Monday, February 28, 2011



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Caption: Emmett Thomson's first car in Noxon, Montana. Courtesy Ruth Mercer McBee collection.

Noxon also was creeping into the automobile era in 1917. Sanders county commissioners bought the first car for the sheriffs' use on August 9. Teasing Grandma Baxter good naturedly, or ribbing Charlie Munson about the latest incident with his topless 1914 Ford, was a safe bet.

One day Grandma hired him to take her across the ferry and out to see her daughter and grandchildren at the Weare ranch. When they went to get off the ferry, Munson was cranking and cranking but the Ford wouldn't start. As the river current buffeted the ferry, he became more and more frustrated. And Grandma, impatient to be on her way, asked what the matter was.
"I've lost the spark!", he growled, curbing his urge to swear. Ignorant about these these newfangled contraptions.
Being ignorant about these newfangled vehicles, Grandma replied,
"Well what does it look like? Maybe I can find it."
Birdsongs twittered from the willows near the wooden plank bridge across the slough behind Noxon's railroad depot. It linked 'Hampton's Island', the ferry's south landing, to the rivers south shore. Marion helped George Jamison nail some plank on one of the piers of the bridge to prevent the rock ballast from falling out between the logs, his mind on Madelaine. Sunshine warmed the chilly April air drifting down from the snow-clad mountains. It was a heady Monday afternoon.

One of the heavy planks had been lifted on end. As Marion came around the pier it fell, struck his forehead, knocking him headfirst onto the rocks. Jamison hailed help to get his unconscious and bleeding helper onto a stretcher and into a flagged-down train. At the hospital in Thompson Falls Doc Peek checked for broken bones. Finding none, Doc released him to go home in a couple of days, saying he could join the Second Montana Infantry, if he had a mind to. Marion pondered the changes war was bringing to Noxon. What should he do? Give up the Noxon school clerk position? Become a soldier? Or a sailor? But still, it was Madelaine Brown's mischievous eyes, thick brown curls and willowy winsome ways that captured most of his thoughts.

David Evans' first car, a band new Chevrolet. Courtesy Edna Evans Cummings collection.
Young men at Noxon took girls on forays, searching out morel mushrooms pushing up through decayed cottonwood leaf mats, drying out from spring's soaking rains. Bright yellow skunk cabbage blossoms, dwarfed by their emerald green leaves, perfumed capricious April winds. Frogs had just begun their annual noisy stirrings.

President Wilson asked Montana for 2,058 men for the Second Montana Infantry. Recruiting offices opened in every Montana town at which an infantry company had its headquarters. The newspaper editor encouraged enlistment.
"Montana's war record is one of which any state may be proud ... How many people are there in Montana who know that the First Montana infantry of the national guard, when President McKinley issued his call for troops, was the first guard regiment in the United States to be mustered into the federal service ... That was at the beginning of the Spanish-American war for the freedom of Cuba ...
"The regiment participated in every engagement of consequence in the short but bloody Philippine war ... The Second Montana served in Butte during the labor troubles of a couple of years ago, and under Col. Dan Donahue, restored order where chaos reigned. Its conduct in Butte at this trying time was such as to commend it to all well thinking people."
In addition to this regiment Montana furnished four troops of cavalry for Grigsby's rough riders.1.

Conscription for the armed services was approved - the date set for June 5. Who would go? Who would stay? With scarcely enough men in the valley now to keep ranching, logging, mining and trapping going, how could women survive this hostile climate without their men?

Four Noxon lassies on a picnic. Note fruit 'lunch,' grapes, apples, etc. Essie Thomson second from left. Her daughter, Ruth Thomson Mercer, generously sent me her mother's photograph collection - a two-pound manila envelope full of snapshots. Unfortunately, most of the were unidentified and Ruth didn't know who they were either. By comparing many collections I've been able to identify some of the people, but by no means all of them. Courtesy Ruth Mercer McBee collection.
Community picnics, designed to arouse "practical patriotism" and instruct in subjects of "particular importance in war time," took place all though the county in June with Noxonites staging their first one, Monday, June 18th, 1917.

