This is part 4 in an ongoing series, reprinting a circa-1914 memoir written by Andrew Stultz Chambers, who moved to this area in 1877. Chambers wrote about the West Plains, its people, its geography and its evolution over the years. Please note that the text has not been edited, retaining his writing style to maintain historical quality.
Old-timers might get Chambers’ references, while younger readers might be intrigued to learn more about our history. Local organizations are working to preserve that history: Cheney Historical Museum, at www.cheneymuseum.org; Sterling-Moorman House Foundation, on Facebook.
An early resident of the West Plains, Andrew Stultz Chambers continued his circa-1914 memoir with more details on this area and the people who populated it.
Down the cliff-bound and Rocky canyon broken and almost treeless foot-Hill country where you could get a long Landscape view dwelt a prosperous bachelor rancher, Ci (Josiah) Graves as he was known and called far and wide. He was one of the successful Horse and cattle raising Barons of the once great open pasture country and in conjunction with his stock he raised Excelent Fields of Grain, Hay, vegetables and fruits on his well kept farm. Then he married at about the age of Fifty-eight and died at about seventy-two, leaveing a forture and a handsome healthy intelligent daughter as a legacy, now a young woman.
Still farther South in the fine region near the shores of the lauded Rock Lake lived another man named Frederick Mohs who had a good fair sized Farm was also a heavy stock raiser. He was quite a prominent and generally busy man. Somewhat particular-like as to his business affairs and methods, a good man and an intiligent farmer who took great prided in what he could raise and turn to the market. As I understood tht with quantity he liked quality to go with it. He died at 69 leaveing a well-looking son and a handsome daughter, now grown to manhood and womanhood.
D.F. Percival who was for many years a prosperous Farmer of the Rock Creek country, and later Banker in Cheney Washington, a farseeing man of courageous convictions and ideas. He was elected first Mayor of Cheney and occupied the chair for several terms.
William Bigham was another man who did things in a large way. He was a big Farmer and a heavy stockraiser and made money in the business.
T. J. McFerron was a Development promoter, a successful Farmer, Fruit raiser and nursery-man, V. W. Vanwie (?) and Patrick (Pod) Murphy were Big Farmers and Stockmen of the White Bluff Prairie.
Most of these Gentlemen though Bachelor Ranchers in the vigor and strength of their manhood selecting these isolated localities so far removed from any civilization of immediate moment putting forth their energies, courage and enthusiasm in their work, self-guided and strong willed with no cicerones whatever were the master hands at their chosen occupations. Many of them married late in life, leaveing healthy, stocky, intelligent children with such Fortunes as they made and possessed to their posterior autobiographies and Genealogies Their habitations were astonishingly scattered and far between for a long time. Not all of their making did they save for they met with vissisitudes the same as those met with in other lines of Industry (vocations).
Now this former Domain once mecca of the Pioneer Stock Rancher is settled with an intelligent, industrious and thrifty Husbandry with well-tilled fields dotting the hills and valleys, and the call has been at least partly answered.
I believe it was in the year 1883 that a sporty gustful-like Dude or more property “Wag” came from the East and made a stopover visit in Cheney and told the People that Mr. Benjamin P. Cheney of Boston Mass. A Director of the Northrn Pacific RailRoad would build a Ten thousand Dolalr School House or academy on the Hill there which was accordingly done. He then informed them that Mr. Cheney also contemplated the building of a Tower of such extraordinarily lofty proportions that they stood aghast with amazement for by it the Eiffle Tower of Paris would dwindle into the pale shade of insignificant Pigmyism. It was to be four thousand feet , or a little less than a mile, high according to a rough estimate advanced by that gay-Deck Gentleman of celerity.
But Mr. Cheney die not live to see his Tower rise to its heights, though the Tower he did leave to History and Posterity in perpetuation of his name-sake rose higher perhaps than any designed structural Element of his conception could have reach – the Town in the fine agricultural section that bears his name.
Car loads of Farm machinery has always been sold there.
I believe also it was in the spring of 1883 that a man in the Rock Creek country of the then Four Lakes Region named Aldea Neal, considered a most notorious and clever Stock Theif, was waided upon by a very persistent and determined vigilante committee by catching him with the goods in his hands and in the act of takeing more!
He had at times joined in the chase for himself and when his badness had gone too far They took the Law into their Hands by takeing to a tree with Rose and there hanged him to a Limb from which he was removed by the coroner of the County.
All of the members of that committee were good men – honest farmers and stock raisers.
The writer knew several Gentlemen whom he well believed to have belonged to the committee, but for fair reasons to himself his beliefs were never divulged and to this day it so remains. Nearly all have gone to their rest. J. M. Hatton then Sheriff of Spokane County offered $500.00 reward for any information which was never taken.
There are two more parts to go. Watch future issues for the rest of Chambers’ historical recollections.