John Fulks, Noxon ferryman.
Circa 1920. Courtesy Benjamin
F. Saint collection.
A year later the editor reported, "convicts building the wagon road to Idaho have reached Copper Point. The road will be of inestimable advantage to people on the north side of the Clark Fork, giving access to the Trout Creek bridge ... Superintendent Kendrick is in charge with three guards, one experienced miner and fifty two convict laborers." Three miles of road were completed.
"The convicts are well contented and consider it like a holiday to get outside the walls of the penitentiary where they get fresh air, better food and more freedom.
"They live in tents fitted with two tiers of bunks and plenty of good bedding. A heating stove in each tent. A bathhouse is furnished. Each man is required to bathe at least once a week. Each is supplied with a suit of grey woolen goods, extra heavy fleece-lined underwear and a pair of moose hide mittens ... Dinner consisted of roast beef, mutton stew, boiled potatoes, macaroni with cheese, bread, butter, tea, coffee and apple pie. Supper - mutton stew, fried potatoes, bread, butter, tea and coffee, cake and apple sauce with currants. Lots of food.
This cost the state 50 cents per man per day; county 5 cents plus the cost of tools and working materials: powder, fuse, and dynamite caps."They have newspapers, magazines and books to read in the evening or can play cards. Each get a weekly supply of tobacco."4.
Road building crew at Noxon August 1, 1914. Courtesy William Finnigan collection.
Across the river the road into Rock Creek was being improved by a crew. By the end of each day the men dynamiting stumps, driving the team-drawn grader, or pick and shoveling the rocky outcroppings, were bone weary, raunchy with dirt caked sweat, and almost too tired to walk back home."At the present time the Tuscor hill road is so steep that all machines (automobiles) have to either use block and tackle or hire a team to take them over." A contract was let August 23 to E. W. Preston and W. B. Smith for $1,949.7.
Knowing the people in the county seat were getting about over bridges instead of ferries while they still couldn't began to rankle. Dixon also was asking the county dads for a bridge. When winter again played havoc with ferry service and getting children to school or products to the railhead, Noxonites stirred into action. We pay our taxes and we want a bridge, they clamored during 1913. The newspaper echoed them,
In the argument put up to the county commissioners they asked for a bridge to be built at Noxon. The railhead was on the south side of the Clark's Fork. Most of the agricultural land was on the north side. Extensive timber products, mining prospects, cattle, farm products, and especially, people, needed a more dependable mode than a ferry to cross the river. Thompson Falls and Trout Creek had bridges. Funds had been liberally subscribed to further that end. The bridge they wanted in the west end was estimated to cost $40,000 and, they contended, the money was available."The people in the western part of Sanders county have not been benefited by any substantial county improvement although $11,000 in taxes were paid last year."8.
But their neighbors at Heron were opposed to the county building this bridge.
"For no development, however merited or desireable, could we further bond the county ... ," they harangued loudly, then went on to propose, " ... citizens of Heron have for weeks tried to get the people of Noxon to compromise upon Smeads as the site (of the bridge)."
Agriculture land on Swamp Creek, upstream from Noxon, was 11,000 acres, while downstream the Bull River valley could boast only 4,000 acres. Thus one faction contended the bridge should be nearer Swamp Creek, not at Smeads, which was at the mouth of Bull River. The conflict raged ... elections were far off, in June, allowing time for plenty of political intrigue.
When June arrived bringing balloting time on the question of bridges for Noxon or Dixon and a proposed high school for Plains, only 700 of the 1400 eligible voters cast ballots.
Senators H. L. Meyers and Thomas J. Walsh, and congressman John Evans won election. Since Noxon was so far away from the mining conglomerates in Butte that wielded great influence on elections, most of the voters were financially unaffected and thus free of political skullduggery, each voted strictly as their beliefs led them. Their interests were self-centered, and although there were still prospectors hoping to interest the big mining financiers in their claims, more interest was generated by the bridges and schools than anything else.
The following front-page story told it like it was.
"Thou Shalt Not Double Cross. Now it came to pass in the sixth month of the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and thirteen that a great election was to be held within the kingdom of Sanders. And the Plainites sent a delegation on a long journey to the land of the Dixonites, to confer and reason with them.
