Friday, March 4, 2011


Caption: View of Cabinet, Idaho in northern Bonner County, the Idaho town nearest the Montana border. Looking from the mountains on the north side of the Clark's Fork River, south over town of Cabinet. Circa 1917. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.Just west of the Montana border, the little railroad hamlet of Cabinet, Idaho, clung tenaciously to its existence. The town got its start in 1883 when the Northern Pacific Railroad arrived. It was upstream a few miles from 'Cabinet Landing,' the historic river benchland where Native Americans, fur trappers, explorers, settlers, and travelers had stopped for centuries.

The town offered shelter and necessities to lumberjacks driving their logs to sawmills downstream from Cabinet Gorge, the tremendous rock-walled-funnel of the Clark's Fork River from Montana to Idaho. A modest wood-framed railroad depot served miners, travelers and residents of the sawmill town. Cabinet was the Northern Pacific Railroad mail stop and supply point for anyone who settled west of Heron, Montana.

A crude wagon trail, hacked through the dense forested mountains during the early railroad construction years in the early 1880s, discouraged travel to towns east or west.
Oon the north side of the river the old Kootenai Trail wound high up on the mountainsides to Thompson Falls, Montana, about sixty miles upstream. It returned to the valley at Clarks Fork, Idaho, more than a dozen miles downstream from Cabinet.

Several miles upstream from the town several cedar trees sheltered the shoreline near the head of the Cabinet Gorge. One tree sported axe slices, and initials carved on others dated to1809, the year when explorer David Thompson traveled down the river.1.
"In the spring of 1917 Elmer and Ella Easter moved, with their family, Millard, Mary, Katie and Bernice, onto a ranch west of Heron, close to Cabinet, Idaho," Mary said.
Cabinet, Idaho - 1916 (c) 1988, Mary Easter Younker
"The Burk Hotel was Cabinet's main hotel," she said, "and three general merchandise stores flourished. Will Lloyd's parents had one southeast of town and Mr. Ziegler had another, downtown near the railroad. Zeigler kept a counter and showcase containing luscious chocolates."2.
Mary and Katie Easter opened their restaurant, "just a step from the Northern Pacific Railroad track," in the Zeigler store building," she said, when describing the town.
"The third store was in the Shamrock Hotel, west of the Zeigler building. Steve Burk, Sr. had the store and post office there. He carried everything from logger's boots to candy and bananas.
"The Shamrock Hotel was painted yellow with a green shamrock on the outside and had living quarters in the rear. Next was the dinning room, and the doors to the outside of the saloon to the east. Upstairs were eight rooms, rented to teachers, and travelers.
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Caption: Cabinet Gorge of the Clark's Fork River in Bonner County, Idaho, near northwestern Montana-Idaho border. Note Billiard Table Mountain in background. Courtesy Wallace 'Wally' Gamble collection.
"A few steps west of the Hotel was the dance hall, with its beautiful hardwood floors, which was also used as a town meeting place. A Methodist Church and a Catholic Church each sat high up on the hill. The sawmill was located west of town.
"There was a big hotel when Cabinet was built and they had roomers. Then people made a house out of the old building.
"I was 17 when my sister, Katie, and I had our little restaurant at Cabinet. That's where we lived, and where Alfred Younker and I met.
"Our folks supplied us with eggs, milk, cream, all the honey we needed to cook with and butter. And when dad butchered we had meat. We had good meals. Dad was a gardener more than a farmer. We had beans, carrots, rutabegas, and anything you'd want from a garden. They never wanted for food. They never had much money but they had plenty to eat.
"We just had to buy flour, sugar and coffee, mostly. Very little coffee sold. Clientele included loggers, three shifts of railroad telegraph operators, and the miners."3.
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Caption: Fifty-one year old Elmer Easter in doorway of cabin on the Blackfoot Lumber Company 'stump ranch' near Cabinet, Idaho that he bought in 1917. The 1910 fire had burned the area, turning thousands of trees into useless blackened snags. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.

The Carpy Mine (also called the Cabinet Mine) on the north side of the Clark's Fork River, dug into the steep hillside just west of the Montana-Idaho border, across the river from the town.

