Established around 1915, the Spokane Union Stockyards was a key piece of the agriculture business in Spokane for more than 80 years.
One of the original owners, Walter D. Roberts, went bankrupt in the 1920s and the business changed hands; the resulting company was called Old Union Stockyard Company, with F.M. Rothrock at the helm. In 1928, Roberts went on to start Stockmen’s Union Stockyards less than a mile away, but went bankrupt again a year later and eventually was bought out by Old Union Stockyards in 1930.
The Stockyards was where producers and market buyers met to buy and sell cattle, hogs, sheep and other animals that came in by train and by truck from the local area and surrounding states. The business made money on yardage fees charged on each head of livestock that passed through, rarely staying more than a day or two.
The facility, alongside the railroad tracks in east Spokane, was close to five meatpacking plants, including Armour and Carsten’s, along East Trent Avenue.
The Spokesman-Review reported that in 1934, some 112,000 cattle were sold there, up from 58,000 in 1933. In 1937, the big meatpacking plants spent approximately $10 million a year on animals at the stockyards.
In the 1950s, the large volume buying gave way to weekly auctions. Slowly, the meatpacking plants closed and the industry went to other cities. In the early 1960s, the Stockyards became Stockland, a much smaller version of the business, covering only about 7 acres, instead of more than 40 acres at its peak. Rocky Rothrock, grandson of F.M. Rothrock, proposed a large commercial development on the 43-acre site, with livestock sales, farm implement dealers, a trucking terminal and other businesses. The company’s investors couldn’t agree to the plan, and Rothrock left the business and went into commercial real estate. He eventually bought and redeveloped the former Armour plant, among other properties in the area.
Longtime cattle buyer Jim Seabeck took over in 1964. He ran the business until he sold to Ted Kerst in 1981. Facing dwindling volume, Stockland shut down the Spokane location in 1999, but still operates livestock auctions via the internet from a location in Davenport, Washington.
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