"And the messengers from the land of Plains spake unto the Dixonites, saying: 'Thou shalt receive the votes of all of those dwelling within the land of Plains for thy coveted bridge, provided thou shalt first cast a vote for our coveted high school in the land of Plains.'
"Whereupon the Dixonites fell upon their faces and blessed the Plainites, crying out: 'It is done! Be not afraid! We will deliver the goods!'
"Then the Plainites again said unto their messengers: 'Go thou unto the land of the Noxonites, and deceive them likewise, for it has been revealed unto us that they also mightily yearn for a bridge.
"Whereupon they journeyed unto the land of Noxon and spake unto them in a like manner. And it came to pass that upon the day of the great election the Dixonites and the Noxonites did as they had agreed, voting with a mighty power, remembering their covenant.
"The Dixonites to the strength of 115 and but two backsliders; the Noxonites to the strength of 36 to six backsliders.
"But lo and behold, when the results were counted on that great day, the Plainites had forsaken their covenants and agreements and voted not for the bridges, but casting a majority against them.
"Whereupon the Dixonites and the Noxonites were sore distressed, and cried out with a loud cry: 'We have been sold at the hands of the Bunko-ites from the land of Plains! We have been double crossed!'
"And the Dixonites and the Noxonites said unto the Plainites: 'You have forsaken and deceived us. Never again seek thou our vote. We would not even hand thee a pleasant smile!'
"And the multitude of other 'Ites' in the land of Sanders arose with one voice, saying: "'We care not that thou hast lost both school and bridges. It serves you dog-gone well right! Deceive not thy neighbor, for it returneth unto thee like a back-action boomerang."
Caption: Aleatha Bauer Moonen on their bridge across Bull River to their homestead. Courtesy Clayton Bauer collection.
The advent of horseless carriages in some parts of the county prompted the county commissioners to impose new rules in the contracts they were letting for county road building.
"Said road to be not less than twelve feet wide on solid ground and all side slopes of three feet or more in height to be at least one foot to one foot."Frank Berray and the other boistrous young bucks galloped their horses over the roads singing merrily,
"Up the hill went Stonewall Jack,
Right in the middle of his horses back.
He looked to the left and he looked to the right,
Then pulled out his snoose box with all his might."
In March 1915 Noxon was successful in getting the county to relieve them of ferry fees. The county commissioners
When Ed Hampton owned the Noxon ferry he had a Chinaman, the 'Boxer' or Lee, working for him who ran the ferry at night. Hampton would stay over town and play cards."paid $60 a month for a ferryman and Noxon provides the ferry. Saturday evening a Forum decided the matter and Messers. Beal, Earl Engle and W. E. Ellis were elected as directors. A contract was drawn up with Mr. Hampton, owner of the ferry, to run it for one year. A house has been built near the south approach to the ferry and the ferryman is always on hand from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. till noon and 3-5 p.m. on Sundays. Money was subscribed to repair the ferry and build the house."14.
Frank Berray said, "Ed was the darndest card fiend you ever saw. One time when I was going to cross the river I had a run in with the Chink. When I quit the card game I told Ed, 'I'll pay you for the trip and I'll go on across.'. 'No,' he said. 'Hike down across and don't pay no attention to that Chink and go on across. The next time you come across come over and settle up at the house.'
"So I went down to the ferry. Uncle Jim was with me. We led our horses on, flapped the reins around the post, making a half hitch to hold them. Then that Chink said, 'Me want money. Me want money,' holding out his hands.
"I said, 'Hampton said I can pay when I come down the next time.'
"He said, 'You goddamned liar.'
"I made a run for him and I got ahold of him alright enough. But the dirty bugger he had them long fingernails and he grabbed me right on the breast! Christ, he sunk them fingernails in. And damn, I was mad then and I hit that sonafabitch and knocked him over agin the wheel. I would've throwed him in the river if Jim hadn't been there. But Jim said, 'You'll get in the jug for sure,' and pulled me off.
