Sunday, July 29, 2012

One Man's Journey - Part VIII

School – what school?

New-England Primer Enlarged printed and sold by Benjamin Franklin
via Wikimedia Commons
I’m now approaching my seventh birthday (Dec. 16) and have not attended a formal school because there were not enough people in the district to build a school house; but, Mama read to us and taught us our ABCs, as well as some arithmetic, like multiplication 2x2. So, we weren’t totally devoid of learning. Incidentally, Papa, who had only about three years of schooling, was a whiz at mathematics. He was very clever and could recite poetry all day. I used to like to hear him do this because much of it was in Scottish brogue. I don’t think there was too much that went on during this period. We were not allowed to go near the river unless there was someone with us.  I don’t remember Papa swimming, but Mama did. There were no bathing suits, but she wore a Mother Hubbard sort of thing. She was a strong swimmer.

1909  The farm was gradually taking shape. Shade and fruit trees were planted, but had to be watered by water hauled from the spring or river. I’m not sure when the irrigation system was completed, but I would suggest it was probably completed in early 1910. A lot of people were now entering the valley taking up homesteads. {The Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 increased the number of acres to 320 per homesteader in several western states, but not including Idaho. The act targeted land that was suitable for dry-land farming, and was  amended in 1910 to include Idaho.}

There were lots of memories during this period. I think one of the best was walking from the barn at night with Papa who carried a kerosene lantern and I would hand onto his fingers. We would stand out in the yard and listen to the coyotes howl.

Along about this time, there was a family of cougars moved into a cave under the cap of the butte a mile or so east of our place. They made quite a racket at night, and needless to say, it scared us little kids since the animals did roam for food; but, none of our livestock was affected.


I must tell this story since it upset our parents very much and I suppose could have ended in disaster. As I mentioned above, we were not allowed to go near the river, but there was a small stream about ¼ mile east of the house that ran down a gulley into the river and it had fish in it. Somehow, we knew about the fish, so one day, we took a gunnysack and went fishing. We traveled quite a way north up the gulley all the while catching fish and putting them in the sack. Of course, we could not be seen from the house, so our parents started to look in the river.

PlateXXXI-Coho Salmon Adult Male
By A. Hoen and Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I guess it must have driven them wild. I have no idea how long we were gone, but when the sack started to get heavy, we started home, taking the long way. I just don’t remember what happened when we got home. I don’t think we were spanked they were so happy that we were safe. I’ll never forget how pleased I was about catching all those fish. I think it was after that, that we were allowed to fish in the river, but someone was always with us. Of course, there was a time as we grew older that we managed somehow to get into that river, but maybe more on that later. {The Snake River was once one of the most important rivers for the spawning of anadromous fish—which are born in the headwaters of rivers, live in the ocean for most of their lives, and return to the river to spawn—in the United States. The river supported species including chinook salmon, coho salmon, and sockeye salmon, as well as steelhead trout, white sturgeon, and Pacific lamprey.(courtesy Wikipedia)}

I guess things progressed along the same lines for the next year, or so. Sam Wickham and Ernie Bedford still feuded. Sam beat his wife on a regular basis. The farm grew, more land cleared and cultivated. There were horses to work, cows to milk, pigs to take care of. Bill and I had our chores, mostly me since I was older; like riding the horse when Papa cultivated. The winters were very cold and the summers very hot.

via Wikimedia Commons
We are approaching 1910. I still haven’t gone to school. I believe the school house may have been built during this year, since it was ready in the fall of 1910. The first day for me was bad. Papa took me. I don’t remember if we rode a horse or walked. The school was 1 ¼ miles from our place by road.

My teacher’s name was Miss Slonicker. {Bertha Sloneker, born about 1890 in Colorado, was the daughter of George and Nellie. Their family lived in Canyon County, Idaho, in 1910. It was recorded on the census that Bertha was a public school teacher.} She was a local girl, probably with not much more than an eighth-grade education. Some of the children were about as old, if not older, as the teacher.

