Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Richest Woman in Spokane

By Kris Krell

The Richest Woman in Spokane

I thought that the electric car trend that we have going on today was all new.  I didn’t realize that electric cars were available as far back as the 1800s with inventors from Hungary, the Netherlands, and the United States competing to be first.  By the mid 1850’s practical electric cars were being built by France and Britain. The first successful US electric car was in 1890 by William Morrison from Des Moines, Iowa, a chemist by trade. It is said that his car was more like an electrified wagon able to go 14 miles per hour, but the electric car “spark” had gone off.  By 1900, New York City had a fleet of 60 electric taxis! About 1/3 of all vehicles on the road were electric.  By 1912, the electric car had attained its peak.  When Henry Ford introduced the mass produced, gasoline car, the cost of his cars cost $650; the electric car averaged $1,750.

So, how does the history of the electric car bring us to Spokane, Washington?  

Agnes McDonald, in 1904, was considered to be the richest woman in Spokane. By the 1920’s she was zipping around Spokane in her vintage 1916 Rauch brougham (an automobile with an open driver's seat) vintage electric car at a top speed of 23 miles per hour.  It was reported that this car cost her $3,500 in 1918.  In 1945, she was an elderly, grey-haired woman, and during WWII soldiers stationed in Spokane, would shout, whistle, and cheer as she drove by.  When she parked, photos were taken and car rides given in her ancient but well-maintained car.  Agnes noted that she paid $2.50 a month for electricity, and $500 every five years for a new battery. Agnes finally gave the car to the Cheney Cowles Museum because her slower driving car caused problems with the police—after WWII, speed limits had increased. 

Agnes Janes Smith was born December 5, 1866, in Le Sueur, Minnesota.  As an adult, Agnes moved west and met Scott McDonald; they married in 1892, had two children, Ruth and Bruce.  Scott and his sisters had moved to Butte, Montana, when he was 18 years old.  He worked in the mines, became superintendent of the Lexington Mine in Butte, and began to develop mines of his own. He was one of the first people to open a mine in the Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, district.  He also developed mines in British Columbia.

Scott and Agnes left Wallace, Idaho, in 1898 and moved to Spokane.  They purchased a large, granite home on West First Avenue (now demolished) designed by W.A. Ritchie who was the architect of the Spokane County Courthouse that still stands today.

Two years later, Scott died of consumption.  His estate was said to be, at the time, the largest estate ever probated in Spokane.  After her husband’s death, Agnes became involved in numerous endeavors:

·      She was involved in many large real estate transactions--one such sale was the Germond Block at the northeast corner of Sprague and Post sold in 1907 for $150,000.  
·      She was one of the founders of the Grace Campbell Museum.
·      She provided a number of memorials to St John’s Cathedral to honor family members to include a beautiful window to memorialize her daughter, Ruth, who died in 1929.  
·      Agnes was a founder of Spokane Humane Society and served as president for many years.

Agnes had remarried in 1904, marrying Scott’s brother, Dennis. Dennis ran a steamship lines on Lake Coeur d’ Alene and the St. Joe’s River.  They continued to live in the home on West First Avenue.  Dennis died of a heart attack in 1932.

Agnes was known as a decisive, very dominant person, but she had a kind heart toward others.  She outlived both of her children.  Her son, Bruce, died in 1944; her daughter, Ruth, in 1929.  Agnes died at her West First Avenue home on October 27, 1961. 

Sources:  Wikipedia, Agnes McDonald, By the Falls Women of Determination, American Association of University Women, Spokane Branch, Washington State Centennial Project

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Closing Access to Washington Vital Records

This is an ALERT to proposed changes to access to Vital Records
in the State of Washington, SB 5332-2019-20.

Currently, Washington is an open records state. Change has been proposed by the Dept. of Health to restrict access to Vital Records in our state. DOH is proposing changes based on a “best practices” in vital records control and recommendations from the Federal Government, citing privacy concerns and identity theft. These changes will affect all genealogists!

