Saturday, December 8, 2018

Kitten and Skunks Battle Over Food

Chelan Valley Mirror July 10, 1952

Kitten and Skunks
Battle Over Food

A kitten and a baby skunk came into conflict at Stehekin last week over a bowl of food.

The food belonged to the kitten but its wild adversary felt that possession was nine points of the law.

The problem arose at the back door of the Peter Miller home, when two larcenous baby skunks decided that the kitten’s food was free for the taking. One woods kitty concluded that honesty was the best policy when surprised by the owner, but the other stayed.

The moment of crisis came when kitten and skunk stood nose to nose within six inches to debate the question.

“There was a time when I felt that the skunk would win by using its own peculiar talent, but he merely stamped his foot in an aggravated manner and retreated,” Miller, a neutral observer, said.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Stehekin Courtney Homestead:Celebrating 100 Year Anniversary!

Mamie and Hugh Courtney at the homestead, 1942
"....That winter, Hugh and Mamie put their name in for the old, abandoned William McComb homestead about a mile and a half up the road from the Lesh place. It was accepted, and on April 19, 1918 with Mamie seven months pregnant with my mother June, they moved up to the homestead."
(From "At Home In The Woods" by Mike Barnhart, pg. 21)

 Hugh and Mamie's rustic beginnings of life in Stehekin surrounded by tall Douglas firs, beside the rushing Stehekin River with a startling rise of McGregor Mountain looming over them, is a story to be revered. Their dream of making Stehekin a home has reached into the lives of many of their descendants, a century later. Each ax swing, shovel of dirt, and snowy winter endured was of benefit to more than their little family of six. Their legacy of hard, back breaking work to find a way to stay and survive on their mountain homestead is a gift that has enabled many generations to live on, in an outstanding homeland. 

April 20, 2018 Courtney Homestead 100 year anniversary (Photo~Nancy Barnhart)
One hundred years after their move into a dirt floored cabin, Mamie and Hugh's descendants gather on the grounds of the former homestead. The talk is of where the garden was, how water was channeled for produce, animals and home, from a nearby mountainside creek. How the water tower was built, where the barn was located, and the remarkable change of size of the original land due to the continual carving away by the river. The original log cabin has been moved to avoid being washed away. 

Mike Barnhart, son of June Barnhart (Courtney) guides the families along the road, pointing to places that were once cleared and occupied by wooden buildings that couldn't last the century. Rock hearths still stand as monuments to the lifestyle of chopping wood for survival heat,  daffodils still pop up near the old site, and a few relic vehicles grace the woods. They are long covered over with leaves and ferns, meeting a destiny of "can't fix it." Laughter is shared about "granddad's stories." Memories of climbing the water tower as kids emerge. Much circling of the old log cabin, and talk of the cellar, and the cooling house for milk storage takes place. A rugged lifestyle that required attention every day unfolds and is given honor.

Cousins, second and third and fourth cousins, clear down to a 6th generation baby meet and look at the display Mike has carefully posted of diary entries, a map of the old homestead, and pictures of this very end of Company Creek road destination. Mike and Nancy live on a portion of the original homestead and are graciously making this day a family celebration. Some have traveled from San Antonio, Texas. Some from Arkansas. 

Local Courtney families that are still living this dream of Stehekin life meet and share with cousins from far away about what it is like to live here.  Little ones play in the setting, oblivious to the historical import of the day, doing what comes natural..running, kicking a ball, and laughing. They enjoy being outside with a unique freedom and innocence that all eras have shared in this special place.   Stehekin has grown six generations of the Courtney family, as well as one more, reaching back to Moore point, with Robert and Mary Moore, parents of Mamie.

Sixth generation!

