Mount Idaho, Idaho County, Idaho
(Part 4) News Clippings
Mount Idaho 1900
Mt. Idaho Has A Newspaper
Idaho Daily Statesman – Boise, Idaho February 21, 1900
The County seat of Idaho County now has a newspaper, a very creditable publication called the “Mt. Idaho Mail”. The paper says that precinct will this year cast the largest republican vote in its history. That is likely to be true of practically all precincts in the state.
source: © PBC Idaho County GenWeb – Miscellaneous Published Articles and Newspaper Items From Idaho County and the Vicinity
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Mount Idaho 1934
Historic Mount Idaho
Lewiston Morning Tribune – Nov 4, 1934
“I would like to live where the summer breeze,
Cooler in some cavernous glacial crack,
Picks up the tang of western trees,
Cedar and pine and tamarack,
Noses along down the red deer’s track,
Then gath’ring the scent of June’s wild rose
and the odor of of clover hay,
At evening blows where a garden grows.
(That’s where I’d stay It I had my way,
Today – and every day.”)
By Dr. H. L. Talkington
The poet might have added, “This is Mount Idaho,” and have made the additional statement: “I want to go where the cool, pure water gushes from springs fed by the mountain snows; where I can feel the breeze, coming across three-quarters of a million acres of fine farm land, blow; this is Mount Idaho.”
In the spring of 1861 gold was discovered at Elk City and in the fall of the same year at Florence, and the next year at. Warrens. The fabulous riches of these mines is too well known to need further comment. Sufficient it is to say that it attracted thousands of men; these had to be fed. Lewiston was the supply point but it was over 100 miles away, so a sub-station was necessary.
Founded As Toll House
In the spring of 1862 Moses Milner began a trail from Camas prairie to the Florence mines, completing it in July of the same year. His toll station became the mountain house first erected on the present sits of Mount Idaho. In July of the same year he sold his house and his tall raid to L. P. Brown, who was the most prominent factor In that section of the country for almost a third of a century.
Soon a stage line was established between Lewiston and Mount Idaho and supplies were brought to that point and re-shipped to the mines. It is unbelievable, almost, the freight that could be carried by pack train; a square piano and machinery weighing as much as 900 pounds were taken in this manner to the mines at Florence.
Here came the first families – the L. P. Browns, the James Odles, the Seth Jones and one or two others. Here was built the first hotel and established the first store. Here was held the first republican territorial convention; here was built the first saw-mill and the first grist mill; near here was plowed the first furrow ever turned on the prairie; here was organized the first lodge of Masons, of Odd Fellows and Eastern Star; here was taught the first school on the prairie; here was the home for many years of Miss Sue McBeth and Mount Idaho was the county sent of Idaho county for over a quarter of a century.
All of north Idaho for a time was included in the two counties of Shoshone and Nez Force, each reaching back to the Montana line. There was little in the way of settlement in what after become Idaho county for many years except in the Salmon river mines. All of Camas prairie, Mount Idaho, as well as Elk City, were in “grand old Nez Perce,” Idaho county containing that territory reaching up Salmon river and south of it for many miles.
Civil War Echos
The county seat question, as is always true, was one of bitter contest, not only between towns but between the union and southern factions. The unionists offered as their site a place called Washington, while the southern element farther down the river gave the name of Richmond to their site. Florence was chosen and later Warrens was successful.
During the mining excitement, little attention was paid to agriculture on the prairie but the chief interest centered in the little town of Mount Idaho that had several hundred inhabitants. Vollmer & Scott soon had a store there for general merchandise. The stockmen came there for their merchandise. The only physician in the county for many years, Dr. J. B. Morris, was located there and Mount Idaho claimed the county seat when the officers of the county, lawyers, etc., located in the town. Some of the show residences of the territory in the ’80s pictured by the histories of that time are those of L. P. Brown, Dr, J. B. Morris, Colonel Forney and others. Pictures also of buggies and ladles horseback riding using side-saddles are seen in these same histories.
Lodges And Schools
Masonic lodge No. 9 received its charter December 9, 1873; the Odd Fellows at the same place was organized June 8, 1880. and about the same time a chapter of the Eastern Star was organized. The last mentioned did not survive very long and the other two were removed to Grangeville.
The first master of the Masonic lodge was Farrington B. King; others well known to Lewiston people are L. P. King, James Witt, who served on seven different years, A. W. Talkington, the master for five years.
Mount Idaho had one of the first public schools in the state, it being organized in 1867, two or three years after the Lewiston school was established. This was taught by Bianca Reed. The only two living who attended that first year are Mary Baird, Lewiston, and Roland O. Brown, Grangeville.
Mount Idaho was the haven of safety during the Nez Perce Indian war. To this post came the settlers from Salmon river as well as different places on Camas prairie. Breastworks were thrown up and preparations made for a regular siege, fortunately, the town had a general merchandise store as well as a grist mill so plenty of flour could be had, sacks of this being used in the breastworks as well as for food.
There are two outstanding instances of heroism that will ever be known where the Nez Perce war is mentioned, the one of a friendly squaw, Too-lah. A few men, women and children had assembled on Slate creek and built a small stockade; this Indian woman knowing of thole predicament started over the mountains to Florence, 25 miles away. The ride killed her pony but she returned with 25 additional men and then quietly returned to her home.
Another instance he that of Pat Brice. When the Manuel family on Salmon river was attacked by Indians and Mrs. Manuel and her babe in arms were killed, the husband and little girl of 7 escaped into the brush. The father and daughter became separated and the little girl, whose arm was broken, was heard crying at night by Pat Brice; he made his way to her, improvised a box in which he placed her and after two days and nights of scouting and eluding the Indians, he arrived at Mount Idaho, having been without food for 48 hours.
Brice died about 1906, and Nannie Fabrique, a student then in the normal, recounted his thrilling adventure in a poem.
