Idaho History July 1, 2018

Secesh (Part 2)

Grouse Creek

GrouseCreek-a

Grouse Creek is a stream nearby to Secesh Meadows, Ruby Mountain and Long Gulch.

source: Google Maps
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Murders, Poisonings and Executions in Idaho County

Double Murder

Idaho County Free Press July 21, 1904

Idaho County was again shocked by the news that two men had been shot down in cold blood at their mining camp on Grouse Creek in Secesh Meadows. Bob Wetter, a prospector did the shooting and the cause is supposed to be trouble over mining claims. The victims, Claud Wahn and Christ Long are also miners and have been in the vicinity for two years past. The 14 year old son of Long was slightly wounded in the leg, as he ran from the scene with “Harmonica Jack” Clair into the darkness.

Wetter went to the Golden Rule mine not far away and told Milard Hubbard and James Stevens that he had “got part of the . . .” and gave himself up. They immediately started with their prisoner to Grangeville, the feeling against Wetter is intense and it was feared that had he not been removed he would in probability have been lynched.

Idaho County Free Press July 28, 1904

An inquest was held at Resort to inquire into the deaths of Christ L. Long and L.D. Wahn, who were shot by Rudolph Wetter.

Testimony heard was that Wetter had tried to get his partners to go with him but both had refused. Wahn was found to have been killed by the first shot fired while sitting outside the cabin. Long had gone to bed and was taken with three shots and evidently struck on his head with the butt of the gun. The shots were fired from a gun of 45-60 calibre held in the hands of Wetter. The preliminary trial is next Monday, being charged with premeditated murder.

Idaho County Free Press August 4, 1904

Quite an audience assembled to hear the evidence, but on the opening of court all spectators and newspaper men were excluded. A number of witnesses were examined and all the evidence produced went to show that Wetter and some of those interested in mining properties with him had an altercation about a year ago and at different times since his threats that he would clean out the whole bunch were not taken seriously.

It is conclusive that Wetter intended to make a complete job of the killing and Claire and young Long undoubtedly owe their lives to the darkness which prevented more accurate marksmanship.

The preliminary lasted two days and the prisoner is being held without bonds. The decision of the court meets the approval of the entire country.

April 27, 1905

About the middle of last July, Bob Wetter committed his bloody and brutal double murder in Jack Clark’s camp, about six miles up the Hathaway Avenue on California creek. He was convicted and the judge sentenced him to be hanged on the first of December last. The men killed were peaceable and harmless. Wahn an old frontiersman and Indian scout; Long a German who had fought and been sent up from Walla Walla by one of Wetter’s partners; A.L. Lorensen to look after his interests.The lawyer appointed by the court to defend Wetter saw fit to appeal, and he was kept over for the spring term of the supreme court, at Lewiston; and now the rumor comes through some technicality he is to be kept over to the next term of court in the fall; and yet some people hold that thee is nothing in luck.

Idaho County Free Press November 30, 1905

Rudolph Wetter, who was convicted of the murder of Christ Long and Claud Waln, in July, 1904, will have to pay the death penalty. The case was appealed and last week the Supreme Court affirmed the decision. Whether or not he will be brought from Boise to Grangeville for re-sentence is not known.

Seeking Pardon

Idaho County Free Press October 13, 1910

Rudolph Wetter is seeking a pardon from the pardon board. He has been confined to the state penitentiary. The murders occurred in 1904 when Wetter crawled through the brush in the evening and put his rifle against Claud Waln’s head and blew his brains out. He then went into the cabin and fired three bullets into the body of Christ Long and clubbed his head to a jelly. Before going into the cabin he shot Lon’s boy who was sitting near the campfire with Waln, striking him in the leg and then fired at Clare, another man who was near the fire, but missed him. The Long boy escaped into the brush and lay out all night. He was found the next day almost dead and was confined to the hospital for two to three months before he was able to walk.

The men were placer mining in Secesh and Wetter and Long has quarreled over some claims near where Waln and Long were working.

Wetter was convicted and sentenced to be hanged but commuted by the governor.

Idaho County Free Press September 7, 1911

Rudolph Wetter, who was found guilty of killing two men and crippling a young boy who will go through life with one leg shorter than the other, was twice sentenced to be hanged by this court. The board of pardons commuted his sentence to life and the people are expecting that he will soon be released.

