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100 years ago in Spokane: Self-avowed rainkmaker causes contract squabble with wheat growers

Self-avowed rainmaker Charles M. Hatfield drew close to a $6,000 payment for his work aiding parched wheat crops on this date 100 years ago, according to the pages of The Spokesman-Review.  (S-R archives)
Self-avowed rainmaker Charles M. Hatfield drew close to a $6,000 payment for his work aiding parched wheat crops on this date 100 years ago, according to the pages of The Spokesman-Review. (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner jimkershner@comcast.net

Conflicting stories emerged about whether rainmaker Charles M. Hatfield had produced enough rain in the wheat fields near Ephrata to claim his $6,000 payment.

A Spokesman-Review story claimed that he had produced only 1⅔ inches of rain by June 10, 1920. He needed to produce 2 inches of rain by that date to collect at least part of his $6,000 fee.

However, the Ephrata wheat growers who hired Hatfield seemed happy, in any case. They said that they had enough rain “to practically save” the wheat crop, and that “maybe there was a method in our madness after all.”

However, a story the next day offered a correction. It stated that Hatfield’s contract gave him another month, to July 10, to produce the contracted amount of rain. The secretary of the Ephrata Chamber of Commerce said the confusion apparently stemmed from the fact that the contract was informal, to say the least.

“It was merely a notation he had written on a piece of paper while on the train,” said the chamber secretary. “He told us we could take it to our attorneys if we cared to do so.”

At this point, the chamber was not inclined to quibble. The wheat crop was doing fine, and the farmers were happy to give him until July 10 to make more rain.

Hatfield’s method apparently involved building a 20-foot tower and evaporating various chemicals in pans at the top.

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1775: The Second Continental Congress voted unanimously to appoint George Washington head of the Continental Army.