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Then and Now: Spokane Falls Boulevard

Mon., Feb. 24, 2014, midnight

Before the opening 40 years ago of Expo ’74, a contest was held to rename Trent Avenue. Robert Greider suggested “Spokane Falls Boulevard” for the stretch between Division and Monroe streets. Greider, who was born in 1897 and arrived in Spokane in a buckboard wagon in 1902, thought the name had a historical ring to it. From his childhood, he remembered Trent, then called Front, as a broad muddy lane running between the railroad tracks and a string of shacks and transient hotels. But that four-lane avenue has an important place in local history. Before white settlement, natives gathered to fish for salmon. The first white settlers built a mill, a store and cabins in the early 1870s. The U.S. Army stationed soldiers in 1877. In 1887, Indians lined up outside Loewenberg’s Mercantile at Front and Howard Street to receive food rations from Indian agent Rickard D. Gwydir, who was chosen as envoy to the local tribes by President Grover Cleveland. For three years, Gwydir negotiated with chiefs Seltice, Garry, Whistelposum, Moses, Tonasket and Skolaskin. The Confederate Civil War veteran from Kentucky also wrote down many of the stories he heard from Indian people and the earliest settlers, and recounted many in “Recollections from the Colville Indian Agency 1886-1889,” edited by Kevin Dye. He was part of an era of reform following decades of war and government agents who were callous and corrupt. Gwydir lobbied for a police force to stop the whiskey trade to the Indians and for health care. “A physician cannot do justice to his profession and treat dangerous cases in an ill-ventilated lodge or tepee, the patient laying on a skin or blanket thrown on the ground. The calls of humanity, if nothing else, should cause the establishment of a hospital at this agency,” he wrote. Gwydir lost his job when the administration changed in 1889. He worked in the Treasury Department in the second Cleveland administration, and later worked in Spokane for the city, the county and the federal court system. He died in 1925 at 80. A co-worker called him “an outstanding, honorable, earnest and independent gentleman. As Indian agent he gave satisfaction, not only to the government, but to the Indians, who regarded him as their ‘Big Friend.’ ”       – Jesse Tinsley


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