Category Archives: Weekly History

Idaho History July 15

Florence (Part 2)

Florence, Idaho

IdahoMapFlorence-aFlorence is a ghost town in Idaho County, Idaho, United States. About 14 air miles (22 km) east-northeast of present-day Riggins in remote north central Idaho at an elevation of 6,080 feet. It was settled as a mining camp in the winter of 1861. Almost concurrent with its settlement, Washington Territory established Idaho County on December 20, 1861 in anticipation of a gold rush that brought over 9,000 residents within the first year. The town quickly became the seat with the first district court taking place at Florence on 22 September 1862.

While the rich placer gold fields in the Florence Basin brought thousands of prospectors and contributed to the establishment of Idaho Territory in 1863, the rush to Florence was short-lived as intensive mining depleted the richest ground. At the first census of Idaho Territory, only 575 residents remained. By the territorial census of 1864, the population dwindled further to 254 residents. Even in its decline, Florence continued as the county seat until 1 June 1869 when the territorial legislature moved the county seat to the Warren’s Camp settlement of Washington. The town thrived again from 1895–1900, based more on lode mining. Then the town slowly faded away, having only ten inhabitants in 1940, and was totally abandoned sometime after 1951.

Early discoveries and prosperity

The discovery of gold around Pierce and Orofino in 1861 drew thousands of prospectors into the Clearwater River area of present-day north central Idaho, east of Lewiston. With all the best ground claimed, many newcomers began to look elsewhere. In late summer 1861, a party of men headed south toward a local divide between the Clearwater River drainage and the Salmon River watershed. At that time, much of that area was still part of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. (A new treaty in June 1863 reset the reservation boundary.) Perhaps because of Indian protests, the party split at some point. A smaller band of five made their way into a high mountain basin about thirty miles (50 km) south of today’s Grangeville. There, they found very rich placer gold along most of the nearby streams in August 1861. Despite mutual promises to keep the find quiet when they returned to Elk City for supplies, word quickly got out.

The camp went briefly under the name of Millersburg, but a miners’ meeting soon settled on Florence in November 1861. That was the name the town had when the Washington territorial legislature made it the seat of Idaho County on December 20, 1861. By the time winter took hold, the camp reportedly held nearly two thousand men. Unfortunately, the winter of 1861–1862 “proved to be one of the coldest in the history of Idaho.” No one knows how many men died from the cold, but one newspaper writer had “no doubt that at least one hundred men have perished from the cold.” Survivors told horrific stories of near-starvation, frostbite, and widespread snow-blindness.

As was common to many of those early placer mining districts, the richest days in Florence lasted only a couple years. About five years of steady, but lesser production followed. By around 1869, Chinese miners were working most of the claims in the region, whites having leased the properties or abandoned them. Probably not coincidentally, Florence lost its designation as county seat on June 1, 1869. The period of largely Chinese production lasted until about 1880, followed by a long stretch of minimal activity.

Population history

1864 census: 254 (222 men, 11 women, 21 children)
1863 census: 575

Resurgence and decline

The first quartz lodes in the Florence area might have been developed as early as 1863. Another followed around 1872–1875. However, the location of the Florence Basin in high, extremely rugged country made transportation especially difficult. Operators had to rely on hand mills, or very small stamp mills that could be broken down into manageable components for transport. In 1895, a new road was built to connect Florence to Mount Idaho. With better transport, investors took another look at the quartz mining possibilities in the region. They found enough rich ore to justify bringing in more milling capacity, which set off another boom. Optimistic owners even assembled a dredge to re-work the old placer fields.

Early returns seemed to justify their hopes, but both the lode and placer booms were fairly short-lived. By around 1900–1905, those hopes had faded and the town had to depend upon small-scale, essentially individual operations after that. Even that had ended by around 1940, when the census recorded just ten people in Florence.

In 1951, when Sister Alfreda Elsensohn published her history of Idaho County, the handful of Florence inhabitants no longer received local mail delivery. It’s not clear when the last resident moved away (or passed on). Today, only a few building foundations and an overgrown cemetery remain.

The Florence Basin is several miles west of the Gospel Hump Wilderness, which was designated a wilderness area in 1978. The basin is over 4,000 vertical feet (1,220 m) above the Salmon River, five air miles (8 km) north of its confluence with French Creek. After flowing westward across the state, the river turns north at Riggins; Florence is also twelve miles east of the river as it nears Lucile (elev. 1,650 ft.)

source: Wikipedia
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After the initial discovery of gold at Pierce Idaho in 1860, miners began to spread out throughout the Clearwater Country looking for more big strikes. Nearby Oro Fino was the first new area found, and then prospectors discovered gold along the South Fork of the Clearwater River near what would become Elk City. But the strikes at Florence, even further south, turned out to be the big bonanza all the miners had been trying to find.

The prospectors who came to Florence in 1861 had done so over the objections of many of the Nez Perce Indians, who had been trying to limit the miner’s incursions into their lands. But a twenty-three-man party was strong enough to force its way through to a high basin not far from the Salmon River. Before long the news of incredibly rich placers had reached Elk City and other camps in the area. There were stories of miners getting $20 to the pan or making upwards of $100 day, huge money for that time.

By late fall a frantic rush to Florence was on. The lust for riches was so strong some miners even attempted to get to Florence during the bitter winter of 1862. Those already there hunkered down despite limited supplies. Frozen waters and snow ten feet deep shut down mining until the spring thaw. But by the end of April another prosperous mining season was well under way.

1862 turned out to be the richest mining season Florence would ever see. It’s estimated as many as ten thousand miners passed through the remote camp that year. While only a few thousand were mining, others came as carpenters, merchants, hotelkeepers, or bar tenders. Historian Merle Wells writes that production in Florence during the height of the 1862 season very likely reached 50,000 dollars a day and that the total for the year probably exceeded six million dollars.

During those first couple of years at Florence the miners went through much of the gold. By the end of 1863 most of the placers had been “worked out”. Placer mining continued in Florence for the next twenty to thirty years although the district was pretty much given to the Chinese after the richest workings were depleted. A quartz revival in 1896 gave the district another dose of excitement but it didn’t come anywhere close to matching the big season of 1862 when this remote gold camp earned it’s nickname “Fabulous Florence”.

source: Idaho PTV
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Camp Barely Escaped A Civil War Battle

1862F1-F2-aA Civil War battle was almost fought in Idaho County, far removed as this region of the unsettled Northwest was from actual battle scenes in 1862.

Civil War feeling was at a high pitch among miners. During the rush to Florence basin, an incident at a Slate Creek camp Is recounted In the experiences of Alonzo F. Brown who left his home at Roseburg Ore., in March, 1662, for the Florence mines.

“There were at least 150 men there that night…. Two of the men got to discussing the war. One was a rebel sympathizer and the other was a Union man.

“They finally got abusive and were about to fight when someone called for men to come out and show their colors.

“In five minutes. we were lined up facing each other, all armed with miners’ weapons, pistol and butcher knife.

“We were nearly equally divided, probably more Union men.

“Some of the older men got between the two lines and asked them not to fight … finally quieted them down.

“But we kept our own side after that.”

At Florence, “Main Street became the dividing line between the north and south factions.”

As a result, it often happened that when morning came there were two or three dead men on the streets. “Early residents,” says Brown, “did not turn their heads when they heard a shot. To do so might mean at bullet in one’s own back.”

source: Lewiston Morning Tribune – Oct 6, 1955
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Florence 1864 Map

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1895 Florence Idaho

1895FlorenceNews-aThe Columbian (Bloomsburg, Pa.) – 28 June 1895

The impulse lately given to gold mining has infused new life into many deserted towns and abandoned camps in the West. In 1861 the camp of Florence, Idaho, had a population of 30,000 people, and everything that goes to the making of a city. It was a placer camp, and gold was plentiful. But the supply soon became exhausted, and the miners would not take the time and exercise the patience to work quartz. The camp was then quickly deserted. Recently, however, good quartz ledges have been discovered in that locality, and the abandoned town again shows signs of life.

source: Treasure Net, Jeff of PA
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1896 New Florence


(click image for original on FB)
Photo 1 – In 1896 the town of New Florence was established 1/2 mile south of the original town of Florence. This photograph shows two women skiing in the town of New Florence around the end of the 19th century. USFS Collection.


(click image for original on FB)
Photo 2 – These New Florence townfolk knew how to have fun in the late 1890s.

source: U.S. Forest Service – Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, Ace Barton Collection, USFS.
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1907 Baboon Gulch, Florence Idaho

(click for original)
Baboon Gulch, Florence Idaho, as it appeared in 1907, look about the same today, but the cabins are gone.

source: Idaho Gold Gettr Treasure Net
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Miller Creek, Florence, Idaho 1907

(click image for original)
Elevator on Miller Creek. Florence Idaho 1907. Rodney Lawrence Glissan Photo.

source: Idaho County Free Press
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Murders, Poisonings and Executions in Idaho County

compiled by Penny Bennett Casey, Idaho County GenWeb

Benson, O

Idaho Coutny Free Press Thursday, July 30, 1908

Benson Is Killed – Florence Hotel Keeper Killed by Chas. Spaulding

Cause Settlement of Debt – Looks Like Self Defense Preliminary Held Friday

A tragedy was enacted early Friday evening in the old mining town of Florence which is ordinarily as quite as the deserted village. The story as briefly told from the information we are able to gather at the present writing is as follows.

It seems Charles Spaulding, a young mining man, was owing O.? Benson, the keeper of the hotel, a sum of money ranging in the neighborhood of fifty dollars and Friday evening, along about mail time, 6:30, Spaulding went to the post office, which is located in the hotel and conducted by Benson, to get what mail there might be for him. Upon his entrance to the building, Benson demanded the payment of the sum of money and Spaulding replied he intended to settle the debt when he could procure the funds with which to do it. Benson then asked Spaulding to give his note for that amount for one year which he agreed to do. Benson then drew up the note and Spaulding looked the same over, he discovered the note was made out for sixty days and refused to sign it. Then with an oath Benson remarked to high voice that he would make him sign the note before he left that house and with these remarks, reached to his hip pocket, presumably for a revolver. Quick as flash Spaulding had him covered and fired, the bullet striking just below the heart.

A courier was dispatched to Adams Camp, the nearest telephone station, and medical aid summoned and the officers notified. Immediately after the deed Spaulding walked to the cabin of Claud Flint and delivered over his gun and gave himself up. Dr. Campbell and Deputy Sheriff Byram left at 10 Friday evening for the scene of the tragedy. On their way in they met Spaulding coming out to surrender himself to the officers of the law so the deputy told him to come on out and he would go in and investigate.

The hearing is set for Friday at which time a number of witnesses will be examined. From the evidence obtained here it seems the act was justifiable for while investigation after the death of Benson showed he did not have a gun but a sling shot, there is no question judging from this action but that he intended to put Spaulding out of business.

Copyright Notice: All materials contained on these pages are furnished for the free use of those engaged in researching their family origins. Any commercial use or distribution, without the consent of the host/author of these pages is prohibited. All images used on these pages were obtained from sources permitting free distribution, or generated by the author, and are subject to the same restrictions/permissions. All persons contributing material for posting on these pages do so in recognition of their free, non-commercial distribution, and further, is responsible to assure that no copyright is violated by their submission.
source: from Area Newspaper Articles compiled by Penny Bennett Casey, Idaho County GenWeb
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At one time there were 5000 people in this town. There is a cemetery there, also a Chinese cemetery. We couldn’t find any women in the cemetery. A saloon/bar had been there but the Bar itself has been moved to White Bird, ID. The gold mine played out in the late 1800s. Their supplies came from White Bird, ID.

source: Submitted by Fay Pitchford, Ghost Towns
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Florence Cemetery

(click for original)
Idaho County, GenWeb

FlorenceCemeteryBaby-aI was always told that everyone in the Florence Cemetery were buried with their boots on, except for the “Baby”. Also, legend has it that the “Good Guys” were buried pointing East and West so they could see the sun come up and go down; and the “Bad Guys” were buried pointing North and South. Don’t know how much truth there was to it, but it made for a good story! There are empty graves in the cemetery from the Chinese exhuming their relatives bodies in later years and sending them back home to China.

The following is a listing of known burials in the cemetery.

Anderson, Nels W. Died March 15, 1911, aged 48 yrs. Native of Sweden
Baby” – this grave is of an infant girl buried in the early 1860’s. Said to be the first person buried in the cemetery “without” their boots on. I was told this may be the daughter of Samuel and Delia Applegate. No proof has been found of this information.
Bannard, George Died October 24, 1879, aged 58 yrs. Native of New York
Billings, Albert Died July 13, 1862, aged 4 yrs.
Dunn, Daniel Died July 1918, Native of Nova Scotia
Hopwood, William Died January 1898
Morris, J. B. Died June 1900. Livery Stable and Post master and Florence
Mosier, James Died September 1910, aged 46 yrs.
Neselroade, G. Died July 29, 1862, aged 48 yrs. Native of Ohio
P.M.G. Only letters on the headstone
Seaburg, Charlie (maybe John) Died November 1918 of exposure. Remains found in 1931
Scott, Newt Died November 11, 1897
Scott, Sylvester or Savester Died January 1862 Native of Kentucky. Killed in gunfight.
Talbot, H.J. (Cherokee Bob) Died January 5, 1863 Aged 29 Native of Georgia

These photos were taken in 1986. Contributed by Penny Bennett Casey

Copyright Notice: All materials contained on these pages are furnished for the free use of those engaged in researching their family origins. Any commercial use or distribution, without the consent of the host/author of these pages is prohibited. All images used on these pages were obtained from sources permitting free distribution, or generated by the author, and are subject to the same restrictions/permissions. All persons contributing material for posting on these pages do so in recognition of their free, non-commercial distribution, and further, is responsible to assure that no copyright is violated by their submission.

source w/more photos: Penny Bennett Casey Idaho County GenWeb
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Florence Tells Her Secrets

A Self-Guided Tour of the Florence Basin

How Did Florence Get Her Name?

The naming of Florence, which occurred by November, 1861, is clouded in controversy, with long-time area residents reporting different versions of its naming.

The most common version, and the one most likely, is that Florence was named for a stepdaughter of Dr. George Furber. Dr. Furber had a claim on Pioneer Gulch and ran a pharmacy in Florence.

Historian Elliott reported this version in 1884 but mentioned that others claimed Florence was a woman of ill repute in the area.

The other popular story of the origin of the name says that Florence was named for the daughter of Jim and Julia Hunt. Jim was an early grocer and hotelkeeper of the new town. Florence Hunt was reportedly the first child born there.

Florence Cemetery

The Florence Cemetery is the one site that really brings you close to the people who once inhabited Florence. Miners, outlaws, merchants and their families came to seek their fortune in Florence. Many found their final resting place here.