Present generations provide many services to the valley such as Stehekin Outfitters, the Stehekin Pastry Company, Stehekin Valley Ranch, Barnhart Photography, Rental Cabins, Mountain Barge Service, each with the heart of the original determination of Mamie and Hugh to make Stehekin their home. Due to their life long efforts, there are now nine families able to call Stehekin their home, that tie to these beginnings. Other family  members own property here, and visit whenever possible. Family ties to this homestead, and Stehekin, run deep and are not forgotten.
The hardship of making a way in Stehekin has obviously changed. There is something familiar, however, in Mamie and Hugh's family stories of early life of making it through, making it work, and doing it with your own abilities as best you can, a spirit that has been passed down to the present generations. And, a spirit of hope and dreams still endures, just as it did originally when the valley was first being settled, as is evident in thirteen year old Dorothy Courtney's letter to her brother from 100 years ago, describing their fist day in their "new" home: 

"...We moved yesterday on your birthday and we had a great time. Laurence and I went down to get Mr. Inlow and caught him pretty nearly down to his place going to set bear traps way up on the mountain but he helped us anyway and we got one load up in the morning and then we had to take another load right after dinner. We took that load and the next about 5:30 in the evening. Papa had to go down after another load but Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell and John Merritt came up to drive the team back. It was about twelve o clock when we got to bed; we walked up so that made us tireder than ever. Mr. Inlow put up the stove and beds and we had to shovel the dirt out it was so deep. We couldn't bring the chickens so we had to leave them until tonight but I went and let them out we couldn't catch all of them so Elmer Pershall and his wife get four eggs. We get four eggs every day so we have eggs for breakfast every morning and that is a great help. There are lots of mosquitoes up here. I am nearly eaten up with them.
We think our team will be up today so that we can start farming in a little while and can get things started. Mr. Washburn gave me some flower seeds and I already have some and Mr. Inlow is going to give me some pansies they are in bloom. 
Well I must close,
Your very loving sister, Dorothy Courtney"

The original Courtney homestead is now partitioned into family tracts, and has also been sold to others. Life is still carried on by these tall firs, this rushing river, under unforgettable North Cascades peaks. A legacy of family, hardwork, love of place, good will and wonderful history live on.

Grandma Courtney's Bottles (Photo cr. Nancy Barnhart)

(For a genuine and more in depth account of life on the Courtney homestead, read:

Mike Barnhart  l.c.

For more Stehekin information
stories and news,

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Pictures from our Weekend 4/8/2018

The snow has just gone off the field in front of our house, and there are signs of warm sunny days ahead! 

These flowers are Spring Beauties - such an appropriate name, don't you think? I have been receiving bouquets for over thirty years from my children and grandchildren. They are one of the first spring flowers to make an appearance, and they are apparently irresistible when it comes to getting picked. Their delicate beauty has graced many small vases on my windowsill through the years. I don't generally pick many wildflowers that grow on my property, but I do appreciate the love and kindness that motivates the gift of bouquets on my sill.

Spring is also a time that many of the archers in the valley get their bows, arrows and targets out to practice for the upcoming Rock Shoot in Moses Lake. Here are a few pictures from this past Sunday afternoon
They all shoot primitive bows, made with local wood.

This 4 year old has a unique draw, but he hits the target (sometimes!). 

this 7-year old sends her arrow on its way to the target!

(note the snow on the far side of the field)

They call this Rabbit Hunting. The target is rolled along the ground in front of the shooters, and it's a bit of a competition to see who can hit it. A fun, carnival-like challenge.
Ariel target shooting is a fun way to get your exercise - walking around in the field looking for your arrows - but skills are honed, and practice pays off. And most importantly, family fun is had by all.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Bill Buzzard: Miner, Rancher and Packer

Bill Buzzard first came to the Stehekin Valley in 1889 to check out mining at Horseshoe Basin. He then patented the Buzzard Homestead in 1904 which consisted of 160 acres. The Buckner Orchard and the Stehekin School sit on the former homestead. 

Here is an article from the Chelan Leader dated this week in 1896 announcing Bill Buzzard's return to Stehekin after a winter down lake and the upcoming summer season. 

Chelan Leader April 3, 1896

William Buzzard arrived in Chelan Friday evening, en route to his home in the Stehekin valley, whither he went on Tuesday's steamer. Mr Buzzard wintered in Spokane, and came across the Big Bend, bringing with him several head of horses belonging to his pack train. These he left at Meadow Creek for the present, where there is plenty of feed. He was accompanied by Richard Watkinson, an experienced prospector, who will put in the summer above the head of the lake looking for the precious metals for which that region is famous.

