Cashup Davis Hotel on Steptoe Butte

James “Cashup” Davis, born in England in 1815, came to America 1840 to seek his fortune. His early success in the hospitality business led him to dream of a hotel perched atop Steptoe Butte, a rocky hill in the middle of the Palouse.

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Image One Photo Archive The Spokesman-Review Image Two Colin Mulvany The Spokesman-Review

James “Cashup” Davis, born in England in 1815, came to America 1840 to seek his fortune. He married in Ohio and headed west in a covered wagon in 1871. He settled near St. John and later near Steptoe Butte. On a1600-acre homestead, he farmed wheat, raised livestock and started a general store with a dance hall and rooms for rent, making the Davis ranch a popular stop for stagecoaches during the 1870s. Intermittent battles between the army and the Nez Perce made life uncertain, but the Davis family prospered enough to be able to always use money instead of barter or credit. When asked to pay a bill, he would “cash-up,” hence the nickname. But as rails were laid through the region, the stagecoach business dwindled to nothing in the 1880s. His early success in the hospitality business led him to dream of a hotel perched atop Steptoe Butte, a rocky hill in the middle of the Palouse. He bought it from the railroad and built a road to the top. His two-story hotel, which cost $10,000, opened in 1888. After a few good years, business was slow. His wife, Mary Ann, died in 1894. At the end, it was just Cashup living in the empty hotel, waiting for crowds that didn’t come. He died in 1896 at the age of 81. Teens playing in the abandoned hotel burned it down in 1911.


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