A forgotten founder of Spokane, Francis H. Cook was one of the most influential people in Spokane’s History.
Little is known about Cook’s childhood other than in 1851 he was born a twin to Silas and Catherine Cook in Ohio. He made his way out west, eventually to Tacoma, where he became a member of the Territorial Legislature and plied his trade as a printer. In 1880 Cook married Laura McCarty. The McCarty family were pioneers in Washington State and Laura's sister, Clara, was the first graduate of what is now the University of Washington. After the wedding the couple moved to Spokan Falls. This small community only had thirty five families and less than 300 people, a far cry from life in Tacoma.
Cook began the first newspaper in the city, the Spokan Times. In print or in person, Cook always spoke his mind, which often got him into trouble. After an altercation in 1882 Cook decided to get out of the newspaper business and sold the Spokan Times.
Cook then focused on property, owning a significant chunk of what is now Spokane’s South Hill. There is still an addition, Cook’s Addition, named after him, and he donated the land to the city that would become Manito Park. His first home looked over the city from the beautiful bluff where the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist not stands. The Panic of 1893 hit Cook hard, and he was forced to give up most of his South Hill holdings.
Cook then moved onto one of his most important and enduring projects in Spokane, Mount Spokane. He purchased property on the side of what was then called Mount Carlton or “Old Baldy” and began construction of a road to the top in 1908. In 1912 he joined forces with other Washington State and Spokane dignitaries to rename the mountain Mount Spokane.
Cook died in 1920, leaving behind his wife and eleven grown children. His legacy lives on in Mount Spokane. His land, along with other donations, became Mount Spokane State Park in 1927.