Spokane History Timeline

Francis H. Cook, His Road, and His Mountain, 1909

Francis H. Cook
Francis H. Cook

Francis H. Cook, known as ‘the father of Mt. Spokane’, was born on Monday, April 14, 1851, in Marietta, Ohio. Cook died on Tuesday, June 29, 1920, in Spokane Washington. Cook came to the state of Washington in 1871, and began working at the office of the Puget Sound Courier, in Olympia. Three weeks later, Cook became Foreman of the paper. Cook then purchased the Olympia Echo, which he edited and published for three years. He then moved to Tacoma, where he started the Tacoma Herald, the first Newspaper in Tacoma. Cook published Daily and Weekly additions of the Tacoma Herald for another three years. After moving to Spokane (Falls), Cook started the Spokan Times.

Mt Spokane Road with Auto
L87-1.22128 - Car high on Mt. Spokane Road


Before the panic of 1893, Cook owned places that would eventually become major parks in Spokane. Cook owned land on what would become Manito Park, and Wandermere Lake and Golf Course. The panic of 1893 was one of the largest economic depressions in Washington state history. Cook lost the bulk of his fortune, but kept some farmland, that he sold to buy some of Mount Spokane.

Cook worked for the Spokan Times until 1909, when he purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land on Mount Spokane (Mount Baldy). The patch of land that Cook bought meant that he had to sell farmland on the Little Spokane River. Cook then built a cabin for him and his family, but they stayed at Cook’s house in Spokane. In 1909, Cook started building the famous toll road to the summit of Mount Spokane. Before Cook bought part of the mountain, Native Americans may have been using it to gather food.


Francis H. Cook was 42 when the economic panic of 1893 hit, plunging the country into depression. During the panic, Cook struggled to keep his properties, and house. Cook lost his property that would become Manito Park. After the panic, Cook planned to make a lake on the Little Spokane River. The lake was made in 1901, and Cook owned until 1909, when he sold it to raise money to buy 160 acres of Mount Spokane.

Mount Spokane is the southernmost mountain in the Selkirk Range. Mount Spokane was formerly called Mount Baldy, or Mount Carlton (Carleton). Mount Spokane is likely to be around 425 million years old. Mount Spokane is five thousand eight hundred, and eighty-seven feet tall.
Cook’s Road

Re-naming Mt. Spokane
L96-39.49A - Miss Spokane and Governor Hay raising the Flags on Mt. Spokane

In 1909, Cook and one of his eleven sons, Silas, began construction of a small toll road up to the summit of Mount Spokane. Cook and Silas did not have any machinery, and had to build the road by hand. The road took two years to build, and during that time, Cook built two cabins to live in, and preferred to live in those cabins in the summer. Cook made fifty cents per car on his road, as that was the toll charge.

On August 15, 1912, eight automobiles and a motorcycle made the trip to the top to rename the mountain. The vehicles drove from the Spokesman- Review building to the end of Cook’s road, covering 36 miles in three hours. The rest of the journey was made on foot or horseback.  Governor Hay and Miss Spokane, Marguerite Moitie, raised the flag and officially re-named the mountain, Mount Spokane. Then the party returned to Cook’s “Paradise” camp, at around 12:15, where Mrs. Cook and Mrs. W. M. Alvis served a luncheon to celebrate.

On May 20. 1920, Frank W. Gilbert, and David T. Ham of the Inland Automobile Association, and the Spokane County Good Roads Association finished negotiations for an indirect purchase of Cooks land. Since Spokane County could not hold the title, so Gilbert and Ham arranged for Louis M. Davenport to hold the 320 acres of land.

Mt. Spokane Road with auto in snow
L87-1.19604-21 - Car in snow on Mt. Spokane Road

Just over a month later, Cook died in his Spokane home. Spokane County helped to care for the park land and in 1927 transferred the title to the Washington State Parks Board. That year in August, 400 dignitaries trekked to the summit for the signing ceremony creating the first state park east of the Cascade Mountains.










Stricker, Clyde Thomas.  Purchasing a Mountain: a Mount Spokane Story. Spokane: Stricker, 1975.
“Old Baldy Now Mount Spokane”.  Spokesman- Review. 24 August, 1912
“Francis H. Cook, Pioneer, is Dead” Spokane Daily Chronicle. 30 June, 1920
Mount Spokane State Park.

Photos used with permission from Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture/ Eastern Washington State Historical Society.

L96-39.49A - Miss Spokane and Governor Hay raising the Flags on Mt. Spokane
L87-1.22128 - Car high on Mt. Spokane Road
L87-1.19604-21 - Car in snow on Mt. Spokane Road

copyright (c) 2011, Discovery School.
All rights reserved.
Report created May, 2011.
Last Modified on January 3, 2012