Rock Lake in the mountains near Noxon, where prospectors like Captain Peter Weare and his wife, Emma came to search for gold. Courtesy Wally Gamble collection.
Hikers on the slopes near Rock Lake in
Sanders County. Courtesy Wally Gamble
"Two adits were driven into the ridge in about a N.40 degree W. direction. From the size of the dumps remaining it is estimated that there were about 700 feet of underground workings in each adit. A few mineralized specimens from the dump contained quartz, chalcopyrite, copper pitch, and minor amounts of pyrite. The greatest portion of the dump is made up of thin-bedded grayish-green calcareous argillite (a type of rock). The argillite is fine grained, weathers brown to light tan, and displays ripple marks and mud cracks. Crystalline calcite of secondary origin fills voids and cracks in specimens of vein quartz." (The sum of the work Jim Miller did on Prospect creek, as recorded in Bulletin 34, May 1964, by Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Butte, MT.) Two mine dumps can be seen north of the road opposite the Stover, or Mountain Home ranch. The abandoned adits are about on the section line between Sec. 26 and Sec. 35, T. 26 N., R. 33 W.
King and Lowry were prospecting on the East Fork of Bull River below St. Paul Lake. Prospectors were working in Copper Gulch and Last Chance below Chicago Peak. And on the Milwaukee Pass below St. Paul Peak, copper and silver were looking pretty good. When King and Moore from Kalispell owned the mine, Pat Moran mined with King. Tom Moran was the prospector and lived in the basin that bears his name -- Moran Basin.
"I think his name was Moran, but I'm not sure. Now they don't know whether someone short fused him or whether he short fused himself. They always did their blasting at noon. They'd set five blasts and only four went off. He was out of the mine. Maybe it was long fused. Anyway, he went back in to see why it didn't go off. Then it did.
"When he was blowed (sic) up King took him and laid him out on the ore dump. And then they come for help but the trail got afire.
"The folks noticed the trail afire and when King come down they asked him why he set the trail afire. Well, he said he just accidentally set it afire. So they couldn't get up there. King told them that the boy was dead.
"It was about four days before we got in there on account of that fire. I and a fella named Jace Edwards and my dad went up there and packed him out. When we got up there to get him of course he'd laid out there and he was in pretty bad shape. His whole face was blowed (sic) full of rock.
"We wrapped him (his body) in canvas and put him on the pack horse."Skillikorn, a barber who once had a shop in Noxon and then barbered in Thompson Falls, years later was to tell stories of a copper mine in Copper Gulch so rich that pack trains were used to pack it out before the 1910 fire. There had been two or three owners, he claimed, but they all died and the mine was deserted. To the left of a small knoll high on the mountains where Copper Creek flows, an arastras (a large stone wheel, turned by mule power to crush the rock, freeing the gold it contained) was left at a mine dump near the ridge to Moran Basin. (A family out picking huckleberries and fishing in the late 1930's found the stone-wheel arastras.)
The majority of strong, resourceful men found woods work more profitable. All along the banks of the Clark's Fork River and the larger side streams feeding into it lumberjacks swung heavy axes, and pulled wide toothed saws in steady rhythm that chewed handfuls of sawdust. Only functional necessities rewarded their labors; tents or small log cabins that contained no more than a bunk bed made of rough lumber upon which a bed roll could be placed; a rough plank table constructed of whatever materials were at hand; an enameled basin for washing up with water bucketed from a nearby stream. A coffee pot, cast iron griddle and skillets, pots, pans and a minimum of utensils; warm flannel and woolen clothing; sturdy leather boots caulked with steel pegs in their soles; kerosene lamps. Most of them were men unencumbered by family ties. 'Jacks' were transient men working for whichever company owned the timberlands. They were a breed of men who moved on whenever brighter prospects beckoned or restlessness urged them.
Cedar poles, cedar shakes and shingle blocks, white pine logs and railroad ties were the most desired. The choicest timber with the easiest access succumed soonest to the woodsman's axe. Tie hackers hued the trees on the gound to proper dimensions by standing alongside and slicing with a broad axe, using either a right hand or left hand axe, depending on how they swung. The entire length of the tree was hued to dimension before it was cut into tie lengths. Any man who could slice with precision found ready work.
Each winter since 1887 earthen dams were rebuilt on Bull River to catch the melting snow water in the spring and raise the water level high enough to float shake blocks to the shingle mill at Smead's spur on the Clark's Fork River. All winter men spent backbreaking months in the exhilarating occupation of felling enormous prime logs with crosscut saws; cutting them to log lengths, limbing them, skidding them with teams of massive horses and sleighs with steel clad runners to big skidways on the river banks. Here they were branded on the end with each logger's stamp, (a metal hammer with a brand raised on its surface. When the log was struck with it, an imprinted 'brand' was made.)
The corraled logs were formed into miles long log-drives. Brawny, hairy-chested log drivers, dressed in caulked loggers boots, peg-legged wool pants held up by wide elastic suspenders, a plaid wool shirt and a battered felt hat were known as 'river pigs' or 'hogs'.