Mr. Newlon was a mine guard. Eight men crossed the swinging footbridge, walking to work in the mine. It was a second try at locating paying minerals in the prospect tunnel that leaked water on the men as they excavated the mineral laden rock.
"I went in the bucket they let down once. My sister, two years younger than me, wouldn't go down. But I wasn't afraid. They winched it down into a hole. They mined maybe five or six years, using eastern capital," Mary said.
"I'm not sure they got much from the mine. They were just prospecting. Just a study digging to find what was there. Men did a lot of prospecting when they could get a little money to work with. They'd bring out buckets of it to check."4.
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Caption: Blackfoot Lumber Company real estate agent showing land to Elmer Easter, two  miles south of Cabinet, Idaho, 1917. The buildings were part of the lumber company's logging camp. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.

Mary said, "The miners were permanent boarders at Cabinet so we knew how many we had to cook for three times a day in our restaurant. We seated eight to ten at the table at one time. We girls cooked and slept in the back room.
"The miners meals were our main income. The rest of anybody coming to town wasn't much.
"The train would come through real slow because of the steep Cabinet hill. The NPRR tunnel track is the same through all these years. When we made homemade sugar cookies for the trainmen they'd jump off the back of the train and come get them. And then they'd run to catch it up. They'd get the cookies and jump onto the tail end of the train and flag the engineer to keep going. We didn't make anything on the cookies."
Prospecting and mining flourished in the surrounding mountains, in boom and bust spurts, wholly dependent on men who grubstaked efforts. Encouraged by the prosperous mineral-rich developments over around Wallace, Idaho and eastward around Butte, Montana, men persisted in their search for the 'big strike.'

East of the Idaho border, up Blue Creek in Sanders County, Montana, prospectors were also at work. Dr. Stackhouse grubstaked Daddy Hyatt to explore the Star Mine, also called Blue Creek Mine. Montana Gold Mine, was located not far from where the Lauderdale Shingle Mill would be built on Blue Creek.

The old Broken Hill mine was filed by Max Dunn in 1919. Other mines: Freeman, White Delph, Hope, Oxer Mine (on Wellington Creek), Lucky Star (found by Daddy Hyatt) and Old Lawrence, on Mosquito Creek; (there were three mines within 2 miles of each other) and Red Cliff Mine (1929 on Antelope Mountain).5. Griffin and Tom Dolan were among the miners.

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Caption: 1917 crew of miners at the Carpy Mine. Alfred Hale, Mr. Hale, Mr. Dunn, Mr. Burnett, Mr. Newlon and Ross Powell. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.

Earl Clayton, another settler attracted to the western Montana, land arrived in March 1917 on the Northern Pacific Rail Road siding at Cabinet, ID from Kansas.
"To his surprise, there was deep snow. Fortunately for him, two ranchers, Jack Arthurs and Paddy Hayes, with teams and bobsleds helped him and his hired man, Melvin Reginald, move his gear to Paddy Hayes cabin."6.
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Caption: Elmer Easter's flock of ducks, 1916. Couresy Mary Easter Younker collection.

In answer to Earl's telegram, his wife brought their sons, Austin, 6, and Charles Neil, 3, and infant daughter, Grace, on the Pullman train to Cabinet, a four-day trip. Earl met them with his team and a borrowed bobsled. His son, Austin said the move included,
"an immigrant boxcar of furniture, farm implements, household items, horses, cows, pigs, and chickens."
The way to Paddy's Cabin was a sled trail in three feet of snow, down the Clark's Fork River, across the river on a cable ferry, then two miles up switchbacks through tall green forest.

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Caption: Flora Brand and Miss Paulen standing on the guard of the Northern Pacific Railroad Engine No. 189, Cabinet, Idaho, Bonner County, Idaho, circa 1918. During World War I the young ladies were hired as the first girl telegraph operators at Cabinet, Idaho. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.

Earl Clayton had arranged for them to live in Paddy Hayes' well-built, snug little log cabin on the north side of the Clark's Fork, upstream from Cabinet Gorge. A road had been made by loggers to the Brooks' cabin further east of where their trail swung north to climb the slopes above Blue Creek.

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Caption: 1917, Katie Easter (left) and Ziegler's daughter in the Carpy Mine ore dump cart near Cabinet, Idaho. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.