Drinking, gambling, fighting, robbery and murder were commonplace in Florence during its peak. A notorious outlaw “Cherokee Bob” Talbotte moved to Florence with a woman called Red Headed Cynthia, taking over a saloon by reportedly threatening to murder the owner. Talbotte was killed in a shootout in the streets of Florence in 1863. You will find his grave in the cemetery.

An Oregon newspaper indicated shootings were so common that “when a man is shot people hardly turn round to see what is the matter.” For awhile, Florence was the roughest place in the west.

Not all was rough and rowdy. Children were present and it was necessary to provide a school house and employ a teacher. The Florence school district was organized in the spring of 1864.

The schoolhouse was about 12 by 14 feet with 8-foot walls and was built of hewn logs. The floor was made of whipsawed boards and the roof was made of shaved handriven shingles.

School in New Florence, 1898. Ace Barton Collection.

There was quite an array of textbooks brought to the school by the six youngsters who made up the enrollment. Parents in the frontier west learned not to leave schoolbooks behind when migrating from place to place. Needless to say the school, held during the summer months, was a success.

New Florence

Founded in 1896 and supported by a second mining boom in the 1890s, New Florence covered 40 acres with businesses, tents and cabins.

… Eva Canfield was one of the last miners to inhabit the Florence area after New Florence was abandoned. She lived here in the 1940s.

In June 1940, Mrs. Canfield, who was then seventy years old, completed the census of the mining region around the whole Salmon River country. To take the census, Eva traveled on horseback, on skis, and on foot in order to register nearly six hundred people. At that time, Florence itself had but ten inhabitants.

… The Waverly Mine first went into production in January 1896. It was active off and on until 1939.

In 1897 a two stamp mill was assembled for processing ore from the mine. This type of mill involves machinery consisting of stamps that have two heavy iron cylinders. These are dropped down on the ore to crush it.

History indicates that the mine was periodically opened and closed again due to poor management and inability to operate at a profit, a history common to many mines.

Dredge Ponds

The pilings you see are the remains of a dragline dredging site that was active in the 1930s.

A dragline dredge is a power-shovel excavator that feeds a floating washing plant or gold processor. Dredges like the one that sat here rearranged waterways as they worked.

If you look down the creek, you can see where the tailings from the dredge were left.

Drag Line or Steam Shovel Dredge in Florence Basin, courtesy Nez Perce National Forest

The Florence Gold Rush

In its early history, Florence experienced a gold rush which caused the population to boom from 50 to 9000 in one year. Gold seekers discovered gold in the Florence Basin in August of 1861. By winter of that year, 3000 people had flocked to the area and over one million dollars in gold had been produced from placer mining alone. By June of 1862, the area reached its peak population of about 9000. Miners produced seven million dollars in gold that year. By early August of 1862, thousands of people left the area due to the lack of paying mining claims.

By 1863, the big rush was over, but mining activity still continued. For the next 20 years a mixed population of Chinese and White miners worked their diggings. Using more patient, labor-intensive mining practices, the Chinese made meager fortunes reworking old placer claims.

After a relatively inactive period at Florence in the 1880s, new technology for quartz mining revived the area in 1895. People once again flocked to the Florence Basin, putting the population back up to 1000 in 1897. Conflict between owners of the Old Florence townsite and new gold-seekers spurred the establishment of New Florence, 1/4 mile south. The old townsite was disassembled for salvage lumber and was mined for remnant gold that fell through the cracks of floorboards in several buildings.

By 1897 only a few buildings were left standing in Old Florence. By 1900, the mining boom had declined again and only a few stamp mills continued their operations. Although some minor booms occurred between 1900 and 1940, none were comparable to those of the 1860s and 1890s.

The Story of Tolo

Photo of Tolo, taken about 1890 (contributed by Agnes Moses, Tolo’s daughter, Kamiah, Idaho), courtesy Nez Perce National Forest

The Nez Perce woman Alablernot or Tolo (Too-lah), as she was called by the white settlers she had befriended, played an integral part in the Nez Perce War of 1877.

News of the hostilities between the Nez Perce people and the white settlers and ranchers reached the residents of Freedom (now the site of Slate Creek). The whites congregated at Freedom and constructed a stockade for protection from the Nez Perce.

This stockade was made by digging a trench about 3 feet deep and placing timbers upright. The approximately 40 women and children felt much safer within the confines of the stockade. However, the 23 men present were poorly armed and the settlers were totally shut off from any information from the outside world. Their only possible avenue of help was from the miners of Florence.

It was then that Tolo, who had come to the stockade with her two sisters and their two children, offered to make the 26-mile trek to Florence to warn the miners of the Nez Perce uprising and to get help.

Tolo rode all night arriving at Florence in the early morning. By that night, 25 miners were gathered and armed with modern guns. They arrived at Freedom the next morning prepared to fight, but no conflict occurred.

Chinese Miners

In the 1870s and 1880s, there were probably as many as 150 Chinese in Florence. Chinese immigrants reworked almost all of the placer ground, including the old tailings.

Not all the Chinese were employed as miners. They also became freighters, merchants, sawyers, cooks and gardeners. There was a Chinese laundry in town.

When a Chinese man lay dying, he was always moved out of his house because his fellow men would not live in a place where someone had died. They burned all of the clothing and bedding.

The bodies of the Chinese buried in the Florence cemetery were exhumed prior to the 1920s.

Once exhumed, the bones were burnt and the ashes sent back to China to be buried in the sacred ground of the native country.

Milner Trail

In its beginnings, Mount Idaho was one of several way stations along the trail to the Florence mines.

Moses Milner, with the help of his partner Francis, cut the trail from Mount Idaho to Florence in the spring of 1862. There was a toll charged. The Milner Trail was later incorporated into the state wagon road, which was built in 1891.

In May, 1862, Mrs. Seth Jones gained the distinction of being the first woman to pass over the Milner Trail. In recognition of the fact, she was permitted to travel the new pioneer route without payment or toll.

The name Tollgate still clings to a place six or seven miles above Mount Idaho as a reminder of Milner’s efforts.

Adams Camp

Adams Camp (date unknown), courtesy Nez Perce National Forest

Adams Camp was a favorite stopping place along the old Milner Trail, and was first settled in 1862.

Adams Camp had a post office and stage station with tri-weekly mail service.

Adams Work Center, formerly Adams Camp, has been used by the Forest Service as an administrative site since 1918. The Adams Camp Ranger Station also served as switchboard center for all telephone lines in the area.

A segment of the Idaho Centennial Trail passes through the Florence Basin (see Trail #88 on the map on pages 7 and 8). This section of trail is currently a multi-purpose trail. The trail passes through the Florence Basin winding along the old wagon roads and miner trails constructed to transport supplies and miners from Grangeville to Warren and service the Florence interior.

Excerpted from: Nez Perce National Forest


Idaho History July 8

Florence (Part 1)

View of old Florence, Idaho


Copyright Idaho State Historical Society 2012
source: Idaho State Historical Society
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The History of Florence, Idaho and the 1861 Discovery of Gold

In August of 1861, gold was discovered in the small creeks and gulches around the Florence Basin. Miners began trickling into the area. What started as a small tent city with 50 residents grew into a bustling, strategically placed (in the center of the new gold diggings at the head of Baboon Gulch) city of 9,000 by the following year. This “boom” ultimately lead to the establishment of the Summit Creek Mining District.

By late summer this quick growing town boasted a sawmill, ten butcher shops, seven bakeries, eight lawyers, six gambling saloons, a few “hole-in-the-wall doggeries” (saloons), a dance house, Masonic Hall, and a jail. A few of the log cabins, particularly the saloons, had fancy fronts and glass windows but others let in the light through muslin coverings. In preparation for winter the miners began constructing cabins with logs dragged to the site on hand sleds from over a mile away.

What began as not much more than a meek miner’s camp swiftly turned into a thriving town, with two main intersecting town streets named Main and Miner and a third named Pine.

… and her name is Florence

Although how this mining town originally received her name remains shrouded in controversy, in November of 1861, Florence received her name. By December the town was laid out and a city government established.

Incredible amounts of gold dust were produced in Florence and in 1862 alone, six to seven million dollars worth of gold had been extracted. By the summer of 1862 this little miners camp had flourished into a boomtown.

Winter in the wild, wild west

The winter of 1861 & 1862 at Florence became known as the worst on record. It snowed 113 days in a row. Snow depths of 10 feet were reached. Miners were forced to stop mining when their rockers froze. Supplies ran short and miners lived for weeks on a diet of flour and water or “spruce tea” made by melting snow.

John Clark’s Hotel, Old Florence. Photo courtesy of Idaho County Bicentennial Museum.

Although the deep snow kept pack trains from reaching Florence, some supplies did make it –packed in on the backs of men referred to as “Boston Jack-asses.”

After the long winter, the first pack train did not reach the town until May 16, 1862. In addition to having brutal weather, Florence was considered one of the roughest towns in the West during the winter of 1862-1863. Alonzo Brown, a store keeper who once lived in Florence, said: “Men had a habit of getting drunk at the saloons and shooting into stores and tents as they went by. I slept in the store on the floor, and to protect myself from the stray bullets fired by drunken men, I piled up a stack of flour as wide as my bed and about four feet high and made down my bed behind the flour. The town was filled with the worst element of the Pacific Coast, and thieves and gamblers from the East.”

“Not infrequently some drunken ruffian draws his revolver and begins to shoot in the midst of the vast crowd, often killing or wounding some one and creating a fearful stampede…There is no law here, or none that sees, abates, retards or punishes crime. Scarcely a day passes that someone is not killed or wounded.”
-P.W. Gillette (diary) June 15, 1862

The riches of Florence attracted not only men looking to make a fortune in gold, but also the ruffians who followed in their wake—dishonest gamblers, outlaws and thieves. Men referred to as highwaymen held up travelers stealing all their valuables on the main travel route between Lewiston, Oro Fino and Florence.

One such highwayman, the legendary Henry Plummer, is rumored to also have been in Florence. In the spring of 1862, two of Plummer’s pals, Cherokee Bob Talbotte and Billy Mayfield drifted into Florence. They brought with them a “woman of ill-repute” known as Red-Headed Cynthia. Both of the men were interested in the fiery redhead and a showdown of sorts seemed inevitable. When confronted by the two men regarding her alliance, Cynthia chose Bob, now a business man and owner of the newly acquired Boomerang Saloon. Billy left town the next day, never to return.

Little did Bob know that within a few short months he would lie in a grave on “boot hill”, mortally wounded in a gunfight at age 29, defending the reputation of the red-haired beauty.

Cherokee Bob had taken over the Boomerang Saloon when he first arrived in Florence by throwing out the owner, and claiming the owner’s deceased partner was in debt to him.

It was here Florence’s highwaymen would gather in order to gain information about the plans of wealthy travelers and shipments of gold dust. It wasn’t long before Florence’s most notorious resident and outlaw, Cherokee Bob, met his bloody fate.

On January 2, 1863, Orlando “Rube” Robbins and Jakey Williams shot and mortally wounded Bob during a gunfight on the street in Florence. He died three days later. The men were hastily tried for the act four days later and cleared of the crime. Robbins later became a well-known deputy US Marshall in the Boise area and was often referred to as the “Wyatt Earp of the Boise Basin”.

(see also Henry Plummer)
(see also Orlando “Rube” Robbins)

Although the Civil War was being fought thousands of miles away at the same time Florence was booming, the Florence gold rush had an impact on the national economy during the Civil War years. With the South providing the largest export item in the United States, cotton, the North faced a devastating loss of revenue. The North turned westward in search of resources to fund the war and aid the failing economy. Gold became the answer and Idaho gold mines were a key producer. Many historians believe that Idaho gold mines directly contributed to the victory of the war by the North.

The Civil war also had quite an affect on the residents of Florence. In 1862, Main Street in Florence was referred to as the “Mason-Dixon line” by Southern sympathizers and understood to be the dividing line between the factions. As the 4th of July neared, tensions between the two sides intensified. Fearing a fight, residents came up with a plan to avert bloodshed. Two committees were formed — one of southern sympathizers and one of northern — and hired Charles Ostner. A miner and former Heidelberg, Germany art student, Ostner was given the task to prepare a fitting tribute to the country to be unveiled on Independence Day, 1862.

Residents brought snow and piled it in the center of Main Street. Every night the growing pile of snow was drenched with water creating a large block of ice. Hidden behind a tarp, Ostner went to work and on the 4th of July hostilities were avoided when his work was unveiled: a sculpture of George Washington on horseback; an American symbol that proved satisfying to both factions.

Old Florence 1896

Idaho Firsts in Florence

Idaho County’s 1st County Seat

In December 1861 the territorial legislature created Idaho County and Florence became the first county seat. By 1875, Mount Idaho, built largely as a stop for traffic to the gold fields, was developing into a prosperous town, promising to be a more permanent settlement than Florence, and in 1875 won a special election for county seat. In 1902 Grangeville was designated as the county seat and remains so today.

Jaspar Rand served as the Florence City Justice of the Peace in 1862. Justice Rand handled cases varying from cattle theft and murder to performing wedding ceremonies. Because of the frequency of claim jumping and theft, a vigilance committee for Florence was suggested as early as February 1862. According to Florence court records, thirtytwo cases were held in November and December of 1862 and fifty-eight from January to August of 1863.

First Library in Idaho

Sitting wrapped in a blanket by the fire with a good book provided a welcome diversion from the dark, long, and cold wintry evenings in the remote mining camp. In the winter of 1862-1863, one enterprising Florence store owner operated a rental lending library as part of his business, offering about 115 books for loan, including novels, drama and poetry, and non-fiction such as history and politics. Sixty-two men and one woman borrowed books, paying $3 a month for the privilege.

In 1868, $150.00 was raised to finance a library to serve the continued desire for reading materials by Florence’s residents.

First Public School in Idaho

(click image for larger size)
School in New Florence, 1898. Ace Barton Collection.

The first public school in Idaho was located at Florence in 1864. At the first session of the territorial legislature the public school law of California was adopted with minor changes to fit conditions in Idaho. Major Frank Fenn’s father, who was a member of the assembly, returned to Florence that winter and formed a public school district there. A small, 12′ x 14′ hewn-log building with a whipsawed board floor and shingled roof was erected as a schoolhouse. Mrs. J.H. Robinson from Ohio was the first school teacher and was paid $100 per month for teaching six scholars including Major Fenn, two of his siblings, and three other young boys.
— Idaho Daily Statesmen 1905. Major Frank Fenn, prominent Idaho legislator, military leader and Forest Service Officer

First Masonic Hall in Idaho

In 1862, at the reputed cost of $10,000, the first Masonic Hall of Idaho was built in Florence by Masons with help from a few Odd Fellows. Although no Masonic Lodge was ever formed, it served as a Masonic “Club,” and was shared with the Odd Fellows.

Idaho’s First State Wagon Road: The Milner Trail

In 1890 the Milner Trail, originally built by Moses E. Milner in 1862, was reconstructed becoming part of Idaho’s first state wagon road from Mt. Idaho to near Payette Lake.