Boats (or bateaus) floated down stern-first, with four oarsmen rowing against the current as hard as they could. Their grunts and blazing epitaphs mingling with the dull booming protests emitted from the logs as they were pushed by the relentless current of the river.
Tremendous log jams formed. To release 'wing' and center jams, the 'pigs' roped down the boat to ride behind the plunging 'drive' to see that every possible log got through.
The drives plunged headlong on high spring waters towards the Heron Rapids and the Cabinet Gorge. Many were splintered beyond use in dynamited jams necessary to get the remainder through to the waiting waters of lake Pend Oreille. (When the river level drops low sunken logs are visible below Cabinet Gorge yet.)
Don Maynard, Senator from Idaho who lived at Noxon for a time, said,
"Some mornings in the spring when you went to work there was a little ice on that damned river. The boss'd always say, 'Jump in there, she won't burn ya!'"They'd 'break' the skidways scattered all along the Clark's Fork River, sending the winter's accumulation of timber down river to the 'sortin gap'. The 'sortin gap' was where the logs were separated into individual booms after being deposited by the Clark's Fork into Pend Oreille Lake.
Here they were caught up by booms secured to deep sunk pilings near the mouth of the river. Each owner of logs in the drive had to pay per thousand board feet to take his logs through it before they could be taken in tow by tugboat to the sawmills in Idaho; Hope Lumber Company, Humbird Lumber Company, and other mills in Idaho on the shores of the sparkling waters of Lake Pend Oreille.
Little Johnny Knutson was a boy enchanted by spending every minute he could sneak away from his parent's watchful eye to emulate the 'river pigs' spinning on logs in the river. He was not the only boy whose hero was a genius at riding the twirling logs on the roiling waters of the Clark's Fork.
The crews slept in tents and camp was moved every day unless the drive was held up to break log decks or rollways to put the logs afloat. The men enjoyed breaking the decks because then they never got their feet wet. Johnny loved to watch the camp outfit, called a "Wannagan", being loaded and moved and often receiving from the cook a morsel or two. The Wannagan was moved either by a 4-horse team pulling a wagon with a hayrack on it, or floated downstream on a boat.
The newspaper also reported that Sandpoint had electric lights "for a month already." Mr. Rutherford was the owner, using two 90-horsepower Fraser and Chalmers boilers, a 125 horsepower Fraser and Chalmers Corliss engine and one 3000-light monocyclic General Electric generator with a primary voltage of 3,450; distributed at 110. Humbird Lumber Company used the same kind of generator also and had l,000 incandescents.
It was the time for sawmills. Rathdrum, Coeur d'Alene, Sandpoint, Kootenai, Clark's Fork and Hope, all surged into the new century with sawmills galore. Timber was king. With a saw and an axe a man could make good wages and lumber companies began springing up all over northern Idaho and western Montana. No one was particularly careful who owned the land they logged on, or else they used ruses to gain claim to it. Men risked their lives and liberty to acquire land. Murders were committed with no one punished for the crime. At one point in Idaho a so-called Association of Killers of Homestead Jumpers was organized and in an open meeting discussed ways and means of ridding the community of persons who legally had as much right to the lands, which they had jumped as those who were claiming them.
The settlers on those lands underwent hardships, but not to make a home, only to secure a timber claim of 160 acres worth the $10,000 to $25,000 which could be gotten from the lumber companies having holdings in the region. One government report stated that,
"76% of the entire watershed, title to which can be given, or which has passed to patent through pretence of compliance with the public land laws, is now in the hands of large stumpage holding concerns, none of it being developed agriculturally."
LaClede Lumber Company had a camp on Gold Creek. Moonlight Joe worked in it. He never knew enough to quit working so the men tagged him 'Moonlight' Joe. Granville Gordon went there once as a log scaler. He later told Weare it was such a dirty camp. He said,
"They had a toilet out there and when they'd ring the dinner bell for the men to come eat, here would come all the flies from the toilet. As soon as dinner was over, they'd all go back to the toilet."With the closing of the mines in Butte, Montana, undesirables of the tough element were appearing in the area. They created a stir in the normally quiet towns and caused the law enforcement some little troubles. But the Butte mines were closed only several weeks until the governor passed the "fair trial" bill.
An early blizzard November 1903 closed the Humbird mill for the winter about a month earlier than planned. But no hardship on the employees resulted as they normally went into the woods to work in the winter anyway. The mill's payroll was cut very little.
Humbird Lumber Company had logging camps in Gold Creek near the Idaho-Montana border on the north side of the Clark's Fork. A railroad line cut across the timbered slope, it's high trestle spanning the deep creek-carved ravine. The logs were hauled out on it to be dumped into a chute that went to the Clark's Fork River. From there they were driven down the river by 'river pigs' to the mill at Kootenai.
Shay engine believed to be used in logging done by Humbird Lumber Company on Gold Creek, near the Montana - Idaho border. Circa early 1900s. Courtesy William Finnigan collection.
