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Jim Kershner’s This day in history

Sat., May 7, 2011

From our archives, 100 years ago

For two years, the H.S. Smith family in Spokane had been mourning their murdered son, Orville.

Orville had left home right after high school and lit out for Montana. Railroad authorities later found a mangled body on the railroad tracks near Missoula. Tramps had apparently killed the man and thrown his body on the tracks to cover up the murder. A letter addressed to Orville Smith was found on the body.

His brother went to Missoula and identified the body as Orville’s because of a scar over the right eye and a particular gold filling. The body was brought back to Spokane and buried after a memorial service. The family slowly adjusted to his loss.

And then, a letter arrived from Lethbridge, Canada. It was signed, eerily, by Orville.

And then came another letter. The letters spoke of things only Orville would know. He also said he was coming back to Spokane. The family didn’t know what to think – and then Orville himself showed up at the door.

He must have been a bit surprised at how fervently they greeted him. His happy mother then spilled the entire tale. She said he was “strangely affected” by the news. He assured them that he was alive and real, and that he had been nowhere near Missoula at the time he was supposedly murdered.

And nobody had any idea who was in Orville Smith’s grave at the Greenwood Cemetery.

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