In last week’s cover story about family history and how the Internet is changing the way we search, I wrote about how my grandmother’s father was born in Texas and ended up in Spokane.
Initially, though, I was researching my grandmother’s maternal grandfather, Howard Parrish, who came to Spokane as a young man and died at 88 in 1955. He was a Baptist preacher by the end of his life, and he was the one who walked my grandmother down the aisle after her own father died when she was young. According to family story, and his obituary, he worked for both the police department and the fire department during the early days of Spokane.
It was through Google News Archive online that I found a tantalizing paragraph: In a Spokane Falls Centennial retrospective published by the Spokane Chronicle on Nov. 26, 1981, Howard Parrish is mentioned in a story called “Hardy pioneers came, seeking their fortunes”:
“The year 1887 saw the arrival of Howard Parrish, who served in both the city fire and police department and was with the first firefighting crew to arrive at the fire of 1889…”
If true, that would be a remarkable thing. The early history of Spokane is split by the fire — the insurance money that poured in afterward transformed the railroad hub into a boom town. It tells you something, what side of the fire your family showed up on.
There are no sources listed in the story. I Googled combinations of other names in the article and found no uniting source. I Googled the writer and found her obituary.
So I tried to find out: Was Howard Parrish present at the Spokane fire of 1889?
My first stop was the third floor of the downtown library, where volunteers from the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society help people with research every Tuesday afternoon.
We start with the federal census records available online free from FamilySearch, which show that in the 1880 census Howard is 13 and living with his parents and older brother, Charles, in Pennsylvania. In 1900, he is listed as 34 and living in Spokane on Gardner Avenue with his wife, three children and his in-laws.
There is no 1890 census. As I mention in the story, the 1890 census was almost entirely destroyed in a fire, which leaves a huge hole in history. This is a good example: A huge amount of life happens in the two decades between 13-year-old Howard living with his parents and 34-year-old Howard married with kids.
Fortunately, there are other resources: The Washington State Digital Archives has the record of his marriage to Lilian J. Nankervis in Spokane on March 25, 1891, among other records.
So he was definitely in Spokane by 1891. Next we turn to the city directories, which are essentially phone books before people had phones. They often list address and either occupation or employer, and they often have handy maps and other contemporary information. Spokane’s first was in 1885, when the city was still called Spokane Falls.
Howard Parrish first appears in the 1890 directory, as a hoseman with Hose Co. No. 2. The corresponding fire department roster in the city directory indicates that he was a driver.
In 1893, he is no longer listed with the fire department. In 1895, he is listed as a driver with Cascade Laundry, and the following year as a warehouseman. In 1900, he is listed as a patrolman with the police department, living at 2028 W Gardner Ave., the home in West Central where he lived the rest of his life. He is listed with the police department in each directory until 1907, when he became a collector for a Seattle-based furniture store.
(One confusing thing that keeps comes up when searching is that another Howard W. Parrish lived in Spokane during the early 20th century. Additionally, a Howard W. Parrish became the owner of the Seattle Star in 1942.)
We look up the 1887 Spokane County census on microfilm; he is not listed. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t here — it just doesn’t prove that he was.
THE POLICE MUSEUM
It was recommended that I get in touch with the Spokane Law Enforcement Museum, to see about any other information from the city’s early days. So I headed over on a Tuesday afternoon, and brought a photo of Howard Parrish that my mom once sent to me on my phone.
The volunteers there took a look at the photo and the dates and brought out a book they’ve republished from the original version. It’s a yearbook, essentially, published in 1902 to raise money for establishing a pension and relief fund for police officers in Spokane. Sure enough, on a roster page, the name H.W. Parrish is listed.
The book includes many photos, but not one of him. They pointed out the drooping mustaches on most of the faces and told me it was unusual for a policeman to be clean-shaven at that time. And his hat — that style indicates that he was a wagon driver. Glen L. Whiteley, the museum’s founder and curator, pointed out an old photo on the wall of a wagon crew with their horses at about that time. Wagon drivers were responsible for the horses back then — caring for them, and training them to stay calm while running toward trouble.
I peered into all the tiny faces in the framed photos covering the walls, but none were familiar.
Later, searching through the excellent Library of Congress collection of historic newspapers, Chronicling America, I did come across a 1905 Spokane Press article about about Howard Parrish and his horses, Jack and Ben. They were apparently performing at the Auditorium Theater, located where River Park Square is today, for a play called “The Police Patrol.”