Here is a brief summary of the proposed changes:
Placing restrictions on release of records to the public:
  • 100 years for live birth and fetal death
  • 50 years for death, marriage, divorce, annulment, legal separation and dissolution of domestic partnerships
Placing restrictions on who certified copies of Vital Records (birth, death, marriage, and divorce) may be released to:
  • Birth Certificates will only be released to the “subject of the record” (yourself), the subject’s spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, step-parent, sibling, grandparent, legal guardian, legal representative or authorized representative before the 100 year embargo.
  • Death Certificates will be released to the decedent’s spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, step-parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, legal guardian immediately prior to death, legal representative, authorized representative or next of kin as specified in RCW 11.28.120 before the 50 year embargo.
  • Certificate of Fetal Death will be released to a parent, a parent’s legal representative, an authorized representative, sibling or a grandparent before the 100 year embargo.
New Provisions:
  • The State may issue an informational copy to a vital record to anyone. Informational copies must contain only the information “allowed by rule”.
  • Informational death copies will not include information related to the cause of death and manner of death.
  • “Authorized representative” will include genealogists. This will require a notarized letter of permission from next of kin and personal identification.
  • Applicants will be required to provide identification and proof of relationship to obtain certified copies of vital records.

WSGS has been working with the Records Preservation and Access Committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies on this issue.
WSGS has taken the position that:
  • Vital Records are the backbone of our profession and hobby. Access to these records is essential to our work and embargo periods to records are unnecessarily restrictive.
  • We support keeping all Vital Records open. Access to vital records has not been demonstrated to increase the risk of identity theft. We believe that keeping birth, marriage, divorce and death records open does more to prevent identity theft.
  • Keeping the cause of death on Informational Death Records is essential to genetic and forensic genealogists.
  • We support proposed changes to cover the cost for providing access to Vital Records.
  • Redaction of Social Security numbers on an Informational Copies of Vital Records is supported.

We are asking all of you to please contact your local Senator, the members of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and the sponsors of the bill; Sen. Jamie Pederson, Sen. Ann Rivers, Sen. Claire Wilson, Sen. Maureen Walsh, Sen. Emily Randall, Sen. Annette Cleveland and Sen. Marko Liias. This bill is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Law and Justice Committee on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 at 10am. Please submit your comments before Thursday!

Senate Law & Justice Committee:
Sen. Jamie Pederson
Sen. Manka Dhingra
Sen. Mike Padden
Sen. Jeff Holy
Sen. Patty Kuderer
Sen. Jessie Salomon
Sen. Lynda Wilson

The proposed changes to the Vital Records Initiative, SB 5332 – 2019 – 20, can be read in its entirety at the link below. You use this link to access a copy of the bill and/or make comments.

Thank you for your attention. Sincerely,
Virginia Majewski, President, Washington State Genealogical Society

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Francis H Cook, Founder of Mount Spokane

By Kris Krell

                                    Francis H Cook, Founder of Mount Spokane

I’m not a skier or a winter enthusiast, but I do enjoy driving to the top of Mt. Spokane in good weather. I don’t like how the road narrows near what seems like halfway up and the rest of the way to the top or the steep drop off on the outside edge of the road.  I do love the beautiful views, the lovely trees.  

Francis H Cook’s contemporaries were Louis Davenport, AM Cannon, WH Cowles, James Glover, JJ Browne, Samuel Havermale, Joel Ferris among others who have had streets and schools named after them. Francis H Cook, though, was less well known that his peers, but he was no less of a Spokan booster and developer.

Cook started the first Spokan Falls newspaper. He purchased 680 acres of prime land and planned to build a residential area and a park on the land. Cook established the first motorized streetcar in Spokan Falls. He also developed the area that is now Wandermere Golf Course.  Last but not least, he built the road to the summit of Mount Baldy. 