First G. O. P. Convention
In the summer of 1863 a call was issued for a union convention to be held at the L. P. Brown hotel in Mount Idaho. There were 51 signers to that call, 21 of whom were Lewiston citizens, among them C. C. Bunnell, S. E. Thompson, Thomas Moxley and other well-known business and professional men. Lewiston, Mount Idaho and Elk City represented largely the population of Nez Perce county at that time. A pioneer address given by L. P. Brown in 1888 states that the convention was held in a log building, rather than in his hotel. Wallace was nominated and elected as a delegate but it is interesting to note that he was the only republican delegate elected in Idaho for 20 years after the organization of the territory, showing that the southern element predominated.
The democratic convention was held at Passer John’s cabin, New Meadows. James M. Cannady was nominated on the democratic ticket. Goulder claims that the convention was at Idaho City but the preponderance of evidence is in favor of the former place.
Another interesting incident is that of a call to Lloyd McGruder of Elk City, to state his position on the questions of the day. Among others who signed this were Joel Martin and James Witt. McGruder responds in a column reply in the Golden Age in which he makes a strong defense of state rights and slavery and then the editor takes him to task and slashes him in the rawest kind of a way.
In 1874 a bill was introduced in the legislature annexing to Idaho county all of the territory of the Camas prairie and Elk City section. It failed to pass but the next year another bill was introduced and succeeded. The county seat then was by vote removed to Mount Idaho, where it remained until 1901 or 1902.
Beginning Of End
As the commercial factor was the stronger in a few years as the mines were worked out, so the agricultural element became the stronger as Camas prairie was developed. In 1884 Grangeville was spoken of as a hamlet with a few houses, Cottonwood boasted of a fine hotel but little else, as it was simply a stage stand. Since Camas prairie was far from market, stock was the leading industry after the mines. The late B. F. Morris had his stock farm of 1,440 acres; L. P. Brown had six or seven thousand sheep; two retired English army officers were extensively engage in sheep raising as well, how many cattle the Jones family had is not known. All of this, however, represented what may be termed the “grange” element, and since L. P. Brown did not like this organization very well, he refused to sell them a lot on which to erect a hall, but someone at Grangeville gave them a site and soon there was a sawmill there and Mr. Brown, like many another pioneer of the northwest, over-estimated his power in real estate, to gradually people went to Grangeville rather than to Mount Idaho, and when the railroad was completed to the former place about 1908 it sounded the death knell of the little town at this foot of the mountains.
Today there is nothing there, but the site representing blasted hopes and fading historical memories – nevertheless, a beautiful place.
source: Talkington, Dr. H.L. (November 4, 1934). “Historic Mount Idaho”. Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1.
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Mount Idaho 1962 Centennial
Bustling, booming Mount Idaho Now Nothing but a Ghost Town
Lewiston Morning Tribune – July 1, 1962
Editor’s note: Norman Brown Adkison, a native of Grangeville, and now of Boise, is a free lance writer. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. John R. Adkison, went through the Nez Perce Indian War and his mother was a niece of Loyal P. Brown. Because of limitations of space, it has not been possible to include in this article all of the material submitted by the writer on the descendants of early Mount Idaho families.
By Norman B. Adkison
Mount Idaho, the first permanent settlement in that great expanse known as Idaho County, still nestles under the pines, against the mountain in the southeastern corner of Camas Prairie.
The Home of L.P. Brown at Mount Idaho, photographed in the 1860s
It has been a ghost town for half a century. Of the old buildings only the wreck of the once beautiful home of L P. Brown remains — that and the cemetery.
Few towns in the state, or in any state, can whisper the tales as told around the fireplaces of the truly noble men and women of Mount Idaho who wrote history in their tears and blood.
With the ruins torn away and the many new cottages of the millworkers, it is again a pretty little town in a most beautiful spot. Hundreds of descendants will answer the pull of the soul of this old town in July when they remember its centennial birthday.
A lumber mill at Mount Idaho, from a sketch made in the [1870s]
First we must tell you about “Mose” Milner, the first settler who saw his opportunity to profit by the fabulous Florence placer gold mines, without mining. He established a way station at this spot and built a toll trail around the mountains toward Florence, about 40 miles in all, in the spring of 1862.
Moses E. Milner, known throughout the west as “California Joe.” had been one of the best known Indian fighters and Army scouts of the frontier, ranking with Kit Carson and Bill Hickok in courage and ability. According to his grandson, as recorded in his book, “California Joe,” he was a famous mountain man. Mexican war veteran, a Forty-niner in California and a pioneer in Oregon. His Army scout service had been verified from War Department records.
Milner’s chief contribution to this famous “Milner Trail” was the clearing of a three-mile stretch around a steep mountain which cut the distance to the mines by several miles. The toll gate was six or seven miles up in the mountains from Mount Idaho, which Milner first called the “Mountain House.” He built an addition to his cabin and began to serve meals.
Daisy Brown Smith, daughter of L. P. Brown, stated years later that this old Indian campground was known to the Indians by a name which meant “Skin Lodge.” The Rev. Mark Arthur, a former native Indian Presbyterian minister, claimed that Mount Idaho was called “Pe-yersh-i-neet,” meaning tepee.
The First Woman
Mrs. Seth Jones Sr. was the first woman to ride over the Mose Milner Trail and she was given a permit to ride the trail, free of charge, whenever she wished.
In the bad winter of 1862-63 the unusually deep snow made the trail impassable and the Florence miners were kept alive by men who on foot carried from 50 to 80 pounds on their backs through snow sometimes as deep as 10 feet. These men were called “Boston Jackass” and were paid 40 cents a pound for a terrific ordeal which sometimes meant a last resting place in the snow.
Mount Idaho’s fortunes rose and fell with those of one man – Loyal P. Brown.
Cradled in the granite hills of New Hampshire, this sturdy yet kindly soul gave of his personal strength and foresight not only to carve a niche of civilization from the pines and hills of his adopted state, but to bestow freely from the depths of his great heart the blessings of Christian love upon his neighbors.