Bill and I had just each other for so long that it was hard for me to get used to all those older and bigger people, and some of those guys were pretty rough on the smaller children. Among the older boys, there was always a fight going on, and it was pretty hard for a young teacher to control such activity.

The school was one room with two outhouses. Water was obtained from a well in the yard. Water was kept in a bucket by the door with a dipper in it, so anyone wanting a drink used the dipper. You can imagine the results.

To heat the place, a large pot-bellied stove was located about in the center of the room. Those close to the stove roasted, those at the outer edges, froze.

I probably should mention here that due to the lack of money, the school operated three months in 1910; three months in 1911; seven months in 1912; thereafter, nine months; so for the first three years of schooling, we got 13 months. Long vacations, huh?!


Circuit rider illustration Eggleston
via Wikimedia Commons
Since we did not have a church, the one-room school served this purpose. We did not have a resident minister, so we were served by a circuit rider. He would leave Caldwell early Sunday morning and preach at a couple of places across the Deer Flat. I don’t remember when he got to our area, but believe it was early afternoon, and then he went on to Central Cove. I don’t think he could have served more than three or four churches because of distance. If he had come directly from Caldwell to our area and returned to Caldwell, it would have been at least a 30-mile ride. ¿Maybe he put in some long hours?

Sometimes, the services were held in homes. This occurred especially before the one-room school house was built. These men surely must have been dedicated. I don’t remember that we ever did have a resident minister. I believe most of the circuit riders were Presbyterian. I do know Bill and I were baptized by a Presbyterian minister.

I don’t think it made much difference to most people as long as they had a church. I remember only one man. His name was Hooper, and he was young. We like him because he would take us swimming and acted like the rest of the kids.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
[I must pause here and reflect. As I continue with this narrative, more and more incidents keep flooding in so it is hard to keep them is some sort of order, because things were happening pretty fast and to get years and facts in the right place in history, but I will try.]
to be continued ...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Preservation of Another Cemetery

1st Lutheran Cemetery; Poulsbo, Washington
The Columbia Missourian reported on a woman, Fonda Smith, and her husband who have taken on the task of preserving a 19th-century cemetery in central Missouri. Cemeteries are dear to my heart, and can be important factors in tracing our ancestry. Hopefully, a transcript of the burials in the Far West Cemetery will become available online. Kudos to the Smiths, and all those working to find and preserve cemeteries and their records everywhere!

You can read the article here.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Collins

Warren J. Collins
1853 - 1942
With information from the 1900 census, it appears Warren J. Collins was born in Mississippi in June 1853. His parents, from the Washington State Death Record Index, were Stacy and Alice J. (Walters) Collins. In 1880, he was enumerated in Hays County, Texas, with his wife, Jane M. This census indicates they were married within the census year. There is a marriage indexed between a W. J. Collins and an M. J. Riley on March 24, 1880, in Travis County, Texas. This may be them. Martha died between 1900 and 1910.

From at least 1900 until almost the time of his death, Warren lived in Kingston, Kitsap County, Washington. He died on July 21, 1942, in Retsil, Kitsap County, Washington; presumably at the veteran's hospital there. Warren is buried in the Kingston Cemetery in Kingston, Washington.

(I was unable to find a reference to Caulfield's Minutemen.)

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

One Man's Journey - Part VII


Mama takes a swim

Mother Hubbard dresses
Of course we all had to take a bath once in a while since it was extremely hot, with no shade and everyone got very dirty, no bath tubs, so during the summer months the adults used the river for bathing.

It’s probably hard for you to believe, but your Grandmother Aitchison was a good and very strong swimmer. A gully that cut across our place close and just above the spring had formed a bar that extended into the river 20 to 30 feet. The current was very swift around the point of this bar. Mama, wearing a long Mother Hubbard dress would swim up against the current for 50 to 75 feet to the point of the bar. (Incidentally, the bar and water formed a deep hole next to the shore where I caught my first fish. Maybe more of this later.)

