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Lorenzo Wesley “L.W.” Rima: Pioneer, Surveyor, Businessman

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Lorenzo Wesley “L.W.” Rima 1845 - 1885

Born in Illinois May 12, 1843, LW Rima’s family moved to Fillmore County, Minnesota Territory in 1855. Moving west over the Mississippi River, at this time in history, was stepping beyond the bounds of civilization! Although there was no house to move into, there was ample wood and water. Shelter had to be constructed, which took time. Pioneers might live in their wagon, or tents, for up to a year!

This was the foundation for LW Rima’s life, and upon which his steadfast character was built. His occupation was listed as Laborer, most likely for his father’s business concerns. We have other references to him, around this time, as “Artist” and “Photographer”. LW Rima joined Pleasant Grove Masonic Lodge #22, in 1864, age 21.

In late 1868 Rima set his sights on the next frontier, Alexandria, Douglas County, MN. His 1869 diary tells the story of his day-to-day life. He built a saw mill, started a shingle mfg. business, homesteaded 80 acres, and built a house for his sweetheart, Martha Rush, and became a charter member of Constellation Masonic Lodge #81

LW describes skirmishes with Indians, reading trigonometry books, studying surveying, and building his own violin and teaching himself to play! LW and Martha were married that year. He was elected Douglas County Surveyor, a position he held during 1871-1874. He became very proficient and experienced at surveying; hundreds of Rima surveys are on record in Minnesota. In late 1876, LW and Martha went to Oregon for Martha’s failing health. Sadly, she died at Monmouth, Oregon, March 7, 1877, leaving LW a childless widower.

LW emerged in autumn of 1877 at Spokane Falls, Washington Territory. Occupying a space on Front Street, he opened the first Jewelry Store of Spokane. In 1878, LW Rima performed the first formal survey of Spokane Falls and laid it out as a town. This plat of 20 blocks established the basic orientation of streets that all subsequent sub-dividers would follow. In 1879 Rima bought a lot and built a fine store on Howard Street. His wood frame building burned in 1883, and he rebuilt one of the first brick buildings of Spokane, called “The Rima Block”. (The Rima Block burned in 1889, but was rebuilt in similar fashion. It exists today as Mizuna Restaurant, part of three adjoined historic buildings, listed on The Spokane Register of Historic Places, commonly known as The Bennett Block.)

In 1880 Rima became a charter member of Spokane Masonic Lodge #34, the first in Spokane. In 1881, Rima was appointed to the first Spokane Falls City Council by the Territorial Governor, and his name was written into the first Spokane Falls City Charter. While in Spokane, he ran his business, conducted surveys, oversaw building of Howard St. Bridge, helped found the first library, helped develop the first telephone line, was first to record daily weather, and more.

Rima’s life was cut tragically short, when he suddenly died of pneumonia at age 41, on January 4, 1885. His father was the sole heir of his estate, valued at $35k or more than one million in today’s dollars. He was among the first to be buried at Greenwood Cemetery after it was established in 1888. His second burial took place here on November 9, 1889. His body (among many others) was exhumed from his original resting place, and relocated, most likely from the old Mountain View Cemetery in Cannon's Addition.

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