Category Archives: Weekly History

Idaho History Aug 18, 2019

Valley County Murders

(part 3)

The Murder Cabin – Monumental Creek

1930s Cabin

– from the Collord Family collection.

“[The photo is from] when Collord went to Monumental in the 30’s and he was at [what is now called] the murder cabin with Clark and Clem. (I don’t know which one was Clark.)” – personal correspondence
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McCoy Notes on the Murder Cabin

Gill McCoy, Bill “Slim” Clark, Bill Timm, and a man called “Frenchy,” established a mining claim in the 1930s on Monumental Creek opposite the mouth of Camp Creek. A stamp mill was moved to the site by Slim Clark from an abandoned mine on the west slope of Routson Peak, which had been worked around 1908 and the early 1930s. A substantial cabin was built on the claim. Over the years, the ownership of the claim became confused. In 1963, the question of ownership, which included Jim Burris, resulted in the shooting of Slim Clark by Burris’s son. Slim Clark bled to death before he could get medical attention
(interview with George Dovel, Aug 15, 1977, in Hartung (*) 1978:42).

The cabin became known as the “murder cabin;” which was destroyed by wildfire in 2000.
(Kingsbury, pers. comm. 2001).

source: pg 12 McCoy Family History
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Murder Cabin Memories

“What I remember from my Mom’s memories was that Frenchie had deeded/given the gold claim and cabin to Roland “Slim” Clark before he left the area. My folks were friends with both of them and thought a great deal of each. The Burris’ wanted the claim but Slim was not giving it up. Someone came up to where Si Simonds and my folks cabins were and the air strip. They were told that Slim had been shot and wanted the Valley Co. Sheriff called on the back country radio which they did. I believe my Dad and Mom, Hilda and Swede Hanson, then went down to Slim’s cabin where they found him and my Mom talked about the very bloody pillow. The Sheriff flew in but it took awhile and there was no hope for Slim. It seems that the Burris group came in and Slim met them with a gun and told them to leave but they also had guns … hence the name “Murder Cabin”. There was a trial but no one was sentenced. I have no idea who got the claim and cabin.”

photo courtesy Hilda Hanson

“My folks left Monumental after Slim was murdered…”
– Bev (Hanson) Larkin
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Aug 28, 1963

CASCADE, Idaho AP — Two men were taken into custody today on first degree murder warrants and a third has been charged with carrying a concealed weapon in the killing of a 53-year-old prospector.

Held on the murder warrants are Jack Burris, Weiser, and his son, Bob, of Ontario. Bob Mac Quarrie, Weiser, was held on the weapons charge.

The arrests came three days after Roland Clark was fatally wounded near his cabin in a primitive area 80 miles east of McCall.

Valley County Prosecutor Larry Schoenhut said the shooting apparently was the aftermath of a dispute over ownership of a mining claim. He said Burris claimed ownership of the claim but that Clark had been living in a cabin on the site.

He said Burris, his son and Mac Quarrie went to the area Saturday to talk to Clark. He said an argument ensued and the shooting followed.
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Aug 29, 1963

CASCADE AP — Three men charged in connection with the slaying of an Idaho prospector have demanded preliminary hearings and at the same time agreed to undergo a lie detector test.

Two of the men, Jack Burris, Ontario, and his son, Bob, Weiser, are charged with first degree murder in the fatal shooting last Saturday of Roland Clark, 54, near his cabin in a remote area 80 miles east of McCall.

Bob MacQuarrie, Weiser, is charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

All three were arraigned Wednesday before Valley County Probate Judge H. V. McMasters, who set preliminary hearings for Sept. 17.

Sheriff Merton Logue said they agreed to the lie detector test following the hearing. He said the test will be conducted in McCall Saturday.

Authorities said the killing apparently was the result of a dispute over a mining claim. They said Burris, his son, and MacQuarrie went to Clark’s cabin Saturday and that the shooting followed an argument over the claim.

Jack and Bob Burris are being held without: bond in the Valley County jail. MacQuarrie was released Tuesday after posting bail.
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Sept 18, 1963

CASCADE – Further proceedings in the cases of three men charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a Valley County miner have been scheduled here for Thursday morning.

Canyon County Probate Judge Edward Lodge, who is conducting preliminary hearings, ordered the doors closed to the public as proceedings in the cases of Jack Burris, 53, Ontario, his son, Bob, 35, Weiser, and Bob MacQuarrie, Weiser, got underway Tuesday morning.

Both Burris and his son are charged with first degree murder in connection with the shooting of Roland Clark, 54, last Aug. 24 at a remote area about 80 miles east of McCall.

Authorities in Valley County said the shooting apparently involved a dispute over a mining claim. Clark died while en route to McCall by plane for treatment of wounds.

McQuarrie is charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

All three men are at liberty after posting bonds, Bail for Bob Burris was set at $5000, and for Jack Burris at $1000. McQuarrie posted $25 bond in Washington County Probate Court.
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Sept 20, 1963

CALDWELL – Probate Judge Edward Lodge of Canyon Counay said Thursday night he had taken under advisement a case involving Bob Burris, 35, of Weiser, charged with second degree murder in the fatal shooting of Roland Clark, 54, near his cabin in a remote area east of McCall.

Judge Lodge said Burris appeared before him Thursday at a continuation of a preliminary hearing started Tuesday.

Burris is free on $5000 bond, the judge reported.

The case against Jack Burris, 55, Ontario, father of Bob Burris, stemming from the same shooting, has been dismissed, the judge reported.

Also involved in the case, according to records, is Bob MacQuarrie of Weiser, charged with carrying a concealed weapon. MacQuarrie did not appear before Judge Lodge Thursday. He also is free on bond, it was reported.

Authorities said the killing apparently was the result of a dispute over a mining claim.

Young Burris was originally charged with first-degree murder but the charge was reduced, records show.

(Idaho Statesmen Archives courtesy KSG)
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Roland Clark

Birth: 1910
Death: 24 Aug 1963 (aged 52–53)
Burial: McCall Cemetery McCall, Valley County, Idaho, USA

source: Find a Grave [h/t KGS]
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The Murder Cabin

Another cabin with the somewhat dubious title of the “Murder Cabin” was at the confluence of Camp Creek and Monumental Creek. I’ll try to reconstruct its tangled history.


Claude and Elsie Taylor were the first to own (build?) the cabin. Claude hauled a stamp mill to the property from Thunder Mountain. Claude gave the cabin to Wilbur Wiles who later gave it to Ross Geiling (sp?). A man named McClure owned it next. He was a packer for the Forest Service. Frenchy LeQuay lived there next. He became ill and later died in the Cascade hospital. Since Frenchy had no money, the State attached the cabin for recompense. The State later sold it to a man named Burris. Bill (Slim) Clark claimed he owned the cabin; got into a quarrel with Burris and Burris shot him (Wiles, 2012). Clark was helicoptered to the Big Creek Ranger Station where he was transferred to a Travel Air for a flight to a hospital. He died enroute (Dodds, 2012). Burris was never prosecuted. Wilbur said “there were about five creepy guys that lived in the cabin after Burris left and one man pointed a pistol at me” (Wiles, 2012).

source: personal correspondence

see also link to Simonds history:
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“Murder” Cabin

Frenchys old cabin was behind this in a swamp

Mill at the Murder Cabin

The stamp mill was moved to a claim on the creek which was established in the 1930’s by “Slim” Clark, a trapper and prospector. The site, F- 1, is located on Camp Creek on the west side of Monumental Creek about three quarters of a mile downstream from Simonds’ place. The physical structures on the claim in addition to the ruined stamp mill, include a 20 foot square log house in good condition and fences. There are no outbuildings, the place being a purely mineral claim.

The place was the site of a shootout in the 1960’s between two parties interested in mineral wealth, an example of gold fever in the present day. “Slim” Clark had established the claim with Gil McCoy, Bill Timm and a man named “Frenchy.” Through the years the interests in the claim were sold between various parties and confusion arose as to who actually owned the cabin site. This confusion grew into a quarrel between “Slim” and a Mr. Burris who also claimed the site.

In the resulting shootout, “Slim” Clark was wounded by Burris’ son and bled to death before he could be flown to a hospital. The case was tried in Boise and thrown out of court on technicalities. Bad feelings still exist regarding this particular claim. It has not been actively worked since the trial.

– Dovel, George. Interview with John Hartung (*) and David Mann. August 15, 1977.
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Monumental Creek Claims


7. Burris placer
8. Green Jacket prospect
9. Barite prospect
10. Lower Iron Clad claims
12. Deer Creek prospect
13. Simmons placer

The district’s most extensive placers are along Monumental Creek. These are the Dovel, Simmons, Monumental Creek Ranch, and Burris placers (fig. 94, Nos. 14, 13, 19, 7), which aggregate about 400 acres. All are privately held, except for the Monumental Creek Ranch, which is owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Gold is reported to have been produced from each property, but no records are available. About 25 million cubic yards of terrace gravel are estimated to occur on these properties. Average gold content, inferred from limited sampling, is less than 1 cent per cubic yard.

Black sand concentrates consist chiefly of ferromagnesian silicate minerals and magnetite, with less than 7 percent ilmenite, less than 1 percent zircon and rutile, and a trace apatite, sphene, epidote, tourmaline, and altered pyrite.

source: pg 312 “Mineral Resources of the Idaho Primitive Area and Vicinity, Idaho” (29 meg)
By F. W. Cater, D. M. Pinckney, W. B. Hamilton, and R. L. Parker, U.S. Geological Survey, and by R. D. Weldin, T. J. Close, and N. T. Zilka, U.S. Bureau of Mines
With a section on the Thunder Mountain District By B. F. Leonard, U.S. Geological Survey, and a Section on Aeromagnetic Interpretation by W. E. Davis, U.S. Geological Survey, Studies Related to Wilderness Primitive Areas
Geological Survey Bulletin 1304 : 1973 An evaluation of the mineral potential of the area
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Camp Creek on Monumental Creek


source: Camp Creek Topo Map in Valley County ID

(*) Hartung, John A. “1978 Documentation of primitive resources In the Idaho Primitive Area, Big Creek drainage”. Unpublished thesis. University of Idaho, Forestry Department. A report documenting field inventories and oral history. Includes many photos of structures, both occupied and abandoned.

Idaho History Aug 11, 2019

Murders in Valley County

(part 2)

Murder on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Sheep Creek – Middle Fork Salmon River

Middle Fork at Sheep Creek

photo courtesy Salmon-Challis National Forest
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Dirty Deeds in the Rough

By Dick D’Easum

One of the most grisly bits of business was the killing of Julius C. Reburg (also known as Reberk and Reeberg) on the Middle Fork of Salmon River near Sheep Creek in December 1917. The shooting was the product of a triangle. Charles and Frankie Ernst had been a happy married couple. He had lived at Clayton and on Wood River. She was Frances Cooper, daughter of Tim Cooper, discoverer of the Ramshorn Mine at Bayhorse and an early settler at Stanley.

Matrimonial bliss was shattered by Reburg. He courted Frances, notwithstanding her wedding. She responded affectionately and filed for divorce. With the small son of Ernst, Frances and Julius set up housekeeping back in the bush. Boiling mad, Charles Ernst traced them. He reached the remote cabin a few days before Christmas. Reburg was outside washing his face. A rifle shot killed him. Ernst dragged the body to a haymow. That night he roped the body and buried it in a shallow grave while Frances held a candle. Then he went away with the little boy. He surrendered at Challis.

Frances stayed in the cabin a couple of weeks before going out to Three Forks and then to Salmon where Ernst was in jail with his son. The wife of the sheriff took the child home, but he screamed so much at the separation from his father she took him back to jail.

Preparations for the trial suffered a setback when it was found that the shooting took place in Valley County. Ernst and son were taken nearly 1000 roundabout miles by train to Cascade. Frances Ernst, also charged, went in another coach.

At the trial, where Ernst was represented by L. E. Glennon of Hailey and the prosecutor was Frank Kerby, Mrs. Ernst said she thought her divorce had been granted. She further suggested that she might have fired the fatal shot, not her almost-ex-husband. Both were found guilty. Charles was sentenced to ten to twenty-five years; she got five to ten. Both were pardoned after serving parts of the terms. She went to Florida.

Charles Ernst went back to prison in 1942 for assault with a deadly weapon in Lemhi County. The charge, on which he drew one to two years, was that he shot a mine manager on Napias Creek. Ernst said the miner was stealing gold from his claim at Leesburg. He blamed “a California millionaire outfit of gangsters” for robbing him of $180,000 in seventeen months.

Judge Guy Stephens, who sentenced him, said Ernst “had a bad reputation, was feared by people in his community, and was inclined to take the law into his own hands. I consider him a menace to society.”

excerpted from: pgs 118-119 “Sawtooth Tales” By Dick D’Easum (Google Books)
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Julius Reberg Murdered by Ernsts

(Abridged from “A Tale of Two Inmates” by Pamala S. Parker, “The Mountain Light/The Newsletter of the Idaho State Historical Society,” 2205 Old Penitentiary Rd, Boise, Winter-Fall 2008.)

In 1917, Charles was 30 years old and a miner. Mining was about all he knew. Frances was 24 years old and followed Charles from mine to mine. They never really had much to show for their efforts. Charles and Frances had a small son named Charles Jr. who was referred to as “Toddy.” The small Ernst family was once again on the move when Charles found a suitable location to mine and live along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Lemhi County. They lived in a tent camp when they settled and began working on the cabin. . . .

Two miles south of the Ernst tent camp on the Valley County side of the Middle Fork, was a ranch owned by a young German man named Julius Reberg. Julius was a hard worker and had a nice cabin, a barn, an out-building, cattle and horses. He stopped by to visit with Charles and Frances from time to time. . .

Soon Julius offered Frances a real house to live in and protection from her husband, with the agreement that she would get a divorce from Charles.

In November of 1917, Frances and Charles divorced in Challis. Charles was given custody of Toddy. The divorce must have been exactly what both of them needed. The day before the divorce, they went to the picture show. A couple of days afterwards, they had dinner together and were seen in “friendly” conversation.

During this time, it is believed Frances and Charles may have come up with a scheme. Charles, being the ever-loving ex-husband, helped form a plan that would not only see that Frances had a warm place for the winter, but perhaps even he and Toddy would as well.

Frances had two men vying for her attention. She headed to Julius’ ranch to become his new bride. What Julius didn’t know was Frances had a contingency plan.

A month passed, and Frances still did not have a ring on her finger. She went to the backup plan and convinced Julius to sign his place over to her. She explained to Julius that it would look really bad for a single woman to be living at a single man’s place, but that it would be very reasonable for a single woman to have a man living at her place to help with chores. Julius agreed.

In the next step of the plan, Frances would write a letter to notify Charles she received the bill of sale. This letter was to be “coded,” where only Charles and Frances would understand what it said, She was also to inform him if she was still under Julius’s influence and if she had killed him. Frances wrote her coded letter. Charles did not completely understand everything Frances tried to communicate to him. True to her nature. Frances started adding codes to her letter that Charles either never knew, or did not remember.

Charles was sufficiently confused with the complete meaning of the letter, but he understood that Julius had signed over the property and he was still alive. Charles headed to Julius’ ranch. On his way to the cabin, he stopped by the hardware store in Challis to purchase a rifle. Charles had lived in the area without a rifle, but on the 15th of December, 1917, he felt he needed one.

Charles arrived at Julius’ ranch the following day. After the sunset, he crept close enough to the cabin to see through the windows. Charles lingered outside for at least a half an hour, intruding into the private lives of Frances and Julius.

The following morning the sun broke through the clouds as Julius stepped out onto the porch, to wash for breakfast in the wash basin. Frances testified that the next thing she knew, she heard a rifle ringing out, and Julius stumbled into the cabin and collapsed on the floor. Charles and Frances both left Julius there to die. This was estimated to have taken about ten to fifteen minutes.

Charles version differed. He said that he held Julius at gun point, disarmed him and ordered him to release Frances from the hypnotic trance he had kept her in for the past few months. After Charles was satisfied Frances was no longer under Julius’ control, Charles took the shells out of his rifle, put them in his pocket and handed the gun to Frances. Charles claimed that Frances, standing directly behind him, shot Julius. He was certain the gun was empty when he handed it to her. He was also confident she did not kill Julius with an empty gun. The only explanation he could come up with was that he may have left a shell in by mistake or she picked up one he had dropped while putting them in his pocket.