On his journey from Oregon to the famous Florence mines in July, 1862, Brown stopped at the Milner cabin with his wife and son. Realizing the possibilities of this settlement as an outfitting this settlement as an outfitting point for the mines, he joined forces with his brother-in-law, James Odle. and bought the station from Miner.
Two gray mares were given for the squatter’s rights to the land on which the tavern was built.
The next year Odle filed on the land just west and later sold his interest in the Milner claim to Brown.
Loyal Parsons Brown, son of Samuel F. Brown of Stratford, Conn., stock, was born at Stratford, New Hampshire, Sept. 26, 1829.
At the age of 16 he went to Boston and worked as a clerk in a store until he could no longer resist the call of California gold. In the spring of 1849 young Brown joined the “Massasoit Company” and sailed from Boston on the schooner Harriet Neil for California via the Isthmus. After a hazardous trip across the Isthmus, beset with swamps, reptiles and malaria, from which many perished, this youth of 20 years re-embarked and reached San Francisco July 12, 1849.
To The Gold Fields
Brown shook off the pleasures and temptations of the Barbary Coast and went to the gold fields of the Middle Fork of the American River and mined at Rector’s Bar. He accumulated enough capital to engage in the merchandising of miners’ supplies the next spring on the Trinity River.
He moved to Scottsburg on the Umpqua River in 1852 and was a merchant for three years.
In 1855 be answered the call for volunteers in the bloody Rogue River Indian war and served to the end of the war in the Quartermaster’s Department. He then engaged in stock-raising and farming in Douglas County, Oregon.
On Oct. 24, 1854, Loyal Brown and Sarah T. Crusen, formerly of La Salle County, Illinois, were united in marriage. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. George W. Crusen, the father having been born in Virginia and the mother in Maryland.
At the age of 15 she accompanied her father and mother across the plains by ox team, arriving in Oregon in the autumn of 1852.
Unusual hardship, pestilence and Indian massacres accompanied that particular train but did not deter the young bride from making two other trips by wagon train across those rolling deserts.
In the spring of 1858 Loyal and Sarah Brown returned to his birthplace in New Hampshire and in the spring of 1859 fitted out six-horse teams and wagons and crossed the plains via Fort Hall on the Snake River. He was accompanied by his mother, step-father and other relatives and arrived on the Umpqua in September the same year.
Brown engaged in stock-raising and farming on the Umpqua until the new, rich gold fields at Pierce, Elk City and Florence lured him to the Washington Territory. (This area became a part of Idaho Territory in 1863.)
Brown and Odle bought out Mose Milner on July 18, 1862. The toll trail was improved and a new hotel and residence were built. Brown changed the name of the station to Mount Idaho.
The Brown family was the first to settle in Idaho County, that of Seth Jones Sr. second and that of James Odle the third, all in the summer and fall of 1862.
Hiram Lusk built the first house on Three Mile Creek in 1862 and sold it to John Crooks and Aurora Shumway in the spring of 1863. Seth Jones Sr. later settled on Three Mile.
The first house in the county was built in the fall of 1861 by Capt. L. Francois on the north side of the Whitebird summit. He and his wife for many years were the popular hosts at the famous old DeFrance Hotel in Lewiston.
In the spring of 1863 L. P. Brown set up a store at Elk City and ran a pack train to take in supplies. He hauled freight from Lewiston by wagon teams and at Mount Idaho transferred it to aparejos on mules.
For many years he had the mail route to Lewiston and was postmaster at home.
He bought the Cottonwood House as a way station for his stage and mail route from a Mr. Allen, who had built the first cabin there in the spring of 1861.
Aaron F. Brown, brother of Loyal Brown, also from Douglas County in Oregon, ran a store and pack train at Florence for one year and for a short time had charge of his brother’s store at Elk City.
The Big Strike
A prospecting party from Elk City, on its way back from the Salmon River in the fall of 1861, after testing its bars, camped one night in a high basin.
One of the men washed out a pan of soil, not expecting to find any “colors” at that altitude, but the results were phenomenal. J. M. Miller was given credit for making the actual discovery and his immediate companions were John Healy, James Ayres and Lemuel Griggs.
The camp was known as “Millersburg” for some time and was even on some of the early maps.
The first claims were recorded Oct. 3, 1861, by J. M. Miller, Sam Graham and David Osborne. Soon added to these names were those of Charles May, Benjamin Beewise, Nathan Smith, E. Bostwick, George Leatherman, George Pomeroy and Moses Splawn. (Moses Splawn later was one of the actual discoverers of the rich Boise Basin.)
The first recorded transfer of title of ground in the camp shows Alonzo Leland as the purchaser of two claims on Baboon Gulch, one for $1,000 and one for $800.
Stephen S. Fenn, A. Manning and A. Benson are given as other early operators.
In October, 1861, T. H. Mallory reported on this fabulous camp: “Miller’s Creek is perhaps the richest. From the first pan of dirt washed, taken out of the first hole sunk in this creek, $25 was obtained. Miller washed out $100 with the pan that afternoon … Each claim has since averaged with the rocker from S75 to $100 per day to the hand. Baboon Gulch is next richer.”
Thousands of men from all over the nation flocked to this new camp. Very rich pockets were found, but the chief handicap was the shortage of water. Gold was brought out, not in ounces but in pounds.
Jacob Weiser’s Baboon Gulch claim, working four men and two rockers, is reported as yielding at the cleanup on Nov. 19, 40 pounds of coarse gold and 60 pounds the next day. This claim is reported to have produced $20,000 in eight days, and in December of ’61 Weiser reached Walla Walla with his “mule loaded with dust.”
The name “Millersburg” was soon changed to Florence, after the name of the first child born in the camp, the daughter of Julia Hunt, wife of one of the first storekeepers. Chinese or “Celestials” flocked to Florence in spite of the law covering the district which said in Article 14, “Chinese or Tartars are hereby prohibited from ever working these mines under all or any circumstances.” In later years the Chinese practically controlled the mining camps of Pierce, Elk City, Florence and Warrens. L. P. Brown found them good and reliable customers.
