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Gonzaga University was founded in 1887 by Italian-American Joseph Cataldo (1837– 1928), who had come in 1865 as a Jesuit missionary to the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. In 1880 Cataldo built a schoolhouse about 10 to 12 mi (16 to 19 km) northeast of Spokane on the Peone Prairie, to serve children of the Upper Spokane Indians. Cataldo was concerned about the influence and expansion of Protestant schools on the region's native people, and by 1881 was discussing building a Jesuit college with other Jesuit leaders. The location at Spokane Falls (later Spokane) was chosen due to its centrality in the Washington, Idaho and Montana region. The Jesuits purchased 320 acres of prime real estate in the city's central business district north of the Spokane river for $936. The land had been reserved by the Northern Pacific Railway but Cataldo was able to convince railroad executive John W. Sprague to allow the sale for the purpose of building the school. :31–38 The City of Spokane offered to help pay to build the new college, on the condition that it be a whites only school, in spite of Cataldo's original purpose to educate the local native population. Cataldo's letters seeking the support Church leadership in Rome warned that Methodists and other Protestants were building schools and that the City funding could go to them if the Catholic school was not built soon enough.