Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Earl Engle's fire camp, possibly in Swamp Creek. 1910. Courtesy Katie Engle and Stewart Hampton collection.
The big fire of 1910 was to play a large part in shaping the settlement and development of Noxon and it's surrounding valleys. The after affects were numerous and diverse. It added fuel to the feud between settlers and the newly organized forest service and profoundly affected the economy and culture.

It was the catalyst that shaped the fire policy of the northern Rockies region and of the entire United States. The tragic disastrous culmination of that battle to save the forests shocked the nation into realization of the necessity of creating a better system of fire control.

The burning of vast acres of timber and young growth, including some of the most valuable stands of Whitepine, was a staggering blow to the U. S. Forest Service. The killed Whitepine began to blue almost immediately, ruining it as a salvageable commodity. Serious erosion followed as fall rains brought down vast amounts of sheet erosion. Many steep gullies were scoured to bedrock. Streams were heavily sedimented.

Nearly all scorched trees were immediately attacked by beetles, fostering a serious bark beetle epidemic. By 1914 an infestation had built up until it invaded green timber as well and resulted in the loss of many more million feet of valuable timber.

Areas heavy with standing burned snags and thick with downed dead timber proved to be breeding places for fire. It quickly became evident that fire breeds fire, and the 1910 fire started a vicious cycle which greatly increased the difficulty of fire protection in following years. In addition, large areas were subsequently taken over by brush and former areas thickly forested with Whitepine, larch or fir turned to almost pure lodgepole pine stands.

While a convention was being held in Missoula in 1911 to promote better roads for Montana, Ranger Ben Saint and the other forest rangers, unaware of it at the time, were involved in graver concerns. Concerns that impacted the nation, as well as the little valley.
"1911 was a hard year for the Forest Service. Many of our improvements were gone up in smoke and had to be replaced. Our fire organization was a problem to ponder over and we had millions of feet of timber to salvage and we tried to do it all," Saint said.
Looking back at what they went through without hesitation, he wondered how they did it.
"But we were as happy and contented as a bunch of monkeys in a cocoanut grove. It never occured to us to get discouraged. Sure, some of the fellows dropped out of the service but there were others to take their place and the work went on just the same."
Fresh recruits from the eastern colleges, lads who were taking Forestry and wanted some real experience, came with their duffle bags and what not. Mountains, timber country and roughing it were new to many of them. "They sure ran into a lot of things not in the book."1.

Ranger and homesteader meeting on Rock
Creek Bridge. Circa early 1900s. Courtesy
Stewart  and Agnes Hampton collection.
Salvage timber sales following the 1910 fires began violating the June 1896 Act protecting witness trees.2. The Ranger cautioned his men: "not to let witness trees be cut down or destroyed simply because they have been fire damaged ... where private parties are cutting on land adjoining national forest land, it would be well to caution them on this point."

The instructions also set forth requirements:
"Timber sales on steep ground of fire-killed trees will not require piling of brush. Limbs should be lopped the entire length. Continue to require the piling of brush on level ground ... Hereafter EACH PIECE of shingle bolts will be stamped, as in the case of posts, and not only a few pieces in each pile as before. It is evident that we are going to dispose of but a small percent of our fire-killed timber before it becomes worthless. Please keep this matter in mind all the time and sell every stick possible."
A number of the lumbermen objected to the forest service pushing sales of timber upon a broken market. Cliff Weare, Ed Donlan, Frank Lyons, and Joseph Moderie were the primary sawmill men around Noxon at the time. But the dictates of the government were explicit:
"All timber sale work is urgent; standpoint of economic utilization; increasing revenues of the service; without jeopardizing the fundamental principles of stumpage rates, advance payments, close utilization and proper silvical treatment of the timber stands.
"Congress expects the service to make good its promise to bring up the total of its revenue to equal that of its gross expenditures. The FS now furnishes only 1/50 of the total (timber) cut in the US. It seems reasonable that cut might be increased sufficiently to supplement present revenue without seriously affecting general market conditions.
"One way to accomplish: Treat every forest user and others doing business with the government as customers who should be shown every courtesy. Definite information of the resources of each forest should be called to the attention of the local communities and through the press to the state in general. We ought to give the general public no ground for criticism on this score."3.
Although the Forest Service was having almost more problems than they could handle a sense of humor was evident. They wrote,
"All funds short due to 1910 fire. We who are left of the Cabinet force this winter (1910-11) are hardly more than a corporal's guard and from present state of finances, it looks as though we might have to live on salt char and hominy before grass grows. We HAVEN'T HAD A RANGERS MEETING FOR THREE YEARS, and the outlook is not good for one in the near future. There have been two reasons for not having more rangers meetings - when we had money enough, we didn't have rangers enough; and when we had rangers enough, we didn't have money enough, and now we have neither one. However we are going to have one before next Christmas if we have to catch char for our meat, kill bear for the grease, shed tears for the salt, and assemble on foot."
'Feed stall' at the Forest Service camp. Circa 1912. Courtesy Granville and Pauline Gordon collection.
Their work was not easy to accomplish:
"Between the Derr sale on Blue Creek and the shingle bolt sale on Elk Creek and several small sales around Noxon, Asst. Ranger E. B. Clark is on the move these days. Asst. Ranger Scarlett rode old Dick (a horse) from Plains to Thompson the other day. We haven't heard from him since, but presume he is still taking his meals off the mantle."
Forest boundaries were another problem. The recorder wrote,
"Asst. Ranger F. E. Brown has a life job figuring out our property." Dossier keeping was recommended: "Few claims (homesteading) during past year; as of number by June 11th surveys made during this fall we will have several during the next year. As soon as you hear of one in your district going to make final proof, go ahead and send in your report. We have found from experience that we get more information BEFORE a man has made final proof than afterwards. When you go to question a witness as to what he knows about a certain case, question him not only as to what he knows, but how he knows it. Each district ranger should have in his files a folder with the name of each claimant in his district who has not made final proof, and on his field trips should take notes on the different places and when he gets home, place the notes in his files."
Methods used by the forest service in removing settlers from the lands they wanted to 'reserve for future administrative sites' were sometimes successful, sometimes not.

