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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: Police suspected murder after a laborer was found dead in the Spokane River, and the South Hill oil frenzy was back

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

Police were attempting to solve a possible murder mystery after the body of Dan Emerson, 45, a laborer, was discovered floating against the headgates of the downtown dam on the Spokane River.

One possibility was suicide, but several investigators said circumstances suggested murder. There were “bad bruises” on the back of his head and a deep cut over his eye. He also had only $1 in his pockets, and those who knew him said he should have been carrying far more.

A police sergeant was convinced he had “met with foul play after dark last night.”

He was from the Wallace and Burke mining areas, but had been staying at the International Hotel in Spokane for several months. A search of his room revealed numerous shares of oil and automotive stocks.

Police hoped an autopsy would reveal whether he died of head trauma or drowning.

From the oil-fever beat: The newly formed Eastern Washington Oil Co. filed 36 oil and gas leases in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of the South Hill after some oil “experts” said there was an underground deposit.

The South Hill oil frenzy had begun a few months earlier, when a homeowner reported oil seeping into his basement. One report suggested it came from a nearby gas station, but this did not dampen the optimism of many neighbors, who hoped they were sitting on a pool of black gold.

On this day

(From Associated Press)

1894: Congress established the Bureau of Immigration.

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