Sunday, January 23, 2011

STARTING FROM SCRATCH


William 'Bill' Finnigan (circa 1905)
had a Victrola in his rooming house
and let youngsters play his many
records on it. Courtesy
William Finnigan collection.
Of the people who stayed in the Clark's Fork valley, deaths occurred. A cemetery was created two hundred yards north of the railroad depot on the left bank of the slough at Noxon. Chinese who had stayed on and died were buried there near the river.1. Their funerals were elaborate affairs that followed customs brought with them from China.

When young Clifford Weare heeded his parent's pleas and came to visit in 1903, he stepped from the train into the wilderness. Like Swan Swanson, he saw few people. Felix Evans, Dan Delong, Ed Hampton, and Hampton's cows, were all that greeted him. Not being a drinking man, he didn't count saloons but said all they consisted of mostly were a couple of stumps with a plank between them or a tent on the flats near the river except for Lyons' saloon, a neat lumber building, and Walker's saloon, a little log cabin over on a knoll away from the railroad tracks. Clifford intended only to visit, not to stay, but it wasn't long before his father convinced him that rich opportunity lay at his feet, ripe for the taking.

The lure of prospecting was a fever not to be denied so on August 5, l903 Capt. Peter Weare gave up the Noxon postmaster position to his son, Clifford R. Weare. Capt. Weare was far more interested in staying out in Rock Creek prospecting than in getting the mail pouch contents delivered on the NPRR.

Clifford bought the old Greenough building in 1904. He added an upper story on it, and turned it into a general merchandise store. Naming it the Post and Poles Store, he mail ordered for supplies to stock it with and began buying posts and poles from the timbermen who were arriving. He also rented out rooms upstairs.2. First, Frank Lyons sold his saloon to Joe Bedard for $750. 3. Joe Beason came into the area and soon was operating it for him. But the sale didn't pan out so Lyons got Maynard to move to Noxon. Maynard saw a good business in the saloon and bought it and the house and had his whiskey shipped in barrels from Butte.4. 

Noxon, circa 1908-09. Weare's Post and Poles Store is no. 5. Courtesy William Finnigan collection.
Quite a number of new settlers and their families from Iowa moved into Noxon in the spring bringing with them their stock and farming instruments. New farm buildings were going up in the vicinity and things looked very bright. Pringles, Andersons, Fulks, Engles, Rileys, Denwoodys, Browns and Baxters, to name a few, were among the newcomers that homesteaded shortly after Clifford Weare arrived. Jim Finnigan and Bill Finnigan, brothers, arrived in Noxon soon after Weare. Jim was a carpenter, and Bill was a businessman. The businessmen dressed in fashionable white shirts, long sleeves held securely out of the way with elastic bands around their biceps; celluloid collars; a long white apron protecting their trousers during working hours. Some wore mustaches, neatly trimmed beards, their hair parted cleanly down the center. All were up and coming men of their times. The clothes they wore, perhaps more than anything, distinguished them from the 'jacks', as the transient lumberjacks were called. Clothing, plus their ambition, bespoke their need to be looked upon as men of station in life.

On May 12, 1905 disaster struck at Noxon as the "General Store ... burned to the ground .It will be rebuilt, the paper reported."5. No further details were given so it is unknown who had the store, but it was on the south side of Main Street and believed to be where Peek build his store later. Clifford Weare's Post and Poles Store remained in operation, with the rear of his store bordered by the NPRR tracks, east of and on the north side of Main Street. 

This may or may not have been the General Store that burned in 1905. Courtesy Granville Gordon Collection. After this General Merchandise Store burned, Filo McNall built another store on the site. As ownership changed hands it became known as Corbett's, and also Peek's Store. Picture, circa 1908. "X" is Marienus (Marion) Larson (man in the white shirt, front row.) No. 2 is Ernie Raynor (7 from right.) No. 3 is Bill Getske (10 from right.) Doyles are also pictured but unidentified. Courtesy Stella Gordon Dameron collection.
 
1904 Ladies social event. Courtesy William
Finnigan collection.
Efforts to get a school at Noxon had been the main topic in the living rooms, the saloons and around the pot bellied stove in the Posts and Poles Store ever since the families had begun arriving. Education for their children was one of their first concerns. But it wasn't an easy accomplishment. As people came into the Posts and Poles Store to get supplies, talk turned to what could be done about starting up a school. Clifford, the bullheaded, young, ambitious, businessman realized his success would hinge on continued settlement and took the initiative and went to Heron to talk to W. A. Beebe. Foremost in his mind, also, was the education of his son and two daughters who his wife would soon be bringing from Wisconsin to join him.


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Caption: Bauer family moving west by wagon. Circa 1903. Courtesy James and Stella Bauer collection.


Grandmother gordon and Gordon's family gathered with Bauer family, moving west. Circa 1903-04. Courtesy James and Stella Bauer collection.
"Beebe was chairman of the school board, Justice of the Peace and I don't know what all. He was the whole thing at Heron", Weare said.
"I went down to see him and he said there was no one up there at Noxon to go to school. I told him there were people settling in and they wanted a school.
"Ed Hampton had a bunch of kids ready to go to school. Four of them. Bauers had kids, and Greer's did too. They were all small then.
"Beebe said they were better off without an education. So I didn't get anywhere that day."6.
 Each newly arrived family at Noxon added their voice to the demand for a school for the growing town. Soon Weare hustled down to Heron to see Beebe again, this time determined to win over the man he'd taken a dislike to the first time they'd met.

