Sunday, January 23, 2011


Photo by Bert Huntoon, Bellingham, WA, Courtesy W. R. Chuck Peterson collection.
During the last ice age, an enormous glacier pushed its way out of Canada, flowing down the Purcell Trench, until it reached Pend Oreille Lake. There it formed a dam. Glacial Lake Missoula began filling behind it. Before its cataclysmic end eons later, the lake would fill and empty about thirty-six times as the glacier front melted, then ground forward to create yet another dam, over and over again.

Glacial Lake Missoula extended through the Bitterroot Valley as far south as Darby, Montana. It flooded the Clark Fork valley as far eastward as Drummond, all of the Jocko, Camas Prairie and Little Bitterroot valleys, and the Mission valley as far north as Polson, where waters lapped against another icy glacier.

At the end of the ice age 10,000 years ago the earth trembled. The glacier moved. Ice nudged boulders. Soon, racing water-born, the earth's migration began on a mutinous roar. The ice dam ruptured a final time. The 2000-foot-deep water behind the dam, estimated at 500 cubic miles, rushed out at two hundred times the flow rate of the Mississippi River at maximum flood. The wall of water surged and tumbled at a rate of 45-60 miles an hour.1. Eight to ten cubic miles of water per hour, scouring all sediment from rocks in the narrowest parts of the drainage causing the greatest flood catastrophe the world has ever known occurred. It rampaged with the force equal to 60 Amazon Rivers.

Time passed. Glacial Lake Missoula, which had risen yearly until it reached just over 4,150 feet above sea level, and was as big as Lakes Erie and Ontario combined, was no more. Quiet returned.

The valley of the Clark Fork River evolved -- the land Behind These Mountains.

The geography of the land became river bottom land in a valley gouged scarcely a mile wide most of it's ninety mile length to its junction with another river. It was carved from east to west, located inland easterly from the Pacific Ocean about five hundred air miles.

From this bottomland lying approximately 2,000 feet above sea level, mountains jutted steeply. Up and up. To 9000 feet. Numerous narrow canyons, cleaved from the mountains by creeks and rivers, joined it. Cliffs and rocky outcroppings tumbled across the skyline as peaks formed ramparts blocking the view from the valley floor in every direction. Winds soughed softly through green branches. Water rushed, rippling and sparkling on its' journey toward the ocean. Many great barriers were left to impede the river; gorges, rapids, huge boulders. Several hundred centuries went by. No one knows if prehistoric man came here or when Indians first inhabited the valley.1.

The Indians who traveled the valley of the river named it 'Saleesh'. Its waters held rainbow, cutthroat and native trout, and whitefish. Suckers, penos, squawfish and perch competed for life in the river and the streams feeding it.

White-tail and mule deer shared the habitat of the verdant mountains with brown bear, black bear and grizzly. Cougar, porcupine, weasel, mink, muskrat, bobcat, martin, marmot, beaver, and coyote formed an ecological chain with gophers, mice, snowshoe rabbits, packrats and other rodents, along with bees and their honey.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, no white man had yet recorded visiting the western valley of the Saleesh. By then it was heavily timbered. Only small bands of Indians plied their canoes up and down the glacial waters; waters clear and drinkable that appeared to be green, colored as they were by reflections of the wilderness that surrounded them. They roamed the numerous trails twining along the riverbanks and canyons that led from it to the high peaks where eagles soared and porcupines and skunks waddled. All were content. Nature ruled unmolested.

Within the first few years of the century men sitting in the luxury and comfort of fur trading company's board rooms in the eastern part of the country (which was then the United States) cast votes that would begin white man's first influx into the valley.

Explorers Lewis and Clark came in 1805. They climbed the mountains and surveyed the rich land. Seeing the river, they called it 'Clark's Fork of the Columbia', and so it ceased to be the Saleesh. And these men then called the Indians 'the Saleesh'.2. And looking, they found the land good; wealthier in furs, timber, minerals and water by far than any other land.

Greed for the treasures of the valley compelled them to challenge each other and nature's forces. Never again would the land of the Saleesh River be solely nature's domain. Man had come to claim it, to dispute over it, to rape it and savor the sweetness of victory. Since then dissention has paced every thrusting step of progress and civilization.

Cabinet Gorge on Clark's Fork River. Courtesy 
Maxine Laughlin collection.
When David Thompson arrived on the Clark Fork of the Columbia River in 1809 scouting for furs and exploring for the Northwest Company he came to the first gorge, upstream from where the waters joined Pend Oreille Lake. The high rock pillars, which formed the walls of it, reminded of a high walled sitting room, the French name for which is 'cabinet'. He called the gorge, 'The Cabinet'.

Seven miles upstream from this 'Cabinet' gorge on October 12, 1809 at 9:40 a.m. he stopped at a rapids of huge boulders and ledges. The waters leaped into spray or swirled green, capped in white foam. Here he found three Tents of Saleesh fishing Herrings with a small dipping net.

