Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley is named after an early settler, John P. “Jack” Sullivan, who was born in County Cork, Ireland, in 1846. He ventured to the United States in 1860.
Sullivan worked many jobs around the Western states before he arrived in the Spokane area in 1884 and set about fencing off his homestead. His land stretched from what is now Sprague Avenue north, almost to the Spokane River, including what the local stagecoach drivers called the Mullan Road near the current route of Interstate 90. Although the stage driver informed Sullivan that he was fencing off a legal road and it would be summarily cut down, Sullivan did it anyway.
Author Florence Boutwell recounts the story in her three-volume history of Spokane Valley: “The next morning at stage time, (Sullivan) was out at the fence prepared to present an argument. The stage driver sized up the situation and decided to avoid trouble by driving south on Sullivan’s west line (now Sullivan Road) and pulled around his south line,” the present-day Sprague Avenue. Boutwell concludes that the stage driver might have been the first official traffic on Sprague, then just an old Indian trail through the area. It wasn’t paved until 1920, when it was called The Apple Way (later Appleway), so called because apple orchards lined the road from the Dishman area to Pines Road.
A 1922 horticultural census showed 1.1 million apple trees on 12,000 acres in the valley. In 1939, the road-naming conventions of Spokane were adopted in the county, so east-west streets became avenues and north-south ones became roads. At the same time, Appleway became Sprague, as it was named in Spokane by city father Jimmy Glover after General J.W. Sprague (1817-93), superintendent of the western division of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Sullivan died in 1930.
– Jesse Tinsley
Courtesy Photo photo
1965: An aerial view of the corner of Sprague Avenue and Sullivan Road looking north.
Present day: This view looks north at the intersection of Sprague Avenue and Sullivan Road. The northeast quadrant of the intersection was once the homestead of early settler Jack Sullivan.