Idaho History January 7, 2018


Monumental Creek, Thunder Mountain

Early Mining on Monumental Creek

The Alton district [roughly the headwaters of Big Creek on down to Crooked Creek], however, did not include an obscure claim made in 1890. This claim was made by Claude and Elsie Taylor on Monumental Creek. [The Idaho World said the creek was named for the “Sheepeater Monument”.] … It was at the Taylor claim that the Thunder Mountain district began. …

The claim of Claude and Elsie Taylor where it all began on Monumental Creek would remain in the family and be mined until 1941.

excerpted from pages 50 and 67, Mining by Jim Witherell, “Valley County, Idaho Prehistory to 1920s”, Valley County History Project
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The Taylors on Monumental Creek

Claude and Elsie Taylor located a claim in 1890 near Monumental Creek between Copper Creek and Deer Creek some years before the Caswell brothers prospected the area. They worked the mine until 1941 and lived there for over 50 years. Then Si Simonds and his partner Swede Hanson worked claims in the area and built the airstrip. The place is now known as Simonds Airstrip.

(personal notes)
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Monumental Creek between Copper Creek and Deer Creek

TaylorMonumentalRanch-a(click image for larger size)
source: Google Maps
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Claude and Elsie Taylor

In 1890, Claude and Elsie Taylor had a placer claim in Monumental near Copper Creek and Deer Creek where they worked the claims many years. Elsie had two boys before she married Claude and one of them died and is buried there. When Mrs. Mabe had a baby girl at Cabin Creek, Elsie put on a proper city hat and rode horseback from her place to Cabin Creek to see the baby and rode home the same day. Claude was part Indian. Their claim was sold to Si Simonds. Si was retired Navy and his friend and partner Swede Hanson built there and prospected. They built an airport on the land by hand, and with a farm-all tractor. Bill Timms, an assayer at Thunder Mountain, had claims and cabins above the Taylors on the ridge. Near there, on Monumental, Rufus Hughes also had a claim and cabins.

Excerpted from: page 361 “Valley County Idaho Prehistory to 1920s”, Valley County History Project
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… Claude and Elsie Taylor established a claim in 1890 on Monumental Creek about seven miles from Big Creek… The Taylors occupied the land for more than 50 years and buried a son there.

Excerpted from: pages 209-210 Backcountry Homesteads by C. Eugene Brock, “Valley County Idaho Prehistory to 1920s”, Valley County History Project
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Claude and Elsie Taylor filed a mining claim on Monumental, Copper and Deer creeks in 1890. They occupied their land for more than 50 years and buried one of her two sons there. The Taylors sold their claims to Si Simonds.

Si Simonds bought the Taylor claims with his partner Swede Hanson. They built cabins and an airport there.

from Valley County Geneology, Complied and Edited by Eileen Duarte, “Free Land! Hopes and Hardships of Pioneers of Valley County, Idaho”, Valley County History Project
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1930 Census

Claude M Taylor Male Age 43 Married Head Birth Year 1887
Elsie L Taylor Female Age 34 Married Wife Birth Year 1896
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Si and Swede

Si Simonds and Swede Hanson went there after they came home from the war. The Hansons, Swede and Hilda and Bev, built a cabin there, with Simonds, Si and Ursula, living in the old Taylor house. They built the airstrip now known as Simonds.

(personal notes)
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This all started many years ago when Si and my Dad were in the Navy, Si decided they would get rich and tried to talk my Dad into going in to Monumental but my Mom said no at the time as I was still a very little girl. In the early 50s my Dad was able to make his first trip into Monumental. Si had already bought the Taylor cabin and eventually my folks were able to build the small cabin. My then husband, Bob Murphy, and I were able to go in off and on, our first trip was on horse back and Bob was not a horse person so when my Dad, who was in the lead kicked up a hornet nest Bob’s horse was next in line and we were on a very narrow trail on a slide quite a ruckus with Bob yelling WHOA WHOA WHOA. We hiked out when we were headed home.