In 1871, at the age of 20 years old, Cook left his home state of Ohio and moved to Olympia, Washington.  In Olympia, he worked at and then purchased the newspaper, The Echo.  Cook was never afraid to speak his mind.  Although he was a conservative Republican, he did not remain silent on the controversial contract system of overcrowding in insane asylums as other newspapers did; the 1875 Legislature changed the policy for the better.  

In 1877, he started the first newspaper in Tacoma, Washington, The Tacoma Herald.  Cook was very active in Republican politics, and he supported requiring the Northern Pacific Railway to build 25 miles of new road each year heading east from the Puget Sound.

May 8, 1879, Cook started Spokan Falls’ first newspaper, The Spokan Times.  Spokan’s population was only 100 residents at the time.   He called the region “the great Spokan country”.  His newspaper was very popular, and because of his speaking out against the unethical railroad practices, he became the youngest presiding officer in the Washington Territorial Legislature.  It was during his term in the Legislature that Spokane County came into being.

Cook purchased a large parcel of land on the South Hill.  He borrowed $25,000 from Provident Trust Company, and built the Spokane & Montrose Motor Railroad with a wood-burning steam engine and two passenger cars.  Operation began in 1888, as the town’s first motorized streetcar and travelled from downtown Spokane to present day St John’s Cathedral and on up to 19thAvenue.  Cook also planned to build a residential area and park named Montrose Park (now Manito Park).  He named the park Montrose for the wild roses growing there.  He also set up the first county fair in the park.

During the financial crash of 1893, Cook lost his fortune and South Hill property.  His home was the first mansion on the South Hill, and it was where St John’s Cathedral is today.  He moved his family north of Spokane along the Little Spokane River.  He developed the area where Wandermere Golf Course if today. 

Cook was always drawn to Mount Baldy.  In 1909, hes old his farmlands to purchase a 160 acre tract of land leading to the summit of the mountain.  With his son Silas, he built cabins for the family to live in.  They spent two years building the road by hand so that the land could be available for recreation.  The road went to within a mile of the peak.  Cook charged a 50-cent toll to use the road.

On August 15, 1912, there was a dedication of the newly renamed Mount Spokane (from Mount Baldy).  In attendance were Govenor Marion Hay; the first Miss Spokane, Marguerite Motie,; Aubrey L White (the father of Spokane Parks), and the Cook family.

All attending the dedication travelled in eight cars and one motorcycle from The Spokesman Review building in downtown Spokane and drove the 36 miles in three hours to the mountain.  The final portion of the trip up Cook’s road was completed on foot or by horseback.

In 1920, Cook arranged for the property to be put under the control of Louis Davenport because of the importance of the road and the mountain.  Francis H Cook died in his home in Spokane a month later at the age of 69.  In 1927, the land went to the state with the proviso that the land be used as a public park.  The park was originally 1,500 acres named Mount Spokane State Park.  In 2016, the park was noted to be 13,000 acres.

In the 1930’s Cook’s hand forged road was widened and improved by the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The first chair lift was installed in 1946. Mount Spokane Park Drive was designated as state Route 206 in 1964, and was repaved in 1985.

Cook had a simple grave at Riverside Memorial Park, but in 2013 a more elaborate memorial in his honor was erected nearby by the Fairmount Memorial Association, the Spokane Police Department History Book Committee, and the Spokane Law Enforcement Museum.

Sources:  The Spokesman-Review, Memorial Pays Tribute to Spokane Developer’s Story, September 5, 2013; The Spokesman-Review, Pioneer Publisher Remembered, November 1, 2007; and The Spokesman-Review, Then & Now:  Mount Spokane Park Drive, January 4, 2016.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Cemetery Properties in Spokane

By Kris Krell

Cemetery Properties in Spokane

Funerals are a part of everyday life for adults.  Our family members and friends die; we attend funerals.  In our genealogy work, we use Find a Grave to acquire pictures of the graves for our ancestors and sometimes obtain more information about birth and death dates, place of death, and so on.  We also use the Social Security Index to confirm death and birth dates for ancestors.  