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Caption" Left to right" Ruby Greer, Aleatha Bauer, Irene Bauer, Stella Bauer, Chess and Alzire Greer at Furlong, Montana. Courtesy James and Stella Bauer collection.

"Beebe said you go to work and build a log house, get logs around there handy and we'll buy some lumber for the roof and we'll pay the teacher. If there's any scholars.
"Hell. If we're going to do all that, we may as well build the schoolhouse ourselves and have a different district set up. So we did," Weare said. "We got up $10,000."
Since they weren't getting anywhere with the school board, composed of Heron residents, Weare and some of the settlers made the train trip to the county seat to press their case with the school superintendent. Eventually they got action and plans were drawn up and agreed upon during a visit from the county school superintendent. Land was bought from Thomas Evans who purchased the homestead of R. W. Dudley along the banks of the Clark's Fork River. An appropriation of $1,500 was made by the school trustees. 6. Just how much the building actually cost, or who paid for it is unclear. Succeeding newspaper reports put the cost at $2,000 and then in June reported,
"The foundation for the new schoolhouse which the citizens of Noxon and vicinity agreed to build gratis, will be completed shortly."
Things weren't progressing any too rapidly and it was feared school wouldn't open before winter set in. The paper added their voice, printing,
"It is hoped the school board will push this along as there are about 50 scholars."7.
 In July, O. A. Burnett of Hope, ID arrived in Noxon to assist Mr.Doenges in construction of the new schoolhouse. Doenges was awarded the contract by the county commissioners. The schoolhouse was completed in August.8. Coley Colvin and his son were the carpenters who did the actual building.

Noxon's first schoolhouse. 1906. Courtesy Granville and Pauline Gordon collection.
The new building was certainly the proudest achievement of the newly born community and sat on a beautiful bench of land overlooking the river. A bell tower rose over the main entrance of the one room, one story structure with cloakrooms on either side of the hall. The newspaper praised the communities achievements,
"The 25x34 foot schoolroom is a cheerful light room with high ceiling fitted up in splendid style. Seats and desks for the scholars, of the latest pattern, have been provided and a neat desk for the teacher. A blackboard extends the full length of one side of the room."9.
 School was held at Noxon for seven months during l905-06. One county courthouse record says Miss Mabel Jones, a young and charming girl, became the first teacher. Another says Miss Nina Clawson held the position, while yet a third record cites Miss Riley as being the first. According to it, Miss Riley transferred to Heron while Miss Mabel Jones took Noxon. Both were well liked by the "twenty three students; more expected in winter."

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Caption: Noxon school class. Solon Ellis at far right. Sheldon S. Brown picture collection, courtesy Margaret Larson Cluzen.

Students included: lst grade - Rhea Pringle, George Hampton, Mary Hampton, Neil Weare, Vio Anderson, Ruby Fulk and Golda Fulk. 2nd grade - Madeline Brown, Alma Engle, Lizzie Evans, Florence Whitford. 3rd grade - Ellis Anderson and Millie Evans. 4th grade - Sadie Benson John Bridget, Pearl Whitford, Ruby Engle, Fern Fulk. 5th grade - Letta Whitford and Edith Denwoody. 6th grade - James Riley, Melvin Anderson, Tella Brown, Cora Brown. None in 7th. 8th grade - Algie Berray, Loren Wightman and Hattie Coppedge.

* * * * *
Noxon had two general stores: Weare's, who also had the postoffice in his Post and Poles Store, and J. H. Corbett's, who also had a first class hotel and boarding house. Both merchants dealt in cedar posts, ties and pilings, Corbett had timber yards at Tuscor, Noxon and Cabinet. And by the time Marion Larson graduated the eighth grade at Thompson Falls in June of 1905, Phil Lyde and Miss Bertha Green were married at Noxon.

W. A. Beebe spent several days in Noxon the first week of October 1905 looking after  the business of the Thompson Falls Mercantile, although the nature of the business is unknown.l0. By late October 1905, the ladies in town organized the first Sunday school and were conducting classes in the schoolhouse every Sunday afternoon. Godliness began influencing the valley residents. And also provided one more topic for disagreement.

The postmaster at Noxon changed again. October 25, 1905, storekeeper James H. Corbett  managed to wrest the position from C. R. Weare, making an enemy for himself in the process.

Bright orange tongues of fire provided the final spectacle for the little community as the small log building housing Walker Bros. and Comstock's saloon was consumed in short searing hot minutes December 29th., four days after Christmas.

There was no water system in the town other than the NPRR water tanks. In these early years of 1900 Noxon got it's water from the Clark's Fork River and from Pilgrim Creek. Buckets were useless that day. The saloon owners planned to rebuild immediately, using lumber instead of logs.


FOOTNOTES
  1. C. R. Weare, tape-oral history and Don Maynard, tape-recorded oral history.
  2. C. R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history.
  3. Missoula county courthouse records.
  4. Don Maynard, tape-recorded oral history.
  5. Sanders County Independent Ledger, May 12, 1905.
  6. C.R. Weare tape-oral history.
  7. Sanders County Ledger, June 23, 1905.
  8. Sanders County Ledger, July 21, August 25, 1905.
  9. Sanders County Ledger, September 1, 1905.
  10. Sanders County Ledger, October 6, 1905.

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