The mine that was my folk’s was named the Beverly and when they left they sold it to the VonStattens who owned George Dovels place. My folks left Monumental after Slim was murdered… Si married Ursula [during that time], after she died Si left the place and it reverted to the F.S.

– Bev (Hanson) Larkin
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source: “The Thunder Mountain Story” by Earl Willson 1962

The Monument

By George Dovel The Outdoorsman

… I began flying Si and Ursula Simonds into their remote back country home on Monumental Creek in my helicopter in the Spring of 1956. Because there was no place to land near their cabin at that time, I had to land three-quarters of a mile down Monumental Creek at their former neighbor, Frenchy’s, cabin and help them pack their supplies up to their home.

Si and Ursula were like a father and mother to me and I fell in love with the country that was covered with snow for five months every year. This later became the Frank Church Wilderness but it was classified as the Idaho Primitive Area at that time.

I acquired a small mining property further upstream and later sold my helicopter and airport so I could move the family back there to share the experiences. One of the most remarkable natural wonders I have encountered in my travels was located about an hour’s walk upstream from our property, yet few Idahoans have ever heard of it and only a handful of those who travel the Monumental Creek trail have ever seen it.

This massive structure and two shorter monuments that cannot be seen in the photographs, were apparently formed when the land was covered with water and the water began to disappear. The huge boulder on top remained suspended on a column of what appears to be talc, decomposed rock and smaller rocks that has withstood extreme winds and storms for countless centuries.

source: Tom Remington
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Simonds & Hanson

taylorhansonM-a(click image for larger size)
photo of the Taylor/Simonds house (left) with Hanson’s (middle) and shed (right).

si-strip-005-a(click image for larger size)
(photos courtesy Bev (Hanson) Larkin)
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The building of Simonds Air Strip on Monumental

Built by Si and Ursula Simonds, and Swede and Hilda Hanson with help from Bob Murphy and Bev (Hanson) Murphy Larkin.

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Si & Ursula Simonds

Leon C. Simonds

(photos courtesy Bev (Hanson) Larkin)
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I was among the first to fly into Si’s along with my family. My folks, Hilda and Swede Hanson, had a cabin there also. George Dovel was our pilot and it was the first time we had flown in a small plane. My family also helped with the building of the strip and came in by way of horse back at the time. Many years later I found that Jim Larkin, my husband then, had never landed there as he was not impressed with the strip. Have many wonderful memories of the Idaho back country.

– Bev (Hanson) Larkin
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Landing Simonds strip in the Idaho Backcountry 900’ long at 5243’ elevation

Note: The Forest Service has designated this airstrip for emergency use because of its condition and location. It requires special skills and equipment beyond what is anticipated for general aviation. Use is discouraged.
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Simonds Crash 2009

10:10 AM 7/14/2009 Cessna U206 1 Serious Injury A SPOT saved the instructors life.

During a biennial flight review, at the suggestion of the evaluating instructor pilot, the Pilot-In-Command elected to land at a remote back-country airstrip where he had not made prior plans to land. After landing at the 800- to 900-foot-long strip, the pilot took off in the high-density-altitude environment without having first completed an aircraft performance calculation or checking his airplane’s outside air temperature gauge. Although the pilot reported that there did not seem to be any issues with the engine producing full power, soon after liftoff the airplane struck a number of pine trees and descended into the terrain. A postaccident inspection of the airplane did not find any evidence of powerplant anomalies, but did reveal that the elevator trim was set at a five degrees tap up (airplane nose down) position, and that the flaps were extended 25 degrees even though the cockpit indicator indicated that they were at 20 degrees.

Probable Cause: The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from the trees while taking off in a high-density altitude. Contributing to the accident were the pilot’s failure to perform pre-takeoff performance calculations, his positioning of the elevator trim in a nose-down position, and the discrepancy between the airplane’s flap positioning lever and the actual position of the flaps.

full report: NTSB Identification: WPR09LA343
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Forest Service Firefighters Provide Assistance After Airplane Crash in Wilderness

On July 14, 2009, it appeared to be a great day for flying when veteran flight instructor Art Lazzarini and the pilot boarded their Cessna 206 on a rugged Idaho mountain airstrip. No one could have predicted what would happen next when shortly after takeoff, the aircraft clipped the top of a tall pine tree in a remote area of the Frank Church Wilderness area. Lazzarini, who specializes in backcountry flight training, initially thought the stout, single-engine utility airplane could survive the impact and keep flying. It was only after a second, third, and fourth impact, that he knew they were going down.