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source: from Area Newspaper Articles compiled by Penny Bennett Casey, Idaho County GenWeb
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Rudolph Wetter, Inmate Record
compiled by Penny Bennett Casey from Area Newspaper Articles
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RudolphWetter-a
Wetter, Rudolph 1044
Crime: Murder
Entered: 10-16-1904
Departed: 6-16-1916

1904-10-04

In October of 1904, miner Rudolph “Bob” Wetter, was convicted of first degree murder in Idaho County, Idaho, and sentenced to hang. His sentence was soon commuted to life in prison through the efforts of many in the community where he lived. [Discharged Jan 16, 1916.]

This collection contains numerous court documents, testimony, photographs, personal correspondence, and a description of the convict.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Gold Placers of the Secesh Basin, Idaho County, Idaho 1940

…The placer deposits of the Secesh Basin are scattered along the valley of the Secesh River itself, between the upper end of its canyon and Secesh Summit, and along its tributaries, Grouse, Ruby, and Lake creeks. The northernmost old workings on Lake Creek are 12 miles distant by road from the lowest workings on Secesh River. …

No topographic map of this region exists, although the U. S. Geological Survey has under way a project that contemplates mapping in the near future a thirty minute quadrangle to cover this area. Most of the district has been surveyed by the General Land Office, and the section corners are in place, All of the area here considered lies within Townships 22 and 23, N. R. 4 E., and Townships 22 and 23 N. R. 5 E., and lies within the boundaries of the Idaho National Forest in Idaho County, Idaho. In most mining descriptions it has been included in the Warren mining district, although it lies immediately adjacent to, and to the south of, the Marshall Lake district.

Inasmuch as time was not available during the 1938 field season for surveying topographically all of this basin, it was thought best to map certain critical areas on as large a scale as possible. Accordingly, a map was prepared of the Secesh Meadows from the head of the Golden Rule placer workings to the head of the canyon, on a scale of 1:24,000 and a contour interval of 25 feet (Plate XIII); a more detailed map that covered most of the Golden Rule ground on a scale of 1:6000 with a contour interval of 10 feet (Plate XI); a map of the placer ground between Ruby Creek and Secesh River on a scale of 1:12,000 and a contour interval of 25 feet (Plate IX); and topographical sketches of two old placer workings on Lake Creek (Plates VII and VIII).

The settlement of Burgdorf, on Lake Creek a mile above its mouth, is centrally located in the area here under discussion, and is the supply point for the district. It has a general store and filling station, a hotel, a swimming pool supplied by hot springs, and a number of cabins for the accommodation of visitors. Burgdorf lies at an altitude of 6,100 feet above sea level, and has a delightful summer climate.

Until comparatively recent years, this district was difficultly accessible. Burgdorf is 31 miles north of McCall, a lumber and resort town on Payette Lake, and the nearest railroad connection, but the Bureau of Public Roads has improved the route from McCall to Warren by a road passing centrally through this portion of the Secesh Basin, and this road has brought Burgdorf to within an hour’s travel by car from McCall during the open season. It is possible in midsummer to proceed eastward from Warren by a Forest Service road to Edwardsburg, and thence southward by way of Profile Gap, through Yellow Pine to Landmark and Cascade, although the road from Warren to Edwardsburg is now little used. Within the last five years, road construction has been vigorously carried on by the U. S. Forest Service, and by the Civilian Conservation Corps under the direction of the Forest Service. A new C.C.C. road now leaves the Idaho North-South highway at Riggins, proceeds up the Canyon of Salmon River to French Creek, and then, climbing steeply out of the canyon, extends southward past Burgdorf to join the McCall-Warren road at the mouth of Lake Creek.

Several branch roads from the routes mentioned above are kept open during the summer. One from the Burgdorf-French Creek road runs to the mines of the Marshall Lake district; another leaves the Warren road at the mouth of Grouse Creek and runs to the War eagle lookout station, with a branch to upper California Creek; and still another leaves the Warren road just above the mouth of Lake Creek and extends to Ruby Creek.

