The Odessa Record -

Harrington news

Flemming descendants visit Harrington, view historic properties


March 23, 2017

--Photo courtesy of Karen Robertson.

Carolyn Knapp-Nelson, Jim Dietz, Sen. Judy Warnick, Gordon Herron (bending over table) and Billie Herron look through family photo albums while researching family history.

John L. Flemming family

Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. a group of people began congregating at city hall seeking information on one John L. Flemming from Harrington's bygone days. Among the group were Carolyn Knapp-Nelson of Colorado, Rosemary Knapp of Leavenworth, Sen. Judy Warnick, (sisters), and their cousin Jim Dietz of Spokane, with locals Len and Karen Robertson, Marge Womach, and Billie and Gordon Herron. Following a brief get-acquainted session and the laying out of notebooks and photo albums, the visitors were taken to tour the Harrington Opera House by Billie, Gordon and Karen. Jim Dietz commented that he had been on the tour before but had never seen the graffiti on the stage walls.

This generation of the family gathered together to help celebrate the March birthday of Marguerite Flemming Dietz in Spokane, age 90, who had grown up in Harrington and had been down last fall to view the Opera House. Carolyn Knapp-Nelson, her niece, had organized a prized letter collection for her birthday which were letters from World War I between Marguerite's uncle Thomas Mihm and many family members. Tom was born December 22, 1893 in Nebraska, the son of Zach Mihm of Waukon. On January 16, 1918 he received his notice to appear for his physical. The first letter of their collection was dated 6-27-1918 from Camp Lewis. The letter dated 8-16-1918 was from New York when he was headed for Europe. Tom was in France when the war ended on November 11, 1918. He had a cousin, Benhart, also in the war, whose letters are included in the collection. On May 25, 1919 Tom was on board a ship to return to the U.S. Details from these letters were found in issues of the Harrington Citizen papers. Some seemingly unimportant details in a letter included that Clara Flemming preferred spending 50 cents for a piece of meat rather than to spend it going to the Gonzaga versus Harrington game. Just as well, Harrington was defeated! (May 1919) We obtained photos of John and Clara Flemming and of their family to keep in our growing collection of early-day photos. Of great interest was a photograph that included a Richfield gas station sign. Thomas knew how the women in his family loved needlework and he brought embroidered pieces of fabric from France, five of which Carolyn brought to share. There was also an ornate floral postcard with colorful needlework.

"John Leo Flemming was born in Woodbury County, Iowa, April 20, 1871 during a big snow storm. He had one brother and four sisters. His mother and father were born in Posen, Germany." He traveled to Alaska in 1898 (mining), returned to Spokane in 1907, and later in 1910 he came to Harrington where he intended to settle. In 1911 he was advertising as "Flemming, the Second Hand Man," and in 1912 was involved in interior design, painting, papering and kalsomining [Editor's note: An older term for "whitewashing"]. He spent three months mining in Ainsworth, B.C. The Amateur Athletic Contest was held in February of 1913, and he was advertised thus: "Boxing – 5 round contest: Claude Graff, 175 lbs. and J. L. Flemming, 185 lbs." The outcome was not reported! In 1914 he was off to Bellingham for more than a month, spending time with relatives. That was the year he owned J.L. Fleming's Shooting Gallery next door to the Harrington State Bank. After 1915 he appeared to labor in earnest at his carpenter trade at such projects as building a foundation under the Cook Samuels house, working on two sections of the old Strickler building which he had purchased to build a residence, and selling a seven-room bungalow. In December of 1918 he was ready to settle down. John L. Flemming, a local carpenter, and Miss Clara Mihm, of Reardan, were united in marriage December 26 at the Lady of Lourdes church in Spokane, the Rev. Father Verhagen officiating. The ceremony took place at 9 a.m., the guests being composed mainly of relatives. Mrs. Agnes Fredericks of Spokane, sister of the groom, was among those present.

Little information has been located about a general mercantile that he opened in November of 1918 and sold in January of 1919, the Linton and Flemming Store. The Harrington State Bank was situated on the southeast corner of Main and 3rd, and in 1919 John Flemming leased the brick building opposite it to use as a display room for automobiles, namely the Chevrolet, the Chandler, the Bethlehem and Chevrolet trucks. Mrs. L.A. Dunning was one of the purchasers that year of a Chandler. He put in a bid to remove the old Plough building from the corner of 3rd and Willis but did not receive it. John Flemming worked on excavating for the footings in 1919 and reconstruction of the old U.S. Cafe, the current (now closed) Harrington Haus. As will be recalled, the north and south walls were retained and the east and west walls were rebuilt and the entire interior was removed. In 1922, he removed the old Pratt lodging house from Lot 2 Block 39.

In December 1927, John Flemming built a 48x48 barn in the rear end of the Harrington Lumber Company's warehouse, but not on a foundation. "When all the rafters, sill, joist, and the other dozen or more component parts, known only to a carpenter, have been framed, cut into proper lengths and dimensions, the material will be hauled to the farm some four miles north of Bluestem, where D.O. Stiles and his son are leasing a farm from a mortgage company, and on this land Mr. Flemming will raise this new home for livestock when the mildness and clemency of the weather makes outdoor work a little more agreeable than at present. Mr. Flemming will also erect a granary 16x20 on the same premises."

--Photo courtesy of Karen Robertson.

Sisters Rosemary Knapp of Leavenworth, Carolyn Knapp-Nelson of Colorado and Wash. state Sen. Judy Warnick of Moses Lake with their cousin Jim Dietz of Spokane.

With our group of researchers, after about five hours the quantity of materials covered was overwhelming. Since Carolyn had traveled so far to find additional traces of her grandfather, she asked if she could return Monday and continue the session. All were in agreement that it was a great idea. Monday afternoon Carolyn Knapp-Nelson arrived at about 1 p.m. with her sister-in-law Maurine Knapp of Spokane. She again brought the two photo albums and two scrapbooks for viewing and copying. After brief introductions, Ed Haugan came to take them for a tour of the Opera House. Len Robertson and Marge Womach gathered 1919 news items to match some of the events mentioned in the letters. When they returned from the Opera House, Robertson took them to the Gary and Sharon Schultz home on 3rd to view the interior of the house that John L. Flemming built. In fact, in 1929 he built a playhouse for his children which was featured in an article in the Spokesman Review. The afternoon went rapidly and our guests left at 4:15 p.m., as they had dinner plans for 4:30 in Spokane. We assured them that they would be late. Harringtonians were pleased that someone coming such a distance would think to bring historic information to town about that town.


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