Either way, it didn’t appear Frances was terribly shook up about Julius’ death, and Charles’ main concern was removing the body from the cabin so that he could rest and have breakfast. They drug Julius’ body out to the haymow and covered it with hay. Later that night, they dug a shallow grave and buried him.

Charles left the cabin a couple days later. He made his way back to Clayton eventually, where Toddy was staying with friends. He made a point to tell people along the way a story he had conceived, that Julius had “run off.”

Frances stayed at the cabin for about three more weeks and then made her way into Challis, notifying the authorities that Julius had been shot. Julius’ family was notified of his death, and his brother and brother-in-law came from Minnesota to take his body back home.

The murder investigation was assigned to Valley County. Charles was questioned initially and released. Frances went to stay with her folks who had retired in Florida. Charles soon remarried. Valley County charged Charles with Julius’ murder on July 21. 1919, and placed him under arrest. Frances agreed to return to Valley County, where she would plead guilty to charges for her part in the murder and would be a witness for the state.

Frances arrived in Cascade before the trial began. She was “guarded” by Valley County Sheriff, E.A. Smith. Sheriff Smith must have taken his duties very seriously, because he was seen all over town with Frances. He was seen guarding her at the lake, the picture show and other places of interest around town. A lot of the town’s people thought he was definitely going above and beyond the call of duty.

Just before the trial. Charles talked Sheriff Smith into letting him go to the Mitchell Hotel where Frances was being held. Sheriff Smith complied with Charles’ request, even though he knew this was not exactly appropriate. Charles hoped to talk Frances into taking the rap on the murder. Sheriff Smith hoped to overhear a confession from Charles. Everyone had his or her own agenda.

One of the new fangled Dictaphone machines was brought in. The voice transmitter end was placed in Frances’ room and the telephone-style receiving portion was placed in an adjacent room. This failed miserably. The technology was not advanced enough to allow those in the next room to hear the conversation well. More meetings were arranged, and on the last attempt they made a 12-inch square hole in the wall connecting the two rooms. On Frances’ side of the wall, a curtain was hung to hide this hole. In the adjoining room, a man sat in a chair and poked his head through into Frances’ room, concealed by the wall covering to listen for a confession. This also failed to yield a confession.

Charles was found guilty of second-degree murder and was sentenced to serve ten to twenty-five years; he was pardoned after two and a half years. Frances pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to serve five to ten years. Frances served four and a half years of her sentence before she was paroled.

Toddy was five at the time of the trial. When his parents were taken to the Idaho State Penitentiary, he was placed in the Children’s Home, just down the road from where his parents were incarcerated. Charles’ sister and her husband agreed to take guardianship of Toddy. After spending about one year in the Children’s Home, Toddy was put on a train to Washington. Toddy remembered it differently. He remembered he “ran away” front the Children’s Home. No doubt he thought about it many times while he was there and it became his reality.

Days after Charles’ conviction, his second wife filed for divorce. Shortly after being released from the penitentiary, he married for a third time. Toddy was finally able to be with his father again. Charles and his third wife had two children together, so Toddy had siblings.

In 1942, Charles was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to commit murder. He was once again a guest at the Idaho State Penitentiary. This crime was committed over a property dispute. The man he shot was paralyzed from his wound. The warden stated that he felt Charles Ernst was a “menace to society” and was inclined to “take the law into his own hands.” Charles died in 1945, shortly after being released the last time from the penitentiary.

After Frances’ release, she went back to Florida to stay with her folks. They did not treat her kindly and reminded her that she was an ex-con. In 1938, her son tried to locate her and a missing persons report was created. The FBI notified the Idaho authorities in 1944 that Frances Cooper was living in Vancouver, Washington. It s not known if Frances ever remarried, but she did have a daughter named Ruth. Frances came back to Idaho in the 1960s, and in 1971 died from leukemia.

(1) “A Tale of Two Inmates” by Pamala S Parker, “The Mountain Light/The Newsletter of the Idaho State Historical Society,” 2205 Old Penitentiary Rd, Boise, Winter-Fall 2008
(2) Smith, Don Ian and Naida West, Murder on the Middle Fork (Rancho Murieta : Bridge House Books, 2005)

source: Back Country History Project complied by Sharon McConnel
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Murder on the Middle Fork at Sheep Creek.


Mile 65.5 Sheep Creek on the left

Every river canyon seems to have a murder mystery: Hells Canyon has one, so does the Main Salmon. The murder on the Middle Fork occurred at Sheep Creek.

Charles Ernst was not the kind of man you could take lightly; he would just as soon settle a quarrel with a gun. He would kill mountain sheep in the winter, drag them across the road, and hang them up in front of his house in Challis. All the game warden, Tom Donahue, could say was, “There’s no way to talk to that man. If I go up there it’s kill or be killed.”

Old Bill Sullivan was trapping at the Cinnabar mine one winter and got into an argument with Ernst. Charlie went for his rifle in the cabin corner and Bill had to throw a pan of hot gravy in his face. After that no whiskers grew on one side of Charlie’s face, and he used to tell young Bill Sullivan, “Look at what your Dad did to me; I should have killed the son-of-a-bitch.”

Charlie was born in 1887 at Halley, Idaho. He married Frances Cooper who was a few years younger than he. They had a son named Todd. When the baby was a year old the Ernsts left Challis to take the Loon Creek trail down to the Middle Fork country. They planned to prospect for a while. It was the spring of 1917. They worked their way downriver to Sheep Creek.

A young man lived in a cabin there. His name was Julius C. “Jake” Reberk and he came from Ohio. He had a few horses and was raising hay on the flat. He also had an inconsequential placer claim up the creek. Reberk’s only problem was the fact that he was a “slacker” from World War I. He had come to Sheep Creek in 1914 and hoped that military officialdom would simply forget all about him.

Charlie and Frances looked his place over and must have decided they would not mind owning it. A conspiracy probably occurred. Ernst headed back to Challis, leaving his wife on the Reberk place. But things must not have gone as he planned.

Frances seems to have taken a liking to Reberk, for she divorced Charles in October. She sent her ex-husband a note giving him custody of their child subject only to his properly providing for the baby. But it may have been only a ruse.

In December she sent a coded message to Charlie: “I’ve killed a coyote but the pelt isn’t prime.” Charlie headed down to Sheep Creek. He arrived in time for breakfast and tied his horse by the big white rock. Reberk was washing his face at a pan on the porch. The two men exchanged “good mornings.”

What happened next was a matter of controversy never satisfactorily unraveled. Frances claimed she heard a shot and Reberk staggered in with a bullet hole in his back and dropped on the floor. Charlie said Frances shot Jake on the porch and he stayed to help her bury him because she had been his wife and the mother of his child.

Charlie went back to Challis and Frances stayed at Sheep Creek.

No one is certain how the killing came to be discovered. Sullivan said that a ranger, possibly Ned Foster, came in to check on Jake’s draft status. Frances kept saying he was gone fishing, but after a day and a half broke down and showed him the body, claiming Charlie was responsible.

The Lemhi County sheriff and coroner from Salmon investigated. Charles Ernst was then arrested and held for the Valley County sheriff, F. C. Sherrill.

That sheriff had to travel 800 miles by train to Salmon to pick up his man and 800 miles back. It was only about 100 miles in a straight line, but by train through Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Armstead, Montana, and Salmon, it was a long trip. Frances came on the next train.

Judge L. S. Kimball held the preliminary hearing at Cascade in January, 1918. Ernst was placed on parole for a year and a half. He worked in various Long Valley logging camps, remarried and had another son.

Frances had gone to Tampa, Florida, to live with her parents. Her absence was undoubtedly the reason for Ernst’s parole, since she was the state’s chief witness. It is believed that at a revival meeting in Florida she suddenly “got religion.” She wrote a letter to F.M. Kerby, Valley County prosecuting attorney:


Ed Smith, sheriff of Valley County, went after her.

But something happened to Frances on her way to Idaho. She may even have fallen in love again. In any event, when she took the stand in July of 1919 she again reversed herself and said that Charlie, her former husband, had shot Jake.

Charles F. Reddoch was the trial judge, sitting on the bench of the Third Judicial District at Cascade. Raymond B. Ayers was the prosecuting attorney and L.E. Glennon of Salmon represented Ernst. The state based its prosecution on the theory that a conspiracy existed between the man and woman against the life and property of Reberk. At the trial a bill of sale for the Sheep Creek improvements for $300 to Frances from Reberk was revealed. The bill wasn’t dated and she had never paid him, but it must have been executed in October or November. Charlie maintained his innocence.

On August 15, 1919, the Cascade paper headlined the jury’s verdict: Charles Ernst guilty of second-degree murder. He was sentenced from 10 to 15 years in the Idaho penitentiary at Boise.

The state promptly filed a manslaughter charge against Frances Ernst. She was found guilty and sentenced to not less than five nor more than 10 years. Both Frances and Charlie were admitted to the prison on the same day.


A guilty conscience is its own accuser. Once in her cell, Frances confessed that she had committed the murder. Charlie appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. He was pardoned on July 30, 1921, having served almost two years. But his problems were not over.

Ernst went to work haying for Old Bill Sullivan. They got into an argument when Charlie said the American flag “wasn’t no good” and they soon had the hay wagon overturned.

Charlie went back to the Middle Fork and moved into the Mormon Ranch cabin. Billy Wilson owned the place and rode 20 miles down there to tell him to leave. On the way he thought it over and decided he’d better let old Charlie alone. Ernst starved out and moved to Leesburg.

At Leesburg he found some rich gold placering ground. There was a company working the claim next to his and Charlie told the man, “Whatever you do, don’t ever get on my land.” If the fellow had known Charlie better he would have heeded his words. As it was, the man’s son turned his Cat around on Charlie’s claim one afternoon and Charlie shot the boy though the hips. Then he walked over and said, “I thought I shot a deer.” Charles Alfred Ernst was again received at the Boise penitentiary in October, 1942. He was released 10 months later, dying of tuberculosis.

One night soon after his release he came to visit his old friend, Bill Sullivan. They talked most of the night. He planned to leave in the morning but Mrs. Sullivan insisted he stay while she made him a cake for his birthday. He died two days later in Salmon.

Frances Cooper Ernst was paroled in July of 1923 and pardoned the following April. From Florida she had asked the Board of Pardons for permission to remarry and leave the country.

John Bernston, brother-in-law of Billy Wilson, lived on the Mormon Ranch several years before moving to Sheep Creek. He farmed Sheep Creek for horse hay and acquired title in 1920.

from: pgs 111-116 “Middle Fork and the Sheepeater War” by Johnny Carrey & Cort Conley 1980
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Sheep Creek Topo

Sheep Creek, Middle Fork Salmon River, Valley County, Idaho

source: TopoZone Valley County Map Software
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Charles Ernst – Killing of Julius Reberk

Cascade News 1918 – 1924

Killing on Sheep Creek

Charles Ernest Held at Salmon City for Shooting Julius Reberk

Valley County Sheriff Goes After Prisoner.

Cascade News January 18, 1918 Volume III Number 43

Julius Reberk was killed by Charles Ernest on Sheep Creek, in Valley county, about 80 miles northeast of Cascade near the Lemhi county line, some time in December. Ernest is now in jail at Salmon City, awaiting the arrival of Sheriff F. C. Sherrill of Valley county, who started for Salmon City Tuesday morning to bring the prisoner to Cascade where his preliminary hearing will be held.

The telegram, which was received by the authorities at this place Sunday evening, did not give any of the particulars of the tragedy, not even the date upon which the killing took place.

It is not expected that the sheriff will be able to make the trip to Salmon City and back much short of ten days.
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Preliminary Hearing of Charles Earnest

Cascade News January 25, 1918 Volume III Number 44

Sheriff F. C. Sherrill returned Monday evening from Salmon City, county seat of Lemhi county, with Charles Earnest, charged with the killing Julius Reberk, by shooting, at Reberk’s residence on Sheep Creek in Valley county on the 18th of December.

Earnest is having his preliminary hearing before Probate Judge Kimball at this place today. At the hour of putting this number of the News on they press, the divorced wife of the prisoner, who was the first witness called for the State, had not concluded her testimony.

There are several witnesses yet to be examined.

The prisoner, a man of about 31 years of age, was accompanied to Cascade by his 4-year old son. He was divorced from his wife last November and the killing is claimed to have been the sequel of family troubles.

It is said that the divorced wife of Earnest testified against him at the coroner’s inquest, furnishing the principal evidence upon which the answer to the charge of murder.
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Sheriff Goes to Florida

Cascade News April 18, 1919 Volume V Number 4

Sheriff Edward A. Smith took his departure Wednesday morning for Ybor City, Florida, to bring back to Valley county Mrs. Earnst, who was principal witness for the State at the preliminary trial of Charles Earnst, her divorced husband, charged with the killing of Julius Reberk, on Sheep Creek in the extreme eastern portion of Valley county on Dec. 18, 1917. The case is expected to come to trial at the next term of the district court.

Craig Smith is acting as deputy sheriff during the sheriff’s absence from the county.
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Murder Trial Set for Thursday, July 31

Cascade News July 25, 1919 Volume V Number 18

Judge Charles F. Reddoch will convene an adjourned session of district court for Valley county on Tuesday next, July 29th.

The trial of Charles Ernst, charged with the killing of Julius Reberk, on Sheep Creek, in the extreme eastern portion of this county on December 18th, 1917, has been set for trial on Thursday, July 31st.

Frances Cooper, the divorced wife of Ernst, who was the principal witness for the State at the preliminary trial, and who is now also being hold to answer a similar charge to that against her former husband, will be placed on triad immediately following the conclusion of the case against Charles Ernst.

Prosecuting Attorney R. B. Ayers returned home last Saturday from Lamhi county where he spent several days investigating the evidence in connection with the cases.
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Charles Ernst Trial is Set for Monday

Cascade News August 1 1919 Volume V Number 19

Judge Charles F. Reddoch and Irving Smith, official court stenographer, arrived Sunday evening from Boise and district court was convened Menday morning.

The first day was devoted to the hearing of motions and demrrers, and the dismissal of what was commonly known as the Donnelly-Roseberry “Dog Case,” which was settled by agreement of parties, the defendant paying the costs.

The case State vs. Charles Ernst, charged with murder, was set for Monday owing to the fact that defendant’s attorney and witnesses had not arrived from Lemhi county. The jurors in attendance were excused until Monday and the court ordered 47 additional jurors to be drawn and Fred Driggs was appointed by Judge Reddoch as special deputy to summon the jurors, as both the sheriff and coroner were disqualified by having been indorsed (sic) on the information by the State as witnesses in the case. It is believed the trial will consume most of the week.
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Trial of Charles Ernst

Absorbing Interest of Community

Will Not be Concluded Before Monday or Tuesday of Next Week.

Frances Cooper Testifies for the State Against Her Former Husband

Defendant Placed on the Witness Stand in Own Behalf.

Cascade News August 8, 1919 Volume V Number 20

The trial of Charles Ernst who was charted with the murder of Julius Reberk in Valley county on December, 1917, is now in progress and will probably not be concluded before Monday or Tuesday of next week.

The state is represented by Prosecuting Attorney R. B. Ayers of Valley county, and the defendant by L. E. Glennon of Salmon City and T. S. Risser of Boise.

A jury for the trial of the case was secured just before the noon adjournment of court on Tuesday, after the examination of about seventy men who had been summoned.

The jury is as follows: James Darkwood, Fred Hall, F. H. Wallace, B. E. Himler, Thomas Moore, P. G. Hanson, William Barker, Edwarad Cole, W. A. Spickelmire, Douglas Yenson, Shelby Connor, W. A. Bean.

There has been in attendance thirty witnesses for the State and six for the defense, most of them from Lemhi county.

Frances Cooper, divorced wife of Charles Ernst and against whom a charge of murder is also pending, was the principal witness for the state. She related in a thrilling recital the circumstances of the killing of Reberk by the defendant, the burial of the body at night and subsequent developments that resulted in Ernst being arrested for the crime. Upon cross examination, a letter written by the witness while in Florida, in which she confessed that she, instead of Ernst, fired the fatal shot that ended Reberk’s life, was introduced by the defense.

