Idaho History May 12, 2019

Story of Marge McRae and James Collord

Thunder Mountain, Big Creek, Valley County, Idaho

Marjorie McRae went into Thunder Mountain in 1914 with her family when she two.

Mom [Marjorie] on grandpa Dan’s back while snowshoeing in

The cabin at the Dewey. Grandma Grace, Bob and Marjorie and Fred Holcomb.

Robert and and sister Marge McRae, on mules at Roosevelt in 1916

photos courtesy of Sandy McRae and Jim Collord
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A Thunder Mountain Romance

by Marge (McRae) Collord

Spring 1929 – McCall, Idaho

Howard Adams of Nampa leased and operated the Payette Lakes Inn of McCall.

Jim Collard was hired as a bellhop and general repair and assistance man. Jim was 18 years old.

Marge McRae was enjoying summer vacation from high school and spent time riding horses and became acquainted with the bellhop at the Inn. A few escapades in the 1928 Dodge and a Model T Ford, painted bright green, and friendship grew.

Marge graduated from high school and Jim attended the affair – Marge, in a yellow dress, gave the valedictorian speech. There were three other graduates that year. Two girls and one boy!

Marge’s father, Dan McRae, saw the potential of a strong body and hard worker in the likeable boy and hired him to go to the mine with him. They snowshoed from McCall over Lick Creek Summit to Yellow Pine and on over Monumental Summit to Thunder Mountain. Jim admitted he thought he was going to die the first day on snowshoes with 30 miles behind them. Following this 50 year old man was no fun!

Offering to break trail wasn’t the way to go either.

Grace McRae was a teacher and when her school year ended we followed the men into the mine where Grace cooked for the crew and family, and anyone who happened to stop by.

3 years of hard work and getting acquainted and things moved along in a positive way. Grace and Dan grew very fond of this boy and he was always appreciative of their acceptance of him into the family. My brother loved the way he took the work load in his stride. Spare time was spent hunting, fishing and getting acquainted.

1934, at Christmas time, my brother married Ruth Cook, who spent many summers in the hills with us. Jim and I decided that was the way to go and we were married February 16, 1935.

Back at the mine and its routine-life. Jim and I moved up the hill to an old cabin which became quite livable with a lot of fixing up. It was dubbed “The Honeymoon Cabin.”

We muddled along with my first cooking job and Jim didn’t laugh or cry when I turned my first pie upside down on the floor by accident.

From then on all was serene and busy. Jim loved the Earth – The isolation and all the things I had lived with in my life as a miners daughter.

So love and happiness, two children, six grand children 13 great grand children and many friends are our treasure.

We struck High Grade in Life: The Mother Lode!

These Things We Remember

We knew the desolation of great heights
And the contentment of deep valleys:
We saw the moon leap silver from the mountain peaks and watched the red sun die in a welter of mists on the horizon;
We knew the white swift decline of vast snow fields
And the small beauty of forest flowers.
Our dream rose with the smoke of our campfires in the wilderness
And our friendship glowed with the embers of fir fires.
We shared hunger, thirst and the great struggle toward the mountaintop;
As we shared peace, good food and pleasant rest of our night camps;
All these things – the dizziness of sudden precipices, straining muscles, weariness, exaltation, the soothing fragrance of pine trees, the chatter of mountain streams and the roar of furious rapids, entered into the pattern of our friendship and made it fine.
These things we knew together
And these things we will remember.

[h/t Jim Collord]
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The Payette Lakes Inn in its early years

PayetteLakesInn1-asource: City of McCall Historic Preservation Plan
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Jim Collord and Marge (McRae) Courting


Bob McRae and Ruth (Cook)


photos from Jim Collord
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1928 Marge McRae Hoodo Point
1928McRaeFront-aLeft to Right – Marge McRae Collord, Ruth Cook McRae, Don Park
Date 1928 Hoodo Point
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Jim Collord Lightning Peak 1930

Dad-Lightning-Peak-aJim Collord on top of Lightning Peak in 1930 when he first went in to work at the mine.
photo courtesy of Sandy McRae and Jim Collord
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United States Census, 1940

Big Creek Election Precinct, Valley, Idaho, United States

Dan C McRae Male Age 63 Married Head Birthplace Minnesota Birth Year (Estimated) 1877

Grace McRae Female Age 54 Married Wife Birthplace Idaho Birth Year (Estimated) 1886

James E Collord Son-in-law Male Age 29 Birthplace Idaho

Mar Collord Daughter Female Age 28 Birthplace Idaho

Grace K Collord Granddaughter Female Age 2 Birthplace Idaho

source: Family Search (pay wall)
[h/t CEP]
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James E. Collord, McCall, Idaho 1949

James E. Collord, 38, powder foreman, helped to rescue Kelly L. Tartar, 39, tractor operator, and attempted to help rescue William N. Ramsey, 41, powderman, from exposure following an explosion, Meadows, Idaho, June 27, 1949.

While Ramsey, Tartar, and Collord were at work on a road which ascended 1,200 feet above the base of Brundage Mt. Lo along the edge of a deep canyon, a powder charge exploded accidentally.

Ramsey was thrown part way down the canyon slope, and Tartar sustained serious head and spinal injuries, his leg being pinned by a boulder in the road.

