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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Scientists douse claims of oil deposits

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 20, 2021

By Jim Kershner For The Spokesman-Review

Geologists, engineers and mining men engaged in a spirited debate over this question: Was Spokane sitting on top of a rich oil deposit?

Absolutely not was the opinion of several scientists.

One geologic expert, Herbert C. Harris, poured cold water on the whole idea. He told a raucous meeting of the Northwest Mining Association that it was “absolutely impossible” for Spokane drillers to find a sizable flow of oil. Whatever traces of oil that drillers claimed to have found on the South Hill “could not have come from the ground naturally.”

A chemist who analyzed the seepages reported that they were a “mixture of kerosene and some form of animal or vegetable oil.” And the so-called gas seepages were, in fact, marsh gas and did not remotely resemble natural gas.

Some proponents of Spokane oil drilling begged the scientists to wait and see what came from the many oil rigs now drilling in the area.

Harris was having none of it.

“Let us remember that doodle bugs, fantastic theories and soothsayers come and go, but the science of geology will go on forever,” he said.

From the distinguished visitor beat: Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander during the European war, was scheduled to be a guest in Spokane during his “triumphal tour” of the U.S.

The French general was scheduled to visit the St. Maries Lumber Co. the morning of Nov. 29, 1921, and continue on by rail to Spokane for a mass meeting, a large luncheon, and a two-hour rest. He would depart for Seattle that night.

“Spokane members of the (American) Legion were elated when they learned that the leader of the combined allied forces in the World war will be able to visit the city for that length of time,” said The Spokesman-Review.

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