The evidence on the part of the prosecution closed at noon Wednesday.

Counsel for the defense placed Ernst on the stand Wednesday afternoon, who has testified that Frances Cooper, his former wife, shot Reberk, relating at length his presence at the Reberk place at the time of the tragedy and his subsequent determination and efforts to shield the woman from the consequences of her crime because she was the mother of his child.

Ernst is under cross-examination at the time this brief account of the trial is being put in type.

The attendance at the trial has been so large every day that the seating capacity of the small room which court is being held will but little more than accommodate the ladies preset.
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Second Degree Murder

Verdict of Jury in the Charles Ernst Trial

Frances Ernst Pleads Guilty to Charge of Manslaughter.

Charles Ernst Sentenced to Serve from 10 to 25 Years in State Penitentiary and His Former Wife Given 5 to 10 Years.

Cascade News August 15, 1919 Volume V Number 21

In the gray dawn of Tuesday morning, when the jury filed into the court room and delivered a verdict of murder in the second degree, against Charles Ernst, charged with killing Julius Reberk in this county on the 18th day of December, 1917, there ended one of the most remarkable murder trials that has ever been held in Idaho.

The hearing of the evidence was concluded Saturday. Arguments by County Attorney Ayers for the prosecution and L. E. Glennon of Salmon City, and I. S. Risser of Boise, representing the defendant, occupied the day Monday. Judge Charles F. Reddoch finished reading the instructions of the court to the jury a little after eight o’clock Monday evening and the twelve men upon whose verdict depended the future of Charles Ernst, retired for their deliberations.

The jury having arrived at a verdict at 4 o’clock Tuesday morning, at 4 o’clock Tuesday morning, Judge Reddoch was called from his bed and going to the court room ordered the jury brought in, when the following verdict was delivered by F. H. Wallace, foreman and read by the clerk:

“We the jury, find the defendant guilty of murder in the second degree.”

There were only present when the verdict of the jury was received, the court officers, counsel in the case and the defendant.

Upon dismissal of the jury, Judge Reddoch announced that a recess would be taken until four o’clock in the afternoon.

Upon the reconvening of court Tuesday afternoon, the defendants attorneys waived their right of further procedure in the case, whereupon the court pronounced sentence upon Charles Ernst, committing him to the state penitentiary for not less than 10 nor more than 25 years.

Following immediately upon the passing of sentence upon Charles Ernst, her former husband, against whom she had testified as principal witness for the State, Frances Ernst, was arraigned upon a complaint filed within the previous hour by the prosecuting attorney, charging her with the crime of “manslaughter.”

Being informed by the court of her right to be represented, by counsel and statutory time she might demand, the defendant promptly waived such right and expressed a desire to plead to the charge filed against her. The complaint then being read by the clerk, the defendant entered & plea of guilty.

Prosecuting Attorney Ayers then addressed the court briefly, calling attention to the fact that the State had depended upon the evidence of Frances Ernst to secure a conviction of Charles Ernst, referring the court to the usual practice, as he understood it, of courts in such cases.

The judgment of the court was then pronounced upon the defendant, Frances Ernst, that she be sentenced to the state penitentiary for a period of not less than five nor more than ten years.

The prisoners were taken by Sheriff Smith to Boise on Wednesday morning’s train, to been serving their sentences.

The crime for which Charles Ernst and his former wife Frances Ernst are now paying the penalty, was committed at, the Reberk ranch in the far eastern peet of Valley county on the morning of the 18th day of December, 1917. Frances Ernst, known as Frances Cooper, from whom Charles Ernst had obtained a divorce only a few weeks before, was living with Reberk in his isolated cabin on Sheep creek where the killing took place.

It was not until almost a month later that an investigation of the sudden disappearance of Reberk from the community resulted in a confession from the woman that Charles Ernst had committed the murder and that the dead man had been buried at night in a nearby field. She subsequently told where the body had been buried and related the gruesome particulars of the tragedy in detail.

The arrest of Charles Ernst followed at Challis, Idaho, a few days later. He was turned over to the sheriff of Valley county and had his preliminary hearing before Probate Judge L. S. Kimball at this place on the 25th of January, 1918, which resulted in his being held for trial on the charge of murder.

During more than two years following he was practically at liberty, working in the logging camps at this place and McCall, reporting to the sheriff from time to time.

He contracted a second marriage during the past winter. His present wife has a son about the same age as the son of his former marriage, who is now five years old.

Frances Ernst, whose evidence, strongly supported by corroborative testimony, resulted in the conviction of Charles Ernst, left the state shortly after the preliminary trial, going to the home of her parents at Tampa, Florida.

During the past winter she wrote letters to P. M. Kerby, former prosecuting attorney, revealing her place of residence, making a confession that it was she, instead of her former husband, killed Reberk, and offering to return to Idaho and accept the consequences of the crime, if a railroad ticket and money for other traveling expenses should be sent of her.

At that time she repudiated the truth of these statements and testified along the same lines as at the first examination more than two years ago, when her evidence resulted in Ernst being held for the crime. Some time later Sheriff Smith was given expense money by the commissioners of Valley county and brought the woman back.

When placed on the witness stand in his own defense Ernst admitted that he was present and witnessed the killing of Reberk, said he was covering the man with a revolver in defense of his own person, when the woman fired the shot that ended Reberk’s life.

He admitted that he remained at the cabin with the woman two day(s) and nights after the killing and said he had afterwards tried to shield her because she had been his wife and was the mother of his child.

The prosecution based its case largely upon the theory that a conspiracy existed between the man and woman against the life and property of Reberk, introducing code letters that passed between them and other circumstantial evidence in support of that contention.

The State used 14 witnesses, those from Lemhi having traveled nearly 600 miles coming and going. The cost of the trial to Valley county will be approximately $5,000.
— — —

Ernst Case Appealed

Cascade News October 10, 1919 Volume V Number 29

Notice has been served on Prosecuting Attorney Ayers of Valley county, that an appeal has been taken to the Supreme Court, in the matter of Charles Ernst, who was convicted at the August term of District Court of the murder of Julius Reberk.
— — —

Ernst Asks for Review of His Case

Cascade News May 21, 1920 Volume VI Number 9

Attorneys for Charles Ernst filed transcripts Saturday in the supreme court asking that body to make a review of the case. Ernst was convicted by a jury in the district court of Valley county, Judge Charles B. Reddoch presiding, of murder in the second degree, on August 12, 1919, having been charged with killing Julius Reberk on December 18, 1917. Emst is now serving a sentence of 10 to 25 years in the state penitentiary.
— — —

Frances Ernst Makes Another Confession

Now Says that She Fired the Shot That Killed Reberk.

Stories of Ernsts Materially Differ.

Cascade News April 15, 1921 Volume VIII Number 4

The state board of pardons Tuesday refused to grant pardons to Charles and Frances Ernst, formerly husband and wife, who are serving time in the Idaho penitentiary for the murder of Julius Reberk in the extreme eastern part of Valley county in December, 1917. Both applications are to be held over by the board until the July meeting. The decision of the board followed an all-day meeting in which varying confessions concerning the killing were taken from Mr. and Mrs. Ernst.

Mr. Ernst was sent to the penitentiary from Valley county in August, 1919 on the testimony of his former wife, who said that her husband was guilty of the killing.

Mrs. Ernst was incarcerated in the penitentiary on her own plea of guilty to a charge of manslaughter and appeared before the board but refused to tell her story in the absence of the governor.

Subsequently during the session Wednesday morning in the governor’s office Mrs. Ernst confessed that she had done the killing and that her testimony to a Valley county jury to the effect that her husband was the guilty one was not true.

Mt. Ernst appeared before the board at the penitentiary in the afternoon but refrained from talking much because his attorney was not present. The story that he told, however, to members of the board about certain events is at variance with what his wife told concerning the same incidents. He asked that he be allowed to fully present his case at the July meeting of the board.

T. S. Risser, a Boise attorney, who defended Charles Ernst in his trial, also made a statement before the board when it was in session in the governor’s office. He referred to two letters written by Mrs. Ernst from Florida, where she went after the preliminary hearing of the ease against Charles Ernst was held at this place.

These letters were addressed to F. M. Kerby of Cascade who had formerly been prosecuting attorney of Valley county. In each of these, according to Mr. Risser’s statement, she said she killed Reberk and in the second she gave all the details.

“Mr. Lisser also mentioned a fact,” says the Statesman’s report, “which in the opinion of the pardon board, is the key to the whole difficulty. When Mrs. Ernst came back from Florida to participate in the trial of her husband, it it alleged that a certain officer influenced her to try to ‘stick’ her husband so she would get off lightly.”

In her confession before the pardon board Mrs. Ernst gave an account of herself and husband homesteading in a wild and almost inaccessible part of Lemhi county. She described her life there as a “prison.” Reberk finally came along and after becoming acquainted with Mrs. Ernst told her that if she would divorce her husband he would marry her. This, she said, she did and went to live with Reberk, who refused to marry her. Ernst heard where his former wife was and went to Reberk’s cabin, arriving on the day that Reberk and Mrs. Ernst were having a quarrel.

At this point the story as told by the two inmates of the penitentiary varies. Mrs. Ernst says that Reberk went out of the cabin, saw Ernst outside and same back threatening to kill her for telling her former husband where she was. He reached for a rifle from the wall and a scuffle ensued in which she took the weapon away from him and the two scuffled outs the door together into the yard. Here, according to Mrs. Ernst, she freed herself from Reberk and in a stooping position fired at him without placing the rifle to her shoulder.

Her husband’s story of this incident is entirely different. He confessed to the pardon board that he gave his wife a rifle after she and Reberk came from the house. He stated, however, that he thought he took all the cartridges from the magazine but carelessly must have over looked one. He says that the shot from which Reberk died was fired from behind him as he was advancing toward Reberk.

Charles Ernst will be represented at his hearing before the state pardon board in July by Attorney D. 14. Cox of Cascade, who has been retained in the case.
— — —

Frances Ernst Pardoned

Cascade News April 11, 1924 Volume X Number 3

At the April meeting of the State pardon board. Frances Ernst, who plead guilty to manslaughter in galley county in August 1919, was granted a pardon.

She wishes to marry and leave the country.

source: “Crime: Murder – Reberk, Julius” City of McCall archives
(Note: Spellings are how they appeared)

Link to Valley County Murders Part 1

Idaho History Aug 4, 2019

Murders in Valley County

(part 1)

McCall / Yellow Pine / Big Creek

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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

(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.
— — —

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:
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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

Idaho History July 28, 2019

Idaho Women on Jury Duty


First Women on Jury Duty and in the Legislature in Idaho

by Evan Filby

All-woman Jury – Library of Congress

On October 4, 1897, Idaho saw its first trial in which women sat on the jury – they having been granted equal suffrage the year before. Quoting historian Hiram T. French: “The women who, with W. R. Cartwright and R. F. Cooke, served on this jury were Mrs. R. E. Green, Miss Frances Wood, Mrs. Boyakin, and Mrs. E. J. Pasmore.”

All the women included in that first jury had been active in the Idaho women’s suffrage campaign. Mrs. Richard E. Green owned the Meridian Creamery. Her husband was a trained civil engineer, managed the Ridenbaugh Canal for a time, and had business interests in Boise and Nampa.

Miss Frances Wood was very active in various Boise social and civic-improvement organizations, and served for many years as Deputy Clerk for Ada County. She also campaigned for the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote nation-wide.

Mrs. Boyakin’s husband was Adoniren J. “Jud” Boyakin. A long-time newspaperman, Jud had come to Idaho in 1864, originally working at the Idaho Statesman. From around 1877 until his death in 1899, he was owner and editor of the Idaho Democrat newspaper in Boise.

Mrs. Edward J. Pasmore worked in the advertising department for the Women’s Edition of the Idaho Statesman. Her husband, Professor Pasmore, taught music and singing, and had given speeches supporting women’s suffrage.

The trial they sat for involved a suit brought by Dr. Richard M. Fairchild against the Ada County Commissioners. He had billed the County $125 for an inquest and an autopsy he had performed. They had refused to pay the full amount, offering him just $25. An earlier trial had ended in an impasse, so the judge directed that a mixed jury be assembled for a new attempt.

The Idaho Statesman reported on the trial the next day, October 5, 1897. The panel selected Mrs. Green as their Foreman. The results showed their inexperience, but also a deep concern for law and justice. After over six hours of deliberation, they emerged and Green told the judge they could not agree. When she briefly described the problem, with some key details, the judge said, “You must not disclose the nature of your deliberations.”

Mrs. Green replied, “Well, that is the way we stand.”

According to the Statesman, “Miss Wood spoke up, saying it all hinged on one point.” There was some confusion about what evidence the county had actually presented. It seemed to boil down to the County Attorney’s opinion that “the services were not worth so much.” After some thought, the judge observed that “the county had introduced no witnesses” so there really was “no evidence on its side.”

Minutes later the panel returned from another session in the jury room and awarded the doctor the full amount.

Aside from immediately serving on juries, women quickly tested their newly-won vote. In 1898, three women – Clara Campbell, Hattie Noble, and Mary Wright – won election to the Idaho House of Representatives. They did not serve a second term, and it was not until 1915 that another female was elected.

source: South Fork Companion
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Women Pioneers, Silver City, Idaho


Twelve women posed on a porch. They appear to be part of an organization or club as several are wearing similar jackets-perhaps to indicate rank within the organization-and ornamental pins. Three of the women are identified as Julie Allen, Maud Lewis (Carruthers) and Alice Townsend.

source: Idaho State Historical Society
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The Owyhee Nugget, Silver City, Idaho, 1908-01-03

First Woman Jury Impaneled at De Lamar

The Weiser Signal copies a dispatch from Denver, reading as follows:

Dec. 21. [1907] – It took six good women and true just ten minutes in Justice Carlon’s court to find for plaintiff in the now celebrated case of Victor Porel against Mrs. James W. Wallwork. Besides being the first case ever tried before a woman jury, first in all the history of the world, the action had other highly interesting features.

The case was a suit case. Victor Porel, “tailor to gentlewomen,” as his sign says, made $60 suit for Mrs. Wallwork, which she alleged, did not fit and refused to pay for. He sued for his money and when the suit was fitted in court, the women jurors pronounced it a “lovely fit.”

The Signal then goes on to say:

The above dispatch sent out from Denver appeared in the Oregonian last Sunday. The main importance of the item is that it was the first woman jury ever impaneled to try a case, and this is a mistake. The first female jury that ever graced a court room was impaneled in Weiser on Monday, April 18, 1898, in Judge Mitchell’s court. The jury was composed of Mrs. J. H. Hanthorn, Mrs. N. M. Hanthorn, Mrs. Shaire, Mrs. N. B. Robertson, Mrs. Frank Hopkins and Miss Frances Galloway, and any of the ladies you ask about it will have a faint recollection of the matter.

The case itself was a difference between two neighbors who fell out about some fruit jars and some sewing. In the argument that followed one of the women, a Mrs Abshire, received an upper cut on the point of the jaw and had her assailant, a Mrs. Smith, arrested. She was hauled into court before Judge Mitchell and called for a jury. At the suggestion of I. F. Smith, Dan Kerfoot, the sheriff, secured a jury composed entirely of women. Frank Harris, the present prosecutor, prosecuted the prisoner and C. M. Stearns appeared in her defense. After a long and solemn deliberation the prisoner was declared not guilty by the jury who recommended that she and the complainant both be reprimanded. The case caused considerable stir at the time and many different stories were printed over the state concerning it.

Whoever sent out the Denver dispatch must certainly be very young or a new comer to the west, as any western paper of date will show it and a glance through their files will refresh them.

Both the Denver dispatch and the Weiser Signal are wrong.

The first case tried by a woman jury and where both the complaining witness and the defendant and all the jurors were women was tried at De Lamar, this county, November 18, 1897.

Mrs. M. G. Stiles was the complaining witness and Mrs. Litetia Reagan the defendent. The editor of Nugget was then a justice of the peace in De Lamar, and the trial was brought in his court.

