First Peoples

5. A Second Woman and Her Dowry

It looks like some deal was struck. In 1894 Frances Xavier Richter left his syilx wife Lucy in a log cabin on her land, which was now in his name…

Lucy’s Inheritance, now mapped as “Richter Pass”

…assigned his sons to farm it for him, and married a white girl, a 17-year-old southern belle from Loomis, Florence Elizabeth Louden. In 1898, Richter built a palatial California mansion for her twenty miles north in Keremeos, on the old syilx village site at Central. It had a peacock mosaic in the parlour floor, lead-weighted windows and two acres of Victorian rose gardens along the creek. As the Keremeos Trumpet put it on June 26, 1908:

We acknowledge with thanks a beautiful bouquet of roses from the garden of Mr. and Mrs. F. Richter. Mrs. Richter is an authority on these, the most beautiful of all flowering shrubs, and we doubt if any rosary (sic) in the province surpasses her garden in respect to variety and magnificence of bloom.

Her yellow climbing roses were still blooming there in 1970, when I parted their thorns among the cottonwoods to go trout fishing. A blue kingfisher plunged from the trees and took the trout that rose to my line, and then flew through the air into its own country, vanishing right in front of my eyes. My father was farming asparagus on the old Smelqmix village site on the south side of the creek. He refrigerated the spears with water from Richter’s flume, which ran along the side of the mountain. I tried fishing in that a couple times too. I can report that there were no trout in that thing. More practically, a welding shop now stands where the kingfisher and I went fishing together in Florence’s rose arbour. In this valley, this is called “development.”

Inglewood: The House That Frank Built

Florence’s parlour was on the bottom floor of the turret. Her chamber was above it. I made this image in 1970, in the spring after my parents bought the ranch and three years before an arsonist burnt it down.

It’s hard to say whether Florence played her hand well or poorly, or whether it was played for her, but here’s what I have so far: 

  1. Florence’s father was an officer in the Confederate Army in the U.S. Civil War.
  2. Florence was born in Carson City, Nevada in 1877.
  3. Her father took up land in Loomis as soon as it was opened for settlement on May 1, 1886.
  4. Before that, the U.S. Government had assigned the land to the Sinkiuse people from the Columbia River east of Yakima, whose land had already been stolen for wheat farming,
  5. But the cattle ranchers of Northern Washington Territory, who were dabbling in prospecting, put a stop to that.
  6. Dixon points out that the region was smelqmix. When I asked him why that is not listed in any of the treaties, he said, “They were in a hurry. They talked to whoever they could find.”
  7. Loomis is not particularly pretty, but it has some fine single-wide mobile homes tattering in the wind. Really. They do. This is the Similkameen. The wind never stops here. 
  8. Florence must have had a devil of a time keeping her hair in place.

Loomis also has a collection of old emergency vehicles displayed in a torn-out orchard.

That’s a wind machine tower, to keep the frost off fruit blossoms in the spring. Not a good sign, really.

There was a time when men planted apples anywhere. Then they tore them out.

However Loomis has fallen in the world, this is a story is about women and their dowries. In fairness to all of its characters, I think any attempt to sort out Richter’s intentions with Florence might well include a few relevant details about the general social and economic situation:

  • it was two years after 90% of the cattle of Okanogan County, especially around Loomis, starved in the brutal winter of 1892. Most ranchers went broke.
  • it was the year after the State Representative for Okanagan County, rancher and mine-developer Hiram F. (Okanogan) Smith, replaced his syilx wife with a young white one from Seattle, only to die before bringing her home. 
  • Smith’s syilx wife was left with nothing except a horse and a carriage, in which she rode away, to the derision and awe of settlers. 
  • Abandonment of native wives and the taking of very young white ones seems to have been a thing in the region in the early 1890s. 
  • That Florence was also a negotiating point in the cattle business is entirely possible (although not certain), given that Florence’s father couldn’t have avoided the financial pressure of the cattle disaster. Nor could have Richter. 
  • At least Lucy was left in better standing than Smith’s wife. 
  • Curiously, Florence’s mother had a son in the year of Florence’s marriage, who she named Frances Xavier Louden. 
In 1893, at 63 years of age, Okanogan Smith (above) found himself “unexpectedly and suddenly married to Nancy” in Seattle.

A few days later, she inherited his ranch and $4500. Frances and Florence married the following year.

Oh, and one other thing. The original Frances Xavier was one of the co-founders of the Jesuit order, a group of practical academics who specialized in the training and judging of souls. The Inquisition was one of their projects.

Frances Xaver [Xavier] Himself

We’ll be following the Jesuit trail through Dixon and Kelly’s country later in this story, but right now, just an observation: if “Richter” means “judge”, then Frances Xavier Richter means “Judge Judge.” 

This, as you can see, is a serious story.

~

In Chapter 6, we will track the further enslavement of Lucy’s tmxʷulaxʷ into the 20th century. After that, I think you will be well enough rooted in the complexities of the weave of land, tmxʷulaxʷ and people that we can step back in time for a close look at the politics of Indigenous slavery in the grasslands. I think you will be able to see it at play and that in the grasslands Indigenous history plays a strong role.

The Old Village Site on Palmer Lake

Plus the ruins of a nut orchard

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