Mr Buzzard has one of the loveliest locations on earth for a pleasure resort. It is situated on the Stehekin river, two and a half miles from the head of the lake and in plain sight of the 300-foot Rainbow Falls, and is surrounded by majestic, towering, snow-capped mountains. There is no better trout fishing than is to be found in the Stehekin river, while prairie chickens and grouse are plentiful. Now and then the monotony is broken for the bird hunter by meeting with larger game, such as a bear, cougar, deer or wild goat. A large mound on his place would afford an ideal spot for a tourist hotel, and water for lawns, fountains, etc can be carried in pipes direct from Rainbow Creek. Those unacquainted with this region would be astonished to learn what a profusion of fine vegetables can be raised, as well as small fruits, etc.

Mr Buzzard, while something of a rancher, has been identified with the mining industry for a quarter of a century, and his judgement on a mining proposition is considered to be pretty good. He has indicated his judgment by identifying himself with the mines of the Chelan district, largely in Horseshoe basin, but also in other camps.

A short time ago the LEADER stated on the authority of a Spokane man who was interested, that the new gold fields at the head of the Twisp would be reached and would ship ore via Lake Chelan. Someone afterwards denied that it could be done. It is now learned from Mr Buzzard that he is fitting out a pack train, part of the horses for which he brought with him from Spokane, for the express purpose of packing between the head of Lake Chelan and the Twisp mining camp, which he says can be easily reached inside of 28 miles. There is no question of this being the easiest and cheapest outlet for those mines as they would have at least eighty miles of trail and wagon road by any other route to reach the Columbia, while on the lake they have seventy miles of navigation, at greatly reduced time and expense.

It was also learned from Mr Buzzard that gentlemen in Spokane who are interested in the Company Creek gold finds of last year, situated some ten or fifteen miles from the head of the lake, will send in a competent expert to examine that proposition as soon as the camp can be reached. It is Mr Buzzard's opinion that if the ore of Company Creek will pay at all to work, it is the biggest gold proposition in North America, as there are millions of tons of the rock.

It is also expected that development work will be actively pushed in Horseshoe Basin this season, although operations there cannot probably begin before June. It is thought work on the tunnel will be abandoned for the present, and will be concentrated on one of the ledges until depth sufficient to determine its value shall have been reached.

It will thus be seen that a pretty lively mining season is anticipated on and above Lake Chelan this season, and while there will be no boom, it is likely there will be more solid development done that at any previous time in the history of the district.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

"In the Wonderland of the Northwest"

"In the Wonderland of the Northwest"Published in the Chelan Leader - Jan. 27, 1899

Below are two scanned pages documenting a horseback trip from the head of Lake Chelan to Horseshoe Basin in 1898. 

Paragraph three provides a brief account of the author's (anonymous) visit to the Field Hotel and meeting Mr. and Mrs. Field. The author's party rented horses from the Fields for the trip up-valley. 

You'll have to use the + key to enlarge the scanned writing. Hopefully, the keyboard's little plus sign will do its job and you'll be able to read the author's grandiose descriptions of the North Cascades and Horseshoe Basin. 

Horseshoe Basin

"... from the descriptions, we recognize the far-famed Horseshoe Basin, the special object of our quest." 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Lake Chelan 1952

"Thinking of a Lake Chelan Vacation?"

1952 Vacation Guide

"Lake Chelan, Indian-named "Lake of Beautiful Blue Water," winds 55 miles into the very heart of the Cascade mountains-and ends within view of their glacier-studded peaks. The lake is 37 miles north of Wenatchee and only four miles north of the Columbia River. 

"The Town of Chelan is at the lower end, where grow the world-famous Chelan apples, noted for exceptional color and crisp, juicy flavor."

 "Modern resorts adjoin the town and dot the 18 miles of paved road along the south side of the lake. Many fine, sandy beaches offer swimming, boating and water sports. Fishing and hunting are excellent. For those driving cars this part of the lake is marvelously appealing.

