Thunder Mountain, Big Creek, and Stibnite
1897 Dan McRae Pioneer History
My first trip to Thunder Mtn. was in 1897 – a party of us: Curly Brewer, Hank Babendorf, Jim Stanton, Clark Rolland, Dan Leach and myself. Also a mining man and his son (I think their name was White, but not sure.) There was no bridge at the South Fork of the Salmon and below the mouth of Elk Creek at that time, and water was too high and swift to ford so we went on up the river a few miles where there was a row boat. There we took our packs across with the boat and swam the horses. The regular trail up Elk Creek and through Big Creek was on the opposite side of Elk Creek from us and that creek being too swift and rocky to ford, we went on up the river to Slim Willy’s ranch and over the Sheep Creek Trail to Yellow Pine basin. We picked up Theodore Van Meter on East Fork below YP basin and he went with us.
At that time there was no one in the basin. From there we went up Quartz Creek and crossed onto Big Creek by the way of the Cleveland mine. Thence we went down Big Creek to the mouth of Lick Creek. There we got onto the old Government Trail and on which we went up Lick Creek and down West Fork of Monumental Creek to the forks. Then we went up Main Monumental to the mouth of and up Mule Creek.
At that time there was only a few men at the camp and included the Caswells, Bert Zebrie, Ritchie and our party. Curley Brewer, Hank Babendorf and Jim Stanton were going down on Cornish Creek to placer, having a whip saw to cut lumber for boxes. I can still show the whipsaw pit where they worked that season.
Note: This was typed by Dan McRae a few months before he passed away in June of 1954.
(Shared by Sandy McRae via email 4/2010)
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Daniel C. McRae and Grace Carrie Turner McRae
Dan McRae married Grace Carrie Turner in 1906 at Meadows. They had two children, Robert “Bob” (born in 1908) and Marjorie (born in 1912).
source: The Wolf Fang – Deep in the Mountains, a Family Mine By Robin McRae
Dan McRae had mining claims on Big Creek and Thunder Mountain. He and his wife Grace’s children were Robert James born 1908, married Carolyn Ruth Cook 1934 and Marjorie G. born 1912 who married E. James Collard 1935.
excerpted from “Free Land! Hopes and Hardships of Pioneers of Valley County, Idaho”, Valley County History Project, Valley County Genealogy – Compiled and edited by Eileen Duarte, pg 281
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Morris Hill Cemetery
Daniel C. McRae, b. 1874, d. 1954
source: Find a Grave
Grace Carrie McRae, b. 1885, d. 1974
source: Find a Grave
Robert J. McRae, b. 1908, d. 1969
source: Find a Grave
info from:: Valley County GenWeb
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Grandma Grace’s Honeymoon Diary 1907
Grace McRae Part of her life.
These are the things I prize and hold of dearest worth
Light of the sapphire skies, Peace of the silent hills
Shelter of the forests, comfort of the grass. Music of the birds
Murmur of the rills, Shadows of the clouds that swiftly pass
And after showers, the smell of flowers
And the good brown earth. And best of all, along the way,
Friendship and mirth.
1907 Trip from Meadows, Ida. to Grangeville, Elk City, Clearwater and Little Salmon near the Montana Line. Dan and my brother Elmer and I.
June 22, 1907 — Saturday morning at 9 oclock we started. Drove until 8 oclock then camped at McCullys. We had a hard day and at night it rained.
June 23, — Sunday — Started late and drove 20 miles to Levanders. Halfway. Camped early, We were tired and slept. Dan has a dreadful caugh.
June 24, — We drove 30 miles to White Bird. Got there after dark so stayed at the hotel. It has about 200 people. They are obliging and enterprising. Every store is painted white and with electric light it is quite a city.
June 25, — A year ago today we started out trip to Yellowstone Park on our wedding trip. Today at 5 oclock we arrived in Grangeville. I was disappointed in not seeing Mrs. W. Jones. We camped about half mile from town. Dan met Mr. Ricker, a friend.
June 26, — Dan was sick- We bought our supplies, about $40.00 worth.
June 27, — I went down town. Grangeville is not as large as Hidley. The valley or prairie is very wide and all cultivated. It is a wonderful wheat country. I never saw such grass. It is a cattle country, no sheep.