Florence had its share of tough characters who “toiled not, neither did they spin.” yet lived by sapping the miners of their hard-earned gold.
Here it was that the infamous “Cherokee Bob” (H. J. Talhotte), a suspected member of the Plummer gang of killers, got his final earthly deserts. He had threatened to kill Orlando Robbins and J. D. Williams because of a slight to his lady love but they were ready for him and shot him down in a free shooting match along with his henchman, William Willaby. Orlando Robbins was later an Army scout for Gen. O. O. Howard.
Most of the rich pockets in the Florence camp were worked out in the best and final year of 1862 and the miners drifted on to other new camps. Several millions of dollars were extracted from the grass roots of that camp that year and Brown and Odle prospered along with the miners.
There was continuous business with the Elk City, Florence and Warrens mines for many years. At present at Florence only the cemetery remains.
Education for the children had been growing in Loyal P. Brown’s mind. He spoke about the early schools in his address to the pioneers in 1888:
“The first school ever taught in Idaho County was by Miss Biancia Reed, who came from Wilbur, Douglas County. Oregon, in the spring of 1867. She remained here for two years and then went home. The school was opened in the old log building at Mount Idaho, and the children attending were the Odles, Arams, Browns, Kings and Joneses.
“The first school house built in the county was by a few pioneers and located near F. B. King’s house in the year 1868. Soon after, another school building was constructed near Aram’s place on Three Mile Creek.”
Brown brought the teacher from his old home county and not only paid her way to Idaho put paid most of her salary as long as she was in Idaho. His own children, Rollin and Adda were among the students.
His youngest daughter, Daisy Brown (Smith), in her own handwriting states, “My first teachers were Cassius Day, Harriett Brown (niece of L. P. Brown and who later married John Riley Adkison), Frank A. Fenn (later a major in the Spanish-American war and supervisor of the U S. Forest Service), Fremont Cobb, J. A. Rainey, James H. Forney (later U.S. district attorney and provisional president of the University of Idaho), Jessie Clark, Alice Riggins and Rena Poe.”
Harriet S. Brown taught in 1876 in a log house near Mount Idaho and was teaching in 1877 in a school on John’s Creek when the Indian war broke out. “Billy” N. Knox tells of going to school at Mount Idaho in 1880-81 with Fremont Cobb as teacher.
The Florence school district was organized in 1864 and the first school board was Stephen S. Fenn, Harry Stites and Harry Moomau.
Major Frank Fenn later said of this school: “There were many people in the camp competent to serve as teacher but all were bent upon gold mining . . . One citizen here, J. H. Robinson, had come West from Ohio and left his wife and two children in the old home. Mrs. Statira E. Robinson, his wife, was a professional teacher and the trustees decided that she should be the instructor for the new school.”
A purse was raised to pay the expense of the trip.
Fenn stated that Mrs. Robinson had to travel from an Atlantic port to Panama. cross the Isthmus and on to San Francisco by water to Portland, thence to Lewiston and wagon conveyance to Brown’s Mountain House and thence by saddle horse to Florence.
For a woman with two children this was a long ordeal, but Mrs. Robinson had pioneer stuff in her veins.
Frank Fenn further stated:
“Furniture (for the school) was simple and unquestionably durable. There was one long heavy puncheon, hewed smooth on top side and set up on four solid legs, which sufficed for a desk for the entire school . . . Needless to say the school, which was held during the summer months, was a success. When the school closed every pupil regretted it. The six who attended, and they made up the entire public school enrollment of the territory then, were Charles Robinson. son of the teacher; Abbie and Edgar Hall, sons of Solon Hall; Fanny, George and Frank Fenn. children of S. S. Fenn . . . none of those who were so fortunate as to attend the first Idaho school can ever forget Mrs. Robinson’s lovable nature or cease to revere her memory.”
The Indians were not neglected in the school program. Miss Sue McBeth, a Presbyterian missionary, spent almost 20 years among the Nez Perces, the last eight years at Mount Idaho, where her pupils gathered around her. Her sister. Miss Rate McBeth, conducted the school after the death of Sue and was assisted by Mrs. Carrie Shearer.
Religious services were encouraged at Mount Idaho and although ministers from many denominations held meetings. none succeeded in building a church there.
The first churches were built in the rival town of Grangeville. Mrs. Daisy Brown Smith stated that Father Joseph M. Cataldo held services at Mount Idaho in the early seventies, and Mrs. John Sullivan (Edna Brown) recalled a visit from the Most Rev. Alphonsius M. Glorieux, Bishop of the Boise diocese, in 1893.
Mass was said at the hotel, which was managed at that time by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Brown. Bishops Tuttle and Talbot brought Episcopal services occasionally to the prairie and the mines.
The two best remembered Protestant ministers at Mount Idaho and the prairie during the eighties and nineties were the Rev. W. N. (Billy) Knox and the Rev. J. B. York, both Baptist exhorters. Knox came to Mount Idaho at the age of 16 and went to school to Fremont Cobb.
In 1881 he became a clerk in the store of Grostem & Binnard. After three years he worked for Herman C. Brown and then was with Vollmer & Scott until 1892. Later he was county auditor and recorder. He was a rare combination of business man and minister, and in his true devotion and humility he had the respect of all.
Knox included Florence and other rough mining camps in his revivals. It would be hard to overestimate the Christian influence of this minister.
The Rev. J. B. York came to Lewiston in 1887 and then entered the Clearwater country. He was a regular preacher at Mount Idaho and established his first Baptist church at Clearwater.
He established 19 churches and missions in northern Idaho. The author of this article, as a small boy, remembers attending a real baptizing at Harpster, where this pioneer revivalist led a group of men and women, 20 or 30, out into the depths of a limpid pool of the Clearwater River and baptized each one separately.
