Before it was known as "Spokane County's preeminent grain market," Rockford earned a reputation for vigilante justice. Like many other Western farming and ranching communities in the 1880s, Rockford experienced a certain element of criminal activity. One of the most lucrative criminal enterprises in the region was horse rustling and the Northern Palouse sat in the middle of the rustling trade between British Columbia and Eastern Oregon. Rock Creek, which runs through the town of Rockford, was one of the region's most popular routes for the trafficking of stolen horses.
In 1882, a Montana transplant by the name of Aldy Neal was "engaged in abducting horses" from settlers throughout the Inland Northwest. The entire Neal family were industrious horse thieves. As suspicions about the Neal family's dubious occupation abounded in Rockford, the family "pulled-up stakes and left," but Aldy and his sister chose to remain. Aldy was sought by Sheriff Hatten in connection for area horse thefts. A group of Rockford settlers rounded up a posse, surrounded Aldy's house and quietly apprehended him in order to bring him to the county court house in Cheney.
About one-and-a-half-miles north of Rockford, a heavily-armed group of around twenty men "with revolvers cocked" stopped the group escorting Aldy and demanded they give him up. Outgunned and outmanned, the posse allowed the masked vigilantes to unstrap Aldy from his horse where they led him to the nearby timber. In vain, Aldy Neal plead for his life and stated that he would confess to all his family's crimes, as well as his own. The vigilantes told him that "his time had come and to make peace with his Creator." He was allowed several minutes to prepare for his death, then his captors slung the rope around a pine branch, a noose around his neck and Aldy was hanged. The crowd waited until he was dead and then dispersed.
Upon hearing of the lynching, Sheriff Hatten casually rode in the following day from Cheney to inspect the scene. Neither the vigilantes, nor the group that arrested Aldy would identify the killers. No arrests were ever made and there was never another recorded episode of horse- thief lynching since. The act was "roundly decried" throughout the Northwest and even made headlines in newspapers as far away as West Virginia.