“‘Jack’ and ‘Ben’ are the handsome greys that pull the patrol wagon and Howard Parrish is—well—one of the handsome men who drive ‘Jack’ and ‘Ben.’ It took some skill to throw the big wagon and the spirited team on the scene at the proper time and the excitement of seeing the big grays dash around, followed by a scrambling crowd of bluecoated policemen, just filled to overflowing the cup of the gallery lad and the sensation seeker.”
THE NORTHWEST ROOM
Everyone I talked to kept saying I should visit the Northwest Room at the downtown library, to see if its trove of amazing regional materials might have additional clues.
There, I explained my search for fire department records or accounts of the fire, and I ended up with a stack of books and materials. I pored over maps of the fire and read transcripts of eyewitness accounts of the fire.
I read that it was a calm, warm summer evening when the fire started, and how a problem with the city water works meant water only trickled from the hoses. I read the oral history account of the fire from Lloyd E. Gandy, who was 12 when he watched the city burn from his front porch until his mother made him go to bed. I read how the bell in the fire tower rang until it melted.
I looked at an original copy of the book they showed me at the law enforcement museum, and learned that Hose Co. No. 2 was established in 1884 and entirely destroyed in the fire. I read that the fire horses knew that the next stop, after leaving the scene of an extinguished fire, was the brewery.
I never once came across the name of Howard Parrish. His name is not listed in the 1893 city council ordinance creating an official Spokane Fire Department. His name is not mentioned in a reunion of firefighters a few decades later.
An old newspaper clipping showed the obituary from James E. Daniels, the last of the “volunteers from ’89.” He died in 1945, a full decade before Howard Parrish. In another article I found later in the WSU Libraries Digital Collections, from 1936, Daniels recounts the fire and lists a few others from the old hose company still living. Howard Parrish is not among them.
THE SEARCH CONTINUES
In retracing some of my steps to write this, I realized I never did look back at the second article handwritten on a card in the Patchen file, a brief obituary story published on March 26, 1955, in the Spokesman-Review.
I look it up online in Google News Archive:
“Mr. Parish came here in 1887 and helped battle the first [fires] which almost destroyer [destroyed] the downtown area in 1889. In the early 1900s he served on both the city fire and police departments.”
Apparent typos aside, this is probably where the information in that Spokane Chronicle article came from. Which solves one mystery, probably, though not the main one.
I’ve by no means exhausted all lines of inquiry; but I had a deadline, and it became clear that the answer wasn’t going to come easy. There are payroll records and other paperwork I could try to find. I could look more thoroughly for contemporary accounts, and try to figure out what stories have been passed down to more distant cousins.
The most frustrating aspect of searching into history is that there is a correct answer — either it happened or didn’t. Either he was there or he wasn’t. At one point these answers were known to someone; we had them, and we might not ever know again.
Sephora, the latest big chain to stake out a spot in Spokane, opens tomorrow at River Park Square. The makeup-and-beauty giant already has a presence at local malls, but this is the first full store in the area. The store is located on the second level, where part of the Abercrombie & Fitch store used to be.
Sephora stores carry more than a hundred brands, as well as the Sephora label, for wall-to-wall lipstick, blush, nail polish and more. Name a color visible to the human eye, and they’ve got the matching eyeshadow. (Recently they’ve been promoting a Disney Jasmine Collection with 15 shades of eyeshadow pulled directly from scenes in the 1992 movie Aladdin. Rumor has it the Little Mermaid-inspired set is coming this fall.)
Doors will open at 10 am. It’s hard to know whether there will be a line of eagerly waiting customers, but Spokane has a history of giving chain stores an enthusiastic welcome.
People went crazy for the grand opening of H&M last fall, and camped overnight for the opening of Trader Joe’s, too. Chipotle opened in north Spokane last year after fans demanded it on Facebook. In 2011, hundreds of people lined up for the opening of the Apple Store.
Why does Spokane love its big chain stores so much? In 20 years of Best of the Inland Northwest results, readers frequently picked new national arrivals for the year’s Best New Business: Restoration Hardware in 2001, Old Navy in 2002, Cabela’s in 2008, Trader Joe’s in 2012.
Here at The Inlander we try to encourage shopping local, but it’s impossible to deny that bigger chains make us feel like a bigger city. Even if you don’t really want chain stores here, you want chain stores to want to be here. And businesses that employ people are always better than empty storefronts.
Hairy-footed halflings padded through a Misty Mountain fog last night as they found their ways to the top floor of the River Park Square AMC. Greeted by theater employees branded with the white hand of Saruman (a detail which recalls the Lord of the Rings Two Towers film and has, if I recall from reading the book when I was 10, absolutely nothing to do with The Hobbit), fantasy buffs and common movie-goers alike rejoiced. There were no lines, even though my fellowship arrived over an hour early, but some people played cards in the halls just to imitate the big opening feel I suspect.