Funerary (all things related to funerals or commemoration of the dead) customs are about the combination of beliefs and practices used by a society to remember and respect the dead in their honor. This funerary industry—a lucrative enterprise--is due to society believing that honoring the deceased was/is of greatest importance.  

Here’s a brief history of funerary properties throughout history and in Spokane:

The Puritans, in the 1600s, believed in in-ground burials in land that was a common community burial grounds.  This was the opposite of the popular and accepted European custom of burying the dead in churchyards.  This new Puritan burial practice was called the Rural Cemetery Movement.  This  movement was also further inspired in the 1800s by the romantic perceptions of nature, art, national identity, and melancholy theme of death.  Rural cemeteries in America were usually built on elevated view sites of the city outskirts.

When in-ground burials became more popular, Civil War reformers spoke out about their health and land issues.  They believed that land should be conserved, so they wanted to revive the practice of cremation.  Cremation movement was popular at the turn of the century, especially on the west coast. 

The next movement in the 20thcentury, was the perpetual-care lawn cemeteries and memorial parks.  Monuments and headstones became less popular in favor of vast lawns using the natural beauty of the area and open green spaces, horizontally flat grave markers that made maintenance easy.  Memorial parks were managed and designed by full-time professionals; whereas 19thcentury cemeteries were generally operated by voluntary associations which sold individual plots to be marked and maintained by private owners. With the memorial park, the plan was that every plot and grave received perpetual care.

As cemeteries evolved, the funeral home and casket businesses came into being.  With these new businesses in the late 1800s and 1900s, an undertaker prepared bodies for burial or cremation in a funeral home, funeral parlor, or mortuary.  Prior to this, bodies were prepared for burial by the family or a professional undertaker, and the burial took place within a few days of death.  

In Spokane, the following cemeteries (funerary properties) were designed and built in the perpetual-care lawn cemeteries and memorial parksmovement:

Greenwood Memorial Terrace         Built in 1888 on Government Way
Fairmount Memorial Park               Built in 1888 on W. Wellesley Ave.
Riverside Memorial Park                 Built in 1914 on Government Way
Holy Cross Cemetery                      Built in 1933 on N Wall Street
Spokane Memorial Gardens            Built in 1954 S Cheney-Spokane Road

Greenwood Cemetery (now Greenwood Memorial Park) was planned and funded by Anthony Cannon one of Spokane’s most celebrated early pioneers and other Spokane businesses. Greenwood allocated a portion of its cemetery for Jewish burials—the first and only cemetery in Spokane to do so.

Fairmount Cemetery (now Fairmount Memorial Park) was built by a priest, the Reverend J M Cataldo, S.J.  He developed the cemetery for $10,000, and it was built as a Roman Catholic Church.

Riverside Park Cemetery (now Riverside Memorial Park) across from Greenwood Cemetery was developed by Spokane mining millionaire, John A Finch and other wealthy Spokane businessmen in 1907, but not built until 1914.

Holy Cross Cemetery was developed as another Roman Catholic cemetery.

The first notice in Spokane that professionals were readying bodies for burial was listed in the 1888 City Directory; two undertakers were listed and located on Sprague Avenue  in downtown Spokane.  In 1889, Bicksler & Webster Co. located on W Riverside Avenue, advertised their business, 

”Everything requisite for first-class funerals at the shortest notice. 
 All calls attended immediately, day or night. Embalming a 

The next year, three undertakers were listed in city directories.  They were: Morrison Brothers on Riverside, 
Smith & Luce on Sprague, and 
Spokane Undertakers on Riverside.  

By 1892, Smith & Luce advertised themselves as “undertakers, embalmers, and florists.” 

By 1902, Spokane city directories listed seven funerary establishments in classified ads under “cemeteries,” “funeral directors,” “undertakers,” and “coffin makers.”

By 1912, Spokane’s population had grown to 100,000.  This was the year that buildings were specifically built as funeral homers.  Architectural styles were distinctive, high aesthetic interiors and exteriors.  

