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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

Wed., Nov. 13, 2013

From our archives, 100 years ago

Railroad tycoon James J. Hill told 150 Spokane businessmen that they were “better off by far” in Spokane than they would have been if they had stayed, well – wherever they had come from.

The white-haired “capitalist, practical farmer and ‘empire builder’ ” was the keynote speaker at a banquet at the Hall of Doges at the Davenport’s restaurant.

He reminisced about his first visit to Spokane – in a wagon – apparently before the railroads, including his own, the Great Northern, had arrived. He recalled that D.M. Drumheller had prophesied that Spokane would “someday have 30,000 people.” Spokane had already topped 100,000.

However, Hill sounded a warning note. He noted that Spokane was heavily dependent on mining and logging, and “when a mine or forest is done, it is a finality.”

Farms, he said, were the key to lasting prosperity.

“The greatest asset of every nation is the cultivation of its fertile soil intelligently,” Hill said. “Nations that forget that soon cease to become nations.”

He urged Spokane to devote itself over the next two years to getting more people to come to the region and work the land around Spokane. He noted that Spokane is “well-situated between the wet and the dry.”

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