Today much of the road remains in its original location. In fact, Forest Service Road #643 traveling through the old Florence townsite, was the original Milner Trail and also served as the main street of Florence.

The Milner Trail ascended from Mount Idaho south along the hogback ridge to the Adams Way Station and into Florence, avoiding the great elevation changes of White Bird Hill and the high ridge above Florence.

The Milner Trail between Mount Idaho and Florence was authorized in 1864 by the territorial legislature as a toll trail, with charges of $3 per wagon and horse or mule, $1 per horseman and 50 cents per loaded pack animal. …

Chinese Miners

Typical of Idaho mining towns, the original laws of mining districts denied Chinese the right to own or operate mining claims. Chinese miners began coming to Idaho in 1864 as the richest claims were worked out and the Idaho legislature passed an act allowing Chinese to mine in Idaho if they paid a monthly license fee. White miners and the Summit Creek Mining District voted to officially admit Chinese to the mining district in 1869 (when the best deposits had been exhausted). In 1870, Florence had twenty-one male and one female (a prostitute) Chinese residents and by 1874, the Chinese dominated the camp. In 1885, two-hundred Chinese worked in Florence. They remained in the Florence Basin until the late 1890s. …


Old Florence Meets New Florence

(click image for larger size)
Forlorned Old Florence, 1907. Rodney Gilsan photo

Florence’s prosperity was brief, and by August of 1862 many left the area in search of richer claims. In the summer of 1865, the remaining residents of Florence were burning unoccupied houses for firewood and much of the ground was placer mined. By that winter only one man was in residence at Florence, a gambler named Billy Courtney who was hired to keep the snow shoveled off the roofs of several buildings in town.

Although the big rush was short-lived, mining activity continued in the Florence Basin. By 1865 Chinese miners had entered the basin, remaining until the late 1890s. In 1896, promises of renewed quartz and placer mining brought hopeful miners back to the basin for a second big boom.

(click image for larger size)
Residents standing amidst placer piles in the streets of New Florence, 1896. Idaho State Historical Society photo.

Due to friction between the new wave of miners and the owners of the original townsite, a new town was established about one-half mile south of Florence. New Florence was located where roads leading to the major mines of the Summit Creek mining district converged with the Milner Trail, by then a state wagon road.

Resident of New Florence 1898, Ace Barton Collection.

In 1924, the Submarine Gold Placer & Quartz Mining Company shipped in a large steam shovel to work the placer grounds in 1924, literally obliterating much of what was left of Old Florence. By 1933, of the original buildings, only one remained partially standing – a hurdy-gurdy house.

Sheep grazing in New Florence, 1926. K.D. Swan photo.

All prehistoric and historic artifacts and structures, either on the ground surface or buried underground, are protected by various laws and regulations. If you find evidence of past use of the area by prehistoric or historic people, please do not disturb or remove the artifacts, sites or features.

source: Nez Perce National Forest
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1861-1862 Old Florence

Winter in Old Florence – Tough Times in the Early Idaho Mining Boom Town

The first miners arrived in Florence in the fall of 1861. Some were well provisioned, but many of the later arrivals were not and by late January food shortages were severe. Seven to ten foot snows kept pack trains from reaching Florence. Supplies that did make it there were packed in on the backs of men referred to as “Boston Jack-asses”.

… there was very hard times here this winter on account of no groceries being in camp. Flour was worth two dollars per pound, bacon, three dollars, coffee, three, sugar, three, tea, three. There was no beef to be got; no butter or syrup. Mining, there was none of it. Shovels sold for forty five dollars each, picks, sixteen, lumber fifty cents a foot, nails three dollars per pound, wages ten dollars per day and board yourself. This will be a lively place next summer….there have been two or three killed already, and shooting to no end….the snow is about seven feet at present.
—Letter from Charles Hay, Florence City to H.C. Crockett, dated April 25, 1862.

The deep snows buried the small, hastily built log cabins. People had to shovel out steps down to their homes, and the only light came in through the chimneys. One man who was a child in early Florence remembers that once the snow was packed, people dug tunnels to pass from one side of the street to the other.

source: U.S. Forest Service – Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests
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1861-1862 Florence

Florence, Idaho County, Idaho

by Penny Casey

Gold in northern Idaho was discovered by E. D. Pierce and company in 1860 while en route to the mines of present-day Montana with supplies. On the way, the men had to pass through the Nez Perce Indian Reservation near the Clearwater River. While they camped, the men looked for gold. Their discovery was near present-day Pierce, Idaho. The men returned to Walla Walla and reported their discovery. The intention, as usual, was to keep the gold discovery a secret so that only a few men would go into the country and do more prospecting. There was opposition to Pierce’s desire to prospect gold on the reservation. But despite the opposition by a large group of white men, Pierce and his company of men went anyway. They used the Indians as guides and to help keep the peace between themselves and the rest of the tribe. But, as is the case in all of the previous gold discoveries, the news leaked out. The Nez Perce treaty was renegotiated to allow some whites to mine gold. However, the few whites became an onslaught as the word was passed about the new discoveries.

By spring of 1861 hundreds of men were mining Canal Creek and the regions around the camps of Pierce and Oro Fino City. As spring passed into summer scores of men drifted south hoping to cash in on early discoveries at such places as Elk City.

More gold was discovered at the present site of Florence by John J. Healy who arrived in September. He and a handful of other men quickly filed claims and reaped the rewards of being the first to find the precious metal. By October, the situation was quickly changing for the miners. Snow was falling and was more than a foot deep by mid-October. The lucky miners left by November and December and thereby avoided some of the devastation that followed due to severe winter weather.

The winter of 1861-62 was one of the worst in the Pacific Northwest for some time. Deep snow clogged the passes making the transportation of supplies into the camps limited if not impossible. Sub-zero temperatures killed scores of men either traveling into the mines or trying to leave. If the extreme temperatures did not kill the ill-prepared men, starvation became their companion. Gold fever was so intense that many men did not take enough food and supplies with them. These were mostly veteran miners who probably figured that, like in past gold rushes, supplies would be forthcoming. Sadly, that was not the case for these unfortunate gold seekers.

Men in the mines were not the only ones who suffered during this winter. Miners who had returned to Walla Walla to spend the winter did not find much solace there either. Firewood became so scarce that furniture and fence posts became fodder for fires as citizens strived to keep warm in poorly constructed houses. The extreme cold killed scores of people throughout the Pacific Northwest. Many cattle ranchers lost more than half of the stock due to range grasses being deep beneath the snow, while others lost all of their herds.

photo by Penny Casey
E.A. Parisot Grave at Bullion Mine (his son Raymond’s ashes were spread on it in 1977. Picture taken 1979

source w/more photos:
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1862 Florence

“The town is alive with people today (Sunday)…. The saloons are full of people. Many are gambling, hundreds drinking, while some are simply idling away the time and listening the alluring chink of coin on the gaming tables… There is no law here, or none that sees, abates, ******s or punishes crime. Scarcely a day passes that someone is not killed or wounded.”

by P.W. Gillette on June 15, 1962

source: Idaho Gold Gettr Treasure Net
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1862 Florence

Letter sent from Charles Hay, Florence City, Idaho to Edwin Crockett, April 25, 1862

from the J. Marion Casey Sebring collection of random pieces of paper and pictures that have been sitting in boxes for 100+ years, courtesy Heather Heber Callahan

letter scanned and posted at FB:
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1862 Florence

Fabulous Florence Idaho

One of the roughest and toughest mining towns in the west.

Florence Idaho was a place where only the strongest could survive. A lot of gold was found and a lot of gold was stolen. The winters were tough and the miners and criminals were tougher.

When asked by some greenhorns about coming to Florence one seasoned miner asked the men these 3 questions.

1. Are you a good rifle shot?

2. Would your scalp sit entirely easily on your cranium if it’s adhesion depended entirely upon the bursting of a cap or the igniting of the powder?

3. Can you stand as much cold as would freeze a moose in the most northern part of the State of Maine?

Another Florence miner in a 1862 letter wrote;

Society here is in a most woeful condition. Scare a week passes without a shooting or stabbing affray. On the evening of the 10th one of the most atrocious murders ever recorded in the annals of crime. During the afternoon a shooting affray occurred between two men named Finnigan and McGuire, in which the latter was shot twice and struck in the head with a pistol in the hand of Finnigan. When the crowd interfered, McGuire was taken to the Fashion Saloon, his wounds dressed, and put to bed in a room over the saloon. After dark, Finnigan slipped into the room and cut McGuire’s throat, leaving his knife in the wound.

The next day the miners turned into a vigilance group committee and hanged Finnigan.

Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology

source: Old Idaho Prospector
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1863 Florence

[O]n April 22nd, [1863] the “Golden Age”, in Lewiston, announced that rich new gold fields had been found near Florence and Warren’s Camp. The reports out of Warren’s “were so extravagant,” the newspaper said, that they “did not wish to use them at present.” They would wait for some confirmation.

From Florence, a local claimed that “two thousand men could get constant employment there during the summer.” Moreover, if enough men did show up, “More gold would be taken out this season than was taken out last year.”

source: South Fork Companion
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Government Appoints Postmasters and Creates Post Offices in Idaho Territory

May 4 South Fork Companion

On May 4, 1863, the Evening Bulletin in San Francisco published the following brief item: “Post Office Matters. … The following appointments have been received: Charles Welsh, Florence City, Idaho Territory; John Flanagan, Elk City, I. T.; Joseph Patty, Orofino, I. T. … New offices have been established at the following places: Durkeeville, Idaho Territory – Clark H. Durkee, Postmaster; Mount Idaho, I. T. – Loyal P. Brown, Postmaster.”

In the spring of 1863, Florence City (or just Florence), Elk City, and Oro Fino (now Orofino) were still flourishing gold towns. But soon, the fields played out and the towns withered. Ironically, Florence was county seat of Idaho County for a time, but it’s now a ghost town.

source: South Fork Companion
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Improved Weather Allows Mining to Begin Around Florence

May 15 South Fork Companion

On May 15, 1863, the owner of a claim near Florence wrote to a friend in Lewiston and said, “We are having excellent weather now, and, the snow is rapidly disappearing. We expect to commence sluicing tomorrow.”

This was a turnaround from the previous month, when the snow was three feet deep. Then, continued cold weather had produced little run-off, so there was no water for placer mining. That had not, however, kept prospectors from searching for new, rich ground. Some of those men had been successful, and had just been waiting for a chance to start.

According to the letter writer, that time had finally come: “Miners around Florence are beginning active operations, and in a short time few can complain of hindrance from snow. Present indications are that our claims will pay much better than they did last season.”

source: South Fork Companion
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Florence Miners Doing Well and Feeling Optimistic

June 13 South Fork Companion

On June 13, 1863, The Oregonian reported that, “We were permitted yesterday to read a letter from Florence, written by an entirely reliable gentleman there, who says that the prospects of the miners in that vicinity are highly encouraging and even brilliant.”

With so many prospectors drawn out of the area by other rushes, those who remained around Florence could take their time searching. They continued to find good to excellent gold placers for the rest of the season. The item went on, “Wages were high; men would not work for less than $150 per month, and there was a spirit of confidence in the mining resources of the region far beyond what has heretofore been entertained.”

However, although the writer might have been “reliable,” his judgement of the region’s potential fell short. While output continued for a number of years, the mines were mostly small. Many passed into the hands of Chinese miners, who patiently worked claims that whites had no interest in.

But the end of summer, only a few hundred people remained in and around Florence. Most of the rest had moved on to Boise Basin.

source: South Fork Companion
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1862-1890 Florence

Fabulous Florence, Idaho


While Florence, Idaho is a ghost town now it was a rip roaring place at one time. According to one resident P.W. Gillete’s diary dated June 15, 1862:

“Here the congressman, legislator, judge, divine, doctor, lawyer, merchant, farmer, laborer and sailor mingle in the same crowd, wear like slouch hats, blue shirts and ragged or patched breeches. Nearly all of this vast horde of gamblers, roughs and desperadoes are from California. There is no law here, or none that sees, abates, retards or punishes crime. Scarcely a day passes that someone is not killed or wounded. There has been strong talk of establishing a vigilance committee, but as yet nothing has been done. The decent people of Florence endure these outrages with remarkable fortitude.”

This Florence he is writing about was a bustling mining town in the 1860s, located about 50-miles south of Grangeville.

Florence experienced a gold rush which caused its population to boom from 50 to 9,000 people in one year. Gold was discovered in the Florence Basin in August of 1861. By winter, more than 3,000 prospectors flocked to the area. In that year more than one million dollars worth of gold had been produced from placer mining alone. And that was in 1860 dollars! By June 1862, the population peaked to 9,000, producing $7 million worth of gold that year. By 1863, the rush was over. Mining activities continued for the next 20 years with a mixed population of Chinese and white.

Following a moderately inactive period at Florence in the 1880s, modern technology for quartz mining revived the area in 1895. People once again converged on Florence and population rose to about 1,000 in 1897. Disorder between owners of the Old Florence townsite and new gold-seekers press the founding of New Florence, 1/4 mile south. The old townsite was torn down for salvage wood and was mined for scraps of gold which may have fallen through the floorboards of a number of structures.

By 1897 only a few buildings were standing in Old Florence. By 1900, the mining boom had diminished and only occasional stamp mills persisted in their operation. Some minor booms did occur between 1900 and 1940, but none was comparable to those of the 1860s and 1890s.

It is estimated that between 1860 and 1866 close to $15-million worth of gold dust was taken out of Florence. Gold dust refers to gold that is extracted by placer mining, and placer mining is where miners sift soil generally in river and creek beds looking for flakes of gold. That is distinguished from hard rock mining also called quartz mining which locates gold in quartz rocks then has to crush the quartz rock to release the “flakes” of gold. Quartz rock was crushed in stamp mills. Once the flakes of gold are released from the quartz” then miners could use washboards and like contraptions to wash away the rock and retrieve the gold flakes.

Idaho became a “Territory” in March of 1863. Not a state but a “Territory”. Statehood will come later.

Staple foods of the 1860s were sourdough bread or flapjacks, beans, bacon, tea and whiskey.

Chinese played a significant role in Florence between 1864 and 1890. In 1870, 50% of the population of the area was Chinese.

The richest single claim in Florence appears to have been that of Jacob Weiser (for whom the Weiser River was named) and his partners. The gold was reportedly two inches thick on the bedrock. The claim yielded some $20,000 in just eight days of cleanup. One pan from the claim yielded $151.50 and two men with a rocker acquired $1.800 in just three hours — that would be roughly $2,800, and $333,500, respectively, at current gold prices. Weiser sold his interest in the claim for $10,000 and left Florence with a mule-load of gold dust worth about $30,000 which would be worth more than $500,000 at current prices.

