Sunday, January 23, 2011

MEETING COMMUNITY NEEDS


Howard Ellinwood and his dog on his Bull River homestead. May 1916. Courtesy Howard and Hazel Ellinwood collection.
The editor of the Sanders County Independent Ledger began 1916 trying to drum up interest in promoting legislative action intended to improve the "cultural climate" of the area.

Using the oratory style of the day he wrote,
"The country home! What shall it be? Just what we make it. How could it be otherwise? For 40 years we have been building country homes. But we have been dealing with a pioneer people, a hetrogeneous mass of humanity, men and women of every walk in life and every quarter of the globe, have essayed the building of the Montana country home. But we have been remote from market, remote from the sea board, remote from the great centers of art and culture, and our bards have been few...."
With Sanders county lacking "things to enthuse and inspire... it has been hard to awaken the love of country in the hearts of our more fortunate, and the poor... trudge on in the old way (unable) to take the bull by the horns..."
The more affluent sold their possessions, taking all their money "away to some tropical land to build up the interests there."
Since the beginning Montana "struggled against this condition," he continued. While the majority of those who "made their pile" hurried away with their gold "the less fortunate of the gold diggers moved down out of the gulches where gold was found and commenced to build rural homes in the valleys... almost forced to turn to the soil."

Ellinwood homestead, May 1916. Note the broom at the door, coat on peg, and milk pails on fence slats, typical of Bull River valley homesteads. Courtesy Howard and Hazel Ellinwood collection.

The Ellinwood's barn on their homestead in the Bull River valley in Sanders County, Montana. Courtesy Howard and Hazel Ellinwood collection.

Hazel Ellinwood feeding her chickens just before leaving to go to a dance, May 1916. Courtesy Howard and Hazel Ellinwood collection.
"Many of our population today pretend to think that Montana's pioneers were cattle men and sheep men, but the truth is they were placer miners, the men who dug the yellow dust from our gulches." Some men were "faithful", he said, staying until they died. "Great men and developers sleep in every graveyard...." but others had left to "colonized on some seashore in the southland," he wrote.
Irene, Gladys, and Alice Ellinwood on the back porch of homestead in Bull River valley. May 26, 1917. Courtesy Howard and Hazel Ellinwood collection.

Hazel Ellinwood and daughters, Irene
and Grace. Courtesy Ruth Mercer
McBee collection.
The editor was doing his best to promote support for the playground bill for the reclamation districts.
"In the old settled valleys we must provide a fund .... every school district must have a pleasure and playground. Every rural school must be provided with an auditorium room, a general purpose hall for speaking, dancing and winter feasting. This may also be used for school purposes. We must build up the rural school, build up the grounds and the premises..." and poetry and song "... will follow in its wake."
With "three and a half million acres of land below the ditch in our dear land, Montana, where the loveliest of playgrounds may be built", the editor claimed "the national congress having set the example it is now up to the Montana legislature to come to the rescue.... we hope to have (all) the people demand it for their demands will not be ignored. We are going to make the rural home more attractive than it is ..."1.
Ellinwood daughters, Irene (born January 13, 1914)
and Gladys (born January 1, 1916). At Bull River
homestead, January 1918. Courtesy Howard and
Hazel Ellinwood collection.
Culture and civic organizations flourished in Noxon with opportunities aplenty to congregate in the snow bound mountains. Christian Endeavor Society meetings were Sunday evenings. Their leader, Mrs. Lang, did her best to make them interesting and valuable. In addition to leading the discussion on the playground bill she passed around a clipping advising the ladies to,
"remove a blood stain made by a pricked finger on any silk material place about four inches of white sewing silk in the mouth and moisten. Then roll into a ball and rub the spot gently, and the stain will disappear as if by magic."2.




Margery and Stewart Hampton.
Circa 1914. Courtesy Stewart and
Agnes Hampton collection.
Fanny Hampton worked with other Christian Endeavor Society members decorating Peek's hall to hostess a Friday evening party. It was a merry evening spent playing a variety of games until their 10 o'clock supper before adjournment.3.

The Sunday school was divided into the two sections, the "Reds" and "Blues", to work for new members and better attendance. The "Blues" won by gaining the most new members thereby making a higher attendance record. They were rewarded with a Saturday afternoon party given by the "Reds". Games were played and a delicious dinner served. Attendance increased more than 50 percent.

The Noxon Civic League met Friday evenings at the schoolhouse. C. L. Baldwin, president; Mrs. John Lang, vice-president; Mary Hampton, secretary; Miss Amber Divers, treasurer; Mr. Peterson, attorney; Willie Fulks, sergeant-at-arms were the elected officers; Mrs. Lang, Mrs. Anderson and Miss Goldie Fulks were appointed on the program committee.4.