J. R. Campbell discussed agricultural topics; B. V. Edworthy gave a patriotic address; and Miss Mignon Quaw, instructor in the state college, talked on home economics and demonstrated cold pack canning methods.

Baseball games, sack races, egg races and horse racing rounded out the festivities after the picnic dinner. About 75 people from the vicinity of Noxon, Heron and up Bull River attended.2.

A carload of six people returning home from the picnic, dumped its passengers over the bank on the Tuscor hill.

James Lux had driven safely over the narrow, rutted dirt road climbing to the top of the steep grade on the west side of Tuscor hill. There the engine stalled at a very narrow place in the road, one of the worst in the entire stretch of main road through Sanders County. A slight turn of the wheel sent the car slipping over the edge of the cliff before he could set his brakes, the editor wrote.
"The cook for a road crew working just across the canyon, was watching the car as it climbed the grade. He saw the car plunge over the edge of the cliff, strike the bank, overturn and dump its passengers out. It seemed to then bound completely over the people on the ground and continue on its way to the foot of the bluff, a distance of about 150 feet," he said. B. B. Bunn of Noxon and his son, also driving west, arrived, took the women to Noxon and returned for the men.
"A hurry call was sent to Thompson Falls for a doctor."
I. M. Wade rushed Dr. Peek to Noxon on the NPRR speeder. It was considered a miracle the automobile's passengers escaped alive with only broken bones and bruises. The car was a total wreck.3.

On July 5, 1917 Chairman of draft board, Sheriff Hartman, was John McKay's wife's uncle, Dr. E. D. Peek, physician and John F. McKay, clerk, completed the Sanders County Draft Board, all having filed their oaths with the governor.4.

As counties began gearing up the draft mechanism, townfolks held social events at every opportunity.

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Caption: 1916-17 photo of group of students and parents at the old Cabinet, Idaho school which occupied the bench south of the town. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.

Noxonites staged a box social to aid volunteers in registering the local men of service age. Seven hundred twenty two men were registered county-wide. Two hundred and ninety three men were exempted, countywide.

Twenty-one of Noxon's forty-three men were given exemptions: Eleven to men with dependents, eight for physical disabilities, one for conscientious scruples. Forest Ranger, Ben Saint was exempt as a federal officer.5.
By the end of high-water season, when stream fishing was just at it's finest and young men spent their spare time outwitting the wily trout, fear furrowed many older faces. Young men whooped and cavorted, shouting, "We'll show those krauts!"

But for lumberjacks and International Workers of the World (I.W.W.s) the situation was a vastly different.

The war created a dilemma for I.W.W. Their leadership had preached an unrelenting hostility to the employing class. Direct action had been advocated in the form of "sabotage" or a "conscientious withdrawal of efficiency" as ways of advancing their cause.

Additionally, they had opposed militarism as a capitalist plot in which the workingman made all the sacrifices.

Now, if they opposed the war, especially the conscription law, they risked bringing down the full force of federal suppression.

Ten days after the declaration of war, On April 17, 1917, a wildcat strike erupted at Eureka. Spring had just thawed the ice from the streams, allowing logs to be driven. One hundred employees of the Eureka Lumber Company walked off the job.

Lumbermen employed armed guards, ostensibly to protect company property, and the sheriff swore in special deputies. Federal troops arrived. The strike was short lived.

Following the failure of the Eureka strike the Spokane branch of the I.W.W. called for a strike on July 1. Before the deadline, lumberjacks in western Montana and northern Idaho began to walk off the job. A regional hall was opened in Missoula from which it directed its organizational drive throughout northwestern Montana. By June 28 the two largest mills of the state were shut down.

The only concrete concession that the timber operators made was a small wage hike, which failed to halt the strike.

Since negotiations and collective bargaining were impossible to achieve, the employers relied heavily on the war as a means of discrediting and legally suppressing the strikers. The press exploited the apparent antiwar position of the I.W.W.

In Butte, Frank Little, member of the I.W.W. executive committee, was lynched on the morning of from his room and hanged him from a Milwaukee railroad trestle. The lynchers weren't apprehended.