Our house

Of course, in addition to getting the Wickhams settled, Papa was busy getting our place in shape to start farming. So along with building a house, he was a very busy man. Our house was not completely finished until the early spring of 1909, and at this point irrigation water was yet one-and-a-half to two years away.

Papa hired Mr. Travis, noted above, to plaster our house. That is one thing I happily remember. I think of the strange fresh smell of wet plaster even today {1986}.

Clearing the land

Astragalus canadensis — Matt Lavin 001
Matt Lavin via Wikipedia Commons
I must explain about clearing the land. As explained above, the only living thing growing was sagebrush, which was fairly easy to clear. Papa obtained a couple of railroad irons, perhaps 20 feet long? They would hitch a team of horses on each end of the irons and drag it across the land. Sagebrush being short-rooted was easily pulled up. Since we used the brush for fuel to heat and cook, a lot was saved for this purpose. The rest was piled up and burned. Of course, clearing process extended over a number of years since the operation was slow for one man.

Wickham and Bedford

Winchester rifle grko474 rifleAt this point, there were probably two or three other settlers arriving in the Valley, and across the river a man by the name of Ernest Bedford built a house and started to clear his homestead. For some reason, Sam Wickham took a disliking for Mr. Bedford, and on day some shots were fired. I don’t know who started the fuss, but I do remember Sam sitting on the bank 20 to 30 feet above the water using a 30-30 rifle taking pot shots at Bedford and Bedford was doing the same thing at Sam. I don’t think either one of them came close, but anyway it was stupid of these two men since there were other people and livestock that they may have killed or injured. I believe the feud continued as long as the Wickhams lived on this place.

Early in the spring of 1909, our house had been built and a lot of the sage brush had been cleared from the land, but with no water, it wasn’t possible to plant crops of any kind. Papa and Mama did plant eight or ten poplar trees around the house, and they were watered by water that was hauled in a barrel or buckets from either the spring or the river.

Irrigation water/crews

Diversion Dam and Deer Flat Embankments
By Glade Walker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In order to get water for the land, a reservoir was built on Deer Flat held in by an earthen dam, and here again the building of the dam and high lines and laterals was done by the cooperation of the homesteaders. So, of course, Papa was involved in all of the construction which was done by horse and hand labor. I don’t know how they rationed the time spent on these projects, but believe it was allocated as to the number of acres homesteaded.

There were also paid crews hired to do the pick and shovel work. One of these crews camped at our place on the river bank about 150 to 200 feet south and east of our house. This crew was made up of mostly Italian and Basque, the foreman being Anglo. My mother cooked two meals a day for these men and provided a huge lunch which was transported in an equally huge box. Of course, I didn’t think much about it at the time, but in later years I have wondered how Mama managed to prepare food for 10 to 15 men for several months in that burning hot climate and in front of a burning hot Home Comfort kitchen range. She also had to carry in her own fuel and water since Bill or I was not big enough to do the chore, and as I mentioned above, the water had to be carted from the spring. I don’t know how long these men were boarded, but I’m sure it covered at least six months, Spring and Summer. {Deer Flat Reservoir was part of the “Boise Project” to provide irrigation water. Upon completion of the Boise River Diversion Dam, water began flowing to the reservoir on February 22, 1909. Deer Flat Reservoir was rename Lowell Lake and is now part of the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. More can be read about the “Boise Project” here and here.}

The rabbit chase

Since entertainment was hard come by, these people {paid work crew} devised their own – and one such was running down jack rabbits. As explained above, rabbits were thick so it wasn’t much trouble for eight to ten of these guys to run down a rabbit. Bill and I used to watch them.

Xun ocarina tenore austriaco
Paolo Gavelli via Wikimedia Commons
These people also played the Oscarina {ocarina}, or potato whistle. It was the only music that they or we had. You could hear the music for miles – especially from across the river in sheep herder camps. Most of these herders were Basque, which we pronounced “Basqo” or “Basco.” Maybe more on these people later.