Debate of pre-selected topics was the highlight of the evening. "Resolved that the world is growing better", with C. A. Baldwin and Adrian Ellis the affirmative speakers while Bryant Bunn and Mrs. Anderson took the negative side of the question. The judges' decision favored the affirmative.5.

In mid February the question under debate was "Resolved that it is wrong for the United States to furnish munitions of war in the belligerent nations." Considering these important issues of the day, when the local population was made up of a variety of nationalities, gave outlet in an orderly fashion to divergent points of view. The society also worked together for community improvements such as getting new lights for the schoolhouse.6.

Stewart Hampton, Bert (a cousin), Stewart's sister Margery, and cousins Rose and Art Hampton (Ed and Katie Hampton's children). Circa 1917. Courtesy Stewart and Agnes Hampton collection.
The Bull River Boosters club had their good times, holding dances in the Pilik schoolhouse. Talk began there of getting a second school located further up the remote valley for children who lived too far away to make their way through the deep winter snow to the Pilik school.7.

A new thrilling entertainment came to Thompson Falls that began changing the culture of the valley, opening wide vistas in the daydreams and aspirations of the residents. The Purple Ray Theatre began showing silent movies or "flickers" as they were soon called. Everyone who could come up with the admission prices of 50 cents adults, 25 cents children, enthusiastically attended "Hypocrites", "The Perfectly Formed Woman", "Neptunes Daughter", "The Christian", and Hall Caine's masterpiece, produced in eight reels by Vitagraph. It was an exciting outing to board the train at Noxon, go to Thompson Falls, see the flickers and return following an overnight stay, most often with friends who lived there.8.

Before long everyone wanted, more than anything else, to go to Peek's hall to view the "moving picture show running there for three nights." Those who saw it rated it much better than the average road show which came to town infrequently.9.

Other festivities also kept the little town lively throughout the long winter months when, if heavy wet snow wasn't falling, likely it was down below freezing. Mrs. Ed Hampton gave a Saturday night party in honor of her son, George, "who is home on a visit." Most of the Noxon young folks were invited and at midnight a delicious lunch was served. After playing a few more games the party dispersed, hoping that George would make his visits oftener. Two guests, John Knutson and Beatrice Noel were also celebrating the diplomas they'd received as a result of the eighth grade examinations held at Noxon in January.

Irene and Harry Wilson homestead on Bull River, just below "Lime Point". Courtesy Clayton Bauer collection.

Geroge Gardner, Harry Wilson and Loren King. Courtesy James and Stella Bauer collection.
Mr. Buck hired Harry Tallmadge as clerk in his store. Mr. and Mrs. Jim Saint, knowing Harry was pretty keen on Miss Sarah LeBert, asked the young couple along on a winter sleigh trip up Bull River. The foursome formed a jolly party as they stopped at the Collogan ranch to visit and warm up on their way to visit Mrs. Saint's mother.

Soon after, Harry asked Sarah to become his bride. Most of the community celebrated their happiness as they teased the blushing bride. In a state of delirious happiness the young couple moved into a tiny cabin on Pilgrim Creek within walking distance from the store where Harry packaged orders, took good natured joshing from most of the men who came in, handed out mail, stocked shelves, and pumped water from the only private well in town at the time.10.

A few people had the winter sickness referred to as la grippe. Mrs. E. Lockman, Granville Gordon, Isabella Watson and Essie Thomson missed out on quite a few festivities before they recovered.

All too soon for the children whose laughter and shouts had rang over the sledding hills, school resumed after a two-week holiday vacation. They clustered around the beautiful and useful display cabinet recently arrived from the Royal Baking Powder company, viewing the product and learning the different steps in the manufacture of cream of tartar.11.

Mrs. Bessie Knott with her horse (Peggy) and buggy and friend, Mrs. Skinner. Courtesy Georgia Knott MacSpadden collection.
Cheers greeted the news that a new "victrola soundbox" had come from Orton Brothers in replacement of the old one which was lost in the mails enroute to be tested. Several new victrola records came, also, making a wide selection "ranging from "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," and "Folks Up Willow Creek," to the classics, such as "Miserie" from Il Trovatore, the "Second Hungarian Raphsody," and the "Sextette from Lucia."12.