June 28, — Friday – We left our camp in Grangeville at 9:30, passed through Harpster, a small town on the Clearwater river. We then followed down the river for 3 miles. Camped at 3:30 on a nole under a big pine near a fine fruit ranch. We put up the tent for it began to rain. It rained every day since we came in sight of Grangeville. At time of writing we are all under the tent very cozy. Elmer and Dan reading. Dick, the dog, is asleep. We are 15 miles from Grangeville. We had a fine fried chicken.
June 29. — We had a long hard days pull for all our journey was crossing the divide between 10 mile creek and Clearwater. We camped late at a stage station on an old camping ground. We did not put our tent up and about 3 oclock A.M. it began to rain. Dan had to get up and put things away. We pulled the tent over our bed but things got pretty wet. I cooked by a campfire and the wind blew and with the rain I had a terrible time. We made 16 miles today.
June 30, — It rained on us all day. We came to Newsome creek and are now camped two miles down it. All the ground is placer here and been mined long ago. We came 10 miles today. It is 17 miles to Elk City.
1907 – July
July 1, — We had a nice warm day but the longest, muddiest roads we have seen. Nig, the horse, fell off the road down the mountain side. We had a time to get him up. We arrived near Elk City at 3 oclock. We put the horses out on the hills and flat. The first time that we have had feed without paying high for it. We camped about 1/2 mile in a pine grove on a flat near Elk City. The town looks like Meadows.
July 2, — A very warm day. Had to grease the horses to keep the flies away. Dan and I went to town. We bought some groceries.
July 3, — I was sick all day. Dan got breakfast and dinner. Elmer washed the dishes. A year ago we were in Seattle.
July 4, — We were awakened with several deafening salutes and they have been going on ever since. It is a cooler day and I feel better. We are getting ready to move into the hills. We will go to see the ball game and races this P.M. We took in the sports but they were tiresome and the weather cold so we returned to our tent. (A year ago we were in Seattle attending the races. Two years ago I was in Halley with Addie.) I took an awful cold and have a bad caugh.
July 5, — Still caughing hard and can’t move to the mountains.
July 6, — Still camped near Elk City and caughing. I think I have the whooping caugh. The boys took the wagon and harness to town and stored them. We are getting ready to leave.
July 7, — Got up at 4:30, Elmer went for horses, Dan got breakfast as it was so damp. My caugh is the same. Travelled 14 miles today. Started at 9:30. Arrived at the beginning of the Hot Springs and Nez Perce trails. We are camped near a ranch owned by the Harsh Brothers.
July 8, — Still camped at Harsh brothers. Dan left his box of caps at the camp near Elk. Elmer went back for them and brot them and some graham flour and other things. Dan went prospecting. I was in bed all day, My head hurt dreadfully from the Heron tablet.
July 9, — It rained hard in the morning so we couldn’t get up early. The boys left to look over the trail. I am going to wash. I feel much better today.
July 10, — Sick in bed all day until the boys came home at 2. Elmer shot a deer tonight. Dan and he have gone with pack horse to pack it in. I feel better. Wrote Mama.
July 11, — Thursday – Felt fine all day. Left for Hot Springs at 8 oclock. It is a 11 mile trail. The water is fine. Rode home in 3 hours, it rained a little and thundered much. At 6 PM. I am ready for bed. We all had a fine bath and are tired from the ride.
July 12, — Elmer and I went to Elk City and brought the wagon out to Harsh Bros. It was a nice day but it was awful riding in the wagon over the rough road. Dan had washed up everything and had supper ready for us. We rode in in 2 1/2 hours and drove back in 4. I made some caugh medicine.
July 13, — Saturday- Dan and Elmer shod the horses. We had to send to Elk for shoes so wont leave until Monday.
July 14, — Saw a deer in the Harsh Bro. field while we were at breakfast. Went fishing. Elmer and Mr. Harsh caught a nice lot. At 2 oclock it began to rain, continuing until night. Got ready to start.
July 15, — Started at 11 oclock. Mr. Harsh came from Elk brought our mail. I got my shoes. We came up in the mountains 8 miles and camped where some forest reserve men were. It snowed and rained on us. Got into camp about 3 oclock.