Frank Berray had grown up during the exciting years when people were flocking westward to claim a homestead. Being a product of the valley, he'd been involved in his share of the emotional conflicts between the homesteaders and the forest service. He'd been adamantly against the forest service grabbing up the best places. He'd told his parents that if they didn't do something about it, when he became twenty-one, meeting the age requirement for homesteading, he would.

Although the forest service offered summer employment for cash, it was cash that was quickly spent and gone. His father, Cap, was primarily a rancher with a good background in veterinarian skills. Frank learned that the land endured from his father. Man could build a future on land. In 1911 Frank became twenty-one. He was a man.

He'd had his eye on a particularly appealing piece of valley land about five miles up the river from his parents and his brother, Algie's, homestead. There was easily a hundred sixty acres of mostly level land that extended along either side of the river for a mile. A natural meadow of slough grass of perhaps sixty acres lay at the upper end of it. Near the lower portion, a bridge crossed the river over shallow rapids. Tall virgin trees covered a good portion of it, bordering the river and meadow.

Relinquished homestead originally settled by Jamison in 1907 where Frank Berray determined he'd settle.

Frank Berray. Circa 1914. Frank's new
suit and shoes were the latest fashion.
Courtesy  Maxine Higgins Laughlin

Frank told the story this way, "That was one of the first places they (the Forest Service) grabbed along with the one where they built the guard (ranger) station. Altogether they had seven or eight places between the mouth of Bull River and the head of Bull River, grabbing them for administrative sites in case they wanted to change their minds and didn't know where they wanted it. I told the folks when I got 21 years old I was going to sit right down on that place and defy them to throw me off it. I put me up a little old shack on the south side of the river near the bridge (close to the old Tote Road layover barn) and I set there."
Soon Ranger Granny Gordon and the Forest Supervisor arrived on horseback to tell him the land was reserved from homesteading for an administrative site
"How many places you going to hold in here?" Frank asked them. "I thought, according to this use book I've been reading here, you ain't supposed to hold agriculture land when there's other land available for a ranger station."
The two men told him that didn't spell nothing, he could get off or they'd throw him off.
"Here, start throwin' right now because you're going to have to do it sooner or later," Frank replied. "Granny wasn't anxious to try it and neither was the supervisor. So they said, 'We'll go back up and we'll talk to Silcox in Missoula. Then we'll be back up again'".
Frank stayed put and after a time four foresters came riding up to call on him again. They chewed the rag there a while. Granny said, "Well, you've decided you're not going to get off and we're gonna have to throw you off?"
"That's the whole system. You got it right down in a nutshell", Frank answered.
"Well, I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll give you three acres you can work on here. You can clear them up but at the end of a year or two years if we decide that we're not gonna let you have it that's just work for nothing."
Frank said he'd take chances on that. During this time he'd written to Senator Myers and told him how the forest service was withholding all these places for administrative sites. Myers wrote back telling Frank to sit tight and that the forest service would hear from him about that time, too.