The library received a good degree of interest. There were two new bookcases and several volumes of library books for the students.16. The school continued to increase what it offered to the town adding a
"first class library, which is used, both as a school and a public library. A library record book is kept, which insures the return of borrowed books."13.
The school was doing its utmost to educate the youngsters, not only in book learning, but in homemaking as well. In the short time since baking powder had been introduced to them they had mastered its use.
"In a cake contest held recently in the Noxon school, Ruth Hammons took first prize with a cake scoring 93 points. Mary Hampton received second prize with a cake grading 88 points, and Goldie Fulks third with a cake grading 86 point. The first prize was a cookbook, while the second and third prizes were cans of Royal baking powder. Six cakes were entered by the school girls, all of which were very good."14.
Debating wasn't just the domain of adults. The Blue Ribbon literary society of the school hosted a Friday afternoon debate on the topic: Washington did more for his country than Lincoln did. Solon Ellis and Arthur Hampton debated on the affirmative side against Goldie Fulks and Ruth Hammons. The girls won.15.

(insert picture)
Caption: George Gardner, Harry Wilson and Loren King. Courtesy James and Stella Bauer collection.

1916 was a leap year. Most of the same ladies who organized the church and civic activities wouldn't dream of missing this chance to hold a leap year dance, such opportunity coming only once every four years.

Of course the men joshed and teased them, but the ladies promised "the sterner sex a good time and extended an invitation to everybody to come February 12th." Numbers would be $1.00 for each lady who danced but supper, provided by the women, was free for all. Kelly's orchestra of Thompson Falls, the best music in Sanders county, was engaged.16.

Finally the day of anticipation arrived. A twisted streamer of pink and blue crepe paper, draped between bunches of pink paper flowers, complimented large black silhouettes of dancers decorating the walls. The happy crowd mingled, socializing and dancing, the colorful dresses swirling prettily. The deputy sheriff from Thompson Falls lingered throughout the evening, sometimes just inside or just outside the door. Businessmen from up and down the valley, members of the school board, trappers from up-country and lumberjacks formed the dancing ranks. Doubling the usual numbers were Northern Pacific railroad carpenters, who were in Noxon constructing an icehouse near the section house, and a good number of folks from across the western borders where prohibition was in force. Spirits weren't brought into the hall, but custom was obliged as this man or that invited his friends outside "for a nip." A few slipped away for a short time to transfer booze to suitcases or boxes that would make their way to Idaho or Washington eventually.

As midnight neared, ladies slipped to the far end of the room where tables were set up and pies, cakes and platters of sandwiches were being uncovered and arranged. Coffee was perked over a two burner gas stove and cups and plates waited in stacks beside napkins and silverware.

The supper waltz formed the dancers into couples who also shared the interval while everyone ate; husbands and wives, of course and especially those couples who were "steadys", the next thing to being engaged. Sarah and Harry Tallmadge were the most obviously happy couple on the floor. The orchestra, engaged to play until three a.m., played two-steps, rye waltzes, schottisches, squares and waltzes. Each pair who supped together danced the last dance a few minutes after three, swaying to "Goodnight Ladies" then, without pause for couples to change partners, "Auld Lang Syne".
The dance was a tremendous success, "without a doubt ... the best of the season. If there were any skeptics in Noxon, their skepticism is removed; they must admit that women can initiate a thing and make a success of it."17.
Following the success of the leap year dance, and given the incentive to attract Idahoans and Washingtonians, dances became increasingly elaborate entertainment. "The masked ball in Peek's hall ... was a successful affair. The usual clown, hobo, Jew, Dutchman, Little Red Riding Hood, hayseed and flower girl were there in excellent costumes, but the devil and the Indian were absent. The Kelly's of Thompson Falls supplied the music. Nearly all the dancing people of Bull river were seen at the dance.18.

Some who came up to Noxon on the train from Idaho ostensibly for the dance, also came for provisions of a special sort.19. Sandpoint was again a dry town.
"This time, however, Spokane to the west a couple of hours no longer offers the temptation to the thirsty mortal and the officers are backed by the most stringent law of its kind ever enacted." It was a safe bet that Sandpoint wouldn't be the wet-dry town that it was "under the operation of the local option law..."20.
As Noxon people traveled to Sandpoint to shop, visit or go to the doctor they saw for themselves that
"John Bode and the Wisconsin House have already adjusted themselves to the new order of things and dispense soft drinks" along with "his well known line of delicatessen." Berrine was the new drink.
The Majestic Bottling Company, Sandpoint supplier of the drinks sold on the Indian reservations for a large radius in the Inland Empire, where "the United States officials are exceedingly strict", supplied it.
"Beerine looks like beer, foams like beer, tastes like beer and is made after the same manner as beer, but alcoholically considered it conforms to the standards of the United States internal revenue. It is noticeable, however, that while many men were standing around, not many were indulging and one bartender was standing idly about where formerly three were on the jump."
The Wisconsin bar also served hot drinks of clam juice broth, tomato bouillon, oyster cocktail and similar soda fountain delicacies. The Exchange bar and Billy Abbot's were closed tight and didn't plan to reopen. The Palace hotel bar was also "making no attempt to fall in line with the new drinks."21.

