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100 years ago in Spokane: Apprehension grows flood waters come ‘hurtling down’ from Lake Coeur d’Alene

Thu., May 18, 2017, midnight

Concerns grew as flood water rose on the Spokane River, the Spokesman-Review reported on May 18, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Concerns grew as flood water rose on the Spokane River, the Spokesman-Review reported on May 18, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Here’s how the front page of The Spokesman-Review described the flood situation: “Hurtling down from Lake Coeur d’Alene in the mightiest volume since the memorable flood of 1894, the Spokane River yesterday broke all records for flow and height since that time, and caused grave apprehension.”

In some places, it was more than “apprehension.” Downtown basements were flooded and one riverside neighborhood, near Erie Street, was underwater.

The apprehension was for an even bigger calamity, since the bridge at the upriver pumping station and another at Division Street were in a precarious situation. “Should these go out, it would mean cutting off the water supply to the North Side.”

From the war beat: Fred Fitzman, described as a “Teuton” (German), “tore off his collar” and threatened the other four members of his railroad work gang with a knife during a standoff in the Spokane Valley.

When railroad officers and deputies arrived, Fitzman fled into the woods.

Authorities later learned that he had recently arrived in the U.S. from Canada. When the U.S. declared war against Germany, he learned he would probably be drafted. He became “demented” over the prospect of going to war against his native country,

Authorities tracked him down in the woods and he “began to cry” when they overpowered him. He was to be tried before a “lunacy commission” soon.



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