The coyotes

After we moved into our new house and the barns were all built, we didn’t have a chicken house (come to think of it, we never did), so Papa constructed a sort of coop along the north side of the house for a dozen, or so, chickens (small ones).

The coop was located pretty much under the bedroom window where Bill and I slept. During the night, a bunch of coyotes came in and cleaned out the chickens. Bill and I had a small white duck as a pet. This little creature was able to get into a length of eight-inch stovepipe that was lying in the yard. He was the only thing that survived the raid, but he had been damaged to some extent, as he always walked with a limp after that. I don’t know what eventually happened to our duck, but he did slip from memory.
to be continued...

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tribal Canoe Journey - 2012

On July 12th, I was privileged to be in La Push, Washington, as the Quileute Tribe welcomed open ocean travelers from the Quinault Nation to their shore. These travelers, pullers, had navigated 50 miles of ocean travel that day into the Quillayute River. This was the first leg of a journey culminating with their arrival at Squaxin Island (near Olympia, WA) on July 28th. Along the way, they will be joined by the canoes from other Native American tribes, as well as First Nations peoples from Canada. It is expected that at least 100 canoes will be traveling together by the end of the journey.

At La Push, following anciently established protocol, a speaker from each of the five visiting canoes addressed the Quileute Chief, requesting permission to come ashore. The chief then responded with compliments and gratitude, welcoming the travelers and offering them rest, refreshment and socializing. Three Quileute canoes escorted and observed their fellows. Many Quileute were also there to welcome the travelers in a traditional way, singing, beating drums and raising their open arms. 

After the visiting canoes steered toward shore, the Quileute canoes were maneuvered through the waterway in front of the chief and the crowd. Again, the songs and drums sounded to honor their own.

When the pullers arrive at Squaxin Island, there will be the 'potlatch protocal' from July 30th through August 5th, during which everyone involved will feast and receive gifts.  

The subtitle for this event on the official site is "Teachings of Our Ancestors." Besides being interesting and educational, it was an emotional experience for me to observe the ancient, traditional interactions of modern-day people. Their connection with their heritage was truly moving. They waited more than three hours beyond the expected arrival of the canoes with their electric microphone and their deerskin drums. In the true spirit of their ancestors, they greeted and welcomed strangers to their homeland. Then, they all gathered to eat and celebrate together.

When those pullers left La Push on Friday morning, the Quileute canoes accompanied them. Pullers from the Hoh nation also joined them. On the ocean, they are all one.


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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Cowger

Charles R. Cowger
1852 - 1926

Charles was the fourth child of Gustavus Cowger and Sarah Ann Wheeler. He was born on April 18, 1852, in Red Oak, Montgomery County, Iowa. He was married to Viola who died between 1881 and 1895, as they had a daughter, also named Viola, born in 1881. Charles died in the Missouri Methodist Hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri. He is buried in the Cowger Cemetery in Burr Oak Township, Doniphan County, Kansas.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

One Man's Journey - Part VI

THE SECOND ERA (beginning 1908)

When I started this story, I thought I would do it in periods of 1902 – 1910, and thereafter each ten years, but decided I would do it as the breaks occurred. So, as a result, I’m starting the second period in March or April of 1908. I would be about three months past my fifth birthday.
Bureau of Land Management

The Move

Papa sold the farm located three miles east of Caldwell, Idaho, and applied for homestead land of 188 acres approximately 15 miles south of Caldwell. The property laid along the north bank of the Snake River for about one-half mile.

It is strange, but I can’t remember a thing about our preparation for moving nor the move itself over flat prairie-like landscape. There were no roads, just trails across sagebrush flats inhabited mostly by jack rabbits and coyotes.