The charge was for disturbing the peace. The two women had a quarrel about chickens in their adjoining door-yards in the lower town of De Lamar, then known as “Toughtown” which ended in the defendent being accused of throwing rocks and the complaining witness bringing out a rifle and admitting in court that she told the other woman she could “pick a hair out of her head with it.”

James W. Pascoe, the only one of the parties not now living, was deputy sheriff at the time, and when the trial came up and a jury trial was called for he was handed a summons, when he asked if women were eligible to serve and the J. P. said, “certainly.”

“Then I will get women’s righters,” he replied. Whereupon he summoned Mesdames Morgan Keltner, Francis Crosson, Mary Morgan, Grace Somerville, Verna Lee, and Catherine Franks, who all promptly came into court and were sworn in as jurors.

The little court room was literally packed with onlookers. The judge then called upon the sheriff and admonished him to see to it that the strictest order was maintained, and it was done. No trial ever was held when stricter decorum prevailed. Six witnesses – all women, were examined, and the complaining witness made a short plea, and the case was given to the jury.

There being no room to which they could retire to make up their verdict, the court room was cleared and they locked in and told to rap on the window for the sheriff when they reached a decision.

Forty minutes afterward court was again called and a verdict reading, “We the jury find the defendant not guilty as charged. The judge discharged the defendent, thanked the jury and made each of them out a certificate for their pay. Some of the ladies, we believe, still retain those certificates as souvenirs of the first women’s jury.

source: The Owyhee Nugget [h/t SMc]
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Idaho Pioneer Women


unknown woman, unknown location or date.

courtesy Bruce Longmore on FB:
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Twin Falls’ First Female Jury Decides 1912 Case

Twin Falls News September 26, 1912, December 5, 1912

Whether or not women could lawfully serve on Idaho juries was still unclear in the early 20th century. A holdover from Territorial law stated that a trial jury consisted of a “body of men.” Yet, the 1896 Suffrage Amendment to the Idaho Constitution held that women citizens were qualified electors, suggesting that they could also serve on juries. Individual women are known to have served on Idaho juries by 1897. In Twin Falls, the first recorded all-female jury was selected in 1912 in the court of Probate Judge James W. Shields.

The case involved a female defendant, Mrs. Edward Bolts, who lived on a ranch northwest of Twin Falls. She was charged with drawing a revolver on fellow rancher Arthur J. Requa and striking him with the gun. Requa had purchased the Bolts farm and was preparing to assume possession in early 1913.

On the day of the incident, he went to the farm with his wife and son to drop off some produce, which he intended to store at his new property. As he headed for the root cellar with a box of apples, Mrs. Bolts came from the house brandishing a revolver. She was adamant that he could not store goods on the property, while he claimed they had an agreement allowing him to store his belongings at the farm until he took possession. In the ensuing argument, Bolts struck Requa with the gun, but later denied that she pointed the gun at him. Requa left the scene, went into town, and filled a complaint against Bolts.

The case came to trial in the court of Judge Shields and was prosecuted by County Attorney Alden R. Hicks. Bolts was represented by William P. Guthrie, and claimed self-defense. The most notable aspect of the case, however, was the jury of six local women who found Bolts guilty of the charges. In honor of the auspicious occasion, the Amos Studio took a photograph of the court scene with the female jurors. The photo was planned “to hang in the halls of justice” as a memorial to the woman jurors.

Idaho Legal History Society Newsletter, Summer 2013

source: ID AHGP [h/t SMc]
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Jury of Women Hearing Case in Justice CourtChickenThieves1-a

Evening Capital News, Dec. 17, 1912

The Fate of Two Men Charged With Stealing Chickens to Be Decided by Six Women.

Woman’s Jury Selected.
Mrs. Caddie M. Bates.
Mrs. Eva Hunt Dockery.
Mrs. Gralow.
Mrs. W. S. Chipp.
Mrs. John Fackson.
Mrs. John W. Veatch.

By dinner time this evening, the fate of F. J. Robinson and Fred D. Meilcke, charged upon complaint of Ernest L. Avery with the theft of two fowls on the morning of Dec. 15, will be in the hands of the above women, who comprise the first women’s Jury to try a case In the city of Boise in many years.

Promptly at 2 o’clock the six women, who had been summoned for jury duty on the case, were in their seats. Mrs. Emily Savidge and Mrs. John Driscoll were among the number, but both wore dismissed by J. B. Eldridge, attorney for the defendant, and in their places Mrs. Caddie Bates and Mrs. Eva Hunt Dockery, the latter being in the court room when the case was called, were taken and the jury accepted.

The women were quick in answering the questions of the attorneys and declared that while they had read something of the case, none of them had formed any opinion and stated that because the charge was that of chicken stealing it would not in any way affect their verdict.

In his opening statement to the jury, Tom Coffin, deputy prosecuting attorney, stated that the state would show that the chicken house of Mr. Avery had been broken into the morning of Dee, 15, and that a Plymouth Rock rooster and a white hen had been stolen; that Avery had found where both had been killed near the coop, and had traced the blood and feathers to the gravel office near the river, where the defendants were found picking the fowls, and an officer had been sent for. He further stated that the state would show that the defendants had made contradictory statements relative to securing the chickens which were found in their possession.

The case then opened with Mr. Avery as the first witness, his testimony being similar to the statement made by the prosecuting attorney.

The women seem to be paying the strictest attention to all questions asked the witness, and all seemed alert to the situation and ready to deal out justice when the case would be finally submitted to them.
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Women on Jury Refuse Pay for Their ServicesChickenThieves2-a

Evening Capital News, Dec. 18, 1912

Decline to Increase Costs of the Case After Finding Two Men Guilty of Petit Larceny.

After deliberating 25 minutes in the, petit larceny case of F. J. Robinson and Fred D. Meilcke charged with stealing chickens, the jury of women, hearing the case returned a verdict of guilty last evening and then touched with pity and a spirit of the Christmas season, in the next breath offered to pay the fines of the defendants with the money they received for jury services. Three votes were taken by the jury after being locked up to consider the case. The first vote stood three for conviction and three for acquittal. A short argument was then held, a second vote taken in which the jury stood five for conviction and one for acquittal and the next vote resulted in an unanimous verdict guilty, which was signed by the foreman, Mrs. Eva Hunt Dockery.

None of the women jurors was aware that they were to receive pay for their services and when Judge Bower announced that he would have their jury certificates ready in a few minutes entitling each to $2.25 for sitting on the jury, they immediately re-assembled, held a whispered consultation and then offered to pay the fines of the men they had convicted with the money, but Judge Bower refused to permit them to do so.

At 10 o’clock this morning the court pronounced judgment, fining the defendants $15 each to cover the costs of the prosecution, except the Jury fees, which were not included. Judge Bower wishing to carry out the spirit of the jury in his decision.

A remarkable instance in the case was the fact that the women jurors were all on time and there were no delays as is often the case when men jurors are summoned.

source: ID AHGP [h/t SMc]
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Twin Falls County Courthouse in Twin Falls 1915


Copyright Idaho State Historical Society
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Women in United States Juries

The idea of women sitting on juries in the United States was subject to ridicule up until the 20th century.

(click image for larger size)
Original drawing for “Studies in expression. When women are jurors” cartoon by Charles Dana Gibson. First published 23 October 1902 in Life on pages 350–351

Some states allowed women to serve on juries much earlier than others. States also differed on whether women’s suffrage implied women’s jury service.


The jury of matrons was an early exception to the exclusion of women from juries. Stemming from English common law, matrons in the American colonies were occasionally called upon in cases involving pregnant women to offer expertise on pregnancy and childbirth. William Blackstone spearheaded the idea of women’s exclusion as a result of “propter defectum sexus” (based on the defect of sex), and his beliefs were integrated into the legal systems of the United States, including the ideals of coverture. Women’s place on the jury would be challenged for decades with arguments including their lack of intelligence, emotional stability, and need to tend to home life. Women would find themselves in between the two ends of the spectrum: full legal right to participate on a jury or barred from participation.

Most arguments for exclusionary policies relied on the belief that women had other preceding duties in the home. The belief that women were too sensitive or incompetent to be jurors was also widespread. Some opponents of female jurors sought to shield women from the unpleasant content of many court cases. At a time when women were beginning to assert their sameness with men, the movement for jury rights often required them to emphasize their differences, arguing that men and women were not interchangeable.

(click image for larger size)
“Woman are too sentimental for jury duty” (1915)

The movement to include women on juries largely coincided with the women’s suffrage movement. However, when women gained the right to vote, it was not automatically clear that women also had the right to serve on juries. In fact, with federal women’s suffrage came many questions about women’s citizenship like whether women could remain citizens after marrying a foreigner, hold a political office, or serve on a jury. The movement for women’s jury rights has been described as “something very like a second suffrage campaign.”

As jury trial is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution by the phrase “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury” and the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment, gender representation in American juries have mainly been decided by Supreme court rulings.

With current state legislation, all-female juries are possible.

“The jury of the future–One that might temper justice with mercy” (1903)
(click image for larger size)
Charles Dana Gibson (American illustrator, 1867-1944) 1903 pen and ink on paper illustration for Collier’s Weekly; published in the artist’s collection The Weaker Sex (1903)

Portrayals of women as jurors

The media portrayed female jurors in both positive and negative ways as women throughout the country pushed to gain the right to serve on juries. This mirrors the ways in which women’s suffrage was displayed in the media. Many of the same arguments both for and against women’s suffrage were used in the case of women’s jury service. For example, an argument against both suffrage and jury service was that both would be disruptive to women’s’ responsibilities in the home. In addition to this, it was believed that jury duty might not be suitable for women and their perceived delicate nature. Some media portrayals claimed that women would be swayed by handsome male criminals and allow guilty men to walk free. The opposite argument was that men were already being swayed by the beauty of some women criminals, and that women on juries would temper this occurrence.

“Women juries for women criminals.” (1914)
(click image for larger size)
Editorial cartoon that depicts the possible difference between how a male jury would convict a woman criminal versus how a female jury would convict a female criminal. Date 7 March 1914, Source The Chicago Daily Tribune, Author John T. McCutcheon

excerpted from: Wikipedia

Idaho History July 21, 2019

Wilbur Wiles

(part 2)

Big Creek / Edwardsburg

Picture of Wilbur taken by Hilda Hansen in the 1950s / 60s
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Wilbur Wiles


Wiles, Wilbur V. (103) from Big Creek, Idaho passed away Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at VA Medical Center. Life Celebration July 27, 2019 at The Big Creek Lodge.
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c. 1954


Left to Right: Ross Gieling, Harry Sargent, Wilbur Wiles C. 1954

source: Sandy McRae courtesy Scott Amos
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Wilbur Wiles and Maurice G. Hornocker

Stalking the Mountain Lion – to Save Him

Article and photographs by Maurice G. Hornocker, Ph.D.
National Geographic Society November 1969

Sharpening his skills, a cub cuffs his litter mate in mock battle. As an adult, the mountain lion – also known by such names as panther, puma, and cougar – hunts with cunning, strength, and agility. Yet man’s encroachment on his wild domain takes alarming toll. To help save the species, the author – leader of the Idaho Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit – set out to bare the secrets of the big predator’s solitary way of life.

Still panting from the chase through the snow of Idaho’s Salmon River Mountains, I pulled the gun out of my backpack. The barrel stung my hands in the cold, and my breath frosted the breech as I sighted into a fir tree 30 feet away.

“Careful!” gasped my companion, Wilbur Wiles. “Don’t rush!”

Poised on a branch, staring down at her pursuers, was our target – a hundred-pound mountain lion.

We had struggled after the lion on snowshoes all morning, and now her baleful gaze was fixed upon us, anticipating our next move. Wilbur’s two redbone tracking hounds bawled in a frenzy of excitement at the base of the tree.

When the big cat shifted position on the branch, I held my breath and fired. The lion jerked at the shot, bolted headfirst down the trunk, and then leaped far out over the clamoring hounds. She hit the ground, bounded down a steep brushy ravine, and was gone, the dogs in barking pursuit.

“You hit her!” Wilbur shouted. “She won’t get far!”

We knew the lion couldn’t escape because my gun had fired not a bullet but an aluminum dart containing a tranquilizing drug. It would, in a few minutes, render the animal completely manageable. The drugging was part of a long-term study of the mountain lion (Felis concolor), one of America’s most mysterious and fascinating animals.

For five years, starting in 1964, Wilbur and I have tranquilized, examined, weighed, marked, and released 46 different lions, many of them again and again, to learn about their lives, their movements, and their habits. We have trekked more than 5,000 miles, much of the time on snowshoes, to follow the big cats deep into the Idaho Primitive Area, a 1.2-million-acre federal preserve of wilderness just south of the Salmon River in the central part of the state.

Once at home across the continent, the mountain lion now hangs on in areas where man rarely ventures. Zoologists estimate 4,000 to 6,500 roam fastnesses of the western United States; 100 to 300 prowl Florida’s Everglades. For his study, the author chose a 200-square-mile region in the Idaho Primitive Area. The team trekked more than 5,000 miles, searching for the lion in winter months.

Snowshoes ready and tracking dogs at his heels, Mr. Wiles slogs across a snowy slope.

Flashing Claws Wound a Pursuer

“I hear the dogs!” Wilbur yelled. That meant they had caught up with the lion and were holding her at bay.

I half-climbed, half-leaped off the rocky outcrop where I had fired the shot, and we plunged into the ravine after the dogs. Fighting our way through hip-deep snow, we finally reached the two hounds, Red and Ranger. One was baying at the base of a cliff; the other was about 15 feet above him on a ledge, barking at the mouth of a small cave.

“The lion must be up there in the cave,” I said to Wilbur. “I don’t think she’ll come out, but she may.”

I slipped off my pack, caught Red, and tied him to a tree. Afraid that the more aggressive Ranger would enter the cave and be killed, I climbed to the ledge and crawled out on it to snap a chain on the still-baying hound.

A low growl came from the darkness of the cave. Backing slowly away, I led Ranger along the ledge and down to the ravine’s brushy floor. As I tied him, I noticed that the side of his head and one of his ears were covered with blood. He had barely escaped death from a swipe of slashing claws.

All our experience with mountain lions, before this incident and since, has indicated that they rarely attack men, but almost invariably try to escape instead.

Not sure my shot had taken effect, I loaded my dart gun before climbing to the cave again. I also took a flashlight with me.

Cautiously I lifted myself over a rim and peered inside – to see the lion crouched a few feet away. The amber eyes glared out at me. When I turned on my flashlight, however, I could see that her gaze was unsteady, that saliva was dripping from her lips. Both were signs that my shot had gone true and the befuddled female was under the delayed effects of the tranquilizer.

Benevolent hunter, the author loads a tranquilizer dart after spotting the mountain lion cornered in a rocky niche (below).

Each wool-tufted dart slips into a shell for firing from a specially designed gun. When the drug takes effect, the still-conscious but indifferent lion will allow himself to be examined, weighed, and tagged – another step in a five-year-old study of North America’s great cat. In the rugged mountainland of Idaho, Dr. Hornocker and his assistant Wilbur Wiles have recorded the hunting, traveling, and social habits of 46 individual mountain lions. Wilbur Wiles Author Maurice G. Hornocker © N.G.S.

Lioness Awake During Tagging

“She’s ready to handle,” I called down to Wilbur. “Come on up.”

While Wilbur struggled up to the ledge with the marking kit, tape measure, and weighing scales, I crawled into the cave and, gripping the big animal by the scruff of the neck and a foreleg, laboriously dragged her to the cave’s entrance.

We weighed her (104 pounds) and took a series of measurements: her length, nose to tip of tail (6 feet 3 inches); her standing height at the shoulders (2 feet 6 inches). We marked her with numbered metal ear tags and with brightly colored plastic ear streamers. In addition, we slipped a collar bearing a colored, numbered pendant around her neck. Finally, we tattooed both ears, using a clamp that left numbers permanently etched on her skin – just in case the other markers were lost.

Throughout the process, the female remained awake; she managed to stand, peered about, and even tried to walk away. All the tranquilizer did was make her groggy, so we could work on her without fear that she would attack. When we finished, we half-pushed, half-led her back into the warmth and dryness of the cave and left her there. The drug would wear off in another 20 minutes or so with no ill effects.

