Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Historical Events to Remember...reprinted from the 2009 Guidebook

Article and pictures copyright by Mike Barnhart.  

"As the chickens were busy gobbling up the pancakes and oatmeal on the porch table and dad was running around like a wild man, your mom was making her entry into the world in a small log cabin at the end of Company Creek road”. This was how my uncle Laurence Courtney remembered the day. At eight years old, Laurence was the oldest of the four children, Laurence, Curt, June and Ray born to Hugh and Mamie. Below is the full story of that morning."
By Mike Barnhart

Grandma Courtney (Mamie Moore) and Mike's
sister Mary  Barnhart 1942
Shortly after my grand parents, Hugh and Mamie Courtney acquired the old McComb homestead at the end of Company Creek Road, my mother June was born in their small log cabin. The year was 1918 and, as the story goes, there were problems with the delivery so, not having anyone around who knew anything about delivering babies, Laurence went up the road to get OP Maxwell. Mac had cows and had helped deliver many calves. They figured he would be better than nothing. Laurence crossed the river on the trolley and ran the two miles on up to Maxwells. By the time they got back Mrs. Merritt was there. She was a midwife and had everything under control though Mom still was not born. By this time it was early morning.  Granddad cooked up breakfast for everyone and set it out on the table on the front porch.  About this time, Mom decided to enter the scene. So while everyone was running around with great excitement the chickens decided to have a little of their own and were all on the table making short work of the pancake breakfast! As Laurence recalled, “pandemonium was at a pretty high level for awhile”.

        That day marked the beginning of my connection to the Stehekin Valley but we need to back up another 104 years to 1814 when white men first started coming to the valley. It was that year that Alexander Ross of the Northwest Fur Company arrived and had hopes of finding and establishing a route between Fort Okanogan and Puget Sound via Cascade Pass. Travel was so difficult that he eventually turned back and abandoned the idea. It wasn’t until the 1880s that another official expedition explored the valley, this time by the U.S. Army. 

          Trappers and prospectors began moving into the area and in 1882 Lt. Henry Pierce brought a
small party of men from Ft. Colville, over Purple Pass and down into the valley. His primary goal was to gain knowledge about the area and the Indian encampment at the head of the lake. With the help of an old prospector and a Native American guide, he successfully found a route across the pass and down to the coastal region but a road was never built.

Rouses Camp (Basin Creek)
With the discovery of rich mineral deposits in the Horseshoe Basin and Cascade Pass areas; and the lucrative fur trade, miners and trappers began pouring into the area. In 1889, scheduled steamboat service to Stehekin began. At this same time, two large hotels were built at the upper end of the lake: The Moore Hotel at Moore Point and the Field Hotel at the mouth of the Stehekin River. A large mining settlement was also established at Bridge Creek, 16 miles up the Stehekin River. Mr. Henry Freeland Buckner operated a hotel there and supervised mining operations for a number of years up in the basin. The ore was rich enough to keep investors interested but getting it to market proved to be too much. The severe winters and avalanche conditions were a formidable obstacle. In the 1940s, money and interest began to fizzle out. Then a huge avalanche roared down Basin Creek and completely wiped out the main base camp at what is now Basin Creek Campground.

Trost Cabin, North Fork of Bridge Creek
 Another attraction to hardy souls was homesteading. In the late 1880s, the Homesteading Act opened up lands and soon log cabins were showing up throughout the valley. Henry Buckner’s brother, Van obtained a tract of land that would become the Buckner Orchard. Hugh and Mamie Moore Courtney homesteaded at the end of Company Creek road. Descendants of these two families still own land and live in the valley. There were others: John Horton, O.P. Maxwell, Bill Buzzard, Dan Devore, Lewis Weaver and Frank Lesh just to name a few. Hard work was a way of life. These rugged individuals carved out an existence with their hands, clearing land, building homes, trapping and raising large gardens.

