Idaho History Aug 4, 2019

Murders in Valley County

(part 1)

McCall / Yellow Pine / Big Creek

1920-Idaho-zoomValleyCo-a— — — — — — — — — —

Murders in Valley County

1903 Early Yellow Pine Basin

That same year [1903], homesteads sprang up in the Yellow Pine vicinity on Johnson, Hennesy [sic], Riordan, Trapper, and Hanson Creeks, and the East Fork. Chapman (n.d.:4) says that the Thunder Mountain area became home for “…renegade white men…” and that in ten years’ time five known murders committed in the area “…with probably many more unreported…”

source: “Cultural Integrity and Marginality Along the South Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho”, Thesis by SJ Rebillet 1983 (7 megs)
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1905 Knox Murder

1905, Aug. 12 – T. J. Little killed Charley Hanlen at Knox when Hanlen went to clean out the Little camp and Little protected himself and property. Later Little convinced the court in Idaho City that it was self-defense and he was acquitted. One of Hanlen’s acquaintances was surprised that Hanlen lived as long as he did.

From the Aug. 26, 1905 The Prospector and Thunder Mountain News, Roosevelt ID.

Excerpted from: Warm Lake History by LeRoy Meyer
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1908 Murder on the South Fork Salmon

On another part of the bar [now known as the Reed Ranch] including the oxbow and large flat just under the present Jackie Creek road a man named William Caldwell settled in 1905. Caldwell built a cabin, barn and fences and began farming; raising hay and oats. He was murdered about 1908, supposedly by two itinerant trappers, who shot him while he was cooking breakfast over his cook stove one morning. In the process of dying, he carelessly knocked over his stove and burned his cabin down. Camp Creek was called Caldwell Creek for some time after that.

source: Bury My Soul at Krassel Hole
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Lake Street McCall, 1914

lake-street-mccall-1914-a(click image for larger photo)

source: City of McCall [hat tip SMc]
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1917 Murder in McCall

Funeral Held for Frank Van Horn, Murdered

Body of Grangeville Man is Brought Here From M’call in Valley County

Is Shot in the Breast

Frank Bishop, the Slayer, Surrenders and Is Taken to Boise and Put in Jail

Idaho County Free Press Thursday, December 6, 1917

Funeral services for Frank Van Horn, Grangeville man murdered Thanksgiving night at McCall, in Valley county, were held Wednesday after noon in the Christian church in Grangeville, the Rev. James M. Powers officiating. Burial was in Prairie View Cemetery.

Mr. Van Horn, who was 23 years old, was shot in the left breast while in a pool hall in McCall by Frank Bishop, a checker in a railroad tie camp near McCall and died a few minutes afterward. The shooting followed a fistic encounter in which Van Horn and Bishop had been engaged, and which resulted in Van Horn giving bishop a beating.

Bishop Gives Self Up

Immediately after the shooting had occurred, Bishop surrendered to the authorities, and was taken to Boise, for safe keeping. Although the shooting occurred in Valley county, of which Cascade is the county seat, Bishop was taken to Boise because of absence of a suitable jail at Cascade.

Both Van Horn and Bishop were working in the camp. Bishop held a job known as tie-checker, which is similar to that of time-keeper. Van Horn, it is said, asked Bishop for Van Horn’s time, and Bishop, according to the story, withheld the time. Trouble arose. The difficulty developed into the fist-fight, which was followed by the shooting. Van Horn was killed by a shot from a 22 caliber revolver.

Bring Body to Grangeville

The body of Van Horn was taken to Riggins, where it was met by Undertaker, A.J. Maugg of Grangeville, who accompanied the body here.

Mr. Van Horn, who was born and reared in the vicinity of Grangeville, was well known here. He leaves a widow and two children. Besides his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Van Horn, three sisters and two brothers. The sisters are Mrs. Frank Groom, Mrs. Maggie Arp and Mrs. Frank Reynolds, all residents of this vicinity. The brothers John Van Horn of Grangeville and Roscoe Van Horn of Montana.

source: Idaho County GenWeb Project complied by Penny Bennett Casey
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Van Horn Killing Premeditated, Asserts His Grief-Stricken Father; Slayer Sentenced to Penitentiary

Idaho County Free Press Thursday, December 13, 1917

The killing of Frank Van Horn, Grangeville young man who met death at the hands of Frank Bishop at McCall, November 29, was deliberately planned, in the opinion of M. Van Horn, the young man’s grief-stricken father, in Grangeville.

The father, after conducting an investigation of the tragic deed, which resulted in the death of his son, is satisfied that Bishop had for some time planned to kill the young man, and only awaited a favorable opportunity to commit the crime.

Bishop Sentenced to Pen

Bishop, who surrendered to the authorities immediately after the killing, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the district court of Valley county at Cascade, and has been sentenced to an indeterminate term of from one to ten years in the state penitentiary at Boise.

