Meet The Lake Men

Sep 7, 2018 | Blog, Stories

From The Current: The “Lake Men” were very early pioneers in the Spokane valley. Three of them, Courchaine, Liberty, and Newman, settled at Saltese, Liberty and Newman Lake. Morrison, who arrived in the Valley about 20 years later, was equally influential. His property is still being developed today.

Daniel Courchaine (1837-1897): The family patriarch arrived about 1866 with other French Canadians from Quebec. He bought a section of land in the Saltese area from the Indians near Saltese Lake and soon became a friend of Chief Seltice.

Daniel built a house with lumber hauled from Walla Walla by team. At this time there wasn’t a sawmill closer (Glover did not begin to develop Spokane until after 1872). Daniel married Mary Barnaby, one of the daughters of Joseph Barnaby. Mary’s mother was Indian. Joseph had settled at Rathdrum and was at one time a perfect for the Hudson Bay Trading Co. Two other Barnaby daughters married “Lake Men”: Stephen Liberty and William Newman.

The Courchaines were farmers but were primarily interested in raising cattle. There was a large spring on the property which supplied enough water to provide grass for the cattle. The milk house was located at the spring. The cool water helped keep the milk from souring.

Daniel donated the land for the Saltese school house, and it was built in 1892. He was also one of the incorporators of the Saltese cemetery. The Courchaine place was a favorite camping sport for miners, freighters and others traveling the Kentuck trail. Coeur d’Alene Indians frequently visited the ranch.

Daniel’s son, George Courchaine, met his wife, Annie, when she was hired to teach at the Lone Fir School. She was boarding at the home of Herman And Henrietta Linke. George had lost both parents by age 10 but continued to improve the ranch, though he sold off half the land during the depression. George lived there for more than 75 years.

In the 1940’s, George’s son, Bob, started the family dairy business on Harvard Road north of Trent Road. The family continued in the business until fairly recently, when it was closed as milk prices fell and costs increased. There are many descendants of Daniel Courchaine still living in the Spokane Valley.

Daniel passed away after being kicked in the head by a horse. He is buried at Saltese cemetery. A monument stands in front of the house Daniel build, a legacy to this early pioneer.

Stephen Liberty (1842-1911): Stephen Liberty, born Etienne Edward Laliberte, was a French Canadian who originally settled in Rathdrum after arriving in the area. In 1871, he settled on the west side of Liberty Lake (named for him). Joe Peavy, who came west on the same train as Liberty, became a close friend. Peavy settled on the northwest side of the lake. They carried mail together across Lake Pend Oreille to Rathdrum and also along the Mullan Road Through Rathdrum.

Liberty first met Chief Andrew Seltice Pierre Wildshoe and Quinnemose while carrying mail. Liberty and Seltice has similar religious beliefs. Liberty had studied to be a priest and Seltice formed his beliefs from Catholic Missionaries.

Liberty married Joseph Barnaby’s daughter, Christine, in 1866. Barnaby was a Hudson Bay factor in charge of a post at Newman Lake.

As a good friend of Chief Seltice, Liberty was consulted any time an Indian uprising was threatened. He and his family were also recognized and treated by the chiefs and head men as members of the Coeur d’Alene Indian tribe.

In 1887, Liberty was one of a delegation of five (including Seltice) who went to Washington DC. They met with President Grover Cleveland and other officials (Liberty served as an interpreter) and were successful in securing a right-of-way for a road to Wardner and the mines through the reservation. Both Liberty Lake and the city named after it bare this pioneer’s name.

William Newman (1835-1887): William Newman was born in Liverpool England. He arrived in New York in 1857, where he enlisted in the US army at age 22, serving for approximately five years.

While still in the Army, he came to Spokane County as an escort to the Northwest Boundary Survey crew establishing the boundary line between the US and Canada.

Newman first came to the lake named after him in 1860. In 1861, he established a station for travelers and government animals near the present site of Sprague, Wash, providing a watering place for freighters from Walla Walla. in 1865, he returned to the lake, where his original homestead was 160 acres – later increased to 320 acres- on the south part of the lake. His nearest neighbors were Stephen Liberty and Daniel Courchaine. In 1872, he married Elizabeth Barnaby, daughter of Joseph and Mary Barnaby. They had eight children.

After 1880, homesteaders began settling in the Newman Lake area. Pioneers in the area began catching fish in Liberty Lake and transferring them to Newman Lake in Buckets.

William Newman died in 1887, Newman Lake is his legacy.

Pete Morrison (1855-1923): Peter Morrison came to Spokane in 1886 and began a hay, grain, and feed business known as the O.K. Livery stable.

In 1892, he purchased land in the Saltese area, including Saltese Lake, named for Chief Seltice of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. The lake, which was very shallow, was comparable in size to Liberty Lake.

Morrison planned to drain the lake and raise timothy hay. The drainage began by making a ditch through the natural outlet at the north end of the lake. It was accomplished by cutting channels with large scoops pulled by two horses each using about ten teams. Morrison made wooded shoes for the horses to keep them from sinking in the muddy lake bottom. The effort was successful and resulted in a wide meadow that has provided for more than a century of farming and cattle-raising.

After the lake was drained, squatters moved in and set up shacks on the fertile lake bottom, claiming “squatter’s rights” on about 100 acres. They believed that since the lake bottom had never been surveyed as real estate, it could be claimed under the US homestead act. After 12 years in the courts, including two appearances before the US supreme court, the case was decided in favor of Morrison. Morrison’s “reclaimed” land provided the first timothy hay this side of the Mississippi River.

According to Kim Linke, the great-granddaughter of Herman Linke, the Linke and Courchaine families were supportive of Morrison’s efforts. As a community, they established three schools, the Lone Fir, Saltese, and the Quinnemossa. They also had community barn dances. In the early days, the ranch had several barns and a bunkhouse for hired men.

Bud Morrison still operates a portion of the ranch. Spokane Country is currently working with him to restore 510 acres as wetlands. Draining Saltese Lake is a piece of the legacy of Peter Morrison.

Article by Jayne Singleton and Bill Zimmer
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