Wednesday, February 23, 2011


When times get tough, the tough get going, it's been said. Dan Mead, with his wife, Petra Paulson Mead and their two children, Lowell and Elenita came along, from a farm west of Reserve, and stopped in at Cliff Weare's station.

Their mini-caravan consisted of a Model T. Ford and a Model A. Ford, packed with kinfolk. Andy and Lillian Fairchild (Dan's mother), Margaret Mead (Lillian's mother), and Petra's brother, Dick Paulson were in the party looking to relocate farther west.

With Weare's guidance they bought Frank Reams' property east of Bull River along the new highway and lived in tents while the men built two log houses.
"We got to Noxon August 5th and moved into the houses the day before Christmas that year," Elenita said. "Cliff Weare gave us bags and bags of vegetables out of his garden, which was certainly a great lift."*1.
As we leave this history, the depression is setting in for a long haul for all Americans, including those living in these mountains. East of them, over in north and central Montana, drought brought the last straw to thousands, literally starving them out.

The Townsend Plan, the Civilian Conservation Corp, the National Youth Administration, the Blister Rust Program, and many other programs devised by the government for their beleaguered citizens are yet to come.

People came to Sanders County in numbers so great the county commissioners enacted a ban on new arrivals. In spite of it, they arrived from the drought country, heartened by the greenness they found. Some stayed.

In fact, the only time numbers of one nationality, that could be termed "an ethnic group" by historians, lived here since the railroad building days, moved in and stayed.

But that's another story. Space and time have run out for this book.

As always, just as the tides run in and out, people left from here. Mel Boyd, nationally syndicated columnist, summed up his impressions of a short stay during the early 1930's. I'll leave you with his recollections.
"I only lived in Noxon for one school season, not long enough to be any part of its history nor even to have a good grasp of same. It was good to have had the opportunity to live there even for that short time - before the law much later moved up from Thompson Falls, before real estate became a serious business thereabouts, before telephones were to be had away from the four in the Noxon proper businesses; Marions's, Jenkins Hotel, and a couple more.
"The transition was still underway. There was just enough Old Frontier left to give us a first-hand notion of raw existence romanticized in western fiction. "High school kids rode busses to basketball games upstate, and in the night, boys with spotlights in old Model A's drove up Bull River to knock down venison for food more than fun.
"It was a teenage town in the sense that it was like a teenager, undeveloped in some ways but grownup in others. You couldn't identify Noxon, during my time there, as still a part of the Old West.
"The Old West was long gone. Noxon was just laggard, so late, in becoming part of the New West.
"Noxon was a rifle and a Model A and a bottle of jug wine. Its membership knew as much about the world around it as the fish in the Clark's Fork knew about the water in which they swam.
 "But as you say, it was a valley, a valley with its own identity. And if you were from Noxon, you were from a place you knew, a whereabouts you comprehended from its center to its limits.
"No strangers lived there. Any stranger in Noxon was from someplace else, just passing through."

  1.  June 27, 1991 letter from Elenita Mead Scheffler. The Mead family came to Noxon in 1934.
  2. Mel Boyd, Letter February 9, 1981.

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