Antoine Plante's Ferry Across the Spokane River 1852-1864


Antoine Plante was born sometime between 1800-1812.  He was over six feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds.  Plante was part French Canadian and one-quarter Blackfoot Indian.  He could speak French, English, and Indian dialects.  He came into the Northwest as an employee of the Hudson Bay Company.  The Hudson Bay Company was a fur trading company that trapped animals and sold their fur.  Antoine had promised to work for the Hudson Bay Company for two years.

After those two years were up, he became a Freeman.  They were usually French Canadians who had signed for a given amount of years with a fur trading company and had severed relations with that company as soon as their years had been served.  They could then trap where-ever they wanted and sell to whomever they wanted.
In 1834 Antoine married a Pend’oreille Indian woman named Mary Therese.  Their marriage failed.  They parted some time around 1840.  Then shortly after they parted Antoine married his second wife Mary, a Flathead Indian.  One year later, their only child named Charles was born.  Charles married Therese, the daughter of John Baptized Peone.

From 1852 to 1864, Antoine operated a ferry across the Spokane River.  He established his ferry at a horseshoe-shaped ford that was the easiest place to cross the Spokane River.   It was a well-known Indian crossing.   He profited from the freight traffic that was bound for the Colville mines and the Mullan Road.   Plante’s ferry toll was three to four dollars for each vehicle, fifty cents for each person, fifteen cents per animal.

In 1853 Plante guided a surveying party from Walla Walla through Spokane country.  The party was enroute to Fort Benton, head of navigation on the Missouri River, to bring back the new Washington territory governor, Isaac Stevens.  Stevens came with extraordinary powers.  In addition to his governorship, he was to search out passes and routes for a railroad from the Mississippi to Puget Sound and to negotiate treaties with Indian tribes from the Dakotas to the Pacific.

In 1864, a bridge was built at Spokane Bridge, near the current Washington-Idaho border and most traffic changed to go over the bridge.

In 1876 Antoine moved to the Flathead reservation near Ravalli, Montana and died there in 1890. 

Plante's Ferry Park is significant for several reasons.  From 1851 to 1876, the park was the site of the first authorized ferry across the Spokane River and was operated by Antoine Plante, a French Canadian voyageur who had come overland with the Astor party, settled in Spokane Valley near what is now the town of Millwood in 1849.  In 1861, an act was passed authorizing "Antoine Plante his heirs and assigns to establish and keep a ferry across the Spokane River at or near the point where the military road (Mullan Trail) from Fort Walla Walla to Fort Benton crosses said river."  Plante's Ferry was also the site of Antoine's first residence in 1849. In 1865, Isaac Kellogg built a bridge here that connected both sides of the river.