James Nettle Glover

James Glover

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.


No history of Spokane would be complete without extended reference to James Nettle Glover who as the first permanent settler, as the first merchant and as the promoter and supporter of many interests which in subsequent days have advanced the welfare and progress of the city well deserves to be known as "the father of Spokane." His life history in detail would prove as interesting as any wrought by the imagination of a writer of fiction. It would be the story of travel through the primeval forests, of difficulties and dangers encountered and of obstacles overcome. Moreover, settlement in a new country always calls out the resourcefulness of the individual in meeting existing conditions. Mr. Glover was at all times ready for any emergency and on more than one occasion his quick wit and keen insight enabled him to master what seemed a difficult situation. Less than forty years have wrought the transformation that has developed Spokane from the tiny hamlet into the splendid modern city of the present day, and with this work Mr. Glover has been more or less associated.

He was born in Lincoln county, Missouri, March 15, 1837, a son of Philip and Sarah (Koontz) Glover, who were of French and German ancestry respectively. They became -pioneer settlers of Missouri when it was still under territorial rule, arid were married there in 1818. The father, who was born in 1795 and was reared in Maryland, devoted his entire life to farming. He inherited a number of slaves and took seventeen of them with him to Missouri in 1817, but becoming convinced of the injustice of holding human beings in bondage, he gave them their freedom in 1846. That he was a kind and tolerant taskmaster is indicated by the fact that one old negro, Travis Johnson, insisted on remaining with the family even after their arrival in Oregon, to which state they decided to remove after their eldest son, William, had already settled within its borders. In the early part of 1849, therefore, when James N. Glover was twelve years of age, they started from a place near Independence, Missouri, traveling with wagon and ox team which the negro Johnson drove. They were six months and one day upon the road, and after reaching the northwest the father secured a donation land claim of six hundred and forty acres about five miles from Salem, in Marion county, Oregon. Immediately he undertook the task of developing a farm and thereon resided until his death, which occurred December 12, 1872. The negro to whom he had given his liberty *as employed by his former master to cut ten thousand rails and other service at times kept him busy and gave him a comfortable living. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Philip Glover eleven children were born of whom three sons and three daughters are now deceased, while those still living are: James N., of this review; Philip, who is living in Oregon at the age of eighty-two years ; Samuel, eighty years of age, living with his brother James in Spokane; Charles Peyton, a resident of Portland, Oregon; and John W., living in Spokane.

The story of life upon the frontier is a familiar one to James -N. Glover who shared with the family in the usual pioneer hardships and experiences. He remained with his father in Oregon until twenty years of age and in 1857 made his first business venture, taking a quantity of apples to the Yreka mining district in northern California. Not being able to dispose of them in the way anticipated, he rented a room and opened a fruit store, continuing at that place for a year. On selling out he returned to Oregon and during the succeeding two years lived with his father, who worked at the carpenter's trade. He carefully saved his earnings and in the spring of 1862 began operations in the mining districts of eastern Washington and northern Idaho, the labors of eight years bringing him fifteen thousand dollars. On the expiration of that period he became associated at Salem, Oregon, with the Hon. Richard Williams, of Portland, and J. N. Matheny, of Salem, in the building and operation of the first steam ferry running between Marion and Polk counties in Oregon, and continued in the business until 1872, when the property was sold. Mr. Glover was also engaged in shipping apples from Salem to San Francisco and had been somewhat active in the public life of the city, serving as a member of the board of aldermen and filling the position of city marshal of Salem in 1868. In the spring of 1873 he left Salem, accompanied by J. N. Matheny, and started for the Palouse and Spokane valleys, traveling by rail to Portland and thence by water to Lewiston, Idaho, where they arrived on the 2d of May. After purchasing two cayuse ponies and such outfit as they could strap to their saddles, they started out on an exploring expedition through the -wild and undeveloped country. There was restlessness among the Indians and in southern Oregon the Modoc war was in progress. For days they rode through the region known as the Inland Empire and only once in long distances would they come across an inhabited little log cabin. On hearing of Spokane Falls they made that their destination, arriving on the 11th of May. They found two squatters; J. J. Downing and S. R. Scranton, both of whom were anxious to dispose of their property. Sometime before Mr. Downing had agreed to sell his squatter's rights to a man named Benjamin, who had paid four hundred dollars on the purchase price but was unable to complete the payment. Mr. Glover and Mr. Matheny offered Downing two thousand dollars to vacate and let them locate upon the land provided the first payment of four hundred dollars should go to Mr. Benjamin, that being the amount he had paid to Mr. Downing. The deal was at length arranged and upon that basis and then leaving Mr. Scranton in charge of the falls Mr. Glover and his companion returned to Oregon. They believed that there was opportunity for the establishment of a profitable business at this point and entered into partnership with C. F. Yeaton. Together the three men placed orders for all necessary machinery and with this returned to Spokane Falls on the 29th of July. In the meantime Mr. Scranton had become involved in some trouble with the officers of the law and was a fugitive, hiding in the surrounding country. Mr. Glover, who remained in Oregon for a time to settle up affairs there, arrived at the falls, on the 19th of August, traveling in a lumber wagon from Wallula Junction. Being told of Scranton's hiding place he met the man, purchased his squatter's right for two thousand dollars and thus gained clear possession to the falls. It was impossible to know if they were on government land open to free settlement or on a section granted the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, for at that time no survey had been made. The sawmill, however, was built and kept in operation where the Phoenix Sawmill now stands, and Mr. Glover also opened a general merchandise store which was the first in this city, its site being the present location of the Windson building on Front avenue. When a squad of surveyors under government contract came to survey lower Crab creek and ran a base line to Spokane Falls Mr. Glover had the satisfaction of finding that he was in the section open for settlement. Some time afterward he built another store where the Pioneers block now stands, on the corner of Howard and Front streets. Trading was carried on with the Indians and with a few white settlers who had ventured into this part of the country. Mr. Glover's partners became discouraged at the outlook and in 1876 he purchased their interests in the business and property so that he became the owner of one hundred and sixty acres situated in what is now the very center of the city, its boundaries being Sprague avenue on the south, Broadway on the north, Bernard street on the east and Adams street on the west. Up to that time no settlers had come to join him at Spokane, his former partner Matheny having gone to Utah and Yeaton to Oregon, and thus Mr. Glover was left alone at the falls.

