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Stories of Spokane Valley

Miss Merion Bluegrass Hydroplane

Hydroplane Races

Hydroplane races attracted many visitors to the Spokane Valley over the years.
The first races began on Memorial Day weekend in 1949 and were held at Liberty Lake, 19 miles east of Spokane. The Spokane Valley Kiwanis Club sponsored the event for the Spokane Powerboat Racing Association. An estimated crowd of 2,500 enjoyed the event.
The following year, 75 boats raced at Shelly Lake in Veradale (also known as Sink Lake at that time). For that 1950 Memorial Day race, the Spokane Athletic Round Table put up $900 in prize money.
In 1951, Pete Limacher leased the 25-acre Shelley Lake for the summer for a series of outboard events, including the Memorial Day race which he sponsored. The Spokane Athletic Round Table attracted 90 boats with prize money of $1,000.
Drivers of the boats had been trying out the course in recent weeks and reported that the water was just as tricky as the previous year. The lake had only 20 acres of water for use on the four-pylon course, and the boats were close to shore on 3 of the 4 turns, making for exciting viewing.
Among the speedboat drivers who would be “burning up the water” at Shelly Lake was Laurence Richert of Spokane, former National Speedboat Champion. The race would mark the return to competition by Richert after a layoff of 13 years. “For the last couple of years, I’ve been waiting to try my luck on Shelley Lake. That water was the test of the best drivers,” Richert said.
In May 1954, 4,000 people spent their Memorial Day Weekend watching the boat races on Shelley Lake. More than 100 outboard motorboats raced, including 7 drivers who had established world records. Burt Ross, Seattle’s world record holder, won the Hydroplane event at 69.739 miles per hour.

Meet the Lake Men

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.

Black and white image of school kids

Pioneer Families

Trent, Trentwood, Steno, Irvin – all are names that have been used to describe a section of the north central Valley. By 1882, the Northern Pacific Railroad had completed tracks through the Spokane Valley, The origin of the name Trent is unclear…​

The Beck Family of Newman Lake at Spokane Bridge

Bridge Builders and Ferry Men

In the early 1800s the first white men came into the Spokane Valley. These were mainly fur trappers and military personnel. The options for crossing the Spokane River were few. At this time these men crossed at a few different fords used by the Indians, places shallow enough to ride their horses across when the river was low.​

Jan Pasquale stands in front of the Midway Café in Dishman in about 1940

Diversity in Pioneers Marked Valley

Before the influx of the early pioneer Europeans, the Spokane Valley was the ancestral homeland of the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Tribes. Chief Saltese lived at the lake that bore his name, Saltese Lake. Quin-mo-see lived at what became Spokane Bridge. Tecumseh and Wildshoe lived around the shores and hills of Liberty Lake.

Chester School house black and white

The Building of Chester

In 1888, a group of citizens met and decided to go ahead with building a new school. Amos Lewis, one of the three newly appointed school directors, donated an acre of land. The school district was organized as School District 71. The new two-room Plouf Gulch School, which opened on Oct. 1, 1888, was paid for by donations.

Aerial view of the Valley's first incorporated town

The Valley's First Incorporated Town

In the early to late 1800s, the Spokane Valley floor was covered with bunch grass which provided well for Indian horses. The Spokane and Coeur d’Alene Indians caught salmon from the river, used large rocks for drying fruit and built sweat lodges where the paper mill now stands. There also was a race track where the tribes had horse races, probably where the Millwood School is located.

Mary Rauscher stands with the wheat harvest of 1914. The Rauscher place was in east Trent near Barker Road.

The Historical Significance of Trent

Trent, Trentwood, Steno, Irvin – all are names that have been used to describe a section of the north central Valley. By 1883, the Northern Pacific Railroad had completed tracks through the Spokane Valley. The origin of the name Trent is unclear. Trent has been called by many other names, but it generally referred to the area east of Argonne Road, west to Barker Road, south to the river and north to the rock bluffs. It may have gotten its name from the station master, but no records indicate the correct answer.

1897 Students from Otis' "Little White School on the Hill"

Apples in the East Farms and the "Double O"

Otis Orchards originally was a railroad stop called Otis. The story is that the person who manned the stop was named Otis. Other stories indicate Otis was an early settler. Still another story recounts that Otis was an early Northern Pacific engineer.

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