"Secluded spots on lake or along swift turbulent streams in the high, rugged grandeur of the mountains are reached by Chelan Airways chartered plane or by the Lake Chelan Boat Company's fast boats that leave Chelan every morning for the head of the  lake, where fine resort accommodations cater to those who like fishing, hunting and hiking. 

"Buses take visitors up the picturesque Stehekin Valley Riding and pack horses are available. 

"Truly this wonderful lake offers any type of vacation desired and is well named, "Lake Chelan - the Vacation Land."

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A rare collection of the early history of the Stehekin Valley, head of Lake Chelan, in Washington’s North Cascades. Lively narratives describe adventures of early explorers with pack trains, and accounts of riding the first steamboats on Lake Chelan. Writing styles of the 1900’s paint vivid and enticing pictures of exciting journeys to the upper mining holds in Horseshoe Basin, the presence of Native Americans, and the influence of the railroad bringing visitors clear across the country to relax and recreate in glorious mountain surroundings.

Republished by Stehekin Heritage, Carol Stone’s collection of stories are gathered from early local newspaper articles and explorer’s journals. For those that know and love Stehekin, or wish to know how settlement began in this remote community, Glimpses of the Past is a worthy compilation and reference of an accurate history of the Chelan area.

An Excerpt:

From Glimpses of the Past: A TRIP UP LAKE CHELAN by DeWitt Britt
….”Some of the party were mining men, bound for the several promising districts on or above the lake; a capitalist or two on a tour of investigation; an invalid or two going up to gather strength and vigor amid the grand old mountains; a party from Waterville bound for Railroad Creek for a month of glorious camping, fishing and hunting, but one and all drinking in new inspiration with the invigorating atmosphere and the ever-unfolding panorama of wonders.” pg. 62…
Stehekin: Glimpses of the Past:  order using link beneath book image. 
COST: $14.95 Plus $3.99 Shipping

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Homestead Heritage

[We are going to be featuring some blog posts about homesteading in the next few months. If your family homesteaded in the upper reaches of Lake Chelan, and you have pictures, journals or stories that you would like to share, we would be very receptive to sharing those treasures.]
McGregor Mountain viewed from the river at the Stanley place - originally homesteaded by Billy McGregor

The Stanley Place
by Bucky Gans [originally printed in the Stehekin Choice newspaper; edition August/September 1993]

Where the name of McGregor Mountain originated
Approximately five miles upvalley from the head of the lake lies one of the more desirable homestead sites in the Stehekin Valley, with level, fertile land, not heavily timbered and abundant water available from the Stehekin River. The first man to cast eyes on this site as a possible abode built himself a cabin, dug about half a mile of irrigation ditch, and planted a garden. This would-be homesteader was named Billy McGregor, and although he disappeared from the scene in 1901, his name lives on in the mountain which dominates the view at the head of the lake and which mightily overshadowed his modest homesite.

An updated map shows a 73.5 acre plot designated as the “McGregor Flats” Ranger Station, indicating the irrigation ditch and site of Billy McGregor's cabin. In 1906, Jake M. Richardson of Chelan filed on 79.14 acres, including a portion of the old Ranger Station site, which had been downsized to ten acres, thus releasing 63 acres for settlement. A metes and bounds survey by E.O. (Jack) Blankenship dated August 26, 1913, shows the area thus filed on.

A New Beginning for a Young Family
But Jake Richardson also relinquished this site, and on September 3, 1914, Robert A. Stanley, of Tenino, Thurston County, Washington, made homestead entry 013412 for List NO. 6-1129 (H.E. Survey No. 233) in sections 8, 9, and 16 of T. 33n, R17EWM, in the area known then and now as McGregor Flats. What brought him to the valley is now unclear – possibly work at Lesh's Sawmill. At any rate, he and his family moved onto the land in late November of 1914. A “shack” (his terminology) was built that fall, and a proper house in 1915 – described as 1½ (or 2) stories, of logs, with 5 rooms and a root cellar, 2 doors, 6 windows. The family consisted of Mr. Stanley, his wife, Nellie McKay Stanley, and three children aged 5 and under. Two more children were born during their time on the land, the youngest being 4 years old in 1921.

