- Derek Harrison illustration
Sandpoint is known for its beautiful mountain views and its charming downtown filled with quaint storefronts. It's a tourist's dream.
But at the tail end of the 19th century, Sandpoint was famous for its lawlessness, and for the rough-and-tumble nature of its residents. The construction of railroads through the Pacific Northwest brought all sorts of disreputable rabble-rousers to town, causing a boom in shady saloons and gambling parlors.
The site of one of the town's wildest brawls, a dance hall called the Seattle Mug, opened its doors in Sandpoint in Feb. 17, 1892. About 300 or so people attended the hall's maiden night, and per newspaper accounts at the time, they included "railroaders, cowpunchers and minings men."
Despite the rowdiness of the hall's clientele, the evening seemed to be going smoothly. Enter a troublemaker known as "Cucumber Pete," which isn't exactly an intimidating moniker for a guy who turned out to be a violent reveller.
Pete started a fight (over what and with whom, it's unknown) that soon developed into a full-blown melee throughout the hall. He was shot in the chest by a guy known as "Wylockie Ned," and three other people (including two "dissolute females" who may have worked in the hall) were also shot. One of them died; Cucumber Pete, it seems, survived.
The authorities quickly descended upon the Seattle Mug. "Twenty-five of the worst characters in the northwest are now penned up in a stockade and guarded by deputy sheriffs," wire reports read.
So who exactly was this prickly Cucumber Pete, and what possessed him to spark violence that night? His real identity seems to have been lost to history, but he wasn't the only colorfully nicknamed troublemaker to eat lead in that very dance hall: Just a month later, a man known as "Steamboat Tommy" was shot dead by the Seattle Mug's manager after he attacked someone with an iron bar.