When the foresters returned the third time,
"Oh, man! Was they mad that time. What they wasn't gonna do. I'd went over their heads and done this and done that, and told what they was doing and spreading it all over. I didn't have no business doing that. They was just gonna absolutely throw me out bodily then." Frank stood his ground and said, "By golly you're gonna have a job on your hands. It'll take all the damn forest service guys you can bring up here to do it."
All at once Gordon said they weren't going to all that trouble but they'd intended to reserve the hay meadow for hay for the forest service stock.
"I couldn't see the forest service feeding that wild hay to their stock and I told them so. Granny felt that in an emergency they'd get by with it.
"Well, anytime you think you're getting big enough, any one guy or two or three of you, then you come up to throw me out. Anytime you come up, I'll be here waiting for you".
At this point in his story Frank always began to laugh so hard tears ran from his eyes and he'd have to stop while he wiped them away.
"They had to come up a horseback. I knew they'd have to ask to stay all night! That was the best part of it. They'd chew the rag and get tougher than the devil for a while and then they'd quiet down and smooth out and wonder if they could stay until morning so they could ride back. I had more fun then than I ever had in my life. That tickled me to death. I sure laughed at those guys! The forest service didn't actually throw anyone off. They just heckled them until they up and left. I didn't leave."4.
However annoying  homesteaders were, hassling them was far from the main objectives of the forest service. In addition to fire patrols, study of the innumerable plant species was among their top priorities. The forests were to be treated as harvestable crops and rangers were expected to estimate the annual harvest. With only raw recruits making up the force, training them was essential. It became part of the ranger's job.

When plans were laid to build a small extracting apparatus at the old Ranger cabin at the falls on the west fork of Priest River to extract Douglas Fir, larch, red cedar and Whitepine seeds, foresters had to be taught about seed cones, what they were, how to find them what the forest service intended to do with them. Crop observation was another government pioneering project.
"The conifers bear what is known as monecious flowers which means two kinds of flowers in separate places on the same tree. (Having separate male flowers and female flowers on the same plant.)
"These are the pistillate or cone flowers (those which produce the cones) and the staminate or pollen flowers (those which produce the pollen, and after scattering it, wither and die). The mission of the pollen is to fertilize the cone flower and make it possible for them to produce seed. Without the pollen they too wither and die. Both kinds of flowers are in bloom the same time. The wind carries the pollen, which is produced so plentifully that fertilization rarely fails to take place. The flowers are bright red, scarlet, or reddish purple in color. Once seen they cannot be mistaken. The cone flowers are shaped in every way like mature cones, only very much smaller of course.
"Look for them on the same part of the tree that you find the mature cones. On the pines, all over the trees; on the balsams, only on the extreme tip; on the spruce and Douglas fir, scattered somewhat but mostly at the top.
"All kinds of pines require two seasons to mature the cones. The cone flowers produced this spring will be ripe in a year from next fall. Hence in looking for this fall's crop of seed, look for the half grown green cones on last year's branches. The pollen flowers are produced in clusters at the base of the present season's growth. The withered husks usually hang on the trees for months after the pollen is shed. The cone flowers are produced singly (or sometimes in pairs) on the sides or near the ends of the season's shoot.
"The spruce, the Douglas fir and the balsam require only one year to mature the cones. The flowers produced this spring will make fully ripe cones next fall. Hence, in reporting on the seed crop of those trees, it is absolutely necessary to watch the flowers. If you do not know the flowers, you cannot say anything at all about the prospects for seed at this time of the year."
The government began buying seed cones, paying the harvester 30 cents to 35 cents a bushel. Forest service crews received $1.75 a day; raised to $2.00 a day if they averaged 12 bushes or more. A bushel of cones yielded about 3/4 pound of seed. Total estimated coast was a dollar a pound, harvested and extracted. However, the new project required not only teaching, but also experimenting as well.5.

Stella Gordon, eldest daughter of Granville
and Pauline Gordon; possibly wearing the
chaps her father wore when he performed
in William Cody's Wild West Show.
Courtesy Clayton Bauer collection.
Assistant Ranger Ben Saint talked about the project with Laura Fern Fulk (sister to Ethel Fulk Greer) as he courted her. He told her about the four camps west of the Cabinet Forest, on the Kaniksu Forest, with 25 men, a cook, cookee, and foreman in each gathering white pine cones. It took five-two horse teams, two-four horse teams, and a pack train of eight horses to serve them. On October first there were 10,000 bushels of cones in the bins with prospects of several thousand more in sight.5.

