Advertisements of grand opportunities drew James Berridge away from his Ohio farm, all the way west of north Spokane County.
He planted his family on 160 acres of prairie and hills, a big enough homestead even for his brood of 16. He quickly earned a reputation as an adept farmer, an honest gentleman and a war hero, wounded in the stomach, thigh, forehead and arm during the Civil War.
But history blinks when it comes to the name Berridge chose on July 8, 1887 for his new home: Mead.
It was inspired by Gen. Gordon Meade, briefly Berridge’s commanding officer in the Union army.
The choice is mysterious. Meade was relieved of duty by Ulysses S. Grant, allegedly for botching a fight. He was reputed to be a heavy drinker.
And Berridge was captured while under Meade’s command and sent to a Confederate stockade for one year and 24 days. “There is no explanation for the name,” said a 1960 article in the Spokane Chronicle.
The second “e” was dropped from the town name by late 1889, when Berridge opened the post office. The Mead post office was closed in 1984.
A mercantile shop, Cushing & Bryan, opened in 1893, quickly followed by a blacksmith and a Methodist Episcopal church. Berridge also opened a hotel in Mead sometime in the 1890s, when the pioneer was well past 50.
The Odd Fellows chapter in Mead opened in 1894, in a building donated by George Bryan and William Cushing. The chapter grew rapidly and became one of the biggest in the state.
Berridge was also credited with founding the Mead School District. He was a director for 24 years, leaving when there were more than 60 students in school.
His musket still graces the upper right corner of Mead High School’s coat of arms. Behind it is the war hammer of Chief Peone, Berridge’s foe. And on the upper left is a wide-brimmed hat banded by a tassel, in honor of the town namesake, Gen. Gordon Meade.