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Class scours graves to bring characters to life

Don’t tell Dick Jensen, Duane Broyles or Duane Sunwold that nothing interesting ever happens in Spokane.

They are among a growing number of Spokane residents working to tell the colorful stories of larger-than-life characters who built the city.

Even the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau is involved.

“They’ve done some research, and there is a definite market out there for tourists who are interested in this,” said Sunwold, a Spokane Community College instructor who assigned his students to help the bureau.

Sunwold occasionally has his hotel-restaurant management classes work on projects for the bureau as though they were consultants, and this time the bureau wanted help in developing a historical tour for visitors.

The bureau sent Sunwold’s class to Broyles, a cemetery association president who is erecting monuments to the city’s historical figures, for a list of names to research. About 15 students spent 10 weeks perusing historical documents, consulting tour guide Harla Jean Beiver and prowling snowbound graveyards for information on markers and monuments.

“It’s really a history lesson to read all these monuments,” Jensen said. “It will give you great insight into what has transpired here.”

A tour bus operator with an interest in history, Jensen has written a book focusing on historic grave markers and monuments. He is working with local publisher Tony Bamonte to bring out the book this summer.

The book will feature photos, maps and descriptions of more than 120 historical grave markers and monuments throughout Spokane County.

Jensen said he collected much of the information for his book in the course of his work as owner-operator of Inland Empire Tours. He plans to offer copies of his book for sale during tours, but members of the Spokane Corral of the Westerners will get a free copy.

The “corral” is the local chapter of an international association of history buffs, in which he, Broyles and Bamonte are active. Broyles has worked with Bamonte, as well as with the Spokane History Committee of the local Law Enforcement Museum and the Spokane Law Enforcement Association’s Book Committee, to prepare monuments for notable people buried in the five cemeteries Broyles operates as president of the Fairmount Memorial Association.

One of the monuments is to James Glispin, the city’s second marshal, who came here in the late 19th century after leading a posse that rounded up survivors of the infamous James-Younger gang after the outlaws’ disastrous attempt to rob the First National Bank in Northfield, Minn., in 1876.

As told in countless books and movies, armed townspeople opened fire on the robbers and pursued them relentlessly.

At that time, Glispin was sheriff of Watonwan County, Minn. He went on to be one of Spokane County’s early sheriffs.

Broyles said he stumbled upon Glispin’s story while researching some of Spokane’s less-known civic architects, a group of workmen who were killed in an accidental explosion in 1890. They had been blasting rock to build a freight terminal at Division and Sprague.

Although some of the men’s bodies were claimed by relatives, 11 of them were buried in a mass grave at Greenwood Memorial Terrace by their employer.

“These are the real guys that built Spokane,” Broyles said. “The shakers and the movers have the dreams, but it takes guys like this to build it.”

It took women, too. Dr. Mary Latham, Spokane’s first female doctor, practiced in the early 1900s and now has a monument.

Broyles said Sonora Dodd will get her monument next year, 100 years after she founded Father’s Day.

May Hutton shares a monument with her husband, Levi, who built the Hutton Settlement orphanage after her death.

Both Broyles and Sunwold took special interest in May Hutton.

“May was a real woman’s suffrage activist, and I think women in Washington partially owe their right to vote to her,” Broyles said.

“She didn’t quite get along with the refined ladies of the South Hill,” Sunwold said. “She was the kind of lady who would hang her bloomers out the front window and dry them.”

Broyles said he plans to make use of the 30 to 40 vignettes Sunwold’s students prepared for their class project.

Sunwold said his students “passed with an extremely high grade” – from him and from the Convention and Visitors Bureau. He said bureau officials were especially pleased with the depth and organization of the research for their tour guide project.

“I can’t wait to see it come to life,” Sunwold said.