A pile of sawdust is all that marks the spot where he sawed the lumber for the two-story house he built there. While he worked in Bunn's mill Frank Berray, youngest son of Cap Berray, enjoyed especially the company of his boss' daughter, Josephine. The comely young lady became the first schoolteacher on Bull River in 1910.
Lillian Raynor Evans and Josephine Bunn at
Noxon, Montana, early 1900s. Courtesty
Edna Evans Cummings collection.
Mrs. Ellis and Carrie Virginia Engle.
Courtesy Alma Taylor Greenwood
Earl Engle's cabin on Rock Creek northeast of Noxon, Montana. Circa 1904. Courtesy Alma Taylor Greenwood.
Katie and Earl Engle at their home on Rock Creek. Earl married Katie in 1904. Courtesy Alma Taylor Greenwood collection.
"We were surprised to learn that an attempt has been made to assassinate a Mr. L. R. Garvis, Special Agent, who is investigating alleged illegal timber cutting in western Montana ... our people will always do all they can to help the government to discover the rascals. The only way Mr. Garvis will get in a gun fight here is having an ace up his sleeve." 4.
"Notice of sale of U. S. Timber ... all that lot of timber belonging to the government of the United States will be offered at public sale on the 25th day of July, 1905, to wit: 400 telephone poles, said poles being at the present time on the right of way of the NPRR at Vermillion Junction, 2 1/2 miles east of Trout Creek, Montana. ...
"All bids must be for cash and accompanied by 10% of the amount of bid ... no less than the market value of the poles will be considered."
"Frank B. Lyons, the sawmill man of Camden, Washington arrived Sunday and will be here some time. Later on he will put in a sawmill but for the present time will be looking after his mining interests.
"Several mine owners and prospectors from Butte passed through here this week on their way to their claims located on Rock Creek. They expect to build a road this summer."On August 8, 1905 Frank B. Lyons filed on 160 acres of land under the timber and stone entry law. The entry was contested by Clifford Bourgault who, on October 20, 1905, filed a contest alledging that the land was more valuable for agricultural purposes than for timber. The case was heard December 1905 and again in May 1906. Not until 1907 did a final decision come about giving the land to Lyons.
The judgment said, "There is a great conflict between the testimony of the contestant (Bourgault) and the contestee (sic) (Lyons). For instance, contestant estimates the timber at 600,000 to 700,000 feet while contestee (sic) places it at 2,500,000 feet. The quantity of level land is given by contestant at 140 acres and by contestee as 60 to 70 acres. The cost of clearing is given at $10 per acre by contestant while contestee places it at $200 per acre. One of the contestant's witnesses, who placed the cost of clearing at $10 per acre, based his estimate upon the statement that he could take out 100 stumps from 10 to 16" in diameter "easily" in one day.
"It appears that this land lies at a great altitude and frost occurs every month in the year; that while a part of the tract is level, there is not sufficient water to irrigate any part of the land at the season it is most needed; that the creek bottom land is mostly a sour, rank soil upon which crops will not grow successfully and that the remainder of the land is gravelly and rocky soil and lies primarily on the mountain side; cost of clearing would be prohibitive - so any prudent farmer could not undertake with a view to possible profit."7.
"Setting aside forest reserves is as wise a thing as was ever done. This was necessitated because of the greed of lumbermen, who indiscreetly, to call it by as mild a term as possible, indiscrimately (sic) ravished the forests and spared nothing from a sapling to a hoary age," the editor said, losing some subscribers for his position.
"If in the beginning lumbermen had been obliged to cut timber under government rules there would now be forests where even stumps do not remain ...The timber and stone act, as extended to all the western states and territories, has been one thing that has aided us to open mines and build homes. We needed the timber and the government had it and was willing to supply it to us on reasonable terms and we bought and paid for it. Many a dollar for timber Montana has paid into the national treasury."10.
"see to it that the water, wood and forage of the reserves are conserved and wisely used for the benefit of the home builder first of all; upon whom depends the best permanent use of lands and resources alike. The continued prosperity of the agricultural, lumbering, mining and live stock interests is directly dependent on a good supply of water, wood and forage as well as upon the present and future use of these resources under business-like regulations enforced with promptness, effectiveness and common sense."
- Mrs. A. F. Day (Thompson Falls) holds a receipt dated 1901 issued by the Belknap Town and Imp. Co., E. D. Baker, Sec. Treas., C. C. Howell, Pres. for, "Toll collector, Idaho side, for one team mules on Idaho side, made to me of Jacox Dube $5.00 signed by J. C. Dfuruser tax coll. Montana side."
- Clifford R. Weare tape-recorded oral history.
- Sandpoint News Bulletin -date?
- Sanders County Ledger, February 24, 1905.
- Sanders County Ledger, June 9, 1905.
- Sanders County Ledger, September 1, 1905.
- Sanders County Ledger, 1907.
- Sanders County Ledger, July 7, 1905.
- Sanders County Ledger, August 11, 1905.
- Sanders County Ledger, September 1, 1905.
- Sanders County Ledger, October 10, 1905.