The primitive area was ideal for our study. Remote and roadless, it sustains a healthy lion population relatively undisturbed by human intrusion, partly because its granite crags and deep-slashed valleys represent the greatest topographical relief in all of Idaho. Place names reflect the plight of early settlers in this harsh country: Disappointment Creek … Starvation Creek … Hungry Creek.

To get the most seclusion, I had chosen the Big Creek drainage – a territory of about 200 square miles in the middle of the primitive area. This wilderness became our laboratory for concentrated research.

We worked during the winter, from late November to early May. The tracks were easier to follow in the snow, and deep snow at higher elevations confined the lions and their prey – mainly deer and elk – to a smaller sector of their total range.

Shadows were deepening by the time we had finished examining the mountain lion and returned her to the cave. At least five miles lay between us and our camp at Waterfall Creek, at the eastern edge of our study area.

It was long after dark when we arrived at camp. Men and dogs had to be feel and equipment cleaned for the next day. At midnight, when we crawled into our down-filled sleeping bags, I wondered which lion or family of lions we might capture tomorrow – and thus fit another piece of information into the puzzle of their life history.

Mother and cub take to a tree

Frightened by pursuing hounds, a lioness scrambled 60 feet up this pine, leading her cub who climbed to a branch even higher.

Frenzied baying of Ranger, one of two redbone tracking hounds on the research team, trees a big cat for the tranquilizing gun of Mr. Wiles (above). Barking dogs so terrify mountain lions that they have been known to leap to limbs 18 feet from the ground. In their eagerness to get to the cats, the hounds sometimes suffer cuts from slashing claws.

Mountain lions may breed at any time of year. After mating, the male goes his way, and some 90 days later the female gives birth; she may produce as many as six kittens in a single litter. To the mother alone goes the responsibility of protecting, feeding, and training the young.

Snug in a den, the mother suckles her cubs and affectionately eyes their early antics – spitting, growling, hissing, scratching, and tumbling about. When the rambunctious youngsters grow older, the mother takes them, one at a time, on training hunts.

Both male and female mountain lions stake out their own hunting territories, marking boundaries with mounds of pine needles or brush scented with urine. Offspring strike out on their own at about two years of age, seeking a private range for forays as lone hunters.

Project Sparked by Grizzly Study

My interest in the mountain lion began during my long association with Drs. John and Frank Craighead. John was my adviser when I attended the University of Montana, and I worked with them both on a study of grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park.

Experience gained on that difficult and demanding research project seemed to make a thorough study of the mountain lion a fitting sequel. I was enthusiastic, therefore. when officials of the Idaho Fish and Game Department and the University of Idaho asked me if I would conduct such a project in their state.

Dr. Ian MacTaggart Cowan of the University of British Columbia was interested in the research, and with his enthusiastic support a United States-Canadian cooperative project was arranged. Other organizations, notably the American Museum of Natural History, the Boone and Crockett Club, and the New York Zoological Society, helped from the beginning. The research is currently being carried out at the University of Idaho under the auspices of the Idaho Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, which I have served as leader since January 1968.

Range Once Spanned Two Continents

The need for a scientific study of this animal and its relationship to its environment was obvious. The “American lion” once ranged over much of North and South America. In this country. records show that it lived in nearly every state and the District of Columbia.

Indeed, the lion formerly had the widest distribution of any single species of mammal in the Western Hemisphere. And it was, and is, the most adaptable. Lions were found in mountains, deserts, coastal forests, subalpine forests, swamps. and in prairie environments, from British Columbia in Canada to Patagonia near the tip of South America.

From all those wanderings came the mountain lion’s many names: cougar, a French corruption of a Tupi Indian word: puma. from the Incas of Peru; catamount (from cat-a-mountain), a twangy New England expression; panther, the Greek word for leopard: painter, a U. S. colloquialism for panther; and leon, used through much of Spanish America.

Big Cats Flee From Barking Dogs

Because it sometimes killed livestock, early settlers regarded the big cat as an enemy to be destroyed at every opportunity. Even Theodore Roosevelt, an avid conservationist. wrote of the “big horse-killing cat, the destroyer of the deer, the lord of stealthy murder, facing his doom with a heart both craven and cruel.” In fact, individual animals sometimes learn to kill domestic stock and must be destroyed. But as a species, the lion poses little threat to the livestock industry.

Indiscriminate killing, aggravated by a now-disfavored bounty system, has taken a fearful toll. Today, lions in the United States are confined largely to rugged mountainous areas in our Western and Southwestern States. The New York Zoological Society. in a recent report, placed the total in the West at between 4,000 and 6.500 – and there is evidence that the number may be dwindling even further. since 1965, however, five Western States – Colorado, Washington, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon – have classified the mountain lion as a game animal and offered it some protection. The same is true in British Columbia.

Mountain lions are extremely secretive; they have aptly been termed the “ghosts of North America.” Now they inhabit rugged, inaccessible wilderness country. They cannot be observed from a distance or from a blind, as can many other wild species, and certainly they cannot be approached readily, as can some of the big cats in Africa and Asia. Only by tracking the lions long distances on foot, much of it on snowshoes, and by capturing and recapturing them, could we learn the facts of mountain lion life.

In preliminary investigations in Montana, I satisfied myself that the big cats could be followed and captured alive with the aid of trained hounds. Lions have an inherent fear of dogs – barking dogs – and while adults are apable of killing a single dog quite easily, they will climb a tree to escape this noisy tormentor. Though they can outrun the average dog for short distances, they are no match for his staying power in a long chase.

Kodachromes by Wilbur Wiles and Maurice G. Hornocker

Armful of defused dynamite, a 52-pound lion kitten rests placidly in the author’s grip. He lugs it to a nylon net for weighing on spring scales hung from a tree.

Formidable weapons in the lion’s arsenal, the powerful jaws of this adult male can snap the neck of a deer with a single bite. The canines of an enormous 227-pounder killed by Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 measured 1 1/2 inches long.

Search for a Skilled Woodsman

With the means of capturing and handling the lions worked out, I turned my attention to finding an assistant. I realized that this choice could make or break the project. He had to be a man accomplished in woodcraft and willing to share weeks and months of loneliness and hardship.

Early in my search I heard of Wilbur Wiles, whose skill as a woodsman and lion hunter was common knowledge in central Idaho. I decided to seek him out.

In July 1964, I headed my pickup truck east from the mountain resort of McCall, which was to become my home, into the jumble of rugged ranges. My destination was Wilbur Wiles’s home near Big Creek Ranger Station, where he had a small opal mine.

It was late in the day when I reached Wilbur’s cabin. A tall, slender man in his late forties opened the door at my knock. Almost before I could introduce myself, he said, “C’mon in. The coffee’s about ready.” Over steaming mugs of it I outlined my ideas for the study. He enthusiastically agreed to assist me, and we talked far into the night, making plans for the first winter.

Five long winters of study have gone by since that initial meeting with Wilbur Wiles. Our preparations for each season have been arduous. Because we had to work on foot, we set up several camps along Big Creek and its tributaries. Wall tents sheltered us at Rush Creek, Cave Creek, and Waterfall Creek. Beside Coxey Creek we renovated a dilapidated cabin once used by prospectors. Wilbur’s own cabin on Monumental Creek was our other camp in the upper Big Creek watershed.

We made our headquarters at the Taylor Ranch, a 65-acre private property on lower Big Creek. That way we could cover the entire study area, and never be more than a few miles from a camp when darkness fell.

I flew winter supplies and research equipment in ahead of the snow each year, landing at Big Creek Ranger Station and the Taylor Ranch. Wilbur used three packhorses to carry the tents, stoves, pots and pans, tools, and sleeping bags to the campsites.

Earmarked for study, a lion wears a tattooed number. Metal ear tags, colored ear streamers, and numbered collars may fail to provide permanent identification; some lions marked one winter lost all tags by the next.

Drowsy under examination, a mature female has her feet measured by Mr. Wiles. The team kept careful records of size and weight as they captured and recaptured the same cats.

The feet of mountain lions, like those of their domestic cousins, are well padded for silence when stalking their prey. Often they place their hind feet in the imprints of their forefeet, thus lessening the possibility of snapping a twig or dislodging a stone.

Frozen Meat Supply Prepared

Every year we laid in more than a ton of dog food, caching it carefully against weather, rodents, and marauding bears. We put dried foods in waterproof bags and hung them from poles tied between trees, buried canned goods to prevent them from freezing, and stored cords of firewood.

In late autumn of each year, we shot two deer and an elk and distributed the meat among the camps; wrapped securely in canvas, it would hang frozen through the winter, ready to be thawed whenever we needed it.

By the end of our fifth season, the story of the mountain lion was taking form. We found that the population was stable and that no more than 10 adults were full-time winter residents in the 200-square-mile study area. Of the 36 other lions we studied, 27 were kittens and 9 were transients. Every year two or three new litters, numbering two or three kittens each, were born.

The resident adults were firmly established on territories, and each had a home range to which it confined itself. The data suggest that this winter home-range size varies from 5 to 25 square miles for females; males utilize an area of 15 to 30 square miles.

Each winter half a dozen additional lions might enter the study area, but not to stay. Wandering lions of both sexes appear to know when they are in another lion’s home ground. The resident scrapes together leaves, twigs, or pine needles into mounds four to six inches high, then urinates on them, to make sight and scent markers delineating its territory.

We found such “scrapes” under trees, on ridges, and at lion crossings, where the markers act as traffic lights on regularly traveled paths. Whenever we tracked a newcomer to one of the scrapes, the trail showed that the lion had abruptly changed its course, knowing that another lion or family was in the vicinity, and retraced its route for two or three miles before trying a different area.

I call this cooperative behavior “mutual avoidance,” and believe its purpose is to protect the mountain lion as a species. Because they are solitary predators, lions have to depend on their physical well-being, their agility, to survive; consequently, fighting in defense of their territory, as do some gregarious species such as wolves, is a luxury lions cannot afford. An injured wolf may survive because he is a member of the pack; an injured solitary lion most likely would starve.

Our technique of capturing and recapturing individual lions, combined with tracking them for hundreds of miles, told us many things about the habits of these great predators. We found that mature females averaged about 100 pounds and males in the neighborhood of 150. The males varied more in weight; the lightest male we weighed was 130 pounds; the heaviest, 181.

Crouched at cliff edge, a tagged lion appears resigned after his ninth capture. Winterized with the warmth of his luxuriant fur, he will brave the iciest streams in pursuit of prey. In summer the cougar sheds this thick pelage in favor of a sleeker, cooler coat.

Power in motion, a mountain lion lopes through the snow. One of the fastest animals for a short stretch, the cougar reaches blurring speed almost the second he springs. His stealth and powerful leap enable him to bring down animals the size of elk. Deer and elk provide the bulk of his winter food in the Idaho Primitive Area, but he also dines on snowshoe hares, wood rats, mice, squirrels, and porcupines – quills and all.

Adults Scorn the Social Life

We learned that mountain lions are strictly solitary creatures, with social tolerance being exhibited by males and females only during the brief breeding periods, and by females and young during the longer period of juvenile dependency.

The big cats, like their small domestic cousins, are capable of breeding at any season of the year. In central Idaho, however, breeding is limited largely to winter and early spring. A male and female will pair and remain together for two weeks or perhaps longer. They then part, and the male plays no further role in the family life.

After a gestation period of about 90 days the spotted young, numbering one to a maximum of six (the largest litter we observed was three) are born in a cave or in a den under a windfall. They are helpless at birth, but grow quite rapidly. The mother brings food to them in addition to providing milk.

I am not certain when they leave the den in which they were born, but it is probably at about two months of age. After this they may utilize different temporary dens and caves while the mother forages for food, but they never again depend upon a home den.

Drugging Can Be Deceptive

Our work was not accomplished without incident. Once we had completed the arduous physical task of tracking down, treeing, and drugging an animal, we usually had to climb to it, tie a rope around a back leg, and lower it to the ground. At first I had experimented with immobilizing drugs, but these presented too much danger to the mountain lions – immobilized cats fell from the trees and were subject to injury. The tranquilizing drug I settled on merely calmed the animals, instead of immobilizing them, and they remained in the trees.

Sometimes it was difficult to tell if a cat actually was drugged and safe to approach.

Usually they gave some telltale indication – drooling, jerky head movements, unsteady eyes—but sometimes we were fooled. Early in the study, in an unnamed valley adjacent to Cave Creek on the northern side of the study area, we treed a large tawny male in a half-rotten fir that leaned far out over a cliff. I fired a drug-laden dart into his hip and after ten minutes or so was sure he was ready to lower to the ground.

Strapping on the tree-climbing spurs, I began to approach him. Fully occupied with climbing, I could not keep watch on the big cat 30 feet above me. And I tried not to notice the cliff face that fell away below.

I could hear the lion breathing as I got near. Just as I started to glance up, Wilbur shouted, “Watch out, he’s coming down!”

By hugging the trunk, I managed to move to my left at his warning – only to find myself staring into the face of the lion no more than three feet away. He had half-slipped, half-leaped to a lower limb while I was climbing. I stared into his chilling, amber eyes, then realized that his gaze was unsteady. The animal was partially drugged.

I dug a spur into the tree and pushed myself up. At that, the big cat literally dived down the trunk, tearing off chunks of bark with his gripping claws. He sprang from the tree and sailed like a huge flying squirrel seven feet long onto the snow at the cliff’s edge. With another bound, the lion swung into a labyrinth of rocks behind us.

“Turn the dogs loose,” I yelled to Wilbur. Red and Ranger lined out on his trail, and soon their baying told us they had treed him again. Later, as we worked over the cat now fully drugged by the dart, Wilbur chuckled, “Looked as though you two were trying to stare each other down.”

Docile as a lamb, a drooling 151-pound cat swings down from a tree after receiving a tranquilizing drug some ten minutes earlier. Mr. Wiles, wearing tree-climbing spurs, attached the rope, looping it over a limb, and literally pushed the animal off its perch. Now he moves at top speed to prevent injury to the lion, controlling the rope with one hand and lowering the big male to the ground in a matter of seconds.

Herds Benefit From Predation

One of the important objectives of our work has been to determine the effects of lion predation on their main sources of winter food – in this area, elk and mule deer. By examining carcasses and bones, we have found that the lions kill a greater proportion of the young and the very old – the easiest prey. Seventy-five percent of the elk killed were under 1 1/2 years of age or over 9 1/2. Sixty-two percent cent of the deer were in these age classes.

This information indicates that lions cull the poorest specimens from herds – the infirm and the aged – with the result that the strongest, the best examples survive. Further, the very young and the very old are the first to show the effects of malnutrition, and our studies revealed that half of the animals killed by lions were suffering nutritional deficiencies, and thus were more vulnerable.

Our painstakingly established facts – a stable lion population, increasing elk and deer populations, overused winter food supply for elk and deer, particularly the most important plants (bitter brush and mountain mahogany) – allow us to reach but one conclusion: Lion predation is beneficial to the herds in such an environment. Grazing animals tend to increase in numbers to the point of eating themselves out of food; when this occurs, catastrophic winter die-offs result. Many years are required to restore the vegetation and, in turn, the animal populations.

Predation by mountain lions may not be able to control or hold down these populations, but it is an age-old force which tends to lessen the frequency of violent fluctuations in the number of animals the lions prey upon.

The lions’ predation has one other effect; it keeps the deer and elk herds on the move, a desirable result when food is scarce on the limited winter ranges. When a kill is made, the reaction of a herd is striking, as we have often seen. The deer and elk immediately abandon that area and move to new feeding grounds, reducing the chances of their eating themselves out of available food.

Not all lions are winners in their encounters with deer and elk. When you consider the relative sizes of an elk, which may weigh as much as 1,000 pounds, and a lion, it is not surprising that some attacking lions are injured, even killed.

In December 1967 near Rush Creek, ‘Wilbur came upon a female which had been injured by an elk. Tracks showed that she had stalked a herd of four or five elk before attacking what was probably a young bull. The two had skidded down a steep slope and crashed into a tree. The elk escaped. When Wilbur treed the female, she had blood on her mouth and head from the collision, but appeared to be all right otherwise.

