Idaho History April 16, 2017

Lafe and Emma Cox

Idaho Mountains, Our Home: The Life Story of Lafe and Emma Cox

Lafe and Emma Cox were pioneers in the mountains of central Idaho. This book is Emma’s autobiographical account of how she and Lafe came to make their home at Mile High Ranch, 160 acres in the middle of what is now the Frank Church Wilderness.

They delivered mail by dog team, ran a dude ranch for 47 years and had many other exciting adventures that are detailed here. The history covers such areas as: the Middle Fork of the Salmon river, Big Creek, Mile High, Yellow Pine, Stibnite, Thunder Mountain, Sun Valley, Deadwood, Johnson Creek, Soldier Bar, Warm Lake, the Main Salmon, Dagger Falls, Bear Valley, Frank Church Wilderness, and the Snake River. Lafe and Emma both have been chosen as Idaho Statesman Distinguished Citizens.

source Good Reads:

“Life in Idaho’s Backcountry Idaho Mountains Our Home” – The Life Story of Lafe and Emma Cox

This book is a “MUST READ” – An accurate historical account of life in the backcountry written by and about the pioneers who lived it.


“That first summer of 1944, we had thirty Idaho Power Company employees to serve meals for, while they finished constructing the power line from Emmett to Stibnite. Lafe had a crew of six men putting in a telephone line away from the power line to cut out the noise on the line.”

“I did a lot baking on the wood range each day. I usually baked eight to ten loaves of bread, a lot of hot rolls (around 120 to 125 for each dinner), and for the desserts I baked six pies for the dinners and a sheet cake for the lunches. I was glad the men took lunches, as it seemed I was baking all day. The main thing was never to let the fire go out, but it wasn’t long until I knew how much of a fire should be in the fire box to heat the top of the stove and keep the oven at a certain temperature.

“Before the electricity we used lanterns and lamps for lights. After a few years we installed a gas Kohler plant for lights only. He had to shut it off each night after everyone had gone to bed. So you know who was the last to bed.

“We had no refrigeration, with the exception of ice buried in sawdust. In the winters, another important chore — besides cutting wood and feeding cattle and horses — was cutting and storing ice.

“We cut ice under our bridge and loaded the blocks on a sleigh pulled by the team, just as Clark had done. The blocks would be sixteen to twenty inches thick. They weighted 90 to 100 pounds. We had an “ice house” of sawdust on the back of our cellar as a storage house for the blocks. Some of the ice would keep until early fall. We buried all our meats and some other food in the sawdust. We used large tongs to handle the ice.”

source: Pgs. 124-125 “Idaho Mountains Our Home” by Lafe and Emma Cox – Copyright 1997 by V.O. Ranch Books

Photos (click on photos for larger size)

Clark Cox, father of Lafe Cox. My guess is photo is taken in sweet or Brownlee.
1925LafeCox1925-aLafe Cox 1925 The future owner of Yellow Pine Cox ranch
CoxRanch1-aThe Cox Ranch in Yellow Pine
This is a photo from Arlie and Pauline Woods collection of the Cox cabin in Yellow Pine

CoxLafeEmma-aThe story of the Coxs and the dude ranch in Yellow Pine is a special one.

photos from Horseshoe Bend Historical Society, Inc., Idaho

photo album
— — — — — — — — — —

Lafe Cox


Lafe E. Cox (1914 – 2002)

Lafe E. Cox, 87, of Yellow Pine and Emmett, passed away Wednesday, April 24, 2002, at St Luke’s Regional Medical Center of an unexpected illness.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, April 29, at the Potter Funeral Chapel, Emmett. Friends may call for visitation today from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Potter Funeral Chapel.

“A LEGEND IN HIS OWN TIME,” Late was born Oct. 15, 1914, on South Mountain above Sweet, to Clark C. and Beulah (Greene) Cox, early Idaho pioneers. He attended schools in Brownlee and Yellow Pine by horseback and dog team. The family moved in 1927 to a ranch near Yellow Pine where they built a lodge known as the Cox Dude Ranch.

Lafe began working for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey at the age of 17, packing surveyors and mapping central Idaho. The insight and knowledge of Idaho’s back-country was learned through personal experiences.

He married his sweetheart, friend and life’s companion, Emma Petersen, at Emmett on March 14, 1939. Lafe and “Babe” who he affectionately called her, recently celebrated 63 years of marriage. Their honeymoon took them on a dog team/sleigh and horseback ride to their ranch at Mile High near Big Creek.

Lafe’s career as an outfitter/guide began at Mile High and continued when they purchased the dude ranch from his parents in 1943, They met and enjoyed so many wonderful friends from all over the world with many guests becoming part of their family.

He was a backcountry doctor (when no one else was available), rescuer, practical joker, hunter/ fisherman, forest fire fighter, packer, skilled horseman, and appreciative steward of Idaho’s wilderness. “Idaho Mountains Our Home,” the title of the book he helped Emma write of their life, is one of his legacies.