Homesteading's Requirements
Homesteading was not an easy proposition, but over the next six years improvements were added-- a 26' x 30' barn (they had several head of livestock, a couple of horses, one or more sheep), a wagon bridge over “McGregor Creek” (which still runs rampant through the area during high water and is actually a branch of the Stehekin River), two irrigation dams, two ditches, 12 acres fenced with 3 strands of wire, several acres cleared, and 5½ acres under cultivation. Bear in mind that this was done with hand or horse drawn implements – no chain saws or tractors for the Stanleys!
Present owner in front of the old school on the Stanley homestead
Some Hardships of Homesteading
In order to earn a little money for the necessities of homestead life, Robert Stanley periodically left the land and sought work elsewhere, leaving his family to look after things at home. Fron June 1 to September 1, 1915, he was absent working for wages. From the fall of 1916, to May 1, 1917, the whole family moved to Stehekin  [meaning from up valley they moved down the road to the lower valley] where he cut wood and the older children attended school. He was absent from the claim November 1, 1017, to April 1, 1918, and again from January 1, to April 1 1920 working in lumber camps on the coast. 
In the early 1900's, winter in a primitive cabin with 5 children, and a husband working out of the valley, was not for the faint of heart.
Mrs. Stanley and the children remained on the claim. Their nearest neighbors were the Courtneys, who lived across the river. Hugh Courtney cut a tree to fall across the river to provide access between the two places, but Mrs. Stanley was afraid to cross it, even though Hugh put up a hand rail. Mrs. Courtney would go over now and then to pay a visit and verify that things were all right – and reportedly from home she could hear Mrs. Stanley yelling at her children or the livestock or life in general, so was reassured that all was proceeding normally.

A Strong and Hearty Woman 
Nellie Stanley seems to have been a rather rough and tough individual, talkative in the extreme, and loud. Leota Patterson Yocum who taught school in the McGregor flats school (built on land leased by the Stanleys for as long as it was used for a school), in 1920 and 1921, later wrote: I remember her riding their tall, white horse at gallop, her wide-brimmed hat turned back in the wind, her skirts flapping and she hanging on to the saddle for dear life. She'd wave her hand and shout at me, as I'd scramble quickly to the side of the road out of the was as she passed, her words trailing unintelligibly behind her. But I had many conversations with her. These were one-sided conversations. How she loved to talk, and she could go on interminably, never giving one time to answer. A not at the appropriate spot was all that was necessary.” And my grandmother, May Buckner, told of hearing Nellie Stanley approaching one day, and of her (May's) flight to hide in the cellar until she departed. Nellie seems to have been a bit too rough for my proper, genteel Baptist grandmother? However, once in the cellar, May had no way of determining when Mrs. Stanley had departed, and thus was prisoner for many minutes of her own rather un-neighborly action.

They Persevered in the Face of Challenges
But Nellie Stanley was equal to all that fate threw her way, and that took the unfortunate form of Robert Stanley's bout with terminal cancer. In June, 1920, he underwent an operation for cancer of the bladder in a Tacoma hospital. It was at this time that he was making his final proof on the homestead in order to obtain his patent (title). His testimony was taken before the Clerk of Pierce County in Tacoma on June 19, 1920, while the testimony of his two witnesses, Barney Zell and Lew Weaver, was taken in Waterville on the same date. Mr. Stanley returned to the valley late in the summer, ad continued in residence through the winter, but in the spring while the road was still blocked with snow, it was necessary to move him out to Wenatchee where medical attention was at hand. The neighbors constructed a special sled to transport him and assisted in getting the family the five miles to the boat landing. Accorkding to Leota Yocum, a niece from Chicago came out to help care for the school-age children for at least a time.

