Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. To learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column, click here.

Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in the Northwest: A plot to burn down the region’s forests? Agents believed they’d discovered one

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

Federal authorities said they had uncovered a nefarious plot to burn down the forests of the Northwest.

They claimed the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World) commissioned “squadrons of arson agents” to roam the woods and start fires.

Now, the government was enlisting local police, sheriffs, marshals, forest rangers and Secret Service agents to foil the plot.

“By continually keeping account of all suspicious characters in the woods by questioning those moving from place to place and causing the public at large to report all suspicious persons who apparently have no definite business in the woods, the officers hope to check the forest firing campaign,” the Spokane Daily Chronicle wrote.

No such arson fires had yet occurred that season, but officials feared a repeat of a 1910 “campaign of terror in the woods.”

From the heroine file: The Spokane Elks were celebrating the heroism of Mrs. Harry Hanson, mother of five, who rescued an Elks conventioneer following an impromptu daredevil act gone bad.

Ernest Crueger and three other Elks Lodge members decided it would be fun to swim across the Spokane River – near the lower rapids – and make their way to the Elks Temple.

They miscalculated the force of the current and the temperature of the water. Crueger was carried downstream 500 yards and began to suffer from cramps. He shouted for help as he struggled toward the south bank.

Mrs. Hanson was sitting on her porch and saw Crueger in peril. She saw “swarms of people rushing along the riverbank,” but she realized she was in the best position to help.

She ran down to the river and shouted to Crueger to make his way to her. He struggled to do so, but he finally came close enough that she could grab him by the hand. He was so weak he could not get out of the water, but she held his hand and held his head out of the water until help came.

Spokane Elks announced she would be “well-rewarded for her bravery.”

More from this author