Henry T. Cowley, Missionary Teacher to Spokane Indians
Henry T. Cowley was born in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1837. A missionary named Henry Spalding sent Cowley to the Spokane area to teach the Indians about the white man's ways. He arrived in October, 1874, with his wife Lucy Abigail and 4 small children. The Spokanes promised to build a house on land owned by Chief Enoch near a spring (now 6th between Division and Browne). The Indians also promised to pay with grain and food for the Cowleys. At first, Henry had his lessons in his house, but after he got more students, he built a one room school house. The Spokanes were eager students and classes began at sun-up and continued until sun-down. School for the six white children in the community was also begun in the Cowley home.
Cowley wrote this of his first glimpse of the new settlement:
"My first glimpse of the site of the future magnificent city was unfurled to view from the cliff near the head of Washington Street and was so enchanting, that I dismounted and spent several moments enjoying its grandeur and beauty. Here seemed to be the setting of the elements of an ideal city--even a corner of Paradise. To the east and west the panorama of the tranquil and majestic Spokane valley stretched out before me, while beneath lay an extensive pine grove, golden with the wild sunflower, and the ear caught the melodious murmur of the series of waterfalls."
The Cowley home was the site for organization of the first protestant church in Spokane on May 22, 1879, the First Congregational Church. There were 12 charter members including Enoch Selquawia, a Spokane chief, and his wife. Cowley was appointed acting pastor in addition to his teaching duties. The first building for the church was built for $50 on a lot at Sprague and Bernard streets in 1881. The small wooden church with a steeple had a bell, given by Cushing Eels. Eels had been the first missionary to the Spokanes from 1838-1847. He believed that every western church needed a bell. He gifted several churches in the area with bells. (That bell still calls worshipers on Sunday mornings.)
After serving for two years as acting pastor, Cowley had to decide what work to take up next. He sold some of his homestead and purchased the "The Chronicle". He changed that weekly paper into a daily paper.
The Shantytown War of 1890
After the Great Fire in 1889, the church's land was valuable for the re-building business district, so it was sold and a new church was planned on land at Fourth and Washington which was sold to the church by Chief Enoch. People got to arguing over whether Chief Enoch owned the property and whether it was ok for him to sell it. On the morning of April 16, 1890, a rumor was started that the land at Fourth and Washington might be available because of the dispute about who owned the land.
Four hundred people carried lumber and built themselves squatters huts. But the next day a court decision in favor of the church brought J.N. Glover and members of the church plus policemen to order the squatters out. They took sledge hammers and bars to tear the huts down. Law officers were watching just to make sure the squatters didn't start a riot. The excavation for the new stone church could continue.
copyright (c) 1998, Discovery School.
All rights reserved.
Report prepared 1998. Revised: September 22, 2002; 10/4/2009
Last Modified on July 27, 2011