Three weeks later he captured her again, about four miles away beside Big Creek. It was obvious something was wrong with her. She was terribly thin and could hardly climb. Wilbur drugged her and took her from the tree. To his horror he found that she had a broken jaw and that her lower canines had been torn out. In addition she had severe puncture wounds in a shoulder and hind leg from the elk’s antlers. For three weeks the animal had suffered and starved. He had to shoot her to end the suffering.

The lions hunted as much in daylight as they did at night, if not more, and their diet was not limited to big-game animals. From their droppings, we discovered that they killed and ate snowshoe hares, wood rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, coyotes. and, in one case, an entire meal of nothing but grasshoppers! So it became increasingly apparent that the lions, like most predators, were eating what was most easily obtainable.

Twin Cubs Join Family Circle

Polka-dotted kittens, 1 1/2 months old, romp with the author’s daughter Karen. The Division of Wildlife Services office in Boise, Idaho, presented the two males to the Hornocker family to aid in the lion research. Named Tommy and Flopsy, the orphans flourished on a diet of baby formula and, later, horse meat. Distinct spots and tail rings last about four months.

Rumbling purrs greet Karen as she pets Tommy and Flopsy. At 15 months of age their spots barely show. The “talk” of the kittens helped the author discover how mountain lions communicate in the wild. Various whistle-like sounds, resembling bird calls, indicated alarm or pleasure.

While in the field, I ordinarily called my wife Shirley in McCall about every two weeks by radiotelephone. She surprised me on one call with the announcement, “We have two baby lions!” The state office of the Division of Wildlife Services, United States Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, had presented them to us for study.

The kittens, both males, grew and flourished as Shirley fed them baby formula, oatmeal, and vitamins. Our three daughters promptly named the orphans Tommy and Flopsy (preceding pages). After they reached 2 1/2 months, we moved both of them into an outdoor enclosure and changed their diet to raw horse meat, hide, and bone.

Tommy and Flopsy taught me how mountain lions communicate. They started using different whistle-like sounds to greet me or call each other. A warbling note was a greeting: a piercing one, an alarm; and short, intense tones meant “Come here!”

I am certain lions “talk” in the wild by means of these whistle-like sounds produced with their vocal cords. It had been a mystery to us how pairs or families, hunting together, could separate – one dropping into a basin, the other circling a ridge – and then join each other at some seemingly predetermined spot to continue the hunt. Since Wilbur and I first recognized this sound, we have heard it in the wild a number of times. The captive lions did not “scream,” and we have never heard anything like a scream in the wild. Lions make many sounds similar to those of house cats but, of course, much louder.

Next Goal: To Wire Lions for Sound

One day last April we climbed out of a canyon and, unshouldering our packs, leaned back in the soft sunshine. Spring had come early this year to the primitive area, and our season’s work was coming to an end.

The south-facing slopes were green with new grass, and far up the ridge we heard the hooting of a male blue grouse. High above a cliff across the canyon, a pair of ravens courted. diving and rolling over and over against the azure sky. The golden eagles that had soared in courtship on bright February afternoons were now nesting, and soon steelhead trout would enter the stream to spawn, ending their long journey up the Columbia, Snake, and Salmon Rivers from the sea.

As we dropped off the ridge into our lower Rush Creek camp, I found myself looking forward to next season’s work. I hope to attach tiny radio transmitters to our established residents and follow them throughout the year. For while we have learned much about these great animals in winter, we need to learn more about them and their year-round relationships with other species. As Wilbur put it, “The more a man learns, the more he learns he doesn’t know.” And we need to know in order to preserve and manage this splendid animal – an integral and important part of the wilderness environment and a true vestige of primitive America.


source: 1969 National Geographic (10 meg file, article starts on page 4)
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Wilbur Wiles

(1916 – 2019)

RIPWilburWiles2-aWilbur Vernon Wiles died peacefully at the Veterans Administration’s Willow Hospice in Boise, Idaho on April 17, 2019. He was 103.

He was predeceased by his wife, Katie Thrall Wiles; his parents, Roscoe and Flora Schuldt Wiles; his sister, Eunice Wiles Rounds; and his brothers, Oliver Wiles and Billy Wiles. He is survived by his sister, Geraldine Wiles Rippel of Des Moines, Iowa, and by several nieces and nephews.

Wilbur was born in Goodell, Iowa on January 19, 1916, the second of five children. He grew up on the farm homesteaded by his grandfather, Roscoe Sr. Wilbur hiked the woods, trapped and hunted, and dreamed of the West.

As Wilbur was beginning high school in 1931, way out in Idaho the Forest Service was in the process of placing special protections on a vast and wild landscape of canyons and forests, rivers, mountains and high basins, designating it the Idaho Primitive Area. Young Wilbur Wiles did not know it then, of course, but this area would become his home for 80 years.

By the time he graduated from Goodell High School in 1934, Wilbur had made enough from selling mink and muskrat pelts to buy a Model T Ford, in which he immediately lit out for the West. For the next few years Wilbur worked construction and logging jobs in Wyoming, Idaho, and other parts of the Northwest, exploring as far as Alaska and Mexico. In 1938 he discovered the tiny settlement of Big Creek, Idaho, consisting mainly of a ranger station and a rustic hunting lodge on the western edge of the Primitive Area, about 20 miles and a high mountain pass east of Yellow Pine. He moved into an abandoned miner’s cabin on lower Monumental Creek, a place even deeper inside that wilderness. Later he built a cabin in the area adjacent to Big Creek known as Edwardsburg. He obtained a pack horse and hounds, and established trap lines covering at least 120 miles in several directions. He became proficient in mining and prospecting, and worked at the Snowshoe Mine, Stibnite, and a tungsten mine he developed on Elk Creek Summit. And he hunted cougars, for which, at the time, the state paid a handsome bounty. When he was in his 60s, he discovered and later patented a small opal mine that still exists in the upper Monumental Creek drainage.

In the spring of 1941 Wilbur snowshoed over Profile Summit to Yellow Pine, caught the mail car to Cascade, and volunteered for the United States Army. Eight months later, he found himself in the wartime Army, which is what he anticipated and why he enlisted in the first place. After a couple of years as an instructor on the small arms firing range, he was sent to England to prepare for the epic invasion of Europe. Wilbur went ashore on Omaha Beach on June 9, 1944. Attaining the rank of sergeant, he participated in the breakout near St. Lo, endured the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest, and fought through to the Elbe River where Soviet and American forces linked up in April 1945. He helped liberate two concentration camps. In his later years, incredulous to learn about the existence of Holocaust deniers, he said, “Well, they don’t know what they’re talking about. I know the Holocaust happened because I saw it. I saw what the Nazis did.” The Army awarded Wilbur Wiles the Bronze Star for bravery. Honorably discharged in October 1945, he made straight for Big Creek.

In the summer of 1964, Wilbur opened his cabin door to the knock of Maurice Hornocker, who also was raised in Iowa and had roamed those Iowa hills, but had come west to study under John Craighead at the University of Montana. After twelve years in Montana, Hornocker was pursuing his PhD in wildlife biology at the University of British Columbia. He doubtless captured Wilbur’s interest that summer day when he described the audacious doctoral project he had devised: tracking and marking cougars in the Idaho Primitive Area to determine their population densities, territories and interactions with their prey base. Hornocker had no experience capturing cougars, and little with the extended periods of self-supported back country travel that would be required in such rugged country, much of it in winter. He didn’t know the territory. His inquiries about who he could hire to track, tranquilize, collar, measure, and release the big cats led him directly to Wilbur Wiles. Their ten-year effort together pioneered new techniques and understandings in wildlife management; it resulted in a PhD dissertation and several scientific papers, a 1969 National Geographic story, and a career for Dr. Hornocker as a world-renowned expert on large predators. And Maurice and Wilbur became best friends for life, a fact probably more significant to them than the scientific discoveries they made. Dr. Hornocker refers to Wilbur as his mentor, and credits him with the success of the cat study. Maurice, now 88, was at Wilbur’s side the day he died.

Later in life, Wilbur married Kathryn Thrall, a widow with her own back country roots. Wilbur was devoted to Katie, and acceded to her need to spend winters someplace with milder winters than Big Creek. For a number of years in the 80s and 90s they lived part-time in Boise and later in Arizona. Wilbur continued to keep a fifth-wheel trailer in Arizona after Katie died in 1997, and drove himself from Big Creek to Arizona every October, back north again in May, until he was 101. He never looked as old as his age in years, always staying fit, walking the mountains and working his Big Creek garden. Young friends witnessed him, at 85, walking 26 miles in one day on the Big Creek trail. And this despite the fact that, eleven months before, he had broken both ankles—and had been hospitalized for the first time in his life—due to a fall from his cabin roof. The photo here is Wilbur at 95.

Wilbur Wiles was a straightforward and quiet man of natural-born integrity. Although he is the subject of a Forest Service biography and has been featured on Idaho Public Television’s “Outdoor Idaho” and Boise’s KTVB News, he never sought any kind of notoriety. He never was a big talker about anything. He seemed surprised when asked how he wanted to be remembered, saying simply, “Why, just as I am!”

A celebration of Wilbur’s life is being planned for late summer 2019 at his cabin in Big Creek, the date to be announced [July 27 at the Big Creek Lodge]. Wilbur’s friends thank the staff at the Veterans Administration’s Willow Hospice in Boise for the outstanding, truly excellent care they gave Wilbur in his final months. Contributions in Wilbur’s memory can be made to Idaho Public Television.

source: Published in Idaho Statesman on Apr. 21, 2019 [h/t B]
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1979 Wilbur Wiles and Big Jim Collord Back Country Pioneers

On the Golden Bear gold vein, down Big Creek, September 1979 Big Jim Collord and Wilbur Wiles
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Remembering Wilbur Wiles

Boy, talk about the passing of a generation and time . . . A man who actually lived not just in the woods, but in the remote Idaho backcountry most of his life, living off the land – hunting, trapping, mining, and later working indirectly for National Geo. His mentors, friends, and acquaintances were authentic Thunder Mountain miners, original backcountry forest rangers, homesteaders, and the most recognized figures of the backcountry. Of course he did not like himself to be placed in the latter category. He served his country in WWII, not because he had to, but because he wanted to, and always down played his participation in D-Day and later the liberation of camps. He never entered the computer age, rarely used a telephone, and when I last visited with him at his home in Big Creek (August 2017) he preferred to get his news on the am radio. And best of all, he was a man of great integrity who valued the intangible things in life, such as friendship and nature, above anything else – it always appeared to me he wanted for nothing and his life was completely fulfilled. It is certainly rare anymore to meet people who simply judge and accept a fellow human being based on his or her word. He will be well remembered and missed!

– From pilot/author Richard Holm on the passing of Wilbur Wiles
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Cabin in Big Creek / Edwardsburg

photo shared by Marcia Franklin courtesy Jim Collord

Link to Wilbur Wiles (part 1)

Link to more Big Creek / Edwardsburg stories

Idaho History July 14, 2019

Thunder Mountain “Tome Up”


The Thunder Mountain Story

by Earl Willson 1962
Idaho Territorial Centennial 1863 – 1963

The true saga of Thunder Mountain – that weird promontory within the Salmon River range of south central Idaho, has perhaps never been completely told. However, from the best reliable sources, the story is that the isolated mountain got its name from the Indian who, because of superstitious beliefs, gave the area a “wide berth” when certain atmospheric conditions during summer storms, built up unusual violent thunder that echoed and reverberated off the surrounding peaks in such a weird manner as to see to be emanating from the mountain’s interior. And so violent are the storms intensity, that even the white man reacts to these unusual manifestation.

The area too, is in a deeply timbered divide separating Monumental, Marble and Mule Creeks, and the terrain is in an unstable volcanic flow, the movement of which is almost imperceptible, but nevertheless enough to be noticeable over long periods. Together with this slight movement of the surrounding terrain, and with the help of overflowing waters from Mule Creek following a flash flood, the gigantic earth slide of 1908 broke off and slowly crept down the slope until it dammed Monumental Creek below the boom town of Roosevelt – inundating that hamlet, and eventually creating what we know now as Roosevelt Lake.


Roosevelt (named after President Theodore) was a sizeable [sic] wilderness metropolis hastily thrown together following the gold boom of 1901. The gold stampede that the Caswell brothers, Ben, Lew and Dan sparked when they discovered gold at the mouth of Monumental Creek and after tracing its source on Thunder Mountain, it was the richer streak of gold at the headwaters of Mule Creek that eventually set in motion the feverish gold rush, the likes of which has never been seen since.


A gold rush of thousands of people from every walk of life. And like most gold rushes of that era, starting in the early spring when the winter’s snow pack was thawing and the mountain streams were badly swollen in the back country where only trails penetrated the entire wilderness area.


Today the waters of this remote lake ripple over the roofless remains of a ghost town that has been the habitat of fish and other marine life for 52 years, after housing the short but hectic business and social life of perhaps what was the most isolated mining town in Idaho.


Among the many unusual things that made up the every day life of this wilderness town in those days, was the “cow pack string” of Asa Clark – the sizable string of milk cows that he packed, fully loaded with supplies, into Roosevelt during the boom, where he milked them in the summer and then butchered them in the fall to feed the miners.


This and the accompanying photo depicting mother Nature’s towering monument, after which Monumental Creek derived its name, and the one taken of a pack mule resting while on its way into the remote camp loaded with a 500 pound crankshaft, was among the unusual even in those days. And, in releasing for publication, the picture of Roosevelt and its submerged townsite which is now the lake, the story of this ghost town is not complete without the accompanying photo which shows the earth slide and where it started.



Many stories have been written about Thunder Mountain, and the sizeable [sic] metropolis of Roosevelt – most of them all too strongly embellished with fiction in an effort to make them more interesting, even though most of these fictional efforts on the part of authors, destroy the true concept of this historical attraction.


A story that if written as such, would be far more attractive and interesting for the average reader. For instance to represent the hectic but short lived boom town as swarming with inhabitants at the time of the earth slide, and their frantic efforts to save themselves and their household possessions, including the barrels of liquor from well stocked saloons, as the earth slide raced down the slope below Mule Creek where it started, is greatly exaggerated to say the least.


As a matter of fact Roosevelt and the immediate Thunder Mountain areas was pretty much deserted by a disillusioned populace long before the disastrous earth slide let loose and slowly crept down the slope – eventually damming Monumental Creek below the town, and as slowly inundating a hamlet that actually was already inhabited by ghosts. Ghosts of unusual characters like those that inhabited all deserted gold boom towns during that era where such monikers as Pick Handle Mike, Brown Gravy Sam, Hotfoot Davis, the Foolhen and the Flying Squirrel were among those many unusual names quite typical of a seething populace, that only gold could bring into such an isolated place.


A place, that in those days had no telephone nor other means of outside communication. No phonographs or other “canned” music for entertainment. A place where the winter’s snow blanket covered all structures so deep that the only transportation on top was possible by the dog team, skis, show shoes or perhaps an occasional show shoes equipped horse. No effort was made to remove the snow, other than from windows to let in light, or a “shaft” down to the doors.



In fact no such machine as a bulldozer or rotary plow was even thought about at that time, and the people just waited for hot sun and long days to clear the roads and trails of this obstacle to conventional travel.


This writer, who viewed the submerged structures of Roosevelt, only a short time after the rising waters had reached the eaves, saw a man sitting on a rooftop fishing – another unusual sight, but no photograph to prove it.


Idaho perhaps has the novel distinction of being the only state in the Union where Mother Nature decreed it her duty to bury a deserted ghost city under a lake of crystal clear, glacial cold water for all time. A permanent monument of an era where rugged men and women treked [sic] inland over well night [sic] impassable terrain to build a metropolis that only gold could have been the incentive for erecting in such a remote place.

Idaho has many attractions to offer the tourist within her gates, and especially within the boundaries of Valley County – much of which is in the so called primitive area, and embraces unusually rugged terrain as well as oddly assorted caves, caverns and many places formerly inhabited by the Indian. Truly a wilderness paradise of well over a million acres where the old as well as the young can now travel deep within the area by motor conveyance of some kind, or if preferred, into the most remote places by saddle or pack animal. Places so removed and inaccessable [sic] that man’s feet have seldom trod. A primitive paradise of untold wealth in undeveloped resources and rugged beauty unsurpassed anywhere else in the United States with the possible exception of the Yellowstone National Park.






