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Sheriff Floyd Brower: Respected County Lawman

Sheriff Floyd Brower

1884 - 1974

Floyd Brower was born on July 31, 1884, in South Whitley, Indiana. He came to Spokane in 1907 and married Jessie Hissem on July 31, 1912. They had one daughter, Mary Elizabeth. After the death of his first wife in 1928, Floyd married Mildred Heirgood on May 1, 1930, becoming the much-loved mother to nine-year-old Mary. Before entering law enforcement, Brower worked as a plumber and with the City of Spokane as an inspector for the water department for ten years. He served three years as a member of Company K 3rd Washington National Guard and was also active in the Northwest Association of Sheriffs and Peace Officers.

Floyd Brower began his 36-year career in law enforcement in 1919. He worked as chief deputy for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office from 1924 to 1925. After Sheriff Harry Clark resigned, he was appointed to serve as sheriff by unanimous agreement of the commissioners. In the general election, he succeeded in his bid for sheriff and served from September 10, 1925 until January 12, 1930. He was also the president of the Washington State Peace Officers Association during that time.

Sheriff Brower had an exciting career. In an interview with the Spokane Press, he described one of the most memorable cases of his career. Following a shooting, the suspect, “Black Jack” Rowden, barricaded himself in a cabin near the Canadian border keeping a posse at bay. On July 1, 1929, at the request of the Pend Oreille County Sheriff, Brower and a deputy responded with tear gas and a machine gun. A standoff occurred during which hundreds of bullets were fired. Rowden was shot and killed.

Sheriff Brower again found himself on the wrong end of a gun when a renegade logger and rumrunner was upset that the sheriff had interrupted his booze-making operation. The suspect threatened to kill Brower. Known for his gift of gab, Brower talked him out of it, and he and his deputy captured the man who was then sent to Alcatraz.

The Spokesman-Review of January 6, 1926, reported that Spokane County Sheriff Floyd Brower claimed his dry squad dumped 26,773 gallons of booze here last year. Liquor peddlers were fined $34,000 in 1925, and 22,500 gallons of mash were confiscated and destroyed.

Brower garnered much national attention during his term of office and was one of the most well-known lawmen in the Pacific Northwest. Brower worked hard to update the sheriff’s office before completing his term. He abolished the night watchman position and, just before leaving office, appointed a force of new deputies to help clean up a crime wave of murder mysteries.

One of these mysteries was the “Spokane Hatchet Slayer.” In 1928 a respected community man and father of five children was convicted of the heinous crime in which he had lured a young woman from Boston with promises of marriage. He robbed and killed her within a day of her arrival in town. The “Spokane’s Fashion Plate Burglar” was another bizarre case on which Brower spent months of investigation involving a nationwide search, which eventually ended with the conviction of the suspect. Brower’s final case involved a robbery/homicide at the Railway Express Company in Spokane on October 30, 1929. After a nationwide manhunt, the suspect was extradited from Bryan, Ohio. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to hang.

After leaving office, Brower served with Joel F. Warren, former Spokane Police Chief, as a deputy for the King County Sheriff from 1931 to 1935. In December of 1939, he was named as the manager of the Burns International Detective Agency for the Northwest District. At the age of 88, Floyd Brower died in Seattle on July 3, 1974. Floyd and Mildred’s urn is located in Sunset Mausoleum directly behind this monument.

Floyd had a dangerous and exciting career in law enforcement, and was known for his dedication, integrity and honor. He was revered by his daughter, who remembers him as a tender, compassionate man—a favorite of his grandchildren and his pets.


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