With the beautiful stream, in a setting of forest green. with hundreds of people assembled there, this was an impressive sight – and it was more than 60 years ago.
Florence had been the county seat of Idaho County from the very first, even while it was in Washington Territory. Mount Idaho was in Nez Perce County.
In 1868 the county seat of Idaho County was moved from Florence to Washington in Warrens’ Camp. In 1875 the Idaho Territorial Legislature added the Clearwater section and Camas Prairie to Idaho County. In a county seat removal election, Mount Idaho won out over Warrens and Slate Creek, and was the new county seat of Idaho County, Territory of Idaho.
Old Courthouse – The courthouse was built at Mount Idaho in the ’70s when the town was the county seat of Idaho County. The washing indicates it was being lived in when the picture was taken in 1911.
Frank A. Fenn was the first postmaster at Mount Idaho, from 1862 to ’64.
Alonzo Brown states in his autobiography that his brother. Loyal P. Brown, was postmaster in 1870.
In 1873 a more commodious hotel was built and this served as the post office.
The courthouse was built at Mount Idaho in 1876, after the county seat had been gained, and then a jail was added. The site of these buildings was donated by L. P. Brown with the proviso that the land would revert to him if the county seat were ever removed.
Mount Idaho was the site chosen for the first Republican convention held in the new Territory of Idaho. The date was Sept. 28, 1863 and the call for the convention was published in the Golden Age, first weekly newspaper published in Idaho, at Lewiston.
Convention Site – L.P. Brown’s hotel at Mount Idaho, shown in an early day sketch, was the scene of the first Republican territorial convention in 1863.
William Wallace, an appointee of Abraham Lincoln as the first governor of the Territory of Idaho, was chosen as the first territorial delegate to Congress. His chief opponent was Robert Newell, a former mountain man and one of the leaders in the first legislature in the provisional government of Oregon. He was an old-time close friend of William Craig.
Masons On The Scene
One of the first Masonic lodges in northern Idaho was organized February. 1874, at Mount Idaho by Sewell Truax, although the Masonic Hall was not built until the early 1880s. This hall was a prominent landmark at the top of the hill north of the town, where the earthworks fort had been built during the Nez Perce Indian war.
It was afterwards used as a school building, and the writer vividly remembers trudging up that hill one winter, about 1894-95, in the mud, slush and snow to receive instruction, literally from the hands of an imaginary ogre, “Professor” Waltz and his beautiful, song-bird wife.
The first sawmill was built at the foot of the mountain on Three Mile Creek in 1869 by Peter Walters.
Walters in September, 1870, murdered, without cause, Joseph Yates. Ten of Yates’ friends, provoked at the delay of justice at Lewiston, took Walters from the jail and hanged him.
The first flour mill was built in 1873 by a group of men: William Coram, prominent settler near Mount Idaho who had been a sailor for years, C. B. Toothaker, H. H. Wheeler, and Dr. M. A. Kelly of Lewiston.
These mills were destroyed by fire and L. P. Brown built a flour mill and then a sawmill in 1878. These were destroyed by fire in 1896 and were not rebuilt.
In the early days Camas Prairie was a natural pasture for both horses and cattle. Hundreds of native Indian horses originally roamed at will over this bunch grass paradise but they were gradually crowded out by the settlers who began to fence their homesteads.
This was a cause of trouble with the Indians, who retaliated by getting a lot of good beef from the “nesters” at a minimum of cost.
Grain and timothy were planted in 1863. according to L. P. Brown, presumably the first timothy in the state. Brown brought the first apple trees from Walla Walla and planted them at Mount Idaho. Several of these trees are still bearing, nearly 100 years old, on the Daisy Brown Smith property in this ghost town.
In the fall of 1887. L. P. Brown brought to Mount Idaho the first blooded Hereford cattle introduced into Idaho. They were driven by Lee Smith from Uniontown, Wash., the end of the railroad at that time.
In the spring of 1863 John M. Crooks and Aurora Shumway became the pioneer stock company of Idaho and brought in a thousand head of cattle from The Dalles country in Oregon.
(Continued on page 2)
Seth Jones Sr. in 1863 put up the first fence and broke the first Sod in farming on the prairie. Starting with 10 cows, he soon became one of the big cattlemen of the prairie and the Salmon River. His daughter, Belle, later Mrs. Charles Cone, was the first white child born on Camas Prairie.
His sons, Will, Sam. Seth Jr. and Bob, were leading growers, buyers and shippers of cattle in the prairie and river territory for many years.
One of the leading families in the development of the stock industry was the John Aram family, classed as the fifth family of the Mount Idaho group. John Aram Sr. was born in upper New York, moved to Ohio thence back to New York, and shipped at the age of 18 on the English steamer Sarah Sands for San Francisco. The ship was disabled by terrific storms around the Horn but finally landed in Lower California and young Aram was forced to walk 600 desert and mountain miles to San Francisco.
He later returned to Ohio. He married Sara Elizabeth Barr there in 1852 and in 1854, with 12 covered wagons and driving 3,000 sheep ahead of him, he crossed to California in six months.
Mrs. Aram made the trip by the Isthmus, alone with a young baby. Later the family moved to Portland and thence to Mount Idaho.
Two sons, James and John T. (known as Tom) carried on an extensive cattle business on Joseph Plains for years, until Tom was drowned in a ferry accident while crossing cattle near Lewiston. He had married Carrie Moore, daughter of Joe Moore, and Emma Brown, sister of L. P. Brown.
Clara Aram Fitzgerald, daughter of John Aram Sr., recently passed away and her only son, Oren, an instructor at the University of Idaho, passed away six months later.
John Aram, a son of James Aram, is executive assistant to the president of the Weyerhaeuser Timber Co. at Tacoma.
