Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Throughout the valleys of northwestern Montana when spring arrived people were able to escape their snowbound winter confines. And they looked forward eagerly to any planned social, only to have the weather thwarted them. So it was that the newspaper editor sympathized in 1920, and headlined the story in his weekly paper.
"The ladies of the Cedar Spur Community Club were to have given a basket social at River Echoes school house Saturday, March 13th, but they have postponed it on account of the mud and rain."*1.
Grandma and Grandpa Harker and Harry and Jay Harker lived along the Clark's Fork riverbank on the south side, downstream from Heron, over by Cedar Spur; the cedar spur that was a landing, or storage area, for shipment of the shingles and such being produced at the Lauderdale Shingle Mill up the East Fork of Blue Creek.

With Harkers setting the example, helped along by Moderie's, Rileys and other families in the vicinity, good works seemed always to be in progress. Thus, 'Cedar Spur' also referred to about the most cooperative group of settlers here abouts.

One spring, everybody hitched up their teams and went to Heron and pulled out stumps to create a cemetery. People were always very cooperative to do good things. And the railroad spur, also dubbed "cedar spur", was a lively shipping place.

In March 1920 Mr. Brooks and his son Joe shipped a carload of posts from Cedar Spur.*1.

The shingle mill shipped in a carload of timothy hay from Kickatat, Washington.*2. Meanwhile, over ten carloads of shingles awaited more favorable road conditions.*3.

The Shingle Mill Co. stopped hauling shingles to the cableway until the quagmire roads relinquished the last of their winter frost so the water could settle through and allow them dry out, setup and harden again into passable routes.*4. Early in April the mill sent some men who tightened the cables at the "highline" river crossing. Cordwood made by the settlers, as well as the stockpiled shingles were loaded out at Cedar Spur.*5. The middle of April the newspaper published a harrowing story of one teenager's mishap.
April 15, 1920

"Tommy Duffy, fourteen year old son of Patrick Duffy, had an exciting runaway Thursday afternoon. While driving down the steepest part of the Clayton hill the tongue of the wagon broke completely off near the doubletrees. The team ran in the track a quarter of a mile when the wagon struck a stump, smashing a front wheel, turning the wagon over and Tommy landing under it. The team broke loose and ran some distance.
"Tommy got out from under the wreck badly bruised but not seriously injured. He managed to get his horses home safely but it was several days before he could work again...One of the team was a colt recently broke to work."

The Cedar Spur Community club held its regular monthly meeting, planning a general picnic through the day with a dance in the evening, April 24th at the River Echoes school. Ladies provided baskets and men worked, cleaning up the school grounds.*6.

Mr. Shumard was the head teamster at the Shingle Mill and Mrs. Dempsey Emerson and three children arrived at the mill cottage to spend the summer.
"Mr. Emmerson is a member of the Lauderdale Shingle Mill Company and has lived here for some time but his family has been in Hope, Idaho."*7.
With all this activity taking place, the settlers soon called on the county commissioners to provide them needed transportation assistance. And with so much business transpiring in the west end, generating taxes to their coffers, the commissioners listened with a cooperative ear.

June 6, 1920
"The Sanders county people who live north of the river are forced to cross the river at Cabinet, Idaho. The ferry has broken loose because of high water and rusty cables so the north side people are handicapped. The ferryman provided by Bonner county (Idaho) has been taking a little vacation so Mr. Aue brought several bales of hay and two sacks of feed over in a row boat. The boat swamped just at the landing, giving Mr. Aue a chilly wetting.
"Fortunately no more serious accidents have happened. The north side people are hoping for the time when the Noxon-Bull River road will be finished westward over the survey to the state line with a ferry to Cedar Spur. This would give this territory the outlet we need for ranchers and tourists and good roads on both sides of the river which, in connection with the new bridge to be built at Noxon, would give our people a chance to get their mail in their home county at all seasons."

On July 1, 1920, the newspaper gave headlines to the following story,
"Messers Fillerup and Davies have recently put in a ferry above the Fillerup place which will serve while they get out their ties, posts, etc. They built a similar one last year, which was taken out by ice during the winter.
"A number of men from this section attended the county commissioners meeting at Thompson Falls on the 6th of the month in the interest of better roads in the west end and a ferry at the Jones crossing. All plans for the ferry were drawn up and at a meeting of fifteen men of this neighborhood at Harker's Sunday, the 11th, it was decided to put the ferry in the river above the rapids from the Faught place to the old log ferry landing east of the Harker barn.
"Patrick Duffy was elected boss of the road building work to be donated by the men here. Mr. Fillerup has been hired by the county to build the ferry. This is a much needed improvement and will be appreciated by the ranchers, as well as the shingle mill and other lumbering interests."

Earl Clayton, one of the most ardent of those hardy folks determined to improve life in the remote mountainous area, recorded diary entries that detail progress of the little Cedar Spur community's achievements:
  • Aug. 25, 1920, Went to work at ferry crossing near Duffys
  • Aug. 27 & 28, Worked at bridge over Dead Horse Creek
  • Aug. 30, Worked at ferry crossing all day
  • Sept 1, Worked at ferry on east side of river all day
  • Sept 2, Went to Cear Spur and helped to haul cable to river and stretch out ready to put across
  • Sept 3, Melvin (Reginald) and I worked at digging for ferry all day at Harker's on south side of the river
  • Sept 4, Went to Harker's and worked digging for ferry cable anchors. AM. Went to Heron for school board meeting.
The newspaper continued to uphold the fine examples they set, perhaps hoping to inspire community efforts in other areas of the sprawling county.
September 9, 1920

"D. H. Jones and Pat Duffy went by way of the Fillerup ferry Sunday to Bob Everett's to get a stump puller large enough to tighten the cable for the new ferry here. The lumber for the ferry has arrived and the grades are about finished. The cable and its supports are ready for the suspension and the men hope to have it finished in ten days at the most."
The county commissioners inspected and approved the project and a month later the hardware finally arrived so it could be completed. By November 11th it was becoming a very popular ferry crossing.*8.