Seed testing of climatic varieties began with Western yellow pine and Douglas fir in the 12' x 18' greenhouse at Priest River Station. Field studies were made of sowing and planting methods with Yellow pine regeneration, Douglas fir regeneration and Whitepine regeneration.

Various density of seeding of Whitepine and yellow pine was begun for study. Introduction of exotics such as conifers, Norway spruce, sugar pine; hardwoods, basswood, white ash, red oak and black walnut started.

Meteorological observations with instruments furnished by the Weather Bureau for three stations were also initiated. In addition to documenting the weather and keeping up their studies, rangers also were responsible to make detailed journal entries about the various duties they performed. On January 14, 1911,
"Ranger Brown went to Trout Creek to put a string around the property on the Trout Creek Station. Griffin spent a few days in District 5 about the 20th hunting for a few affidavits in a claim case.
"Ranger Clark was summoned to Phillipsburg on court duty the 23rd. He left Noxon the 20th in order to make connections. The Supervisor stopped off at Heron the last of the month to attend the Farmer's Institute held there. We understand he is a pretty good judge of cake now."

Mountain goat pelts displayed on the Noxon Ranger Station root cellar. The children are Gordon's and Bauer's. Courtesy of Blanche Gordon Claxton collection.
The ladies in the communities lost no time in adding attendance at social events such as box socials and dances whenever possible. Each occassion was a chance to meet newly arrived foresters and, most important of all, another opportunity to socialize with valley residents. And also to show off their culinary expertise.

Deep winter snows could be confining to men desiring to be active, but a variety of tasks were required of the select few who made up the winter forest service crews on the government's payroll.
"The Deputy Supervisor was in need of exercise the last of the month and so broke a trail to the top of Mt. Silcox. He left one morning before breakfast with his Kodak and a can of beans. It was a five-hour pull to the cabin over a dry snow with no crust, and he came down the snow slide in Dry Gulch on the return trip in two and one half hours. Some of his views indicate that things are pretty much under the weather up there."
 To aid in fire control technological advances were improving communications but like all new things, surprises were abundant.
"J. P. Martin arrived February 11 with his arms full of cavalry buzzers, hand reels, test sets, ground rods, howlers, a tool kit and other (necessary) equipment and attachments. The test began Sunday morning on the transmitting apparatus by setting up a station in the office.
"Difficulties were at once met with for when the buzzer was buzzed, the howler would not howl. A 'trouble shooter' was dispatched around the circuit and his report showed that the constructing engineer had connected to an insulated ground wire, which he took to be a No. 9 galvanized wire.
"This remedied, the howler howled like a Comanche when the dots and dashes began to tickle its neck, but when the transmitter was pressed into service, there was nothing doing again. The battery was first accused of being too weak for this altitude and so a few extra were cut in, but with no effect. This was one of those cases where you could hear but could not talk.
"All connections were bright and tight and according to Hyde in every particular. Still nothing could induce the talker to talk. A transmitter was taken from one of our wall phones and attached with the same care and precision to the buzzer circuit for the purpose of arriving at a verdict as to whether its kin was dumb. Neither one would work.
"Bushnell dictated many epithets of a Philipino tongue but "yokadom fotski" is all the correspondent can recall, and Martin was preparing to draft a circular condemning the calvary transmitter to the 'under-most' regions when E. W. Kramer came on the scene.
"'How did you make this talk over in the Bitterroot?'
"'We did not have any trouble with it. Except that we found it wouldn't talk lying down on anything. You have to hold it up before you so the grains of carbon will not bunch up and break the circuit.'
"Moral No. l. Do not put the transmitter on a desk, box or other place where it will be on its back for it will absolutely refuse to say anything for you."

Ranger looking east across Bull River from atop Squaw Peak Mountain. Main Cabinet Mountain Range in the background. Courtesty U. S. Forest Service collection.
Foresters looking west of north across the mountains from Squaw Peak. Billiard Table Mountain in the background. Courtesy U.S. Forest Service collection.
A hard lesson was learned in March when,
"The service lost two pack horses at the Bull River Station. 'Faithful Nellie' and 'Friendless Dick' each passed through the 'great Fire' with a disease commonly known as 'grass staggers', 'blind staggers' or 'choking distemper', and known among veterinarians as cerebro-spinal meningitis. The cause of the disease in these cases has been attributed to 'slough rushes' or 'horse tails' and scientifically known as aquisetum fluviatile. These rushes are frequently associated with the wild hay in wet meadows and when eaten in quantities by horses, it is very apt to cause this disease."
Spring work at the Bull River station consisted of "Ranger Gordon exerting some of his energies on the 'Jungle', which in future years is to be called a clearing."