Florence, Idaho was originally settled as a mining camp in the winter of 1863. Today it is a ghost town.

source: Mike & Joyce Hendrix

Idaho History July 1

Secesh (Part 2)

Grouse Creek


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

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

Double Murder

Idaho County Free Press July 21, 1904

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

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

Idaho County Free Press July 28, 1904

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

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

Idaho County Free Press August 4, 1904

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

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

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

April 27, 1905

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

Idaho County Free Press November 30, 1905

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

Seeking Pardon

Idaho County Free Press October 13, 1910

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

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

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

Idaho County Free Press September 7, 1911

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

Copyright Notice: All materials contained on these pages are furnished for the free use of those engaged in researching their family origins. Any commercial use or distribution, without the consent of the host/author of these pages is prohibited. All images used on these pages were obtained from sources permitting free distribution, or generated by the author, and are subject to the same restrictions/permissions. All persons contributing material for posting on these pages do so in recognition of their free, non-commercial distribution, and further, is responsible to assure that no copyright is violated by their submission.
source: from Area Newspaper Articles compiled by Penny Bennett Casey, Idaho County GenWeb
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Rudolph Wetter, Inmate Record
compiled by Penny Bennett Casey from Area Newspaper Articles
— — —

Wetter, Rudolph 1044
Crime: Murder
Entered: 10-16-1904
Departed: 6-16-1916


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

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

source: Idaho State Historical Society

Gold Placers of the Secesh Basin, Idaho County, Idaho 1940

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grouse Creek

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

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

Updated July 4, 2018

Idaho History June 24

Secesh (Part 1)

Secesh Meadows Pioneer Cemetery

(click image for original)
Photo added by Kelly Walters
Source: Find a Grave
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Murders, Poisonings and Executions in Idaho County

from Area Newspaper Articles compiled by Penny Bennett Casey

Four Victims of Poisoning

Idaho County Free Press July 14, 1904

Four victims are dead and a fifth is suffering acutely as the supposed result of eating food impregnated with poison.

The fatalities occurred at Larson’s camp on Ruby Creek, near Resort, formerly Miller’s camp. Andrew Larson, L.C. Driggs, and his son, Chas.. Driggs, Mr. Mason and Mr. Syshsers were at work on Larson’s mine. Mr. Syshers was taken ill about three weeks ago, appearing to be suffering from a peculiar malady, aid was secured but the patient continued to grow worse and died in great agony.

Meanwhile Andrew Larson was stricken. His symptoms were similar to Syhsers’ and everything possible was done to relieve his without avail. His death occured June 20.

While Andrew Larson was battling with death the mysterious ailment fastened upon the elder Driggs, who was prostrated in precisely the same manner as Syhsers and Larson. He lingered a few days and followed his companions to the grave. During the period when L.C. Driggs lay on his death bed, his son, Charles betrayed symptoms of the fatal malady. Young Driggs expired with 48 hours of his father’s death.

When Mason was taken ill his friends were greatly alarmed, fearing he too, would succumb to the inexplicable visitation. He was taken to Hot Springs where he rallied and is now greatly improved though still suffering.

Dr. Blake, a physician who is interested in mining properties in the district, examining the food which the victims had partaken and expressed the belief that it contained poison obtained from a South American plant. How it came to be in the food is a mystery.

The stomach of the elder Driggs was removed and sent to Boise for chemical analysis, together with a quantity of food taken from the camp supply. It was found that the necessary tests could not be made in Boise. Neither can they be made in Moscow, and it is now intended that a chemist in Portland, or some other city shall make the analysis.

Mystery Cleared Up

Idaho County Free Press August 18, 1904

The mystery of the poisoning of the miners in Ruby meadows, near Resort, has been cleared up by the chemical analysis of the stomach contents of L.C. Driggs, one of the victims. The result showed traces of copper, tin and zinc with an abundance of ptomaine alkaloids; death is attributed to the ptomaine poisoning. Scientists differ on the origin of the poison and various causes are advanced for its presence in canned meats and vegetables.

Great interest was aroused in the camp by the appearance of a clairvoyant, a Mrs.. J. C. Stafford, who was a friend of A.L. Larson, the first victim of the mysterious poisoning. Mrs.. Stafford prevailed upon the miners to exhume the remains of her friend and in a trance she claimed to have conversed with his soul.

Copyright Notice: All materials contained on these pages are furnished for the free use of those engaged in researching their family origins. Any commercial use or distribution, without the consent of the host/author of these pages is prohibited. All images used on these pages were obtained from sources permitting free distribution, or generated by the author, and are subject to the same restrictions/permissions. All persons contributing material for posting on these pages do so in recognition of their free, non-commercial distribution, and further, is responsible to assure that no copyright is violated by their submission.
source: Idaho County GenWeb, compiled by Penny Bennett Casey
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(click image for original)
source: Rumsford Book on Household Management, Hannah Wing
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Miller’s Camp [Secesh] (Gold)

Secesh River placers were noticed not long after the discovery of nearby Warren’s, and Miller’s Camp seems to have been active from 1863 on, with about fifty people there. Activity at Ruby Meadows [the site of Miller’s Camp]. Burgdorf, the Golden Rule, and Secesh Meadows continued through the depression, and a $500,000 production may have resulted.

source: Pg 14 Mining in Idaho Number 9 1985
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Secesh Area Geology


Maps of placer workings and placer sample locations in the Warren and Secesh areas were presented by Buehler and others (1993). They concluded that the largest placer deposits in those areas have been mined, but that smaller occurrences remain that may be suitable for small yardage operators and recreational placer miners.

Marshall Lake and Resort districts:

Many gold-bearing glacio-fluvial, alluvial, and bench placers are present along streams that drain the Marshall Lake and Resort mining districts (Lorain and Metzger, 1938; Savage, 1961). Examples are present along California Creek, which drains north to the Salmon River, and along Lake Creek and its tributaries, Ruby Creek, Secesh Creek, Grouse Creek, and the Secesh River valley, which drain southeast to the South Fork of the Salmon River, which drains northward to the Salmon River.

Capps (1941) interpreted the Lake Creek, Grouse Creek, Secesh Creek, and Secesh River valleys as fault-controlled valleys, bounded by post-Miocene normal faults. The Burgdorf hot springs rise along one of the normal faults that bounds the Lake Creek valley. The valleys of Grouse Creek and Secesh Creek follow north-northwest striking faults that are up to the west, down to the east. The Secesh Meadows placers are localized in a halfgraben, which contains Tertiary sediments that dip about 25 [degrees] southwest. The Tertiary sediments and are bounded on the southwest by a northwest-striking normal fault, with granitic rocks in its up-thrown southwest block. That fault parallels the Lake Creek – Secesh River fault, which Capps (1941) interpreted as a normal fault, with its southwest block up-thrown relative to its northeast block.

Capps (1941) described placers in the following environments in the Secesh Basin:

(1) fluvial gravel in the fault-controlled valleys,
(2) Early Pleistocene glacial moraine (with highly weathered boulders),
(3) Early Pleistocene glacial outwash (with highly weathered boulders),
(4) Interglacial outwash (with moderately weathered boulders),
(5) Late Pleistocene moraine,
(6) present stream gravel.

(from page 145)

Placer mining has disturbed and redistributed alluvium in riparian zones of many drainages of the Warren – Secesh area. For example, the narrow bottom of Steamboat Creek is lined with piles of cobbles and loose sediment, and Warren Meadows is a field of dredge-waste cobble piles, interspersed with semi-disconnected streams and ponds.

(from page 147)

excerpted from: Potential Mineral Resources, Payette National Forest, Idaho: Description and Probabilistic Estimation, Open-File Report 98-219a 1998
By Arthur A. Bookstrom, Bruce R. Johnson, Theresa M. Cookro, Karen Lund, Kenneth C. Watts, Harley D. King, Merlin D. Kleinkopf, James A. Pitkin, J. David Sanchez, and J. Douglas Causey, Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service
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164. Politics.

The same half-decade which marked the beginnings of the gold-mining period in Idaho also embraced the tragic years of civil war for the nation. Although in February, 1864, Idaho’s first Territorial Legislature adopted strong anti-slavery resolutions, yet Southern sympathizers were in evidence in all the camps. Secession sentiment was especially strong in the Boise Basin on account of the inrush of pro-slavery immigrants from Missouri and other border States during the closing years of the war. The violent political prejudices that prevailed are reflected in the newspaper writings of those days. Republicans or Union Democrats often branded the followers of Jefferson Davis as “Secesh men” and “domestic traitors.” The proslavery men, not to be outdone, sometimes called the supporters of the federal government “Abe Lincoln Hirelings” or “Black Abolitionists.” The Missouri immigrants were occasionally described as “The Left Wing of Price’s Army.” One of these early partisan accounts refers to those immigrants as “the flankers of broken armies” and “an intolerable horde.”

There were, of course, some personal collisions and deeds of violence, but most of the miners were law-abiding and industrious. These roughly dressed men took an exceptionally keen and intelligent interest in public affairs and, in order to keep themselves well informed, paid exorbitant prices for newspapers. Many a learned mining-camp discussion belied its rude environment; and many a public address delivered in those mountain gulches would have done honor to any deliberative assembly.

source: “History of the State of Idaho” By C. J. Brosnan 1918 (18 meg)

updated July 4, 2018

Idaho History June 17

Yellow Pine 1900-1930

1904 1st Post Office

(Known as Morrison)
source: Idaho State Historical Society
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“Mr. Behne and Mrs. Abstein were instrumental in getting a post office by writing letters – to prove the need for a post office. Mr. Behne established the post office in 1905.”
source: “Idaho Mountains Our Home” by Lafe and Emma Cox – Copyright 1977 by V.O. Ranch Books
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Gold Stampede at Thunder Mountain Brought New Life to Yellow Pine Area

by Earl Wilson
published in The Idaho Statesman, December 26, 1962

Yellow Pine – This story is about Yellow Pine and its site that took root among giant ponderosa trees in a meadow filled with quaking aspens and clumps of willows.

A remote settlement, it actually came into existence just after the well known Thunder Mountain gold excitement, but was little importance even as a tiny village, until the advent of the Bradley Mining Company operations, and subsequent establishment of Stibnite at the Yellow Pine mine near the headwaters of the east fork of the south fork of the Salmon River.

At the time of the Thunder Mountain gold stampede into the Monumental Creek area, Yellow Pine was practically an uninhabited “basin” only a very few miles above “Dead Man’s” Bar and Regan cabins on the east fork where isolated placer mining operations were carried on by the sluice box and the gold pan. Today, these cabins are a tumbled down decayed pile of logs, among which a crude sign was found a few years ago and is now on display over the door at the Yellow Pine mercantile store. The very skillfully cut lettering showed that the cabins were built in 1876, and occupied the winter of 1885 and 1886. Later the structure known as the Buckhorn cabin on Regan Flat, was apparently occupied by a prospector known as Fox.


Albert C. Behne – Postmaster, Justice of the Peace – Yellow Pine Idaho. Courtesy Sandy McRae

Three Cabins Built

When this correspondent first entered Yellow Pine in 1907, accompanied by his father, the late “Profile Sam,” there were only three cabins – the first to be built in the area was unoccupied, and the other two were inhabited by the late Theodore Van-Meter and the late Albert C. Behne who finally became the postmaster, mining recorder, justice of the peace and the founder of Yellow Pine.

Contrary to some people who connect Yellow Pine and its later business and social activities with the Thunder Mountain era, may we set the record straight by saying that it was many years later before a few scattered log cabin homes were erected, or any places of business opened up in Yellow Pine – in fact not until the Bradley mining operations at the Yellow Pine Mine seemed permanent, that the hamlet even reached the proportion of a village. Then its fatherly founder, Mr. Behne, who had applied for a post office in 1905, carried his own mail from the, Johnson Creek bridge (now known as ‘Twin Bridges’) for at least once a week until finally the Roosevelt-Thunder Mountain route was abandoned and in turn rerouted to Yellow Pine about the year 1909.

The site of Yellow Pine, more commonly referred to in the old days as Yellow Pine Basin by the few scattered patrons of the post office just proceeding the turn of the century, was only considered a very beautiful meadow nestling among the surrounding ponderosa forests, and inhabited by denizens of the adjacent areas–a place too, where the few scattered sourdoughs might drop into from the high, snow blanketed areas during the early spring months and somewhat relieve themselves of bad cases of “cabin fever” contracted by all too much isolation.

Homemade Brew

“Cabin fever” could be arrested, at least temporarily, by drowning it in’ the contents of Mr. Van-Meters open barrel of home brew he called “old hen.” Actually a mixture of raisins and other assorted fruits and juices that made up a concoction so highly impregnated with sugar that one tin cup full of the alcoholic beverage would either take one blissfully out of this world or loosen the tongue at both ends. Incidentally too, perhaps “Old Van” had the only tomcat in Idaho that could catch enough mink during the winter months to keep him in tobacco from the proceeds derived from the mink pelts – at least that’s the way the story goes.

The Yellow Pine of today is not just an attraction for the surrounding “hillbillies” and the, outside tourist, hunter or fisherman. Denizens of the surrounding yellow pine forests, after which the settlement was named, still wander through and around the town even as their predecessors did in the ancient meadow, perhaps even in pre-historic, times. Even the bear, whose ancestors came down out of hibernation from the high elevations early in the spring to feed on Mr. Behne’s garbage dump, seemingly are just as curious as to man’s recent endeavors in the village. And no doubt attracted by the scent of food lingering around the homes, these clownish animals have actually disturbed ladies’ privacy by looking in windows — unusual “peeping toms” that after being driven off, we are wondering whether perhaps bruin did not return for another look, so undeniably human are their many antics.

The first school to be held in Yellow Pine was conducted in a tent in the year 1920 by a teacher identified as Miss Smith, and who taught a total of eight children. They were identified as George McCoy, Doris Edwards, Leslie McCoy, Eva McCoy, Ted Abstein, Helen Trinler, Myron McCoy and Gil McCoy. A photograph of this group submitted by this writer, also shows the first log school house and the teacher’s cottage (now owned by William Schlerding of Yellow Pine). These structures were built in 1922, and the village showed little growth up to that time.

Somehow the Yellow Pine of today seems headed in the direction of making a modern hamlet that could well be likened unto the fictitious Shang-ri-la of the far away Tibetan mountains, so vividly portrayed in the book “Lost Horizon,” the similarity being in the isolation of both places. The real and the fictitious, the entrance covered over and then through the blizzard-swept mountain routes, until the final entrance into snow-free areas entirely surrounded by mountain pinnacles that tower above a basin where comparatively long summer seasons, and the greenery of a typical farming community, the likes of which are comparable to the Cox Dude Ranch on the adjoining Johnson Creek, and the Fred Holcomb place on the East Fork.

Comparable to Cascade and Long Valley in elevation, but much more protected from the rigorous winter blasts; Yellow Pine’s present population of “Johnny Come Latelys” are profiting by the small number of early pioneers who blazed the trails and constructed the first pack bridges to span the streams.