The newspaper duly reported,
"The ferry at Cedar Spur in the west end of the county was completed. There is considerable industry in the Blue Creek vicinity across the river from this point. There is no doubt but that a great many posts and shingles will be taken across at this point."*9.
But ferries didn't operate without hazards and breakdowns. Ruth Dettwiler said,
"Horse manure was used as a caulk for the boats Emil built. Once when the Heron Ferry had been sunk near shore when some rancher drove three teams onto it, the caulking floating out as it sunk, the men came to borrow Emil's triple blocks and tackle to raise it. They only managed to break the block.
"Emil told them to box the ferry in with 1x10 inch lumber, then caulk it with manure, and bale it out until it floated. Indignantly the men said if he was so smart, why didn't he do it. The nails had to be driven underwater. With the help of his son, Ralph, Emil proceeded to do what he's described. They only had to box and caulk the center and then bail it out before the ferry surfaced."*10.
Austin Clayton describes more of the timber harvest industry near the Montana/Idaho border.
"In 1921 our neighbors, Joe Brooks and Warren Aue, were using our log chute. The Whitepine logs from their land were piled by the head of the chute in winter. In spring the Dover Lumber Company scaler came and measured, or "scaled" the logs and stamped each one with a specially embossed cast iron sledgehammer that left a letter "D" impressed in the sawed log end.
"On my way home from school I watched men launch their logs into the river. They were rolling 16-foot logs off the piles and into the upper end of the chute trough. The trough was made of two large logs (20" diameter) that had been slabbed by a broad axe to make 16-inch wide faces. The slabbed logs were spiked onto short support logs to make a V-shaped valley. The chute was placed in a natural ravine with steep slope of about 45 degrees toward the river. It required many chute logs spiked end to end to reach the water where the river was very deep.
"The men had made rollers that were laid in notches across the chute valley. When a log was placed on these rollers its weight started in moving endwise, sliding down the trough. Also the men had smeared black skid grease on the flat faces of the valley to slide the logs faster. Usually the logs picked up speed that ended in a mighty splash in the river.
"The river was carrying the logs northwest, past the mouth of Blue Creek, through Cabinet Gorge, to the waters of Pend Oreille Lake. Men at the river mouth had logs chained end to end across the river current to make a "boom" to enclose the floating logs. They were working with rowboats and steam-powered tugboats to control the rafts of logs and tow them across the lake to saw mills.
Austin said, "On the Clarks Fork River bank, at a point west (downstream) from the mouth of Blue Creek, men rolled logs down the steep canyon wall without a chute. At the end of the logging railway at the brink of the canyon we had to pass the rail tracks to reach our land east of Blue Creek."*11.
Lanky Jamison told stories of the area as well.
"Dad said the best and nicest cedar he ever had was down near Cabinet at Cedar Spur. He made posts there. Them big Finlanders living there were making posts, too. Dad was a smaller man and he got in a row and one pulled a knife on him. Dad hit him under the chin with a post and then just ran.
"They had over 10,000 posts in one pile. They kept piling on one pile. But he [George Jamison] never did get paid for that."*12.
Katie Duffy always had favorite stories of life in the west end to tell, too.
"When my dad first came out here our field and everything was nothing but water and buckbrush. You couldn't see anything but buckbrush. And Mr. Dettwiler didn't have much water. And no buckbrush. Dad tried to figure out this buckbrush deal.
"He figured that Mr. Dettwiler must have had buckbrush at one time and he went up to talk to him about it, asking him 'How do you get rid of buckbrush? I just don't know how to do it. I burn it, and every spring it just comes right back up again,' he said.
"My dad never did forgive Dettwiler for the answer he got. 'Experience, Mr. Duffy, experience is the best teacher.'
"Mr. Dettwiler was an onery old coot and I loved every bit of him. Mrs. Dettwiler's sister made me a blue dress one time. Out of blue gingham. It had a big skirt. I went up one Sunday to see Mr. Dettwiler. He was out at his sawmill monkeying around. He asked me if that was the dress that Ruth made. I said, yes. And he called me his little blue bird forever and ever, until he died. And I wore that dress every time I went to see Mr. Dettwiler."*13.
*The buckbrush plant commonly referred to by the settlers is a tough, shrubby brush that grows 4-6 feet tall, has waxy leaves, and creates a formidable barrier not easily penetrated by humans, and where deer feed and are hard to see.


1. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 18, 1920.
2. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 22, 1920.
3. Sanders County Independent Ledger, May 13, 1920.
4. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 18, 1920.
5. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 8, 1920.
6. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 15, 1920.
7. Sanders County Independent Ledger, July 1, 1920.
8. Sanders County Independent Ledger, September 9, 1920.
9. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Nov. 11, 1920.
10. Ruth Dettwiler McQuaide, April 19, 1988.
11. Austin Clayton, letter March 25, 1986.
12. Loren "Lanky" Jamison, tape recorded oral history, December 16, 1986.
13. Katie Duffy Rasmassen, oral history June 12, 1982.

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