First General Store
The first general supply store at Mount Idaho was naturally that of L. P. Brown. In 1872 Ralph Jacobson and two brothers opened a store in one end of Brown’s hotel. They sold out to a man by the name of Rudolph, the only merchant until Vollmer & Scott opened a store in 1875.
In the fall of 1878 Grostein & Binnard set up a store at Mount Idaho. It became Binnard & Weiser in 1885 and later Weiler & Wax.
Matt H. Truscott in 1892 became the manager of the Vollmer-Scott store. He had been employed by Brown as chief engineer in the mills until 1883, when he became clerk in the hotel. He was postmaster of Mount Idaho in 1886.
The Vollmer – Shearer – Truscott family group for years was one of the most prominent families at Mount Idaho.
Caroline Vollmer of Indianapolis came west in 1873 to visit her brother, John P. Vollmer, who was in business at Lewiston and Mount Idaho. She returned to Indiana in 1881 and became the bride of Maj. George M. Shearer, whom she had met during the Indian war. They returned to Mount Idaho where three children were born – Elizabeth, Philip Alfred and Virginia FitzHugh.
The two latter never married and now live in Lewiston. Elizabeth married David Bodine and to this union two children were born – Richard Shearer Bodine, who never married, and David Philip Bodine, who with his wife and two children lives at Grangeville. Major Shearer died Jan. 2, 1889, and Mrs. Shearer married Matt Truscott in 1894.
Mount Idaho was the home of some of the leading professional men of the territory. One of the most beloved was Dr. J. B. Morris, the only physician and surgeon on the prairie for years. He and his brother, Ben Franklin Morris, came West from Missouri.
Dr. Morris was one of the real heroes of the Indian war. He was absent at Portland when news came of the outbreak and realizing the dire need of his services at Mount Idaho, rushed back to Lewiston, procured a horse and, riding at night, to avoid the Indians, reached Mount Idaho.
Day and night he was tireless in his efforts to save the victims of red butchery, both civilian and military, in addition to caring for at least 200 settlers who had gathered in the town.
Children were born; amputations were necessary and the sick were cared for – all without adequate facilities of hospital, trained nurses and anesthesia.
He later moved to Lewiston, was a leader in his profession, and became mayor of the city.
James H. Forney was an attorney at Mount Idaho and his card was in the Free Press it 1886 and for some time after. He was appointed by Gov. Norman B. Willey in 1891 as one of the first regents of the University of Idaho, and was prevailed upon by the chairman of the board to become its provisional president. He later became a resident of Moscow and was appointed by the president as U.S. district attorney.
J. W. Poe was one of the first attorneys of the Mount Idaho, Florence and Warrens areas. He was a graduate of Portland Academy in 1861 and then went into the mines at Florence. At one time he was a business partner with Sylvester S. (Three – Fingered) Smith, a veteran of the Modoc Indian war, and Joseph Haines.
He studied law in his spare time and was admitted to the bar in 1870. He was chosen district attorney in 1876 for the First Judicial District and again in 1878. He was elected to the Council (Senate) of the Idaho Territorial Legislature.
He removed to Lewiston, practiced his profession, and was one of the first trustees of the Lewiston Normal School.
The Indian War
No story of Mount Idaho would be fair or faithful without telling something of the dramatic and tragic part that it played in the Nez Perce Indian war of 1877.
It will be recalled that the Wallowa Nez Perces under Chief Joseph and the Salmon River and White Bird bands under Toohoolhoolzote and White Bird had been given 30 days by Gen. O. O. Howard at Lapwai to go on the Clearwater reservation. The two latter sub-chiefs were opposed to going and met with Joseph’s band at their old campgrounds at Lake Tepahlewam (Split Rocks), later called Lake Tolo, about 10 miles from Mount Idaho, to hold a council. Peace or war was the question.
Three young bloods of White Bird’s band precipitated a bloody Indian war by sneaking out of camp June 13 and going up the Salmon River to Slate Creek and John Day Creek and wantonly murdering unsuspecting Richard Divine, Henry Elfers, Robert Bland and Henry Beckroge (Mrs. Elfer’s brother).
Samuel Benedict was wounded and later killed by the next marauders and Mrs Benedict. mother of Grant Benedict. escaped with her badly injured children.
Mrs. John Manuel and infant child were butchered in their own home. William Osborne and Harry Mason were also killed in this raid.
Elfers, head of a prominent family in northern Idaho, and Divine Benedict and the Manuels were all well known at Mount Idaho and over the prairie. Therefore news of this massacre was a terrible shock to the settlers, and most of them hurriedly loaded their families and some household goods into wagons and raced to Mount Idaho.
In the meantime. L. P. Brown, who was apprehensive but had not heard of the Salmon River murders, sent a courier to Gen. Howard at Lapwai, urging the general to send soldiers to the prairie to prevent an outbreak:
“They say openly that they are going to fight the soldiers when they come to put them on the reservation . . . a good many were in town today trying to get powder and ammunition . . . I believe it will be well for you to send up, as soon as you can, a sufficient force to handle them without gloves . . . sharp and prompt action will bring them to understand that they most comply with the orders of the government.”
On the afternoon of June 14, after Brown had heard of the two murderous raids, he dispatched Lew Day with another urgent message to Lapwai.
But Day was attacked and severely wounded a short distance beyond the Cottonwood House and barely had strength to get back to that station.
Ben Norton and Joe Moore. proprietors of the Cottonwood House, decided to take the family and Day and go to Mount Idaho that night.
John Chamberlin, his wife and one child just then drove in from the Lewiston road with a load of bacon and groceries. Norton’s horses were out at pasture and in their haste they took the worn-out freight team and when dusk came started on their drive across the prairie to Mount Idaho. about 14 miles since there were few fences on the prairie at that time.
About half way across the rolling hills the Indians began their attack and soon the horses were shot down. Chamberlin, his wife and seven-year-old boy tried to escape but were quickly killed. Hill Beachey Norton, 11 years old, and Mrs. Norton’s sister, Lynn Bowers, 14, escaped in the darkness and were found wandering the next morning by Frank Fenn.
