Saturday, August 6, 2011

INDUSTRIOUS MEN



Sam Higgins, Dr. Nelson and Dr. Munro boating on the Clark's Fork River, circa early 1900's. Courtesy Maxine Laughlin Higgins collection.
J. V. Nesbitt came to Noxon with his son Harry on March 17, 1888 just five years after the railroad opened the area. He was manager of Bascomb and Greenough's sawmill at Noxon and soon bought Smead's shingle mill at Smead's Landing of Bull River Ferry.1. Later he built a boarding house. A newspaper clipping says Doc Smith had a store at Smead and McJunkin built a mill on the East fork of Bull river.2. McJunkin, in connection with people by the name of Smith, put up a log one and a half story house near where the East Fork of Bull River flowed into the main stream. Smith was dubbed "Old Doc Smith" although he was not a doctor.3. Smead's was a shingle mill making shingles from blocks of cedar. Whether McJunkin's mill was a cedar shingle mill or a lumber sawmill is unknown.

By 1894 Bascomb's Lumber Company had closed.4. Noxon had a population of 25 and Bascomb was the postmaster. Thomas . L. Greenough, the tie contractor, still operated his general store supplying post makers and tie hackers. Sam Miller owned the only saloon remaining. E. A. Yost was the railroad and express agent.5. In the fifth election held at Noxon only ten votes were cast at the station house polling place.6.

These were important years for the nation. Railroading had opened the west. The west was influencing voting to an increasing degree. In 1896 bimetalism gained worldwide attention when a proposal to establish silver at a ratio of sixteen to one to gold was put forth.

William J. Bryan won the democratic convention nomination on the issue. One of his slogans was,
"You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."7.
Most of the miners left the mineral outcroppings in the Clark Fork valley. By this time the initial frenzy caused by the findings in these Bitterroot and Cabinet Mountains was beginning to fizzle. They had proven to be sporadic and misleading because of the numerously faulted rock formations that had broken the minerals into scattered, unreliable veins. Rich minerals ended after only a few feet of exploration dashing the prospector's first giddy beliefs that unending wealth would be easily taken, or so it seemed.

Prospectors in the Coeur d'Alene's had done what none in the Clark Fork valley had been able to accomplish. They snared the capital investors; the men with money to develop prospects so the Coeur d'Alene's continued to develop while the Clark Fork valley declined again.8.

The miners and prospectors fled from the valley to the Klondike region of western Canada where they suffered through the most picturesque gold rush in all history. 30,000 people rushed in, literally killing each other, as gold strike after gold strike was reported.9.

McKinley won the republican nomination on the gold standard and defeated Bryan for President of the United States.10. W. H. Smead left the shingle mill hamlet named after him and became Flathead Indian agent where he served in that capacity for about five years.11. 
* * * * *
Swan Swanson arrived in Noxon early in 1898. He had been a Lieutenant in the Swedish army. He and thirty-six others had been shipped to Ottawa, Canada to fight the Spaniards. Just as they arrived there, peace was declared. So Swan skipped out of the army, going to the United States. At Noxon he stepped off the train in the wilderness to find only a couple of shacks, the large log building that had housed Greenough's supply store, and the railroad buildings.12. The Polk Gazetteer listed Noxon's population at twenty-five but Swan didn't see them.13. All he saw was a depot agent and Ed Hampton and a big woodshed the railroad had filled with wood for their steam engines.14.

The only businesses and occupations remaining in Noxon in 1898 were J. H. Hire, nursery, and Andrew Knutson, hotel (this was the railroad owned section house.)16. The exodus was nearly complete, and the forests nearly uninhabited again.

The population at Trout Creek decreased to fifteen. Pat Kelly, postmaster and saloonkeeper, and NcNeel, railroad agent, along with miners, F. Cameron, M. B. Gray, David Miller and R. R. Schulder were among those still there.17.
Lottie Colberg taking her cream can to market in the wheelbarrow. Colbergs operated the Stockholm Restaurant in Heron. Courtesy Georgia Knott MacSpadden collection.
Will and Duane Davis purchased thin cattle, some for as little as $1.50 a head, and trailed them from the Flathead to the McGinnis Meadows northeast of Trout Creek. Throughout the summer of 1898 they fattened up on the lush meadow grass. The hardy cowpunchers drove their herd out over the Vermillion Trail, rousting the out of the timber when they strayed, through Willow Creek country and out at Trout Creek. Holding corrals built along the railroad confined them until they were shipped to Portland, Oregon.18.