"That Chink had the damndest looking face. I really hit him. I really plowed it to him. But I had the damndest sore chest, too, where he cut them nails right through my thin shirt. It hurt like hell as we rode home where I put some carbolic salve on it."
Unidentified pretty girl posing on a road grader.
Circa early 1900s. Courtesy William Finnigan
Travel methods remained unchanged throughout 1914 at Noxon, but at Thompson Falls the forest service began using automobiles and initiated a motorcycle patrol system as fire danger became serious again. With war clouds threatening, the county commissioners weren't building bridges.
The tragic news in the valley came when, in February,
"Lee Fook, a chinaman employed on the railroad section fell off a car of coal, broke his neck, and was instantly killed. The coal was being unloaded by the section men into a coal house near the depot. Lee had used a post to pry open a door in the roof. He lost his balance when he threw the post down." Lee had a wife and family in China.13.
The newspaper reported on April 2, 1915 that,
"a blind and armless man and a 'peg-leg' man camped in Noxon and were peddling soap to Noxon folks."Surely the little boys of the town took in this unusual sight. No one knows if it figured in the Saturday argument reported in the newspaper,
Gores, having decided Noxon was the place for them to make a permanent home, began to build their home. Several men from the cedar post camp that Eddie worked in took time off and pitched in to help him build a large log cabin on his homestead east of Noxon."so heated that words became ineffective and stones were resorted to. Charles King received a scalp wound so that he has had his head bandaged all week."17.
"Eddie cleared up a small meadow and plowed it so we could have a big garden which helped out a lot," his wife, Carrie said. "I canned all the vegetables that wouldn't keep through the winter. We had a large spring right at the back door, which was wonderful. The next spring Eddie bought a small team of horses, which enabled us to go places.
"A party by the name of Knott lived about a mile from us. They had cows and chickens that we bought eggs and butter from. The winters were terrible with snow around four to five feet deep and Eddie snowed out on snowshoes to town for the mail and a few groceries.
"We always laid in a big supply of the staple things such as 100 pounds each of sugar and flour and lard in large cans about twenty five pounds each. We ordered a lot of other things from a company by the name of Burgans in Spokane that the store in Noxon didn't have.
"We went to town once in a while in a sleigh and always stopped and visited Mrs. Meadow. She was such dear old lady and always had us stay on for dinner. Our dresses were quite long. To the calf of the leg and made out of heavy material. My mother lived in Coeur d'Alene and she bought me the material for Cleo and my dresses. I had a sewing machine and did all of my own sewing.
"We wore high top shoes, the button kind, and over-shoes. With long leggings on up to our hips so we didn't mind the cold weather. Mother made Cleo a heavy snowsuit. My father kept us in reading material.
"Neighbors who were close (very few) came and spent the days and night and enjoyed playing cards and Eddie played the guitar and we all sang songs and enjoyed ourselves that way.
"The community had dancing up over the grocery store (Peek's) and everyone fixed up some kind of dishes and we had home-made cakes and pies. A lovely dinner. And everyone enjoyed going to the dances. Everyone was so jolly. No drinking. They didn't have any community activities to my knowledge, other than the dances. Later we moved down to Noxon to put our little daughter, Cleo in school."18.
Essie Thompson. On the reverse the
photo is inscribed, "For Edith from
Essie Thompson. Courtesy Hazel
and Howard Ellinwood collection.
Auto travel was restricted by road conditions. The rich soil turned to mud in the spring. Until well into summer the driver had to be prepared, and expect to, walk from whichever mud hole entrapped his skinny wheeled motorcar to the nearest ranch to get a team of horses to pull him on through. On his return trip he faced the same problem. This was often repeated several times on any given outing. Creeks and streams had to be forded in most places. In summer, dust swirled up and over the car, liberally coating it and its passengers.
From the first snows, usually early in November, the cars would sit enthroned on blocks to preserve the tires, while winter snuggled them in it's blanket of white, making of each just one more lump on the terrain. Barns were for horses and hay. The horseless carriage could sit unsheltered until the warm rains of March played peek-a-boo with the sun melting their blanket of snow into dirty remains around their blocks. Then April's balmy breezes wafted through the canyons to melt the remainder of it from the 'roads'. The first exciting excursion of the year could be eagerly planned.