"Of these fish they take great quantities, they gave us about 20 of them for which I paid a foot of Tobacco." Thompson returned November 3, 1809 ....and "At 5 P.M. put up at the Herring Rapid".3.

People knowledgeable in the geography and history of the west say that the rapids referred to above were definitely near Heron, Montana and speculate that Heron is a corruption of the word, "Herring". Their half-mile stretch was unnavigable. Thus it, too, was named: 'Heron Rapids.'

Northwestern Montana, the immense area drained by the Kootenai and Clark Fork rivers and their tributaries, of which this valley was a part, was the trapping grounds for British traders. Crude log buildings called 'Posts' were established for the Northwest Company and trade began with the Indians.

Hard situations breed hard men but the call of the mountains was strong. The very active mountaineers of the Northwest Fur Company of Montreal were competing keenly with another British fur company, the great Hudson's Bay Company. No nation had yet established any definite claim to the region. Politically it was a No-man's-land and a prize for whoever occupied it and claimed permanent ownership.4.

The Pacific Fur Company, organized by the financial genius, John Jacob Astor, sent out an expedition on September 8, 1810 from New York.5. His American trappers also wanted control of the furs and the land.

Landing on the Oregon coast March 22, 1811, they founded Astoria. But the American victory was short-lived. In 1812 war began and British ships seized Astoria in 1814.4. It became necessary to sell this post to the Northwest Company to avoid its capture by a British naval expedition that had been sent to take possession of it.5.

The 'Nor'westers' had scored a double victory over the Americans and over their bitter rivals, the Hudson's Bay Company.

Following the war, the Hudson's Bay Company took possession of the country between the Pacific coast and the sources of the Missouri river. Parties were sent out to establish trapping and trading posts in the interior and to open stations among the Indians. These were established at Walla Walla, Fort Colville, Spokane and on the Kootenai River.

Competition between the two British companies had become so intense by 1821 that the British Parliament forced them to cease from strife. They decided to unite under the name and charter of the Hudson's Bay Company.5.

In addition to the major trappers fur trading posts, log huts were built on the trails to shelter carriers and trappers. These roadside inns had no landlords. They consisted of four log walls, a roof and generally a fireplace formed of native stone and mud. Tall virgin timber stood lonely guard over them.

Possibly the first structure to be built in this region of the Clark Fork valley was such a trading post. An editor of Ross Cox' book on The Columbia River, says that the trading post Ross Cox and Russell Farnham built November-December 1812 was probably near the mouth of Bull River.

An early tale passed along by the trappers told of the killing of a bull elk here. The head was left on a stump the story goes. Another name originated -- The Bull's Head Encampment -- eventually to become Bull River.6.

At that time the Kootenai Indian Trail, a rude bridal path, extended from Walla Walla to Missoula. Pack animals could be taken over it only with great difficulty. A wagon couldn't get over it. It followed the north banks of the Clark Fork River through the valley.

Bull River flows into the Clark Fork from the north about twenty-five miles east of Pend Oreille Lake. It twists like a tortured snake, flowing south out of a half mile wide defile which interlaces the rugged mountains between the Kootenai River thirty miles north and the Clark Fork River. No one recorded when Indians ceased to camp at its mouth when the first permanent white settlers came to the valley.6

A great barrier of stone split the Clark's Fork River into two channels of churning rapids about seven miles upstream from the mouth of Bull River. Nature had heaped soil and seed upon it. By the time white men arrived it was covered with an abundance of trees, grasses and shrubs. Indians, trappers, and river travelers found it a welcome refuge with ample space to camp. It acquired the name of Rock Island.

Rock Island, looking east. Circa 1890. Courtesy William Finnigan collection.
In 1824 trapping for furs in the region was big business. The ruling spirit of the great fur empire was Doctor John McLoughlin, chief factor for the Hudson's Bay Company. He ruled as a benevolent despot from his headquarters post at Ft. Vancouver. Indians called him the 'White-headed Eagle.' His word was law, and about all the law there was throughout the entire region, which included the Columbia Basin section of Montana and other states.5

Well equipped companies of traders and trappers set out yearly from headquarters and from other base posts in the region working the various streams and watercourses very thoroughly, trapping and trading with the Indians. Many of the men were Scottish. Others were French-Canadians, many of whom were half-breed. Most were devout Catholics. They called themselves 'King George's Men' and roamed where the mountain air was sweet and cool, the native grasses fresh and untrammeled in the bottomlands.5. They followed deep game trails cut by whitetail and black tail (mule) deer through tremendous virgin growths of timber. Their only transportation routes wre the Indian trails and the rivers.