Between 1860 and 1898 John B. Leiberg was commissioned to survey the timber on the public lands. Crews worked through northern Idaho and the adjoining Bitterroot Mountains. Lieberg's report, submitted in 1898, inventoried:
  1. Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana
  2. Clearwater River drainage to the Salmon River
  3. The Priest River-Clark Fork-Kootenai portion of north Idaho
  4. Forests between (2) and (3) in north Idaho.
They reported thirty-one billion board feet still standing in the Coeur d'Alene area alone and emphasized the hazards of destruction unless the forests were immediately supervised. White pine was a prized material for squared timbers and ships spars and masts.19.

Like other new arrivals, it wasn't long before Swan Swanson sized up the opportunity to make his fortune in timber. He went to work for the Goodchild Lumber Company, Thompson Falls, cruising timber. He knew timber because the army in Sweden had trained him as a fire fighter.

With a pack on his back containing forty pounds of oatmeal and ten pounds of bacon, Swan left Clark's Fork, Idaho December 30th to cruise timber in the back country. He went up lightening Creek and for thirty days roamed the mountains, sleeping in holes he'd burn down into the snow, line with his blanket, and then crawl into, never suffering from the January cold.

Satisfied that he'd done his best for his employer, Swan made his way out of Blue Creek, following it down to the Clark's Fork. There he got two logs, lashed them together with willows, and ferried himself across the river, and then hiked into Heron to catch a train.
Swan said, "I came up to the station and the agent said, 'There's no trains at all that stop here. There's a passenger train in the nmorning but nothing else,' he says. 'Now please get out of here,'"
"I stunk pretty bad I guess. I says, 'Hold on. I gotta catch a train outta here and I'm broke.'
"He said he couldn't help me any. So I felt in my pockets, and by golly I had thirdy-five cents. 'Here, I want to send a telegram to Linberg's and Goodchild that I'm at Heron and broke and I want to get out.'
"The agent took the telegram and then ordered me out of the depot. I went out. In about three minutes he came running out to tell me Number Two was going to stop for me.
"Number Two stopped. Then the conductor said, 'Please, get in the smoking car, will you?' I got there, too. And when I got to Thompson Falls old Linberg was waiting with a tem to meet me. He took me to town and got me a new suit of clothes and everything. I was in pretty hard shape. That was big, big country back there in the mountains to cruise."15.
* * * * *

In 1899 Robert S. Bragaw was appointed to Forest Reserve Supervisor at Rathdrum, Idaho for the Northern District of Idaho. Priest River also had a forest reserve.*20. Strong attempts were being made to stop timber stealing from public lands. W. C. King was arrested at Rathdrum for stealing state land timber.24.

During this period following the building of the railroad, while mining and lumbering weren't yet employing all the men who'd flocked to homestead in the area, animosity arose over aliens having jobs. Settlers became so concerned and vocal over scarcity of work that laws were introduced and passed in Idaho restricting employment of aliens. Chinamen, especially, were harassed but anyone not having taken out citizenship papers was in jeopardy. The Northern Pacific railroad officials agreed in 1899 to stop hiring aliens and let go those they employed.21. Late that summer woodsmen were battling with the NPRR for enough cars to ship their products.22. Several carloads of cattle were shipped to Montana.23.

New York newspapers were publishing accounts of how salmon egg stripping and artificial fertilizing of them was being done successfully. Eventually the Clark Fork River and the inhabitants of western Montana and northern Idaho would benefit from this process.25.

Diet was a thing of relative uncertainty. Either cured meats, which were being shipped in from Omaha, Nebraska, or venison were the main protein available. Beef cattle were scarce and so was hay. There were no dairy herds. Milk came in tin cans shipped in on the railroad, too. Crackers, beans, potatoes, bacon, just about all food, came from 'outside' the valley.26. Montana was paying war taxes, primarily on beer, cigars, proprietary stamps and imprints.27.

R. U. Goode of the Geological survey was working in the area. G. W. Phipps was employed in the land department of the Northern Pacific railroad selling timber to the lumbermen, then selling the logged over land to settlers.28.

Homesteaders were arriving in the area, grabbing up whatever land they could find. Public notices of land available were published and posted by the government as required by law. However, unscrupulous men often made certain that lumber company concerns got wind of the choicest timber land first. Public notices such as the following peppered the newspapers,  
"Notice is hereby given that the following named settler has filed notice of his intention to make final proof in support of his claim, and that said proof will be made before the clerk of the district court, in and for the county of ... at Missoula, Montana on ... (date.)"
The items included the settlers name, the property description, and the names and addresses of four witnesses to prove his continuous residence upon and cultivation of said land. This was followed by the name of the Clerk of court in capital letters. Since it was still a time of influx and exodus of the population, it was not always easy to secure the names and addresses of four witnesses who could verify that the homesteader had actually been on his land the required time.29.