The Clayton family lived in the cabin until April. Earl and Melvin Reginald shoveled two miles of snow almost three feet deep from the wagon track to his land on the lower mountain slopes.
"The wagon road to Blue Creek crossed the standard gauge railway track of the logging train bringing daily loads of logs to roll into the river.
"The locomotive was a specially built gear-drive steam engine, with a huge funnel-shaped smoke stack. The cars had log racks arranged so that when the chains were released, the logs rolled off onto the riverbank. With peaveys and cant hooks the lumberjacks kept the logs rolling into the swift current of the Clark's Fork River.
"Paddy Hayes had two logging teams of Percheron horses he was leasing to the Dover Lumber Company. He was also a foreman at the lumber camps, eating some of his meals at the camps. He did not come to his cabin every day," Austin said.
"We liked Paddy's big Collie dog, who stayed in the cabin with us. There was a sand box for the dog that also served as a spitting place for Paddy, who chewed Granger Rough Cut tobacco.
"While we were in Paddy's cabin, we heard loud dynamite explosions several times a day. Paddy explained that the logs had jammed at the upper end of Cabinet Gorge. He said, 'You can walk across the river on the rafts of logs'. The blasting continued for a week or more."7.
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Caption: Mary, Katie and Bernice Easter at the Cabinet tunnel on the Northern Pacific Railroad near Cabinet, Idaho. Circa 1918. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.

The Clayton's had two places to get mail - Cabinet, an hour-long three mile walk downstream, or at Heron, a rowboat ride and three miles upstream. At either town there were several saloons and a store and NPRR station.

Earl Clayton's property was next to Hazel Brooks'. A graduate of Cheney College, Washington, Hazel arrived the year before to take up land. A mile away, Hazel's brother, Joe, also had taken land. Their parents lived farther up Blue Creek.

A few other settlers lived east of them, upstream along the Clark's Fork River; Reilly, David Jones, the Faughts, the Emil Dettwilers, and the Fillerups.8.

Emil Dettwiler was proud of his interesting childhood and youth. Soon after he was born in Alsace-Lorraine, France, his family had been sent to Switzerland. When Emil was eight years old the family emigrated to the United States. Arriving at Ellis Island on New Year's Eve, they had to remain an extra day in steerage quarters on the boat. Emil had been given the run of the boat during the crossing and loved every minute of it, he said, while the adults had a difficult time in the overcrowded, sick infested quarters. Emil struck out on his own when he was fifteen years old, working in lumber, and taking other odd jobs across the country. He schooled a while in Missouri, before marrying. In 1907 Emil brought his family to Montana and established a ranch on the northbank of the Clark's Fork River, across from Heron, Montana.

Earl Clayton's pig pen in the snow,March 1917, thier first pig pen at
their 'stump ranch' in northwestern Montana. Charles Neil and Austin
Clayton are in this photo, taken near the Brooks' family cabin. Courtesy
Earl Clayton collection.
Upstream from the Dettwilers, Mr. Fillerup raised sugar cane in his fields. Fillerup built a big water wheel about eight foot in diameter and put it in a little spring, planning to gear it up to power machinery.
"He gave us a taste of sugarcane. It was pretty good stuff," Austin said.
Main business street of Heron, Montana. Courtesy Georgia Knott MacSpadden collection.
Unidentified man fishing the Clark's Fork River as it enters Cabinet Gorge near the Montana-Idaho border, circa 1920. Looking west from the north shore in Montana. Courtesy Austin Clayton collection.

Melvin Reginald's homestead cabin on Fatman Mountain, Sanders County, Montana, back of Emil Dettwiler's ranch. Circa 1920s. Courtesy Patsy Duffy Layton collection.
As soon as possible these settlers met with the school board people at Heron. Mrs. Larson was secretary of the school board for many years. The board told them if they got a schoolhouse built, they'd get a teacher.

The Brooks family provided logs and Mr. Dave Jones gave two acres on the western corner of his property, bordering the Joe Brooks place.

By September that year they had built the River Echoes School. About the time they got the school built, Mr. Pat Duffy came from Anaconda with his family. He'd been a labor-gang foreman at the Anaconda Smelter and wanted to move his family to country life. In 1917 he bought the Faught log cabin on lands which bordered the west side of Emil Dettwiler's.*9.

