Duncan Information About Sprague

Norm Duncan provided the following text and photographs.

[I have a] lot of family history in Sprague [Washington]. My mother's parents Sam and Mary Williams homesteaded North of Sprague about five miles out. Mom was born on the homestead in 1912 and went all through school in Sprague as did my father-- who lived in town and was born the same year-- though in Plummer Idaho. My grandfather Newton Duncan started a hauling company in 1921 that ran from Spokane to Sprague and Ritzville-- which my father later took over and ran until 1958 when it was sold (Grandad and Dad moved to Ritzville in 1937 when I was two). They hauled freight from Spokane and then milk and cream back to Spokane-- that being very common in those days. 

Don't know cow's name.

My grandfather's brother John Duncan started a cold storage / locker-- meat cutting business next to Grandad's freight depot. In later years John was the Mayor. His son Jack still lives there. His wife was a waitress in one of those "historical" buildings in your photo for many years-- when it was one of several local restaurants. One of my dad's sisters married a Harley Cook who lived South of Sprague next to a lake in the scabrock. Some maps still show Cook Lake where Harley's parents homesteaded. Two of Mom's brothers and her dad and mom are buried there.

In the late 1800s Sprague was the Lincoln County seat (not all the sign is visible in your photo so not sure what it includes) and was the site of the Northern Pacific roundhouse. In fact, it was bigger than Spokane Falls (later the Falls part was dropped). If I remember correctly, it had 18 saloons and several thousand people lived there because of the railroad. Then the roundhouse burned down and it was moved to Spokane. Some folks then gathered up the county records and moved them to Davenport thus making it the County Seat instead of Sprague.


Howard with dog is my mother's brother.

My family lived in a large house on the Western edge of the South part of Sprague, but I am not sure if it is the larger house in your photos-- which I will checkout when I am again in Sprague. I know the house still stands-- at least it was still there about four years ago.

Family photo, taken on the farm two or so miles North of Sprague, is my mother's father Sam and mother Laura, brother Claude standing next to Sam. Brother Leonard in center, brother Arthur on right, and brother Howard with his dog again. My mother was born in 1912-- so my guess is photo is circa 1920.

Sam & Laura homesteaded the Sprague farm and like most homesteaders-- they did not make it and eventually lost the farm (probably to foreclosure). Much has been written of the difficulties faced by homesteaders attempting to eke out an existence on 160 acres or so of dirt. It was near to impossible in those days. Can you imagine digging a hole to try to find water.

Very little evidence is left of the many hundreds of homesteads in Eastern Washington. Occasionally you can see the remains of an old old farmhouse or building out in a field. But not much else. The Williams farm is nothing now but part of a large plowed field or wheat in the summer.

Sprague High School graduation photo [I believe 1930]-- my father William Grant Duncan is at top left leaning on the post. My mother Dorothy Mae Williams is at center of photo in third row. Her brother Leonard married Mary Ritter in front row fifth from left.