Homesteaders were arriving in the area, grabbing up whatever land they could find. Public notices of land available were published and posted by the government as required by law. However, unscrupulous men often made certain that lumber company concerns got wind of the choicest timber land first. Public notices such as the following peppered the newspapers, The items included the settlers name, the property description, and the names and addresses of four witnesses to prove his continuous residence upon and cultivation of said land. This was followed by the name of the Clerk of court in capital letters. Since it was still a time of influx and exodus of the population, it was not always easy to secure the names and addresses of four witnesses who could verify that the homesteader had actually been on his land the required time.29.
"Notice is hereby given that the following named settler has filed notice of his intention to make final proof in support of his claim, and that said proof will be made before the clerk of the district court, in and for the county of ... at Missoula, Montana on ... (date.)"

Haying at Heron. Sidney Knott, Alfred Edwards, Mrs. Skinner, and unidentified child. Georgia Knott on the rake. Courtesy Georgia Knott MacSpadden collection.
Captain Peter Weare and his wife, Emma, came to Noxon in 1900. Weare, a fifty-year-old veteran of the Indian Wars in Nebraska wanted to prospect the mountains around Noxon. Emma was forty-five. When they came to Noxon they left behind two grown sons, Major and Clifford R. who, with his own family, was living in Minon, Wisconsin working in the lumber business.

Captain Weare and his wife, who was half Indian, roamed in the mountains from whence Rock Creek flowed south into the Clark's Fork River, east and north of Noxon, examining rocks and significant geological formations at the high elevations above Rock Lake. Weare's mineral prospects were east of Rock Creek ridge. He went in on the Vermillion side and found silver, lead and a little gold.

Weare figured the gold had come from the head of Copper Gulch. He wrote his son, Clifford R., to come on out. They were lonely for him. And they were enthusiastic about the country and it's timber, mineral and water potentials.30.

In 1900 the population of Noxon held steady at 25, which included all those scattered in the surrounding canyons.31. Ed. Hampton was postmaster.32. Heron had 60 residents, a shingle mill, sawmill and a hotel and store operated by Henry Schwindt, who was also the postmaster. E. C. Crosby, Ed Knott and N. Laremy (sic) were making their living by cutting telephone poles which were being shipped out on railroad cars.33. Those who were tenacious, determined and resourceful were staying, surviving and succeeding.

Next: Chapter 7
FOOTNOTES
  1. Undated newspaper clipping in University of Montana archives.
  2. Undated newspaper clipping in University of Montana archives.
  3. Frank Berray, tape-recorded oral history 1970.
  4. Frontier Index, Thompson Falls, MT, undated.
  5. Polk Gazeteer, 1894-95. (R. L. Polk and Company published city directories for many years. In the 1880s through the early 1900s they also published what they called 'Gazeteers' which listed towns in several states, including businesses in each town. Starting about 1884, included in one book called Polk's Gazeteer were Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Montana. Copies of these books are now rare. An almost complete set exists in the Helena, Montana Public Library.
  6. Missoula County courthouse records.
  7. World Almanac 1970, published by Newspaper Enterprise Association.
  8. Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history, 1971.
  9. Gold Rushes and Mining Camps of The Early American West, by Vardis Fisher and Opal Laurel Holmes.
  10. World Almanac 1970, published by Newspaper Enterprise Association.
  11. The 1899 Souvenier of National Irrigation Congress.
  12. Swan Swanson, tape-recorded oral history, 1970.
  13. Polk Gazeteer, 1898.
  14. Swan Swanson, tape-recorded oral history, 1970.
  15. Swan Swanson, tape-oral history, 1970.
  16.  Polk Gazeteer, 1898.
  17. Polk Gazeteer, 1898.
  18. In The Shadow Of The Cabinets, by Libby Writer's Group, Montana Institute of The Arts.
  19. White Pine - King Of Many Waters, by Charles C. Strong.
  20. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID June 2, 1899.
  21. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID June 23, 1899.
  22. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID August 11, 1899.
  23. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID August 11, 1899.
  24. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID August 11, 1899.
  25. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID 1899 (undated).
  26. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID 1899 (undated).
  27. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID 1899 (undated).
  28. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID July 28, 1899.
  29. Kootenai County Republican, Sandpoint, ID 1899 (undated).
  30. Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history, 1970.
  31. Polk Gazeteer, 1899.
  32. National Archives.
  33. Polk Gazeteer, 1899.