“The Lion in the Shadows: E.J. Brickell of Illinoistown, Truckee, and Spokane Falls”

James E. Brickell

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A throng of people stood near the entrance of the Spokane Methodist Episcopal Tabernacle on Sunday, September 27, 1891. Inside, the church was packed, with standing room only, but it was not for the usual Sunday service. It was the largest funeral that Spokane had ever seen at that point in the city’s history; the funeral of its first millionaire, and wealthiest citizen. The names of the pallbearers who emerged from the church with the coffin could have formed a good part of Spokane’s social register, had there been such a thing: D.M. Drumheller, J.N. Glover, H.W. Fairweather, J.R. Marks, E. B. Hyde, Jacob Hoover, A.M. Cannon, J.J. Browne, J.J. L. Peel, M.M. Cowley, Martin Cooney, and Charles M. Patterson.

He whose body lay in the coffin that these men carried had been:

President of the Traders National Bank
President of the Truckee Lumber Co.
President of the Donner Lumber and Boom Co.
President of the Verdi Flume Co.
President of the Spokane Cracker Co.
President of the Spokane Bottling Co.
President of the Spokane Falls Water Power Co.
President of the Spokane Falls Lumber & Manufacturing Co.
President of the Spokane Mill Co.
President of Holley, Mason, Marks & Co.
President of Baum & Co.
President of the Old Dominion Mining Co.
President of the Columbia Mining Co.
President of the Security Loan and Trust Co.

He was also a substantial landowner and stockholder in a number of other enterprises, large and small.

It had been said that his investments and entrepreneurship came at a critical time when the first investors of Spokane Falls had exhausted their capital and almost lost their faith in the city. His was a material contribution to the maintenance of Spokane’s growth in the decade of the 1880s. When the hearse proceeded to the Greenwood Cemetery that the departed man had himself helped to found, the following procession held sixty-four carriages and extended for a mile in length.

Although it was strongly proposed at the time of his death, his name today is not attached to any street, park, building or other public feature of the city to which he contributed so much. It is found only in the crevices of history by scholars who look hard enough, and on a cemetery monument sufficiently imposing that the few passersby will wonder who the fellow could have been to have put up such a chunk of stone.

The Masonic Grand Lodge of Washington wrote: “…the history of this city can never be written without his name, for he was one of the cornerstones of its prosperity, and was concerned in a number of the most important business enterprises in Spokane and Spokane County.”

And yet, no one is a better exemplar of the Latin phrase Sic transit gloria mundi – “Thus passes the glory of the world.” Truly this was a man his city forgot. This man was my great-great-grandfather, Edward John Brickell. With the help of Chuck King, and many others, his story is now no longer buried in archives and newspapers. His story is ready to emerge from the shadows.






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4 Replies to ““The Lion in the Shadows: E.J. Brickell of Illinoistown, Truckee, and Spokane Falls””

    1. Hi Richard – yes, E.J.’s brother was Josiah Brickell, who settled in Alameda County, and helped found the town of Hayward.

      1. Very cool. I live on property in Castro Valley/Eden Township/Alameda County/California that JC (Josiah C) Brickell purchased from Don Castro ~1855. He bought and farmed 170 acres of Castro’s San Lorenzo Land Grant (originally 27,000 acres) from the Mexican Government. Much later, after her husband Peter died, JC Brickell’s daughter, Hannah (Brickell) Hoare, sold her half of the land off to a local lawyer/developer by the name of Marlin Haley (1948) . Haley and his engineer Mancini subdivided the land into small lots, one of which hosts our house!! Thus I live at the corner of Brickell Way and Haley Drive, just up from Mancini! I see that EJ Brickell also purchased land in Castro Valley (near Hayward) in the 1880’s. Also, the state of California records in 1857 that there was a JC Brickell manufacturing company of some type in Illinoistown as of 1857, wonder if this is my guy?? After all, JC Brickell showed up in Castro Valley/Hayward in the very early 1850’s with significant cash to invest in property, and I wonder how he earned this capital? Where did he get his money? I will order a book!!

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