Saturday, April 27, 2013


You'll want to learn how many of the people you've come to know and admire in Behind These Mountains, Volume I are among the 830 folks whose challenges and triumphs, disasters and tradgedies fill another twenty eight chapters in Volume 2.

In chapter 3, Grandma Baxter returns. Noxon also was creeping into the automobile era in 1917.... One day Grandma hired Charlie Munson to take her across the ferry in his 1914 topless Ford, so she could visit 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.

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, Grandma replied, "Well what does it look like? Maybe I can find it."....

You'll read about Jim Freeman sharing his homesteaded cabin, about a half mile above the mouth of Bull River, with stew bums, whenever he wasn't out developing claims south of Bull River in Copper Gulch. Having sold one mine to Frank Lyons, Freeman continued searching the peaks surrounding the Bull River valley for the "big" lode.

After the end of WWI, Frank Berray worked for Frank Lyons in his mining property on Squaw Peak. Frank and a Dutchman stayed there all one summer, mining the ore.

"It was all in just big pockets, the hardest quartz you ever tried to hand drill in," Frank tells. "But you hit one of these pockets and it was pretty darned heavy to copper. You saved all the pockets. Near summers end Frank Lyons came up to sack it. Ore sacks weighed about 26 pounds. We had for our summer's work about 20-25 sacks of these copper pockets.

"We sacked it all up and had it ready to go down the mountain. But we couldn't find anybody to haul it out, so it just set there. I went down to Weare's homestead, west of Noxon, and went to work cutting brush and trees.

"Old Culligan, a butchershop owner from Troy, two other guys from Troy and a man named Williams, from Washington, went up and jumped that claim during the winter. Ellinwood's little homestead cabin was right down at the bottom of Star Gulch. He could see right up to the mine though it was about three miles straight up the mountain to it. But anyway, Ellinwood was supposed to be a spy for them and get up there as fast as he could if anybody showed up.

"Lyons found it out. So he went up to the peak, but not through Bull River, past Ellinwoods and up the Star Gulch trail. Lyons went up the other side, over Fat Man Mountain and Squaw Peak. Ellinwood found it out someway so he goes rushing up Star Gulch.

"There were two houses on Squaw Peak (the Forest Service later burned them down.) The snow was so deep it was level with the beam in the peak of the house. They had to climb over that to see down the Squaw Peak trail....

The ending to that mining war will leave you laughing, just like the old men had laughed while relating these stories to me.

WWI brought great changes to the valley. Populists ideas had not been completely stamped out. In 1917, they surfaced and flourished under a new name, Socialism....

In this land so newly settled, the majority of it's population pre-middle aged, confident, self-reliant and idealistically presumptious, politics were hotly attended. As the pinch tightened, political differences polarized factions. C.R. Weare saw himself as champion of the strugglers.

Self rule by "groups" had only just begun and had not yet been homogenized by mass education. It was fertile ground for the seeds of change. While the "Community Club" and "County Civil Defense Board" were beginning to coalesce throughout Sanders county the Non-partisan league began forming....

H.D. Jackson and Clifford R. Weare became bitter, revengeful enemies. Before WWI spawned differences settle down, Weare winds up in jail under charges of treason.

No history would be complete if it didn't include bootlegging. Weare always laughed, telling one story about Albert Sandy, who lived up on Pilgrim Creek and made the best whiskey.

One day Sandy got an order for 10 gallons of bootleg whiskey, of moonshine. So he put it in his old pickup truck and started to Spokane with it, Weare tells. "'I kept a pint out to drink on the way because it was pretty cold,' Sandy said. He'd never drove in the city, or anything, and he started down the street, looking for this place. Well, he was driving on the wrong side of the street. So pretty soon they hailed him (cop stopped him) and said, 'Where you going?'

"He told 'em he come from Montana and where he wanted to go....

When you read the rest of Sandy's sad tale, you'll laugh as heartily as Weare did.

Five maps place you in these rugged mountains, acquainting you with trails, rivers and transportation routes. More than 200 pictures from the settler's personal photograph albums add to your growing intimacy with these people who fought to survive WWI, and regain some of the way of life they'd come to love.

History is an ever fascinating mystery, isn't it? So often it leaves more questions behind than it answers.

Volume III of this trilogy will answer many of the questions raised in Volume II.
 

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