BEHIND THESE MOUNTAINS VOL. I
"The sale of the business of the Peoples Commercial Co. did not materialize, the purchaser backed out owing to the uncertain business outlook. With posts that sold a year ago for 12 cents now on the car for five, caused the prospective buyer to "stop, look and listen!" so to say.
"This getting back to "Normalancy" must mean that a plan is on foot to have the army of unemployed argument by a few million more and of course small town business and agreat (sic) many of the large town enterprises, follow the working man.
"C. R. Weare, who has been the backbone of the Noxon Cooperative enterprise says, he is of the opinion that the store had better continue. The very uncertain times ahead of course make this rather difficult. The Store's condition must always follow the condition of the people who are members and the condition of the post market has the average Noxonite considerable below par.
"The most prosperous men in the community are for the most part always very uncooperative. When there is not a piece of handy change in it for them, they of course want nothing to do with it. The small town capialist (sic) is probably the more grasping and much more selfish than his big town brother. Noxon is not different than the rest and it has been the experience of the Peoples Commercial Company.
"Oodles of advise, volumes of criticism, but not a nickel to help the cause. The Cooperative at Noxon has experienced its share along this line. Men who claimed they would interest themselves in the store if a change was made in the management when the advised change was made, showed their real purpose by flunking when it came their turn to act, yet it was the very knocking they did that caused all the difficulty.
"The Peoples Commercial Company was and is in better shape than five out of six of the small town stores and its members have about learned the sad but necessary lesson. That greedy self seeker has become such by a lifetime of devotion to himself. With this knowledge and the very poor oppertunities (sic) of sale at this time, should be a very sufficient reason for the membership to "carry on".
"We await with faith and hope the day when our merchandising will be conducted on the basis of service, the same as our schools and postoffice, but until the day the people can vote their credit and have the proper organization for accomplishing these ends we must "go it" ourselves.
"So pass the word around, tell yourself and the wife that there's only one way out and that is forward."
World War I, labor disputes and unionizing, religious upsurge, heavy taxation, political ideologies, and prohibition, were the major ones. Also taking place more rapidly was a change from a strictly timber based economy to include agrarian endeavors. Hay and cream were the only agriculture products shipped from the valley with any consistency.
Attempts to grow apples and potatoes, on any extensive commercial basis, failed, as did experiments in raising grain crops. Cedar post making, harvesting timber from national forest lands or railroad lands, were still the primary occupations that brought cash, or at least, credit at the local general merchandise stores.
Those stores, like the saloons, had undergone considerable change. Buck's Store sold out and closed, the cooperative peoples store thrived for a while, giving competition to Larson's Mercantile. Baxter's Hotel no longer operated, giving a clear field to the Hotel Montana. And the forest service ranks continued to be only augmented during the summer season.
Enrollment in the school continued to inch upward and great pride was taken in each accomplishment made by the youngsters. Noxon was extremely competitive with other towns to win academic awards at the annual countywide competitions.
Roads were maintained on a sporadic basis. No state highway existed. Horses still outnumbered cars. But changes in these were making sure and steady progress.
Icehouses were as important as hay barns, pigpens and chicken coops. Each of Noxon's businesses, plus the railroad, had one. Every winter the ice cutters went down on Marion's slough and cut huge blocks of ice, skidded it on sleighs to the ice houses south of main street, and packed it in sawdust to last all summer. The railroad shipped block-ice in by freight car to fill their icehouse beside the water tower.
A crew of mid-winter ice cutters at Noxon. Circa 1920s.
Courtesy Clayton Bauer collection.
President of the People's Commercial Company, Saint, resigned on February 21, 1920. Clifford R. Weare was elected president by acclamation.
Then by ballot he was elected Manager so he resigned the presidency. The Manager's salary was $100 a month. Granny Gordon was then elected president by acclamation. Earl Engle reported progress on making out the income tax report. Corporate assets: $7,618.46. Liabilities: $6,127.26 were listed on their June 5, 1920 financial report.*1.
Certainly Weare was an experienced manager, having successfully operated his own store in Noxon for ten years before leaving it to homestead.
The corporation was actively soliciting post orders with only 5% commission to be taken on the posts.
