Idaho History May 27, 2018

Clydeus Rosalure Williams Dunbar aka Wheelbarrow Annie

The Snake River Hells Canyon

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… While Clegg enjoyed a foursome of bridge with the visitors – “one very dirty deck of cards… made me quite homesick” – Holmstrom and Bean hiked cross-country upriver on the Oregon side to visit Clydeus Rosalure Dunbar, locally known as “Wheelbarrow Annie” because she used a venerable, rickety wheelbarrow to move her hay. Annie smoked roll-your-owns, slept in her barn, looked out for horses and cow, dog and chickens, pheasants and rattlesnakes. At night she hiked with a lantern to Homestead for necessities. Holmstrom thought her “the dirtiest person I ever saw”; she may well have regarded him likewise. Clegg, although she did not visit, was more sympathetic: “They said she talked well, like a person with a good education and a good background…. There must be a story behind her. She lives absolutely alone in the poorest way, dresses like a tramp (or very much in my own style of the moment) but seems to have money to send away for things.” On passing her by boat at a distance the next day, Clegg spotted her on shore waving, and wrote, “I thought she looked rather pathetic and would like to have stopped and talked.”

source: The Doing of the Thing: The Brief Brilliant Whitewater Career of Buzz Holmstrom, By Vince Welch, Cort Conley, Brad Dimock (Google Books)
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Wheelbarrow Woman

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source: Labor Songs: Poems By Diane Raptosh (Google Books)
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Clydeus Rosalure Williams Dunbar

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Birth: 1 Oct 1880 Colorado
Death: 6 Jan 1945 Baker City, Baker County, Oregon
Burial: Mount Hope Cemetery Baker City, Baker County, Oregon

Known in the area as “Wheelbarrow Annie”

In January, 1945, after several weeks of illness, Annie Dunbar died at the home of Ted Morin on Balm Avenue. Local doctor Thomas Higgins found that malnutrition had caused her death. The funeral service was held in the Morin house.

Her effects revealed that Roxanne Dunbar’s first name was Clydeus; her birthplace and her past, however were secrets she took to her grave.

page 67 Idaho Loners, Hermits, Solitaries, and Individualists, by Cort Conley

“Wheelbarrow Annie, found seclusion to be a great and good companion and wed it for better or for worse.”

source: Find A Grave
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Hells Canyon

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courtesy: windingwatersrafting
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Snake River winding through Hells Canyon

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Photo was taken somewhere between Kirkwood Historic Ranch and Pittsburg Landing, Oregon. Taken on 11 October 2002 Author X-Weinzar

Hells Canyon is a 10-mile (16 km) wide canyon located along the border of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and western Idaho in the United States. It is part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and is North America’s deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet (2,436 m).

The canyon was carved by the waters of the Snake River, which flows more than 1 mile (1.6 km) below the canyon’s west rim on the Oregon side and 7,400 feet (2,300 m) below the peaks of Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains range to the east. Most of the area is inaccessible by road.

The geologic history of the rocks of Hells Canyon began 300 million years ago with an arc of volcanoes that emerged from the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Over millions of years, the volcanoes subsided and limestone built up on the underwater platforms. The basins between them were filled with sedimentary rock. Between 130 and 17 million years ago, the ocean plate carrying the volcanoes collided with and became part of the North American continent. A period of volcanic activity followed, and much of the area was covered with floods of basalt lava, which smoothed the topography into a high plateau. The Snake River began carving Hells Canyon out of the plateau about 6 million years ago. Significant canyon-shaping events occurred as recently as 15,000 years ago during a massive outburst flood from Glacial Lake Bonneville in Utah.

The earliest known settlers in Hells Canyon were the Nez Percé tribe. Others tribes visiting the area were the Shoshone-Bannock, northern Paiute and Cayuse Indians. The mild winters, and ample plant and wildlife attracted human habitation. Pictographs and petroglyphs on the walls of the canyon are a record of the Indian settlements.

In 1806, three members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition entered the Hells Canyon region along the Salmon River. They turned back without seeing the deep parts of the canyon. It was not until 1811 that the Wilson Price Hunt expedition explored Hells Canyon while seeking a shortcut to the Columbia River. Hunger and cold forced them to turn back, as did many explorers who were defeated by the canyon’s inaccessibility. There remains no evidence in the canyon of their attempts; their expedition journals are the only documentation. Early explorers sometimes called this area Box Canyon or Snake River Canyon.

The early miners were next to follow. In the 1860s gold was discovered in river bars near present-day Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, and miners soon penetrated Hells Canyon. Gold mining was not profitable here. Evidence of their endeavors remains visible along the corridor of the Snake River. Later efforts concentrated on hard-rock mining, requiring complex facilities. Evidence of these developments is visible today, especially near the mouth of the Imnaha River.

In the 1880s there was a short-lived homesteading boom, but the weather was unsuited to farming and ranching, and most settlers soon gave up. However, some ranchers still operate within the boundaries of the National Recreation Area.

In May 1887, perhaps 34 Chinese gold miners were ambushed and killed in the area, in an event known as the Hells Canyon Massacre.

continued: From Wikipedia
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… While we traveled in a modern jet propulsion boat… and navigated the canyon’s huge rapids with relative ease, historic runs through Hells Canyon did not enjoy the same luxuries.

The lower images below, snapped in the visitors’ center at Hells Canyon Dam, show what travel through the canyon was like more than a century ago. The photos made us grateful for our boat, captain, and lifejackets.

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source: SHRA January 5, 2015
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page update Feb 22, 2020