During the first quarter of fiscal year 1911, 29 timber sales were made, valued at $5,550.21 (consisting mostly of fire-killed timber). 3,220,000 feet saw timber, 1,241 cedar poles, 70,152 cedar posts and 16,332 railroad ties. They were mostly small sales to local parties except the sale of 2,700,000 feet of fire-killed timber on Marten Creek, which was sold to G. S. Burrill of Sandpoint, Idaho. Burrill began with a large crew, also cutting a large private timber sale. R. A. Lauderdale of Norman, Washington bought a large sale on the East Fork and Upper Bull River; estimated at 1,271,000 feet of saw timber, 3,144 cedar poles, 175,000 cedar posts and 7,971 cords shingle bolts. The forest service optimistically recorded, "He undoubtedly will put a large crew to work soon."

Trial and error continued among the happy-go-lucky crew of the forest service.
"Tuesday- The field crew composed of Martin, Kramer, Bushnell and Ranger Brown left this morning with a dozen reels of wire for Thompson River. Griffin was stationed in the office to take care of the 'baby' as the 'howler' is termed locally, for it certainly has a squall which is characteristic of the animal second growth.
"The wire was unreeled from a buggy, Brown following with a saddle horse and a long stick to guide the wire to one side of the road as it was unreeled. A better system was to unreel it where desired from a saddle horse. In this way about three miles of wire could be reeled out in one hour."6.
Awareness and suspiciousness went hand in hand with survival during the early homesteading days. Forest service personnel were not immune.
"Hereafter, Detective Joe Hindman of the NPRR Company should be promptly notified when we string any wire along the RR right-of-way, even if it is placed there only temporarily. Our narrow escape from being 'cinched' during the cavalry wire test for what appeared to be an attempt to blow up a train, has taught us to be more careful."7.
Results were noted and necessary corrections made.
"Instruments were attached at the end of five and a half miles. The following results were obtained in the field station:- Could sound the howler in Thompson; one talking through ordinary phone in Thompson could be heard fairly well but could not hear a conversation over buzzer transmitter; test set could not ring Thompson; talking over this distance is very faint, similar to talking over 75 or 80 miles of galvanized wire. With buzzers connected on 40 miles of #10 galvanized wire, good results were obtained when used as a signal, but was unsatisfactory to talk over."
Sometimes the results were disappointing:
"With buzzers and test sets on 10 miles of buzzer wire, neither instrument worked with any degree of satisfaction and very poor results were obtained when used to signal. Conclusion - that the buzzer wire was of too high resistance to be of use to the FS. It was agreed that a #20 copper wire with some insulation as buzzer wire and weighing 13# to the mile would be best - use regular FS test set with some modifications in weight and size."
"Granny" Gordon, the youngest daughter, Grace Gordon on the packed horse at the Thompson River Ranger camp. Circa 1912. Courtesy Granville and Pauline Gordon collection.
Other means of communication were undergoing tests as the government sought to improve their communications system, so vital during fire season. New problems cropped up.
"Silcox Extension phone line to Mt. Headly was experiment with light insulated copper wire, No. 20 gauge, weighing 20# per mile. Strung along side the trail, rested in most cases on bushes and tree limbs. Reel used to lay and take up; found that two men and a pack horse could either string wire or reel it up as fast as a man ordinarily walks."
So far so good. "When in working order, good, but it was not always in order as it seemed to have a positive attraction for wild animals and bear took great delight in getting tangled up in a stretch of it." Portable telephone equipment proved efficient, though heavy.
"Portable instrument weighs nine pounds fourteen ounces, easily fits into one side of the cantinas. Iron weather and temperature proof box recommended with all contacts covered with bee's wax and paraffin to prevent moisture. Talk has been conducted over 1,000 miles on it." Lookout patrols on mountain peaks could now keep in contact with others.2a.
* * * * *
The first ranger meeting on the Cabinet National Forest took place June 2l, 1911. Brown, Clark, Gordon, Scarlett, Saint and Bushnell spent four days going over fire problems, tools caches, fighting, patrol and fire reports, office files and procedures.

The clearing at the Bull River station in District 6 grew larger day by day. The number of bear and other big game grew less. Every visitor to the Bull River station went away whistling "Casey Jones."

Aftermath of the 1910 fires that raged across the forests. Courtesy Earl Engle collection.
Fires during 1911 were kinder to the little forest service organization. Noxon District fires cost only $58.10 for additional help as compared to $75,773 in 1910.