Slim Smith, mary Hampton, Stella Gordon and Elmer Angst. Circa 1915-16. Courtesy Clayton Bauer collection.
Montanans were capitalizing on the opportunity so close at hand. "Reports from Butte state that Montana people are taking steps to erect a $15,000 hotel at Heron, the nearest station to the Idaho line on the Northern Pacific. The theory back of the propsal is that it will furnish a supply of liquor closest to the "dry" states of Washington and Idaho, from which supplies can be shipped into Spokane by the permit system.
"It is also being planned for a resort on the principle of the old saloons in the frontier towns which bore a sign "first chance" on one side and "last chance" on the other.22. The state of Idaho was "as dry as Death Valley in July, and Montana is the oasis visited by the dry ones, who after extinguishing the fire in their own throats proceed to carry off all the refreshments possible.
"Walter Stacy and John Ordie, lumberjacks, were arrested in Sandpoint last week as they stepped from NPRR train No. 41, by Deputy Sheriffs Mulcahey and Spoor." They were arraigned in probate court on the charge of "transporting, receiving and having in possession" certain intoxicating liquor known as whiskey.23.
Stacy, when apprehended, had a gallon jug, three quart bottles and a pint bottle of whiskey. Ordie had two quarts and a pint bottle of the same. "Stacy is said to be an old offender, his actions under the former local option regime subjecting him to some suspicion...."

He'd made four trips into Sandpoint from Noxon already this year. The police didn't believe Ordie was a regular bootlegger, but thought he had the stuff simply for himself and friends.
"The law makes no distinction, however, and each man is subject to a minimum punishment of $50 fine and 30 days in jail, while, at his discretion, the judge may impose a fine as high as $500 and a jail sentence of six months. A second offense under the law is a felony and conviction means a penitentiary term."23.
 Within two weeks the paper was telling its readers,
"The prohibition law in the state of Washington seems to be a joke; anyway it does not prohibit very fast. Every day liquor of all kinds is being taken from Thompson Falls, Heron, Monson (sic-Noxon) and other towns in Montana into Washington. It is carried in pockets, suit cases and sent by express or freight.
"No blame or reflection can be cast upon the liquor dealers of Montana and Sanders County. They have the goods to sell, and would just as soon sell to a man from Washington as any other place. But it goes to show that the prohibition law now in force in the state of Washington fails in its purpose."24.
Any person, of age, could get a permit for 25 cents allowing them twelve quarts of beer and two quarts of whisky from Montana. Another permit could be had after twenty days.
"Spokane reports an average of 70 liquor permits being sold every day, which means 150 quarts of hard liquor ... a quantity of joy water sufficient to put several hundred men 'three sheets to the wind.'"
"The question has been put...whether the Ledger was "wet" or "dry". Most of the people who read it declare it to be mighty dry, but from now on we will try and add a few wee drops of joy, with a little ginger. However, we will so far declare ourselves as unfavorable to any halfway business, such as has been framed up in Washington. If the majority of the people of a state want prohibition, let them pass a law that will prohibit - if it be possible - and not one that invites the people who drink to buy their booze by the quart.
"Idaho has such a law, which makes it a felony to even have liquor in one's possession...."24. Idaho's prohibition was an economic boon to Will Finnigan who purchased a new $100 diamond disc Edison phonograph for the enjoyment of the patrons of his saloon on the cold winter nights. In addition to his saloon business, Finnigan began "running a sort of sled factory" making three large sleds, "two of which have been sold and one is now for sale."25.
FOOTNOTES
  1. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 7, 1916.
  2. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 7, 1916, Woman's Home Companion.
  3. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 4, 1916.
  4. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 14 and 28, 1916.
  5. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 11, 1916.
  6. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 18, 1916.
  7. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 14, 1916.
  8. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 18, 1916.
  9. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 7, 1916.
  10. Harry and Sarah Tallmadge, tape-recorded oral history; Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 11, 1916.
  11. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 21, 1916.
  12. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 18, 1916.
  13. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 14 and 18, 1916.
  14. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 14, 1916.
  15. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 3, 1916.
  16. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 28, 1916.
  17. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 18, 1916.
  18. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 14, 1916.
  19. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 14, 1916. See also, Temperance and Prohibition, http://prohibition.osu.edu/.
  20. Northern Idaho News, January 1916.
  21. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 14, 1916.
  22. Spokane Chronicle, January 1916.
  23. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 4, 1916.
  24. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 18, 1916.
  25. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 11, 1916.

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