July 16, — Started at 10:30. We have now turned our watches an hour faster than at Elk. Our time is now like Meadows. We came over an enormously high divide, traveled until late. Found good feed near the Salmon River. We have come 18 miles today. Dan has been quite sick since we ate some black berries and fish.
July 17, — Left our camp this morning at 10 oclock and came over the worst trail. The horses had to jump fallen timber and Dan had to chop some logs. We only came 3 or 4 miles today. Found a nice dry camping place and stopped. Put up the tents and are planning to stay here a while. (A year today we returned to Meadows from the East). The boys will look over the mountains and trails. We have named this camping place “Prospectors Resort”. So many people have camped here and left their names on trees. We are 43 miles from Elk, 105 miles from Grangeville. The boys are making me a fine table. My stove is put up high on legs. We will have our bed in with the kitchen. Elmer will have his in the other tent with the alforkoses. The tents are very cozy this way and not crowded.
July 18, — The boys left at 9:30 and tramped all day over the high range of mountains without seeing chicken, deer or bear or mineral. Dan lost his pipe and they came home tired and disgusted. Tomorrow we will take the other side of the river. I had a good dinner waiting for them at 2 oclock but they did not come until 5:30. For dinner I had rice with raisins, brown beans with pork, stewed apples, roasted venison and potatoes and biscuits and tea. The mosquitoes are big and quantities of them also gnats. I sat up until 11:10 to bake my six loaves of bread. I had fine luck with it and it tastes good after doing without it three weeks.
July 19, — We took our saddle horses and followed the Nez Perce trail for 7 miles. It was rough and steep. We stopped on a high ridge and from it we could see “Old Granite” near Meadows also all the mountain ranges and ridges that we have traveled over to the east we had a fine view of the Rockies that bound Idaho on the east. It looks very dangerous in that direction and not very much sign of mineral. To the South we could see the snow capped Thunder Mountains and could locate Warrens and Big Creek. Beside the trail we saw 5 and 6 feet of snow in some places tho most of the ground was dry & bare. We traveled longer today without seeing water than ever before on this trip. Dick, the dog, was nearly famished. The boys had to carry him a good way. And My! the way he bathed and lapped the water when we did come to a mountain stream. Dan didn’t like the looks of the country we were headed for so we will return and take another trail in to some other mts. When we got back to camp, our other horses were gone. Elmer went after them. About 4 miles on the trail home he found Old Prince had caught his hobbles on a log and fallen. He had to help him up and when he arrived in camp he was scratched and bleeding and dizzy laying with his head down hill so long. We doctored him and he was glad to see us and the other horses again. This is the nicest day we have had. But it is threatening and thunder showers at 6 oclock.
July 20, — Elmer was sick all day. Dan shod the horses and I washed a big washing. Dan made me a fine washing machine out of a can and stick. It beats a patent machine. About 3 oclock two nice looking men with 4 horses came up and camped near us. They were from Spokane Wash. We are packing up to return about 10 miles if Elmer is well and it looks a nice day. Today was quite rainy.
July 21, — We got started at 9:30 and came 23 miles. The Forest rangers had cleared the last 11 miles of our trail so it was like traveling on a road. We are camped tonight at Mountain Meadows. Just about a half mile from here it began to rain on us and it rained and hailed so we had to fix up our camp in the rain. We had everything fixed up and I was getting supper at 6:15 after coming 23 miles in a Mt. trail. That is pretty quick work. Mr. Roche and Schrader were the men who camped with us last night. They went on to the Montana line today. Well it is the 21st of July and still it rains on us every day or night. We are getting tired of it.
July 22, — Got started at 9:30. Came 8 miles to Harsh Boys. Got here at 2 Oc. We had lots of mail. I received a card from Mrs. Jones. She is coming out to Elk City on a camp trip. I think she will arrive in Elk tonight. Dan and I are going to town. We met she and the 4 others she is chaperoning. They will stay a few days near us at Mrs. Finleys.