"Proving Up"
Meanwhile, the homestead title did not appear, and as Robert Stanely's conditon worsened so did his condern for the land title. On August 2, the Chelan County Auditor, A.V. Shepard, wrote the General Land Office in Washington, D.C., inquiring as to the status of the patent. In a letter to the Waterville Land Office, dated August 23, 1921, the Assistant Comissioner of the Department of the Interior stated:

The Wheels of Bureaucracy 
“This office is in receipt of a letter from the Acting Forester, Forest Service, dated February 17, 1921, in which he states that on July 1, 1920, the district forester at Portland, Oregon, advised your office 'that from an examination made of the land covered by this entry it was found that only 5 ½ acres had been cultivated; that unless the entryman secured a reduction of the area of cultivation the Forest Service would be obliged to protest the final proof. (Ten acres was necessary to meet the requirements.) The Forest Service has heard nothing further about this matter.'” While proof is unsatisfactory as to cultivation, it appears, however, that the claimant has otherwise shown his good faith … in view of which you will advise him that he will be allowed 30 days to file an affidavit, corroborated by two of the proof witnesses stating why he failed to cultivate the required area each year . . . “

A Recounting of Work completed
Affidavits he wants? Affidavits he gets!!! First from Robert A. Stanley deposing “that he has been in ill health for the past four years; that for the last year and a half he has been bedfast, and at this time is almost entirely helpless with a cancer; that for the past two years affiant has been unable to do any work, ad for two years prior to that could do very little; that the development work on said ranch was on by affiant's wife, Nellie Stanley . . . That the only property affiant and his wife have is the said property with some personal property . . . That affiant did all he could possibly do . . . and that his wife did grubbing, slashing and other work . . . “ Nellie McKay Stanley deposed all of the above, adding “That affiant and her husband were unable financially to employ any help in development work on said homestead, and for that reason, since Robert A. Stanly was stricken with cancer, affiant has cut down trees, sawing and splitting them up, and has raised crops, commencing work as early as four and five o'clock in the morning and working until ten and eleven o'clock at night in order to develop the homestead and to support herself, her husband and family . . . That affiant worked like a slave until compelled to leave (to care for her husband in Wenatchee) . . . That affiant was there day in and day out, never leaving and drudged and slaved to assist in making a living . . .”
the "old school" on the Stanley Homestead - still standing today

Thank Goodness for Neighbors
In addition, affidavits were sent from Mrs. J.M. Jack, one of the officers engaged in distributing charity in Wenatchee, verifying Mr. Stanley's condition and the family's destitution and dependency on charity for food and clothing, and that the homstead constituted all that they had; from Frank E. Beatty, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Wenatchee, deposing the same thing; from Drs. C. Gilchrist and A.E. Gerhardt, deposing all of the above as well as the rapidly approaching end of Mr. Stanley's life; from the County Auditor and one County Commissioner, the former having gone to Stehekin to examine the homestead and talk with the neighbors and secure their signatures on an affidavit swearing to the honesty, industriousness, and good faith of the Stanleys and from the neighbors, attesting to the above and describing the improvements on the homestead. This affidavit was signed by Bernard Zell, Lewis M. Weaver, Dan Devore, W. V. Buckner, O.J. Hart, Alfard D. Bowen, H.L. Courtney, H.S. Buckner, Althea Rice, Lydia George, and Myrtle Merritt – a pretty good representation of valley residents at that time.

One additional affidavit was sent a few days later from Dr. Frank K. Culp, saying that Robert Stanley died on September 9, 1921.

The Forest Service was thoroughly convinced that the niceties of the law had been satisfied. The patent was granted, dated October 8, 1921.

So far as this writer has been able to determine, Nellie Stanley moved her personal belongings (and her children) to Wentachee and never lived on the homestead again. The land was sold for taxes probably sometime in the thirties; it was owned by Guy Imus at one time and later by Sam Tollber, who subdivided it. Some of the land is still privately owned.

a family that owns a part of the original McGregor/Stanley homestead

In 1923 a marriage license was issued to Nellie Stanley and Nels C. Nelson. The family is thought to have remained in the Wenatchee-Chelan area for a number of years and there may be descendants among the readership of this paper. If so, please let us know the rest of the story.