The first thing I remember about this move was rounding a curve in the trail and lay before us the valley. We were, at this point, about three to four miles from our homestead. It is hard to describe. It was stark. Nothing but sagebrush and one lone house belonging to a family by the name of Travis. This house sat about in the center of this vast valley, rimmed by chalk hills with a huge extinct volcano anchoring the eastern end of the valley and the chalk hills running into the river at the western end of the valley. I, of course, didn’t know at the time, but it was later determined the valley was about 15 miles long and approximately four miles wide. So, at this point, we were about four miles from the river which had taken a north-westerly course, and at this point was quite wide (perhaps ¾ mile?). {view the map - William Aitchison is in Section 27}

Owyhee Mountains via Wikimedia Commons
Across the river was much of the same, not a soul moving. It was like we were standing with no other human within 10,000 miles. Across the river was a vast land of nothing, sloping gently up to the Owyhee range, which was approximately 70 miles south of the river. These hills, which are probably no higher than three- to four thousand feet, looked blue in the distance. It was a beautiful sight from our vantage point and extremely lonely. From this point, I don’t remember much until after we arrived at the river.

There was another family with us, the Sam Wickhams, his wife, Cora, and three or four children. Cora was mentally retarded as was one of the boys. Papa and Sam set up some tents until they were able to build a house for them. This building was a two-story affair setting in the middle an 80-acre homestead.

I must tell you at this point that there were five wagons in the little caravan. I don’t know how many horses, cows and other livestock. I do know that Papa had two teams (four horses) of large animals. One of these horses was a large black mare that we called Mizappa (I’m not sure of the spelling). Anyway, it had something to do with an ancient legend. Perhaps more on Mizappa later.

The Wickham property lay west of and across the road from our property. A spring of water was located about a hundred yards from the Wickham house and about the same distance from the location of our future home. (Of course, the animals used the river water for drinking.)

The spring was perhaps four feet deep and a couple of feet across with extremely clear and cold water. For the next two years, this spring played a big part in our lives. It did not have a cover, so we had to keep it lean of snakes, kangaroo rats and other small animals that fell into it almost daily. Papa didn’t do much on our place until after the Wickhams were pretty well settled. A barbed fence was built along the east side of the Wickham property.

The fence
via Wikipedia Commons
I’m guessing, but I believe our house was started in late summer or fall of 1908. One evening just about dusk, I ran from the Wickham house toward our partially finished house. I forgot about the new fence. The bottom wired was just high enough to catch across my throat. It dang near took my head off. It healed okay and left no scars.

I don’t remember when or how all the lumber and other supplies were obtained during this period. Since we were 15 miles from Caldwell, it was a long haul and must have taken two to three days at best.


I don’t know where my parents’ money supply came from during this period, but they must have received some cash from the sale of the place east of Caldwell. I do know that a house in Caldwell was part of the deal and was rented out, so some income was derived from that source. In those days, a dollar certainly went a lot farther than it does now. It would be hard to explain unless some research was done on the subject.


photo ca 1911, Clifton Johnson
One of the most interesting things that I recall of this period was the making of soap. It was a product hard to come by since our trips to town came only once or twice a year. So, Mama and Cora Wickham had to make soap. I don’t know all the materials that went into the manufacture except the following: tallow, derived from sheep or beef, lye and wood ashes. Mama and Cora would mix this stuff up in a large iron kettle and when it was ready, they would pour it into large bread pans and let it harden, after which they would cut it into bars with a knife.

I should explain that the mixture was cooked to allow the materials to mix. The cooking process was usually done outside over an open fire. That stuff must surely have been awfully hard on both clothes and hands, since all washing was done with a washboard and tub with water either carried from the spring or the river. It is possible that Mama did some washing in the river, but I don’t recall her doing so.
to be continued...

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Schneider

Charles J. Schneider
1856 - 1932
Using census information, I found that Charles was born in Germany in December 1856. He immigrated in 1869 and was a naturalized American citizen in 1879. He was divorced and lived in Clallam County, Washington, from at least 1900 until his death. The official record of his death show that he died on November 12, 1932. He was the son of  Carl and Minnie (Rung) Schneider. He is buried in the Forks Cemetery in Forks, Washington.

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