Collord came to rest on a rock ledge 15 feet below the level of the road. His face, eyes, arms, and legs were burned severely. Many fragments of rock were imbedded [sic] in his eyes, which were bleeding, and he could distinguish only between light and darkness.

He climbed to the road and groping to Tartar moved the boulder from his leg. Tartar informed Collord that he could not see Ramsey. Thinking Ramsey might still be alive and in need of medical attention, Collord told Tartar they must descend to a camp at the base of the mountain, using a truck which was parked nearby.

The road, which descended 5.5 miles in a series of curves, was 16 feet wide and had a surface of gravel which was hard-packed at the center of the roadway and elsewhere was loose and rough. Collord ascertained that Tartar could not drive, because of his injuries, and asked Tartar to guide him in steering the truck.

Suffering intense pain, Collord groped and entered the truck and turned its left wheels into the rougher gravel at the edge of the road away from the canyon. He drove slowly down the mountain, turning his front wheels at times onto soft earth bordering the edge of the road to assure himself that he was not moving toward the canyon.

Tartar twice lost consciousness and slumped against Collord.

After Collord had driven a half-mile, Tartar climbed from the truck and lay alongside the road, complaining of intense pain. Collord told him that he would send aid and continued downward.

Three and a half miles from the camp, Collord felt the right front wheel leave the road and move onto soft earth near the edge of the canyon. He halted and reversed the truck until all four wheels again were on the road. He continued to within a quarter-mile of the camp and sounded his horn.

A woman was attracted and reached the truck. She assisted Collord, whose eyes were swollen shut and who bled profusely, to a nearby building and summoned aid.

Men in automobiles reached Tartar and took him to a hospital. Rescue workers descended the slope and found Ramsey, who was dead.

Tartar suffered from temporary paralysis but recovered.

Collard was hospitalized for two months and regained normal vision in one eye.

source Carnegie Hero Fund Commission

[h/t J. Collord]
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Son Jim Collord writes: “The accident was in 1949 when I was three. He was building the Brundage Mountain road for Brown Tie and Lumber Company — a logging access road, now the road to the ski area. … It took him years to recover, some of the time spent on the California coast in warmer winter climes. The family became familiar with that area when he ran a quicksilver mine for Herbert Hoover during WWII.”

Jim and Marge at Big Creek Cabin


photo from Jim Collord
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Big Jim Collord

Born May 26, 1911 in Tetonia, ID, Died September 13, 1999 at age 88.
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Marjorie Grace McRae Collord

February 27, 1912 – Dec. 17, 2007

Marjorie Grace McRae Collord passed away peacefully Dec. 17, 2007 in Boise Idaho. During her nearly 96 years of life, she was witness to epic changes, from the advent of radio to the commonplace of space travel. Marj lived a life richly blessed with fond memories and great friends.

She was born February 27, 1912 in Old Meadows, Idaho, to pioneering parents Daniel C McRae and Grace Turner McRae. She cherished a unique childhood growing up deep in the Idaho backcountry at Thunder Mountain where her family mined for three decades. Her fondest memories were of the mountains, hard work the mines required, horses, and the friends who helped them face the challenges of living in the wilderness in the early 20th Century. She was schooled by her mother, Grace, until high school in McCall, Idaho.

On February 16th, 1935, she married James Elton Collord after meeting in McCall. The marriage was a grand venture that was to last 64 years until Jim’s death at 88. Their life was filled with mining, prospecting all over the West where they saw wonders and made many new and lasting friends. Their first married years were spent working at the family mine at Thunder Mountain. During the war, they lived some of their favorite years as a young family at the Stibnite Mine in Valley County. Many miners served their country at Stibnite, a mine that produced strategic minerals for the war effort.

Jim and Marj’s travels and prospecting took them many places. Marj and Jim worked mines and prospects all over California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Idaho. One of their mining ventures took them to the Central Coast of California where Jim ran a quicksilver mine for Herbert Hoover. After moving back to their home in Idaho for a time, they returned to the warm sun of California where they lived for the next 47 years. Marj worked as head housekeeper at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon for 17 of those years and co-authored a cookbook filled with Hearst’s favorite foods served at the Castle. The book, The Castle Cookbook, is still in print today.

After retirement from the Castle, she was able to return each summer to her beloved Idaho backcountry, and was thrilled to watch the gold mine at her old Thunder Mountain home put back into production. They spent many gratifying summers at their cabin in Big Creek where Marj served uncountable visiting friends at their welcoming table. Her sourdough huckleberry hotcakes hot off the old woodstove were legendary.

She was preceded in death by her husband Jim in 1999 at their home in Cambria, California and her brother Robert J. McRae in 1969. She subsequently moved to Boise, and is survived by her daughter, Kay Meier of Boise and her son, E. James Collord of Elko, Nevada. She also leaves behind 6 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren, and 7 great-great grandchildren with two more on the way.

A memorial will be held in the spring when the earth is in renewal. Ma, we all love you and will miss your “Let’s go!” spirit. We thank you for the rich heritage you gave us.

shared by Jim Collord
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Jim and Marge on the porch swing


photo from Jim Collord
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Many thanks to the McRae and Collord families for sharing their history.

See also:

Link: Thunder Mountain / Roosevelt History index page

Link to: McRae Family Thunder Mountain, Big Creek, and Stibnite

Link to: Payette Lakes Inn

page updated Nov 13, 2020