Cabins on a trapper's trap line would have made fine winter quarters for some sleepy old bear looking for a winter den. Often built about three and a half feet by six feet, of pole construction, located on a timbered ridge. A pole topped with a tin can sticking about three feet out of the snow with a small stove pipe barely showing, another pole about 12 feet distant, the latter marking the starting point of a tunnel leading at an angle down to the trapper's lair. Inside the snug shelter, a little staple food. Perhaps a couple martin hides hung from the roof.7. ( )

Beaver fur was valued at $4 a pound. Each animal provided approximately two pounds of fur. Prime martin were $35 to $45 a pelt.7. Small bands of Indians roamed through the mountains, seasonally trapping, hunting, fishing or picking berries.

For a quarter of a century the region, though held under the joint control of the American and British governments, was decidedly British in complexion. In 1843 when the historic meeting was held in the open field at Champoeg, Oregon, and a vote was taken whether a settlers government on the American pattern should be organized, the British lost by only one vote. Their influence began steadily declining. The trail blazing of the voyageur-trapper was ending.5.

The Trapper (Anon)
I hont de bear, I hunt de moose
Sometime hont de rat.
Las' wik I tak my h'axe an go
To hont de skonk Pole-Cat.
My Fran Bill say she's ver' fine fur
Same tam good for eat.
So I tal my wife I gat fur coat
Same tam I gat some meat.
I walk two tree, six mile and more
Den tink I feel strong smell.
I tink dat Got damned skonk she died
An fur coat gon to hell.
By and by I see dat skonk
Close up by one beeg tree
I sneak up close behind heem
I tink he no zees me.
By and by get ver close
And raise my h'axe up high
Dat Got damned skonk
She goes, peese
Kerplunks som 'ting in my eye.
Sacre bleu! I tink I bline!
Je-Crise I no can see!
I ron an ron an ron an ron
'Til I bomp in a Got damned tree.
By and By I drop de h'axe
An lite out for de shack,
I'm tink about a million skonks
Is clime apon my back.
My wife she meet me at zee door
An seek on me zee dog.
She say "you no sleep here tonight
Go out and sleep wid hog.
I tried to gat in dat pig pen
Je-Crise, now what you tink
Dat Got damned hog no stan for dat
On count of awful steenk.
I hunt no more de skonk,
Gat fur coat nor meat
For eef his peese she smal so bad
Je-Crise! What eef he sheet!8.

The organization of Oregon Territory by Congress in 1848 gave definite government to the mountains and valleys.*5. Only a handful of those who were governing this land of the shining mountains ever saw the treasures they governed. For over fifty years few but Indians, trappers and prospectors traversed the valley.

In 1853 Oregon Territory was divided and the valley then became Washington Territory lands.5. The 1860's marked the very earliest of settlements by white persons who came intending to stay.1. It was a slow and dangerous development. The first settlers dared not bring families into such a primitive and unexplored region. Settlement generally commenced both eastward and westward of the portion Behind These Mountains, Vol. 1, 2 and 3.

When Missoula county split from Spokane county December 14, 1860 the valley was left in Spokane county, Washington Territory.9.

Charlie Kimball was one of the first to move into the Wild Horse Plains area east of Noxon about sixty miles.10. It is an area three miles long, one to three miles wide, relatively flat and open. Wild grasses and mild, open winters formed a famous wintering grounds for the Indians animals. In 1860 Kimball built a log house near the mouth of what was later named Lynch Creek west of where Plains later became a town. His intention was to remain there to buy and sell furs from the Indians. He was there only a year or two when the Indians with whom he was trading killed him in an argument over furs.1.

* * * * *

Giving of free land to people willing to settle in the west became a topic for congress, however formal acceptance of the doctrine was held up for a time because of the slavery question. The Civil War removed all doubts. With it's beginning in 1862, the Homestead Act was passed. The horrors of clashing combat flailed the eastern part of the continent. The dispute over slavery unleased the savagery of humanity allowing petty jealousies to turn neighbor against neighbor. Friends and relatives fled in wagon trains heading west, relinquishing their homeland to find a peaceful spot on earth.11. Meanwhile men were still making their way arduously through the untrammeled land of the Clark's Fork valley where nature was their only assailant.

Under the Homestead Act settlers could become owners of 160 acres of western states land. Free, except for a small filing fee ... and the staggering fact that a homesteader must occupy the piece of land for five consecutive years. Insufficient population kept Montana unborn and no one was looking to settle down in the beautiful but inhospitable valley yet anyway. Gold lay beyond it, it seemed. East. Or south. Or north.

California gold strikes in the 1840's and 50's had spawned a new breed of man.12. Like locusts they migrated wherever the prospect of riches gleamed. Promoters manipulated them, feeding on their labors, greedily enriching themselves.