The Helena Independent, edited by the super-patriotic chairman of the State Council of Defense, Will H. Campbell, wrote:
"It is the failure of the courts and the military authorities to act which has caused (the lynching) ... Unless the courts and the military authorities take a hand now and end the I.W.W. in the west, there will be more night visits, more tugs at the rope and more I.W.W. tongues will wag for the last time ..."
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Caption: Logs for log drive in the Clark's Fork River from Cabinet, Idaho, just west of the Montana-Idaho border, circa 1915-16. Courtesy Mary Easter Yonker collection.

 On a sultry August day in 1917, United States Senator Henry L. Myers got a telegram from five Missoula constituents.
"They (I.W.W.'s) are insulting the flag, belittling the authority of the government and are increasing in numbers. For weeks they have terrorized the lumber camps."
The Missoula businessmen demanded that federal troops be sent at once "to disperse or arrest these ... traitors."

Throughout the differences, I.W.W. was jeeringly referred to mean "I Won't Work".

As war piled problem upon problem, the transcontinental railroad, moving supplies from the eastern factories to the west coast for overseas shipment, became a national concern.

Freight trains rumbled continuously day and night, their whistles wailing through the rocky canyons. Patriotism mingled with fear for the line. Suspicions festered of anyone the least neglectful in "community spirit".

Federal troops remained in Montana, taking up posts along the passes and bridges of the three transcontinental railroads running through Montana.

Soldiers from Company H of the Idaho National Guard were stationed at several of the important railroad bridges and tunnels, guarding them against sabotage. Their orders:
"Fire on anyone refusing to halt at the third command."
Coyotes, howling eerily, shivered through the starless nights. Myers wasn't surprised. For months letters bombarded him, predicting a reign of terror in western Montana. Federal troops had to be sent; something had to be done about brash, young United States Attorney, Burton K. Wheeler and the finely woven legal strictures of Federal District Judge George M. Bourquin.

Begun at Eureka, Montana, the lumberjack strike spread west to the Pacific coast, leaving bitterness, hysteria and laws restricting freedom of speech. Coinciding with America's tumultuous entrance into World War I, it provided for the use of federal troops in industrial disputes, for sedition legislation and arrests, and for the destruction of the I.W.W.

Employers quickly put these laws to use to remove undesirable lumberjacks, not only from their payrolls, but from the area as well.

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Caption: Cabinet Gorge on the Clark's Fork River in Bonner County, Idaho, near northwestern Montana-Idaho border. Circa 1948. Ross Hall photo, courtesy Wallace 'Wally' Gamble collection.

Lumbermen were certain Germany was financing the 1917 strikes. ACM manager, Kenneth Ross, wrote the governor that,
"there is no doubt in my mind but what the tieup in the woods and mills has been forced on lumber manufacturing companies in the Northwest by German sympathizers and the spies of Germany."
Senator Myers claimed, "it is very plain to me that the head men of the organization must be working in the pay and at the instigation of German influences and that they ... cripple and handicap our country in the war in which it is engaged."
But in truth, the I.W.W. workers concentrated their attention on the issue at hand, reasonable hours, living wages and decent conditions.

Wade P. Parks, Sanders County attorney, interviewed several strikers about the war and they always refused to commit themselves explicitly:
"They would not give any expression pro or con on the war ... their chief demand was better living conditions and a fair wage."
Compounding this, western Montana was hard hit with a dry, high-fire-danger summer. The forest service of District One hired known Wobblies and when lumbermen tried to persuade District Forester, F.A. Silcox to blacklist I.W.W. strikers, he refused. Most of the forest service's 5,000 firefighters were strikers. Silcox personally asked the I.W.W. leaders for help.

Later he wrote,
"Whether it was because of the fact that they were on a strike and needed work and could fight fires on Government land without being charged with any form of scabbing, or because their leaders were talked to and shown the labor rules to govern the work on fire lines, or a combination of all of these, the fact remains that we never had better fire fighting crews than we had this year."
Federal arrests took place all around, but not in any Montana towns. Over 130 leaders were charged with violating the Espionage Act. In order to attract strikers back to work and prevent future strikes, Montana lumbermen began to improve camp conditions.