Packed in Supplies

These first few settlers from the high surrounding areas were kept busy packing in the supplies needed to last through the eight months of closed trails and the constantly drifting snow. Then the silence broken only by the snow-laden wind and the cry of an occasional tallow hawk.

This was pioneering that those now interred in Yellow Pine pioneer cemetery are but a part of the small group who scattered to the far flung areas of what is now known as the primitive wilderness.

Where in those days such pioneer ventures as the old Werdenhof and the Sunday Mine at Edwardsburg were in operation, and only a winding trail down Big Creek reached the Copper Camp and the Jensen brothers Snow Shoe Mine. These and many other small operations from Profile, Quartz Creek and clear to the Ramey Ridge, were the reason that held those men snow-bound and isolated in regions where only the melting snows of spring could free the trails and again make transportation by pack or saddle animal possible. This was indeed pioneering the hard way.

source: Valley County GenWeb
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Early Yellow Pine District Settlers Battled Hardships in Mountains


By Earl Willson Idaho Statesman September 2, 1963

Yellow Pine – This writer, who has frequently been referred to both sarcastically and humorously as: “Long Line” Willson, or preferably just as “Gabby” Willson, has returned to his retreat atop Profile Summit and the adjacent areas after nearly a months siege in the Boise Veterans hospital.

There successful efforts were made to arrest a badly hemorrhaging stomach ulcer that held him in that wonderful institution completely cut off from his regular line of research into the lives of those early day pioneers and their primitive way of life.

In this area, a road of sorts now winds its way up to this cabin’s steps where a salt lick belongs exclusively to our antlered friends, and occasionally even a mother ventures near with her two last season’s “two-heads” — albeit a little alert but nevertheless content to get her share of the mineral that even the brightly colored birds seem to have a monopoly on during the midday hours.

Early-Yellow-Pine-Settlers-Idaho-Statesman_2-aShadows Descend

And now, the deepening shadows descend on this domain from which we have such a magnificent view of Coin Mountain being tipped by the setting sun, even as this promontory is the first pinnacle over which that celestial body rises to again bathe us and our surroundings with the blessed light of long sweetly scented days and short nights.

As we reminisce further in retrospect, hack to the turn of this century, we can see where the western slope of Coin Mountain is covered with the stark remains of dead and charred lodge pole pines that tower grotesquely above a new stand of young seedlings and increased highland grazing made possible by increased light.

Even the eastern slope below where our original cabin stood, presented the same picture where now a thick stand of balsam, pinon pine and an occasional black pine towers into the heavens and obscures our former view down below where Profile Creek meanders in a southerly direction toward the east fork of the Salmon River and Yellow Pine Basin.

Early Traveler

This is remindful too, of the late Pringle Smith – that eccentric character, and native born southerner, who each season made his regular pilgrimage into the back country with his pack string. He refused to cross any mountain stream over any newly constructed pack bridge, because, as he said, he believed in traveling the bridge that had carried him safely across during all the past years.

Few pack bridges there were though, in those early days, and the fording of swollen mountain streams was often difficult and hazardous in the rugged terrain adjacent to the Copper Camp on lower Big Creek, and up toward Fern Creek and the quick silver mining prospects then owned by Pringle and his associates, then later taken over by the late John Oberbillig and successfully operated by that pioneer under difficult conditions for many years.

Those were the days too, when the late Albert C. Hennecy [sic] owned what later became the Yellow Pine Mine and the thriving inland town of Stibnite, owned and operated by the Bradleys.

Early-Yellow-Pine-Settlers-Idaho-Statesman_3-aTrip Recalled

Reminiscing further into the past, this correspondent can recall a stormy ski trip across this then “no mans land,” and an overnight stop with Hennecy [sic] before continuing the trip into the upper reaches of Profile. That, incidentally, was the rugged Irishman who, among other exploits, had the grueling task that many times forced old Hennecy [sic] to take shelter in the lee of a certain huge rock and an improvised lean-to. Here he would subsist entirely on his usual ration of chocolate and raisins until the storm permitted him to continue the trip on his long skis. In later years, “Old Al,” was equally proficient so they say, in the manufacturing of a special brand of “mountain dew,” often referred to as “squirrel whiskey.”

Those were troublesome times in the wilderness areas, when such characters as those depicted in the accompanying photographs lived that way and loved it. Those were the days too, when the mountaineer might he overtaken by “cabin fever,” to the point where he and his partner had violent quarrels or even came to blows before spring. However, there was that element of closely knit ties that immediately took over when an associate or any far flung neighbor needed assistance. In this hour of need, all differences were forgotten and the only concern was to render succor to a stricken partner.


No Communication

Often this assistance was difficult in those early days because of the primitive areas vast extent, and the settlers often lived isolated in these far-flung areas where no line of communication was available and contact with a fellow man sometimes extended into weeks or even months.

Then when death overtook any unfortunate mountaineer, no undertaker nor minister of the gospel presided over the remains. Usually a rough lumber casket was the individual’s last resting place, but very often not even a wooden box was available but the remains were swathed in a blanket before being lowered into a hastily dug grave.

Today many of these graves dot the terrain all over the back country, most of them unmarked, but mute evidence of the high cost of pioneering in any isolated areas. Some of the more fortunate, however, are resting in a pioneer cemetery like the one in Yellow Pine where community civic pride and mutual interest provides an inclosure and the facilities necessary to beautify the permanent pioneer shrine.

story and images credit Sandy McRae, courtesy Scott Amos, personal correspondence. Note: correct spelling “Hennessey”.
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Yellow Pine Pioneer Cemetery

(2011 personal photo)
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Skis and Skiers

by Harry Withers

In the mining boom days, skiing as a sport in this part of the country wasn’t considered at all. At least, I have never heard any of the real “Old Timers” speak of it as such. Skiing was only a very necessary mode of travel. Some of those old timers were the real experts when it came to making ardous trips such as getting mail into the back country: Thunder Mountain, Warren, Florence, Dixie, Buffalo Hump, and others.

I know some of those old timers and heard some of their accounts of their experiences and never grew tired of listening to them. To name a few, there were Al Hennessey, Charley Newell, Jake and Eric Jensen, Rufe Hughes, Ray Call, and Dan McRae. Big Dan was strictly a snowshoe man.

from “Yellow Pine, Idaho” complied by Nancy G. Sumner Pg 42
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Albert Behne, Founder of Yellow Pine

photo of Yellow Pine’s first postmaster, Albert Behne, at the facility he built. To the right of him is his sometime mining partner Ray Call.
source: Yellow Pine Museum
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Yellow Pine Basin

The Town of Yellow Pine takes its name from the Yellow Pine Basin. Early prospectors covered nearly every square mile of the central Idaho mountains after gold was discovered on Orofino Creek in 1860. Published accounts recall prospecting in the basin as early at 1881. Later, in 1897, a rich gold discovery was made at Thunder Mountain, 20 miles to the north east. By 1902, thousands of miners and prospectors had flooded the region, and a permanent settlement was established at Yellow Pine. The production of gold at Yellow Pine was negligible, although prospecting for gold let to the discovery of antimony which would become important later.

During this period Yellow Pine remained a small supply center and wintering place. Yellow Pine’s historical significance derives from its role as a supply and social center for miners in the area following the 1902 “Thunder Mountain Gold Rush”. It was not until 1930 that a plat was filed on the townsite by Albert C. Behne. A number of the structures which currently exist in Yellow Pine were moved to the site from Stibnite after the collapse of the tungsten market caused by the end of the Korean War. Perhaps a quarter of the town is made up of Stibnite houses built between 1940 and 1945, and moved to Yellow Pine in the 1960’s.

Yellow Pine has been identified as a potential historic district, but will not be clearly eligible for the National Register until the majority of its structures are 50 years old.

Source: Draft Envrionmental Impact Statement, Stibnite Project Gold Mine and Mill, Valley County, Idaho. By the Payette National Forest 1981, pgs 54-55
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Albert C. Behne

source: “Idaho Mountains Our Home” by Lafe and Emma Cox – Copyright 1977 by V.O. Ranch Books
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1910 – U.S. Census, Roosevelt Precinct

Idaho County [now mainly Valley County] (Clement Hanson, census taker)

Johnson Creek Trail:

Jacob Camp, age 51, prospector
Clement G. Hanson, age 46, miner
Ida B. Hanson, age 43, (wife)
Albert Hennessey, age 32, miner

Yellow Pine Trail:

Albert C. Behne, age 52, prospector
Oscar Ray Call, (partner), age 32, prospector
Theodore VanMeter, age 58, prospector
Lex(?) VanMeter, (brother), age 46, prospector

Profile Trail:

Samuel Wilson, age 45, prospector;
Samuel Jr. Wilson, (son), age 18, miner;
Charles Ellison, (partner), age 58, miner;

Big Creek Wagon Road:

Eric Jenson, age 40, miner;
Jacob Jenson, (brother), age 36, miner.
Benjamin F. Goldman, age 36, miner

excerpted from: the USGenWeb Project by Sharon McConnel November, 2005
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1912 2nd Post office

Yellow Pine 2nd post office 1912 with Ray Call, (?) Smith, Theodore VanMeter and Albert C. Behne, postmaster and founder.
source: Idaho State Historical Society
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Yellow Pine Basin

The Stibnite area was prospected during the Thunder Mountain rush (1902-1905) but developed slowly. Some likely outcrops of antimony were uncovered, as were some veins that showed brick-red streaks of cinnabar, the commercial ore of mercury. Many claims were staked; but the severity of the terrain, the tough, snow-swept, below-zero winters, and the long, roadless distance to a source of necessary camp supplies discouraged most people. Pringle Smith and Albert Hennessey were among the few that stayed and worked the area. During World War I, when mercury for the munitions industry was at a premium, Stibnite came to life again briefly. Some mining was done; some flasks of mercury were shipped and marketed. But it was impossible to get needed mining machinery into the mountains and almost impossible to get the mercury out.

J. J. Oberbillig envisioned development at Stibnite. He spent the years between 1921 and 1927 consolidating the small individual claims, sampling, testing, and blocking out ore that would prove the extent and validity of the veins. He interested Fred W. Bradley in the project, and Bradley took over in 1927. Only hand tools had been used for the exploratory work. There was one small cabin on the property and there were only two trails in. One, the Johnson Creek Trail, crossed high mountains and then a bad stretch known as No Man’s Land, and came down Meadow Creek twelve miles to the single cabin. The other trail followed the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River. Neither was easy to travel.

Bradley installed a mountain telephone line to Yellow Pine. During the summer of 1928, packers brought in 385 tons of machinery and equipment with mules, and they were using 75 head in the packing operation by fall. They could make one round trip between Yellow Pine and Stibnite in a day, and they packed in everything: mining equipment, construction equipment, food. In 1928, the Forest Service started building the road from Yellow Pine and got as far as the East Fork bridge. Bradley started building at Stibnite and reached Salt Creek. Meanwhile, George Stonebreaker, a contractor, hauled 85 tons around on the old Thunder Mountain road. Two steam boilers, one for the sawmill and one for the mine air compressor, were hauled by truck to Twin Bridges and then, with trucks pushing and pulling and aided by four mules, up the Thunder Mountain road to Riordan. There they were unloaded, put on skids, and dragged down the mountain to Stibnite. The load had to be anchored at times to keep it from getting away, and much of the lowering had to be accomplished by the use of block and tackle and snubbing lines thrown around tree trunks.

By 1929 motor trucks were replacing the old pack trains, and by 1930 a hydroelectric plant had been installed and mining machinery was switched over to electric power. A small landing field was cleared. Stonebreaker, who held the government mail contract, retired his dogteam winter postal service to Yellow Pine in favor of a new airplane. The dogs had required three days for the trip from Cascade. The plane was handy for carrying both passengers and light freight in and out of the mountains.

In 1931, the sawmill turned out more than a million feet of lumber for mine and building work; the powerplant was enlarged and rebuilt; a public school was started; and an assay office was completed, as were a post office, numerous warehouses, and new cook and bunk shacks. At the mine, a new record for speed in mine-tunnel driving was established: during the month of August, the Monday tunnel was advanced 663.6 feet. The tunnel, in hard granite, was six by eight feet in the clear where no timber was used and seven by nine feet where timber was required. Three shifts of six men each made the record drive, using two machine drills mounted on crossbars.

Yellow Pine had been a mountain wilderness in 1927; by the end of 1931, it was a modern, busy mining community.

Yellow Pine 1931

… And in 1936, Arthur Campbell, Idaho State Inspector of Mines, was able to write in his annual report: “This property led the State in the production of gold for 1936….Supplies are trucked in from Cascade and concentrates are shipped from that point. In winter, transportation is by airplane. The ore is antimony-gold….

Another wartime mercury shortage, during World War II, helped to make the Stibnite area the second largest producer in the United States in 1943. Important tungsten deposits came into production in 1944, and during the war Stibnite was the leading tungsten producer in the United States. Total yields for the active period, 1932-1952, amounted to $24,000,000 in antimony, $21,000,000 in tungsten $4,000,000 in gold, $3,000,000 in mercury, and $1,000,000 in silver.

source: pgs 14-15, History of the Boise National Forest 1905 1976, by Elizabeth M. Smith. Idaho State Historical Society, 1983
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Yellow Pine Pioneers

Left back: Charles Ellison, Red Metals Mine owner; Fred Holcomb, ranch owner; Henry Abstien, Mining man/horticulturist; Earl Willson, son of Profile Sam.
Left front: Albert Behne, founder of Yellow Pine; Albert Hennessy, miner; Sam (“Profile Sam”) Willson, miner; Bert McCoy, packer; Jimmie Edwards.
Photo courtesy of Long Valley Preservation Society, via Ron Smith
source: Valley County GenWeb
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1920 Census Yellow Pine Precinct

Compiled by: Wesley W. Craig, Ph.D. & Bea Snyder

Abstein, Ednah U. 35 Female Wife
Abstein, H. T. 41 Male Head
Abstein, Henry T. 4 Male Son
Behne, Albert C. 65 Male Head
Call, Oscar R 41 Male Head
Ellison Charles 67 Male Head
Hansen C. G. 56 Male Head
Hansen Ida B. 54 Female Wife
Hennessey, Albert 40 Male Head
Lewis David 75 Male Head
Routson Adelia 22 Female Daughter
Routson Edna 15 Female Daughter
Routson Emmett 12 Male Son
Routson Grant 3 Male Son
Routson John 46 Male Head
Routson John 18 Male Son
Routson Letty 32 Female Wife
Routson Noel 10 Male Son

excerpted from: the USGenWeb Project and the IDGenWeb Project Archives, Wesley W. Craig, Ph.D. & Bea Snyder, January 9, 1997
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(cropped from 1900 Idaho Map)
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Yellow Pine Area Timeline

1903 – Al Hennessey filed his homestead on the 160 acres on Johnson Creek that he called Morrison; he later sold it to Bryants (E. Oberbillig in Sumner, p. 19)

