Sunday, January 23, 2011


Noxon, circa 1907, No. 2 Charles Maynard's home; No. 3. NPRR water tank; No. 4. NPRR Sectionhouse; No. 5. Clifford Weare's Post and Poles Store; No. 6. Charlie Maynard's Noxon Bar; No. 7. NPRR Depot; No. 8 Mrs. Baxter's Noxon Hotel; No. 9 Ellis Store (Buck's General Merchandise Store); No. 10. Thomas Evan's ranch house; No. 11. U.S. Ranger Station located there later; No. 12. 1st Noxon School; No. 13. Thomas Evans' place; No. 14. xxx; No. 15. George Buck's house; No. 16. Grandma Ellis' house. Courtesy Granville and Pauline Gordon collection.
Following the 1910 fire valley life continued to be comprised of everyday events. Fall rains turned the ashes into mud that clung to the shoes of school children. Soon winter brought its ermine mantle to create beautiful scenes of even the dead black snags covering the mountainsides. Hunting was less productive than previously and many dinners were meatless. But largely the inhabitants seemed unaware of the greater changes as people generally are while life is woven tightly around them.
William and Ura Ellis were owners in the company store in Noxon (founded by Huffman). They sold out to George Buck in 1911. William then took up forestry and Ura homesteaded on the north side of the Clark's Fork River. Nettie Huffman was the traditional radiant bride as she wed William Ellis January 23, 1911.1. William became Forest Ranger at Trout Creek 2.

Joe and Myrtle (Ellis) Hammons also homesteaded on the north side of the river, building their house at the base of the high rock bluffs about four miles west of Noxon, approximately a mile farther from town than Ura and Pearl (Huffman) Ellis. William and Nettie often rode horseback together over the countryside and visited their relatives, Ura, and the Saints, Huffmans, and Hammons.

Meanwhile, Noxon residents were involved in securing permission to pipe water from from the NPRR railroad's water tank on Pilgrim Creek to the schoolhouse. Permission was granted in September, in time to get the pipe line dug in before winter.3.

The happy couples attending a dance in Wagner's Hall Monday night (Labor Day) congratulated themselves on the accomplishment and discussed, also, the completion of the railroad's new half mile spur to the Western Montana Lumber Company's sawmill. They danced and visited into the wee hours as their little toddlers, one after another, succumbed to sleep amid a welter of coats piled on the long benches placed along the walls of the hall for seating.

Convicts from the state prison at Deer Lodge were being used as laborers, to build a road between Plains, Montana and Cabinet, Idaho, but the work hadn't progressed to Noxon. The dancers had only wagon roads and narrow trails to travel with the horses they fed, watered and curried each day. People outside the valley who had automobiles and were wanting to vacation in Montana were still dependent on the railroad to haul them from Sandpoint, Idaho to Missoula, Montana enroute to vacationing in Yellowstone Park. A through road for automobiles was still years away from completion. As yet no one of authority in the county felt it was necessary.

The railroad depot, logging boom, saloon and hotel kept the little settlement of Noxon lively enough. The 'Dinky', or 'Galloping Goose', as local people referred to it, provided easy transportation between the small towns, but only on its routine schedule once each way every day. In between times people walked or rode horseback. The young sports concocted rigging that attached to a bicycle, creating something that could be ridden on the railroad tracks. The railroad frowned on it but the daring young men just laughed and used it anyway.

Main Stree of Noxon looking west, early 1900s. NPRR water tank. courtesy William Finnigan collection.
Getting water was even more difficult than traveling around. The children in town found a paying enterprise carrying buckets of water for people, and to Comstock's saloon where they were given a nickel a bucket.

Housewives could also get water from Don Maynard's water-delivery route. Maynard used two barrels to haul water from Pilgrim Creek with a team and sled, or a wagon in summer for homemakers who could afford it and to the businesses.4. People stored water in barrels or in cisterns dug into the ground, as a rule having from two to six of them. They were usually near the back door of the house. Water was dumped into them to be bucketed out as needed.
Lucy Jenkins said, "In summertime it got so stale it'd almost gag you. About the only time you could relish a good cold drink was when he'd (Maynard) first deliver it. In the wintertime they'd (cisterns) freeze. We'd get out and bore a hole in it and take a saw and saw the ice out. Or we used a hand axe to break a hole in it."5.
Laundry and bath water was generally rainwater from the roof caught in barrels set for the purpose. Or from snow melted in the water reservoir of the kitchen stove or in a copper boiler or washtub set on top of the stove. Saturday was generally considered bath day with each family following their own dictates.

