Edward John “E. J.” Brickell
Pioneer, Businessman, Philanthropist
1820 – 1891
Edward Brickell was born on September 22, 1820, in Liberty, Indiana, to Robert H. and Rebecca (Sweet) Brickell. In 1834, the family relocated to Michigan and, at the age of 14, E. J. left home and moved to Schuyler County, Illinois.
The California Gold Rush brought Brickell west in 1849. During the next three decades he accumulated numerous business interests, mainly in construction and lumber milling.
A. M. Cannon encouraged E. J. to visit Spokane and, in 1881, he purchased land on Peone Prairie. Eventually his holdings there totaled 3,000 acres. In 1883, Brickell, with W. R Newport and J. B. Holley, founded a hardware firm that would become Holley, Mason, Marks & Co., the largest hardware firm in the inland northwest.
In 1884 under Brickell’s leadership, A. M. Cannon and several others formed the Spokane Falls Lumber and Manufacturing Co. by updating Cannon’s old sawmill on the river and purchasing a half interest in the Island Sash and Door Factory. In 1886, the lumber company was transformed into the Spokane Mill Co. by construction of a larger sawmill and a large sash and door factory. Frederick Post’s flour mill, along with other property of Post’s, was renovated in 1885 as part of the mill company. During its existence, it was the largest employer in Spokane.
Brickell was associated with numerous business enterprises in Spokane. He was one of the founders and president of Traders’ National Bank and took up residence on its upper floors. He was founder and president of the Spokane Mill Company; president of the Holley, Mason, Marks & Co.; Spokane Falls Water Power Company; Baum & Co. (paint); Spokane Bottling Company; and Old Dominion and Columbia Mining companies. He was one of the wealthiest men in the state, andhis companies owned an appreciable part of Spokane’s downtown businesses.On May 11, 1888, Brickell was one of the incorporators that brought the Greenwood Cemetery Association into being. Throughout his life, E. J. maintained his large business holdings, in California, Nevada, Utah, and Oregon.
E. J. outlived several of his children and four wives: Willa Furby, Rozannah Gragg, Huldah Gragg (Rozannah’s cousin), and Elizabeth Gragg (Rozannah’s sister). He died on September 23, 1891, and his body lay in state at the Traders’ National Bank. According to his friend, A. M. Cannon, “His vim and energy brought the city to life. He was always willing to give his aid and advance capital to establish any enterprise that would advance the interests of Spokane as a commercial and business center. As a man he was always charitable, and no deserving person ever left his door as poor as when they entered.”
His funeral procession was over a mile long, “the most imposing ever witnessed in the city,” with a brass band in the lead, followed by the Masons and the Odd Fellows in elaborate costumes. His black-plumed hearse was followed by sixty-eight carriages.