July 23, — Dan and I started at 9 oclock to town. Rode in in 2 1/2 hours. Had dinner at the Hotel. Mrs. Parrs. She was lovely to us. We got several letters. Dick followed us and got there almost as soon as we did.
July 24, — Made light bread. Went over to Finleys to see Mrs. Jones, Miss Moore, Miss Snell. Had a nice visit until 11:25. Came home to mix my bread. Cleaned camp. Helped Dan get things packed to go and also the things that we are to leave. Baked my bread in Mr. Harshs stove. Also two pies. It was all fine. At night we built a big camp fire and Mrs. J., Miss M. and Mr. Cole came over. There was a partial eclipse of the moon. We all sat around the camp fire watching it. Went to bed at 9:30. Got up at 4:20 to get started.
July 25, — Started over the Hot Spring Trail. Went to Coyote Camp. Had a bath. Met some Elk City people.
July 26, — Traveled about 25 miles over a hard trail. Started at 8 oclock. Traveled until 6 oclock. Found a poor camping place. Met the Wiley boys cattle, Had to stop.
July 27, — Came 1 mile up the Clearwater or Selway. Have a nice camp and good feed. It is 13 miles to Wileys. We are 59 miles from Elk City. This is a rough country. No mineral at all so far. There is a Railroad set of surveyors through here. They will come thru from Grangeville across the state to Montana. This country is worth nothing I can see except as a game reserve and timber to hold water. There is very little good timber, mostly small and straggly. We got some white or yellow pine gum and it was fine. Dan cached some of our provisions here.
Sunday July 28, — We didn’t start early, about 10 oclock thinking it was only 12 miles farther on. Dan discovered he had left his louger at our last camp. We picked huckleberries and sarvice berries. Came to the Lone cabin at 4 oclock and having traveled over the worse trail imaginable, just up one big mt. and down so the horses would have to slide to get down, I never saw such berries in my life. Bushes just black with sarvice berries. After deciding the Lone Ranch was not Wileys we went on, and on crossing the river 3 times. It was quite high and rocky then up steep trails and so bushy you had to dodge right and left or have your eyes put out. We had to carry Dick and our berries and lead the horses. It was the worse predicament we have yet been in. Finally at 8 oclock we decided to camp on top of a level Mt. where there was good feed but water 1/4 mile away.
July 29, — Started at 8. Went down the steepest mountain yet. It was awful. Came 3 or 4 miles and found the Harsh and Wiley Ranch. We found a nice camping place. Pitched our tent, arranged camp. Elmer got some new potatoes at the ranch of the trapper who lives there. He is a young and bright looking man. Very generous. We got some soap of him. Dan having forgot to put ours in, also some bear oil for lard. He had no sugar. I thought there was plenty but the can was not full so we will have to return soon. We went fishing, caught 13 nice ones. I gathered berries to dry for winter. I made 2 huckleberry pies. They were delicious. We had oyster soup, pie, new potatoes, homony and biscuits for dinner.
July 30, — We are 70 miles from Harshes. The horse flies and gnats are something terrible. We built smudges for the horses then they bite us. We couldn’t eat our supper for them this afternoon. The gentleman who lives on the ranch made us a visit. Elmer has gone to swim and shoot a deer. Dan to see the horses. I am packing up as we will start tomorrow morning back again.
July 31, — Instead of going back we all went with the trapper to a elk lick to see some elk. We rode 6 miles up and back thru a hot sun and then we didn’t see any. Dan took pictures of the licks. They have a cable ferry to ferry one across the river. It is a sort of chair seat suspended from the cable. I went out on it. Dan took my picture while I was hanging in the air over the rushing river. We came home got supper and I am in bed while the men are at the ranch. This is 1500 feet high. We saw a fine piece of land for a farm today just joining this Wiley ranch. They only have 2 feet of snow here and can raise fine fruit of all kinds. It is more on the tropical order of any of the places I have ever seen in this state. Sarvice berries are the thickest and biggest! I hate to leave them to dry up.
Thur. August 1st, — Started at 9:30. The boys had to shoe some horses. We forded the river 6 times. Came 10 miles. Stopped at the Running Ranch. The hardest part of our trip is over safely. This was the worst trail we have gone over. The horses are having a feast of timothy grass. I will now note the trappers name as I forgot it before. W. J. Murtha. The horse flies and no seeums are thicker than ever as it is so warm.