While the Forest Service diligently went about solving its problems, settlers moving into the area faced their own problems and solved each in whatever way they could. Not only those living in the Bull River valley, but all up and down the Clark's Fork, had to combat mosquitoes. The Sanders County Independent Ledger told its readers,
"In New Jersey where mosquitoes are of a large variety and frequently annoy automobilists by puncturing the tires on their bubbles, the chauffeur carries a sawed off shotgun loaded with salt, but out here the 'skeets' are of a very inferior quality and shooting irons are seldom used."
The editor published the following solutions,
"One ounce of citronella, one ounce of Spirits of Camphor and one half ounce of oil of cedar, shaken well. A few drops on a bath towel hung over the bed will keep em away. Where they are abundant and persistent a few drops rubbed on the face and hands will suffice.
"Pyrethrum powders (a Chrysanthemum flower powder), mimms culcide, sulphur, jimson weed or dried orange peel may be burned in the house with good effect. Remedies for bites: moist soap or whiskey rubbed gently and externally on the puncture. In using the latter remedy care should be taken to avoid internal application."6.
Farmers were encouraged to wax war on Columbian ground squirrels (gophers);
" ... add to one gallon of flour, one cup of salt, one cup of sugar, one ounce pulverized strychnine. Mix well together and use enough water to make a thick paste, or batter as for pancakes. Put about a tablespoon down each hole..."
The gopher, being tidy about his feet, would lick them and be poisoned.

* * * * *

Steam donkey used to move logs in the
mountains. Circa early 1900s.
The Humbird Logging Company ended their activities in Gold Creek in 1911, and vacated the railroad they'd built there. Weare had a carload of sixty-foot poles from Rock Creek to haul out and ship to Elkhart, Indiana when his teamster got drunk. It made Weare mad so he bought his own team from Jay McGowan at Plains, fired the teamster and hired another man.

Mrs. Baxter (Lena) had brought a prize chicken from eastern Montana, which she kept in her chicken coop not far from her cabin on Pilgrim Creek. While she was at the hotel in Noxon one afternoon several young guys stole it and ate it. The thieves didn't fare so well when they tried the same thing with Mrs. St. Clair, also on Pilgrim Creek. She emptied a .44 calibreWinchester into the door of her chicken coop the night she heard prowlers. The next day a bag with three dead chickens was found inside but no one had been shot. Joe Hartman was sheriff then and she reported it to his deputy, Clifford Weare. Chicken stealing was a prevalent pastime in the valley and nothing much was ever done about it.

Weare had a more serious problem to attend to when Granny Gordon found a man in the road who had been knocked in the head and left for dead. Granny drew the victim behind a big tree, and then went to get Weare. After getting help for the unfortunate fellow Weare hired Jim Finnigan and Don Maynard to help hunt the culprits in the brush at Heron. They learned the bandits had flagged a train down and made a run for it. They caught them at Cabinet and took them by train to jail in Thompson Falls.7.

Until Weare lost the post office appointment, whenever local residents returned home from a trip out of the valley and got off the Northern Pacific passenger train at midnight wanted to pick up their mail rather than have to make a trip back into town for it they simply pounded on the door at the Post and Poles Store where the post office was located. Weare, whose wife, Ethel, was then postmistress, would get up and get their mail for them. It was considered just one of the services to be provided by the postmaster.7.