Foresighted men among them were busy. They were in contact with powerful men in the east. Many dinner parties, hunting forays, horse races, and the like abetted the gathering of influential men. Men who had access to the White House and persuasive ways with the President of the United States. Words were carried to them across the rugged land. It was the time of great railroad building schemes. Schemes that made millionaires of daring men.

In time the builders of railways envisioned a road of steel to cross the continent, wealth beckoning them. To the common man they gave the object: To reach a deep tidal estuary on the Pacific coast; to transport military supplies to quell the Indians. To take their land and to open the treasure chest of these mountains. Settle up the west, was their cry. More men heeded it and moved westward.13.

* * * * *

Idaho territory was created March 3, 1863. All of the western Clark Fork River drainage then became a part of Idaho country. Government crept closer.14.

Gold was discovered at Alder Gulch in Montana the same year.14. The experienced and toughened miners stampeded to the area from California in the southwest. Suddenly boats, rafts, canoes and crafts of every description that would float were plying the glacial waters of the Clark Fork River.15.

Rippling images of men and horses picking their way along the shoreline reflected on the swift waters. The valley rang with the sounds of horses hooves and gear as laden pack trains struggled to make their way east to Alder Gulch, Bannack, Virginia City, from Walla Walla over the Kootenai Trail. From the east, tenderfooted prospectors flocked westward, booming trade on the Missouri. Shovels, axes, mining equipment, food and clothing needs begat businesses. Whiskey and women flowed with them, some of them willing to settle for less than a home and security.

January 16, 1864 Idaho legislature created 10 counties; Missoula's western boundary was unchanged. April 30, 1864 Thompson Township was created (roughly from Weeksville - Kitchin's Mill - west.) One month later, on May 26, 1864, Congress authorized the creation of Montana Territory embracing the northwest Missoula County. Boundaries were accepted as Idaho had set them. The gold rush at Alder Gulch, Bannack and Virginia City had brought enough population to decide the territorial vote.16.

* * * * *
On July 2, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress creating the Northern Pacific Railroad Company. It was the crowning achievement for men such as Dr. Samuel Bancroft Barlow, Asa Whitney, Edwin F. Johnson and Isaac Stevens. They were the men who, as early as 1834, had recognized the vital need for a rail line spanning the continent if the land and the Indians were to be conquered. Their labors had succeeded. The line would have its eastern terminus at Lake Superior and its western terminus at Puget Sound. Much of its route would follow the trail blazed by Lewis and Clark on their expedition. This would take it down the valley of the Clark Fork.17.

A trickle of men, the miners and a few squatters, had moved into the territory. On the Clark Fork of the Columbia Joseph F. Clark became the next white man to attempt to settle. Courageously he moved into Horse Plains in 1864 to superintend the carrying of the U. S. mail by pony express ride from Fort Missoula to Fort Walla Walla.

The route used by the pony express from Ft. Missoula to Horse Plains followed much the same route as Highway 200 to the present town of Ravalli. From there it turned west to what is now Perma, where riders forded the Flathead river to the northside. Extending through the Camas Prairies country, past Dog Lake and over a low pass south of the lake, then into the settlement of Horse Plains.

The US mail contract was held by his brother, W. A. Clark, who later became United States Senator from Montana. Joseph Clark took up the ranch later owned by the Lynch family on the creek named for them. The first post office was established at that spot. As it developed the town of Horse Plains was clustered in that area, four miles up the creek north from it's present site.18. Men traveling through the valley stopped, looked around and some stayed a while.

The Vigilantes hung Henry Plummer that year. General Sully defeated the Souix at Killdeer Mountain. Worden and Company located Missoula Mills. Placer mining on Silver Bow creek marked the beginnings of Butte, Montana.19.

Those who traveled down the Clark Fork saw the pleasant narrow valley and it's timber. They camped at Rock Island and prospected the streams a bit before moving on. Staying men want womenfolk. To bring women required taming of this land. Men who were tired of roaming and searching were ready for taming, too. However they were not quite ready to be governed completely.

December 12, 1864 the first Legislative Assembly for Montana Territory began its sessions at Bannack. Before they adjourned in 1865 among the laws they adopted was the first law making the hook and line the only legal way to catch fish.20. At Rock Island, fish were still taken any way a man could get one. Who cared about laws passed so far away? Who was there to enforce them? Man, whose main sustenance was wild game and fish, took whatever nature provided without putting much store in 'foolish' laws.21.
* * * * *
By 1865 there was stiff competition for Idaho and Montana mining trade among merchants of San Francisco, Portland and St. Louis. Those traveling the Mullan road via the Coeur d'Alene and St. Regis Borgia rivers, to Fort Benton on the Missouri found themselves at a disadvantage. Lookout Pass was closed by snow eight months of the year. Before it could be crossed it was possible for wagon trains to cross the plains and for boats to go up the Missouri to Fort Benton.

