Friday, March 18, 2011

COMMUNITY LIFE ALTERED BY WAR


BEHIND THESE MOUNTAINS VOL. I

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Caption: George Jamison and Zella Brown Jamison wedding party, May 13, 1912. L to R: Zella, George, Madelains Brown, Katie Engle, Cora (Brown) Roth with daughter, Gertrude, Sheldon S. Brown, Lillian Drury Brown, and the minister. Lillian, born 1866-died 1949; Sheldon, born 1867-died of a heart attack in 1933 in the boiler room of Noxon school; George Jamison, born April 12, 1876 - died April 4, 1973; Zella Brown Jamison, born June 11, 1897 - died March 17, 1971. Courtesy Loren 'Lanky' Jamison collection.

Sheldon S. Brown's original place, a little southwest of Noxon, was a big house. Brown built it shortly after arriving in 1905. It was a log house to begin with. Then they smoothed the boards down inside and framed the two-story house inside and outside with lumber.

Mr. Brown had three pretty daughters. Cora, Zella and Madeleine. All the fellas around town were sweet on one or the other, it seemed.
"When Mr. and Mrs. Brown came to town in their two seated buggy, they, of course, rode in front. A couple of the girls rode in back," Carmen Moore said.
"Brown went to town to the store and bought some nails. The storekeeper urged him to get quite a few. But Brown said, 'Oh, I won't need many nails. Just get a few. We can pick enough up off the ground to finish the building.'
"For a time, Jim Finnigan, who was a pretty darned good carpenter, was kinda sweet on one of the girls. When Brown's were building their first house all the young boys around the country who knew anything about carpentry were out to Brown's ranch helping him.
"Jim was up on the roof, shingling it, right in the middle of the summer. It was hot. Jim got sunstroke. He fell off of the roof and down on the ground and it like to busted him up. Ever after that he never could sweat. It did something to his system."1.
During 1917, which was another hot summer,  S. S. Brown began building a new framed lumber, five-room house next door to George Buck's, planning to move his family into Noxon from his agricultural ranch west of town.2.

George Buxton and Solon Ellis weren't among the helpers this time, because Solon was working in Burke, Idaho and George sent in his application to join the forest regiment of the Army being raised for immediate service in France.3.

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Caption: George Jamison and his bride,Zella Brown Jamison on their wedding day, May 13, 1912. Courtesy Loren 'Lanky' Jamison collection.

Forty-one year old Jim Finnigan wasn't helping on this house, either. Frank Moore, married to Lottie Hazelroth Moore, had deserted his wife, their little daughter and their infant son. Jim had successfully courted the destitute young mother, winning her trust until she finally said, "I do."4.

Now five-year-old Audrey Moore and her brother, Carmen, were living in a neat, little white house across the street from the schoolhouse. Audrey yearned with all her heart to go to school so the teacher allowed her to come in March. In the fall, she started first grade over again.

Lottie, quite deaf since childhood from scarlet fever, ministered liberal doses of loving care. Onion syrup cooked on the back of the old cook stove was her favorite for fevers and colds.

Lottie didn't knit, so she it didn't affect her when the army sent out a warning to women, via the Sanders County Independent Ledger, advising them not to knit socks;  instead they were expected to knit scarves and wristlets. The army was buying socks for 15 cents a pair. It cost women 50 cents a pair, not counting time and energy, but those who were aware of it could get a new type of knitting machine, supplied by the Red Cross. (http://www.csmsa.org/WarsHistory.htm.) Lottie just sighed. She wasn't inclined to attend community gatherings anyway.