Courtesy Harry and Sarah Tallmadge
"The road at that time did not take its present course along the lake shore but climbed up in the timber half a mile to the east. Rutty and filled with a surprising variety and amount of obstacles, the road offered little attraction to vehicle of any kind and certainly was no place for automobiles.
"It was about dawn one morning in the fall of 1915 that Dr. Vidal and his son George left Troy in a Chalmers car and started on the hazardous journey to Noxon. So far as they knew, no one so far had attempted to make the trip in anything more up to date than a spring wagon.
"Fallen tree trunks, deep wagon ruts, and an occasional boulder rearing itself up in the middle of the road combined to make things interesting until, just before noon, they met a herd of cattle. The cattle, never having been properly introduced to a car before promptly left the road for parts unknown - but probably distant - and Dr. Vidal was asked by the angry cattle drivers just what he meant by driving such a contrivance over the road.
"'This is a county road, isn't it?', Dr. Vidal asked.
"'Yes, it is, but it isn't any place for automobiles!', was the reply.
"One of the most interesting adventures of the trip occurred when the travelers reached Bull River (about half way on their journey). As there was no bridge across it at that time, they had to ford it. (Not Ford it!) As the stream was rather low they believed that they might make it without mishap. However, just as they thought they were safely across, water reached the engine and the car became a temporary island in midstream. Fortunately some men were working on the road not far away. They kindly aided in bringing the car ashore and starting it again on its journey, none the worse for its bath.
"It was growing dark when the car reached the stretch of road just across the river from Noxon. Twelve hours, that made up in interest what it lacked in comfort, for the approximately 45 mile drive from Troy to Noxon."21.
"I believe it was an old Studebaker but I couldn't say for sure. He traded a herd of horses, sold or traded them, to get the car. Then Frank Dusset, one of the saloonkeepers at Heron, got a car. There weren't any garages. Everyone fixed their own car."
School teacher holding team, unidentified man, Granville Gordon, Stella, Grace and Blanche in front of their mother, Pauline Gordon, at the Bull River Ranger Station, circa 1913-14. Courtesy Blanche Gordon Claxton collection.
"In 1915 we had eight months of school at the Pilick school." Helen Berray Kirschbaum recalled.
"It was five miles and I walked or took my uncle Jim's pony. I'd ride it as far as the ranger station and leave it there and walk the last mile. Then I could ride him back home. I had a dog, named Jack, who would follow me to school every day. He'd lay out on the porch steps all day long and when it come time for school to be out, why he was ready to go home with me.
"He was quite a dog. Very fond of watching someone play ball fetching the strays. One day the folks had some company up from Noxon. The two men and daddy and Uncle Jim and Frank and I got out playing ball. Well, poor old Jackie dog, he had himself just a great time running around and chasin' that ball.
"Our yard was really beautiful with some kind of grass that never grew high. It just stayed beautiful green all summer long, just like a lawn.
"After we come in from playing ball it started to rain and it rained like mad. I looked out the window and I seen Jackie dog laying out there in the rain on that beautiful lawn. I turned to daddy and said, 'Jackie's laying out there in the rain!'
"The men jumped up and went out to the dog. Pretty soon they came back in and told daddy Jackie had had a heart attack from exercise and being too fat.
"Boy I just cried and I cried and I cried. When I went to school I just missed that poor dog and I'd sit there and I'd cry and cry. Every pet, every animal I ever owned in my life something always happened. Always.
"Uncle Jim bought me a bicycle my last year of school."
On Christmas day Mr. and Mrs. George Baker and family, Art, and Mrs. Nola Cressup Baker, entertained Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Collogan and families, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ellinwood and daughter, Irene, Harvey Schench, and Donald Knowles and Miss Silver Cressup.
Arthur Legault and wife, Julia,
November 4, 1915. Courtesy
Benjamin F. Saint collection.
"Arthur King went to Spokane last week" and "Mrs. Morris' baby is sick at this writing" and "Mrs. Lockman of Bull River was in town Monday."