However, in regards to the immediate Thunder Mountain area, and the submerged hamlet of Roosevelt, where the restless terrain will no doubt bring about radical changes in the topography over the next few decades, with the continual erosion that is slowly filling the lake with silt, may we just visualize the buried remains of this ghost town above which a lush meadow will be the habitat of wild animals, even as it used to be before man’s endeavors reached into this remote wilderness and built a town inhabited by hundreds of gold crazed people? This is but one phase of evolution, and the end of the world as we know it.



Thunder Mountain, and the now extinct city of Roosevelt, is but one phase of many interesting changes that has taken place throughout the entire primitive area where, up until the early 1930’s, the only mode of transportation was via the saddle or pack animal over a network of crude trails where the far flung inhabitant had to pack in their every necessity of life during the short snow-free season. An area where the mountaineer’s cabin and his posessions [sic]  were never locked against a neighbor who might find it necessary to seek shelter from emergencies that might arise.




This was the unwritten code of the mountain folk whose hospitality was never abused until the advent of the “outlander” who abused every hospitable privilege of trust, and forced the inhabitant to be suspicious of every traveler and use everything at his command to resist uninvited encroachment into his world of privacy. Privacy, that currently the primitive areas resident would willingly relinquish to the tourist who would learn that the settler within the area had the same right of strict privacy in his cabin and adjacent territory, as they enjoy on the “outside” where trespassing on their premises would be unthinkable unless done outside the pale of the law.

Thunder Mountain and its closely associated primitive areas are reached by a picturesque and pleasant drive out of Boise, Idaho, over highway 15 to Cascade and Payette Lakes – both of which have interesting recreational areas on the fringes of this vast and awe inspiring wilderness where the Cox Dude Ranch on Johnson Creek, Yellow Pine and Big Creek Lodge currently accommodates the venturesome tourist on the threshold of Valley County’s paradise – a reflection of an era when Edwardsburg and adjacent areas were reached only by a network of crude trails.

The Thunder Mountain back country, abounding as it does with elk, big horn mountain sheep, goat and deer amid exceptionaly [sic] rugged but beautiful terrain where Mother Nature’s mountain streams, lakes and rivers are teeming with excellent trout, is truly a paradise for those tourists desiring the services of numerous packers and guides within the area. And for the traveler who may prefer the attractions on the fringe areas of the Thunder Mountain wilderness, both Cascade Lake and Payette Lake have abundant amusements typical of those beautiful inland bodies of water adjacent to highway 15 out of Boise Idaho.

Officially designated as a territory in 1863, Idaho will celebrate its 100th birthday as a territory in 1963. It’s a birthday that will be celebrated more or less over the entire state. This Territorial Centennial will also draw the attention of many others, including travelers to and from the Seattle World’s Fair who perhaps may have an opportunity to see Idaho for the first time, and be so impressed with the state’s attractions that they will return in 1963.

Sources of Information and Photographs

Public Library, Boise, Idaho
Idaho Historical Society, Boise, Idaho
Mr. and Mrs. Robert McRae, Boise, Idaho
Mr. and Mrs. Lafe Cox, Yellow Pine, Idaho
Harry Nook, Cascade, Idaho
Mrs. Hollie Shipp
Pete Peterson, Emmett, Idaho
Napier Edwards, Big Creek, Idaho
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The Late “Bill” Timm. – Prospector and Assayer during the Thunder Mountain Gold Rush at his cabin in historical Thunder Mountain.

— — —

The Old Prospector’s Home

By John H. Blake

Do I love it? Aye, I love it.
As I’ve not loved afore.
My cabin’s bin a restin’ place,
Home, an’ a hull lot more.

“Home!” did I say? Aye, that’s the word
By which it’s known to me.
I wouldn’t part wi’ the dear place
Fur palace by the sea.

I love its logs, it beams, its roof,
The pine boards o’ its door,
The strings o’ bark, the hard baked earth,
The knot holes in its floor.

Right in that bunk for thirty year
I’ve nightly laid my head,
I kinder think I couldn’t sleep
Sweet in a rich man’s bed.

There ain’t no rent, ner tax, ner lien
On this ole shack o’ mine,
It needs no lock to keep folks out,
All, all are welcome in.

Ye’ll guess then, why, oh stranger friend,
I love this dear ol’ home;
I couldn’t find a richer one
In ary place I’d roam.
— —

source: “Tome Up – The Thunder Mountain Story” by Earl Willson 1962 courtesy The Idaho State Historical Society (12 megs) (h/t SMc)

Link to More Thunder Mountain stories

Idaho History July 7, 2019

Thunder Mountain Gold Rush

(part 7)

Newspaper Clippings

Edwardsburg, Big Creek, Roosevelt, Thunder Mountain, Knox

(When we were in Idaho County)

Idaho County 1910

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Californian Recalls Gold Rush to Thunder Mountain

By Earl Willson

Yellow Pine – After exhaustive research into the Thunder Mountain gold boom of the 1900’s, this writer – publicity chairman for the Valley County Centennial Committee – has discovered a man who was an active participant in the hectic gold rush days.

Carl Clark, now 92, who now lives in Lone Pine, Calif., backpacked 90 pounds into the camp at one time during the construction of the remote mining hamlet of Roosevelt.


Clark, now 92, reminisced about time spent in those gold rush days.

He told of his warm acquaintance with the late Fred Burgdorf of the once famous Burgdorf Hot Springs, his many trips to the historical Schaffer ranch on the south fork of the Salmon River and his remembrance of Ross Kregbaum, the mail carrier who mushed the snow trails with his dog teams from the Lardo post office at Payette Lake to Warren around the turn of the century.

Clark, who said he was familiar with the early days on Logan, Smith and Big Creek, recalled that he was one of the judges for the packing contest at Roosevelt’s first fourth of July celebration when some of the Telluride, Colo., boys won.

Clark related how he helped the late Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Edwards organize a townsite near Big Creek, called Logan, and establish a post office by that name, which was changed to Edwardsburg because of the conflicting Logan, Utah, post office.


Napier Edwards, the son, has attempted to maintain the tradition of that pioneer establishment which still stands as mute evidence of a post office, library and mining recorders office around which isolated sourdoughs depended on obtaining some measure of solace after long periods of isolation, and then long tiring ski trips to and from their far-flung cabins.


Clark said at one time during the height of the feeverish [sic] gold excitement he remembers being a “millionaire” for two weeks until the assayer, (presumably the late Bill Timm) discovered his mistake in the assay.

Clark’s later years were dedicated to what he called “Clark’s Collies Of Knowledge,” intelligent dogs with whom he toured the country extensively, performing on stage and screen. The group of white collie dogs astounded hundreds of thousands of persons during tours of schools and clubs throughout the United States.

courtesy Kristy Gillihan Scaraglino (personal correspondence)
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1902 Roosevelt

Village of Roosevelt, Idaho [01]


A view of the mining town of Roosevelt near Thunder Mountain during the height of the gold rush nearby. Wooden buildings line the street.
Date 1902
(click for larger size at source)

Village of Roosevelt, Idaho [02]


Village of Roosevelt near Thunder Mountain as it looked at the height of the gold rush. A pack train walks down the street with wooden buildings in the background.
Date 1902
(click for larger size at source)

Village of Roosevelt, Idaho [04]


Wooden buildings in the mining town of Roosevelt, Idaho. A dog stands in the foreground with snow on the ground.
Date 1902
(click for larger size at source)

source: Stonebraker Photograph Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Initiatives
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Terrible Journey Of Miners

Bodies of Snowslide Victims Drawn Over Mountain Passes.

Boise, Idaho, March 5, [1902] – A party of prospectors reached here to-day after a terrible fourteen days’ journey through the snow from the Thunder Mountain district, bringing with them the bodies of Bert Tullis, formerly a resident of Telluride, Col., who was killed in a snow slide at Thunder Mountain about a month ago, and of men named Campbell and Sykes, who were also victims of a snow slide.

The bodies, frozen and wrapped in hides, were drawn over the snow of the mountain passes, the prospectors undergoing almost incredible hardships to bring out the bodies of their dead friends.

source: (PDF) March 6, 1902 The New York Times
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Henderson Slide (Roosevelt) 1904

Idaho County Free Press March 3, 1904

Fatal Snowslide

On February 13th, a snowslide demolished the Edwards cabin about 7 miles up Monumental creek from Roosevelt. Avery Henderson, a well known mining man of that camp was first thought to be buried in the cabin. The cabin was shoveled out by the men of the camp and he was not found. His shoes were there, but a pair of trousers and a coat were missing said Edwards, who was batching with Henderson. Tracks in the snow were followed by the light of candles for about one-half mile until they were obliterated by another snowslide. They were unable to find any trace of him after three hours of searching.
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Idaho County Free Press March 17, 1904

It is almost certain that Henderson had a visitor and to date neither of the bodies have been found at the snow slide known as the Henderson Slide.

source: Idaho County GenWeb Project complied by Penny Bennett Casey
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Snowy cabin at Big Creek 1903


Description Dog at doorway of snow covered log cabin near Big Creek. An axe is forked into the roof.
Date 1903

source: Stonebraker Photograph Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Initiatives
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Francis Steele (Missing Roosevelt School Teacher) 1905

Idaho County Free Press June 22, 1905

Young Man Perishes

Francis Steele was a school teacher and spent the winter and early spring in Mt. Idaho. He left Grangeville on May 8 for Roosevelt where he expected to teach school during the summer and assess the district for the county assessor of Idaho Co. On May 9 he appeared at Campbell’s crossing where he was supplied with food by Warren Cook. This is the last time he was seen.

He was directed by Cook how to follow the trail as miners and packers are constantly passing back and forth to the mines, and no trace of Steele had been found until Vance and Whitaker, of Roosevelt, found the assessment blanks and school books at the mouth of Ramey creek. They had evidently been on the ground several days as they were covered with mould [sic]. There was a bucket that had been taken from the cabin of Tom Lynch on May 20. Lynch was fishing and had left some grouse, fish and a lot of cooked beans in his cabin and when he returned he found the cabin had been entered and the greater part of the food was gone. There was a pair of gloves on the floor.

Search parties have spent several days traveling through the mountains where the papers were found, but no trace of the unfortunate man has been discovered. Steele leaves a wife in Portland.
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Idaho County Free Press July 27, 1905

Steele’s Body Found

Miners who arrived at Warren, Monday brought the news that the body of Francis Steele has been found near the mouth of Ramey creek which is about a half mile from the spot where he camped and ate his last meal. The supposition at the time of his disappearance is that he had attempted to cross Big Creek and was drowned. Details concerning the burial of the body have not been learned, but it is thought no effort will be made to bring the remains out of the country.
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Idaho County Free Press August 17, 1905

Steele’s Body Found

Word has been received that the body of Francis Steele has been found in Big Creek. A similar report reached here about two weeks ago but the body then found was evidently that of some other unfortunate. It is said that papers and other articles on the body leave no doubt as to his identity. Coroner Irwin and J.W. Evans, a brother-in-law of Steele’s expect to examine the body and it will be brought out for burial if possible.
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Idaho County Free Press Sept 7, 1905

Coroner Irvin passed through Warren with the remains of Francis Steele who was lost in Big Creek last spring. The remains were taken to Cottonwood for interment.

source: Idaho County GenWeb Project complied by Penny Bennett Casey
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Knox in 1905

Digital Library University of Idaho [h/t SMc]
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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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Idaho Daily Statesman – Boise, Idaho – August 15, 1905

Shot to Death

Charles Hanlin Killed by Tom Little at Randall’s Transfer Station

Killing Held to Be Justifiable Homicide

Victim Struck By Two Rifle Bullets, One in the Heart, One In The Abdomen

Hanlin fires first and is shot down by Little in self-defense – Claimed Little should pay him an account owed by the company with which Little was employed – After words in a Saloon he returns to camp, secures a rifle and attempts to kill Little – Inquest held by man named Jones, elected by citizens for the purpose.

At Randall’s Transfer on the Roosevelt road on Friday, Charles Hanlin was shot and instantly killed by Tom Little. The latter had a hearing and was discharged on the ground that the killing was justifiable.

The men came out from Roosevelt together, where they had been employed. The company for which Little worked, it seems, owed Hanlin, and the latter thought Little should pay the account. They were drinking together and the subject of the debt came up in the saloon. The testimony at the hearing showed Hanlin was disposed to be ugly over the matter.

Little left and went to where he had pitched camp, being followed by Hanlin. The latter, upon arriving at the camp, walked over to a tree some 30 yards away, where his gun was standing. He picked up the weapon, according to the evidence, and fired at Little. The latter thereupon secured his gun and fired twice at Hanlin. ON shot pierced his heart and the other struck him in the abdomen. Death was instantaneous.

There was no justice of the peace of other officer authorized to hold inquest and the people elected a man name Jones to officiate. He heard the testimony of those having knowledge of the affair and turned Little loose on the ground that the homicide was justifiable.

Nothing is known of the antecedents of Hanlin. He had been in Roosevelt for two years, but none knows where he came from or where he may have had relatives. He was 45 years old

Little’s home is in Boise, where he has a family living on North Sixth street.
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Idaho Daily Statesman – Boise, Idaho – August 25, 1905

Tom Little is Liberated

Man Who Killed Charles Hanlin Given His Freedom

(Special Dispatch)

Knox, August 24 – Word has reached this place that Tom Little, who shot and killed Charles Hanlin at Randall’s Transfer on Friday, August 11, was exonerated after a preliminary examination at Roosevelt and liberated. Little was formerly a teamster in Owyhee county.

source: Idaho County GenWeb Project complied by Penny Bennett Casey
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T. J. Little Acquitted

T. J. Little, who killed Charley Hanlen at Knox on the 12th inst., was given a hearing before James McAndrews Monday.

The State was represented by F. W. Whitcomb and T. J. Hanlen was represented by W. H. Parkett.

The case was called for trial at – consumed and part of the evening. There were seven witnesses examined: Frank Gregory, E. Tennyson, John W. Brooks, Tom Moore, Ed Aldrich, and Thomas Nicholson, all of Knox, and Charley Myers of Roosevelt. The testimony given proved it to be a onesided affair although and was in defendant’s favor and he was acquitted. The evidence was clear that Hanlen went down to clean out the camp and get what he could. Mr. Little only done what any other man should do and that was to protect himself and property.

When it was definitely learned here Sunday that the trial would come up Monday there was a man in town who crossed the plaines in ’72 with Hanlen who made it a point to go fishing to avoid the trial, and expressed himself as being surprised at Hanlen living as long as he did.

Hanlan was tried in Salmon in ’97 for shooting at a man. He finally won out. This is enough to show he was hunting human scalps.

We congratulate Mr. Little in protecting himself and property.

From the August 26, 1905 Issue of the The Prospector and Thunder Mountain News

Excerpted from: Warm Lake History project by LeRoy Meyer
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Idaho Daily Statesman – Boise, Idaho – August 27, 1905

Story of Tragedy

Additional Details of the Killing of Charles Hanlin by Tom J. Little at Knox, in Thunder Mountain Country

The Roosevelt News gives the following additional details of the killing at Knox of Charles Hanlin by Tom J. Little, who was later exonerated after having been given a preliminary examination:

T.J. Little hire Mr. Hanlin here in Roosevelt some time ago and took him over to the Sunshine mine where they were going to do some work and after working three days (allowing a day to go over) and two days after arriving, Mr. Little was telephoned to close the mine down and nail it up. Mr. Little was acting as foreman for the Spears’ American Exchange and had sent the time in and gone over to Knox to wait instructions. Mr. Hanlin really had only two days coming from the company but was allowed time for three days.

They were camped about a half a mile from Knox, and were up at town when Hanlin demanded his money and told Little that “he would go down and take the camp and sell the horses.” Hanlin was drinking some and when under the influence of liquor was very abusive. They tried to reason him out of this idea but this he would not listen to.

Little went down to the camp to avoid trouble and Hanlin finally followed him down and before reaching the camp he picked up a 44 Winchester rifle which he had secreted a few feet from the tent and informed Little with an oath that “it was all off with him” an began firing and Little returned the fire with the above result. Mr. Little used a 44 rifle.

