The Unknowns, Fairmount Cemetery

Some of Spokane's earliest residents lived, or at least died, in anonymity. The Washington State Archives has 71 death records of unidentified persons found in Spokane during the period 1891-1907. The majority of these unknowns were buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Section 90, the Potter's Field.

These death records reveal some interesting statistics. First, most were white males ranging from infants to 50-plus years of age. Several bodies were found in or near the Spokane River. Of the white adult males, the primary causes of death were drowning, violence (usually by gun), accidents, and heart disease. Some interesting causes of death were opium poisoning, "wounds murderously inflicted", crushed by train, and "brain and lungs crushed by pipes in a freight car".

Secondly, the infant deaths, both male and female, were mostly due to premature or stillborn births, feticide, inanition, and abortion. Many of these babies died at institutions such as St. Joseph's Orphanage, the Kearney Sanitarium, and the Home for the Friendless. Others were found near dumps or the river, and a particularly gruesome and sad story reveals that one particular baby's body parts were found in different locations around town.

Only 17 of the 71 unknowns were females, and of those 17, 16 were infants. The only adult female, an Indian, died of consumption (the old term for pulmonary tuberculosis) at the approximate age of 65. There were only 4 other non-white persons in the records: one Black male who died of 3 pistol balls fired by an unknown party; a 32-year-old Mongolian male who died of endocarditis; a Chinese male, age 60, who died at home after being sick for some time; and a Japanese male, age 40-50, who drowned.

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Unknown Dead of Spokane
By Julie Russell
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Audio

Unidentified Persons
Modern-day Statistics
Narrator: Julie Y. Russell Resources: U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report "Medical Examiners and Coroners' Offices, 2004"
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