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Newspaper Wars The Indomitable Francis H. Cook


by Doris J. Woodward F


FRANCIS COOK WAS BORN IN MARIETTA, WASHINGTON County, Ohio, in 1851, and made his first trip to Eastern Washington in 1879. In an interview by Herbert Gaston, printed in the Chronicle on June 15, 1914, Cook described this journey as follows: “The topography of the Spokane country looked good


to me. I believed it had a bright, but probably a distant future. There was no Riverside Avenue then, neither was there a wagon track or trail where that great thoroughfare is now in evidence. But it looked good to me.”


His time spent in Spokane Falls


had convinced him his future lay in Eastern Washington. His thoughts were seriously turning to the new town rising on the banks of the Spokane River. During Francis’s visits to Spokane, he met some of the more important citizens there at the time. He was convinced this Eastern Washington town had the possibilities of becoming an important factor in Washing- ton Territory and would need a newspaper. Early in 1879, he made arrangements for moving to Spo- kane and found a place to send his presses and equipment. During 1879, Francis took his


printing and job presses and other equipment to Spokane Falls, going via the Columbia River to Almota, then north to Spokane, but thanks to severe weather conditions, the


shipment was held up in Colfax and could move no further. It was temporarily housed in the offices of the Palouse Gazette. Publica- tion was not to be halted, however, and the first two issues of the Spo- kan Times were printed in Colfax and delivered to Spokane Falls by horseback. (It should be noted Francis


Cook always spelled the name of the town “Spokan,” without the letter “e” at the end, as he felt it was phonetically correct. Thus the name of his new paper was the Spokan Times.) As


soon as weather permit-


ted, the Spokan Times moved to Spokane. It was housed in a small wooden building on Front Street, between Post and Mill (now Wall) streets, where Cook and his wife, Laura, lived. The deed to the


property was recorded on July 15, 1880, showing James Glover, J. J. Browne and A. M. Cannon and wives as grantors and Francis Cook and Laura as grantees. Pur- chase amount was $1.00. The first floor of Cook’s two-


story building was occupied by the Northern Pacific Rail Road in 1881, and the printing office with its signal station was on the second floor, where Francis and Laura also made their home for several years. This building was eventually torn down and replaced by the Spo- kane National Bank, which was destroyed in the 1889 fire.


Francis Cook and the Spokan Times


Ralph Dyar’s authorized history


of the Spokesman-Review newspa- per, News For An Empire, describes


Spokane’s first editor, Francis H. Cook, as a “tramp printer.” This is not accurate. Francis had indeed been an apprentice printer in his younger days, when he went from town to town working as a type- setter and pressman; however, by the time he came to Spokane, he had been an owner, publisher and editor of an Iowa and two coastal newspapers, and had been the president of the territorial legisla- ture—hardly what one would call a tramp printer, an inappropriate and somewhat insulting choice of words. He accomplished a dream by furnishing the town of Spokane with its first newspaper. The townspeople were pleased


with the advent of their first news- paper, but a new voice in an already established area sometimes is not welcome to everyone. Cook was


www.spokanecda.com 151 Francis H. Cook’s home on Hill Avenue


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