        With more families moving to Stehekin, the need for a school became apparent. Since there were children all the way from Moore Point, seven miles down lake, to Stehekin, classes were held in several locations during those early years. Eventually a school was built near the Field Hotel and Daisy Weaver was one of the first teachers.
Steamer Stehekin loading wood
                In 1927 a concrete dam was built at the lower end of the lake to help control flooding and provide
electric power. Its completion raised the lake 21 feet causing the removal of the Moore and Field hotels. The Moore Hotel was later rebuilt on higher ground but the materials from the Field were salvaged and used to build the Golden West Lodge and what was known as the ‘white house’,  a rooming house at the  present Stehekin landing site. A new road was built along the end of the lake and down to Purple Point where the passenger boats would now dock instead of at the Field Hotel.

Stehekin School near  Field Hotel.
Teacher Daisy Weaver in the doorway, Olive Field to her left.
During the 1930s, the tourist trade started to pick up and several new businesses were established to cater to visitors needs. Rainbow Lodge, where the new school is today, had an open-air bus service from the landing to Rainbow Falls. Lunch at the lodge and the return bus trip was included in the package, all for one dollar. There was a store, coffee shop and post office at the landing as well as sleeping cabins, rooms and the Golden West Lodge. By this time, gas and diesel engines were powering the passenger boats offering faster service to the head of the lake. Hiking in the Cascades had become fashionable and tourists would often come for several weeks at a time, learning about the culture of the valley and hiking the many trails.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Conversations With a Three Year Old

   Conversations With a Three Year Old

Saturday March 6, 2004
By Roberta Pitts
First Published in the "Stehekin Choice"

 traveled to Ellensburg today to meet Tom and family. They arrived at the appointed place at 12:45PM.  It was a quick transfer and before I had hardly said hello to them I found myself alone with the Farrukh strapped into his "kids" seat next to me. It was almost like someone said, "Let the conversation begin!" Farrukh began to talk, with Grandma scrambling to decipher all of the words bouncing around in the cab of the truck.   With a lot of echoing back to assure Farrukh, and myself I was on the same story line as he was, the stories began to serialize.  I heard the "bad word" story first, followed by the "scary bear" story, which lead into the "dinosaur", "worm", "truck driving", "boat riding", "friends waiting", and "chasing bad men" story.  Punctuating all of this were the questions concerning, "where is Grandpa Don?", "when will we get to Stehekin?",  and "where did you get the McDonald's cup?"  Although the trip back to Chelan didn't take much over 2 hours, it seemed much longer than that.....chatter from a youngster is going to be a challenge for this Grandma!

We made it to the boat company just in time to pee.  Peeing seems to punctuate most activities, be it grocery shopping, eating dinner, or driving down the highway.  With peeing taken care of, we moved on to delivering the freight filling the back of the pick-up.  Irina had presented me with a very large, very heavy plastic bag full of Farrukh's stuff. I had some room in one box, my last box.  As I dug deeper into this bag I found that it was full of groceries, one item being a gallon of apple juice.  Aha!  I discovered the weighty item.  I began to rearrange things and eventually worked everything in except the package of fresh hamburger buns. 

Since the exchange hadn't gone as I had envisioned, parked next to a restaurant I foolishly thought we might eat lunch there; it was time for a very late lunch or an even earlier dinner.  We visited the Apple Cup where a favorite line from Farrukh was, "We don't know those people!"  One needs to have a conversation with Farrukh to appreciate the decibel level of his voice, his non-stop voice!  We did well at the restaurant.  I had a smile or two even.  At one point I kicked the table leg which prompted Farrukh to admonish me, "Grandma, be careful!"  French fries were the item of choice for lunch/dinner.  He carefully took each fry, laid it on his placemat, cut it in two with his knife, placed one-half on his fork, dipped it into his water glass, and happily ate it.  All this motion and nary a drop of water was spilled, and stuck in the glass was that accident waiting to happen, a straw.  I drank 3 glasses of diet soda waiting for the required number of fried to be ingested.  When we reached that mystery number the rest were put into a box and we took them with us.