August 1906 – H. T. Abstein, president of the Federal Developing Co. came out from the company’s properties in the Profile & Big creek mining districts. They are developing the Crown King mine and assays on some of the ore shows a value of $5,000 per ton. He goes to Lewiston and will return in ten days. (WT)

October 1906 – Albert Behne established the first post office in Yellow Pine and the first mail service, (at age of 52) (Sumner, p. ) “Behne ran a general store for several years. Yellow Pine basin had been an old station on the trail from Warrens to Boise basin.” (Fuller, p. 225)
Hennessey built 3 miles of road from Twin Bridges toward his ranch (E. Oberbillig in Sumner, p. 19)

June 21, 1906 – The board of county commissioners recently received a communication from forest supervisor F. A. Fenn, of Boise, in which attention is called to the law restricting the sale of liquor within a forest reserve. This affects the saloons in Roosevelt, Knox and along the Boise-Roosevelt State Wagon Road. (WT)

November 22, 1906 – The votes counted in our local precincts as such: Warren 46, Roosevelt 78, Yellow Pine 7, Big Creek 6, Sunnyside 21, Warm Lake 4. (WT)

January 17, 1907 – The mail service at Roosevelt is very irregular. The mail arrived twice last week and was taken in with a dog team. The paper mail arrived twice in about sixteen days brought in on a rawhide with a horse on snowshoes. There was eight feet of snow at Cabin Creek summit and the last snow added four more feet. Roosevelt is quieter this winter than before. (WT)

1907 – Yellow Pine consisted of 3 cabins (Jerri Montgomery in Sumner) Yellow Pine residents consisted of Albert Behne, Theodore VanMeter, Sam Wilson & Earl Wilson (anon, in Sumner, p 73) (Earl was 18 yrs at time of 1910 census)

July 11, 1907 – News came out from Thunder Mountain this week that the town of Roosevelt has sustained a severe fire on July 2nd. Several buildings were burnt to the ground and it was good luck that results were no more serious. (WT)

September 3, 1908 – Deputy Van DeVenter stopped in Warren on his return trip from Roosevelt. That section has been visited by many severe electrical storms and he thinks Thunder Mountain is properly named. Much work has been done on the roads. Hay is selling at 7 cents per pound and oats the same figure. While you can get good accommodations for man at $2 a day, it costs $3 to keep a horse. (Idaho County Free Press, quoted in WT)

April 15, 1909 – The name of the post office on Big Creek is to be changed from Logan to Edwardsburg. (WT)

June 1909 – Sam Wilson is in Warren. He reports 5 ft. snow still at his cabin on Profile. (WT)

June 3, 1909 – A large mudslide began May 30 above Roosevelt & is slowly moving toward the town. (WT)

September 16, 1909 – “Notices are up calling for bids on the Warren-Roosevelt mail route. This is special and contract will be let for only one year. Heretofore the Roosevelt mail has gone by way of Thunder City. Bids are also asked for on a new route running from Edwardsburg to Yellow Pine.” (WT)

1910 – 1915 (circa) – bad fire year, Yellow Pine residents petition into national forest (personal comm. – Glenn Blickenstaff)

October 26,1911 – Theodore VanMeter, Curley & George Brewer, etal, sold Ramey ridge copper camp for $100,000 to back-east investors (Warren Times)

1912 – Henry T. Abstein and Edna Lister Abstein spend honeymoon in cabin he built on Big Creek just across from Profile Gap. (Ted Abstein in Sumner, p. 15)

1913 – Bryants arrive on Johnson Creek. (E. Bryant in Sumner, p. )

1914 – Gold and Antimony claims filed in Stibnite. (Wells, p 157)

March 14, 1918 – For the first time in the history of the state, a small production of quicksilver was made from the Fern Quicksilver Mining Co. about 18 miles SE of Yellow Pine PO. This is a recent discovery made less than 2 years ago by A.E. Van Meter. (WT)

1919 – Hennessey received patent on his Johnson Creek Ranch (E. Oberbillig in Sumner)

1920 – First Yellow Pine School held, in tent (Jerri Montgomery in Sumner)
First School in tent, with 8 students. (Cox p 31)
First teacher was Letha Smith (Fuller, p. 225) – (Willson)

1921 – Hennessey sold his 5 Meadow Creek claims in Stibnite to United Mercury Mines

1922 – A log school house and teacherage built in “town proper” [Yellow Pine] (Cox p 31) (Willson)

April 10, 1922 Henry Abstein receives patent on 160 acres which now is known as Abstein Subdivision. (Valley County Records, Book 3, p. 101)

August, 1922 – $114,000 to be spent in building Cascade-Knox Rd & road from Knox to Johnson Creek; $90,000 to be spent on road from Johnson Crk to Y.P. & S. to Deadwood (WT)

1923 – Johnson Creek Guard Station built, replacing earlier guard station which was east of the present day “Rec Hall”. That building was a storage building, similar in construction to those built by the CC’s in the ’30’s. (p.c., Glenn Blickenstaff, BNFS)

September 27, 1923 – Oscar Ray Call receives patent on the SE 1/4 of the SW 1/4 of Section 21. (public record) (In the 1910 US census Call was 32 years old and living with Albert Behne; he was listed as Behne’s partner). Ray & Roy Call had a mine on Ramey Creek.

Hennessey located Hennessey 1, 2, 3 claims on the Stibnite Pit area and formed the Great Northern Mines Co. with J. L. Niday (Oberbilling in Sumner, p 20)

September 9, 1924 – Albert Behne receives patent on the 47.5 acres that he later plats as Yellow Pine townsite. (SW 1/4 of the SW 1/4 of Section 21, and the northerly portion of NW 1/4 of the NW 1/4 of Section 28) (Valley County Records, Book 3, p. 62)

1926 – Harry Withers, age 28, arrives in Yellow Pine, to work at Stibnite. (Sumner, p. 3)

1927 – F. W. Bradley acquired Stibnite mines. (Wells, p. 157)

Clark & Beulah Cox buy Alec Forstrum ranch on Johnson Creek. Lafe 12 years old at the time. (Cox, p)

June 16, 1930 Albert Behne plats Yellow Pine townsite. (public record) (at age of 76)

August 11, 1931 – “Yellow Pine residents caught on booze charges and in jail at Cascade are Roy Elliott, Charles Carwater, Bert McCoy, Mike Smith, Morris Corbett, Wayne Shapply and Mrs. Shapply, Rose Pigg and LeRoy Parker.” (WT)

1932 – Stibnite production of gold & antimony begins. (Wells, p 157)

1933 – J. J. Oberbilling purchased the Great Northern claims from Hennessey and Niday for $15,000 (E. Oberbilling in Sumner, p. 20)

prior to fall of 1933 – Dan MacAskill worked in Stibnite; crew pulled out as result of forest fires, fires had already run them out of Boise Basin (p.c., CMcC)

excerpt from “Yellow Pine Timeline” – compiled by Sharon McConnel (personal correspondence)
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1930’s Yellow Pine

(click on image for original)
[Photo taken the year Fay Kissinger built The Corner Bar. Albert Behne’s cabin with vehicle and people out front. The date was before Murph’s Yellow Pine Tavern was built in 1940 and after 1932 when the YP Lodge only had one story. Zoom in for sharp details.]
source: Idaho Transportation Photo Collection
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1930 Yellow Pine Area Census

Name Gender Age Marital Status Birth Year

Clark Cox Male 46 Married Head 1884
Beulah Cox Female 40 Married Wife 1890
Lafe E Cox Male 15 Single Son 1915
H B Paxton Male 74 Widowed Head 1856
Willam H Basye Male 58 Widowed Head 1872
Albert C Behne Male 69 Widowed Head 1861
Homer Levander Male 52 Married Head 1878
Sarah H Levander Female 49 Married Wife 1881
John H Levander Male 21 Single Son 1909
C B White Male 62 Widowed Brother-in-law 1868
Albert Hennessy Male 56 Single Head 1874
George M Hennessy Male 57 Single Brother
Robert Beattie Male 53 Single Boarder 1877
Crosby Brewer Male 68 Married Boarder 1862
Leslie McCoy Male 22 Single Head 1908
George H McCoy Male 16 Single Brother 1914
Myron McCoy Male 14 Single Brother 1916
Ray S White Male 21 Single Boarder 1909
Frank F Foster Male 49 Married Head 1881
E M Hussey Male 48 Single Boarder 1882
Fannie B Farsher Female 38 Widowed Head 1892
Worth Farsher Male 14 Single Son 1916
Dorothy Farsher Female 5 Single Daughter 1925
H T Breen Male 48 Single Head 1882 Oregon
Michial K Pofovich Male 58 Widowed Head 1872
Dugen Swain Male 48 Single Boarder 1882
Joseph Powell Male 36 Married Head 1894
William Newell Male 35 Married Lodger 1895
John Hauntz Male 23 Married Lodger 1907
Earl Smead Male 37 Single Lodger 1893
Charles Heim Male 62 Single Lodger 1868
James Carpenter Male 50 Widowed Lodger 1880
Samuel Wilson Male 66 Widowed Head 1864
Wm Lutsfiesh Male 55 Widowed Head 1875
Geo Stonebraker Male 36 Married Head 1894
Louis E Cloff Male 20 Single Lodger 1910
Ralph Handley Male 28 Married Lodger 1902
Jack Ritter Male 29 Single Lodge 1901
Henry Abstein Male 52 Married Lodger 1878
Geo B Kennedy Male 61 Married Lodger 1869
James Thompson Male 53 Married Lodger 1877
Oscar Shatluck [Shattuck] Male 60 Married Lodger 1870
H W Power Male 48 Married Lodger 1882
Peter Hillman Male 36 Single Lodger 1894

source: Family Search
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1930 Plat Map of Yellow Pine

Signed by Albert C. Behne
(click for original)
source: Back County History Project
[h/t SMc]
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Related Articles:

Idaho History for Feb 26 – Albert C. Behne

Idaho History Nov 20 – Yellow Pine Area Historical Photos 1928

Idaho History June 10

Dr. Wilson Foskett – White Bird, Idaho


Dr. Wilson Foskett on his horse.
Photo courtesy Grangeville Bicentennial Museum

source: “Windy Stories: Storytelling Traditions from the Salmon River Idaho” By Marjorie H. Bennett (Google Books)
[h/t SMc]
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White Bird, Idaho County

source A Guide to National Register of Historic Places, Idaho County
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Foskett. Dr. Wilson Home and Drugstore

White Bird. Idaho County. Idaho

National Register of Historic Places

Drugstore view #2 looking west
All photos taken by Suzanne Julin April, 2004. Original negatives on file at the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office

The Dr. Wilson Foskett Home and Drugstore is in White Bird, Idaho, a village of about 100 people in Idaho County, at the southern end of the Idaho panhandle. White Bird is located in a narrow mountain canyon drained by White Bird Creek, which empties into the Salmon River about a mile south of the town. The house was built in 1902, and an addition to the rear was added between 1914 and 1918. The drugstore was probably constructed between 1910 and 1914, about seventy feet to the south. In about 1926, the drugstore was moved to sit immediately adjacent to the house, and a passage was cut between the two buildings.

… The area saw nonIndian settlement beginning in the 1860s after gold was discovered in nearby mountains. White Bird’s post office opened in 1890, and a flurry of commercial development followed. By 1915, the town’s population had reached about 400, and it served as a trade center for the surrounding area.

Wilson Foskett and Family

Wilson Abner Foskett became one of White Bird’s most prominent citizens and an important figure in the Salmon River valley. Born in Warsaw, New York in 1870, Foskett attended Rush Medical School in Chicago. He graduated in 1897 and came West shortly afterwards, stopping briefly in Butte, Montana. By 1899, he was practicing in White Bird. He boarded at a White Bird hotel operated by Francis and Mary Margaret Taylor. There the doctor met Loris Taylor, the hotel-keepers’ daughter, who was twelve years his junior and a talented violinist.

Loris Taylor and Wilson Foskett married at her parents’ home on the first Sunday in November 1902. The newspaper article announcing their wedding described it as an “impressive marriage ceremony” and noted that the groom was “the popular and successful physician of that town, but… well-known all over the county, where he has hosts of friends.” The article said that the couple would move into “the beautiful new home just completed.” A photograph taken about two years later shows the couple in front of that home on Lot 8, Block G of Fenn’s Addition. Wilson and Loris Foskett stand by the property’s picket fence with their first child, Lawrence, who was born in 1903. Two other children followed: Erna was born in 1907, and Andy in 1912.

Dr. Wilson Foskett as a Pioneer Physician

For a time, Dr. Foskett saw patients in an office in his home, and at one point had an office in a separate building north of the house. About 1914, he built a drugstore about seventy feet south of his home. A small room at the rear of the drugstore, which has been removed, served as an office and examining room. A skylight provided illumination, and his children sometimes scaled the exterior of the structure and watched their father examining patients. In order to provide medications to his patients, Dr. Foskett became certified as a pharmacist and compounded his own prescriptions. Loris Foskett operated the drugstore and also assisted her husband in the care of his patients who came to White Bird to receive his services.

For the most part, however, Dr. Foskett practiced medicine outside the town as a matter of necessity. He faced situations familiar to medical practitioners in other isolated areas of the American West in the early twentieth century. The sparse populations of widespread areas lived at significant distances from medical care. In cases of accident, sudden illness, or childbirth, a long trip to the doctor’s office by horseback or wagon over rough roads was out of the question; instead, a physician went to those who needed his services. Dr. Foskett’s patients were on far-flung ranches and in small communities in the surrounding mountains and the Salmon River valley. He rode horseback to call on them, and several ranchers kept a spare horse for him so that he could change to a fresh mount as necessary. In the dark, he traveled by the light of a lantern made from a tin can and a candle. These trips could be dangerous; one night his horse slipped and threw him over a bluff, but the new raincoat he was wearing caught on a bush. His fall broken, he was able to climb back up the bluff and retrieve his horse.

Dr. Foskett’s patients were dependent on his ability and his willingness to reach them when he was needed. He cared for one woman through the birth of six children in her ranch home; the woman did not come into White Bird for fifteen years and relied upon the doctor coming to her. The doctor was resourceful about conducting his practice under unusual circumstances. One anecdote about Foskett says he rode horseback thirty-two miles to treat a bachelor rancher with a bowel obstruction who lived in a cabin with no windows. In order to have enough light to perform surgery, the doctor instructed a neighbor to cut a hole in the roof. Foskett remained for a day to monitor the recovery of the patient, who survived and never filled in the hastily cut skylight. Foskett’s wife remembered his encountering a man on the trail during a snowstorm; the man was suffering from a tooth abscess, and the doctor pulled the tooth while the patient sat on a rock with the snow whirling around him. As a physician, Wilson Foskett did what he could under the circumstances at hand to serve the populace of the region.

