Document 57: Palouse Country

James N. Glover, Reminiscences of James N. Glover (Fairfield, Wash.: Ye Galleon Press, 1985), 9-20.

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It was a desire to get a foothold in a new country that decided me, nearly half a century ago, to leave my home at Salem, Oregon and strike out into what were then the wilds of the interior.

I had received, from a friend who lived in the Palouse country, glowing descriptions of the beauties and possibilities of the Palouse and Spokane regions, and in the spring of 1873, I set out with J. N. Matheny of Salem, for this section.

I had lived in Salem, or near there, practically all the time since I went there with my parents in 1849. I had made some trips into the mountains, mining, and elsewhere, but that was my home. Oregon was becoming pretty well filled up my that time, though, and the idea of getting into the newer country struck me forcibly.

Mr. Matheny and I went down to Portland on a train, and there took a steamer for Lewiston, Idaho. It was a good bit boat, about like they run on the river now, with comfortable cabins and staterooms. At that season of the year the rivers, and especially the Snake River, were up very high. But we moved right along by keeping up a good head of steam.

We had two portages to make, one of six miles at the Cascades, where they have the locks now, and another of 15 miles from The Dalles, and we spent the night there and started on up to Lewiston in the morning…

It seemed like a different climate when we got up on the plateau. Bunch grass was everywhere except on the north side of some of the slopes, where the snow had drifted deep and still lay, although it was the second of May. When we arose the next morning it was intensely cold, and the frost was so heavy that it looked like snow.”

Coming up the river, the house of a man named Henry Spaulding had been pointed out to us. It was built at the mouth of what was known as Alamota Creek, where it empties into the Snake River. The mountain sloped steeply down to the valley and there was no trail except here and there the traces of a path that had been used by the Indians.

It seemed like the Garden of Eden when we got to the bottom, though. The corn was knee high, and there were onions and lettuce and other spring vegetables. It surely was a change from the cold up above on the mountains, and it seemed like a regular bake oven, but it was beautiful to see the green garden and the rows of corn rustling in the spring breeze.

There was noting but wild country where Tekoa is now, and we had no roads or trails to follow, and went only by what directions we could pick up from the few people with whom we came into contact. Hangman Creek was bank full when we reached it and we set about to find a place to cross.

I saw an Indian, lying face down on the ground, warming himself in the sun, as I thought. I found that he was digging sunflower roots, however. Sunflowers are the first things that poke themselves above the ground in the spring and the Indians seem to like the milky substance they contain.

I motioned to the Indian and made him understand as well as I could that we wanted him to tell us where we could cross the stream the easiest. We had been around the Indians more or less, but we found that the Indians of this country either could not speak and understand Chinook, or pretended not to…

After remaining for dinner, we left through a little draw and came to the Spokane Valley, with trees here and there. As we approached the river the trees became scarcer, and soon we had a clear view of what was known as Saltese Lake, a beautiful body of water close to a granite peak. There was another high range of hills on the other slope of the Spokane Valley, and the lake and the valley were all in view, with the fresh, green verdure on the mountains.

It was as lovely a day as I ever saw. The beautiful view that revealed itself to my eyes was more entrancing than I had ever beheld. The valley, filled with sunflowers, looked like a field of gold. I was charmed with the entire country.”…

Harvey Brown had urged me not to leave this region until I had seen Spokane Falls, where the people were in a wrangle and wanted to sell out. After lunch we saddled our horses again and started for Spokane Falls, and arrived here about 6 o’clock in the evening of May 11, 1873.”

After we had eaten we sat around the house with Downings and talked until bedtime. When we asked where we were to sleep they directed us to the unfinished log cabin on Front, between Mill and Howard. It was there that I passed the first night I ever spent in Spokane, rolled up in my blankets on the dirt floors. I went to sleep that night with roar of the falls in my ears, and I had a comfortable and restful night’s slumber.

“I am going to see the falls,” was my first thought on awaking in the morning. I rolled out of my blankets and dressed, without awakening Mr. Matheny, and went down to where the lower power house is now. A great rock protruded from the water, just opposite the whirlpool, and I climbed upon this and gave myself completely over to admiration and wonder at the beautiful, clear stream that was pouring into the kettle and over the falls.

There were many more rocks in the river than then there are now, of course. When the Water Power Company put in its dam and power house, it blasted a great many of them out of the way.

I sat there, almost unconscious of anything but the river, gazing and wondering and admiring. At last I looked at my watch and found that I probably would be late for breakfast. I arose to leave, and discovered I was dripping wet with spray that had been cast up by the whirlpool.

I wanted to see more of the wonderful river, and after we had eaten breakfast I asked Mr. Downing if there was some way I could get across the stream. He said, ‘Yes, there is a makeshift of a skiff, a pine log 10 or 12 feet long, hollowed out a little so that two people can ride in it if they are very still. You will find it hitched to a post about three-quarters of a mile up the river.’

We found it, about where the Division Street Bridge is now located. Both Mr. Matheny and I had more or less experience handling boats, and we crossed in safety. We wandered down the stream on the opposite bank until about noon, exploring down as far as the lower falls.

I was enchanted—overwhelmed—with the beauty and grandeur of everything I saw. It lay just as nature had made it, with nothing to mar its virgin glory. I was determined that I would possess it.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest