Historical note: On a founding father of Harrington, Judge F.M. Lighthizer
Last updated 3/10/2019 at 4:05pm
Harrington’s historic judge
As Harringtonians watch a new surge of energy being applied to the town, its organizations, businesses and structures, it is intriguing to look back at former men of vision, energy, innovation and determination to follow through on a given venture. We look at the remarkable entrepreneur, the late Allen Barth (1950-2017), of the Studebaker Garage, who energized the community with his vision of having regular antique car shows as a center around which to draw people and interest into the town of Harrington. Some men have ideas and visions but lack the tenacity to fight the good fight and bring their dream to fruition. Their names disappear as quickly as did their dream.
Two remarkable names in Harrington’s past have been W.B. Armstrong (1882-1938) and John F. Green (1851-1918). Green appears on most important documents prior to 1900 and Armstrong was vital to Harrington shortly after its incorporation as a town in 1902. Their names have appeared in countless articles, but there are other unsung heroes that made an impact on the development of the new town. One such man was Judge Francis Marion Lighthizer (1856-1917), who came to this area about 1892, at which time he was employed as the selling agent for the Harrington Townsite Company, the corporation which bought up much of Mrs. Cutter’s holdings in Harrington waiting for the Great Northern Railway’s construction pathway to be decided.
The earliest mention of Judge Lighthizer that has been located in newspapers was in the Harrington Kicker of July 18, 1894: “Law suit—George Andrews skipt the country. A man named Murphy owed Andrews; Andrews owed Glascock and McCann. McCann has an order from Andrews. Glascock has a garnish from Judge Lighthizer. Murphy had the money but the Judge ordered it paid into court. The trial will come off in a few days and the winner will be loosed.” The Judge had two sons, Lloyd and Francis Marion, who were attending school in Spokane. In December of 1897, he announced his marriage to Miss Josephine Anderson of Spokane. In 1898, he won the election for Justice of the Peace over A.R. Graham. “F.M. Lighthizer. Real Estate, Insurance, N.P. Land Agent. Deeds, Mortgages, and Other Legal Instruments Carefully drawn up, Notary Public. Money Loaned.” (Citizen: 11-11-1898)
Tragedy strikes without regard to status or plans or visions, and Judge Lighthizer did not escape either. The news of his youngest son’s death (Francis Marion, Jr.) began: “Less than a month the little fellow was the picture of health. The incidents of his fatal illness are probably familiar to most of our readers as the popularity of ’Mamie,’ as he was called, has led almost every one to enquire each day of his illness how he was progressing but a brief story of these last few days may be of interest to many. About two weeks ago the deceased was taken ill with the measles, as was also his brother, Lloyd, but as the disease is not considered dangerous nothing more than careful nursing was deemed necessary until last Saturday when the patient complained of pains in his side. Dr. Semple was called and pronounced it a case of appendicitis and on Sunday morning the child was moved from the house of Mr. and Mrs. Jaques, where he had been living while attending school, to the Deaconess Home. Dr. Setters and E.E. Schafer of Harrington were called to the bedside of the little fellow. At 10 o’clock Sunday morning an operation was performed by Dr. Semple and Dr. Steers, assisted by Dr. MacLeod and upon opening the abdominal cavity it was discovered that a large cavity of pus had formed and bursted, which alone was enough to cause death, however an operation was performed in hopes that the life of the sufferer might be prolonged for a time at least. The patient passed through the ordeal in apparently fair condition but there were little hopes of his final recovery and on Monday evening all hopes of his getting well were given up. Still the patient lingered in terrible agony until 6:10 o’clock Tuesday night when the grim reaper claimed its own. During his last hours his father and brother were at his bedside. But the tender love and prayers of father, brother and the most scientific medical skill were unavailing to alter the decree of fate. The deceased was born in Howard, South Dakota on the 23rd of July 1885 and was therefore 13 years, 7 months and 5 days old at the time of his death.” (Records showed the mother of this boy was Lucy Vance, born in Minnesota.)