Dr. Foskett expected his wife and children to share in his dedication to his patients. The family’s social life, confined primarily to church activities, was often disrupted when the doctor was called out on a case. Ranchers strung telephones from their properties into the Foskett’s drugstore, giving area residents greater ability to reach the physician, and a local switchboard was also installed. Once the doctor was available by telephone, his family could not sit down to a meal together because someone needed to be on the switchboard. His daughter later wrote that she “believed we had the worst kept house in the country because the whole family had to sacrifice to save lives. Our home was totally devoted to that cause and it wasn’t easy for any of us.”

By the early 1920s, the development of the economical automobile began to affect the way rural patients and their physicians interacted. Doctors could reach patients and hospitals more quickly and more comfortably. People who considered the care they received from their local practitioner inadequate could travel to other areas and consult with doctors they considered more skilled or experienced.9 One study of rural medicine suggests that the car “changed rural medicine almost as much as Robert Lister’s antiseptic surgery.”

This transition acquired particular significance in the history of Dr. Foskett’s career. Travel in the rugged Salmon River region had always been an issue for him and his patients. Wilson Foskett was not an experienced horseman when he came to the West, but necessity made him one. He became a skilled rider and developed a deep appreciation for good horses and their ability to take him where he needed to go. However, the availability of cars and the development of automobile roads in the area helped convince him-rather reluctantly-that travel by modern transportation would be more efficient and convenient than his normal horseback or horse and buggy travel. After acquiring a car, he began taking his teen-aged daughter, Erna, on calls with him, perhaps preparing her to follow him in his medical career.

When Foskett was called out on Sunday, April 13, 1924, however, he left Erna behind because she had to go to school the next morning. He drove to the Louis Reeves ranch at the fork of Squaw and Papoose creeks near Riggins, Idaho. The Reeves’ daughter, Mrs. Lark Alkire, was in labor that was probably premature, because the infant girl he delivered weighed only three pounds. After a long night, the doctor began the drive back to White Bird. He stopped briefly in the village of Lucile, where a relative of the Alkire family urged him to eat breakfast and rest before continuing home. Concerned about other patients and not wanting to alarm his wife by his tardiness, the doctor declined.

Loris Foskett began to worry when her husband did not return as soon as she had expected, and she asked the driver of the mail stage to watch for him. Within a short time, the driver spotted evidence of an accident at the edge of the Salmon River in a box canyon near Slate Creek. Dr. Foskett’s body was located at about 10:30 AM on April 14 on a bank of the river. His car had gone off a high embankment and plunged into the Salmon; he was thrown from the automobile before it entered the deep water. News reports concluded that he had fallen asleep at the wheel. Two days later, hundreds of people traveled by car, buggy, and horseback to attend Wilson Foskett’s funeral. A newspaper report said they had come “to view, for the last time, the remains of the physician who had attended every family in the valley during the past 26 years of his residence in Whitebird.” Two weeks later, a local newspaper published an announcement headed, “Wanted—Doctor for Whitebird; Apply at Once.” Area residents needed to locate a physician to replace Dr. Foskett, the article said; the nearest doctor was at Grangeville, twenty miles away. 15 Wilson Foskett’s death left a serious vacuum in this Salmon River region.

The configuration of buildings comprising the Dr. Wilson Foskett Home and Drugstore presents an illustration of the history of the career and family of its owner. According to Sanborn Maps and a photograph taken about 1904, the original house was rectangular, with a one-story, lean-to extension on the north side. Between 1914 and 1918, an addition to the west, holding the washroom, pantry, and woodshed, was added. 16 The drugstore, a rectangular building with a rear extension that has been removed, was originally located to the south of the house. The joining of these two buildings was a direct result of Dr. Foskett’s fatal car accident.

Wilson Foskett’s death created a particular crisis in his family. Loris Foskett was widowed at 42. Erna and Andy were in high school, and Lawrence was in college at the University of Idaho. Dr. Foskett’s practice had never been financially lucrative; particularly in the early days, many of his patients had paid him in produce, meat, wood, and hay, rather than cash. The distraught widow needed to support herself and her children. Mrs. Foskett was not qualified to continue to provide prescriptions, but she converted the drugstore to a confectionary and soda fountain and sold sundries. Thus, the Foskett drugstore became a commercial enterprise, rather than one developed primarily to support a medical practice. As the children grew up and left home, Mrs. Foskett supplemented her income by taking in boarders, particularly the town’s schoolteachers. About two years after the doctor’s death, in an attempt to make her life easier, family members moved the drugstore building to a location immediately adjacent to the house. They cut a wide entrance between the house’s living room and the midsection of the drugstore, allowing Loris Foskett to have immediate access to both her home and her business. In 1929, she married Fred Otto, one of her boarders, and he helped her remodel elements of the interior of the house so that it could better serve as a boardinghouse.

About 1942, Loris Foskett Otto sold the house and drugstore to the Barritt family, and she and her husband moved to Spokane, Washington. The Barritts utilized both the house and the attached building as a residence; the commercial use of the structure ended. After the 2004 death of the last member of the Barritt family to live in the house, the property was acquired by Joseph James Wisenor of White Bird, and is now vacant.

[Note: the above document is dated 3/11/2005, the building is now an Antique Store.]

Drugstore and house view #3 looking southwest

Photographic Documentation: Dr. Wilson Foskett Home and Drugstore, White Bird, Idaho County, Idaho. All photos taken by Suzanne Julin April, 2004. Original negatives on file at the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office

excerpted from: United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service
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Dr. Foskett Drug Store and Home Abt. 1986

(click for original photo)
Submitted by: Deb Starr

source: Idaho County GenWeb
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Foskett Home and Drugstore


Idaho State Historical Society

Dr. Wilson Foskett was a physician who practiced in White Bird, Idaho from 1899 until his death in 1924. He married Loris Taylor in 1902 and they had three children. Dr. Foskett built this Victorian style house, one room of which served as his office. Between 1910 and 1914, Dr. Foskett added a second building about 70 feet to the south of the house that served as a drugstore.

Being the only physician in this isolated area, Dr. Foskett served his far-flung residents by horseback. Because of his unwavering dedication, he was universally respected and gained almost legendary status. By the early 1920s, Dr. Foskett abandoned horseback travel and, whenever possible, visited his patients by automobile. On April 13, 1924 he presided over the birth of a baby near Riggins. After a long night’s labor, he started the drive back to White Bird. Near Slate Creek, his car left the road and plunged into the Salmon River, killing the doctor.

Upon Dr. Foskett’s death, his wife converted the drugstore into a confectionary and soda fountain where she sold sundries. She also took in boarders. In order to facilitate her operation of the two businesses, the drugstore building was moved in 1926 to its present location, immediately adjacent to the house, and the two buildings were connected. In 1929 she married Fred Otto and they remodeled the interior of the house.

source: A Guide to National Register of Historic Places, Idaho County
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Foskett Wilson A. 1870 -1924

(click for original image)

“There is a Foskett Monument along side Highway 95 near Slate Creek”

source: Idaho GenWeb
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(related stories)

Rattlesnake Kills Old Jewett

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Double Tragedy at Whitebird Results in Death of John Nevins

Free Press, Thursday, August 23, 1917

Mentally Deranged, Arthur Freeman Shoots Down John Nevins, Popular Business Man and Citizen – Then Kills Self.

A sad tragedy was enacted at Whitebird last Saturday when John Nevins, well known Salmon river business man, banker and leading citizen was shot to death by Arthur Freeman, laborer of the river country, who took his own life after killing Nevins. Laboring under the delusion that he was avenging a wrong, Freeman shot down in cold blood this popular citizen and brought a cloud of grief to the entire county. The shooting occurred at noon as Nevins was on his way home and resulted in the almost instant death of the victim of perturbed mind as letters left by Freeman plainly indicated he had been brooding over an imaginary grievance for some time.

Killed on His Way Home

Nevins had left his place of business along about the noon hour and was on his way to his home when just opposite the Methodist parsonage Freeman walked across the street and covered Nevins and a .38 special army Colt. Rev. Anderson, who was the only witness to the tragedy, stated Nevins was reading a paper at the time. Freeman covered him with the gun and had no chance to realize his position. Freeman uttered some words and Nevins apparently made a reply but the conversation of both was inaudible. Freeman, who was less than ten feet from his victim immediately fired two shots, one bullet entering the left shoulder of Nevins and passing through the back, the other the left arm. Nevins fell and struggled to get up but Freeman was at once upon him and fired at close range, a bullet entering just below the right eye and the other shot the right temple. Freeman then walked to the Methodist church steps, about fifty feet from where Nevins fell and fired a bullet into his own brain, dying several hours after.

Lives But Briefly

Immediately after the shooting, Rev. Anderson rushed down to the office of Dr. Foskett and in company with the Doctor and others, returned to give attention to Mr. Nevins, who passed away several minutes after the arrival. Freeman was carried to the home of his sister, Mrs. Meyers but never regained consciousness, passing away several hours after the shooting.

Victim of Deranged Mind

Upon the body of Freeman was found a letter dated August 17, and addressed to his sister, making certain requests as to the disposition of his body and referring them to two letters he had written and left in his grip at the home of his sister. These letters, which were dated August 13, showed the murder was a premeditated one and that Freeman had been laboring under an imaginary wrong. In the letter to his people he spoke of the sorrow such a tragedy would bring to them but felt it his duty to kill Nevins. One was addressed to the county attorney and was similar in tone to the one he left his people. According to reports, Freeman has been having more or less trouble with Nevins and other members of the school board, holding them responsible for the non-retention of his sister, Mrs. Meyers, as a teacher of the public schools down there and had acted in a way in times past as to indicate he was not in a normal mental condition. Later he left the country and went to Cascade to work and none suspected when he returned to Whitebird last week that he was bent upon killing Nevins. He had made preparations for his burial, having placed his best clothes out upon the bed and also made suggestions as to his burial. Saturday morning he appeared at the stage barn and assisted in the work, remarked he felt fine and to all was in a normal mental condition.

Nevins Held in High Esteem

The tragedy was a terrible blow to the Salmon river people who looked upon John Nevins as one of their very best citizens. Out of respect for the deceased all the business places of the town were closed following the shooting and here and there could be seen little knots of people bemoaning the fact that the life of so good a man should be taken. No man in the entire river country had as many good and true friends as John Nevins. Your troubles were his troubles, your welfare his welfare, the people, the country and the development and happiness of the community were placed above his personal interests. Coming from good, old Irish stock to this country when a young man, he has experienced all the vicissitudes and hardships incident to a pioneer country and through his kindly way and self-sacrificing spirit made friends from one end of the the river to the other. He was a common man in his way but far above the average in his accomplishments. Working first as a miner and packer, he finally entered the mercantile, business in a small way, running a small store at Slate Creek originally and building up until he finally became the head of a chain of stores up the river known as the Salmon River Stores and recently branched out in the banking business, his business judgment and standing in the community resulting in his selection as president of the Whitebird State Bank. Nevins was known and truly appreciated not only in his home country but Grangeville, Lewiston and other points where he had made many lasting friends. He is survived by a wife and three children, the oldest of which is thirteen.

source: Idaho County GenWeb
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White Bird antique store a historic relic itself

By Laurie Chapman Idaho County Free Press

Travel south from Grangeville on the White Bird grade and at the bottom you will find a tiny, but historic community. Just off Highway 95 is the White Bird community, just a stone’s throw from the site of the White Bird battlefield.

If you make a trek to White Bird, and you have a penchant for antiques, the place to stop would be White Bird Antique Store. Located at 170 River Street, the business is really a relic from the past itself.

Pat and Bruce Ringsmith own the buildings, but it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the home and drugstore of Dr. Wilson Foskett. Long gone, practicing medicine over 100 years old, the story of Dr. Foskett and his unique facility remain.

Suzanne Julin, public historian, wrote the history of the Foskett family and their home and drugstore in a narrative application to the National Register of Historic Places. …

The following is a synopsis of her research.

Wilson Abner Foskett was born in 1870 at Warsaw, New York, she wrote. He attended Rush Medical School in Chicago, graduating in 1897, and by 1899 he was practicing in the community of White Bird. While boarding at the local hotel, operated by Francis and Mary Margaret Taylor, the doctor met his future wife, Loris Taylor.

Loris was the daughter of the inn keepers and the pair married the first Sunday of November, 1902, in her parent’s home. The couple’s first child, Lawrence, was born in 1903, to be followed by Erna in 1907 and Andy in 1912.

The house was constructed in 1902, and the newlyweds moved in directly. Until about 1914, Dr. Foskett was operating out of the home. At that time, the drugstore was constructed about 70 feet from the south of the home. Dr. Foskett had an office at the rear of the building where he saw patients.

Being a rural doctor meant Dr. Foskett not only practiced from his office, but also traveled to his patients as well. For many years, he traveled by horseback and at times by buggy. With the advent of automobile travel, making house calls could be expedited, but not necessarily easier.

On April 13, 1924, Dr. Foskett left home to deliver a baby at the Louis Reeves ranch near Riggins. The doctor worked a long night before making his return home. Unfortunately, it’s believed the doctor fell asleep at the wheel as he was found the next morning on the bank of the river. His car had gone off the embankment and plunged into the Salmon River.

Around 1926, the drugstore was moved to sit adjacent to the home and a passage was built between the two structures. Because Loris was no longer qualified to serve as a pharmacist, she converted the drugstore to a confectionary and soda fountain.

In 1929, Loris remarried to Fred Otto, a man who had been boarding in the home. He helped remodel the home to better serve as a boardinghouse. By 1942, the couple sold the structures and moved to Spokane.

The home is built in Late Victorian architectural style with Queen Anne accents. According to the narrative, the storefront is “almost completely original.”

source: Idaho County Free Press
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White Bird Antiques


Nestled in White Bird, Idaho is a store that has many treasures of old including Antlers, Native American items, Old Western Items and Textiles. We have a spectacular selection of trophy mounts of record bucks and elk.

Pat and Bruce Ringsmith have taken the old drugstore of Doc Foskett and transformed it into a great place to visit.

Please peruse our store online or visit it in person, we promise you will delighted.

170 River Street
White Bird, Id 83554
Store Hours:
Thurs-Sat 11-4 pm
Other Days By Chance

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Dr. Wilson Foskett Home and Drugstore 2013

(click image for original)
Author: Jerrye and Roy Klotz, MD July 1, 2013

source: Wikipedia
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White Bird Grade Sign

(click image for original)
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Old White Bird Road

The contract for the original road, 22 miles (35 km) from the mouth of White Bird Creek at the Salmon River to Grangeville, was awarded in late 1918. Completed in 1921 and first paved in 1938, it rose slightly higher to 4,429 feet (1,350 m), due to the absence of a summit cut. Located to the east, the old road was twice the length and had a multitude of switchbacks ascending a treeless slope. On the present highway, the descent north of the summit is less dramatic as the grade drops less than 850 feet (260 m) in the forest with few curves onto the Camas Prairie towards Grangeville at 3,400 feet (1,035 m).

source: Wikipedia
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Whitebird Switchback Spiral, North and South Highway, Idaho

(click image for original)
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Road to Rival Lewiston Hill

Description of Grangeville – Whitebird Highway

Cost Reach $260,000

How Climb Is Made From Salmon River – Wonderful Scenic Features Are Afforded.

