Was it a Spokane High School Teacher who Solved the Riddle of the Ice Age Floods?

We have learned to think of J Harlen Bretz as the genius who first realized that many of the geologic features of Eastern Washington were carved by catastrophic flooding. However, there is some evidence that Bretz actually got the idea from a high school science teacher at Spokane's Lewis and Clark High School named Alonzo Pearle Troth. A 1936 publication by Joseph G. McMacken, also a Lewis and Clark High School Physics teacher, credited A.P. Troth with first thinking of the flood theory, though he acknowledges that the flood theory was first mentioned in print by Bretz.

“… the basis of the “Flood Theory,” first mentioned in print by Bretz. However one of the first suggestions of the “Flood Theory” was made by A.P. Troth, of the Lewis & Clark high-school, and if Bretz is the father of the scablands, surely Troth is the grandfather.” (McMacken, 1937)

Alonzo Troth was a zoology teacher and head of the natural science department at Lewis and Clark at the same time McMacken was the head of the physical science department. Troth’s theory could reasonably have been discussed with J H. Bretz through a mutual friend, Thomas Large, who was also a natural science teacher at Spokane’s Lewis and Clark High School, as shown in the attached yearbook records. Thomas Large has been described as a benefactor to Bretz and also worked with Bretz and J.T. Pardee in the scablands (Baker, 1995 and 2008).

Regardless, J H. Bretz stands by his notion that he came up with the theory of the Channeled Scablands while looking at one of the first topographic maps of the Quincy Basin. No matter who planted the seed of the “Flood Theory,” it was J Harlen Bretz that first published it and whose conviction and plethora of scientific work ultimately defended the theory against very strong opposition. This unquestionably makes J Harlen Bretz the father of scabland geology.

Images

Faculty Photo from June 1934 Yearbook

Faculty Photo from June 1934 Yearbook

Names are not provided, so we are not sure that AP Troth is in the photograph, but this is what the Lewis and Clark High School faculty looked like during the second class of 1934. Prior to 1942 there were two graduating classes, one in January and the second in June. | Source: Lewis and Clark High School Year Books, Spokane Public Schools Yearbook Archive http://www.spokaneschools.org/Page/334 View File Details Page

Faculty Roll from Lewis and Clark HS in June of 1934

Faculty Roll from Lewis and Clark HS in June of 1934

A.P. Troth is listed as head of the Botany and General Sciences, Thomas Large is listed under Zoology, and J. G. McMacken is listed as Head of the Physics Department. | Source: Lewis and Clark High School Year Books, Spokane Public Schools Yearbook Archive http://www.spokaneschools.org/Page/334 View File Details Page

Faculty List from yearbook for  January class of 1936.

Faculty List from yearbook for January class of 1936.

A.P. Troth, Thomas Large and J.G. McMacken are all listed as faculty members at Lewis and Clark High School. Troth and McMacken are both head of their department. This is from the year that McMacken published the referenced paper for this story. | Source: Lewis and Clark High School Year Books, Spokane Public Schools Yearbook Archive http://www.spokaneschools.org/Page/334 View File Details Page

Photo of Male Faculty from Lewis and Clark HS from June 1936 Yearbook.

Photo of Male Faculty from Lewis and Clark HS from June 1936 Yearbook.

Thomas Large is circled in red. A.P. Troth is present on the Faculty Roll, but not in this faculty photo. | Source: Lewis and Clark High School Year Books, Spokane Public Schools Yearbook Archive http://www.spokaneschools.org/Page/334 View File Details Page

Selected Lewis and Clark HS Faculty Photos from 1939.

Selected Lewis and Clark HS Faculty Photos from 1939.

A review of yearbooks found no photographs of A.P. Troth, though a few of the yearbooks showed Thomas Large, who was known to have worked with J Harlen Bretz prior to first publication of the scabland theory in 1923. | Source: Lewis and Clark High School Year Books, Spokane Public Schools Yearbook Archive http://www.spokaneschools.org/Page/334 View File Details Page

Faculty Roll from Lewis and Clark HS in 1942

Faculty Roll from Lewis and Clark HS in 1942

A.P. Troth is still listed as head of the natural sciences but both T. Large and J.P. McMaken are absent from the roll. | Source: Lewis and Clark High School Year Books, Spokane Public Schools Yearbook Archive http://www.spokaneschools.org/Page/334 View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Chad Pritchard & Larry Cebula, “Was it a Spokane High School Teacher who Solved the Riddle of the Ice Age Floods? ,” Ice Age Floods Explorer, accessed October 22, 2017, http://floodexplorer.org/items/show/34.

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