The town also had its share of 'characters' and Bob Crosby was one of the local men well known for his drinking habits. Bob, an old cedar post maker, had a clubfoot acquired in a logjam on a river drive.
"He'd get drunk, put his hat on one of the stumps scattered around town and talk and yell or preach one of the damndest sermons you ever heard at it, until he fell exhausted to the ground."8.
One night, Weare was roused about four a.m. by someone pounding urgently on the door. Pulling trousers on over his long johns, he hurried down the stairs and found a man, very excited, standing there. The man explained that he was camped a little ways off with his wife and three children in a tent and that there was a crazy man out in front of his tent.
"I went up with him, not knowing who it was," Weare said. "I thought maybe it was some transient but there was old Bob, drunk and thinking that the tent had kicked him and wanting to kick it back. And all the while there sat that woman with a shotgun. If Bob'd started over there she'd a shot him, protecting her three kids like she was.
"I convinced Bob to come home with me and explained to the woman that he was just a harmless drunk who had the tremors and was imagining things."
William Finnigan's Noxon Bar. Circa 1912. Courtesy William Finnigan collection.
 * * * * *
After helping his father make 150 cord of wood Ira B. "Strawberry" Bartholomew returned to Noxon following the 1910 fire. He'd earned his nickname by bringing two or three cases of strawberries each week from his father's place near Sandpoint, Idaho to Meyers King. King worked out of Clark's Fork and Strawberry held a job with him as 'hooker'. (A hooker was responsible for properly securing a logging chain around the logs to be skidded by the teamster with the horses.)

Party time at Noxon. Circa 1910-1918. Don Maynard and Nettie Hazelroth are in this photo. The rest are unidentified but are believed to include Marineus Larson and Madelaine Brown. Courtesy William Finnigan collection.
Strawberry took a job in Montana with Dufort Brothers making ties and cordwood. Following that he turned cants in a sawmill on Martin Creek. For a time he drove team getting out Whitepine and cedar logs. He spent his life 'in the woods', as logging was called, handling easily any of the variety of jobs required in a logging operation.9.

Don Maynard, another of the men who came as a 1910 fire fighter stayed around Noxon, working in his dad's bar, in the woods, and on the annual log drives, and delivering water. He courted then married pretty Nettie Hazelroth, whose father worked on the railroad and also had restaurants in Idaho.10.

William and Nettie Ellis moved to the Bull River valley, making their way over the wagon road before the 1912 spring thaw could soften the ground into an impassible quagmire. They homesteaded on  at the mouth of Copper Creek. Homesteading seemed more profitable and agreeable than the forest service, doing the same hard work to clear the burned over land, but for land they owned themselves instead of on government land.

Ruth and Charles Thompson, 1914. Courtesy Hazel
and Howard Ellinwood collection.
Hazel, a niece of Emmett and Annie Thomson, had married Howard Ellinwood in Ohio. They started for Montana the first of March 1912 by train. Hazel's Uncle Emmett was station agent at East Helena at that time and they stayed with them.

In May, Ellinwood, Thomson and his son, Lloyd, went to Libby to look for land to homestead. Then they went up Bull River where Ranger Granny Gordon showed Emmett a place on Bull River where the 1910 fire had burned the timber off. The Thomsons and Ellinwood went to the county seat at Thomspon Falls and each filed to homestead 160 acres, Emmett filing on the north side of Bull River, about eight miles from Noxon. Ellinwood filed about sixteen miles from Noxon on land along the southbanks of Bull River."11.

Thomson became the railroad station agent in Noxon and settled in to develop his homestead. He used a 'ducksfoot' (sort of like a plow, popular in the palouse country of eastern Washington) to gouge up the whole flat and plant it to mammoth clover.
"You never seen a prettier field of clover in your life that first year. After the fire the ground was all ash," Frank Berray said.
"Thomson thought he had the world by the tail on a downhill pull. So he got everybody he could get to come down and homestead some land. This included Pilick and Watsons, from east Helena, who were working in the smelter. All but Pilick, he was a railroad man. Henry Mayer come on his own hook. He bought out Buck Vogle who'd homesteaded up Dry Creek. We called him 'Buck' because he wore a six-shooter strapped on. Mayer gave him $500 for his relinquishment on his homestead."12.