The rural cemetery trend also allowed for the casket manufacturing industry.  By the end of the 20thcentury, caskets were no longer functional pine boxes but extravagant caskets whose interiors were upholstered, and made of wood such as mahogany, rosewood, or steel.  

In Spokane, the first advertisement for a casket-manufacturing business was 1896—The Spokane Coffin Factory on Post Street.  In 1905, the Inland Casket Company factory came in direct friendly competition with The Spokane Coffin Factory (renamed in 1903 to Spoken Casket Company.)  By 1978, both companies closed their doors due to being unable to compete with the Eastern United States mega-national casket manufacturers.  

Sources: Donna Potter Phillips, Spokane Register of Historic Places

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Gingko Petrified Forest

By Kris Krell

Gingko Petrified Forest

Thirty four years ago, my then nine year old nephew along with his mom (my sister, Karen, three years older than me) and his dad, Fred, came for a visit.  They had been to Spokane before, but on this visit, Matt was old enough to help mom and dad plan the visit across Washington State; they planned to go to Seattle after visiting us.   
Matt had studied up on Washington State, and he was excited to tell us all about the state symbols, including the bird, the flag, the flower, and more.  This put us adults to shame since I couldn’t recite any of those facts, and I still don’t know any except for the flag.   
He was very excited to stop at the Gingko Petrified Forest on the way to Seattle.  I hadn’t heard of this forest, and to this day, I have never stopped in.  Every time Thom and I drive to Seattle, I see the sign for Gingko Petrified Forest, and I remember 9 year old Matt. I think 2019 will be the year for me to finally see the Gingko Petrified Forest!
The Gingko Petrified Forest State Park is also a registered National Natural Landmark.  The petrified trees were found in 1932.  Fifteen million years ago, these Gingko and sequoia trees were thriving, living trees. The now arid desert of Central and Eastern Washington, the Gingko Petrified Forest Interpretive Center informs visitors, was once a wet area dominated by swamps, shallow lakes and forests. The area, during the Miocene Period, was like a jungle!  The volcanic action in Southeastern Washington brought lava floods across the landscape.  From that action, the waterlogged trees became petrified.  Wikipedia also states that there are more than 50 varieties of trees—not just gingko and sequoia.
 According to the park’s website, the petrified tree remains are considered one of the most diverse fossil forests in North America.  There are some rare specimens of the Gingko trees in the “forest”.  If you visit the park, visit the Interpretive Center that has more than 30 varieties of petrified wood as well as a piece of ancient gum tree.  From the Interpretive Center, you can also view the Columbia River, Sentinel Gap and surrounding Ice Age flood-carved basalt.  Behind the Interpretive Center are also many petroglyphs carved in the basalt rocks from the Wanapum tribe of Indians that lived in the area.
In1927, the Civilian Conservation Corps built a “trailside museum.”  Walk along the Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail, a one-mile loop, two miles west of the Interpretive Center, and see more than 20 petrified logs in their original settings.  Also notice an exposed section of prehistoric Lake Vantage.  You will also find ice-rafted erratic rocks (rocks that were moved within glaciers) left from the Ice Age flood waters thousands of years ago.  Also, enjoy seeing golden eagles, sage thrashers, Say’s phoebes and many others.  Be sure to drive to the overlook to view more petrified trees.
When I started researching for this post, I looked up the Washington State Symbols—the Washington State gem is petrified wood!  Believe it or not, Washington State has 21 state symbols.
Sources:  Petrified Forest website, Washington State Legislature, Seattle Times article, Hard facts on Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, September 7, 2008, iceagefloods.blogspot, November 2013, Wikipedia.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Irish & Scots-Irish Research Seminar

Get registered today!!
Irish & Scots-Irish Research Seminar
March 20, 2019 1:00-8:30 pm 
1916 N. Lakewood Dr (Lake City Center) Coeur d' Alene, ID
Send registrations to Todd Neel or contact him at

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Second Largest Lock in the World!

