Dirty Politics in Sprague Election

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An Illustrated History of the Big Bend Country Embracing Lincoln County of the State of Washington, published in 1904, states:

"Few voters entitled to vote failed to exercise that privilege .... This contest was, indeed, spirited. Preceding Election Day Davenport was hopeful; even jubilant. But the majority vote declared that Sprague was to be the permanent county seat of Lincoln County.

Charges of fraud were at once preferred. Sprague on that day cast over one thousand votes. This, it was alleged, were as many, if not more, than the entire roster of the inhabitants of the town. It is a matter of record that this number is nearly twice as many as the town polled before or since that eventful day.

Many stories are told of how Sprague 'got out' the vote in this election. In the heat of another county seat fight six years later, the editor of the Lincoln County Times tells his version of how the town of Sprague won the contest of 1884:

'By invading the holy sanctity of God's acre, where hallowed ground is bedewed with the tears of broken-hearted mourners and voting the names inscribed upon the marble shafts sacred to the memory of some beloved one. By forcing innocent little children to vote, whose very natures, guided in paths of probity through the influence of the orisons whispered at the mother's knee, rebelled against the crime. By voting passengers on through trains who had no more interest in Lincoln County than the natives of Alaska, and who, without considering the responsibility of defrauding a people, looked upon the transaction as a joke' "

At 2:30 in the morning on November 13, 1884, the Lincoln County elections commissioners concluded a protracted examination of the electoral results with the announcement that the county seat results were upheld and that county offices should be removed to Sprague at the earliest opportunity.

The commissioners announced that they, too, would remove to Sprague that very afternoon. A few days later Lincoln County officials leased a building in Sprague to serve as the county courthouse.

Davenport residents, however, refused to allow the county records to be removed to Sprague. The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, fearing that the records might be harmed or destroyed and lamenting at the impossibility of conducting county business without them, met daily trying to devise a method of safely procuring them.

On November 18, 1884, they sent a desperate telegram to Territorial Governor Watson C. Squire (1836-1926) in Olympia. The telegram read:

"An armed mob has forcibly taken possession of our county records and refuses to deliver them to the proper county officers. The sheriff is unable to disperse the mob or recover the records. Can you assist our sheriff? Please answer. John Bartol, W.A. Busey, John McGourin"