After foolishly buying a large waterskin of Diet Coke for the night's adventure, I settled into my seat at 10:30 pm.
“What do you think of the new frames per second thing?” asks one of my band. “Are those people knitting?” asks another. (They were.) “I have to pee,” I respond. 10:45 pm.
And so it went until just past midnight, when the theater filled, the skies parted, the eagles (and that overly excitable girl three rows back) screamed and we were off.
Now, Peter Jackson said he didn't want to remake the Lord of the Rings trilogy and didn't want the same feel. Bahrum! 'He didn't want to make a movie!' I thought as it progressed.
But perhaps that's not a terrible thing. Rather than making a single narrative, and concentrating on Bilbo, Jackson strung together a collection of short stories, some involving the same characters, some not. The pacing was quick and the distinctions between scenes were well-defined. That may just be another way of saying this movie has no segues, but after watching the entirety, I'm convinced it wasn't meant to. This had the feel of a storybook, one that takes its time with erroneous but delightful details and seeks to place you in an environment rather than simply pass it before your eyes.
Even though it won't match the LOTR trilogy for grandeur, it entertains in its own fairy tale way, and does have its exciting bits. Trolls, giants, goblins, wargs. There was arrow firing, Goblin-bashing, Gollum eye-widening, Gandalf doing magic for once thrill, and as its distinguishing feature, plenty of comedic interjection.
And overall, I had fun.
Thanksgiving, the official stuff-yourself-silly-with-food holiday, has passed, but we're already getting sick of those bottomless leftovers in the fridge. Black Friday 2012 -- the craziest shopping day of the year -- is also on the record books. And, yesterday's Cyber Monday somehow managed to pull ahead as the biggest online spending day on record. We're still sorting through our email inboxes deleting all the sale reminders...
Though it makes perfect sense to think we've passed all those dual-named days of the week for another year, a third day of the week is joining the mix: Giving Tuesday.
Instead of being all about shopping (or eating), Giving Tuesday is just what it's name implies - a day set aside to encourage people to give back to their communities. The national campaign for Giving Tuesday was launched by New York's 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, and this is its inaugural year. Read more at the organization's website for ideas on how to implement a giving-back mentality in your home or to spread the word through social media sites. The Twitter hashtag is #GivingTuesday.
Here's how you can get involved locally.
River Park Square is hosting a kickoff event for Giving Tuesday, where you can stop by a booth in the mall atrium to find out how to give back to participating local organizations. Each nonprofit has come up with a list of specific needs that can be dropped off at the Giving Tuesday booth today until 8 pm.
Before you head downtown, read to find out what the following groups, which also accept donations at any time of the year to support their missions, are requesting in donations today:
Inland Northwest Baby - requesting diapers in size 4, 5 and 6
Teen Closet - requesting new adult-size underwear and socks for men and women
Safety Net - requesting paper towels and cleaning supplies
LETEM Play - requesting musical instruments
Cup of Cool Water - requesting backpacks
American Childhood Cancer Organization of the Inland Northwest (ACCOIN) - requesting new kids' toys
Mission Community Outreach - requesting hygiene items
Don't fret if your favorite charitable organization isn't listed above. You can always contact them directly to find out what they're most in need of, and we're pretty sure none of the area's nonprofits would turn away your support solely based on the day of the week. Or, check out The Inlander's 2012 Give Guide, which includes a list of many of the area's nonprofit organizations that could use your support!
HEREA car fire caused an evacuation of the River Park Square mall and parking garage for 20 minutes on Saturday, ruining the day of anyone who had come to watch the Skyfall matinee, but making the day of TV news stations. (KREM)
An angry letter from former receiver Marquess Wilson-- accusing the WSU football program of physical, mental and emotional abuse during practice -- kicked off an investigation of the program. (SR)
After years of debate, back and forth, City Council president Ben Stuckart wants to outlaw studded tires in the state of Washington. (SR)
Kootenai County might suspend impact fees, fees charged to developers for additional traffic generated by their business. County Commissioners say the fees are tricky to implement and may squash development. (CDAP)
A ProPublica and Seattle Times investigation reveals that the military has lost the records of many veterans, therefore complicating efforts for them to claim important benefits. (Seattle Times)
Turns out, the FBI knew that former CIA director David Patraeus had been having an affair with his biographer for some time. (NYT)
Elmo in trouble. (Atlantic Wire)