By Kris Krell

The Second Largest Navigational Lock in the World!  

I had a couple of ideas for the blog post today, but I wanted something more!  My ideas just weren’t grabbing me as what I wanted to write about.  

So I was googling around, and found this statement in a city brochure:  Ice Harbor Dam is the second largest navigational lock in the world.”  Wow!  Could this be?  How interesting that the Tri-Cities area would have such a large interesting place!  

So here's what I found out:

Ice Harbor Lock & Dam was named for an ice-free cove on the Snake River just upriver from where the dam is located today.  Steamboat captains used this cove as a shelter to wait out the winter so that ice dams wouldn’t damage the boat. The cove was about 10 miles from the junction of the Snake River and the Columbia River.  

Two Lewis and Clark Expedition journal entries, according to the Ice Harbor Dam Visitor’s Center, dated October 13, 1805, and October 15, 1805, mention how late in the season they were sailing, how bad the rapids were, and how turbulent the waters were as they arrived at what is now present day Tri-Cities area.

In 1945, Congress authorized four dams the be built on the lower Snake River; Ice Harbor Dam was one of the four.  The Dam is part of the Columbia River Basin system of dams.  Building began in 1956 and was opened and dedicated by Vice-President Lyndon B Johnson on May 9, 1962.  The dam provides hydropower generation, recreation, irrigation, and improved habitat for fish and wildlife.  

The Dam includes a powerhouse, the navigation lock, two fish ladders, a removable spillway weir (This is a horizontal barrier across the width of the river allowing water to flow freely over the top of the weir before spilling down to a lower level.), and a juvenile fish bypass facility.   It is located upstream from the McNary Lock and Dam and Lake Wallula.  Ice Harbor Dam is 2,822 feet long and 100 feet high.  It is a concrete gravity-type dam (A dam constructed of concrete and/or masonary, that relies on its own weight and internal strength for stability. There are sub-types as well) with an earthfil  embankment section at the north end.  The navigation lock is 86 feet by 675 feet.  The 10-bay spillway is 590 feet long and includes ten 50 foot tainter gates (Tainter gates are the normal metal doors that are on all dams that regulate water flow through the dam.  They are named after Wisconsin structural engineer Jeremiah Burnham Tainter.)  A lock is a system used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft between waters of different levels on rivers and canal waterways.

When the dam was completed, Lake Sacajawea was born and the safe-harbor cove was covered over.  Lake Sacajawea was named after the Shoshone Indian woman who travelled with the Lewis and Clark expedition in their search for the easiest route to the Pacific Ocean. 
On Lake Sacajawea, one can enjoy fun and relaxation!  Popular activities are:  hiking, boating, camping, swimming, water skiing, hunting, fishing.  Full-service campgrounds and picnic areas and remote undeveloped beaches are available. You can also watch migrating fish or watch boats move through the lock.  

In 2012, the lock was closed temporarily due to a persistent popping noise in the lock’s machinery.  It was determined that was no cause for alarm; the popping noise was caused by a slight movement in machinery components  and was fixed.

Now, as for the second largest navigation lock in the world being in Tri-Cities?  To complete my research due diligence, I googled, “what is the largest navigational lock in the world.”  According to, the world’s largest lock is Kieldrecht Lock in Antwerp Belgium, and it opened in 2016.  The second largest is Berendrecht Lock  also in Antwerp.  Both of these locks are 1,600 feet long and 223 feet high.  

So, Tri-Cities may no longer have one of the largest lock’s in the world, but it appears to me that Ice Harbor Dam and Lock  is a “go to place”for some fun, relaxation, and to gaze in awe at a very large dam and lock in our local area!  

Sources:  Wikipedia,, US Army Corp of Engineers,, Tri-City Herald newspaper article, Mystery Solved.  Ice Harbor Dam’s lock reopens to boats, March 25, 2017, and