Bull River Ranger Station, circa 1912-15. Pauline 'Lena' holding Grace, with Blanche and Stella in front yard, and Coyer beside the Ranger's headquarters.
Mrs. Pauline 'Lena' Gordon's garden, the outhouse and clothesline at the Bull River Ranger Station. Courtesy Granville and Pauline Gordon collection.
Gordon's garden at Bull River
Blanche, Stella and Grace Gordon on pony
at the Bull River Ranger Station. Courtesy
Granville and Pauline Gordon collection.
"The power will be used for transmission to the Coeur d'Alene mining country, to the country tributary to Spokane, and for all northwestern points."
Those in the Clark's Fork valley who had never journeyed the thirty miles north to view the Kootenai River learned from the newspaper,
"As is well known Kootenai Falls is one of the finest water powers in the world. The Kootenai river is the biggest river in Montana, being bigger than the Missouri, according to U.S. Government measurements of streams, has a big fall, with rapids above and below, and all of which occur within a short distance of less than one half mile making it one of the easiest propositions to create power known to exist."
Caption: Teams and loggers at Donlan and Moderie sawmill at Heron, Montana. Courtesy W. R. 'Chuck' Peterson collection.
Joseph Moderie, associate of Senator Ed Donlan in the lumber and logging business at Cedar Spur for a number of years, established a new camp on Elk Creek near Heron in 1912. They expected to have a "run of from three to five years with their mill."1. Holtzlander's sawmill was also doing well on Elk Creek.
Holtzlander sawmill on Elk Creek near
Heron, Montana. Courtesy Georgia Knott
Coram, the water power magnate involved on the Kootenai Falls project, and his associates were back of the project"We are ready to go ahead with the plant at once," they said. "Among the towns likely to be supplied with electricity are Plains, Paradise, Trout Creek, Noxon, Cabinet and Clark's Fork."1.
"and have secured all water rights on the Clark Fork; necessary rights-of-way secured from Thompson Falls to Spokane, some 156 miles, and it is the plan of the company to bring practically the entire current generated to this city (Spokane) ... 100,000 horsepower ... and have rights along the river which will enable them to manufacture several times that amount when needed."2.
Napoleon Laramie at Laramie's cabin on Bull River. Courtesy Frank and Evelyn Berray Collection.
Blanche, Stella and Grace Gordon. Courtesy Stella and James
John McKay's log chute on Smeads Bench. 1912-15.
Courtesy William Finnigan collection.
In 1912 Weare built a log chute on the hill east of Noxon on the north side of the river to dump logs in the river and float them to his sawmill boom at Pilgrim Creek. There were two small cabins there at the time, built with square nails and presumed to be old tie hacker's cabins. Weare moved a camp of men into them to cut logs for him, allowed no liquor and used lots of tinned milk in their meals.
Weare and Andrews had fifteen to twenty men employed in the sawmill they'd built in 1910 on the east side of the mouth of Pilgrim Creek. A railroad spur line to it was called 'Weare's Spur'. The planner cost $3,500 and Divers, the planner man, was a good operator. When a Negro went to work for them Weare put him to work with a Swede. But they wouldn't work together so the Negro quit and went to Spokane and became a Redcap in the NP railroad depot, calling himself George White. The sawmill cut about 65,000 feet per day of which three carloads were sold in Helena. Ed Donlan in Thompson Falls took three carloads.
Thomson and Metheny were both railroad men. In the summer the bridge and ballast (B & B) gang, a roving crew consisting of 60-70 men, brought their supply cars and camp cars (boxcars) to live in. These were parked on a railroad siding in Noxon while they worked through from Paradise, east of Plains, Montana, westward to Spokane.
John McKay began logging on Smead's bench, a heavily timbered section on the hillside back of Smeads. Nineteen million feet of 12-inch lumber was used building a flume one and three quarters of a mile long to bring his posts down to the railroad spur. It took four men eight days to construct it, at a cost of $450. It replaced letting logs down the steep terrain with a donkey engine.
McKay put in a sawmill at Smeads, too, and built the first road connecting Noxon and Smeads. Two railroad spurs were at Smeads. John Erickson, a big, hard working, hard drinking Swede who was making posts for McKay, could split out 600 posts on a good day, quite a feat even for those days of prime cedar stumpage and strong, brawny men. Bob Crossman worked in McKay's sawmill and Zin Coza was a 'skinner' for him. One season 248,000 poles were taken out at Smeads.