North of the Mullan Road two of the trails used by Indians and fur trappers penetrated the forest wilderness. One of these trails, the Skeetshoo Road, connected Plantes Ferry on the Spokane River with Seneacquoteen on the Pend Oreille River. After crossing the Pend Oreille to the north side, the trail continued past the present site of Sandpoint, Idaho to where Boyer Slough enters Pend Oreille Lake.22.

Here the trail split. The Lake Indian Road led north. Later it would be called the Wild Horse Trail after gold was discovered on a creek by that name in British Columbia. The other fork was called the Road to Buffalo, or Pend Oreille Route. Travelers used it to reach the Montana gold fields when the Mullan Road was closed by snow. Both routes were very difficult to travel.23.

One newspaper account gave the following description of the trail known as The Pend d'Oreille Route,
"From the crossing of the Spokane to the ferry on the Pend d'Oreille, a distance of forty-two miles, the road is already a passable one for wagons, and the last thirty miles is nearly destitute of feed. Leaving the ferry, we next took the trail leading toward the BitterRoot, around the edge of the lake.
"This is the part of the trail which is most feared on account of the mud and water. The flats over which the trail passes are exposed at low water, being from eight to fifteen feet above low water mark. The soil is clay and covered with swamp grass, which, after being water soaked under the snow during the winter, is very poor feed for animals. Occasionally we met with rushes, which helped to fill up our otherwise starved animals.
"The lake flats are bordered by Cedar Swamps, in which the snow was still lying from a foot and a half to three feet deep, and water was standing in ponds and pools, making them impassable. Sloughs put in from these swamps, which are more properly the mouths of the small streams which drain the country to the north. The flats are muddy from the travel, but not bad, as horses only sink in about six inches; then the ground is stiff enough to hold them up.
"The sloughs spoken of look formidable, but pack horses seldom mire down in them, and, altogether, the trail is not so bad as was expected. Thirty five miles from the ferry we crossed Pack River, and in sixteen miles more reached the head of the Lake, at the mouth of the Clark's Fork-fifty one miles.
"The Pend d'Oreille Lake is a beautiful sheet of water, environed by mountains, whose steep precipitous sides are covered with snow, and threes stick amongst the rocks wherever the soil or a crevasse afford a foothold. The maps do not give a correct idea of the configuration of its shores, … the indentations of its bays or its mountains. For a wagon road the north side of the lake presents but a few obstacles, but to construct it will be expensive – say $500 a mile
"Up the Clark's Fork: For six miles the trail keeps up the right bank and crosses two large creeks coming from the north, then we ascend the Cabinet mountain, covered with snow (April 13), and struck the Clark's Fork above the Cabinet ... The pack string jangled its way through the heavily timbered mountain valley following the faint Kootenai Trail. Over twenty weary mils passed before the first grass for the horses was found at Vermillion River ... the estimated distance being 447 miles, or nearly 100 miles further than the wagon road."23.
Despite the hardships many miners and commercial packers used the roads and trails, the gold fields of Montana tempting them to brave the hazards. Opportunity beckoned the enterprising. A group of men from Oregon decided to use the Pend Oreille lake and the Clark Fork River to speed prospectors through the mountains. The Oregon Steam Navigation Company (O.S.N.Co.) and Zenas F. Moody believed steamboats would prove profitable. Zenas Moody, in partnership with a Mr. Davidson, built the steamboat, Mary Moody, at Seneacquoteen during 1865-66.

The hull and superstructure of the 108-foot vessel were built from hand sawn native timber. The boat measured twenty feet wide and four feet, nine inches deep. The machinery and boilers had helped open other wildernesses having been used in the Express on the Willamette of Oregon and the Colonel Wright on the Snake and Clearwater rivers before being shipped to Pend Oreille by ox team for the Mary Moody.24.

The launching of the steamboat Mary Moody, at Seneacquoteen, in May of 1866 shattered the quiet solitude of the north Idaho wilderness forever. It also heralded the need for woodcutters to supply fuel for the steamboats. Eventually the forest was hewed back from the shores of Lake Pend Oreille to the extent that guards carrying rifles were hired to secure the steamers woodpiles.

(Caption: Mary Moody steamboat on Lake Pend Oreille. Courtesy Chuck Peterson collection\Bonner County Historical Society.)

The Indians roving in the Clark Fork valley watched the big white boat move up the river. Her double-tiered decks were crowded with men. The noise of their strange speech, their clothes and manners, were at once fascinating and disquieting to the natives. Smoke drifted from the tall stack of the boat, falling on the breezes to hang like a banner after the boat had passed upstream.

Braves spoke of it in the sweat hogans beside the little lake in the valley of Bull River; and again around their fires in the canyons that fed water to the Clark Fork. Some compared it to the boats on the other river far to the east. The white man wanted only the pelts and the yellow metal, they said. Then he quickly moved on. There was nothing to fear. When ice covered the river, the boat would not work. Still, some Indians were uneasy. Already the small animals were less. If the yellow metal were found in the valley...