Aug. 2, — Started at 8:10. Arrived at Warm Springs Bar 4 oclock. 13 miles more of our trip over and the hardest is all over. We found our provisions that we had cached were all OK. I wasn’t feeling very well. We had a nice supper of chicken and huckleberry pie. I have fish for breakfast. It is glorious to eat berries and get fresh game and make your meals on them. Dan lost his knife. The huckleberries were the biggest we ever saw. We gathered enough for two pies.
Aug. 3, — Left Warm Springs Bar at 8:15. Came 18 miles to below Green Mountain. The horses are having a feast of lovely fine bunch grass. I was sick today and riding seemed so tiresome so we camped at 4 oclock and did not make the Meadows.
August 4, — Came on to Harshes. Stopped at the meadow near the Springs for lunch. Arrived here at 6 oclock. Traveling 21 miles.
August 5, — Camped at Harshs. Got a lot of mail. We are resting and straightening up camp.
August 6, — Got up early, washed a big washing. The boys did nearly all of it. In the PM they went prospecting and I took my light bread over to the Harsh cabin and baked. It was fine.
August 7, — Washed a few more pieces then went to pick huckleberries. Dan fixed up our pack outfit. We will only stay a few days, just until the H. boys brought the wagon, old Dan and harness. There doesn’t seem to be much mineral here. No gnats or horse flies but lots of house flies.
Aug. 8, — Went to see the boy’s mine. It looks fine. We are preparing to leave early tomorrow.
Aug. 9, — Left at 9 oclock. Took a short cut to Orogrande by a trail. It began to rain and was awful cold. The bushes near the trail got us soaking wet. When we came to a mine and mill called “The Cleveland” we took a wagon road instead of keeping on our trail, the road brought us 5 miles from Elk. When if we had kept the trail we would have been 10 miles from Elk. We struck a camping place about 5, still it was raining.
Aug. 10, — Still cold and rainy – I nearly froze to death. We did not leave our camp until 11. Then it cleared off. We came to Orogrande at 1:30. Stopped to pick huckleberries. They are the thickest and biggest I ever saw. Orogrande, I had heard a great deal of and imagined it was quite a place but it isn’t. It was the dirtiest, oldest, decrepted looking town we have gone thru. Some few mines working but the big mill is closed. We came on over the summit to an old deserted mining camp. The buildings were standing like skeletons. Machinery, furniture and all inside fixtures were taken away and what had once been a lively booming camp was now left to squirrels and the winter snows, save but the rushing mountain stream, there was no sound. It was cold, we camped in an old blacksmith shop and soon had things warm. The Buffalo Hump is 3 1/2 miles from here.
Aug. 11, — Sunday – Our road wound around and up the Buffalo Hump Mts. It is a beautiful road. Mountain streams and springs come gurgling down the Mts. every little way. The mountains are high and masses of gigantic rocks. As we ascended to the summit, we could look back and see our road several miles behind us, also the town of Calendar, which is now the deserted mining camp. Looking toward the right of the gulch we could see the buildings of the “Cracker Jack” mine and hear the thumping of the mill. The first working mill we have seen on our trip. At the top of the summit we saw the famous “Big Buffalo Mine” owned by Sweeny of Spokane. It was also in a dilapidated state, altho men who have worked there say it is very rich. The owner is working some kind of a mining scheme. We took the wrong road and after traveling 2 1/2 miles we came to the town of Concord. The original town of the Buffalo Hump camp was on the mountain near the Big Buffalo mine. It now lays in burned ruins. This is the best looking country we have seen. It is 26 miles from Elk to B.H. We traveled 6 or 7 miles from B.H. and are camped near a meadow.
Monday Aug. 12, — Came 6 miles by road towards Adams Camp. Met a prospector who told us of a trail by which we could reach Florence this evening. We followed it about 12 miles and came to Florence about 4 oclock. Found another apparently deserted village, there was a hotel and store combined where we found some one living. We saw 6 or 7 girls and a band of cattle to remember the town by. It is an old placer camp. We saw rotted cabins and banks of rock and dirt where the old timers placered. Tall trees have now grown up on the banks.