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Caption: The Earl Clayton family pose proudly at the Blue Creek 'stump ranch' for photos to send back to friends in Kansas, 1919. Austin Clayton, Charles Neil Clayton, Grandpa Wilbur Dushi (Lampton?), Earl Clayton, Christine Clayton and Grace Clayton. And also, their prized Rhode Island rooster and horses, Pearl and Pepper. Courtesy Austin Clayton collection.

The Duffy's adventure began with getting their heavy cook stove from the Cabinet railhead to their ranch. They ferried it across to the north side of the Clark's Fork River on the Cabinet ferry. But, with that heavy stove on the wagon, it got stuck crossing Blue Creek. Clayton brought his horses to help rescue the cook stove before high water washed it away.

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Caption: Gloria and Sterling Easter on horseback on ranch in northwestern Montana. Circa 1920s. Courtesy Mary Easter Younker collection.

Watching the Clark's Fork River entertained adults and children alike. Throughout the changing seasons the diversity offered by river watching was addicting.
Austin Clayton said, "In winter there were cakes of ice in the green current that frequently lodged on boulders to make ice jams, blanketing the stream bank to bank in zero [degree] weather.
"In springtime, when the river swelled with a racing muddy current, there were saw logs floating with the current. Some of them lodged on the banks, and others were held by the current against midstream boulders.
"Those logs in the river in June, near the last days of school, and also when the river was receding from highest flow, were evidence of the lumber industry in progress both upstream and downstream.
"Our attention was caught by the shouts of men, known as "River Pigs", employed on the river by the lumber company to clear logs off boulders and banks.
"These men used long wooden poles especially fitted with steel points and hooks, called pike poles and peaveys, to roll the logs, splashing in and out of the water as necessary.
"With them was a boatman to rescue any man caught in the river current. Sometimes men drowned. The logs were enroute to catch booms in Pend Oreille Lake at the mouth of the river."
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Caption: 1918 photo of the Earl Clayton's Blue Creek Ranch, taken by the second cabin. the 1917 cabin and Billliar Table Mountain are in the background. 'Smarty' dog, Charles Neil, Austin, Grace and Earl Clayton. Courtesy Austin Clayton collection.
"The carloads of new lumber speeding by on the NPRR line bordering the river were products of lumber mills nearby," Austin said. On our land, bordering the Clarks Fork River canyon was a log chute made by the loggers who had removed the saw logs before we came. This logging was done to salvage the trees killed by the disastrous 1910 forest fire.
"'Cutover land' was what the Blackfoot Land Company said our land was. The 170-some acres, in Section 19, T27, R34W located on the north bank of the river and the east bank of Blue Creek, which flows southward to confluence with the westward flowing Clark's Fork River one mile from the Montana-Idaho border."*10.
After high water and log drives ended and July warmed the water, swimmers seached out areas along the shoreline devoid of dangerous undercurrents, where families gathered to picnic and frolic in the clear waters. Favorite fishing holes offered challenges spring to fall to catch and bring home a string of fish. Fall's fallen leaves floated and collected in shallow backwater pools to dab color on lead-gray waters reflecting a clouded sky. Ragged ice crusted the shoreline in winter's grip and froze sufficiently to allow ice-fishing and ice skating parties.

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Caption: 1920 photo of brothers Charles Neil and Austin Clayton, with their fishing catch of penos, suckers and trout, from the mouth of Blue Creek at it's confluence with the Clark's Fork River a mile east of the Montana-Idaho border.


  1. Lyle Younkers, oral history, 1988.
  2. Mary Easter Younkers, oral history, February 18, 1988.
  3. Mary Easter Younkers, oral history, February 18, 1988.
  4. Mary Easter Younkers, oral history, February 18, 1988. When the saw mill shut down, also the mine, sometime in 1921, the girls sold out and with a little capital, had a trip east to visit relatives. Mary Easter and Alfred Younker were then married, October 13, 1921, on his birthday.
  5. Joe Brooks, tape recorded oral history, 1980.
  6. Austin Clayton, letter March 25, 1986.
  7. Austin Clayton, letter March 25, 1986.
  8. Emil Dettwiler history.
  9. Austin Clayton, oral history, 1989.
  10. Austin Clayton, letter March 25, 1986.

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