News for an Empire

CHAPTER III

Another Morning Daily

The Spokesman Is Started in Spokane Falls, March 9, 1890 – Introduces Novel Features and Reports News of Gunplay and Other Colorful Phases of Life on the Raw Frontier – Meets Stiff Opposition from the Review and Chronicle.

“Spokane Falls ought to have a home-owned morning daily.”

That’s what many people in and around the frontier city were saying after Harvey Scott and H. L. Pittock of the Portland Oregonian gained control of the town’s morning daily.

Among the most emphatic in stating this opinion was Horace T. Brown, who had helped put the Review where it was. Although he was now part owner of a bookstore, he had worked in newspaper offices for twenty years and, having helped establish the Butte Miner, knew just what steps to take to start a new paper. He talked over the idea of a new daily with some local politicians who encouraged him and gave him to understand they would back the venture.

Before the project had gone beyond the point of being a lively subject for debate, the great fire gutted the business district of the city and brought matters to a head. The store in which Brown was part owner burned to the ground in the great holocaust. There was six thousand dollars’ worth of insurance and the owners gave out a statement that they would reopen. They even had a site picked out when Brown took a train East two days after the fire, purportedly to buy new stock for the store. However, as his train sped through the Rockies and over the Middle Western prairies, it is likely that his fertile brain was busy with practical plans for establishing another morning daily in Spokane Falls.

Either on this trip or one taken soon afterward, the ex-cavalryman stopped off in Chicago and convinced several members of the newspaper profession there that a golden journalistic opportunity existed in Spokane Falls. That the city had just been swept by a destructive fire was all too true but it was bound to rise phoenixlike from the ashes ! Hadn’t Chicago survived a similar disaster, rebuilt and flourished? Brown found the Chicagoans he talked with not too hard to convince. They had read a lot about the fabulous mines, vast forests, and the fertile soil on the sunset side of the Rockies. They were young, self-confident, intrigued by the idea of starting a new enterprise in that marvelous new country.

Two of the Chicago journalists promptly agreed to go into the venture with the persuasive Westerner. They were Joseph French Johnson, then financial editor of the Chicago Tribune, and J. Howard Watson, a reporter on the same paper. It is likely that Brown might have brought William H. Cowles, police reporter of the Tribune and son of its secretary-treasurer, Alfred Cowles, into his enterprise had it not been for the fact that Alfred Cowles was then very ill. That W. H. Cowles was kept on the prospect list is indicated by later developments.

Both of the Chicago men who agreed to go into the newspaper venture in Spokane Falls had a background of varied experience in the journalistic field. J. Howard Watson was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio, August 15, 1858. He was of Scotch-Irish ancestry, his parents Joseph and Rebecca (Sproule) Watson being natives of county Tyrone, Ireland. At the age of sixteen Watson left school and “entered the occupation of printer.” At eighteen, he became manager of the Knox County Advocate, published in a strongly Democratic district. Through this paper he supported the Republican party so vigorously and effectively that, in the election of 1879, t ^ ie district elected the first Republican legislator in its history. This was the campaign which resulted in James A. Garfield being elected to the United States Senate by a majority of one vote. Because of the aid rendered the party, Watson could have had a berth in the United States Treasury but decided to stick to the journalistic profession and joined the staff of the Washington Post. A year later he established a weekly paper, the Pen, at Newark, Ohio, and published it until 1882. In that year he sold out and went to Chicago where he worked in the editorial department of the Daily News and later of the Tribune.