In March 1913 the Montana Gold Gravel Company, Butte, announced intentions to install expensive bucket dredges just above the cabins on 20 Odd Mountain on the Vermillion River at the first summer weather. Tests with a Keystone drill proved very satisfactory. Assays valued at $1.40 per yard from grassroots to bedrock. Abundant water to float the largest dredge built: The hydraulic horsepower of the Vermillion was estimated at 365 horsepower. The company acquired about 5,000 acres of ground on Vermillion. Gold was fairly coarse. T. S. Rodda and Thomas Evans, Butte, sold $3,000 in gold to Clark bank, reserving the largest nuggets.
Although jobs were plentyful making a living was still challenging. Frank Berray, rather small for busting out posts, or handling the heavy end of logging tried easier ways.
"Baker and I decided to raise hogs one year up on his place. So we built a pen out to the river's edge and bought us a couple of sows that were bred. Pretty soon he had hogs running everywhere. The river pen didn't work so good. They'd go to the river and swim on down to where the river made a ninety degree bend, forming a big hole, and then get out into the woods. We were rounding up hogs all the time.
"We decided that was enough of that so we built a boom across the river. That should stop them, we thought. Well all that happened was they'd swim to the boom. After a couple of them hung up on that and drowned we figured we better move them away from the river. Next we knew we had hogs running into the house every time the door was opened. That ended our hog farming."
Christmas, 1912 at Joe and Mres. Wagner's home.
Friends with them are unidentified. Courtesy Clayton
Joe Wagner. Courtesy Clayton
"It is rumored that the immediate purpose of this incorporation is to acquire the various water powers between here and the Montana-Idaho inter-state line on the Clarks Fork of the Columbia River.
"It is also reported that a crew of about 20 engineers is now engaged in surveying the lines of the land proposed to be overflowed by the erection of numerous power dams along this river, and that land so proposed to be flooded is being condemned for public use.
"It is further rumored that there will be one dam located near Belknap, one near the town of Trout Creek and one at or near Cabinet gorge or Heron, and possibly others at favorable locations between here and the state line.
"It is also assumed that this project is the hand of the Montana Power company, and it is no secret that the Montana Power company is finding more market and demand for power than they can supply with their present existing plants and are seeking other desirable sites with which to supply that demand.
"Parties who have received notice of condemnation proceedings are to meet here on the 30th inst, so it is stated, and make arrangements for settlement of claims.
"With new contracts and reasonably prospective contracts aggregating over 12,000 horse-power for 1914, and with the normal increase in it's profitable retail business the Montana Power company has practically all of its now available waterpower resources marketed and they must seek new fields to supply the demand.
"We are just beginning to realize that one of the greatest assets of Sanders county is her water power so advantageously situated as to be available for harnessing up for hydro-electric plants, and in a country where the demand will soon exceed the possible supply. Without a powerful financial company behind it these assets would continue to lie idle, as has been the case for the past generation, and we are most fortunate to have men of push, enterprise and money, like Senator Donlan and his associates, who can see far enough ahead, realize the magnitude and have the nerve to promote these enterprises," the newspaper informed readers.
"The development of water powers in the west end of the county means great things for that section. It means that cheap power will be available for pumping water from the Clarks Fork river onto the thousands of acres of tillable, level land all along the line between here and the state line.
"While the ultimate purpose of the construction of these proposed numerous power plants is undoubtedly for the furnishing of power for the electrification of the Milwaukee, Northern Pacific or other steam railroads, or for electric roads, at the same time cheap power will be available for the ranchers and the towns along the line; and in this electrical world and age this means everything in the way of advancement and development.
"The Thompson Falls plant is just a good starter, which will help the Great Falls plant in taking care of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul contract for electrifying the Rocky mountain and Bitter Root division of the railroad, for the 430 miles from Harlowton, Mont., to Avery, ID. The Thompson Falls plant will ultimately supply 20,000 horse-power to the Milwaukee and will take care of the heavy grades in the westerly end of this stretch. The total power contracted for by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway is 26,500 horse-power, with an option on 40,000 horse-power additional. With it's 40,000 rate horse-power contracted for the Thompson Falls plant would be earning $1,000,000 net per year.
"On its share of the railroad contract the Thompson Falls plant will earn between $280,000 per annum. "In other words, this plant will be self supporting from the very beginning on its own local business, besides furnishing 15,000 to 20,000 horse-power to general circuit of the Montana Power Company.
"General Manager, Max Hebgen, estimates that by the time the Great Falls project is finished, early in 1915, some 35,000 of its rated 20,000 horse-power capacity will have been contracted for. "With its 90,000 horse-power fully contracted for - probably by 1918 - this plant should be earning close to $2,500,000 per annum.