Aug. 13, — Left Florence at 8:30 and came down to the Salmon River 12 miles to the ferry. It was very warm. Camped on a side hill the levelest place we could find on the Salmon River. Even the ranches have to have a picket rope attached to them or they would slide down hill. Dan had to level me off a place to put my stove and for me to stand and cook. Then my cooking utensils would slide down hill ever once in awhile. We killed three grouse and I picked lots of sarvice berries.
Aug. 14, — Started at 10:20. We expected to go to Resort but coming along the road we picked up some quartz, so decided to camp 6 miles from there at 2:30.
Aug. 15, — The boys went prospecting, I stayed at camp and washed, sewed and read.
Aug. 16, — We are now on the mountain where we found the quartz. The boys are working. We can’t find anything of value so came to camp at 12, ate lunch, packed and started by 3. We had gone about a mile when the horses took fright at some ladies and a dog. Billy, the horse, I was riding plunged to one side then ran down the hill. I was taken so by surprise that it was several seconds before I knew what to do. I finally stopped him and got him turned up hill. Jack, our pack horse with the stove, ran thru the brush and timber tearing all his pack off that he could. Dan was still at camp so he didn’t know of it until the pack horses came running into our old camp. It was all done in 10 seconds but took much longer to get things all together. We came to the resort. Met Mrs. Burgdorff and several men that Dan knew. Camped a half mile from Burgdorf at Thorpes cabin at the saw mill. It is a lovely big meadow. Went back to resort for a bath.
Aug. 17, — Left camp early, went to Resort, phoned to Resort. Met Harold Culver. “Ships that pass in the night may run adrift of each other again.” Expected to stay all day but packed up at noon, came to Secache meadows 6 mi. so the horses might have good feed. I haven’t felt well for a few days.
Aug. 18, — The boys layed over today as they thought they had found a good prospect and I needed a days rest. Dan met Mr. Ross of the Golden Rule. He is operating in Mexico and wants Dan to go there. I hope he can. We got ready at 10 and came to Resort. Stayed at Resort.
Aug. 19, — Came to Fishery. Saw the biggest bear track.
Aug. 20, — Came home. Mrs. Jones and party were here. All had rooms here. Went to a party at the hall that night.
[Aug.] 21, — Baked all day,
[Aug.] 22. — Rested, wasn’t well.
[Aug.] 23, — Baked. Had Mr. and Mrs. J to dinner also Mr. Fenton. Ate ice cream.
[Aug.] 24, — They all left at 3 oclock.
The winter of 1907 and 1908 was spent in Meadows.
June 14, 1908 we made the trip to Big Creek. Ida, Carl and Elizabeth Brown, Miss Ulm and our dog Dick. It took us two weeks to make the trip because of the snow. We spent July at Big creek and returned to Meadows on August 5th. [handwritten] Horseback over snow on summit – Elk Summit.
August 11, — Robert was born. Monday at 11:30 PM.
(courtesy Sandy McRae)
Gram’s Honeymoon Diary 1907.pdf
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[My] “Grand parents went from the Gold King to the Dewey mine by foot in April of 1914, so my dad was 6 years old and Marge was 2 years old, they stayed over night at the Condon cabin the other side of Bear Lake and then made it to the Huges Ranch on Big Creek and then to the Dewey mine.
– Sandy McRae
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Grace McRae Sunnyside Wagon 1935
Grandma Grace circa 1935 at Sunnyside Mine.
(Photo courtesy James Collord)
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United States Census, 1940 Big Creek Election Precinct, Valley, Idaho, United States
Dan C Mcrae Male Age 63 Married Head Birthplace Minnesota Birth Year (Estimated) 1877
Grace Mcrae Female Age 54 Married Wife Birthplace Idaho Birth Year (Estimated) 1886
James E Collord Son-in-law Male Age 29 Birthplace Idaho
Mar Collord Daughter Female Age 28 Birthplace Idaho
Grace K Collord Granddaughter Female Age 2 Birthplace Idaho
 “… Mom [Kay Collord] was 2, … they were at the Sharpel’s cabin in Big Creek, (when you start up Gov’t Creek its that old cabin at the Y between the Logan road and Gvt road.)