The next stop was a real, real new experience. A MOTEL.  Farrukh had no concept of a motel.  I told him were going to get a "bedroom" so we could go to sleep, wake up, have breakfast and then to Stehekin on the boat.  Yes, I also explained repeatedly why we couldn't go to Stehekin right then.  He was a bit uncertain we really wanted a bedroom, because he assured me he already had one and didn't need another one. I prevailed and once inside, seeing the two nice big beds and the even more alluring TV he was more than happy.  Before the TV enchanted him to excess, we were off to Safeway.

There is a huge trap for parents of young children lying in wait there. Parked beside the grocery carts are these nifty oversized pickups designed especially for children to pretend to drive while "Mom" shops. I wondered if we could get in without Farrukh noticing.  Silly me.  Before I knew it I was behind this rather long pickup with Farrukh happily settled in the cab, spinning the steering wheel in delight.  These are a bit longer in size than the usual grocery cart. I wondered how many displays I would take out on this trip. I wondered too, Farrukh would stay in the cab happily spinning the steering wheel. I had a pretty good sized list which took even longer because Farrukh continued to talk to me although we were now separated by 4 feet of cute blue pickup. I spent lots of time stopped, walking to the front, and answering the current question or hearing the current statement he was making. The good news was he stayed in the cab; the bad news was at the check stand he announced he needed to "pee". The bad news was he wouldn't get out of the truck; the good news was he "forgot" about "peeing". 

At last we went back to the room.  It is now 5:30 and although it has only been 4 ½ hours since his parents drove away, I was feeling like it had been four and ½ days!  I needed a break!  Where is that cartoon channel?!  I quickly found it and the marathon was off.  I'm not sure this had the desired effect for me, you should watch Sponge Bob non-stop for 2 ½ hours.  It did the trick for Farrukh though, he was happy as a clam.

Bedtime eventually arrived.  I got him stuffed into his pajamas, tucked into bed and we both laid back and read our books.  Quiet at last, it was wonderful.  I am beginning to reme mber "motherhood", and believe me events today continue to bring it home with staggering reality.  If my energy holds, perhaps I can write tomorrow, about the events of today

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Stehekin Schools

The "Old" Stehekin School built in 1921

        In 1921, Stehekin needed a new schoolhouse. Residents gathered up their tools, resources and community spirit and built the one room log structure which still stands close to Rainbow Falls. The logs were felled and peeled right on the site and all manpower was volunteered. In less than a week, the bulk of the building was in place. Gradually, a ceiling was added and a small back room where a teacher could live. Over the years, the original building has been transformed through general upkeep as need has merited. The deteriorating back room was replaced and enlarged and was used for educational purposes.
          For sixty-seven years the elementary-age children of Stehekin were educated in this rustic example of Stehekin heritage. With the coming of the 1988-89 school year and the completion of the new school building located 1/4 mile down valley from the old school, a new era began.

An Introduction to the “New” Stehekin School.
Past Stehekin School Superintendent, Roberta Pitts, wrote the following thoughts concerning the new Stehekin School to be
included in the 1998 Stehekin School graduation ceremony.

       Nineteen ninety-eight marks the tenth anniversary of the new Stehekin School.   Eighteen years ago I remember a feeling of being overwhelmed when teacher, Ron Scutt, approached me with the idea of building a new school. This overwhelmed feeling was to be followed by feelings of determination, frustration, irritation, disappointment, confusion, excitement, stimulation, enthusiasm and accomplishment as the task was undertaken over the following eight years.

The "New" School completed in 1988
          The concept of a new school building was brought to the Stehekin School District Board of Directors. This five-person board oversees all district operations and was the starting point for a new school. The board in turn opened the discussion to the community, giving birth to questions such as: Do we need a new school? Where would this school be built? Can the National Park Service sell the district some land? How will the building be financed? Stehekin proved no different from any other small community —divisions of thought were soon expressed and controversy within the community had a new focus.
        The issue of building a new school was settled by using a little known and rarely used Washington State law requiring a special vote of the electorate, held in the presence of the county auditor with the vote being binding on the school board. Such a meeting was held at the old school and was well attended by Stehekin's registered voters. The school board presented its case for the building of a new school. Registered voters were signed in and ballots passed out.  Chelan County Auditor Ken Housden was present, making the vote official. From this vote, the Board was mandated by the registered voters to proceed with the new school building project.
          The site selected as most desirable was the 3+ acres known as Rainbow Lodge. In the summer of 1986, the school district was the successful bidder and purchased this property from the National Park Service with the caveat it would be used for school purposes only.

