For more than a century, the grassy, 3-acre plot in Peaceful Valley built for high school athletics has borne the name of the man heralded as “The Father of Spokane.”
Now, James Glover’s moniker could be removed amid scrutiny fueled by the pioneer’s treatment of his first wife, among other concerns.
Residents of the historic neighborhood beneath the Maple Street bridge gathered this week in their newly remodeled community center on Cedar Street with a view of Glover Field, as it’s been known since 1917.
The Spokane Indians minor league baseball club partnered with KXLY’s Extreme Team to rebuild the field last fall, and Otto Klein, senior vice president of the team, was pitching a plan to rename the surrounding natural areas for the redband trout, a fish significant to the tribes of natives who fished and bartered for years in what would eventually become the neighborhood at the base of the lower Spokane Falls.
“It is found, obviously, 50 feet from where we are right now,” Klein told the residents. “It is spawning, or close to spawning, as we speak.”
Klein, along with representatives of the Spokane Parks Department as well as David BrownEagle, representing the Spokane Tribe of Indians, said they weren’t there to suggest eradicating any of the existing names for features in Peaceful Valley. But the recommendation came, anyway, to scrub Glover’s name and instead install a plaque recognizing the man whose original land holdings west of downtown formed the early backbone of the city.
Troubling accounts of Glover’s past have been swirling for years, and resurfaced after the City of Spokane backed away from naming the new plaza adjacent to City Hall after Glover. City Council President Ben Stuckart said lawmakers opted at the time to send a resolution naming the plaza, which later became “The Gathering Place” in honor of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, back to the city’s Plan Commission in order to garner more input from the public.
But Stuckart acknowledged receiving emails at the time that concerned him about Glover’s past.
“There were a whole slew of people with concerns about naming the plaza after him,” he said.
An unhappy marriage
In the pages of the Spokane Daily Chronicle in 1917, Glover remembered his first night next to the roaring Spokane River.
He spent it sleeping on the dirt floor of a log cabin owned by J.J. Downing, one of the men who would later sell him 160 acres of land that became Spokane for $2,000.
“I went to sleep that night with the roar of the falls in my ears,” Glover wrote of that May 1873 trip. Glover’s name is on the city’s first planning documents, signed in 1878 by then-U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes.
Glover had married Susan Tabitha Crump in Salem, Oregon, five years prior to that first Spokane trip, as detailed in Barbara Cochran’s 2011 book, “Seven Frontier Women and the Founding of Spokane Falls.”
The couple lived happily together, according to Cochran’s account, until the early 1890s. In 1891, some two years after the couple moved in to the spacious Kirtland Cutter-designed mansion at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Washington Street that still bears the family name, Glover petitioned for a separation from Susan.
A divorce was finalized the following March, with Susan Glover receiving a monthly $100 stipend (nearly $2,500 in today’s dollars) and included the condition that she return to Salem.
The divorce complaint that James Glover filed, a copy of which is part of the collection in the Northwest Room at the downtown Spokane library, disputes the image of the happily married couple, stating by 1878 they were largely living separately. The complaint also alleges Susan Glover was “wholly impotent, barren and incapable of reproduction” as a reason for seeking the separation.
James Glover married Esther E. Leslie, a woman 22 years his junior, two days after the divorce was finalized, according to marriage records published in the Spokane Daily Chronicle and cited in Cochran’s book. The two remained married until Glover’s death in November 1921, and he left all of his personal and household effects to his second wife in his will.
Susan Glover did not stay in Salem, instead returning to Spokane and renting a series of rooms downtown. After failing to make an initial payment for a house on Ash Street in June 1899, Susan Glover and her belongings were left in the street, and she was arrested for disturbing the peace.
Susan Glover was physically forced into a police wagon, and a mental health examination followed shortly after. She was declared insane and spent the rest of her life at Eastern State Hospital, where she was buried in a grave marked only by a number.
Tony Bamonte, the former Spokane police officer-turned historian and publisher, edited Cochran’s work and said it illuminates parts of Glover’s past that were glossed over for decades.
“He was exceptionally brutal to his wife,” said Bamonte. “He was a power person.”
In his lifetime, however, James Glover was lauded for his generosity and vision. On Oct. 31, 1917, The Spokesman-Review reported roughly 1,000 people turned out to dedicate what was then a football stadium, six-lane running track and bleachers to Glover, whom the newspaper called “the father of Spokane.” The crowd chanted his name and demanded a speech.
“Fellow citizens, I am always glad to meet with you,” was all an emotional Glover could muster, according to the story.
The past, and future, of the field
That day, the city installed a monument purchased by the Spokane Advertising and Sales Club. The intention was to eventually construct a statute atop the 5-foot-tall mini monolith, but those plans never came to fruition, and a plaque that bore Glover’s name was vandalized and stolen in the years after its dedication.
The suggestion was made to move the monument into Riverfront Park for Expo ’74, but then-Parks Director Rod Zoske said the installation was “tombstone-appearing” and shouldn’t be part of the World’s Fair festivities.
The field didn’t just host athletic competitions for Lewis and Clark High School. In 1925, members of 28 Native American tribes from around the region pitched encampments on the lawn, part of a two-day celebration of their cultures that was sponsored by the local business community.
Members of the Peaceful Valley neighborhood suggested embracing this cultural history in the renaming of the park for the redband trout, including the Salish name for the fish on new signage.
BrownEagle, the vice chairman of the Spokane Tribe, welcomed the idea, but noted that in the Salish tongue, the name of the fish would change based on the time of year and what the trout is doing.
“We’ve pretty much lost a lot of that, but how old the fish is, the time of year, the season, it’s given a different name,” BrownEagle said. “It’s not like ‘fish’ all year.”
Klein told neighborhood members the branding could coincide with bringing youth baseball league games to the rebuilt baseball field, as early as next summer, after completed construction on a 50,000-gallon stormwater tank near the intersection of Cedar Street and Main Avenue. Halme Construction is scheduled to begin that work later this spring, at an estimated cost of $3.7 million.
Glover’s past wasn’t specifically cited by the gathered residents as the reason for their renaming request. Bill Forman, the neighborhood council chairman who called himself a “relative newcomer” to Peaceful Valley, moving there in 2013, said he wasn’t chiefly motivated by the stories about the man who became Spokane’s second mayor and built a banking fortune in town.
“I just want to say positive things,” Forman said. “I really like the idea of recognizing the idea of something unique about the natural heritage of Spokane.”
There are also plans to extend the trail through what could become the Riverwalk at Red Band Park, linking the neighborhood with the Sandifur Bridge and the Centennial Trail through Kendall Yards. A boat launch near the community center and play field is also in the works this year.
Peaceful Valley residents will forward their recommendations on renaming the park in a letter to the Spokane Park Board, which has the final say on what to call park property under the city’s charter. Under the city’s current policies, name changes are only allowed if the board determines “a legitimate public interest to do so.”
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