[S]he spent her first Christmas there crawling on wood floor getting splinters.” — said Grandma Marge
– Carrie Ellie Pitts
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Grace and Dan McRae in Stibnite 1950
Grace and Dan McRae on the steps of their Stibnite house, circa 1950.
(photo courtesy Jim Collord)
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Grace McRae 1961
To the delight of Browns and many others, Grace McRae was nominated by Valley county as Idaho Mother for 1950. She had been a young teacher at Old Meadows in 1905 when she met Dan McRae. He ran a livery stable and. owned the townsite. He also owned the Sunnyside mine in the Thunder Mountain region and was a stockholder in the Independence – that was where he and Carl Brown first met. Even then Dan was “mining glad” – his wife’s word.
They were married in 1905 and her livelier life began. She lived at mines and away from them, wherever circumstances dictated, but like Ida Brown, she was forever cheerful. Once she and Ida rode along a narrow lake road so slick with ice their wagon began to slide toward the edge. Because Ida was half ill Grace was driving, and she shouted desperately to the men ahead with the horses and packstock. They rushed back and held the wagon on the road until danger was past. But this slowed things down and that night the party camped in the snow. Ida, it was clear, was getting worse rather than better, but she had Grace to lean on and refused to turn back.
In 1908 Bob McRae was born, and when he was three, Grace went to Thunder Mountain to live, taking two days for the ride, holding the little boy in her arms all the way. At the mine they lived in a house built by the fabled Colonel Dewey of Nampa, which enjoyed steam heat from the mine – when the mine operated. When Bob was ready for his Three R’s, his mother taught him. A second child, Marjorie, was born later.
In 1924-25 Grace McRae taught school in McCall, when two of her pupils were Dorothy and Margaret Brown, who loved her. During the Depression, the McRaes spent two years in Boise, then returned to Sunnyside for another ten years.
After 1945, Dan McRae was associated with the Bradley Mining company, and the family moved to Stibnite. Here Grace again taught from 1945 to 1956. Their son Bob, now a family man, was also employed by Bradley as chief metalurgist, and Grace had her own grandchildren in her school.
After Dan McRae’s death in 1956, she moved to McCall to make her home. Strangers could hardly believe that this well-informed, carefully dressed woman had lived in isolated mine cabins, and knew the weary, sometimes dangerous trail. She was a genuine pioneer who didn’t look like one.
That Mrs. McRae didn’t win in the state Mother finals was a big surprise to McCall, but not a thing to grieve about. Her friends had had a chance to present her name and to dilate on her accomplishments and worth. If judges didn’t realize her superiority over other candidates, that was their misfortune.
Extracted from “The King’s Pines of Idaho; a Story of the Browns of McCall” by Grace Edgington Jordan, Binfords & Mort Publishers, Portland, Oregon, 1961; p. 196
source: Valley Couty, ID GenWeb
Grant U. Smith 1864-1942
“Grant Smith was the watchman at the Dewey Mine and stayed longer than he should have so he had to come out through the snow. The year was 1941 that it happened, and my mother along with our dog found the body. The dog smelled the body and led my mom to his resting place. Mom was carrying me on her back in a pack sack. Grant was found in late June of 1942.”
– Sandy McRae
“Our great uncle Gus — froze to death in the 1940s coming out from Thunder Mountain, eaten by a bear, and buried right below Monumental.”
– Jim Collord
“Grant was Grace McRae’s uncle. Pa (Jim Collord Sr.) was on the detail that gathered his remains and buried him there in a draw before the switchbacks going up Monumental; there is a little rock tower on [the] side of [the] road and a big marble stone on grave from later years. The part they don’t talk about is that a bear found him in spring before Grace’s dog did. Pa always said that was reeeallllly rough detail duty.”
– Carrie Ellie
“Uncle Gus” (Grant U. S.) was rather a mystery because no one knew why he walked out alone or stayed later than everyone else, whether he’d felt poorly and lingered at Thunder Mtn or ?? When they found him, they said he had every piece of clothing he owned on. Grandma said he sat against a tree and froze. Grandpa said the bear chewed at everything that wasn’t covered by deep clothing, and that they had to gather certain bones and pieces. Grandma seemed to think he was too far to the left and was confused about the summit.