In Montana and Idaho, 5,000 acres burned. Extra help was required on only fifty fires in the entire National forests. Fire fighters for the full season totaled only 600. And a total of only 35,000 acres burned with 2,500,000 board feet of timber killed. Fire costs were only about $15,000.

The Great Northern railroad fire lines were established in the most dangerous places. All of the 36 railroad fires occurred along the GNRR and of those, 32 were held inside the line. Three started where no fire line had been constructed and one jumped the fire line at a grassy spot with a very high wind back of it.

Crews of 15-25 men spent September and October tree seeding the east and south slopes of an area tributary to Beaver Creek using seeds extracted from the gathered cones. On slopes from 3,000 to 5,500 foot elevation the mountain was devoid of growth except for grass and small brush such as laurel, etc. due to burns 10 to 15 years old. There was no dead timber, little live timber to reseed it. "Crews over 15 needs supervisor."

Men using "the corn planter method", spaced 6' x 6', sowed one and a half pounds of western yellow pine seed per acre over 854 acres spreading a total of 1,283 pounds. Seed cost $l,603; other costs $1,797. The efforts were not too successful.

Clarence Birdseye of the Biological survey found that mice, chipmunks and squirrels promptly carried away the seeds. He quickly devised a system to battle this new enemy.

Birdseye soaked 16 quarts of wheat overnight in a solution of one ounce of strychnine sulphate dissolved in sufficient water to thoroughly saturate the wheat. The wheat was then put into screens and dried in the sun for one half day.
"To weatherproof this preparation, put in large tubs and beef tallow heated thoroughly mixed with wheat."
This poison was thoroughly distributed over the area, placing about a spoonful in a place.
"Results, not satisfactory. Convinced not to poison in fall anymore. Wheat is stored by rodents and then the seed spots are attacked. The stored poison may kill some rodents this winter but will have little effect on the sowing as the damage was done in the fall. Within 24 hours of the seeding process, 22 spots were found, 14 had been already visited by rodents and practically cleaned out.
"At the end of the project, apparently two thirds of the seed spots had been attacked. Conclusion: Poison in the spring, seed in the fall." Birdseye spent about a month experimenting on poisoning rodents before leaving for Washington, D.C."8.
* * * * *
As dam builders coveted the water resources of the national forests the government became aware that "the energy producing potential of the waterways on the national forest land ranked second in value only to the timber." Thus, it too, was of major concern to the new agency.

John C. Beebe, hydrographer, was transferred from the Water Resources Branch of the U S Geological Survey to District 1. On his visit in October 1911 he teamed up with Mr. Leidle of the Geological Survey to check the elevation of staff gauges at gauging stations with established bench marks to determine whether or not the gauges had moved.

Rangers were directed to make discharge measurements as well as establish new stations on several streams in estimating the horse power capacities of various water power sites on the forests for determining the comparative value for power for agricultural purposes of lands applied for under the Act of June 1906.
"When it is considered that the value of water power on the national forests is second only to the value of timber, the importance to the forest service of stream gauging will be appreciated.
"The demand for and the development of water power sites on District 1 has felt the financial depression, or quiet times, existing during the past year." Only a few applications, most of which were for small sites, were received, "the power to be used for mining purposes." Little work was done on the uncompleted larger water power projects throughout the district. Estimated receipts for water power permits already issued in the district for calendar year beginning January 1, 1912, $7,000, not including probable receipts from new applications.
The forest service planned to make further water power reconnaissance on other forests in the northwest to evaluate "certain lands along the streams for water power purposes that are applied for under the homestead Act of June 11, 1906.9.