[Lewiston Morning Tribune – Nov 24, 1918]

North Idaho is soon to have another highway which will rival the now famous Lewiston Hill highway as an engineering feature and scenic route. This will be the Salmon River – Grangeville link of the north and south state highway, a contract for the construction of which has just been let to T. J. Hoskins of Ontario, Ore., for the grading and the Security Bridge company of Lewiston for the concrete and bridge work.

The project is 22 miles in length, extending from the Salmon river at the mouth of Whitebird creek to the city of Grangeville. The only means of travel between these two points at the present time is over is narrow precipitous mountain road of heavy grades – some pitches as steep as 25 per cent – and sharp, dangerous turns.

Though it is it a very important mail route, supplying all the Salmon river country for a distance of 90 miles to New Meadows, it is practically no more than a poor trail and almost impossible to auto traffic except under the most favorable weather conditions. The section which this new highway will eliminate is the worst of the whole route from Lewiston to Boise because of its very heavy grades and sharp, dangerous turns.

Leaving the Salmon river at the mouth of Whitebird creek the new highway will follow up Whitebird creek one mile to the town of Whitebird, then take a southeasterly course along the west slope of Whitebird creek with a maximum grade of five per cent and easy, graceful curves to what will undoubtedly be known as “the foot of the ladder” seven miles out from the Salmon river. Here the grater part of the development work to make the necessary climb of 3,000 feet to the summit is worked out. For the next three miles the road swings back and forth across a gently sloping ridge eight consecutive times. At the last round of the ladder, or ten miles from the Salmon river, a vast panorama is unfolded. The whole stretch of road front this point to the Salmon river is in full view – to the east lies Chapman and Whitebird creek canyons with their timbered upper benches, while in the distance and thirty miles away Buffalo Hump with its snow-capped peak, may be seen. To the south beyond Whitebird and the Salmon the Seven Devils are seen fifty miles away and also snow-capped. To the west across the Salmon lies the productive Doumecq and Joseph plains country between the Snake and Salmon.

From the last round of the ladder the route skirts the breaks of Chapman creek for another three miles to the summit where an elevation of 4,393 feet is reached. 3,000 feet above the starting point. Then down from the summit on the Grangeville side the route passes through a timbered hillside of stately yellow pine and spruce for a distance of three miles. Occasional glimpses of the Camas prairie may be had through opening in the trees in this timbered section of the highway. Two short stretches of five per cent grade are used in this three miles, the remainder being very light grade.

At the end of this timbered section, or sixteen miles from the starting point, the whole beautiful grain country of Camas prairie is in full view, looking like a vast checker board. In the foreground lies the Tolo Lake-Grangeville bathing pool, while in the background Cottonwood butte may be seen.

Two miles more of open hillsides and Camas prairie is reached, and from this point to Grangeville, which has an elevation of 3,870 feet, the route passes through the farming section on an average downward grade of two per cent.

To construct this highway requires the excavating and moving of about 220,000 cubic yards of material, 25 per cent of which will be solid rock, the placing of approximately 400 cubic yards of concrete in culverts, nearly a mile of culvert pipe, the construction of one 60-foot span bridge across Whitebird creek and about four miles of guard fence. The cost will be approximately $260.000, of which sum the federal aid department of public roads, the state of Idaho and the two highway districts of Grangeville and Whitebird pay one-third share each.

The surveys for the complete plans of the great highway have been made by Engineer J. J. McCready of Lewiston for the state highway commission and the federal government, and Mr. McCready will probably handle the construction. He was engaged with Engineer C. C. Van Arsdol on the famous Lewiston Hill highway engineering achievement and has since been in the employ of the state.

source: Lewiston Morning Tribune – Nov 24, 1918
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North-South Highway 1919, In between Grangeville and Whitebird


source: Idaho Transportation Department, courtesy Kevin Norwood Idaho History 1860s to 1960s

Idaho History June 3

James “The Stiff” Hogan

Updated June 10, 2018

Pictured here from left to right are Alberta, Rebecca, and Zelma Daly; unidentified; Sheriff Joe Daly; James Hogan; and Deputy Andy Robinson.
(Courtesy of the Idaho State Historical Society.)

James Hogan “Jimmy, just plain Jimmy,” was the name that James Hogan begged a reporter to use when writing a story of his sentence for vagrancy and public drunkenness on August 30, 1904. Hogan never owned property, filed a homestead or mining claim, or ran for office.

In the 1880s, he gained notoriety in Boise because of his inability to stay out of jail. He was identified in the newspapers as “Hogan the Stiff,” a cruel reference to the alcoholism that had shaped his life. Hogan lived a cycle of drinking and sobriety, worked when he could, and relied on the kindness of his jailers and court officers to survive.

When he died in October 1907, members of the community who had known him for years chipped in to pay for flowers, a funeral service, and a plot in Morris Hill Cemetery.

source: Legendary Locals of Boise By Barbara Perry Bauer, Elizabeth Jacox (Google Books)
— — — — — — — — — —

“Hogan begged the Statesman reporters to call him Jimmy “just plain Jimmy”, but dignity wasn’t allowed the sick in those days. James Hogan died October 1, 1907 at St. Alphonsus Hospital after he was found near death in the rear of a flophouse on Idaho Street. He hadn’t eaten in eight days. It was guessed at the time that he was about 65. He was 73. …”

source: Bob Hartman
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James “the stiff” Hogan

The name James Hogan appeared often in the Idaho Daily Statesman. In the March 19, 1892, edition, it is clear the name was already somewhat infamous. “James Hogan, who has been an inmate of every jail within a radius of 100 miles of Boise, is again behind the bars. He stole a coat from Leuark’s Ninth street restaurant, and Justice Clark sent him up for twenty days.”

In 1896, the paper was saying that he was better known as “Hogan the stiff.” The Statesman was expressing outrage that some petitioners had gone to the county jail to collect signatures. They said of Hogan, “His residence is given as being at the court house and his occupation as that of a waiter. The fact is, Hogan’s residence is within the walls of the county jail, where he has spent the greater part of the last five years.”

In 1899, the newspaper noted that “James Hogan is again a guest of the city. He was arrested Sunday morning and lodged in jail to await trial on a charge of drunkenness.”

In January of 1900: “The police rounded up the familiar form of James Hogan yesterday morning, and he will have a chance to tell how it happened…”

In July of that year: “James Hogan, otherwise known as “the stiff,” is again in conflict with the city authorities. His usual state of hilarity has been so pronounced for the last few days that he was arrested yesterday and warned to leave town within 24 hours. If he does not comply he will be sent up as a common nuisance.”

Hogan did not leave town. A convention had been in Boise, and several conventioneers had disposed of their souvenir badges which proclaimed “Freedom of the City” on their face. Hogan pinned one on and began bustling about as if it meant something. When people would confront him about his drunken behavior, he would point to the button as if it were a license; his own Get Out of Jail Free card. The Statesman reported that “The climax came about 8 o’clock when ‘the stiff’ was making a nuisance of himself on Main Street. He was in the midst of a flowery peroration when the strong hand of the law grasped him by the coat collar and hustled him to the city jail. James didn’t understand and wanted to know why his badge wasn’t a safeguard…”

Hogan got 60 days that time.

For 30 years the Statesman reported all the miner brushes with the law that “Hogan the stiff” had. He made the paper more than most politicians. He made it one last time on October 2, 1907, when they ran his obituary. It had a tone that was missing in most of the previous stories. “He was a well known character and a friend to everybody in his humble way…” The obituary noted that “Many of those who have in the past given him money to buy food will make up a purse to defray funeral expenses, and a special fund is now being collected to use in buying flowers.”

I was pleased to see a photo of Hogan and a brief story about his tragic life in the book Legendary Locals of Boise, by Barbara Perry Bauer and Elizabeth Jacox. He was the town drunk at a time when that seemed normal. Would a James Hogan get the help he needed today? Alcoholism is still a major problem without one single solution that works for everyone. I think the community today would respond with more than a laugh.

The picture [below] is from Find a Grave. It is of James Hogan’s grave in Morris Hill Cemetery. The folder marks the spot for this shot, as no headstone does.

source: Speaking of Idaho history posts are copyright © 2018 by Rick Just. Sharing is encouraged.
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James Hogan

(click to see original)
no marker visible, folder marks the grave
Added by: Fireguy on 6 Apr 2012

Birth: 1838
Death: 1908 (aged 69–70)
Burial: Morris Hill Cemetery Boise, Ada County, Idaho

“I am pretty sure that the James Hogan you have at Morris Hill Cemetery (Boise, ID) in Section C 87 1 is “Hogan the Stiff” who died 1 Oct 1907 at St. Alphonsus Hospital. The Statesman carried his obituary on the following da)y and indicated that he was “about 65 years of age”, although, if I have found the correct James Hogan in the 1900 Boise Census, he was recorded as having been born in Ireland in Mar 1834.

“The Statesman carried a number of stories and news articles about Hogan over the 20-some years he lived in the Boise area. In his obituary it was said that “Almost countless times he was arrested for drunkenness and spent much of his time in the county jail.” The Statesman on 7 Sep 1907 reported that, “James Hogan (Hogan-the-stiff) yesterday finished serving his “forty-eleventh” term in the county jail for being drunk.” He was a well-known character of Boise, and the newspaper regularly reported stories about him.”

John Mutch

source: Find a Grave
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courtesy Rick Just

Note: Rick Just and friends raised the funds to have this beautiful headstone made for Mr. Hogan’s final resting place.
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Update June 10, 2018

‘Jimmy the Stiff,’ Boise’s infamous town drunk, gets a proper toast a century later

by Katherine Jones Idaho Statesman June 8, 2018

James Hogan was laid to rest back in 1907 — the aughts of 100 years ago — without fanfare, although he was accompanied by flowers. He might have been buried in a pauper’s grave, and without flowers, but for some kind-hearted (or perhaps guilty-feeling) citizens who rose to the occasion and passed the hat.

Now, 110 years later, a different set of kind-hearted Boiseans pitched in again for Hogan. Perhaps with a bit of an apology toward how society has treated alcoholics in the past, they have done the contemporary form of passing the hat and crowdfunded a proper headstone to honor his passing.

“Hogan’s story is equal parts sad and funny,” writes Rick Just, who researched Hogan for his daily blog called “Speaking of Idaho.”

“He was in the paper more than local politicians,” he jokes. Hogan was familiarly, if not condescendingly, known as “the Stiff.”

“He was kind of a ne’er do well. … He always wanted a quarter from you …

“They would make fun of him. They would talk about, oh, Hogan the Stiff is in jail again for stealing a jacket from someplace because it was cold. I don’t think he was that kind of a guy who would normally steal stuff.”

In the 1890s, during the violent confrontations between labor union miners and mine owners in North Idaho, Hogan, who was a cook, was sent to Wallace with the National Guard. The subplot was a hope that Hogan might forget to return, says Just.

“But the guys liked him and they brought him back.”

One time, Just wrote, Hogan rode the coattails of a convention in Boise. The attendees sported souvenir badges that read “Freedom of the City.” Hogan found one in a trash can and thought that gave him huge license to, well, be free.

“The climax came about 8 o’clock when ‘the stiff’ was making a nuisance of himself on Main Street. He was in the midst of a flowery pejorative when the strong hand of the law grasped him by the coat collar and hustled him to the city jail.” — Idaho Statesman, July 21, 1900

“Funny guy, I guess, in some ways,” says Just. Hogan got 60 days for his, um, liberties.

‘A friend to everybody’

“James Hogan, an odd character around Boise, known as ‘Hogan, the Stiff,’ is dead. The end came about 10:30 yesterday morning at St. Alphonsus Hospital, where he was taken Monday, after being found near to death in the rear of a rooming house on Idaho Street. He said he had had nothing to eat in eight days.” — Idaho Statesman, Oct. 2, 1907.

When Hogan died, the Statesman wrote an obituary. “Which is long before obituaries were a thing,” says Just, so the warmness toward Hogan was striking.

“… A friend to everybody in his humble way, while all who knew him were his friends. In late years, it was through this friendship that Hogan lived …”

“They did a 180-on him, kind of,” says Just. “And (wrote about) how a bunch of people had gotten together and got enough money to buy him a plot at Morris Hill Cemetery.

“I thought that was a pretty good story by itself,” wrote Just — who calls himself a storyteller rather than a historian.

The only photo he could find at the time was of Hogan’s grave, which is to say the grassy spot where he is buried, through Find A Grave website. To mark the spot, someone had tossed a red file folder on the ground. “The folder marks the spot for this shot, as no headstone does,” Just wrote.

“I thought, you know, I’m going to post that, but I know what’s going to happen,” Just says. It took just about an hour before someone suggested buying a headstone, and two days to fund the project. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since then, two photos of Hogan have surfaced from the Idaho State Archives, both of which give him equal measure of sadness and mirth.

(click for original)
The Idaho State Legislature posed for their annual photo on the steps of the Old Capitol Building (date unknown). Guess who also showed up? James Hogan is far left, front row.
Idaho State Historical Society, no. 80-100-4

Just hopes those old photos, modern social media and a new headstone will help Hogan’s story live on, complicated and messy as it might be.

“… Locking people up, that’s all they did at one time. I imagine the insane asylum, as they called it, was full of people who were alcoholics at one time,” says Just.

“Would a James Hogan get the help he needed today?” wrote Just. “Alcoholism is still a major problem without one single solution that works for everyone. I think the community today would respond with more than a laugh.”

‘Just Plain Jimmy,’ please

In a newspaper style that is not used these days, Idaho Statesman reporters would call Hogan “Jimmy the Stiff” as they wrote slightly snarky stories about his frequent arrests and jail time for public drunkenness or petty theft.

The name clearly stung.

“He once asked a reporter to ‘Call me Jimmy. Just plain Jimmy,’” says Just. “I found that really sad.” So Just had the stone inscribed with Hogan’s birth and death dates, and the words: “A final toast to just plain Jimmy, 2018.”

“I’d like to think we do a better job with alcoholics today, though our responses are imperfect,” says Just. “I have alcoholics in my family, and they’re treated much better today.”

Just hopes that cemetery visitors will wonder at the 111-year discrepancy between Hogan’s death and the toast, and his story will live on.

“It’s worth remembering Jimmy for the complicated life he led. Thus, the belated headstone,” says Just. “It’s important for people who — well, they’re not important people, necessarily, but they had a life that’s important to recognize.”

Honor “just plain Jimmy”

Elizabeth Jacox and Rick Just will talk about James Hogan from 12 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, June 20 in the Greenbelt Room on the third floor of Boise City Hall.

source: Idaho Statesman June 8, 2018