– Carrie Ellie
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Grant U Smith Story
1864 – 1942
(Grave on Monumental Summit)
Mr. Floyd Gibbons, I am sending you this Story to see if you think it is worth putting before the public. This experience happened about 50 years ago:
It was early in the spring that a friend and I staked two old-time prospectors at Haley, Idaho, and we set out to prospect for gold in what is now Teton County, Wyoming. We had four horses, two mules and a pack outfit. The two mules and two of the horses belonged to me. It was a long trip northeast around the tributaries of the Snake River through rough country to where we discovered gold. Having located it we started back to civilisation for a stock of supplies.
On our way down Snake River we had to cross Grovont River. This was in April and the trappers we met in that country warned us not to try to ford this river while it was high as several trappers and prospectors had been drowned attempting to cross it because of the swift undercurrent. We camped a week waiting for the river to go down. Instead it kept rising. All that was left of our supplies was some dried elk meat. The water was very high and so we decided to start out the next day to go to the head waters, cross the tributaries and come back down the other side. This would take five days.
We made camp for the night opposite from where we had camped on the other side of the river a week before. Before turning in I proceeded to hobble the horses, but one of the old prospectors who was a great lover of horses didn’t like the idea of horses being hobbled, and so I let them loose. The next morning after breakfast only one of my horses and the other two could be found. After searching until late afternoon we saw the two mules and my other horse across the river where we had camped the week before. The mules had the habit of returning to an old camping spot.
It was 150 miles to civilization down the river and there Were four of us and only three horses to get us there. One of the old prospectors asked me “What are you going to do, Smith?”, and I told him I intended to cross the river after the animals. They pleaded with me not to do it, said that meant suicide. The current was swift – the river about 300 feet wide. I took off all my clothes in case I would have to swim, kept only my hat on, and in the band of it stuck a tin box of matches. I plunged into the river on the back of my horse. The current was so swift that although the horse was an extra good swimmer he was pulled along with it about 200 yards where rapid rocks stuck up about 20 feet out of the water in the center of the river. A sharp turn in the river caused a whirlpool and we were pulled into it, otherwise we would have gone into the rapids. But, the undercurrent combined with my weight started to take my horse under water. I slid off his back and grabbed on to his tail, and he managed to head to the only place where he could land, which was a space between two rocks near the shore. We were across!
By this time, believe me, I was pretty stiff from the cold. I rode out to the mules and the horse, caught them and brought them near the river. I set fire to some pine boughs and a stump and after warming up a bit took the mules and the horses up the river for enough so as not to drift into the rapids in crossing. However, it would have taken a locomotive to get the mules in the water. I guess they realized the danger. I was forced to give up and turn them loose again. It was getting dark and snow had started to fall. I had to do some one fast thinking. I tore off a piece of my saddle blanket and blindfolded my horse and rode farther up the river to a cut bank where the water was three or four feet deep. I led the horse up alongside, took a run at him and pushed him in the river. Then I jumped in, climbed on his back and we got across and back to camp.
The next morning I tied half of our jerked elk meat, about three or four pounds, in a couple of blankets behind the saddle on any horse and we swam the river. I caught the horse and the mules again and tied them in a string and fastened the rope to the horn of my saddle. We started up to go around, but after three or four miles the mules began to pull back. I blindfolded them and after much pulling and shoving got them over a cut bank in the river. I loosened the rope from my saddle so as not to pull my horse and me into the river in case something happened. It was a tough trip but we all got safely back to camp.
I was twenty two years old at the time this incident took place. The other men in the party were older than myself and are now dead. I give you my word of honor that every word is true and this happened just as related to you. As I have no living proof, other than my own word, I am sending you some evidence of my past which you need not return unless you care to. You will notice that the signature on the notes is the same as the signature on this story.
35 West Lucy Street
St. Paul, Minnesota
(courtesy McRae/Collord Family)
Link to: Grant Smith Story.pdf
Link: Thunder Mountain / Roosevelt History index page
page updated Sept 2, 2020