Crop of clover grown on Bull River, circa May 1916. Courtesy Hazel and Howard Ellinwood collection.
By 1912, when Mrs. Ellinwood arrived at Noxon the Smead's ferry was no longer there. Mrs. Ellinwood recalled crossing the ferry at Noxon.
"You crossed the tracks in Noxon near the depot to the river, turned east a short distance and got on the ferry." On the north shore of the river, "You hit the Lewis and Clark trail, the old Kootenai Indian trail, and went west on it. Lewis and Clark's cabin was still there." (The cabin, recalled by another settler to be there in very early years, was probably a fur trappers trading station about a mile west of the ferry landing on the north side of the river where a small creek flows.)
"Howard had told me that we would live on a county road on Bull Run (river). We hit this trail. It was pretty rocky. After we had traveled quite a distance I asked him when we would hit the county road.
"'Why, this is it,' he replied."
Noxon Ferry, October 13, 1914. "x" marks the northbank landing. Hazel and Howard Ellinwood collection.
The newlyweds moved into the little log Horse Thief Ranger station (which was most likely a building left from the time of the Great Northern Tote Road) while they built on their homestead a couple of miles downstream on Bull River - sixteen miles from the Noxon ferry. Ellinwood built a water wheel from poles and lumber and powered machinery to cut lumber. Then he built a log barn, root cellar, and a chicken house and began clearing six acres of land. He nailed six-foot-high slats to thin rails, fencing deer out of their garden plot; hand-spaded in the rich virgin soil. It was close enough to Bull River to bucket water to the beans, corn, spuds, lettuce and other vegetables that flourished in the mild summer climate.11.

When supplies were needed from Noxon Howard got out the harness and hitched the team to his log wagon and headed out on the trail to town, taking two days for the round trip.

The water-powered wheel Hoard Ellinwood built
on Star Gulch at his Bull River homestead. Using
this, he cut lumber and slats for his buildings.
Courtesy Hazel and Howard Ellinwood collection.

Lovely Irene Bauer, daughter of John and Stella Jane, had wed Gardner. They also took up a homestead, settling on the first place up Bull River above the Beason grade on land just below a deep wide bend in the river that cut into the base of high rock bluffs. Their son, George, was born in Tuscor in 1907. But while George was just a tyke, his father passed away so George spent a lot of time in company with Loren King. As the Bauer family grew and expanded, they gathered often to work and play together so George had plenty of cousins to grow up with. The grandparents, Stella and John, always setting an example of friendliness and helpfulness to anyone who came along.13.

Settlers were beginning to feel the wear and tear of the constant struggle to succeed.

Or they found it financially more rewarding to sell the land they'd acquired and move where business and culture were more established. For a myriad of reasons people began leaving and relinquishment notices began to appear in the newspapers.
"I will relinquish my homestead right of 160 acres (so many miles from town); land is all level, an ideal place for raising cattle and alfalfa, 20 acres cleared, ten acres seeded on hay, nice young orchard, big log cabin 18'x24'; barn 18'x34', room for hay overhead; one team weighing 2600 lbs; one No. 1 sleigh; 15 chickens; one hog and all kinds of small tools and all household to go with the place. Lots of water for irrigation. I will relinquish cheap for cash", were typical advertisements.14.
(insert picture)
Caption: A view looking north up Bull River. Taken above the mouth of the river in the late 1880s. Courtesy Maxine Higgins Laughlin collection.

One interesting 'small tool' that originated in the Palouse country of Washington had become staple on many homesteads. It consisted of a tin coffee can with baling wire handle. Inside a candle was positioned (either in wax drippings or through a hole bored for the purpose) to reflect light from the mirror-like surface of the bottom of the can.

Howard Ellinwood and his horse, May. March 1916. Hazel and Howard Ellinwood collection.
A serious problem confronted young and old alike when "notice was posted that the NP 'dinkey' would be discontinued after Sunday (March 17, 1914). This train ... being used largely by ranchers of the surrounding country." A rousing protest began beseeching the railroad not to take the action being favored by Sandpoint.
"We have all become so accustomed to the conveniences of this accommodation train that it now seems almost impossible to get along without it. We sincerely hope the NP officials may see the 'folly of their ways' and keep the 'Dinkey dinkeying'."15.
When this failed, a public meeting was demanded of the State Railroad and Public Service Commissioners, to hear protests. On April 3 settlers complained,
"It has been of inestimable convenience - if you want to stop at any of the towns, sidings, or any reasonable place, the 'dinkey' does it for you; if anyone down the line is sick the doctor can go post haste. Very few of the other trains stop at any of the smaller towns and without the 'dinkey' it is impossible for people to come to the county seat, transact business, and return home the same day."
George Buck testified at the hearing that the 'Dinkey' was the only trains that could be absolutely relied upon. Beef shipping from Alger's spur and mining interests at Whitepine were also presented as requisites to keep the trains.16. The commissioners denied the railroad's request to discontinue trains #305 and #306. What made them reverse their decision on December 15, 1914 should be in the State Railroad and Public Service Commissioners records. The Dinkey was withdrawn.17.

