Pioneer Stories of our Communites

Pioneer Stories

The following stories are taken from the "History of Boundary County, Idaho" published by the Boundary County Historical Society in 1987.

In the Copeland section:

When the 1894 flood was on, he (my dad) went out and nailed a little piece of board on one of the trees and when the water had gone down so that he could get out on the ground again, that mark was up there seventeen feet. The water line was what they built the Kootenai Valley Railroad on. by Chauncey Guthrie

A minister before Jim Howe used to come up here and go to the logging camps. He went to one logging camp and tacked up a sign saying there would be church. When he turned around there were a couple of lumberjacks there. They said, "Before you have church, you're going to have to lick us." He said, "All right." So he took off his coat, laid it down, and just beat the tar out of them. He was an ex-boxer. Then he said, "Now that we're all gathered together, let's bow our heads in prayer." by Jimmy Andrews


In the Porthill section:

About 1942-45, they had a peat fire for years and years and years. It would burn underground in different parts of the ground. There were places where the water didn't destroy it. There was fire burning down near the bottom of the trees near the edge of the dike and it went right up the mountain and destroyed it. The peat fire finally had a chance to get out by getting to the tree roots. We knew it was coming one Sunday morning because all the neighbors came and helped us get our things out of the way. They took our things to the different neighbors; the cows went to one neighbor, the chickens went to another; and the household furniture went here and there. The Forest Service gave us some tents. We called it "Refugee Camp #1." It was out on the dike up by Porthill. There was a call went out and everybody helped. by Irene Parshall

Margie's (Chauncey's wife) father worked on the dikes when the Canadians were going to build the new dike at Porthill along Smith Creek. When they got over to the mountains, he and an ex-surveyor climbed up another mountain where the dike was supposed to connect to the mountain and they found a snag that had been burned. The snag stuck up there and there was a big hollow in the top of it. it was a big cedar and they found from marks on that cedar where the water before had been higher than the 1894 water. That was the reason they never finished that dike. by Chauncey Guthrie


From the Smith Creek section:

We moved back up to Smith hill when I was six. There was only Colon Smith and we three Austin girls of school age. They wanted to open the school again, but had to have a least five kids, so they added Colon Smith Jr's old dog Bob, to the list and we had a school. Old Bob was just as faithful about going to school as we kids were.

Bill Stoner homesteaded one hundred sixty acres and made his cabin close to the road. He was a trapper. I heard them tell this story about old Bill: He was in the hills all winter trapping. Of course, about all he lived on in the hills was beans and bacon. In the spring when he came out of the hills, Tot's mother had him down for fried chicken dinner. There were some beans left over from the day before, so she warmed them up. Old Bill sat down, looked the table over, cleared his throat, and said, "Please pass the beans." by Vonnie Smith


From the Farms section:

1924 did the orchards up. There was a big orchard at Naples by Vi Wyman's, Kootenai Orchards, and they put in a lot of orchards there and we had a fall here that just stayed warm. It never knocked the leaves off the trees. I was sawing logs, another guy and I, at Caribou, there the other side of Snow Creek. We had a contract to cut some logs and we had a team to skid 'em with. We had to get some hay so I went down to Myrtle Creek to get some they had for sale there. It was raining, just a nice steady rain and I only had a light jacket on. Pretty soon icicles began to form out from under that shed and then it started to snow. I didn't have much hay, 800-1000 pounds, and I thought I better get out of there. I started back with a wagon with steel tires, you know, and a hay rack and the snow and mud would freeze to them and go up and hit that hay rack and slide and I'd have to knock 'em off and I like to froze to death before I got back up to Snow Creek. It was up around 40 degrees when it was raining and it went down to 30 degrees below in a little over on hour. All the sap was in the trees then because we hadn't had a killing frost yet. When it turned that cold all that sap just busted them and split those trees and that's what killed all the trees. South of town there must have been 30-40 acres in there and it killed every one of those trees. That happened the 24th day of October. I remember that. From then on we had winter, but up until then, we hadn't had any winter. by Frank Florea


From the Mine section:

The Indians told Billie Houston where the ore was in the mountains. He needed money for goods and tools to go to look for it. He contacted Spence Smith for a grub stake. When he located the ore, he and Spence went up through Priest Lake country and staked the mine. They built a small cabin; Billie was to stay there and work the mine, and Spence started out. Billie got to thinking, "Spence won't make it," as he got lost very easily. Billie started out. Sure enough! Spence was lost. Billie found where he had crossed over his snow shoe tracks. When he found him he was nearly all in. He had been snow shoeing all day and night as he figured he was lost. Billie found tracks of a cougar that had been following Spence all night waiting for him to fall.

The next spring they went back to the mine and proved up their claim, and did the assessment work. Later, A.K. Klockman got interested in the mine and he bought Spence Smith's share for $10.000. Billie Houston didn't want money as all he wanted to do was trap and hunt, so Mr. Klockman gave him a place to live and furnished him with everything he needed for the rest of his life. Billie cut his foot and gangrene set in, and he died in 1928. He had been a wonderful friend to all the kids in the neighborhood. by Vonnie Smith

Note: this mine became known as the Contental Mine and operated until 1929.