The airplane came to rest about three-quarters of a mile from the gravel airstrip [on Copper Creek which flows into Monumental Creek a tributary to Big Creek which flows into] the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The Cessna’s owner—the pilot, suffered only minor injuries; but Lazzarini wasn’t so lucky as he sustained a broken wrist, hand, and thumb on the right side, along with a fracture to his right forearm and pelvis in the crash. With the assistance of the pilot, Lazzarini was freed of the plane’s wreckage. Only then, did he contemplate the several issues that hampered their chances for a speedy rescue.

First, no one at home knew when the pair left Hailey, Idaho, or that they were going to take off from the unattended Simonds airstrip. The two had added it to their itinerary only after landing or practicing approaches at several nearby airstrips. They had not filed a flight plan with the FAA, and it was very unlikely that anyone had seen them go down. Several people, however, knew that their final destination was McCall, Idaho, as Lazzarini was schedule to teach a course there the day of the crash. Fortunate for the two, the students and other instructors were sure to miss him.

Although the airplane was equipped with a standard emergency locator transmitter (ELT) which was certain to send out a blaring signal, the United States’ satellites, five months earlier, stopped monitoring their particular frequency. That meant only local pilots flying above them might hear it; and even if heard, the signal would only alert the Civil Air Patrol or other searchers who could just track the signal to a 20-square-kilometer search area. It would be a difficult search to say the least considering they fell amid a very tall, thick stand of trees.

The one thing they did have in their favor was that Lazzarini and the pilot each had a personal locator beacon (PLB). The pilot dug the orange, handheld devices from the wreckage of the plane, placed them on the top of the airplane, and hit the 911 buttons. As he did so, an instant emergency message was sent to a communications center in Houston, Texas, where the dispatcher immediately started making telephone calls and sending email messages to those people identified by the two men when they purchased the PLBs.

One of those designated by Lazzarini was Lori MacNichol, the owner of McCall Mountain/Canyon Flying Seminars, where Lazzarini had been scheduled to teach later that morning.

Immediately upon notification, MacNichol plugged the reported latitude and longitude into Google Earth and took note of the location of the crash and the nearest available airstrip. The dispatcher, following local protocols, notified the local sheriff. MacNichol called the state aeronautics bureau and was informed the agency did not do rescues, only searches.

MacNichol didn’t need someone to search—she already knew the location of the accident; so she called the Forest Service’s aviation center in McCall, Idaho. At that time, a Forest Service de Havilland Twin Otter carrying smokejumpers was on a training mission just a few miles away from Yellow Pine, the location of the accident. MacNichol gave the latitude and longitude coordinates to the Forest Service dispatcher who relayed them to the Twin Otter crew via radio. Five minutes later, the Forest Service aircraft was overhead and saw the wreckage, but determined that the Simonds airstrip was too short for them to safely land.

Shortly thereafter, a medical helicopter set down in a remote field near the crash site and emergency medical technicians hiked to the accident site. Upon arrival, they stabilized Lazzarini; however, they were unable to carry him through the dense forest and over the rough terrain. It was then that another helicopter from the Forest Service carrying firefighters arrived overhead. The firefighters rappelled down ropes to the site of the accident and described the scene to the aircraft carrying the smokejumpers. Soon, the smokejumpers parachuted into the area and joined the other firefighters. The smokejumpers used chainsaws to clear a landing zone for the medical helicopter that subsequently, transported Lazzarini to a hospital in Boise where he was treated and recovered.

Thanks to the Forest Service firefighters Lazzarini arrived at the hospital less than four hours after the accident.

source: Pg 9 Fire and Aviation Management FY 2009 Accountability Report

Link: Thunder Mountain / Roosevelt History index page

page updated Nov 14, 2020