Geometric design by Warren 

           Planning then began for the building itself. During the 1986-87 school year, 24 school board meetings were held. Slowly, ideas began to jell and an architect was hired to draw the plans. Once these plans found acceptance with the board, a bid notice was put out and bids received.  The building was built by Duncan Construction of Leavenworth, Washington. The school district saved its funds over several years and was able to finance the building with monies on hand. The building coming in at just a bit over $300,000. Construction began in the late spring of 1988 with completion in time to begin school that fall.
          Perhaps the most appreciated space is the room we call "the motion room". I was just recently asked, "Where did we get that name?" Like many places called by unique names, I don't remember. It has always been "the motion room". As this name indicates, it is a space for motion. It may be used before school for ping-pong, unique indoor basketball, four square, juggling, jump rope, swinging on the rope or any activity requiring the space for activity. During the school day, activities such as form drawing, rhythmic counting, watercolor painting, special unit projects, art, music, and physical education may take place there as well.  This space is also used for community gatherings to view Christmas Plays, The Trillium Festival, Eighth Grade Graduation, end of the year programs or visiting musicians, artists, as well as, large community meetings. This space has allowed many academic movement activities to be added to the school day that were just not possible in the smaller historic Stehekin School.
Tyler working on his eye hand movement

The “New” Stehekin School as of 2017 

           The “new” Stehekin School is thirty years old this year. New this year is David Getchell as our teacher. The inclusion of the motion room in the new school enabled us to integrate the arts and physical activity throughout the curriculum. In an era when technological tools are often chosen to answer a host of educational challenges, keeping children physically and artistically active supports student growth and development. The Stehekin School curriculum is unique. It is the new Stehekin School and the motion room that make it possible to offer developmentally appropriate educational activity to children in grades K-8 on a daily basis.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Stehekin We Remember ~ reprinted from the 2008 Stehekin Guidebook

 To introduce you to the history of a special time and place written by our mothers.

 Born in 1919, 1921, and 1926; Irene Myra Buckner, Harriet Olive Buckner (Hobbie) and Elizabeth Joy Buckner (Bucky) were raised on the family ranch in the remote Stehekin Valley at the head of 55 mile-long Lack Chelan. Accessible today only by passenger boat, trail, or float plane, as it was then, the Valley and its year-round residents are still entirely dependent on the daily boat, what they can raise or grow, and their own ingenuity. The lower Valley contains approximately 18 miles of road, with a dead end at each end, and vehicles arrive on the weekly barge.

 The Buckner Ranch began with an existing log cabin and grew to a self-sustaining, productive apple ranch. As you read the reminiscence of Irene, Hobbie, and Bucky, you can’t help but realize the hard work, ingenuity, and great experiences that created these memories and how they are truly a reflection of the many chances of the early 1900’s; oil lamps to electricity, horses and sleighs to cars and trucks, outhouses to indoor plumbing, and much more.
What a special childhood these girls and young woman shared! By the standards of many who don’t know Stehekin, the environment of their childhood may sound like one of hardship and isolation. Quite the opposite was true. Idyllic might be a more appropriate description.

 The Buckner Ranch was a place of family, friendship, and community, and it stills is today. As a self-sufficient homestead, you would think that there was little time for more than hard work. Hard work there was; but a rich quality of life for these young women was the product, not something that was sacrificed.
We hope you will enjoy these thoughtful reminiscence of a unique and special place in our America heritage. Now aGrowing up in a small pioneer community in the remote North Cascades of Washington State, the Buckner sisters led a life most of us can only relate to as something from Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie.