Young Van Horn and Bishop had not been friends for several weeks previous to the shooting, says the boy’s father, and friends of the dead man say that Bishop had made the threat that he would “get” Van Horn. The fact that the revolver which Bishop used to kill Van Horn had been wrapped in newspapers and placed behind the counter in a pool room at McCall, lends emphasis to the elder Mr. Van Horn’s belief that the killing was premeditated.

Bishop Grabs Revolver

Bishop, according to eye-witnesses of the tragedy, who have reported details to the dead man’s father, when he became angered at Van Horn, immediately went behind the counter in the poolhall, seized the revolver from the paper and fired four shots – all in the magazine – some of which went astray. Bishop, after killing Van Horn threatened to slay a friend of the dead man, but the friend dashed out of the building and escaped. He was one of the men who accompanied the body of Van Horn to Grangeville.

Another fact that had much to do with the father forming the opinion that Bishop had planned the murder of his son, was the receipt about two weeks before the killing, of a letter by the wife of the murdered man. The letter which was written by Frank Van Horn, was addressed to his wife here, and about the margin of the envelope was drawn a heavy, black line indicative of mourning. The letter which told the young wife of Van Horn’s plan to pay a holiday visit to his family here, also advised Mrs. Van Horn not to depart on a contemplated journey to McCall, where she was to have joined her husband. Saying that the trip was a long and difficult one, and the roads poor, the young man prevailed upon his wife not to make the journey.

Black Margin a Mystery

The Van Horns are unable to account for the black margin on the envelope. Some think that the letter, before being posted, might have fallen into the hands of a confederate of Bishop, who, desirous that the life of Van Horn might be spared drew the line about the envelope, as a mysterious warning to Van Horn’s relatives that the young man was marked for death, and giving them an opportunity to “read between the lines” and advise him to leave the McCall country. Again the drawing of the black margin on the envelope might have been in the nature of a black-hand warning of approaching death.

The mysterious black margin on the envelope was given little thought on the part of young Mrs. Van Horn at the time the letter was received. However, when word came that her husband had been slain, she immediately connected the mysterious envelope with the murder. She at once attempted to locate the envelope, but it had disappeared. Mrs. Van Horn thinks she simply mis-placed the envelope and that she will find it.

source: Idaho County GenWeb Project, VanHorn, Frank, complied by Penny Bennett Casey
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1928 East Fork Trail

Description East Fork Trail near Yellow Pine Idaho, Governor Baldridge is in the lead

Date 1928-10 Photographer Ansgar Johnson Sr.
Location Valley County, Idaho, United States
Rights Management In Copyright Publisher Idaho State Historical Society
source w/larger photo:
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Early 1930s Yellow Pine

from the Mike Fritz Collection:
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Murder in Yellow Pine 1930

Yellow Pine Rancher Slain

Alleged Killer in Valley County Jail: Is Silent

Cascade News September 19, 1930 Volume XVI Number 2

Jim O’Neil, a man of about 50, of whom there is little known here, is in the County, jail at Cascade and will face a charge of murder, as result of the killing of Charles Maples, well known rancher and miner of the Yellow Pine section, at the Jim Carpenter ranch four miles below Yellow Pine, on East Fork, Wednesday.

Maples was shot through the heart with a 35 calibre rifle and was killed instantly. Coroner A. D. Robb brought the body to Cascade Thursday and has prepared it for shipment. It is expected to be sent to Wisconsin for burial, where Maples has relatives.

According to F. A. Hamilton, an eye witness and companion with Maples [said?] O’Neil cold-bloodedly shot Maples while he was sitting on an oil can in the door-yard talking to him.

O’Neil then at the point of the gun forced Hamilton to drag the body into a ditch a short distance from the cabin and then started him for Yellow Pine, telling him to report that Maples had accidentally killed himself, and told Hamilton not to return.

Hamilton reached Yellow Pine at about noon and Sheriff Wilson at Cascade was notified and as soon as possible, with Prosecuting Attorney Fred Taylor, Coroner A. D. Robb. and Village Marshall Enos Smith, left for the scene of the crime. They arrived at Yellow Pine too late in the day to make the trail trip down the river to the ranch, but went on the scene early next morning. They found O’Neil at the ranch where he surrendered upon being called upon to do so by Sheriff Wilson.

O’Neil admitted having started to get out of the country and went into the mountains but said he lost his gun after placing it on the saddle of his horse and said he returned to the ranch because there was no use trying to make a get-a-way in that country.

The Sheriff’s party arrived in Cascade with the prisoner Thursday evening.

Hamilton, Maples and O’Neil had been staying together on the ranch, O’Neil having come there within the past ten days after working in the mines at Meadow Creek and Deadwood Basin.

O’Neil may possibly be brought to trial at the District Court session in Cascade in October.
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O’Neil Received Preliminary Hearing Tuesday; Will Be Tried for Murder

Cascade News December 17, 1930 Volumn XVI Number 31

Jim O’Neil, alleged killer of Charles Maples at Yellow Pine a short time ago was given a preliminary hearing in the Probate Court Tuesday. He was represented by F. M. Kerby as counsel.

