The Campbell Family in Cupboards All Bared

The Campbell Family in Cupboards All Bared

Cupboards All Bared, Book 2 in the Spokane Clock Tower Mysteries, is direct proof that reading old newspaper articles can be incredibly inspiring to historical mystery writing! While researching for the first book, originally set in early May 1901, I stumbled across this article:

Spokane Chronicle
May 7, 1901

There’s nothing quite like reading articles from the time period to get the creative juices flowing! 

President William McKinley was scheduled to visit Spokane and stay with the Campbells a couple weeks after the events of my first book! This led to some rearranging. I didn’t want the events in the books to happen one right after the other, so I came up with a plan. 

Each book in the Spokane Clock Tower Mysteries takes place in a different month, counting down to the dedication of the Great Northern Railroad Depot clock tower, from which of course the series takes its name. 

Book 1, Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Taker, opens on April 15, as the finalizations are coming into place for the building of the depot, which span over the course of the next year, ending with the dedication of the clock on June 20, 1902. So naturally the next book takes place in May 1901, and Book 3, coming in the fall, will take place in June 1901.

I’ve collected a series of clipped newspaper articles referencing the timeline of the building of the Great Northern Railroad Depot here.

So who were the Campbells? Why is this so cool?

Even if you’re from Spokane, you might not have heard of the Campbell House.

The House

(All images are my own except where otherwise indicated. Special thanks to the Campbell House at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture for letting me take photographs!)

Built in 1898 by Kirtland Cutter, the Campbell House has been refitted with all the trappings of the home circa 1910 and is available for visits and tours. That’s right, you can still visit it today just as it’s described in my book!

At Christmastime, it comes to life with actors playing roles of people who’ve lived in the house over time. This includes my audiobook narrator, Rebecca Cook, who plays Hulda Johnson the Campbell’s cook in 1910!

The Campbell House is located next to the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and the Ferris Archives, which are staffed by people who were invaluable in the writing of this book.

The Campbell House is the perfect inspirational location for a story set in Gilded Age Spokane and, therefore, was a major inspiration when designing Miss Mitchell’s mansion home in Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Taker. But then, when I stumbled across this article I thought, “Now is the perfect time to have a story featuring the Campbells!”

I tried to incorporate as many as possible of the visible aspects of the house that you can still view today, like the annunciator call bell system, the large clock in the hall, the sewing room, Mr. Campbell’s office, and the rather pink reception room. 

The museum has done an excellent job of collecting as many historical artifacts as possible in connection to the Campbells’ life in Spokane, including items originally owned by them that they’ve hunted down through the years. The dining room is almost completely made up of original items, plus they have Helen’s wedding dress and so much more.

Visit here to view all the objects in the Campbell House collection.

The Family

Amasa (pronounced a-MAY-sah) Campbell and Grace Campbell, Helen Campbell was their only child. Descriptions of all three are based on portraits from 1904 that still hang in the Campbell House. After building a fortune in the mines of Idaho, Campbell moved his family to Spokane in 1898, and quickly became a leader and known entity in the city. 

In 1901, the Campbells had five live-in staff. There were two maids, Matilda Peterson and Caroline “Carrie” Olsen, who were both Swedish, though they’d immigrated at very different times and were a couple years different in age. The three male employees were Edward Nelson, the gardener (who didn’t manage to make an appearance in this book), Chung Lee, a Chinese cook who’d immigrated twenty years earlier, and Joseph Gladding, the Ohio-born coachman who stayed with the Campbells until 1905.

The only one of these staff members we have pictures of today is Joseph Gladding, which can be viewed here at the NMAC’s online archives.

One of the other fun things I was able to incorporate into the book was the circus Gladding would put on for the kids in the neighborhood. He trained Helen’s little dog to do all sorts of tricks!

These images come from the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture online archives, which you can visit here.

Campbell and McKinley

As I mentioned, Amasa’s friendship with President McKinley was a real thing. Here are a few of the letters they have at the archives where he mentions McKinley’s imminent arrival.

President McKinley’s visit to Spokane and all the references to the newspaper articles and facts regarding his visit in Cupboards All Bared are true, most of them taken straight out of The Spokesman. The McKinley Reception Committee was formed and headed by Chairman George A. Black. There was much planned for his visit in the manner of parades and speeches.

To read all the details, check out this article from The Spokesman-Review, published May 15, 1901:

Other historical figures featured in Cupboards All Bared are returning cameos from Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Taker! Throughout the series, you’ll get to know these historical figures well! Learn more about them here, including Coroner Nathan M. Baker and all the police officers.

Cupboards All Bared

In this sequel to Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Taker, we’re once again transported to Spokane, 1901. A body discovered in Hangman Creek looks to be the result of an accidental fall, but what begins as a “simple” mystery for Thomas Carew and his twin brother Bernard quickly becomes a lot more complicated, including implications that tie in with the bombings at the Idaho mines, and perhaps even President McKinley’s planned visit.

Cupboards All Bared is Book 2 in the Spokane Clock Tower Mysteries.

Cupboards All Bared is available in all formats wherever books are sold! Click the image above to find it in your favorite format, or request it today from your local bookstore!

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Check it out from your local library, or if they don’t have it, request it! Remember, you’re still supporting your favorite authors by supporting your local library!

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Want to join me for an in-person tour of the Campbell House? Click the image below to learn more!

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