In 1900, Lighthizer’s energy was referenced as “healthy, hearty spirit of enterprise” and his experience prior to the Harrington Wheat Belt stated that he was a native of Ohio, raised on a farm and educated in public schools. He then went to Chicago and was educated by Bryant & Stratton’s Commercial College. He spent his early manhood in railroading and express business. He was then a prominent merchant in South Dakota prior to examining the state of Washington for a suitable place to apply his skills. It might be mentioned that in 1900 he answered the census marriage question with “divorced” but then in 1902 answered it as “widowed.” In between, the Sprague Times announced that he married Miss Nora E. Baugh of Sprague.
The earliest of the surviving “brick” structures was the 1894 stone and brick building of the north half of block 39 on the west side of the street, followed by the 1902 construction of the Lincoln Hotel, VanNatter Saloon, Harrington State Bank in Dr Setters’ Building, Ivy Leaf Cafe and the Lighthizer Empire Block; all spurred by the Incorporation of the Town of Harrington. “The Empire Building Christened. The last brick on the imposing front of Judge Lighthizer’s new block was put into place at 2:30 on Wednesday afternoon, and the event was celebrated with appropriate exercises. All the merchants and business men of the city assembled on the roof of the building and were photographed by Ole Hong, after which Judge Lighthizer broke a bottle of Mumm’s Extra Dry over the head piece of the building, saying, ’I christen thee the Empire building.’ The new brick, a picture of which will appear in this paper later, is a handsome structure. The front is of pressed brick, the masonry being unusually artistic. The south section of the building will be occupied by the post office and Judge Lighthizer’s offices, the north section probably by a drug store, and the two middle sections have not yet been promised, although the Judge has had opportunities galore to dispose of them. This block, with the new brick store buildings of Dr. Setters and T.A. Hansard, make a very appreciable addition to the general appearance of our city.” (Citizen: 8-15-1902)
Wherever people gathered, there was the Judge, offering advice, support or maybe a loan? One of the glowing reports of his activities was thus in January 1904: “In connection with our land we desire to mention the name of F.M. Lighthizer of Harrington. It is he who sounds the just praises of this county and induces business enterprises and individuals to locate here. This firm, unlike many others, does not invite you, eastern reader, on the pretense of cheap land as regards price per acre, but rather has you buy the best when every condition is favorable to success. The average price of the land he offers in this county is $25 to $30 per acre, every acre of which can be cultivated and will produce from 25 to 40 bushels of wheat. He has 10,000 acres of raw land being more suited for stock and fruit raising and when careful attention is given it in this line it will pay handsome on the investment at the price he offers it for sale, i.e. $1.50 to $300 per acre. No firm could be more honorable to deal with or have better bargains to offer the homeseeker. F.M. Lighthizer is one of our prominent citizens, having located at Harrington in 1892, and as a man has the respect of all our people both in public and private life. He is our present post master, has been U.S. Commissioner for the district of Washington since 1902 and holds the positions of justice of the peace and police judge.”
On July 6, 1904, the Harrington Driving Park Association filed Articles of Incorporation. The following men put their names on the document: T.C. Lakin, J. McInnis, Ed Hill, John Tierney, A.C. Billings, John F. Green, L.T. Luper, John Cormana, F.M. Lighthizer and J.M. Powers. The object of said corporation shall be to buy, build and maintain a Fair Grounds or Driving Park, of the purposes of having races, baseball, football, picnics, and other sports. It is surmised that this is the area shown in early day photos of the ball park near the present day lagoons west of Harrington Truck and Auto and west of A & D Welding.
By 1908, the Judge’s son, Lloyd Lighthizer, was working as a bookkeeper at the Bank of Harrington. By 1910, he was married and moved to Spokane and later on to Wenatchee. Judge Lighthizer had moved from Harrington to Spokane after a long and successful career of finding the right person for the right piece of property and settling legal disputes judiciously. Francis Marion Lighthizer died at Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane from stomach troubles in December 1917.His obituary remarked about his affiliation with various lodges, and that he was survived by his son Lloyd and a former wife, Mrs Coleman of Ohio. As a footnote to the Lighthizer building story, it might be recalled that in 1949 the building was reconstructed by the American Legion, where after the building was named the Memorial Hall.