Throughout 1920 stockholders in the People's Commercial Company had fallen in arrears in their payments. On September 4, 1920 a motion was made by William Held, seconded by Herman Manicke, that U. E. Ellis, Wm. Ellis, A. Gordon, John Fulks, C. Greer, J. Jamison and J. Beal, subscribers of stock be notified to pay the $50 balance each owed within thirty days.
"Or give a satisfactory reason for not doing so .... (or) the subscribed stock shall be ordered cancelled."*2.Store manager Weare was directed to consult with Frank Lyons about the delivery of lumber for the completion of the hall over the store building. Their newspaper advertisements read:
"Co-operation builds homes, schools and churches, engenders kindly feeling, love and service. We live to co-operate, we buy to co-operate and we sell to co-operate."*3.Weare operated the store until Baird and Wales got into it and renamed it Baird and Wales General Store. Homer Baird was from Thompson Falls before coming to Noxon. Baird was on the school board in 1922 only.
"It may have been that Weare made a contract with Baird and it didn't go through," Fred Minear said.
"But Baird run that store for one or two years. At the same time, I know that Weare lived there a little while because I used to carry water over from a hydrant on the railroad to the store for Freda when she lived there. She was just a girl going to school and if she saw me around why she'd ask me if I'd go get a pail of water for her."*4.
"The store was a big white building, a two story, paralleling the street. The front of the store was facing Main Street (towards the Clark's Fork River.).In line, pretty much, with the other stores.
"It was on the corner of the street that came down from the hotel. Ethel's restaurant was on the west side right on main street. And there was a storage shed behind, I believe. "Jenkins may have run it, too. After we left but Jenkins and Weare, you know, they were real close."*5.Other than the original journal, the only known paper to exist from the business is the following statement.
"May 15, 1922, People Commercial Co. For value recivd pay to C. R. Weare $23.00 and pay to yourselves $12.00 making a total of $35.00 the amount due me from poles unloaded at Paradise. Chas. Fulks."Which year it closed is unknown. The building sat vacant for years and years. During one year the Sheriff caught a man who stole a car in Troy when he ran out of gas at the first bridge on lower Bull River. He tried to run away and the sheriff's bullet caught him right where his suspenders crossed in back. The body was laid out in the window of the People's Store in Noxon. His wife, with her baby in her arms, stood in front of the window crying when Sheriff Joe Hartman came from Thompson Falls to get the body. The scene made at least one lasting impression in Noxon. Lanky Jamison was just a small child but he remembered it vividly.*6.
Except for a baseball diamond east of the Phillips house, only vacant land lay beyond. East of the ball field, past a small forest grove, the 12 room, two story Diver's House boarded travelers in a glade-like setting on a small rise, a short distance west of Pilgrim Creek.
East of Pilgrim Creek, south, on a little hill back of the Evans' place, was a small frame house owned by Chris Hansen. Those were the only houses on the south side of the road. Chris Hansen had a blacksmith shop in a frame building.
Children's memories often are very vivid and very telling in their perceptions. Fred Minear's parents moved to Noxon following whatever jobs they could find. Mrs. Minear was a midwife and nurse. Andrew Knutson owned a farm about a mile up the creek, on Pilgrim Creek, south of Chris Hansen's. He got it from a Mr. Johnson and worked on it for a while, then rented it out.
Frank Minear moved his family there for a while. Then Mr. Cane, lived there with his two step-sons, Art and Frank Callon. Their mother lived at Anaconda.
"One day Frank, the youngest one, got in an argument with his dad. He hopped a freight into Anaconda and lived with his mother," Fred Minear said. "He never came back, either.
"We had two cliques here, Everett Jenkins and Clifford Weare on one side, and Ethel Bartholomew and her gang on the other side. Ethel was a Fulk. She led the group herself, mostly, whoever would fall in behind her. Ethel kinda spread out. But anything that Weare or Jenkins wanted, why she was against it.
"Ann McDonald was a school teacher. Bob Larson and Ann married just before we moved in here. They used to come by our place when we lived over just on the riverbank there, where the old Weare mill was. Roy and Ray Meadows lived out across the river.
