Monday, February 28, 2011


Spanish influenza invaded every town in 1918, hitting almost every family through one member or another. No one had ever seen the likes of it before. Worse than any cold, or ague ever known, influenza decimated population the world over. It plagued Americans, Canadians, European countries, and everywhere it raged. And there was no known medication to cure it. One either survived "the flu", or died. Influenza was highly infectious and contagious.

The deadly illness brought dizziness, fevers of 100-104, chills, coughing, congestion, aching, lethargy, a dangerously slowed pulse and unconsciousness. Victims vomited and suffered weakness, pains in eyes, ears, head or back, and they hurt all over their body. It made eyes and insides of eyelids bloodshot and caused a discharge from the nose. Fevers lasted 3-4 days. Treatment: Go home and to bed at once. Drink water, use cold compress to head, and sponge lightly with cool water. Wear a mask when attending patient.

Desperate counties passed laws. trying to curb influenza's spread and Sanders County Independent Ledger told readers late in October, 1918,
"Emergency regulations providing for, among other things, the closing of schools, theaters and places of public amusement and prohibiting of public gatherings upon the outbreak of influenza in any Montana community."
Late in 1918 Noxon and all the little hamlets along the Clark's Fork River were hard hit. Harry Talmadge was making posts on Dry Creek for Jim Saint when the storekeeper, George Buck and his wife both got the "flu" and sent for Harry to tend the store.
"Sarah [Harry's wife] and I were living in a log cabin on Dry Creek. Buck had the post office in his store and I was sworn-in to work in it. I hated to go to Noxon, afraid I might bring the flu back to my family. But I went. They had two Spokane doctors in town. Mrs. Buck had pneumonia. They feared she'd die and, in desperation to reduce the fever ravishing her body, put her out doors in the snow, in a tent out back.
"I told one of the doctors I was afraid of taking the flu back to my family, handling all the stuff in the post office. He told me to get a fifth of whiskey and take a swallow of it once in a while. So I did."1.
Still worried that he might take the flu home to his family, instead of walking the five miles each night to their cabin, Harry stayed in the Montana Hotel operated by Mrs. Granville Gordon.2.

In the Montana Hotel. Mrs George Phillips, ex-wife of the NPRR telegrapher, and Elmer Angst, a 19-year-old man from Thompson Falls who had been living in Noxon working for Marion Larson, both died of the flu. But Harry never got it.3.

Hotel Montana, circa 1916-18, when Pauline Gordon was proprietor. Gordon's added thewing and porches and put in a well. Courtesy Granville and Pauline Gordon collection.
Noxon students got only six months of school that year. As news of people dying spread, school was shut down for three months. Students were just passed on to the next grade.

Everett Jenkins, suffering rheumatism, couldn't stand the cold working conditions on their Elk Creek ranch, so he moved his family into Heron in 1918, just in time to get influenza. His wife, Mary Ellen Hagerty 'Minnie' was desperately ill, lingering with a 105-degree temperature for days. She lost all her hair, which was a very common symptom, due to the high fever.

One of their four children, Howard, also was critically ill. Good friends left food and medication on their doorstep. They survived, as did all but a few of the valley's residents.4.

Henry was working in the drug store at Thompson Falls, and bought into Dr. Peek's store in Noxon. Marion Larson ran it. After WWI Henry moved to Noxon. Bob Larson came to Noxon in 1918. Charlie Munson, owner of a garage in Noxon, sold half interest in it to Howard Ellinwood in 1918. Howard moved his family into town, leaving his homestead in Bull River.

Their one-story Noxon house faced south, towards Buck's store. The garage building sat north of it, towards the railroad tracks. The front of the garage building faced east, towards Mrs. Baxter's hotel.
"We lived in Noxon when Edith was born. Grandma Bauers came to our house and stayed. Our house in Noxon was a warehouse, frame and lumber. Dad made 4 rooms in it. The roller barn doors were still on it when the flu epidemic hit in 1918. Mother was very ill and we were quarantined. We had a cow and a neighbor milked it for us, setting the milk on the porch."5.

The Freeman Jenkins ranch south of heron, Montana, circa early
1900s. Freeman and Agnes Jenkins standing on the porch. The
bunkhouse in the background is where Thomas Randolph, a Negro
who was their hired hand lived for many years. Tom later went to
Noxon and worked for Minnie and Everett Jenkins in their hotel.
Courtesy Georgia Knott
MacSpadden collection.
One man, stricken with the flu, left behind an unsolved mystery. During late summer, 1918, Frank Berray and Frank Connelley had ridden up the East Fork of Bull River to run some cattle out of the brush.

They found a bark shack alongside the East Fork trail not far from the banks of the creek and hadn't known about anyone camped in there.

Two men came to the door, appearing observant, silent and unfriendly, and didn't talk to the cowpunchers except to say, nope, they hadn't seen any cattle. Right away Connelley and Berray began asking around to see if anyone knew the pair. No one did. Rumors flew. Where they train robbers come in over the mountains from the Kootenai valley? Hadn't the Great Northern Railroad had a robbery not too long ago?

Before long, one of the men left the area. Bishop, a man about forty years old, remained. Bishop built himself another shack near the junction of the North Fork of Bull River, only a couple of miles from Daly's and Connelley's. But he stayed to himself, attending none of the neighborly get-togethers.