Pauline Gordon flung aside her needles. She didn't attempt to drive over rugged Tuscor hill when she got word her husband was gravely ill in Plains. The train was still the fastest means of transportation. She took it. Granny Gordon was injured in a railroad speeder accident and had received a serious gash on the back of his head when it left the track.
"He is a bleeder and the loss of blood from the gash cut in his head has left him very weak. He was on his way to consult a physician when the accident occurred and his sickness, the shakeup and the loss of blood have left him in bad shape. He went out to his work (with the forest service) last Friday but was forced to return to Plains Saturday. Mrs. Gordon went to take care of him. He is very ill."5.
As often happens, the news story wasn't precise. Granny was gravely injured, but he wasn't a bleeder. It was his wife who passed a hemophiliac gene to their male descendants.

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Caption: Lottie Hazelroth Finnigan and her two children, Audrey Moore (forn March 11, 1913) and Carmen Moore. Circa 1919. Another son, Bill Finnigan, was born December 6, 1919. courtesy Audrey Moore Brixen collection.

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Caption: Lottie Hazelroth Moore married James Finnigan in 1918. Courtesy Audrey Moore Brixen collection.

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Caption: Pauline Reithmiller Gordon with daughter Grace, at Bull River Ranger Station, circa 1908-09. Courtesy Granvill 'Granny' and Pauline Gordon collection.

All summer long, while hot winds and rainless days sucked moisture from the countryside, fund raising wrung every possible cent from each little hamlet threaded together by the rails and the Clark's Fork River, like a necklace of uniquely similar jewels. No energy or diligence was spared in proving loyalty and support to America at war.

Lula Lake heartily welcomed fall rains. While others made plans to attend Sanders County's 7th annual fair at Plains, she prepared to leave the Bull River Ranger Station to move into Noxon. Her baby was due shortly.

She'd miss seeing all the Indian teepees, their colorful costumes and dances and all the other spectator entertainments this year that she read about in the August 21, 1917 Sanders County Independent Ledger fair article,
"Dr. L. G. Helterline, the secretary of the County Fair announces that two cars will be sent to the west end of the county to gather up material for the county fair. The same plan as last year will be followed.
"The two cars will come up as far as Trout Creek, and, as expenses are paid by the fair management, exhibits are taken to the fair and returned without cost to the owners. A car and a half will be used for livestock and half a car for the Boys and Girls Club Exhibits and other exhibits.
"The girls in the canning club of District 6 will give canning demonstrations at the fair. Emil Dettwiler the leader of the boys and girls club at Heron is raising money to take all of the Heron Club."
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Caption: Betty Evans Davis and Lillian Raynor Evans, circa 1920. Note flapper-style dress and water pump in foregraound. Courtesy Edna Evans Cummings collection.

At the county fairgrounds during October 11-13, agricultural pursuits were promoted grandly to the crowd of cheering spectators. Nine gasoline powered tractors, dragging from two to six plows, tore over 89 acres of land adjacent to the fair grounds, 'as if racing cars', to demonstrate the efficiency of machinery on the farm.

Dust flew from behind the clods of sod in the exhibition arranged by the fair management this season for the first time, and scattered the crowd that closed in tightly around the different machines.

Aeroplane flights added to the roar. Horses rolled their eyes and jangled harness; stomping nervously around the trees where they were tethered.

The Better Babies Show, judged by all the doctors in the county, adhered strictly to the 'Better Baby Standard Rules.' All babies under three years old were eligible for entry.

"Next year," Lula thought. On November 7, 1917 she went into labor at Mrs. Baxter's house where she and her family had moved, from the Bull River station. Mrs. George Buck, who was a trained nurse, hurried from Buck's Grocery Store across the street to attend the delivery; she held him by the heels as Lula's baby boy gave a lusty cry.

They named him Dale. His older brother, Stanley, and sister, Almeda, were fascinated with the blanketed bundle. Their grandmother, Mrs. Almeda Ellis, gave thanks for her daughter's safe delivery in the mountain village so far from doctors and hospitals.

Cliff Weare was less than elated over the birth. He knew Walter and Lula were good, thrifty, hard working people,  but they'd given up their homestead to move into the ranger's building with Walt accepting a cook job with the forest service that Weare hated.

