At 3,612 feet Steptoe Butte is the unique observatory from which to delight in the real art of the Palouse: how prosperous farms mark its rolling hills. Cashup Davis was the Steptoe farmer-promoter most identified with the quartzite butte. Cashup always gave cash for the goods he needed to stock his popular stagecoach stop on the eastern slope of the butte. The English immigrant wed Mary Shoemaker of Columbus Ohio, and before they moved west in 1871 the couple raised eleven children in Wisconsin. Once settled into serving stagecoaches in the Palouse the family became known for its hospitality and the dance floor above the store. When the railroads arrived nearby in 1883 the stages stopped running and Cashup looked to Steptoe Butte to further his conviviality. After building a switchback road to the top he raised the two-story hotel shown here in 1888. The glass observatory on top held a powerful telescope that could look into four states.
As spectacular as it surely was, the hotel was also hard for man and beast to reach and its early popularity soon fell off. And the rolling Palouse was crowded with wheat not people. Mary Ann died in 1894 and, alone in his hotel, Cashup two years later. His instruction that he be buried in a hole he’d dug for himself beside the hotel was not followed. However, his internment in the Steptoe Cemetery was a grand affair and the procession following an ornate hearse brought south from Oaksdale was also impressive. Cashup’s hotel can be seen at the top although not so vividly as on the night of March 15, 1908, when it was destroyed by fire.