"Bob and Ann would go by and I really never knew until a lot later that Roy and Ray Meadows were twin brothers. Roy and Ann and Bob were always together. Roy started going with one of the Cluzen girls."*7.
"And Mrs. Winters was a very religious woman and she claimed she cured my mother's cancer by prayer," Fred said.
"Across the river, up against the mountains at the mouth of Soldier Gulch, Beal's had their place. The road wound around, curved around to the blacksmith shop," Lanky Jamison said.
"The houses were up in the draw, built pretty high up the hill. The barn was on the right hand side of that creek that came down next to the hill and the house was on the left. After Beals, Dettinger had the place and then Ralph Bracy had a blacksmith shop there. Bracy borrowed George Jamison's plow. When his blacksmith shop burned up it went too. Fred Raynor got the place there, later."*8.The Indians traveling through fascinated children.
"Indians camped east of Pilgrim Creek," Charlie Knutson said.
"There's a little flat spot in there and that's where they used to camp. They always had a big herd of horses when they came in there. Us small kids used to go up there and watch them ride in that left over orchard there. They come during huckleberry season and picked huckleberries and killed game there, too.
"We kids went up there and saw the meat hanging in the trees. They dried it someway, to cure it. "There were a hundred Indians in several wigwams both sides of the creek between the railroad track and river on that bench there.
"Up on Pilgrim Creek, way up at Mrs. Baxter's ranch, there was a circle of rocks where the Indians used to camp.
"These Indians, the big bunch of them that camped down below there, they went all over around the country. They were peaceable. They trapped and they killed game up there. I think they were off this Flathead Reservation. They went through and in the fall of the year they'd come back and go east. So I'm sure they were from the Flathead Reservation.
"The Indians used to have a big rendezvous every fall at the mouth of the Clark's Fork. You know, down on the big flat down there. And I'll tell you another place they used to have a big round up. It was at Tuscor, at the mouth of the stream there. I know when I was in high school we used to go down and dig in the sand there to find those arrows."*9.Lanky Jamison, about fifteen years younger than Charlie, recalls the Indians camping differently.
"During the early 1920's, up until about 1925, bands of up to 100 Indians came through Noxon, traveling from Washington to Arlee and back. They'd camp behind the Noxon railroad depot on the flats between the railroad track and Marion's island. Along where Ethel Bartholomew later had her pig pens.
"Squaws put two poles behind the horses to form a travois. They moved early in the morning, stopping to make camp during the heat of the day.
"Once when Indians came to Larson's store to buy meat, Bob Larson tried to give them cheese instead. The Indians refused it. But Larson kept insisting they should take the cheese. In exasperation one Indian said emphatically, "No, Cheese chokem up ass!"Larson had another hilarious story to entertain townspeople with, at the Indians expense."*10. Lanky also described the area where once Indian's camped during Charlie's childhood
"East of Pilgrim creek, on the north side of the road, a nice, fairly level campground sheltered by big cottonwood trees provided a resting place for immigrants coming west. Horses were rested. Wagons repacked and repaired to go on farther west.
"North of the NPRR track there, Weare's Landing was down closer to the river. All of the posts and poles and logs brought from Rock Creek country were stockpiled there, served by the railroad spur.
"McFarlands and different ones had loading docks down there to ship posts and poles to markets. Gypsies also left lasting impressions on Lanky. "A band of about 20 Gypsies, moving with pull carts and push carts, came through Noxon in the early 1920's. They didn't stop, having already cleaned the store at Heron."*11.BIBLIOGRAPHY
1. The Peoples Commercial Company journal, 1920.
2. The Peoples Commercial Company journal, 1920.
3. Sanders County Independent Ledger, December 16, 1920.
4. Fred Minear, tape-recorded oral history February 1, 1990.
5. Fred Minear, tape-recorded oral history February 1, 1990.
6. Loren "Lanky" Jamison, oral history, 1989.
7. Fred Minear, tape-recorded oral history February 1, 1990.
8. Loren "Lanky" Jamison, tape-recorded oral history, 1989.
9. Charles Knutson, tape-recorded oral history, November 18, 1983.
10. Loren "Lanky" Jamison, tape-recorded oral history, 1989.
11. Loren "Lanky" Jamison, tape-recorded oral history, 1989.