Zenas Moody had no time to worry about the Indians. Besides, they'd helped the white travelers cross through the mountains many times. They sold pelts to them, bartered their fish and grains in exchange for tobacco, beads, cloth and rifles. And where the buffalo roamed, fur traders often wintered with the Indians. Moody reasoned that a road from the east end of the Spokane prairie to the southern tip of Pend Oreille Lake would be a shorter and better route than the Skeetshoo road to Seneacquoteen when it was built.25.

Meagher was appointed Secretary for the Territory of Montana in 1865, of which he was for long the Acting-Governor. The following excerpt is from what is thought to be Meagher's last written words before his sudden death July 1, 1867 when he fell from the deck of a steamer at Fort Benton. For Harper's he recorded his trip from New York to San Francisco, via Nicaragua--thence by sea to Portland, Oregon--thence up the Columbia to Walla Walla--thence on mule or horse back to lake Pend d'Oreille, in the Territory of Idaho. He "awoke one Sunday morning in the month of August, 1866 " ....on a pretty little steamboat...."in a world of mountains.... the whole scene derived a character of immensity, infinite beauty, and infinite granduer."

He was on the Mary Moody, owned by Zenas Moody, at 'Moody's City' near Buttonhook Bay on Pend Oreille Lake when he wrote,
"Stepping ashore, I found myself in odorous contact with a group of Spokanes - a woeful cluster of emaciated vagrants, of whom one old fellow, almost naked, having nothing on him but a red blanket, ingeniously shaped and stitched into something like a windy dressing-gown, with the help of a "buck and saw" was shortening fire-wood for the Mary Moody - his grandson, a sort of Cupid in a very sooty chemise, helping him with the brightest industry. The son of the old top-sawyer - an elderly scamp in another red blanket, furnished with a fur collar - sat on his breechless haunches close by, smoking a brier-wood pipe; and, solemn as an owl in daylight, superintended the job complacently."
Describing the Mary Moody he wrote,
"Built on the lake in the winter of 1866, all her timbers were whip-sawed. The planking is of yellow fir. Her upper woodwork is of white pine. Four months after the first tree was felled for her she was afloat. Fifteen days after that her steam-whistle startled the echoes of the mountains, the lonesomeness and mysteriousness of which she has forever banished; and elk, and bear, and Red Man stood with straightened hair and ears at the shrill challenge of their invader."
Of Montana Meagher wrote,
" ... surpassingly rich in agricultural facilities, and, far away, the most beautiful portion of the Territory, the scenery of it blending all the sterner and loftier with all the gentler features of Switzerland and the Tyrol - will be pierced and opened from the Pacific ..."
"Entering Clark's Fork of the Columbia - or the Flathead River, as it is popularly called - we ascend twenty miles to the Landing (Cabinet Gorge steamboat landing). Swift water - of considerable dept, force, and fierceness in many places - is encountered.... out of the deep places and the swifter waters we glide into and over broad shallows that have silver bottoms; and these are the play-grounds of bewildering shoals of trout....
"What most delightfully arrests the eye is a meadow, three hundred acres in extent, smooth and level as a billiard- table - green, too, as a billiard-table, with the sweetest and richest grass, which takes one up to his neck in a sea of emerald - with Indian lodges emerging from it in all their rude upholstery of crimson-painted skins and bands of Indian horses swimming, as it were, slowly through it, their heads alone being visible except, indeed, where the grass has just been mowed, ... (by) a mowing machine - the property of the Steamboat Company - drives through it, ... The hay was hauled to Cabinet Landing "for the use of the animals that enter and come out of Montana by this most picturesque of roads ... As we near the Landing, all along the left bank, a little back from the river, grandly overlooking, and with precipitous bold cliffs of red slate serving as an uplifted shield to everything - woods, meadows, Indian lodges, all the incidents and figures of the scene - the Cabinet Mountain magnificicently towers...."
Debarking the Mary Moody he continued,
"... in a bustling little place ... in it's noisy infancy - consisting of two houses, and a capacious shed for mules and horses. A saw-mill is in vehement operation...." Mr. Abrahams, the owner, he describes "a rigid religionist, who shuts himself hermetically up on Sundays." Mrs. Abrahams table "is perfumed with a bouquet of mountain flowers, the offering of the men at work about the Landing, who ... vindicate the proverbial gallantry of Americans to their countrywomen ... Another lady is present, whose son served in the Second Wisconsin at the first battle of Bull Run."
Continuing through the Clark's Fork valley Meagher traveled,
"with a vigorous old gentleman who had been a Quarter-Master somewhere or other during the war," and an Indian half-breed of the Flathead nation, half French, half Indian, named Francis Joseph. "A striking specimen of intuitive gracefulness and intelligence. Tall, lithe, strenuous, of exhaustless activity and endurance.... waving mass of the softest and richest black hair, and hands and feet of the daintiest fashion.... brimful with good-nature, was faithful, and incessantly obliging." Their trail "for nearly two miles lay through a forest in which a fire had furiously raged some days before.....(reducing it ) to heaps of gray ashes, rendered the trail soft and treacherous, filling up, as they did, great holes into which the horses plunged, or where there were hot cinders underneath the ashes, blistering the animals into frantic pirouettes and pranks.... our ears were contantly filling with the roar of the Cabinet Rapids."25.