 As the oldest grandchild of the early pioneers, Harry and Olive Buckner and son of Irene, the oldest daughter, it is my privilege, on behalf of my cousin and siblings,  part of the North Cascade National Park Complex, the Buckner Ranch is open to the public for walks through the orchards and in and around the various buildings that remain today. Coupled with this book, you cannot help but relive a part of the lives of the Buckner Girls and the Stehekin Valley.
~Herb Sargo 2007

Chapter One
Home Sweet Home
  We are often asked, “What was it like, growing up in Stehekin?” Since it was the only “growing up” we knew, that’s hard to answer. We assumed our life was just as normal as anyone else’s. So we didn’t have movies to go to or a town to go shopping in or a large number of friends. You don’t miss what you don’t know. We had loving parents and each other and the whole outdoors for a playground.

 We now realize that we don’t know the hardships that are generally attributed to early pioneers and homesteaders. After the W. V. Buckners turned the running of the ranch over the Harry and Olive, we feel sure the expenses and possibly wages were paid by our grandfather, “Daddy Van”. After his death in 1936, the ranch became the sole property and responsibility of our parents. Money was tight and, like many others in those depression years, our father did a lot of worrying, but we always managed what seems in retrospect to have been a reasonably high standard of living.

 The house we grew up in evolved over a period of years, and began its existence as a one room sleeping cabin in about 1913. A year or two later it was doubled in size and become “Frank and Irene’s house”, as our Uncle Frank and his bride lived on the ranch the greater part of the next four years. The new addition was divided into two rooms – in our memory the one to the east was the kitchen and the other, the dining room, although that one may have served as a bedroom at first.

 After Aunt Irene’s death and Daddy’s return from service in World War I, the ranch became his to manage and the house became “our” home. The Cabin (the Buzzard homestead house) was used for several more summers by our Buckner grandparents and as a guesthouse or rental in the years to come.   

Apple Trees at Buckner Homestead

  The original room of the new house became the living room, with a native river rock fireplace on the west wall. On either side of the fireplace was a half-round fir log, with the bark still in place, running from floor to ceiling. Daddy’s hunting rifle was hung on the upper part of the up-valley log, and below it were the big Bowie knife, and the poker. His bow and quiver of arrows hung on the other log, as did the matching bow holder, and Daddy Van’s pistol and sharp –shooter medals. Daddy Van had served as the first sheriff of Kings County, California, 1893 until 1910 and again from 1930 to 1934. The recessed mantel, which ran between the side logs, was also a half-round fir log; cut (and polished) side up. In the center was a seven –day Seth Thomas clock, which struck the hours and half-hours. Every Sunday night it had to be wound with the key, which was kept under the clock. On either side if the fireplace were book shelves, about 4’ wide, floor to ceiling, well stocked with books. Across the room, under a wide window, were more bookshelves and a shelf for the U.S. Weather Bureau barometer. On the down-valley side of the fireplace, in front of the bookshelves, was a table, which held the radio, and beside it was Daddy’s chair. On the up-valley side were two rocking chairs, (the one closest to the door was Mother’s) and behind them was the window seat – an alcove projecting out beyond the front wall of the house with a built-in seat which also served as storage area. It had a hinged top that rose up to reveal all the National Geographic magazines from about 1904 on. We were permitted to sit in Mother and Daddy’s chairs only if they were not in the room. We all knew without question that if they came into the living room to sit down, we immediately gave up their chairs.

  The rock fireplace structure on the outside of the house made a marvelous way for kids to climb up on the roof – which we did with great frequency in winter.

 One of our childhood memories is of sprawling on the rug in front of the fireplace on Monday afternoons when we came home from school. This was when we read the “funny papers” (also know as comic strips) from the Seattle Sunday Times, which had come in the mail on that day’s boat. We also combed the rotogravure section for pictures of our favorite movie stars. Not that we went to the movies, but we could always dream. The rotogravure was a newspaper pictorial section, often 2 or more pages, printed on a rotary press using etched copper cylinders.

