In the early 1900s the town of Valleyford, just south of Spokane, was thriving, with its own bank, two hotels, a school, newspapers, various businesses and a railroad depot. It’s a very different community now – not many buildings are left from those golden days – but it’s hardly a ghost town.
Valleyford is celebrating its heritage this Saturday when the Valleyford Historical Club hosts its first historical walk at 11 a.m., starting from the On Sacred Grounds Coffee, Tea & Specialty Shoppe on the Palouse Highway. Members of the club will provide narration during the half-hour walk, with information distilled from written recollections of residents from the 1920s.
“We decided to do this tour because we want people to value the accomplishments of the past, and, of course, because we are fascinated by history,” said Elaine Rising, club president and owner of On Sacred Grounds. “We also hope to learn more about the community from people who come, who will give us information that we still don’t know.”
She said that when she opened her shop in the mid-1990s, longtime Valleyford residents would stop by just to talk about the old days. “I realized there was a strong sense of community here.”
On the tour they will talk about how Valleyford was a stop on the Inland Empire Electric Railway, the interurban rail line which ran from Spokane to Moscow, Idaho, from the early 1900s to the mid-1950s. One lifetime resident of Valleyford, Dave Koch, recalls that the now-demolished depot was designed by noted architect Kirtland Cutter.
According to the writings of Marion Carpenter, a Valleyford High School student in the 1920s, the town’s power supply came from the railway, using the same 25-cycle current that the trains used. “One could look at a lit light bulb and observe the alternating currents flickering,” she wrote. “When the trains turned on the power to leave the station, the town’s lights would dim.”
One stop on the tour will be the concrete hitching posts near Madison Road and the Palouse Highway, put in place in the 1890s so people could leave their horses and go in to see the attorney, do their banking or make purchases at the assorted stores. The beams that ran between them are long gone, but the posts remain as reminders of those busier days.
Some still-standing structures from the 1920s, such as John Baker’s old confectionary, will be highlighted on the tour, as will stories of early settlers in the community. One of those was Clint Tart, manager of the Valleyford Community State Bank in the 1920s. The first man to own a radio and a car there, he founded a Sunday school and, according family accounts, made good on all bank deposits when the Great Depression hit in 1929.
The tour is a new element of this weekend’s fourth annual Artists Loose on the Palouse arts and crafts fair, during which more than 30 artists and authors will be on hand. “It’s all part of our community’s pride,” Rising said.
There are some new offices and businesses in the area, along with Fire District 8 headquarters. Koch said there are “a number of people with farm backgrounds or people who just want to live out in the country.” Many still commute in to Spokane for work, and a number work from home. Koch said there are quite a few home-based businesses and entrepreneurs working from Valleyford.
Valleyford disincorporated in the 1960s, but it remains a community with its own identity – one which will be shared with the public on Saturday.