Surveying of homestead lands had long been thought too complex and costly. By 1911 the following directive was put out to District 1 Rangers.
"The proposed cooperation has long been sought by the Forest Service because of the fact that the two surveys now executed by the different Departments is a direct duplication of work and expense to settlers in unsurveyed land in acquiring patent needs to be eliminated. The aim of the coop plan is to provide for the execution of survey of all June 11th Tracts by competent surveyors in the employ of the Forest Service but working under direct instructions from the Surveyor General.
"Previously the survey executed by the Forest Service (by the ranger) has been used only for the basis of listing the tract, and a second and more precise survey was necessary when the applicant was ready to make final proof. This second survey was made at the cost of the applicant by some duly appointed deputy surveyor under the direction of the Surveyor General.
"The new method would make the Forest Service survey official for final proof and patent. We will need to organize a surveying corps to handle this, to have only certified men on each Forest whose name will be filed with the Department of the Interior as deputy surveyor. It will be necessary to have these surveys under the new procedure made very much more accurate and exact than under the former plans.
"In each case it will be necessary to establish a meridian by stellar or solar observations, and, of course, the limit of closure allowed will be very much smaller than that now allowed by the compass and chain surveys. On (a) Forest where there is very little work the surveying will probably be handled by a man temporarily detailed from some other Forest or from the District office."
The original survey of Caspar Berray's homestead contained no less than thirteen corners, a not uncommon occurrence since in an area that was made up of a series of high peaks cleaved by narrow valleys, homesteads had to be valley bottom lands. The November 1911 synopsis of claims to National forest property said,
"Since the District was organized, Forest officers have examined and reported on 2,800 agricultural and mining claims formally entered through the Department of the Interior. Applications received under the Act of June 11, 1906 totaled 4,638 and the area listed in response to these applications contained 170,118 acres. It takes lots of labor to handle all these cases."
Mapping was yet another urgent concern to be attended to as rapidly as possible.
"More precise reconnaissance work has been undertaken on many of the forests. It is necessary to run many transverse or meander lines for topographic control, connections to official surveys, etc. Owing to the varied and often incompetent methods that have been introduced in this work by the individual fancies of the many different surveyors, soon complete and concise instructions for the procedure of execution, and practical and helpful hints for field officers will be included.
"Instruction will be sufficiently liberal so they may be adapted to varied conditions of survey, as to topography and purpose, but still the requirements of execution, plat, monuments set and field notes will be such that a certain degree of uniformity will be introduced in the District. The terrain to be mapped certainly required 'sufficiently liberal instructions'. Ravines were thickly choked with brush and trees; sidehills were so steep, and often so rocky, as to be almost impossible to scale; the area contained not a few peaks, and seemingly endless ridges and promontories.
"Begin gathering original data and corrections for the Atlas Folios," the office directed. "Mapping of the forest is one of the most tremendous, important projects the Forest Service has to deal with. Maps are the primary necessity of every big venture dealing with the Government supervision of large areas of land."
Circa 1890s looking souoth across the Bull
River meadows. Homesteads at the base of
the mountains are Jim and Caspar Berrays.
Courtesy William Finnigan collection.
One wonders at the thinking behind these words,
"Emphasized by inquiries into the movements of the War Department. Securing maps in great detail suited to the exigencies of the situation of all regions where future military operations are anticipated in any way whatsoever. Napoleon's greatest successes are attributed to his knowledge of the situations and advantages of the sites of his battlefields, secured through long hours of concentrated study of the maps prepared for him by his advance scouts. Only one third of the District has been covered by topographical maps."10.
Neither the seeding of barren mountainsides to trees, measuring stream flows, homestead surveying, nor mapping the rugged mountains was on Ben Saint's mind October 23, 1911 as he said wedding vows with Laura Fern Fulk. James C. Saint and Glen I. Dodge had spent most of the day taking the examination for position of Assistant Forest Ranger being conducting that day and the next by Superintendent Bushnell. They and several others held a charivari dance at the Ward Hotel in Thompson Falls for the giddily happy young newlyweds.

1911 was conspicuous in the absence of any great number of cases for starting fires on national forests. Only a few cases were reported to the district office of the forest service. In the United States vs Posky case the defendant was arrested by Supervisor of the the Kaniksu National forest. It quickly became another topic in Noxon bars and around Weare's pot bellied stove. Some men did more listening than talking.

Posky was charged with setting a fire in slashings on a squatter claim within the forest and leaving it without taking sufficient precautions to prevent its escape. He was taken before a U.S. Commissioner. At the preliminary hearing, after the government presented it's evidence and Posky went on the stand in his own behalf, the Commissioner decided a prima facie case had been established. Posky was held for Grand Jury action.

At the fall term of the grand Jury in Spokane, Posky's case was presented but a true bill was not returned.11.

Making fire trespass arrests and having to impose grazing restrictions were galling enough to many rangers. Then came another not entirely welcomed duty, which widened the growing breach between homesteader and the government. The settlers were accustomed to taking game as needed, counting it one of the bounties of the land; a necessity to survival like the fish from the streams and the wood and berries from the hillsides.