One bullet passed over the heart and one under and either would have proven fatal.

source: Idaho County GenWeb Project complied by Penny Bennett Casey
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C. C. Randall, Randall’s Transfer, Knox P.O. Store; Feed Barn, Wm. Howel, Manager; Post office history places Knox 25 miles NE of Cascade.

source: source: Valley County Idaho Gen Web Thunder Mountain News [h/t SMc]

see also: Knox, Valley County, Idaho History
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1905 Pack String


Stonebraker pack train [26] Date 1905
A pack of horses walks through a grassy area on a hill.

source: Stonebraker Photograph Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Initiatives
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Big Creek (murder) 1905

Idaho County Free Press August 24, 1905

“Doc” Martin Accused of Arson and Maybe Murder

“Doc” Martin who just completed six months in the county jail for larceny was immediately arrested again on the charge of arson.

Just before the big fire at Warren, John F. Kroll, a respected and well to do prospector started for the Big Creek district to prospect.

Before leaving he cashed a check for about $70 and bought $15 worth of supplies. A few days after this the big fire occurred and Martin was suspected of setting the fire and ordered to leave town. He was searched for some evidence but nothing was found and it is known that he did not have a cent of money. He is interested in a mining claim on Big Creek where there is a cabin and provisions and it was supposed that he would go there.

The next heard of him was only a few days later when he appeared with Kroll on Big Creek and Kroll bought a part of beef from a butcher who was supplying the Wardenhoff mine. The next morning Martin returned alone with Kroll’s horse and brought the meat back. From that time no person has been able to find any trace of Kroll. Martin went to Roosevelt and got into a poker game and lost about $50. He went to a saloon keeper and borrowed $10, putting up a gold watch which has since been identified as Kroll’s. The following day he sold Kroll’s horse for $35 and since then a quiet investigation has been going on. The search is still being made for Kroll and if the body could be found it might go a long way toward clearing up the mystery.
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Idaho County Free Press October 12, 1905

“Doc” Martin Again

“Doc” martin recently stirred up the passengers of the Owl train at Lewiston Saturday evening. He said that someone had attempted to murder him and became boisterous and unruly and was taken in charge by some of the passengers and turned over to the sheriff at Moscow. It is supposed that he was under the influence of morphine, it being one of his pastimes to partake of the deadly drug. Martin was held in the Idaho county jail on several charges, among them being murder, arson and theft.
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Idaho County Free Press May 7, 1908

“Doc” Martin is the Man

E.H. Martin, who was at one time a citizen of this county and in the clutches of the law on several occasions, has been taken in by the police of Portland and held for the brutal murder of Nathan Wolff, a Jewish pawn broker. Martin is a dope fiend with criminal instincts. He was arrested in the Big Creek section of this county February 1905 upon the charge of burglary but it was understood at the time he was being held pending an investigation of murder. Sufficient evidence could not be secured and the authorities released him. Later he was arrested for an attempt to destroy the county jail but was again released. Near the close of 1905 he left his county and was arrested while passing through Moscow and examined as to his sanity. However, as usual, he was released and from that time until now had dropped out of sight.
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Idaho County Free Press December 3, 1908

“Doc” Martin, the notorious character, was found guilty of manslaughter in the court of Portland last week and given fifteen years in prison.

source: source: Idaho County GenWeb Project complied by Penny Bennett Casey
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Saloon (Roosevelt)

source: The Thunder Mountain Story Publisher Idaho State Historical Society [h/t SMc]
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Saloons – Roosevelt 1906

Idaho Daily Statesman – Boise, Idaho March 7, 1906

Many Saloons in Northern Idaho

Deputy Revenue Collector Fred White Says There Are 332 in Five Counties

An interview with Fred White, deputy United States internal revenue collector for the five northern counties of Idaho and whose territory also includes Flathead and Teton counties in Montana, the Lewiston Tribune learned that there are 332 licensed saloons in the northern section of the state.

Idaho County is third on the list with 59 saloons. Saloons are established in Adams, Clearwater, Comfort, Denver, Dixie, Florence, Freedom, Ferdinand, Half Way House, Glenwood, Harpster, Reardan Creek, Keuterville, Lucile, Mt. Idaho, Newsome, Kooskia, Tramway, Low Pollock and South Fork of Salmon River, each 1; Knox, Orogrande, Resort, Stites, Whitebird, Westlake and Hump, each 2; Elk City, 3; Cottonwood, 4; Grangeville, 8, and Roosevelt 9; Total 59

*There are lists in this article for Kootenai, Shoshone, Lewiston, Nez Perce, & Latah counties. For the purpose of this website, I have only transcribed the Idaho county ones.

The government license required to be paid by saloons for retailing liquors is $25 a year. The 332 saloons in north Idaho therefore pay into the federal treasury, $8300 annually. Of these saloons many are operating under tavern or precinct licenses ranging up to $300 a year, where the saloon is not located in an incorporated village or town. In incorporated cities or towns, the state license is $500 per year. It is probable that the license paid by the saloons in the north will average $300 each, so the state receives at total annually of $99-600 from them.

source: Idaho County GenWeb Project complied by Penny Bennett Casey
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Roosevelt is in Ruins

Monster Landslide Cause of Flooding Idaho Mining Town

Roosevelt1909June3Spokane Daily Chronicle June 3, 1909

Boise, Idaho, June 3 – (Special) – Isolated in a mountainous region in central Idaho, the mining town of Roosevelt is today cut off from communication with the outer world, owing to a great land slide, estimated at three miles in length and 300 feet wide, which took place last night just above Roosevelt and piled up along what is known as Mule creek to a depth of 100 feet.

Instantly the water of the creek were shut off and the swollen stream flooded all of the houses in the mining town.

Judging from the latest reports, several lives were lost. Because parties are now being formed here and will be rushed into the district, entrance to which is gained through Smith’s Ferry. Roosevelt is located in Idaho County.

The terrific land slide forced the waters of the creek out of its bed and immediately the town was in a dangerous position, for it is located on the banks of the stream and in a dangerous position on the side of the mountain.

The placer property of Caswell and Curran was destroyed, while other valuable mining property is damaged beyond repair, the estimate of damages being thousands of dollars.

While no details with respect to the disaster are at hand, telephone messages from Smith’s Ferry are to the effect that everything is in a chaotic condition, and it is feared many miners have been drowned. A number of Boise mining men are in the district.

The town of Roosevelt is located along the creek on a narrow strip and near the confluence with Monumental river. The statement that the slide was three miles long indicates that it started at or above the Caswell and Curran placer claims on the side of Thunder mountain and followed Mule creek down to Monumental river and tore down that stream some little distance.
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1909 Roosevelt

Roosevelt landslide and flood [01]


“Rising waters of what became Roosevelt Lake near the head of Monumental Creek slowly inundating the town’s structures.”
Date 1909
(click for larger size at source)

Roosevelt landslide and flood [02]


“Rising waters of Monumental Creek slowly inundating the mining town of Roosevelt, Idaho.”
Date 1909
(click for larger size at source)

Mudslide above Roosevelt, Idaho [03]


Mudslide that blocked Monumental Creek and flooded the town of Roosevelt.
Date 1909-05
(click for larger size at source)

source: Stonebraker Photograph Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Initiatives
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Roosevelt: From Boom Town to Mountain Lake

August 1999 by Sharon A. Murray

I first saw Roosevelt Lake in 1986 when I worked for Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation at Thunder Mountain. On a clear, calm day you could see the remains of log cabins beneath the water’s surface. Progressing down the trail adjacent to the lake you could walk across a log dam to the other side of the lake and view the remaining headstones in the hillside cemetery, which is about all that remains to remind us of the once-thriving community of Roosevelt, Idaho.

Roosevelt was a product of the Thunder Mountain boom, Idaho’s last major gold rush. The Caswell brothers, Ben, Lew, Dan and Cort discovered flakes of gold in Monumental Creek in a remote mountainous section of Central Idaho in 1894. For the next couple of years, the brothers spent part of each summer placer mining Monumental Creek with little success. In 1896, when they were about to abandon their mining venture, one brother followed a tributary of Monumental Creek up the slope of the mountain and stumbled upon an exposed ledge of white quartz. He took a sample of the rock back to camp. The crushed and panned sample contained considerable free gold. The brothers staked a claim on the quartz outcrop and named it the Golden Reef.

The Caswells worked on the Golden Reef periodically during the summer months for the next several years. Material removed from the ledge was crushed and washed in a sluice box, built of whipsawed lumber, to recover the free gold. For fourteen weeks of work, the brothers reportedly recovered $20,358.

Edward Dewey heard about the Caswell’s operation and informed his father, Colonel William H. Dewey, who had made money in mining and other ventures in Idaho’s Owyhee Mountains. Colonel Dewey took out an option on the Golden Reef in 1900 and sent experts into the area to evaluate the prospect. Favorable reports compelled Dewey to exercise his option which he did by handing the Caswells a check for $100,000. Once the word of Dewey’s purchase hit the streets, a genuine gold rush was underway.

Experienced prospectors and novice argonauts flocked to Thunder Mountain in the spring of 1901. Access was via a crude trail cut from the old mining camp of Warren, over Elk Summit, to Big Creek and then up Monumental Creek to Thunder Mountain. In 1901, when the rush started, the area was one of the least accessible regions in Idaho. Not much has changed, even today.

With the influx of miners into the Thunder Mountain Mining District, there was a need for accommodations and other amenities of life including saloons, cafes, and stores. The town of Roosevelt was laid out in the fall of 1901 by the Idaho Land and Loan Company of Boise to provide these services. Lots sold for $100.

Roosevelt was built on the floor of a narrow, heavily-wooded, steep-sided canyon through which Monumental Creek flows. The townsite was one and one-half miles long and 300 to 500 feet wide. Most structures were erected on either side of Main Street. The first buildings were constructed of crudely-cut logs and canvas but as time progressed, many of these quarters were replaced by log and sawed-lumber buildings.

By 1902, the town was well established and resembled a typical frontier mining town with the requisite number of saloons, hotels, stores and eateries. A post office was set up in July 1902 with William L. Cuddy as postmaster. By 1903, 7000 people were getting mail at the post office. The town had expanded to include residences and businesses for a blacksmith, undertaker, doctor, dentist, several lawyers, assayers, and at least one carpenter. The town also boasted a four-room school house.

A road was completed to Roosevelt from Thunder City (near present-day Cascade, Idaho) in 1904. Mail service over this route commenced in December 1904, and a daily stage service was established by 1905. It took three days for the stage to travel the 76 miles between Roosevelt and Thunder City. Frequent stops were made at a number of way stations established on the route.

Roosevelt also had electricity and telephone service as of 1904. The Thunder Mountain News began publishing a local newspaper during the year. The paper carried local and regional news and sold advertisements.

By 1905, 1500 people resided in Roosevelt as over 100 houses stood on either side of Main Street. Many others lived at the Dewey and Sunnyside Mines, the largest producers in the area, as well as in other small settlements established in the vicinity. General merchandise could be purchased at J.B. Randell’s Pioneer Store in Roosevelt. B.F. Fransas also sold general merchandise including boots, shoes, hardware, stoves, stationery and mining supplies. Fresh meat was available at McKinney and Hanson’s Pioneer Meat Market. Sam Gillam’s saloon sold wine, liquor, beer, case goods and cigars as did Hunter, Crane and Company. Van Welche’s Wellington cafe carried cased and bottled goods, Old Bourbon & McBryer whiskies, wine, cordials, cigars, cigarettes and tobacco.

William Queeney operated a livery and feed stable. He also sold Hercules powder, caps and fuses. G.D. Smith and Lee Lisbenby were the proprietors of hotels and lodging houses. The Roosevelt Laundry cleaned, pressed and repaired “gents cloths.” Dr. C.T. Jones was the resident dentist. William H. O’Brien hung up his shingle to practice law as did Messrs. Pucket and Hawley. S.P. Burr advertised as a U.S. Deputy Mineral Surveyor. Timm & Goodsell assayed samples and guaranteed “correct results.” W.H. Upham acted as a funeral director and embalmer. He presumably took care of the 40 souls who were buried in the local cemetery.

Roosevelt also had a special place for social gatherings called the “Big Amusement Hall.” The establishment was equipped with a lunch counter, designated areas for social games and advertised orchestra accompaniment for dances and other community events.

Roosevelt prospered for several years and as can be seen, had most of the amenities normally found only in large towns, even though freight rates were seven cents per pound for items transported to the district from Emmett, Idaho. Some mining equipment, such as a gyratory crusher purchased for the Sunnyside Mine, cost as much as one dollar per pound to be brought in.

By 1907, mining activities were in decline in the Thunder Mountain District. Deposits did not live up to their early promise and both the Sunnyside and Dewey ceased operations. Some smaller operations continued work but when the larger mines closed, many people were forced to move from the area. By the fall of 1907, many of Roosevelt’s homes and businesses had been boarded up for the winter, as residents intended to return after the snow melted in the spring. By year’s end, only one store and the post office remained open.

The winter of 1908 saw one of the heaviest accumulations of snow in recorded history. By June at least seven feet of snow blanketed the area. A freak action of Mother Nature pushed the mercury up to 100 degrees on June 8, 1908 and the seven feet of snow melted rapidly; so rapidly that neither the ground nor the streams could absorb the volume. Loose slide-prone earth on the western slope of Thunder Mountain became saturated with the excess water. On June 8 and 9, the saturated earth began to move. Gaining momentum, it developed into a massive landslide. It thundered and groaned. Large fissures and cracks opened up in the mass. Water from snow melt poured into these openings and added fluidity to the muddy mess. By the morning of June 10, the entire mass of waterlogged dirt and debris began to move down the hillside. By 11pm on June 10, the slide had reached the toe of the slope of one of the canyon walls, near Roosevelt. The slide covered the floor of the narrow canyon and piled up against the adjacent hillside. It also dammed Monumental Creek, which caused water to back up into the town of Roosevelt. By daylight on June 11, the main street of Roosevelt was covered with eight feet of water. The town and all its buildings were quickly becoming inundated. An attempt by area miners to blow a hole in the slide, by using 1600 pounds of dynamite, failed.

The few residents who had remained at Roosevelt and surrounding mines, constructed rafts and attempted to salvage belongings from the boarded and locked homes and businesses. Rescuers soon realized their attempts were futile, in part because the water was rising so swiftly. Items that could be removed were removed. Some of the dwellings were anchored to rocks and trees on the adjacent hillside and left to let nature take its course. The waters continued rising until the town was completely covered.

The town remained in its flooded state for many years. Attempts by scuba divers were made periodically to salvage items from the lake. Most of these efforts were unsuccessful. During the winter of 1934, when the lake surface was frozen, the buildings that stood above the water were burned to the waterline. Now all one can see are the remains of a few buildings and a floating hand-hewn logjam at the far end of town.

Although several area mines have been worked intermittently until recently, Roosevelt and the Thunder Mountain Mining District have never seen the level of activity they experienced around the turn of the century. Mining could one day return to the area, but it is unlikely Roosevelt will never spring to life again. It will probably remain a pristine mountain lake, inhabited by beaver and a richly unique history.

“Annual Report of the Mining Industry of Idaho”, Volume 4,1901, pg. 35, Boise, Idaho 1902.
McRae, Ruth, “Search For Lost Mule Leads to Hidden Gold,” Idaho Statesman, October 3 & 10, 1937.
Thunder Mountain News, Roosevelt, Idaho, February 18, 1985, February 25, 1905, March 3, 1905, August 12, 1905, Idaho State Historical Library, Boise, Idaho.
© ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.

source: (subscription) 10/25/2017 Roosevelt: From Boom Town to Mountain Lake – August 1999 (Vol. 68, No. 12) – ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal August 1999 by Sharon A. Murray [h/t SA]
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1905 Thunder Mountain Photos

Whipsawing near Thunder Mountain [01]


One man operates the saw while another man sits petting a dog. Near the village of Roosevelt, Idaho.
Date 1905-03-19
(click for larger size at source)

Whipsawing near Thunder Mountain [02]


A group of men work with a whipsaw in a snowy area near Thunder Mountain.
Date 1905-03-19
(click for larger size at source)

source: Stonebraker Photograph Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Initiatives

Link to Thunder Mountain and Roosevelt Stories