On September 15, the Montana Lumber Manufacturers' Association met in special session at the Hotel Florence in Missoula to consider the camp problem. Kenneth Ross of the Anaconda Company, representing a corporation that had already made substantive improvements, led the demand for the education of cooks, standardization of menus, installation of bathing facilities, steel bunks and springs, and reading facilities for the men.

The individualistic operators argued until past midnight before capitulating to Ross's persuasive patriotic appeals. The strike had been broken. The self-imposed discipline of the lumbermen was a unique step in improving the conditions in Montana logging camps.

The mill at Martin Creek didn't recover, closing down following violence of its workers.

Early in 1918 the government-sponsored Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (LLL) moved into Montana, bringing with them a government-imposed eight-hour day. The I.W.W. had been permanently destroyed as a viable force among Montana lumber workers.

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Caption: High water flow through Cabinet Gorge on the Clark's Fork River, Bonner County in northern Idaho. Courtsy Mary Easter Younker collection.

Draft drawings began just as hay ripened in the meadows. Based on a population of 6,000, Sanders County's quota of about 60 men, to be raised for the first 650,000 troops, got orders to report for training the first of September. Enlistments made between April 1 and June 30 were credited towards the quota, reducing the draftees needed by between 20 and 30 men.6.

One band of Indians, camped across from the David Evans home, traditionally bathed in Pilgrim Creek. One time an Indian buck came to the house, asking for drinking water.
"Go down to the creek and get it, that's where we get ours," David told him.
"No. I took a bath in it," the Indian replied.7.
Other than the children, few people paid any mind to the band of Indians who camped behind the Noxon railroad depot on the flats between the railroad track and Hampton's island during the heat of summer days. But everyone closely watched whenever small bands of gypsies came through.

As early morning mists rose from the river the band of Indians peacefully continued their annual trek between Arlee, Montana and the state of Washington.

They were long gone when school bells were pealing and when another call for men went out to report October 1st for examination to fill the second contingent of the draft from Sanders County.

Arthur H. and Charles E. Raynor, sons of Civil War veteran, Henry Raynor, Paul R. Meyer, William E. Marlow, Lafayette Ranes, and Frank M. Connelly from Noxon received greetings from their government.8.

Charles Raynor had married and moved with his wife and child to Sandpoint. Fathers were exempt. Arthur Adams and Emory Marlow enlisted in the Forestry Regiment.
Dam and flume on Elk Creek near Heron, Montana. Circa 1880s. Courtesy Henry and Bessie Knott collection.
Ben and James Saint, Roy Shockey, George Burdette, and Ole Gunderson, were called for draft but were exempt. Drafted men included John Watson, Henry J. Meyer, Harry E. Kirschbaum and W. T. Geske. In October, Bryant Bunn and James Meadows decided to enlist.9.

Mrs. Watson hugged John. He shook hands with little brother, Eugene. All the Watson's, including John, tatted, sending their handiwork to Hennessey's Store in Butte for sale. One pair of hands would be gone now.

Six more young Noxon men bowed their heads in prayer Thanksgiving Day. God grant their safe return to family and friends, they prayed, for Matthew Watson, Donald L. Maynard, Frank E. Harris, Harlen J. Higgins, Alex Peterson and William E. Marlow, called to report for duty soon.10.

A farewell dance was given for Elmer McFee before he left in the service.

Dam and flume on Elk Creek near Heron, Montana, the water used to power a sawmill. Circa 1880s - 1920s. Courtesy Henry and Bessie Knott collection.
Art Raynor, framed by the bunting decorating
his send-off party for World War !. Circa 1917.
Courtesy Edna Evans Cummings collection.
C. H. Smith, principal of the Noxon School, expecting to be called to the colors about May 8th, left for Nebraska to visit with relatives. Miss Conley, the intermediate teacher, took his students, but the ninth and tenth grades he was teaching were suspended until next term.11.