The hearing took up almost the entire day and numerous witnesses were examined before a large crowd of spectators.

The hearing resulted in O’Neil being remanded to the District Court on a charge of first degree murder.

source: City of McCall Document Search Center
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A Tragic Drinking Party

by Harry Withers

A drinking party that ended in tragedy took place at the Holcomb-Carpenter-Maples-Kesler-Eiguren ranch three miles west of Yellow Pine. There were half a dozen or more involved in this party, but only the principals will be named.

Charlie Maples owned the place at that time. Maples when sober wasn’t a bad sort to meet, but was real mean and abusive when drinking. He had been this way for several days.

One member of the party, Jim O’Neal, passed out and fell asleep on the floor and was finally awakened by someone shouting, “What are we going to do with the X@#$%”.

O’Neal suddenly sat up in a sort of daze and spied Maples sitting against a block of wood in the yard in front of the log cabin door and remembering all of the abuse he and the others had taken from Maples, said, “I know what to do with him”. He grabbed a loaded rifle and let Maples have it. Several members of the party left shortly after that and never were called to testify at the trial.

O’Neal was physically abnormal, not very tall but a huge man in body and limbs. The sheriff had difficulty in getting handcuffs on his wrists because they were so huge. O’Neal only did two years in prison.

Mike Popovich, who had a cabin near the frog pond, half a mile west of Yellow Pine, was a member of the party. He was fatally injured at the Willey ranch later, but he told Mr. Willey that Maples was already dead when O’Neal shot him. He claimed that another member of the party had lambasted Maples with a club before O’Neal fired.

I do know that a certain guy had Mike pretty well intimidated, but he wasn’t the one Mike named. Anyway, Mike was afraid to talk before.

I doubt if any of the parties involved are still living, so all the facts may never be known.

source pages 47-48 “Yellow Pine, Idaho” a book compiled by Nancy Sumner. To order: fieldsmarjie @
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1935 Murder on Big Creek

The Lobauer-Estep Murder at Big Creek, Idaho

By Madi Thurston, University of Idaho



Two miners, Walter Estep and Frank Lobauer, on Ramey Ridge in Big Creek became enemies after a faulty deal and an affair. When they failed to resolve their problem after seeking help from officials, Lobauer took matters into his own hands and promptly reported his deeds.

Before the paths of Walter Estep and Frank Lobauer fatally crossed, they were neighbors who mined on Ramey Ridge in Big Creek. Previously a forest ranger, Estep, born in 1893, moved to Acorn Creek Ranch on Ramey Ridge in 1930. Born in 1884, Lobauer was a short man, not quite 5’4”, who was cross eyed and balding. Lobauer and his wife, Myrtle Bland Geer, moved to Big Creek in the 1920’s. This area along Big Creek was a popular site for mining with many homesteads used primarily for mining claims.

The two men became acquainted when Lobauer was contracted to work in one of Estep’s mines in exchange for an interest in the group. However, after finishing the work, Estep changed his mind about paying Lobauer. Meanwhile, Estep also had seduced Lobauer’s wife in what became a three-year affair with two children resulting. These intimate details of the feud were common knowledge among locals. In late 1935, Lobauer finally acted, traveling to the Warren Ranger Station to contact Ranger Gene Briggs. Despite an extensive telephone network in the area, without a phone Lobauer had to travel to contact authorities. Since he was absent at the time, Lobauer related the details to Briggs’s wife, Hiley, and demanded Estep to be placed under a peace bond to stay away from Myrtle. He added that if the sheriff failed to stop the affair, he would kill Estep. The isolation of the area did not provide Lobauer with many ways of taking immediate action. Hiley called the sheriff and relayed message; however, she omitted Lobauer’s threat.

On December 2, Estep acted as an attorney to help transfer the deed of the Dave Lewis property to Jess Taylor, a hunting ranch three miles downstream from Lobauer’s camp on Big Creek. According to Lobauer, as Estep was returning from the Lewis cabin, he saw Lobauer waiting with a gun and went to grab it. They agreed to talk things over and Lobauer asked Estep for the money he was owed. However, Estep refused to pay. Lobauer replied, “I’ll settle you with a bullet” and shot and killed Estep as he walked out the door. Lobauer visited Lewis and asked him to notify the sheriff. The sheriff sent a local to investigate as he couldn’t reach the remote area until the next day. Lobauer was found sitting inside his tent drunk. Estep’s body was still lying in the doorway with a bullet hole through the back of his neck and out of his mouth with blood spattered all over the snow.

Lobauer was arrested and sent to the Valley County Jail in Cascade where he admitted to the murder, but later pleaded not guilty in trial. In 1936, Lobauer was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 5 to 10 years in the Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho. He spent eight years in prison until he was released in 1942. Six years later, Lobauer returned to Big Creek where he was last seen heading out to an old mining claim by foot in the snow.

Payette NF Map 1935


source: Intermountain Histories

Link to Valley County Murders Part 2
Link to Valley County Murders Part 3

page updated October 23, 2020