Cook, trail maintenance, look after horses, fix telephone lines and maintain the government's buildings. What sort of life was that for a man in exchange for his 160 acres of free land? It didn't set well with Cliff and he fumed to his wife, Ethel.

Now Lake's were staying in Ethel's mother's house. Mrs. Buck, too, was a good woman, he thought. He sharply disagreed with big, fat George Buck, considering him to be less concerned with the fate of his store patrons than he was with his pocketbook.

Still, Cliff sanctioned his wife gathering with the community women, taking her small welcoming gift to the babe and his mother. But let the damned Liberty war stamps stay unsold! Ethel had better not buy any. Let people talk. He'd be damned if they'd coerce him.

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Caption: Picture of Bull River Ranger Station includes the three young Gordon girls, circa 1912-15. In the 1970s the log building was placed on the 'not to be maintained' list by the Noxon Ranger District where it remained, weathered and intact, until during the 1990s when it was restored in a cooperative effort of the Cabinet Wilderness Historical Society and the U.S. Forest Service. Their goal was to see it used to educate furture generations about the important milestones accomplished by the forest service in the northern region. However, about 2007-09 the forest service began renting the historic building out in the summer to visitors. Courtesy Ranger Granville 'Granny' and Pauline Gordon's collection.

As the war toiled on, Y.M.C.A. funds, Liberty Bonds, and Red Cross funds being subscribed were taking precious coins from pocketbooks.

Not everyone in the valley considered himself or herself fortunate when they read about the situation in Europe. The pinch of war was decidedly uncomfortable. Although ingenuity and energy flourished to make as pleasant as possible the tapping of money needed to support the war, support was a luxury some simply could not afford.

Noxon home talent staged a play, "An Old Maid's Convention" and raised $80.00 for the Red Cross funds. Failure to attend with out good reason fed suspicions. Maybe absentees weren't good Americans?6.

Further restrictions were placed on these ordinary citizens when the government 'licensed' the purchase of dynamite. Only citizens of the United States could obtain licenses; to prevent explosives from falling into the hands of,
"evilly disposed persons, and to put a stop to dynamite plots," the weekly newspaper proclaimed.7.
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Caption: Unidentified Noxon man on horseback. Note letter in shirt pocket, beard stubble, and epaulette sleeves. Courtesy Edna Evans Cummings collection.

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Caption: Harriet Raynor, William Evans and Walter Evans at Raynor homestead on Rock Creek, Noxon, Montana. circa 1917. Raynors raised cattle and chickens. They had mill cows and poured the milk into five-inch deep pans to allow cream to raise to the top, be skimmed off, and churned into butter which Harriet sold in Noxon. Courtesy Edna Evans Cummings collection.

Numerous settlers lived all up and down the valleys who hadn't yet taken out naturalization papers. Some were from Canada. Others were European immigrants. This was but the first blow to befall them.

Here, in the remote valleys, everyone had enough to eat, yet. Social opportunities were numerous as societies gathered to sew and knit for Red Cross.

While most of the communities in the county far exceeded or doubled their subscribed quota, Noxon exceeded the Red Cross subscription of $66.00 by contributing $71.40. The Red Cross intended to raise $1,000,000 from the nation. Sanders county raised nearly double the county quota by collecting $1,935.65.8.

While many only worried about the rate at which men might be called, leaving ranches which could not be managed by women and children alone, for others, support of a war they did not favor was unconscionable.

FOOTNOTES
  1. Carmen Moore, tape recorded oral history, 1987.
  2. Sanders County Independent Ledger, August 16, 1917
  3. Sanders County Independent Ledger, June 21, 1917.
  4. Audrey Moore Brixen, letter February 6, 1990
  5. Sanders County Independent Ledger, June 17, 1917.
  6. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Nov. 29, 1917.
  7. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Nov. 29, 1917.
  8. Sanders County Independent Ledger, June 21, 1917.

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