He and Emma sold the dude ranch in 1974 and begun building a ranch nearby for themselves and their family to enjoy. He was a pioneer in elk horn and driftwood art and furniture and spent many hours crafting horseshoe art, working with leather, horseback riding to lakes, trips with family and visiting with friends.

Lafe was a charter member and former director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides, charter member of the Gem County Sheriff’s Posse, 50-year member of Masonic Lodge #82, Cascade, member of the Payette River Cattlemen’s Association, Gem County Historical Society, the Brownlee Club, and honored by The Idaho Statesman with the Distinguished Citizen award in 1982.

He was “honey” to Emma, “daddy” to Janet Harshfield and Roxie Himes, “grandpa” to Steven Harshfield, Latina Pressley, Greg Himes, Cynthia Hockett and Brian Himes, and “great-grandpa” to Cami, Cassi, and Chris Henderson, Courtney and Danielle Hockett, Niko and Zoie Himes, Greyson Himes, and Curtis and Catherine Pressley, who survive him. Sons-in-law Larry Harshfield and Vernon Himes, and spouses of the grandchildren, Paul Pressley, Denise Himes, David Hockett, and Jodi Himes, also survive him.

He was a dad, brother, grandpa, uncle, cousin, and friend to so many who enjoyed his love, compassion, stories, wisdom, and wit.

He deeply appreciated Dr. Bryon Stone’s friendship, concern and care. Memorials may be given in his name to the Brownlee Club, c/o Jamie Chilcott, 7180 Sweet Ola Highway, Sweet 83670.

source: Gem County GenWeb
— — — — — — — — — —

Emma Cox


Emma Ruby Petersen Cox (1920- 2011)

Emma, the last survivor of her Danish emigrant family, began another journey on July 9, 2011.

A daughter of James and Gertrude Petersen, Emma was born minutes before twin brother, Elmer, on June 2, 1920. They grew up in a loving happy family of nine children.

This wonderful woman lived a life that few women have or ever will experience. Her legacy is being a historian, humanitarian and supporter of youth. She attended schools in Emmett, Idaho, graduating from high school in 1938. Many classmate friendships lasted over the years.

March 14, 1939, as a young bride of 18, she wed her true love, Lafe Cox. She left her small community to brave a new life in the primitive area. They traveled over 80 miles by dog team, horse and sleigh or horseback to their new home at Mile High on Big Creek (now Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness). Her first winter there she never saw another woman for five months, yet she did not think of being “lonely.” The second spring she almost died of rocky mountain tick fever.

A true lady, she was always treated as one by the many bachelors, miners and hunters that she was surrounded by. Many worried about her as she delivered the mail and supplies; driving 24 miles over a dangerously narrow “road” from Big Creek to the Snowshoe Mine, with her baby daughter beside her. She was steadfast in her beliefs “do not show fear” and “work never hurt anyone.”

She and Lafe operated two Dude Ranches for over 35 years in Idaho’s central mountains, catering to guests from all over the world. Many guests returned 20 to 30 years. She could cook a scrumptious meal over a camp fire or wood cook stove. No one ever left her table hungry. Most of their employees were young people and they as well as the guests became part of their family.

As a historian, she kept diaries from her earliest years to recently. She collected school records, photos and old newspapers from mining towns that are long gone. At the age of 70, she and Lafe began writing their story and in 1997 published their book “Idaho Mountains Our Home.”

She had a great love for her wilderness environment and strove to protect all living things; yet, she was capable of using a gun or club (and did so) to protect her family or self. She became an EMT and used her skills and natural ability to help others. She served on the Yellow Pine school board 10 years, reported the weather of the back country to the weather bureau for over 25 years and was an election judge over 50 years, member of Eastern Stars over 50 years and charter member of the Out-fitters and Guides Association. She was named the Idaho Statesman Distinguished Citizen in 1992.

She is survived by daughters and husbands, Janet and Larry Harshfield and Roxie and Vernon Himes. Grandchildren and spouses, Steven Harshfield, Latina Pressley (Paul), Greg (Denise) Himes, Brian (Jodi) Himes and Cyndi (David) Hockett; 11 great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews also survive her.

Her beloved husband of 63 years, her parents, four brothers, four sisters and all of their spouses preceded her in death.

Disappointed to leave her earthly life, she so looked forward to being reunited with those she missed and loved so much.

Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday July 14, 2011, at Potter Funeral Chapel Emmett, Idaho. Burial will follow at the Emmett Cemetery. A viewing will be on Wednesday July 13, from 2 to 8 p.m. and the family will receive friends from 6 until 8 p.m. at the chapel.

Being a historian and a member of the Gem County Historical Museum 501 E. First St Emmett, Idaho 83617, you may donate in her name, give to a charity of your choice or give flowers.

source: Gem County GenWeb

[h/t SMc]

page updated October 15, 2020