Clifford Weare knew where Bishop's cabin was.
"I come along there one night the first time I was up the North Fork of Bull River. I didn't know the country, you know. It was all heavy timbered. There was a cow trail there. Connelley's cattle had been there. I followed that cow trail. I knew it would come out somewhere down here and I'd know I was going the right direction. It was getting dark.
"I seen a light and went over there. I knocked on the door and out went the light. So I thought, well, he don't want to see nobody, and I went on outta there."6.
Bishop neither borrowed nor lent things. His neighbors knew he was a trapper, but suspecting him to be one of a team of bank robbers, they left him alone.
"The little cabin was up in the South Fork, in the bottom between the South Fork and the North Fork, in that triangle there. There's a spring of water comes down. It's more in the North Fork. The trail went up in the South Fork and then cut into the North Fork. Later years they put in a road. It would be to the north of that road.
"He never had a stove, he had an open fire pit.7. It'd be hard to find if you didn't know right where it was. It was just a little cabin, about eight-foot square, and half built in the ground. On Chippewa Creek, up about five, six miles.8.
"They called him the old trapper. I was deputy sheriff down here under [Sheriff] Joe Hartman at that time. When Connelley's went to Troy, shopping, you know, Bishop'd come over and give them a $20 gold piece, asking them to get him some goods. Whatever he wanted. Something to eat, just mostly.
"Well they thought it was funny. They'd give him back the change. But he never give no change. Give them another gold piece every time. So after a while they tumbled. He was one of the fellas that robbed the Great Northern of $65,000. They split it between them. The two fellows.
"Now this was in 1918. He'd lived up here for several years before that. That bad flu was around. So many people died, you know. Especially women that was pregnant. They died like flies! George Phillips, he was depot agent at Noxon a while. His wife died of the flu.
"Sheriff Joe Hartman come to me. "'Say,' he says, 'I got a warrant for this old trapper up on Bull River there. Do you know where the cabin is?'
"'Yes.' "'Well, do you want to go up there and we'll get him?'
"'What's he done?,'" Weare asked.
"'Well, he's got $35,000 up there somewhere and he robbed the Great Northern railroad train.'
"Joe had the dope they killed his partner in Spokane. At the dance hall he was giving the girls $5.00 to dance with him, you know, in gold, and so on. They tumbled to him. They went into a restroom and he grabbed for his gun and they shot him twice. He didn't die right off and they asked him where his partner was. He didn't know. He doesn't know a thing about it. He wouldn't tell. Well, maybe he didn't know, either. But the partner was up here.
"I said, 'Yeah, I'll go with ya.'
"'He'll shoot.'
"'Well,' I said, 'He shoot me once and that'll be the end of me, or I'll shoot back.' Haha.
"Joe says, 'Well, I'll cover ya. And I'll have another man with me. We'll cover this guy, or if you want to move up, I'd rather send a single man.'
"I was married. 'That's all right. I'll either go to the door and talk with him, or I'll cover the man that does.' We figured to come Saturday.
"Friday night it started to snow. And it just kept snowing until there was about three feet of snow. I was going to take my team and break a road to Frank Berray's place and then Frank'd break a road on up. But Joe came on the train.
"'Well, no, we can't break a road up there,' he said."9.
Frank Berray said,
"The middle of February 1919 it began to snow. I'd come home on leave from the army and had a difficult time of by horseback making the thirteen miles from Noxon's ferry to the folks place on Bull River. Four feet of dry snow had piled up before it stopped snowing.
"Daly was out on his snowshoes. As he passed Bishop's cabin one day he noticed there were no signs of activity around it. He snowshoed over to look around. Inside he found Bishop, apparently dead for two or three days. Daly shoed home for his horse and rode to our place for help."
Frank bundled up warmly in woolens, hitched up the team, made his way back downriver to the Ranger Station at Noxon, and called the sheriff and the undertaker at Thompson Falls. Then he went to the NPRR depot and waited for them to come in on the train and took them up Bull River to Bishop's cabin.
"The snow was up to the hanes on the horses collars and so dry and course that it wore all the hide off the team," he said.10.
"By gosh, before they got a road broke out, we heard the old trapper was dead. Of the flu," Weare said.
When they got to the cabin they discovered Bishop's bed consisted of a stack of beaver hides with bedding spread over it. In the corners of the room he had rolls of beaver hides. Mink hides hung on the walls. Small change lay about the austere cabin. Checks from several fur buying companies that had never been cashed were found, adding to the suspicion that he might have been a bank robber. The body was taken to Plains.

The sheriff located a sister in New York and learned that Bishop had plenty of money in different banks. No sooner had the snow melted than Bishops neighbors dug all around his cabin searching for buried treasure.

All they found was an empty cast iron bean pot, an old three-legged kettle. If a cache was buried there, someone found it and left the kettle.
"We went over there and tore that cabin all down and found eight hundred dollars ($800) in change. But not a nickel's worth of gold," Weare said. "He had that gold hid!"
Rumor then put a buried cache on Chippewa Creek. Is a bank robber's loot buried high on the mountainside? No one ever found it.11.

  1. Harry Tallmadge, tape-recorded oral history, 1970.
  2. Sanders County Independent Ledger, December 19, 1918.
  3. Ellen Jenkins Innes, oral history, November 30, 1986.
  4. Bob and Anna Larson, oral history, march 6, 1972.
  5. Gladys Ellenwood Marine, letter May 1, 1979.
  6. Clifford R. Weare tape-recorded oral history, June 28, 1973.
  7. Lanky Jamison, tape-recorded oral history, January 8, 1987.
  8. Clifford R. Weare tape-recorded oral history, June 28, 1973.
  9. Clifford R. Weare tape-recorded oral history, June 28, 1973.
  10. Clifford R. Weare tape-recorded oral history, June 28, 1973.
  11. Frank Berray, tape-recorded oral history, 1970.

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