* * * * *
July 4, 1914 was looked forward to eagerly. The Noxon settlers had the following special message printed in the Sanders County Ledger June 26:
"Arrangements are now complete for a Fourth of July celebration at Noxon. Much as our citizens would like to attend the celebration at the county seat, they feel unable to leave their dairies and gardens for even one day at this season of the year.
"The celebration here will be in the nature of an old-fashioned picnic. Every family is asked to bring a lunch basket and spread a cloth underneath the magnificent trees on Pilgrim creek. No free dinner will be served, as it was last year, because of the labor it devolves upon the good house wives (sic) who already have more than their share of labor.
"A short appropriate program will be rendered in the forenoon. The afternoon will be given over to races and other sports; the evening to dancing and a display of fireworks.
"Everybody - especially everybody in the extreme western section of the county - is cordially invited to celebrate at Noxon."

Noxon community picnic, circa early 1900s. Courtesy Clayton Bauer Collection.
Frank Berray, with his parents and family, enjoyed the festivities, and then they left to work for the forest service over on Thompson River. Two weeks later his parent's home on Bull River caught fire, right during haying season. "They lost everything. Didn't save a nickels worth," Frank said.

Cap and Julia moved back into the cabin next to Cap's brother Jim while work was rushed on the new log house they had started building near the north end of their ranch. Frank came home to help them so they could get moved into it before winter, but it was far from finished. "It was pretty cold that winter, I'll tell you," Frank said.

(insert picture)
Caption: George Gardner and Loren Kin. Circa 1909-1910. Courtesy Clayton Bauer collection.

The July 31, 1914 headlines were ominous. War had been declared. Uncertainty gripped the little valley of homesteaders. Everywhere folks met it was the foremost subject of conversation. The railroad was their only link to supplies, doctors, and relatives. Their anxiety lessened somewhat when the railroad employed Urie (sic) Ellis as night watchman when the engines were 'tied up' on the sidings at Noxon for the night. NPRR night guards were armed.

Clifford Weare took up a homestead on the north side of the river about four miles downstream from the Noxon ferry crossing. Several others, among them Jess Beason, Charlie Munson, and Gorbett, had attempted to homestead that piece of land before him. The forest service had 'talked' them off of it.
"I loaded up the lumber in the evening. George Jamison helped me and we came over next morning. We cut some trees, laid some logs down, laid the floor on and started putting the two by fours (2"x4" boards) up. George was the worst carpenter you ever seen in your life.
"He was nailing the boards on and walking on this two-by-four that was around the outside and he kept bending it down all the time so it was just a big circle, instead of getting in the middle and nailing it so it wouldn't settle.
"But we built it enough to stay in that night. I just stood some boards up, you know, a peaked roof, put some tar paper on the inside, some lathe to hold the tar paper on. Single boards only. The wife drove the team and got over there about nine o'clock (that morning.)18.
 Frieda (Weare) Ulrick recalled the move and their new house.
"When I was about eight or nine years old Papa moved us to the chicken coop near what was to be our new house location.
"The barn was built and the chicken coop was near it. It had no windows in it. And of course the barn supports a lively fly population. Every morning when we'd wake up, despite strips of flypaper, the ceiling was just black with flies. Mama would give each of us children a handful of flour and instruct us to fling it up to the ceiling while she struck a match to ignite it. That way we singed and killed millions of flys that year while our house was being built."19.
Clifford and Ethel Weare's family, circa 1913. Frieda (6 1/2), Marian (5), and Clifford A. 'Buster' (born January 2, 1910.) Their dog, 'Penny.' Courtesy Clayton Bauer collection.
For a while Jamison helped Weare clear off the upper bench of the homestead, along the road.
"Soon here come the Ranger, Clark, walking over from Noxon," Weare said.
"He said I didn't get no permit. I told him I didn't want a permit and by golly they weren't going to run me off, too.
"Clark said, 'I hate to see you getting into trouble but they're going to arrest you if you stay.'
"While we was outside talking the wife hollered dinner so I said 'C'mon in and have dinner and then I'll see you in jail.' So he came in and ate dinner and we talked some more and when he got ready to go I said, 'Well, I'll ask you, what would you do if you was me?
 "'Don't say anything,' he says, 'but I'd do just what you're doing.' He never came back."18.

