James Monaghan

James Monaghan

Durham, N. N. "Spokane and the Inland Empire; History of the City of Spokane and Spokane County Washington." Vol. 2. S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1912. p. 7-11.


Inseparably interwoven with the history of Spokane is the name of James Monaghan, who from the time that he first arrived here in frontier days down to the present time, has left his impress upon the substantial development and upbuilding of the western empire. Today he is a leading factor in financial circles and at different times he has been closely associated with the mining interests and railroad building of the northwest. His birth occurred in Belturbet, Ireland, September 22, 1839, his parents being John and Mary Ann (O'Riley) Monaghan of that place. He was the youngest of three children and was only three years of age when left an orphan. He afterward made his home with his maternal grandparents until seventeen years of age, when the interesting reports which he heard concerning the United States led him to sever home ties and cross the Atlantic to the new world. He took up his residence with his brother, a New York physician, with whom he remained for some time but he heard the call of the west and in 1858 made the trip to the Pacific coast by way of the isthmus of Panama, reaching Vancouver on the Columbia river in May. His financial condition rendered it imperative that he gain immediate employment and he secured a position in connection with the operation of a ferry on the Des Chutes river near The Dalles, Oregon. He was also employed in connection with the sailboats of the Upper Columbia, which in those days controlled the traffic, and he secured a position on the Colonel Wright, which was the first steamboat that sailed on the Columbia from Wallula to Calilo. He was also connected with the operation of a ferry across the Spokane river about twenty-one miles below the present city of Spokane, and finally purchasing it, continued in that business until 1865, when he built the bridge over the river, which is now known as the La Pray bridge, named in honor of Joseph La Pray, who purchased it from Mr. Monaghan. While thus engaged Mr. Monaghan planted the first apple trees in Spokane county. His name is associated with many of the “first events” and his labors have given impetus to various lines of activity which have constituted the foundation upon which the present progress and prosperity of the city and county rests.

Since first coming to Washington Mr. Monaghan has spent practically his entire time in this state. In 1869 he became identified with the business interests of Walla Walla and while living there in 1871, was married. Immediately afterward he removed to what is now Chewelah, in Stevens county, although at the time there was no town and the work of settlement had scarcely been begun in that part of the state. He purchased land from the Indians and conducted a trading business, ultimately founding the town. In 1873 he became a merchant of Colville, then the principal town of northeastern Washington and also secured the government contract for handling mails and furnishing supplies to the troops. His activity later included public service of an important character. He filled the office of county superintendent of schools, county commissioner and justice of the peace, discharging his duties with a promptness and fidelity that won him the commendation of all concerned. He also made arrangements with the quartermaster's department for moving supplies and equipment from Colville down the Columbia river to Foster Creek, now Bridgeport. When the survey of the river was made by Lieutenant Symonds, of the United States army, the name of Monaghan Rapids was given to that portion of the stream near the mouth of the Nespelem river. He made the transfer of the government property and supplies from the army camp at Lake Chelan across the country to the site of Fort Spokane, and finding Walla Walla a more convenient place from which to conduct his business operations he removed his family to that city, which had been the early home of his wife. The frontier post of Spokane was established in 1882 and Mr. Monaghan became the post trader, and at the same time became associated with C. B. King. Both were equally interested; Mr. Monaghan conducted the store at Fort Spokane and Mr. King the store at Fort Sherman, on Lake Coeur d'Alene. In 1883, following the discovery of the mines, he was associated with Mr. King and others in putting on the first steamers on the Coeur d'Alene and also laid out the city of that name. The following year they built the first wagon road from Kingston to the Murray mining camp and also made the original survey for an electric road from Coeur d'Alene to Spokane. Selling his interests to D. C. Corbin and others in 1886, Mr. Monaghan then returned to Spokane, where the family home has since been maintained, although at different times business interests have called him into other districts. He was one of the organizers of the corporation which in 1888 began the building of the Spokane Falls & Northern Railway, having the line surveyed the following year, after which Mr. Monaghan sold his interest to Mr. Corbin. He was also one of the original owners of the Cariboo Gold Mines in British Columbia, personally superintending the work and was president of the company until 1898, when he sold his stock. The financial panic of 1893 caused him severe losses but with indomitable courage and energy he has recovered from these and is today one of the substantial citizens of Spokane, where in financial circles he is well known as a director of the Union Trust Company and also of the Traders National Bank.

It was on the 30th of November, 1871, in Walla Walla, that Mr. Monaghan was married to Miss Margaret McCool, a daughter of Robert and Margaret McCool, and a native of Donnamore, County Donegal, Ireland. She was born August 12, 1852, and her death occurred in Spokane, April 22, 1895, her loss being deeply deplored by many friends as well as her immediate family, for her attractive social qualities and kindly spirit had endeared her to all who knew her. Mr. and Mrs. Monaghan were the parents of six children: John Robert, born in Chewelah, March 26, 1873, and who died near Apia, Samoa, April 1, 1899; Margaret Mary, whose birth occurred in Colville, January 31, 1876; Ellen Rosanna, who was born at Fort Spokane, November 12, 1885; James Hugh, who was born in Spokane, November 10, 1888; Agnes Isabel, born November 9, 1891, in Spokane; and Charles Francis, who was also born in this city, August 12, 1894.

In the development of Spokane James Monaghan has taken a most active and helpful part and is still alert to the opportunities of promoting the growth and substantial improvement of the city. He was one of the fifteen freeholders who drafted the new charter of Spokane in 1891 and was chosen city commissioner. He came to the west when the Indians were more numerous than the white settlers, when hardships and dangers were the lot of every pioneer but he recognized the opportunities of the new country with its undeveloped resources and taking advantage of these he has steadily advanced in the business world, making a most creditable record in the management of his affairs and in the attainment of success as the years have gone by. At the same time he has been closely associated with the public life of the community in the support of projects and measures for the general good and he stands today as one of those sturdy citizens who have been the builders of the great state of Washington.

Submitted to the Washington Biographies Project in July 2014 by Diane Wright. Submitter has no additional information about the person(s) or family mentioned above.

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