It certainly required a courageous spirit to face the conditions in which he found himself-solitary and alone-without any immediate indication that changes would occur leading to the upbuilding of a city or even a village in his vicinity. In June, 1877, the Nez Perces war broke out and in order to entice the young warriors of the Spokane tribe to join them a band of twenty-five or thirty Nez Perces came to the falls, camping near Mr. Glover's store and engaging in their war dance night after night. All of the white people of the surrounding country had gathered into the store for safety, sleeping on the floor and benches, and a number of settlers living at a point forty miles to the west made their way to "Big Island" where the Great Northern now stands. Mr. Glover watched the war dance for a few nights and, realizing that something must be done, he called a number of old Spokane Indians who had been trading with him for years and had a plain talk with them, reminding them of the Indian war of twenty years before, when Colonel Wright executed a number of their people, destroying their property and leaving them in misery from which they never recovered. Mr. Glover ended by telling the Indians that "if the visitors don't go away before the sun is over our heads (noon) I am in close touch now with the boys who wear the brass buttons." This had the desired effect and before noon of the same day the Nez Perces braves had gone to the gorges of the river. In intimating that he could summon the United States troops Mr. Glover felt it would strengthen his case but had no idea that the soldiers were near, as it happened, however, that very day Colonel Wheaton of the regular army marched into the Spokane settlement with his entire regiment, and ever afterward the Indians accredited Mr. Glover with great foresight and knowledge. After a few weeks' stay here the troops, with the exception of Companies H and I, proceeded to Palouse City. About the same time General Sherman passed through the Spokane settlement with his escort, on the way from Fort Benton to Vancouver, Washington, via Walla Walla, and was entertained by Mr. Glover who asked that the companies be returned here, and when General Sherman reached Walla Walla he gave orders for the troops to spend the winter at Spokane. In the following summer, 1878, the soldiers built Fort Coeur d'Alene, twenty-eight miles away, and as this furnished protection for the district, Spokane began to attract attention.

In his business undertakings Mr. Glover prospered, for some years conducting a profitable trade with the fort. The real growth of the city, however, dates from the fall of 1879, at which time the Northern Pacific Railroad Company gave out the contracts for the extension of its line to Spokane. A construction train, the first to enter this place, arrived in June, 1882, and with the advent of the railroad the future of the city was assured, owing to its excellent location and the fact that the surrounding country could be profitably cultivated. During the early period of settlement Mr. Glover disposed of much of his land at a very low figure, in some cases giving away lots to those who would build upon them. He gave forty acres to Frederick Post on condition that he would build a grist mill, and this site is now occupied by the building of the Washington Water Power Company. As early as January, 1878, he had caused the first survey of the town plat to be made, acting as chain carrier as there were not sufficient men in the neighborhood to do the work. Subsequently he named all the principal thoroughfares : Washington street, for George Washington ; Stevens street, for Governor Isaac Stevens ; Howard street, for General O. O. Howard ; Sprague avenue, for J. W. Sprague, the general superintendent of the western division of the Northern Pacific Railroad; Post street, for Frederick Post; Monroe, Adams, Lincoln and Madison for the presidents; and Mill street because the first mill was erected thereon.

As the city grew it naturally followed that Mr. Glover should have voice in its management, and in 1883 he was a member of the city council, while in 1881-5 he served as mayor. Then again he was called to the council in 1898 and once more in 1902, so that he has taken an active part in shaping municipal affairs. His business, too, developed with the passing years and for a considerable period he continued in merchandising. In November, 1882, upon the incorporation of the First National Bank of Spokane he was one of the principal stockholders and served as its president for ten years, but in the great financial panic of 1893 the bank was obliged to suspend, at which time it was estimated that the loss of Mr. Glover amounted to one million five hundred thousand dollars, or twice as much as any other citizen. The courageous spirit which he had ever manifested throughout the period of his residence in the northwest did not desert him now, nor did he lose faith in the city and its future, and it is a pleasure to his many friends to know that in the intervening years to the present time he has regained substantial property interests and now has good realty holdings that return to him a gratifying annual income.

Mr. Glover was married in Spokane to Miss Esther Emily Leslie, a daughter of Samuel C. Leslie. He was the first Mason of Spokane, and is a Knight Templar, while in the Scottish Rite he has attained the thirty-second degree. He belongs to the Spokane Club and to the Chamber of Commerce. He practically bore all the expense of building the First Episcopal church and many other churches are greatly indebted to him because of his donation of land or generous contribution in money. He has been most liberal in his gifts to the Orphanage Home, to the Young Men's Christian Association and to various charitable and benevolent works, and in fact it would be difficult to name any department of activity which has been of real benefit to Spokane that has not profited by his cooperation, encouragement and support. As long as the city stands the name of James Nettle Glover should be honored, for with wonderful prescience he foresaw the future and recognized the possibilities of the district, and with unfaltering faith labored to promote the interests and upbuilding of this section. Thus today he manifests a contagious enthusiasm regarding the northwest and in as far as possible enters into every project for the public good with zest and zeal.

Submitted to the Washington Biographies Project in October 2015 by Diane Wright. Submitter has no additional information about the person(s) or family mentioned above.

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