  1. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 1911.
  2. Cabinet Forest Quarterly Journal 1911.
  3. Sanders County Independent Ledger and NPRR records.
  4. Don Maynard, tape-recorded oral history.
  5. Lucy Jenkins, tape-recorded oral history.
  6. Sanders County Independent Ledger, July 1, 1911.
  7. Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history.
  8. Clayton Bauers, tape-recorded oral history.
  9. Ira B. "Strawberry" Bartholomew married Ethel Fulk Greer. The Bartholomews became prominent in the towns development. Strawberry lived and logged in the area until age forced his retirement in the 1960's. After Ethel died, following a long illness that kept her in Sandpoint Manor, Sandpoint, Idaho, Strawberry lived at their home in Noxon until an he was injured when a passenger in a automobile accident. He then went to live with Ruby, Ethel's sister in Red Lodge, Montana until his death.
  10. Billie Finnigan, interview, June 13, 1986. In later years Don Maynard moved to Clark's Fork, Idaho. He became a State Senator working hard to improve life for his constituents. One of his lifelong hobbies was collecting beer bottle and can labels from all over the world).
  11. Letters from Hazel Ellinwood and her daughters, Gladys E. Marine and Sally Robertson.
  12. Frank Berray, tape-recorded oral history, 1970.
  13. Clayton Bauer, tape-recorded oral history.
  14. Sheila Creighton Graeber, oral history, June 13, 1986. George Gardner married Sheila Creighton who had remained at Noxon, hired by Clayton Bauer to stay with his aging mother after Creighton's left. George became the first county roadman to plow snow on the road built up Bull River. Sheila became Post Mistress after Goldie Greer Dobravec retired.
  15. Sanders County Independent Ledger, 1914.
  16. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March, 1914.
  17. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April, 1914.
  18. Sanders County Independent Ledger, December, 1914.
  19. Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history, 1970.
  20. Frieda Weare Ulrick, tape-recorded oral history, 1979.


  1. Thank you for insight into my family. Clifford R. Weare is my Great-grandfather. I had the chance to meet him when I was about 15 years old or so at his home. My Grandfather (Neal) whom I am named after, died long before I was born, so I never knew him. I don't see him (Neal) mentioned in this piece. I will continue to read your other articles for more insight into my family tree. Thank you for sharing this with me and others. Yours Truly, Neal D. Weare Wisconsin.

    1. Neal

      I'm honored to learn my history has reached a descendant of my old friend, C.R. Weare! Yes, there is a super abundance of information about C.R. in the three volumes of Behind These Mountains. However, if you're interested, I once sifted out the majority of C.R.s activities and published them in a small47-page booklet titled "SANDERS COUNTY'S UNCOMMON SETTLER, CLIFFORD R. WEARE: Staunch friend or implacable enemy."
      You can find my contact information at,

    2. Neal Weare is mentioned in Chapters 7, 13, and 15 of Volume 1. Thanks for correct spelling of his name. I'm sorry, but I believe it's mispelled, Neil in the print edition and this online edition.

      Mona Leeson Vanek

  2. Love Reading about my family and the pictures are a God send! can you tell me how and where Henry M. Raynor was murdered in 1924 Harriet was his wife

    1. Cindy,

      Thanks for your kind words. Please contact me privately,

      Mona Leeson Vanek