The Walla Walla Statesman reported,
"The first town on Pend Oreille Lake was developed by Mr. Moody to accommodate passengers arriving on the new road." Pend d'Oreille City, as the town was known, was described in the Helena Tribune of 1866, "consisting of a large store comfortably stocked with California and Oregon goods-dry, soft and liquid; a billiards saloon of grand dimensions; a moderately proportioned hotel; and half a dozen private residences, evenly and compactly built of logs and snugly shingled."26.

Painting of Pend Oreille City, by W. R. 'Chuck' Peterson.
The steamboat venture was successful. The second summer of operation,
"Up to the 12th of April (1867) the steamer had made five trips to Cabinet, carrying the mail and a few miners and travelers with their horses. On the 12th of April the first pack train went up, and went directly through without difficulty. On the first of May these trains were arriving at Missoula City, a distance of 180 miles from Cabinet (or upper) landing, to the surprise of everyone, because of the late snow. From the 12th to the 30th of April the steamer Mary Moody made 28 trips or one and a half trips daily, a distance of fifty miles between landings, transporting in said trips over 1200 animals, with their cargos, and 148 miners or travelers, besides packers to the number of 150. Passage for the 50 miles, $4, and same for riding and miners pack animals; $5 per head for pack trains, including cargoes; $3 for riding and loose animals in the train.
"The Company have their second boat, of 100 ton carrying capacity, now finished, in style and comfort equal to the Columbia River boats, with corresponding power. They will have their third boat completed and ready for service by the first of June, which will give a complete and reliable line of steamers for a distance of 125 miles, from Pend d'Oreille Landing to Thompson's River, with good wagon roads to the Columbia River, and Missoula City and Helena, in Montana."27.
The Mary Moody traveled only as far as Cabinet gorge, stopped by that chasm of deep water encased between towering walls of rock through which it roared and tumbled. Passengers, freight and animals were disembarked and portaged eight miles upstream to the upper end of the Heron Rapids. Here, the S. S. Cabinet was boarded and steamboat travel continued to Rock Island. Again, cargo and passengers were unloaded. Another portage took them upstream beyond the impassable river obstacle. The S. S. Missoula, built at Rock Island, took her maiden voyage September 1867, and began transporting travelers from Rock Island, upstream another thirty river miles upstream to the impassable Thompson falls.28.

Meagher wrote of his travels there,
" ... after a portage of seven miles along the left bank (to) avoid the Cabinet Rapids.... "the second boat on the stocks, opposite us, on a broad, pebbly beach ... ox teams laboring up with lumber from the saw-mill ..." An abundance of fresh water, fish and game and "Indains, who are few and wide apart ... cultivate the friendliest relations with all strangers, boating joyously that they have never stained their hands with the blood of the Pale Faces. These are the Kootenais, the Pend d'Oreilles, and the Flatheads."25.
In August of 1867 there were enough people in the neighborhood of Rock Island Steamboat Landing that an election precinct was created there. Election judges were F. B. (or T. B.) Bartlett, William Cage and Felix Evans. The election precinct was discontinued June 13, 1868.29.

Jocko City was never built although it was platted. Boats didn't go further upstream than Thompson Falls. In the spring of 1866 several mining claims were filed on Thompson Creek and also 18 miles down river from the mouth of Thompson Creek at Vermillion river. Steamboats quit traveling the Clark's Fork River by the end of 1869.

That same year the first white family to settle in the western Clark's Fork valley as a unit was the family of John W. Patrick who located near Plains to operate a ferry across the river for pack trains. Mrs. Patrick, her two sons and three daughters, rode horseback from their former home at Walla Walla to their new home at Horse Plains. All their possessions and provisions were brought along with them by pack train, their route being the trail used by pony express riders, which led around Lake Pend Oreille and up the Clarks Fork River, a distance of about 400 miles. This family brought with them precious flower and vegetable seeds, also a few strawberry plants and apple trees. They were the first to cultivate virgin soil in western Clark Fork valley.30.

