History books note that railroads and business pioneers were important to the growth of early Spokane.
Just as important to the region were the mechanical and construction skills of men like Frederick Post, a German immigrant who trained as a millwright. After stops in Illinois, Portland and San Francisco, he arrived and settled in Idaho in 1871. He brought equipment to build a lumber mill and a flour mill. Post started a ranch in the Rathdrum area and began negotiating with the Coeur d’Alene Indians.
Local legend says that Post and Chief Andrew Seltice met in 1871 at a rock outcropping, now called Treaty Rock, to cut a deal to purchase Indian land nearby for $500. Post began to build a lumber mill on the Spokane River. It wouldn’t be finished until about 1880, and he would then lease it to various operators to manage. He also built a flour mill there.
Spokane’s founder James Glover, who settled here in 1874, gave Post 40 acres in Spokane to encourage Post to build a flour mill. Post built a Spokane mill and a home for his family, then sold most of Glover’s land to investors in the Washington Water Power Company, a group seeking ownership of the waterfalls in Spokane for future hydropower development.
Post sold the Spokane flour mill just a few years later, in 1879, for the tidy sum of $97,300 and turned his focus back to his property in Idaho.
The Northern Pacific Railroad went through Rathdrum, and Post also built a sawmill there.
Post gave his Rathdrum-area property to his son-in-law Charles West Wood, after whom the town was named “Westwood,” which would become the early county seat of Kootenai County.
The Post Falls lumber mill was on the north channel of the river, and Post’s flour mill was on the middle channel. The south channel is blocked by a simple spillway dam. Washington Water Power took over the dams in 1902, constructing a new power plant on the middle channel in 1906.
After playing a crucial role in the founding of Rathdrum, Post Falls and Spokane, Post retired from business in 1898. He died in 1908.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.