Joe Moore was badly wounded and died later at Mount Idaho.
Ben Norton was fatally shot trying to hand water to the feverish Lew Day, who died later at Mount Idaho.
Mrs. Norton was shot through both legs.
The Indians, evidently thinking that the entire party had been wiped out, withdrew toward morning. The dead and wounded in and under the wagon were rescued next morning by a party of heroic men who ran their horses from the vicinity of the Grange hall, cut the harness off the dead horses, tied their ropes to the wagon and rode their horses at full speed, with the wagon bouncing over the rocks, toward the settlement.
The Indians issued from the rocky canyon and gave chase but the rescue was completed. Frank Fenn had gathered up Charles Rice, James Crooks, John Adkison, Doug Adkison and James Adkison to bring in the Nortons.
Brown’s hotel was turned into a hospital and “Aunt Sarah” Brown opened her home to Mrs. Norton and other wounded. They all had the care of the indefatigable Dr. Morris and young women became nurses. Harriett Brown, 19-year-old teacher, niece of L. P. Brown, helped take care of Mrs. Norton, among others, and remembered watching the doctor run a silk handkerchief through Mrs. Norton’s legs with a ramrod.
The day after the war started, on June 15, the first Idaho Volunteers were mustered in at Mount Idaho with three officers and 126 privates. Soon about 260 to 300 people had flocked into Mount Idaho, about 100 families.
A fort was built at the top of the hill north of town and for the first few nights many of the women and children stayed there. The fort was mostly a trench and earthworks, rocks and some fencing with one side made up to four or five feet high with sacks of flour.
Harriet Brown (Adkison) lived to be 101 years old, but even in her last few years remembered helping her fiance, John R. Adkison, mold bullets in the fort one night while Luella Brown, later Mrs. Theodore Swartz Jr., soothed the children and anxious ones by singing some beautiful old songs.
Pat Price had brought in little Maggie Manuel in a rude chair on his back. Only the cross tattooed on his chest saved him and Maggie when the savages caught them on the trail out of the canyon.
Maggie had had part of her tongue cut off so that she could not tell, as the Indians thought, but that did not deter her later as Maggie Bowman, from making an affidavit that she had seen Chief Joseph stab her mother and baby sister to death and had heard her mother call Chief Joseph by name.
(Whether or not Joseph personally entered into the killings is one of the chief controversies of the war.)
Other wounded and burned-out settlers continued to arrive. In the meantime, in response to L. P. Brown’s urgent message. Col. David Perry and 90 cavalrymen had ridden one day and two nights to reach the hostiles. He had two friendly Nez Perce Indians scouts, Jonah and young Reuben, and was joined by 11 volunteers from Mount Idaho under command of “Major” Robert M. Shearer. (He had served with that rank in the Confederate army.)
Ad Chapman was second in command of the volunteers.
The Indians led the soldiers into an ambush, killed 33 men and one officer, Lt. E. R. Theller. Colonel Perry said that his men, straggling and retreating, carrying their wounded and many riding double, were pursued by the Indians to within four miles of Mount Idaho.
General Howard’s troops came, buried their comrades on the hill and crossed the Salmon River in pursuit of the Indians. The Nez Perces went down the river and crossed back at “Billy’s Crossing” opposite Rocky Canyon and came back upon the prairie on their way to join Chief Looking Glass on the Clearwater.
They ambushed 2nd Lt. Sevier Rains and 10 men on a reconnaissance and killed them to a man. Scout William Foster was killed with the Rains’ party and his companion, Scout Charles Blewett, was killed a short time before.
Lieutenant Rains’ detachment had been wiped out on July 3 and the Indians were making a desperate effort to destroy Perry’s remnant at Cottonwood on July 4. Capt. D. B. Randall of the Mount Idaho volunteer company decided to go to the aid of Colonel Perry, to help him hold off the savages until General Howard could get back out of the Salmon River canyon.
Captain Randall asked for volunteers to scout the area where Rains and his men had been killed and ten men responded. Just then a rider came in from Colonel Perry asking for all the force available and more volunteers came forward.
Wives prayed as Captain Randall rode forth, followed by 1st Lt. James Cearley, 2nd Lt. Lew Wilmot, and Pvts. D. H. Howser, C. W. Case, Charles Johnson, Peter Beemer, Cassius M. Day, Frank A. Fenn, Frank D. Vansise, George Riggins, Ben Evans, A. B. Leland, Ephraim Bunker, A. D. Bartley, James Buchanan and Henry C. Johnson.
These volunteers were soon enveloped by large bands of Indians with the thickest group between Randall’s men and the soldiers. Randall ordered a charge and occupied a knoll and fought the enemy from that position for nearly an hour.
Firing was fierce and heavy as the men used their horses for breastworks. George Shearer and his nephew, Paul Guiterman, who had been scouting with the soldiers, dashed out and joined the seventeen.
Some of the volunteers were the best marksmen on the frontier, according to Frank Fenn, and the Indians soon learned to stay at a distance.
After about an hour a detachment of the cavalry under Lieutenant Sheldon dashed out to the volunteer post, but not until Captain Randall and Ben Evans had been killed and Howser, Leland and Charles Johnson had been wounded.
Henry Johnson stated that Randall had received his mortal wound when the charge was made to the knoll. Peter Ready had carried the news of the Rains massacre to General Howard, and Colonel McConville with his Lewiston volunteers and Capt. George Hunter with his Dayton volunteers rushed to Perry’s aid.
The situation was relieved and Captain Hunter brought the dead and wounded back to Mount Idaho.
“Never did men fight such an overwhelming force,” L. P. Brown said of the “Brave Seventeen,” “with a full determination to win or sell their lives as dearly as possible.”
(Whether or not Colonel Perry should have gone to the aid of the volunteers is still one of moot questions of the war.)