"I was warned regarding this trip on horseback along Bull River. True enough, I found traveling difficult at times, with snow very deep and a steady fall as I proceeded; yet, bound for my destination, at which place I was invited to spend the evening, I reached the home of Henry Scheffler about dark. During interviews with ranchers along the river I was told of the necessity of a bridge to replace the ferry at Noxon, and the building of an auto road in their section of the country. That the residents of the Bull River district are an enterprising set of people was proven by the splendid manner in which I was received. They are optimistic for the future development of the country and feel that they are entitled to more county improvements in this section. In talking with John B. Corrier, (sic) he said, 'I have been in the country for some time and am very much interested in public improvements and while I cannot yet read English I'll take your paper anyhow, and my friends can read it to me.' A Bull River Boosters' club has been organized."27.
Winter snows not only improved the pace of work in the timber bounded Montana communities but they also bustled with activity and news. Another Bull River resident, M. Bishop, reported good trapping and lots of snow in the mountains; Frank Conley made a business trip to Troy the first of the week; Mr. and Mrs. J. I. Voorhies and Mr. and Mrs. W. Savage of Troy spent a few days visiting Mrs. Collogan. Miss Lizzie Evans of Perma visited with friends in Noxon; Mrs. Huffman went to Granite, ID last week to visit with her daughter, Mrs. Coombs.
In the neighboring state of Idaho a far different New Years Eve was in progress, the effects of which would have ramifications that spread like the ripples of a pebble dropped into a pond.
"New Years' Eve saw the last of the open saloon (in Idaho). Crowds gathered at all the bars and wandered from one place to another as long as the law permitted or the stock of liquor held out. At the Wisconsin bar the supply gave out at 11:30. The other places managed to last out to the appointed time at midnight but with mighty little stock left in their casks and none on their shelves. At John Bode's keno was the order of the hour until the clock struck 12 the remains of the stock were disposed of in that manner. One of the last prizes was a basket of bottled goods, which included a quart bottle of champagne, a quart of good whisky and an assortment of other kinds of liquors. Five dollars was offered the owner but he refused.
"Despite the fact that there was drinking and lots of it, there was comparatively little disorder, the police say. Bottled goods were in strong demand to the last and the price of alcohol went skyward long before Friday and was practically unobtainable. Many small private stores of wine and liquor and some large ones are scattered throughout the town, some of them laid in by men who rarely drink but who followed the quite common idea that there should be some in the house for illness, real or fancied."29.
2. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 5, 1912.
3. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 22, 1912.
4. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 7, 1913.
5. Sanders County Independent Ledger, June 7, 1912.
6. Sanders County Independent Ledger, July 12, 1912.
7. Sanders County Independent Ledger, August 23, 1912.
8. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 28, 1913.
9. Sanders County Independent Ledger, spring 1913.
10. Frank Berray, tape-recorded oral history.
11. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 15-February 12, 1915. Downstream, at the Heron ferry landing,
"Mrs. Dettwiler had a narrow escape when she was bringing a couple of pigs they'd butchered to town and her car got away from her and run down the hill and almost off the end of the ferry. They got the car out of the river."* Lucy Jenkins tape-recorded oral history, February 2, 1970.12. Don Maynard, tape-recorded oral history circa 1975.
13. Sanders County Independent Ledger, February 19, 1915.
14. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 2, 1915.
15. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 26, 1915.
16. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 26, 1915.
17. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 2, 1915.
18. Letter from Carrie Gore, February 23, 1973.
21. Excerpt from the Noxon Buzzer 1929.
22. Letter from Lula Lake, October 27, 1983.
23. Helen Berray Kirschbaum, tape-recorded oral history, October 1978.
24. Sanders County Independent Ledger, October 1915 and Sanders county courthouse records.
25. Sanders County Independent Ledger, October 15, 1915.
26. Sanders County Independent Ledger, December 31, 1915.
27. Sanders County Independent Ledger, December 31, 1915. Silver Cressup Baker married Don Knowles, later divorced him, and in 1916 she married Charlie Ellis.
28. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 7, 1916.
29. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 14, 1916.