The road from Burgdorf to McCall crosses the Secesh Summit at an altitude of 6,450 feet. The divide between Lake and French creeks is at about the same elevation. All of this high country receives a heavy snow fall, and the roads are commonly closed to automobile travel from the middle of November to the middle of June. During that period, an attempt is made to keep communication open for mail and express between Warren and Burgdorf and McCall by tractor. All of the heavy supplies for the Marshall Lake district, and most of those for Burgdorf and Warren, are brought in by truck during the summer open season.

During the days of vigorous placer mining in this district, the removal of material was greatly accelerated above the normal rate by the hydraulic operations at the placer mines. In Lake Creek Basin, the fine materials were carried down through the meadows and in part deposited there. The operations on the west slope of the hill in the Ruby Creek area resulted in the building of an extensive gravel and sand flat just below the workings, although great quantities of fines were carried down Secesh River. Mining at the head of Ruby Meadows aggraded the flat to a depth of many feet, although the operations farther down Ruby Creek discharged their tailings into a narrow canyon through which most of the material was carried down to the Secesh River.

The extensive old operations of the Golden Rule mine on lower Grouse Creek removed about a million and a quarter yards of material, and the fine tailings from the mine have deeply buried the flats of lower Grouse Creek. In the lower Secesh Meadows also the sands from the old placer tailings can be recognized in out banks along the stream, and a considerable alluvial fan has been built out upon the meadows by the debris sluiced from the old Gayhart Burns mine. All of these accumulations of tailings in the stream flats have buried ground that contains some placer gold, and if these flats are ever mined the cost will be increased because of the necessity for rehandling the barren tailings.

The first discovery of placer gold in central Idaho at Pierce, in the Clearwater Basin in 1860, was followed by a period of prospecting that in 1862 resulted in the finding of rich stream placers in the Warren district, and soon afterward of the placer deposits in the adjacent Secesh Basin. This was during the Civil War period, and accounts for such names as Secesh and Dixie, apparently given by sympathizers with the Confederacy. The Secesh Basin has generally been included in the Warren district, both in discussions of the history of the camp and in tables of production.

Although the placers of the Secesh Basin have been actively exploited at various times from their discovery to the present, they were never as rich as those near Warren, and early references in the literature make little or no separate mention of the Secesh placer mines. As a consequence, much of the early history of the camp, including the dates of discovery and time of active exploitation of the various claims, has been lost. Furthermore, such unsatisfactory records of early placer production as are available from this region include the output of the Secesh placers with that of the Warren district, and only a rough estimate can be made of the gold output to date of this basin.

Figures of production since 1901 have been kept by the U. S. Bureau of Mines, and their total for that period, to which has been added an estimate for 1958, gives a total placer output of $152,600.00. Compilation and evaluation of estimates made by a number of men who have long been familiar with activities in this area place the value of placer gold output in the yours 1862 to 1900 at $326,000. This figure is, of course, only approximate, but it appears that Secesh Basin has to the present time produced placer gold valued between $450,000 and $500,000.

HydraulicPlacerMiningSecesh-a
(click image for larger size)
Hydraulic Placer Mine in Wisconsin morainal material. Davis Mining Co. Secesh River.

Grouse Creek

The history of prospecting and mining on Grouse Creek is now difficult to recount as the accounts of various early settlers differ in many details. Apparently, ground was staked on Secesh River and on Grouse Creek during Civil War times by a group of men named Bundle, Brown, and Gayhart Burns. Bundle and Brown concentrated their attention on the ground now known as the Golden Rule placer, while Burns worked the hillside placer a mile north of Long Gulch and just east of Secesh Meadows. Bundle and Brown seem to have worked their ground by hand methods until about 1901 when a large hydraulic plant was installed. In the mean time, several parties, including N. B. Willy, F. Ault, W. Flint, J. Claire, and W. Edwards, mined the stream gravels on some of the headward tributaries of Grouse Creek, including some ground that was quite rich. Detailed information about these operations is now lost. In 1938, some small-scale mining by hand methods was in progress in the gulch northeast of Kelly Meadows in upper Grouse Creek.

excerpted from: Gold Placers of the Secesh Basin, Idaho County, Idaho, by Stepen R. Capps, February, 1940, Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology
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Updated July 29, 2020