Not until after the Battle of the Clearwater, when the combined forces of the Nez Perces under Looking Glass started their retreat into Montana, did the people of Mount Idaho relax.
Some of the Mount Idahoan, took part in the Clearwater battle and drove back hundreds of Indian ponies. The settlers began to move back to their homes, many of them pillaged or burned.
When it was reported that a white man had been seen driving off stock, L. P. Brown said or June 27, “We cannot stand to be robbed by both Indians and whites, and should anyone be caught driving away stock they will need no justice, jury or coroner to pass on the case.”
This was a very strong statement for the kindly, judicious and law-abiding Loyal Brown.
Perhaps one of the few mistakes made by Brown was his refusal to grant a site for a hall for the newly organized Charity Grange, Patrons of Husbandry.
The organizer, Henry Hart Spalding, son of the Rev. Henry Spalding, pioneer Presbyterian missionary at Lapwai, then accepted a site offered by John M. Creeks on Three Mile Creek.
This grange hall, built in 1876 was one of the first, if not the first, in the Pacific Northwest. During the Indian war it was barricaded with logs and served as a fort for the immediate settlers and later became a focal point for the new town of Grangeville.
Many of the returning miners liked what they saw on the prairie and settled there, many of them around Mount Idaho and the new town of Grangeville. Soon the “Grangevillains” began to long for the prestige, the convenience and the business of a county seat and began to campaign for the removal of the courthouse to the new town.
This was the last big battle of Loyal P. Brown’s strenuous career. Loyally and vigorously he accepted the challenge and rallied his people to support Mount Idaho.
The first county seat removal election was held in 1892 and while Grangeville received a majority, 470 to 375, the percentage was not high enough to force the move.
But 10 years later Grangeville won the vote by 2,637 to 743, and Mount Idaho’s rapid deterioration began.
Mount Idaho’s business with the Florence mines had fallen almost to nothing, except for trading with the few Chinese who were working over the old dumps and a few white men who sank shafts.
From 1880 to 1895 it was a dead camp, but then for five years stamp mills were sent in and some rich free-milling gold quartz operations were carried on. Then it faded out.
The Elk City mines kept producing, but most of that business went to Grangeville. The Buffalo Hump boom of 1899-1900 kept hopes alive for a short time.
On April 9, 1896, Loyal P. Brown died at Mount Idaho, less than 67 years of age.
His last few years were handicapped with a growing blindness and the light and guiding genius of the town was gone. But like Montcalm he was spared seeing the surrender of his Quebec. It was a dying town but it grew old, hallowed and gracious.
Abandoned Home – This was one of the fine old homes built at Mount Idaho in the community’s heyday and abandoned when the town died. The picture was taken in May of 1911, when only a relatively few people remained.
For half a century Mount Idaho has lived only in memory. But like the ancient Judean “cities of refuge,” it became a shelter in the time of dire need and after fulfilling its destiny it became just one small leaf in the crumbling pages of history.
source: Adkison, Norman B. (July 1, 1962). “Bustling, booming Mount Idaho now nothing but a ghost town”. Lewiston Morning Tribune. p. 1-sec.2.
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Mount Idaho Cemetery
source: Find a Grave (search by name)
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Mount Idaho 1971
Second Oldest Idaho Town Historic Place
Spokane Daily Chronicle – Oct 27, 1971
(click image for larger size)
– Ruark photos
Jonathan Chamberlin, 29, and his daughter, Hattie, 3, who were killed by the “Nece Perce” Indians on the opening day of the Indian War of 1877, June 14, and James Baker, 74, who was killed one day later, are among those settlers whose graves are in historic Mount Idaho Cemetery.
By Janice Ruark Chronicle Correspondent
Grangeville, Idaho – Three miles southeast of Grangeville at the foot of the mountains and nestled among tall pines is the small community of Mount Idaho.
It is the second oldest town in Idaho County. Florence, now a ghost town, is the oldest.
Mount Idaho had its beginnings as a way station in 1860. It was one of several on the route to the Florence gold mines.
A few years later Mount Idaho was the first county seat of Idaho County. It boasted a substantial courthouse and jail, a good hotel, two stores, a saloon, a Masonic Hall, a furniture store, a flour mill, a post office, two schools and a Chinatown.
The first Republican convention for the Idaho Territory was held there in 1863. In addressing the convention, L. P. Brown, the town’s main promoter, said that “aside from Lewiston, Mount Idaho is the most important town in North Idaho. It is a sub-supply station for mines on the Clearwater and Salmon rivers; it is the end of the wagon road from Lewiston and the beginning of the toll trail to Florence.”
Only 50 inhabitants live there now. There are no commercial enterprises. The county seat was moved to Grangeville in 1902.
A small well-kept cemetery above the town gives mute evidence to the part the town played in the Nez Perce Indian War which lasted from June to October 1877.
The day after the war broke out 13 officers and 126 privates enlisted for service at Mount Idaho. It was one of the principal bases from which operations were carried on.
On the evening of June 14 the terrified settlers of Camas Prairie flocked here and remained at the fort at Mount Idaho until the war was over. The hotel was turned into a hospital for the wounded.
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce is quoted as saying of the brief war: “If General Howard had given me plenty of time to gather up my stock and had treated Toohulhulsuit as a man should be treated, there would have been no war. My friends among the white men have blamed me for this war. I am not to blame. When my young men began the killing, my heart hurt. Although I did not justify them I remember the insults I had endured and my blood was on fire. Still I would have taken my people to the buffalo country without fighting if possible. I could see no other way to avoid a war.”
source: Ruark, Janice (October 27, 1971). “Idaho town historic place”. Spokane Daily Chronicle. p. 5.
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Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, or Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain
Link to Mount Idaho (Part 1) Pioneers
Link to Mount Idaho (Part 2) History
Link to Mount Idaho (Part 3) Transportation
Link to Mount Idaho (Part 4) News clippings
Link to Mount Idaho (Part 5) More News clippings
page updated Aug 12, 2020