Next: Chapter 2

  1. Manuscripts compiled by Dorothy H. Hunton, Thompson Falls, MT 1966. Manuscripts by: Evelyn M. Davis, Ruth Harlow, Russell R. Ross and others. About five miles east of the town of Eddy, not far from the highway is an immense boulder upon which very early tribes of Indians painted symbols. Another of these rocks with more numerous Indian paintings dating back before 1800 is near the present town of Perma, on the north side of the river. Indian mounds up to four feet high were found at Lightening Creek. Not even the Indians of the fur-trading era could recall the origin of the pictographs.
  2. Lewis and Clark Journals.
  3. The Missoulian, undated.
  4. History Of The Northern Pacific Railroad, by Eugene V. Smalley.
  5. Montana In The Making, by Newton Carl Abbott. Tradition has it that David Thompson built a trading post at the mouth of Bull River in 1808 but the record is not totally clear.
  6. Frank Berray, oral history.
  7. I. V. Anderson, forester and mapmaker at Thompson Falls, MT.
  8. A poem often quoted by Joe Brooks, a valley resident from aged sixteen until his death at eighty. He laughingly claimed it was all he recalled of his school days.
  9. History of Montana, by M. E. Leeson. Published by Warner, Beers and Company 1885, Chicago.
  10. Wild Horse Plains, by ... 
  11. Clifford R. Weare, oral history.
  12. Not In Precious Metals Alone, by Montana Historical Society.
  13. History of The Northern Pacific Railroad, by Eugene V. Smalley.
  14. History of Montana, by M. E. Leeson (1885).
  15. Gold Rushes and Mining Camps of The Early American West, by Vardis Fisher and Opal Laurel Holmes.
  16. History of Montana, by M. E. Leeson (1885).
  17. The Northern Pacific; Main Street Of The Northwest, by Charles R. Wood.
  18. Manuscripts by Dorothy H. Hunton Thompson Falls, MT 1966. Manuscripts by Evelyn M. Davis, Ruth Harlow, Russell R. Ross and others.
  19. Montana In The Making, by Newton Carl Abbott.
  20. History of Montana, by M. E. Leeson (1885).
  21. Clifford R. Weare and Swan Swanson, oral history.
  22. Gold Rushes and Mining Camps of the Early American West, by Vardis Fisher and Opal Laurel Holmes.
  23. The Walla Walla Statesman, an early northwest newspaper, printed many tales of the hardships of travel the winter of 1866. The Walla Walla Statesman, May 25, 1866. The Clark's Fork Route. "Ringold's City, Elk Creek, May 12, 1866.
  24. Sandpoint News Bulletin, Leisure Time, February 2, 1978. By Ken Firoved.
  25. No. 209 Harper's New Monthly Magazine, October 1867, article by Colonel Cornelius O'Keefe (a pseudonym used by Thomas Francis Meagher). 26. The exact location of this town has not been proven but according to research done by W. R. "Chuck" Peterson, historian, Hope, ID, everything indicates that it was located on the side hill behind the rocky point which forms Buttonhook Bay, in what is now Farragut State Park. Leisure Time, Sandpoint News Bulletin, February 2, 1978.
  26. Walla Walla Statesman, May 10, 1867.
  27. Sandpoint News Bulletin
  28. Polk Gazeteer August 5, 1867. This election precinct was discontinued June 13, 1868 according to the Polk Gazeteer.
  29. In 1869 William Milnor Roberts camped there while locating the route for the planned transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad. Samuel Wilinson's writings on NPRR history.
  30. Manuscripts compiled by Dorothy H. Hunton, Thompson Falls, MT 1966. Manuscripts by Evelyn M. Davis, Ruth Harlow, Russell R. Ross and others.


  1. Thanks for awesome information you brought to me. I really like it and it gives me so much information about wilderness. I have a page about hunting and it helps me know more. I will follow your blog and read your new article in my free time. Thanks again

    1. Mitchell thank you for your kind post. Go to the left panel and scroll down to read all three volumes. Behind These Mountains, I, II & III are in eKindle versions ~ fully edited with the 1000 photographs from the homesteader's albums placed more appropriately. The trilogy is available on a DVD, and have permmission to print a copy for yourself. email

      Mona ;)

  2. Great Post !!! Your article helps me understand a lot of information more about wilderness . Thank !

    1. Error ~ scroll down in the RIGHT panel to read all three volumes of Behind These Mountains.

      Mona :)

  3. Thank you for your kind words. Go to the panel on the right and scroll down to link to the chapters in all three volumes.
    Behind These Mountains, I, II & III are in eKindle versions available on Amazon ~ fully edited with the 1000 photographs from the homesteader's albums placed more appropriately. The trilogy is available on a DVD, and have permmission to print a copy for yourself. email

    Mona ;)

  4. Thank you for what you are sharing very helpful. :)

    1. It's heart warming, Jerry, to know people enjoy learning about the history of the remarkable people who opened northwestern Montana to settlement. They were an awesome generation.