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Davenport

This Lincoln County seat, west of Spokane, is wheat country. Precipitation is light, but bountiful crops are the rule, for the moisture, most of which falls between October and April, is retained by deep, rich soil. Soft wheat is best adapted to the soil and the climate; one variety, bluestem, was so popular that a small settlement south of Davenport was named for it.  Davenport was founded in 1881 by J. C. Davenport of Cheney, who opened a store; it was destroyed by fire the next year and the citizens decamped to neighboring settlement Cottonwood Springs, which had been founded in 1880. They changed that town’s name to Davenport.

The history of this region since the grasslands were broken by the plow has been written largely in terms of wheat. The early settler came in response to the inducement of cheap land and the promise of bountiful crops. During the early years, in spite of the low prices of wheat, he was able to make a comfortable living. The First World War skyrocketed the price to $2 a bushel and for a brief period brought big profits and consequent dizzy land speculation. The deflation of the post-war period brought heavy losses and hard times for this area, as well as for other wheat-producing areas throughout the country. The index of prosperity for the wheat farmer was in truth the price per bushel: dollar wheat meant that bills will be paid in the fall, a gasoline motor would replace the windmill or the handpump, the barn would be given a coat of paint, or the son be sent to college.

The original settlement of Davenport, named for J. C. Davenport, who established a store in 1880, burned down in a fire—so the citizens moved to nearby Cottonwood Springs and changed the name to Davenport. For 12 years, citizens of Davenport and Sprague contended for the county seat. An election held in 1884 resulted in more votes being cast than there were people in the two towns. It was charged that children and passengers on through trains voted, and that names were taken from the tombstones in cemeteries. Sprague won the election chiefly because it could import voters by railroad, while Davenport was forced to transport them by horseback. Davenport citizens threw breastworks around the courthouse and posted guards to prevent removal of county records, but Sprague forces obtained the ledgers when the local guards tired. In 1896, however, Davenport was made the county seat by legislative action. It became a trade and shopping center for the Cedar Canyon mining district with several huge grain elevators, mills, and a soda water factory.

Images

1956 image of wheat harvest near Davenport. Photo by J. W. Thompson.

Source: Washington State Archives

1914 panoramic view of a wheat threshing operation near Davenport.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Ca. 1925 lantern slide image of the Lincoln Hotel in Davenport.

Source: Conservation Department, Planning and Development Division, Lantern Slide Shows, 1908-1939, Washington State Archives