-Francis Cook’s legacy is evident in green space sprinkled across Spokane County.
On an early summer morning in August 1912, sixty-one year old Francis H. Cook climbed into an open roof automobile alongside some of the most important people in Spokane and Washington State. The caravan of finely dressed dignitaries included W. J. Hindley, Mayor of Spokane, Marguerite Motie, the first Miss Spokane, and Marion E. Hay, Governor of Washington State. The group, joyfully waving green and yellow pennants, headed northeast to put a capstone on one of Cook’s most important accomplishments, a freshly graded road to a newly accessible recreation paradise atop the tallest mountain in Spokane County.
Francis Cook came to Spokane in 1879 when only about 300 white people called the city home. He started the region’s first newspaper, The Spokan Times, and he was one of the city’s first and most effective boosters. Early editions of his newspaper encouraged readers to share the paper with friends and family encouraging them to settle in the “Wonderful Spokan Country.” His paper included a regular column,
“How to Reach this Country,” which provided detailed instructions and approximate costs to arrange transportation to Spokane. His newspaper was a bullhorn featuring a regular sales pitch for the City of Spokane.
Cook did more than beg people to move to Spokane; he helped develop the city. In 1888, he started the city’s first interurban railroad that connected Downtown Spokane with the South Hill. The steam powered train provided easy transportation to and from Cook’s newly planned neighborhood, the Montrose Addition, which later became the Manito neighborhood and park. In far north Spokane, he developed the area that became the Wandermere Golf Course and neighborhood. Cook’s efforts paid off as he watched the City of Spokane grow from a few dozen pioneer families to over 100,000 residents.
Although his life was not without speed bumps, in August of 1912, when he departed with the automobile procession of dignitaries to christen his most recent project, his life accomplishments were realized and recognized. When they reached the top of his new road, which the Spokane Daily Chronicle lauded as “the longest auto grade in the world,” a ceremony was conducted where the United States flag and Spokane’s municipal flag were staked at the summit. Miss Spokane addressed the group, “You, our mountain, have been a true friend to Spokane. Our act this day cannot be more than a weak recognition of our love for you. You shall have the best we have to give—our name itself. I christen thee Beautiful Mount Spokane.” After years of hard manual labor building the road with his son, and after decades of boosting Spokane’s image, Cook was recognized for his work and the mountain was named after the project he cared most deeply about, the development of the City of Spokane.
This article was originally published in Nostalgia Magazine as part of my bi-monthly column "Heroes and Scoundrels."