Ruth Knutson and the other students taking 9th and 10th grade classes and piano lessons from Mr. Smith missed him.
"I had my first years of high school right there, although we had no high school building, you know, the credits were official," she said.
Golda Fulks, just turned eighteen years old, joined Essie and Ruth Thomson in planning a party at the Thomson's ranch on Bull River the evening before Jim Raynor, Elmer McFee and Urie Thomson left for the army.
"We played cards and ate cake. Although we laughed and joked, it was a sad, sad time," she said.
When would they come back?

Charles Mercer, 35 years old, stationed at Fort Harris, Tacoma, Washington, and then Fort Lewis during World War I, 1918. Courtesy Ruth Mercer McBee collection.
World War I soldier from Noxon. Courtesy Edna Evans Cummings collection.

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Caption: Frank Berray, soldier from Bull River during World War 1. Circa 1917. Courtesy Maxine Higgins Laughlin collection.
David Evans with his rifle at Noxon, Montana. Circa early 1900s. Courtesy Edna Evans Cummings collection.
Cupid's arrows struck. And sometimes rivalry followed. Elmer was Golda's boyfriend. Mabel Fulks sweetheart was Jessie McFee. But between Essie and Olga a tug-of-war for one heart was waged. When the fellow sent his picture postcard to Essie, Olga was furious. Essie told her,
"If you can't push, pull. And if you can't pull, get out of the way!"12.

This portrait, taken in Spokane, Washington, is believed to be of two young unidentified Noxon draftees for World War I, and has the following message on the reverse, "For Essie. Dear Doll. Will have some good ones taken when we get our uniforms. We leave here the 12th 7:15 morning by way of the Great Northern Railroad." Courtesy Ruth Mercer McBee collection.
In Thompson Falls, the county seat, the draftees were given grand send-offs. The editor reported that they were treated,
"to a bountiful chicken supper ... at the Union Cafe and the Cummings restaurant, guests of E. D. Peek and A. S. Ainsworth."
Later in the evening, a dance was given by the citizens of the town.

They marched to the train in the evening's dusk to depart on the first of the four special trains provided by the Northern Pacific to handle those called from Montana. Accompanied by the Boy Scouts and the school children in a body to bid them good-bye, they stepped jauntily aboard, watched by the whole community. The train whistle floated mournfully back as the clickity-clacking wheels hurried them away.13.

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Caption: Fern Fulks, 18 years old, at Noxon, Montana. Courtesy Ben F. Saint collection.

Friday afternoon, when the special trainload arrived in Seattle,
"The most rampant spirit which has so far been manifested by incoming draft men was displayed from Montana, the members of which made the camp ring with their shouted jests and whoops. Even the events of the recording process and the infectious disease examination, which have a curiously sobering and even frightening effect on most delegations, could not check the Montana spirit."14.
William McDougall wrote to the local exemption board saying,
"... We sure had some time of it. This is Saturday night and the boys are all complaining of their sore feet. We drill almost all day and then they hike us about two miles to the lake to take a bath. It is nice but awful cold. But it is fun here for all of us.
"The Y.M.C.A. is sure some place; there are six of them here and they furnish baseball, football, prize fighting and all kinds of sport ... P.S. ... the Montana boys have all been put together. You might send a Thompson Falls paper."15.
Members of "C" Company, 319th Engineers, wrote soliciting the home folks in May 1918 for a bear from Sanders county for their mascot, to be shipped to Camp Fremont, California.16.

Next: Chapter 4

  1. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 12, 1917.
  2. Sanders County Independent Ledger, June 21, 1917.
  3. Sanders County Independent Ledger, June 21, 1917.
  4. Sanders County Independent Ledger, July 5, 1917.
  5. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 26, 1917.
  6. Sanders County Independent Ledger, July 19, 1917.
  7. Edna Evans Cummings, tape-recorded oral history April 13, 1987.
  8. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Oct. 4, 1917.
  9. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Oct. 4, 1917.
  10. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Nov. 29, 1917.
  11. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 25, 1918.
  12. Golda Fulks Hollar, tape-recorded oral history, January 31, 1984.
  13. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Sept. 27, 1917.
  14. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Sept. 27, 1917.
  15. Sanders County Independent Ledger, Sept. 27, 1917.
  16. Sanders County Independent Ledger, May 2, 1918.

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