 The radio is also a part of our memories, as it was an important part of our lives. Daddy rigged up an aerial that ran clear over to the knoll, which was about 400 yards from the house. We really had a great radio reception – Seattle and Spokane stations, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and even WOAI in San Antonio, Texas. After school every day we would agonize over the trials and tribulations of “Little Orphan Annie” and sometimes “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy” or “Buck Rogers in the 21st Century A.D. “Little Orphan Annie” was sponsored by Ovaltine, and there were all sorts of things just to be had by sending in one of the tinfoil seals from the top of the Ovaltine can. We got a can of Ovaltine and immediately sent off for a “Little Orphan Annie” shaker or mug or something, which eventually came and almost lived up to expectations. But we all hated Ovaltine, so one prize was all we ever got. For all we know, the can of Ovaltine is still up in one of the cupboards somewhere.

 Daddy always listened to one or more news broadcasts, and in the evenings there were a number of entertaining programs, mostly comedy, but a few verging on soap opera. (“Myrt and Marge” was one of the latter). “Amos and Andy” were hilarious, as were “Lum and Abner” – both 15-minute programs, daily. The weekly ones were half an hour, and involved many husband-wife teams. Foremost among these were George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny and Mary Livingston, and Fred Allen and the Portland Hoffa. Then there were “Fibber McGee and Molly”, who contributed humor which still crops up once in a while. Fibber would come up with something which he considered exceedingly funny and would go off into gales of laughter until Molly brought him back to earth with, “Tain’t funny, McGee”. Or he would open the closet door, and sound effects would paint the graphic picture of a multitude of stuff falling out, and “Fibber McGee’s closet” is still a very descriptive phrase.

View of Buckner Ranch from the Rainbow Loop Trail

 Two other weekly programs which we girls never missed were the Bing Crosby Show, and the Hit Parade. Sunday afternoon programs in the winter were some of our favorites, as we got older. “One Man’s Family”, “Grand Hotel”, and “Little Theater Off Times Square” offered stories in the same setting or with the same people every week but each one complete in itself. Sometimes when we were very young, Daddy and Mother used to listen to tales of Foo Man Chu which were scary in the extreme, and sent us to bed in a state of terror.

  Our very first radio was an Atwater-Kent with earphones. You had to be wearing the earphones to hear the radio so obviously we girls never listened to that one, but Daddy and sometimes Mother did. There were actually two sets of earphones, and one of Irene’s early memories is of inadvertently unplugging one set with her foot as she walked – or ran – by when Daddy and Grandfather were intently listening to something. It was Grandfather’s set that she unplugged; it made a horrible squawking noise and he was not happy. We soon acquired a more advanced radio, however, that everyone could listen to. But Daddy had principal control of the set even then. (Forerunner of today’s TV remote?) We all remember his listening to the baseball games in the summer – the Seattle Rainier’s, broadcast by Leo Lassen, on one of the Seattle stations. He would simultaneously read Times Magazine, and doze after a hard day’s work – but could always tell the score accurately even though he’d been asleep for ten minutes or so. In the winter he often ate peanuts in the evening while reading and listening to the radio, and the hearth in front of the fireplace would be covered with shells that didn’t quite make it into the fire.

 Back to the house – the next addition (in the early twenties) was Mother and Daddy’s bedroom, which extended the west of the main house, forming and ell. For a time, the girls also slept in this commodious room. It’s possible that the bathroom was added at the same time as the bedroom, as there was a door into the bathroom from both the dining room and the bedroom. That area was originally part of the old back porch which ran across the entire width of the building. This bathroom had no running water, but did have a bathtub and a toilet – water being carried to both fixtures from the pump in the kitchen in large bailed kettles, which could be heated on the stove for bathing purposes. There was no washbasin, and we always washed our hands and faces (and combed our hair) at the kitchen sink. Only after the advent of electricity and electric pump on the well did we become fully modernized, with running water and the installation of a washbasin in the bathroom.

 About 1930, Daddy did a major addition to the house, building a new kitchen and big bedroom and closet for us girls – the first extending to the east, and the other to the south, thus turning the ell into a cross. At the same time he removed the wall that separated the old dining room and kitchen, making one large room of it. This was necessary, as where could we keep the pool table, if not in the dining room? The phonograph (and later, the jute box) also lived in the dining room.
(Printed with the permission of the authors.)