"By January 1915 the mammoth new Great Falls project should contribute its first power ... the first division of the St. Paul railroad to be electrified will be the section from Three Forks to Deer Lodge, Mont., ... work is now well advanced ... will be running electric trains by the summer of 1915 if the equipment now being specified arrives on time."So many years passed before these visionary plans began to be fulfilled that very few of the settlers who were residents in the valley in 1912 were alive to cheer. Of those who lived, experience had taught them that many of the earlier schemes had been just that. Schemes. Without too much basis in truth.
A shingle mill was operating far up in the Blue Creek drainage. Blue creek flows into the Clark's Fork river a dozen miles downstream from Noxon. Wagonloads of shakes were hauled out of the forests to a tramway crossing the Clark's Fork River to be shipped out on the NP railroad from the loading spur near Cabinet, Idaho. The cable car was far out over the swift waters of the Clark's Fork the day the cables broke.
Swan Swanson had a shingle mill on Gold Creek, near the Idaho border and seemed to be having his share of bad luck about then."Mr. Duffy had one of those tramway cages located down by the old Amos Riley place across from Duffy's and they were taking a team of horses across. A gas motor worked the cables carrying the car to pull it back and forth way up high over the river. The men used to cross back and forth on it traveling from Heron to the mine up Blue Creek, too. Anyway, there were two boys on it and Duffy's horses. The horses commenced to dance. The cable broke and the horses fell out into the river, killing them."8.
"What cost so damn much was them fingers," he said. "Fellas cut their fingers off and I had to pay for it. They used to cost a thousand dollars a finger. After I paid for several of them I quit the shingle mill business."9.
|Noxon in the winter. Circa 1910-11. Courtesy William Ellis collection.|
At Noxon, settlers who dressed in warm woolens, high boots, and wrapped in blankets to ward off the wind as they crossed the ferry, attended the Farmers Institute at the schoolhouse December 10.
"Cooperation will never entirely eliminate the middle man," the speaker told them. "The cost of living will probably never be lowered."He talked mainly about horticulture, and help on raising apples and on combating disease. Mr. and Mrs. Engle told him that yellow jackets had killed their orchard trees. The state horticulturist promised to come the next summer and investigate. He ended the institute by cautioning the farmers "not to believe everything a seed catalogue said".
- Sanders County Independent Ledger, May 3, 1912; Bulletin 34, May 1963, Mines and Mineral Deposits (Except Fuels) Sanders County, Montana by F. A. Crowley; Joe Brooks, tape-recorded oral history, November 30, 1979, "The Montana Gold Mine (and Milling Company) was up above my old home on Blue Creek, on Middle Mountain about 600 feet up. According to stories they found some fabulous gold samples up there but nobody's ever seen where it came from. It was a company in Spokane, WA. My uncle and me took the contract (we came in 1916) to drive a hundred feet of tunnel. My mother said it was 1915."
- Sanders County Independent Ledger, May 10, 1912. The Inter-State Power Company Incorporation was to be for twenty years; Thompson Falls, the principal place of business; capital stock, $250,000.00, divided into 2500 shares of $100.00 each. Edward Donlan subscribed to 750 shares, I. E. Keith, one share and Andrew Peterson one share.
- Sanders County Independent Ledger, July, 1912.
- Sanders County Independent Ledger, July 1912.
- August 15, 1914 District court records, Sanders County courthouse, Thompson Falls, Montana. Of all these rumors and business schemes, only the dam and generating plant at Thompson Falls became a reality within the following twenty years, Montana Power becoming the owner.
- Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 15, 1915.
- Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 15, 1915.
- Lucy Allen Jenkins, tape-recorded oral history February 2, 1970.
- Swan Swanson, tape-recorded oral history January 15, 1970.
- Ira B. "Strawberry" Bartholomew letters to Mrs. Mona Vanek.
- Sanders County Independent Ledger, June 18, 1915. 11a. Mark White, USFS Historian, Kootenai National Forest, Libby, MT, research ca. 1990s.
- Sanders County Independent Ledger, October 22, 1915.
- Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history, 1970. Weare later sold the scrap iron from the mill for $1.500. Three million board feet of lumber was stacked in the yard when the mill was sold. It also remained after the fire and Weare sold it in Billings during World War I. The businessmen on the west coast wouldn't take the lumber because the docks were full of lumber. Weare's carloads were refused. Dockage had to be paid. So he secured a different freight rate to Billings and shipped the lumber there.