From the Meadow Creek section:

Meadow Creek was wilderness. They must have had around 200 or 300 population there. They had a store, hotel and dancehall and mill-logging facilities of all kinds, posts, poles, school and stills. They had lots of stills. I can tell you one funny instance about a still. I thought it was funny. This guy had his mash barrel out in the sawdust pile. From the sawmill they had no way of getting rid of the sawdust in those days so they just flumed it out over the flat there. After so many years the sawdust had built up a heat so he dug a hole down in there, build a box and put these two mash barrels in so the heat from the sawdust would make it work good.

Well, he and another guy that was making whiskey got to feudin'. I guess, probably cut rates on their booze. Anyhow, they got to feudin' about it so this guy took two boxes of soda and he went over and dumped one in each mash barrel. Pretty soon in the sawdust there was mash runnin' all over. The soda made the mash boil out all over the sawdust pile.

This woman's husband, Archer, up there ran the sawmill and the hotel then. She had a big old milk cow and that cow got over there and started lappin' up that mash and got drunk. She got down and couldn't get up. She'd just lay there and kick her feet and beller. The cow was all right once she got sobered up.

But this guy that put the soda in there and that other fellow packed guns for about a month. One of 'em drove a truck and the other one drove a team up in the woods and they always had a gun. This guy that was drivin' a truck stopped to pick a guy up on the road and he had his hand gun in the seat. He picked it up to move it and stick it in his waist- band and he shot a hole through his leg. That's all that happened out of that feud. They always settled everything with fights. by Otis Simon


From the Round Prairie section:

Charlie Wagner wrote to the Forest Service to get permission to have a cemetery up there at Round Prairie. The Forest Service wrote back and said that they had to guarantee eight deaths a year, had to bury eight people a year or they couldn't have it. There is a grave up there where it used to be the Round Prairie Hall, alongside the road. They buried a foreigner; old Wagner (Charlie Wagner) hauled him there in his wagon. That's how come he wrote to the Forest Service for a graveyard. Charlie was married to my aunt, father's sister. That was her third man, or fourth man. They all died. Divorce was a disgrace those days.

Wagner buried the black man in the ditch alongside the road. Now they call that a statue instead of a grave. It's on the Forest Service map now. He buried a couple of people down by Moyie Springs on the Fox place. The man buried by the Round Prairie Hall was a tie hack; he worked around the railroad. By Charlie Wagner as told to Keith Leslie


From the Bonners Ferry section:

The former Bonners Ferry Community Hospital was located where the present Restorium stands. My arrival, to become part of the nursing staff was in 1954. Drs. R. M. Bowell and F. W. Durose were the only physicians at that time. They were ingenious doing procedures with minimal equipment. "Prepared Kits" were not "in" at that time. We did blood alcohols even then. Being new in the profession to withdraw blood petrified me. Our older aide would console me with "They are too drunk to notice." The fellow who kept flexing the tourniquet out of place still stands out in my mind.

We did not have the rules and "regs" we now have. Empirin with codeine came in bottles of one thousand tablets, and we did not have to sign them out. Of course, the day came when I dropped an open bottle of one thousand tablets! The whole hospital was of wood construction, including the floors - much easier to work on than concrete. The elevator was run by water pressure. Upon entering the elevator you hand-pulled the cables to get to the second floor (medical-surgical ward), or to the basement where the kitchen had a large wood stove for cooking the meals. The X-ray was also in the basement. The fruit room was directly behind the wall into which the X-ray machine was directed. The walls were unleaded.

The nursing staff would stoke the wood furnace on evenings and nights. It was difficult to keep the two-story building warm in the coldest of winter. We would chart with a blanket around our shoulders. Our obstetrical delivery room was on the main floor, near the back door. When a delivery was imminent the accepted practice was to give our patients chloroform - ten drops per contraction on a gauze mask over her face. This is no longer a part of any anesthesia.

We had an aide, an older lady, who would encourage our OB's in labor by telling them, "Say your rosary," or "Say the Lord's Prayer," depending on the patient's religious preference. Our incubator was a large wooden box which had light bulbs for added warmth. there was no such thing as transferring a baby to another facility for intensive care. We accommodated those infants, no matter what size they were, including the wee two-pounders.

The surgery was located near the front door. We used it as a thoroughfare to enter the emergency and supply rooms. The doors were always open except during an operation. The anesthesia was either by local injection or by drip ether on a gauze mask. The best part of the anesthesia was Margaret Sunderland's voice, soft and reassuring.

Much has changed through the years, and I have enjoyed being a part of it into the 1980's. by Veryl Lindsay

Note: Veryl retired from the medical community in the spring of 1996.

We had a house full of diphtheria and he (Dr. E.E. Fry) came out there and mother had just baked a cake and he was looking in the silverware box and Mother said ,"Oh, I've got a spoon," - she thought he wanted a tongue depressor. "Oh," he said, "I can't eat cake with a spoon." He was getting himself a fork to get some cake.

When my first boy was born he stayed down there the whole day. It was Dad's birthday and he had birthday dinner with the folks.

Dr. Fry died in 1937. Mr. Vaughn brought the whole group of Indians to the funeral in the old high school and they all marched by his casket. Dr. Fry was called down to the Indian Mission to deliver a baby and they didn't have anything to use as a delivery table, so he had them take one of the doors off the church, clean it up, and put it on blocks. I said, "What a wonderful mission for a Mission Church door."

When Dr. Fry was appointed health officer he said, "There shall be a cleaning up of the town. There will be no pigpens and only one load of manure allowed. by Caroline Knox

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