None-the-less, rangers received their 'directives,'
"As stated in a circular letter of October 6, the protection of game is now a part of the regular duties of Forest Officers. Work is distasteful to many but there must be no escaping the duty. Only the enmity of the lawbreakers can be incurred by enforcements of the law and that can be serious only very rarely. Under the State Game Laws of Idaho (Sec. 12 and 22) Forest Officers are Game Wardens by virtue of their positions and authorized to make all necessary arrests without warrant."
Not all rangers upheld this duty and more than one ate dinners consisting of 'poached' game. Could Uncle Sam expect a man to arrest his father, brother, cousin or in-laws? And survive it with his honor intact?
* * * * *
A speech given by Oregon District Forester DuBoise, at Portland, Oregon was printed and sent to all the Montana rangers.
"The ideal protection organization for a given unit of administration (say a ranger district) consists of a properly spaced series of lookouts whose radii of efficiency overlap slightly; a number of patrol divisions small enough for one man to cover easily with the patrolman stationed at the center of accessibility in each; and an officer in charge of the district stationed at the point most easy of access to each division.
"But before this skeleton can be vitalized into an effective fire-fighting machine it is necessary to tie all parts together with an adequate communications system.
"There are two distinct periods of the protection of game: Discover and report of fires, and mobilizing fighters on the line.
"So far we have developed only three means of discovering fires - the permanent lookout, the patrolman, and the volunteer reporter. The lookout must be at his station all the time, night and day. The patrolman becomes a fire discoverer only when his pre-arranged route takes him onto commanding points during the day. Volunteer fire discoverers may be settlers, miners, stage drivers or railroad employees.
"They often render most valuable service, but cannot be tied into the organization to the same extent as the regular paid force."
He went on to discuss methods of communication and their importance to the "central office to the one man who is best fitted to see that a properly equipped crew of men are forwarded to the scene in the shortest possible time.
"This man must know the location and availability of every sort of contrivance that can move men, tools and supplies in the area for which he is responsible - be it by railroads, trolley lines, motor trucks, autos, wagons, teams, saddle horses, pack outfits, logging engines, etc."
"He must know under just what terms and circumstances he can secure their use for fire fighting work and come to a clear understanding with the owners that under these terms he can get them." Weak spots in the system were to be rooted out and corrected.
"The old time ranger who, on getting word of a fire from a messenger on a steaming horse, seizes his shovel and ax and starts alone through the woods on a gallop is being supplanted by the ranger who gets his fire call by phone, works out it's exact location by triangulation and then, sitting down at his desk phone, moves his forces, equipment and supplies in on it with the speed and precision of a railroad train dispatcher. He is fighting fires with his head by out-guessing it, rather than with a shovel and his back."
This may have sounded great but it didn't quite describe conditions at Noxon. The few roads that existed were barely suitable for wagons, teams, saddle horses and pack outfits.


1. THE FOREST SERVICE 1907 to 1929 by Ben Saint.
2. Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report, April 1, 1911 (February) 1910 Fire-killed forest service sales not advertised.
  • BULL RIVER UNIT: Estimated - Whitepine, 10 million ft; larch, 6 million ft; fir, 8 million ft; cedar 2 million ft; spruce, 5 million ft; white fir, 5 million ft; yellow pine, 600 M ft; hemlock, 600 M ft. Prices on this tract will range from about 75 cents for fir and larch to $1.50 for whitepine.
  • NOTTINGHAM UNIT: Western yellow pine, 767 M ft; Douglas fir, 1,389 M ft; larch 370 M ft; lodgepole pine, 7 M ft. Prices - $1.00 for fir and larch to $1.50 on yellow pine.
  • SWAMP CREEK: 200,000 railroad ties; 60% red fir and larch, and 40% white fir and hemlock. Price - 2 1/2 cents each.
  • WHITEPINE CREEK: 2,986 M ft, assorted; 22,000 railroad ties; 1,500 cedars.
2a. Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report, November 1911.

3. Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report, November 1911. The November directive to forest officers included a very complicated method of estimating damage for grazing on forestlands without a permit; or for burning forest grazing lands. It was not uniform in many cases. Punitive damages could be only be set by the courts, not the forest service employees. Grazing prices "for private range land: $64.00 per section or 10 cents per acre for a full season of four months. Carrying capacity of forest lands is not as great as private lands. This causes a proportionate reduction.

4. Frank Berray tpe-recorded oral history, March 6, 1970.

5. Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report, November 1911. .

6. Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report, April 1, 1911 and Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report, November 1911. 
7. Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report, February, 1911.

8. Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report.

9. Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report.

10. Noxon Ranger District Cabinet National Forest Report.

11. In the John Henry fire trespass case on the Palisade Forest in District 4, the government won a landmark decision. Damages included replacing the timber, destroyed, an even aged stand of lodgepole pine saplings 26 years old. Damages decreed were planting 10 acres with 2-0 lodgepole pine at a cost of $12 per acre = $120. Interest on $120 compounded at 3% for 24 years - $123.93. Total of $243.93.

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