, and a judge decided to allow another recount. The recount, however, was delayed for months.
Not able to contain their anger any longer, the Cheney men broke into the Spokane courthouse, kidnapped the county auditor, all of the election documents, the county books, and then they fled back to Cheney.
By the next day, Cheney had held a recount and declared Cheney the winner. Cheney kept the election documents, the books, and the auditor for six weeks while waiting for the county to accept the decision of the recount and to move the county offices to Cheney.
Cheney held the county seat until 1886 when Spokane won the seat again , and Spokane has held it ever since. Spokane Falls had rapid growth and development. Cheney had not had the same development and growth during the same period.
Sources: Spokane History app, Spokane History Timelines, American History