Idaho History May 20, 2018

Johnny Behind-The-Rocks McKeown

(click image to see original clipping)
photo caption: Johnny McKeown, who became known as Johnny Behind-the-Rocks, made his living by feeding the horses of passing freighters. He charged freighters 50-cents to feed the horses and let them rest at his place overnight. Guy Whitney, who at the age of 12 stopped at McKeown’s place with his father on a freight trip, said this photo epitomizes Johnny Behind-the-rocks. “Sometimes the smell would drive you out of his shack,” Whitney said.

McKeown fed horses for freighters

Every community has its characters, just like every family has an odd uncle or a slightly different aunt. Mountain Home’s history has a number of characters; one known to many early residents was “Johnny Behind-The-Rocks.”

John McKeown was first a placer miner in Silver City, Idaho City, North Idaho, and Rocky Bar. His final residence near Dixie was built into a large rock in lean-to fashion. The dwelling was a conglomeration of willows, straw, and boards. He didn’t use any nails and the door was an old horse blanket. He raised some stock and traded with people who came and went on the old toll roads.

Many conflicting stories exist about the personality of “Johnny Behind-The-Rocks.” He kept track of the comings and goings of people on the road and thus was able to pass a lot of gossip along.

Little is known about Johnny’s family except that his finely-dressed sister visited him once – one can hypothesize why she didn’t become a regular visitor.

Johnny wasn’t known for his delight with soap and water, thus the myth that a bath given during an illness by local do-gooders caused his demise.

source: Mountain Home High School 60’s Era Classes
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John M “Johnny Behind The Rocks” McKeown

(click for original image)
Added by Gravely and Morticia Diggens

Birth: 1826 Ireland
Death: 1915 Mountain Home, Elmore County, Idaho
Burial: Mountain View Cemetery Mountain Home, Elmore County, Idaho

source: Find a Grave
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A look into Mountain Home’s past

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 by Tomas Hiler

One of the more popular men buried in the cemetery is John McKeown, better known as “Johnny-Behind-the-Rocks.” He was originally a placer miner by trade.

Before coming to the Mountain Home vicinity, he worked in Silver City, Idaho City, North Idaho and Rocky Bar. He finally homesteaded near Dixie and spent the rest of his life raising cattle and horses.

In many ways, he was a very odd individual, although he was generous to those he liked.

He was a very dirty man at the time of his last sickness. When brought to town, he wore parts of six suits and several pair of underwear with approximately $1,500 in his pockets.

McKeown needed medical care, but the first order was to have him bathed and cleaned up. As the story goes, “He just couldn’t take a bath after so many years without one.”

He was buried in the Mountain Home Cemetery, and his monument was purchased with the money found on him when he died.

Meanwhile, a newly erected sign along the Highway 20 at the base of Bennett Mountain marks the closest location by the highway where Johnny lived.

source: Mountain Home News
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(click image for original)
Added by Gravely and Morticia Diggens

source: Find a Grave

page updated July 21, 2020