Hobbie and Bucky June 2016

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jim Nicol - Pioneer of Upper Lake Chelan

The content of this article are copyrighted by Mike Barnhart.  Note from Mike Barnhart: The essay below is an excerpt from my forthcoming coffee table book A Photographic History of The Lake Chelan Basin – Chelan Falls to Cascade Pass. Reprinted from the 2017 Stehekin Guidebook.

Jim Nicol - Pioneer of Upper Lake Chelan

Born and raised near Frankfort, Kentucky, Jim Nicol, with his hometown friend Lee Church, migrated west arriving at Chelan, Washington in October 1893. In their late thirties, both men had worked a variety of jobs in the south between Kentucky and Texas, acquiring skills that would come in handy in the Pacific Northwest. Jim was also a trained machinist.

Jim Nicol with Dan the cat

  In Chelan, the small town at the foot of the fifty-five mile lake of the same name, they were about to embark on a new venture in a new land, trapping, hunting and prospecting. After the four and a half hour ride from Chelan on the steamer Dragon, they set up camp at 25 Mile Creek. (This was before the road was built to 25 Mile Creek,) and immediately started fishing. 

  As a child, I first heard about Jim Nicol from my mother, June Courtney Barnhart. My grandmother, Mamie Moore Courtney shared stories of growing up at Moore Point in the 1890s where Nicol worked for her parents, Mary and J.R. Moore. Mamie never spoke well of Nicol because of the pain and sorrow of being caught in the middle of an affair between Jim and her mother Mary. Turns out, as I was doing research for my book, At Home in The Woods – A Stehekin Family History, I found Jim to be a well-liked, hard-working man who, much like the rest of us in the upper Lake Chelan area had fallen in love with a place and chose to call it home. 

  Jim Nicol and Lee Church arrived with new traps and rifles from Montgomery Ward and a plan to live off the land while selling furs and hides, on occasion trading with the local Indians for other essential items like a deer hide for a pair of moccasins. They purchased a small skiff, located at Railroad Creek, on the upper end of the lake and had it shipped down on the Dragon the day after their arrival. Lee would often hunt across the lake while Jim set up trap line lines, fished and hunted up 25 Mile Creek, at times climbing to the “top of the mountain” looking for deer and goat. Grouse were plentiful and along with fish, biscuits and beans, made up the bulk of their diet. 

  Jim was a resourceful and talented entrepreneur in many fields including photography. Over the years he shot hundreds, if not thousands of images in the Lake Chelan area. Diary entries speak often of developing and making prints in the evenings after work to be sold locally and afar. One photograph, from February 18, 1895 illustrates Andy Crumrine pushing their handmade ore cart out of a tunnel in one of the claims above Meadow Creek. Sadly, years later, between vandalism and a fire in his cabin most of the plates and negatives were destroyed. Only a handful remain.

Andy Crumrine pushing homemade ore cart

  Shortly after their arrival at 25 Mile Creek, they struck a deal with the owner of a vacant house nearby to use the structure for the winter. The house, about a mile east of their camp provided a good base for hunting and trapping expeditions up and down the lake. On days when the weather kept them from hunting, time was spent washing clothes by hand, cooking, developing glass plates and film, writing letters, cutting wood, cleaning and stretching hides, molding bullets, and cleaning shell casings. Apparently fixing the sights on the rifles was needed also, as Jim mentioned shooting 21 times at a grouse before hitting it! Many other diary entries make reference to shooting and missing the target, so often that Jim wrote to Montgomery Ward asking if other customers had problems with the rifles. 

  About the middle of December they put together a camp and supplies, “a lot of beans, biscuits and coffee” and boarded the Dragon for a hunting trip up lake. As was common in those days, the boats, under powered and with low freeboard, couldn’t handle a lot of wind and had to tie up ashore. Such was the case on this, their first trip. They pulled in to Wolverine Harbor for the night, about 45 miles up from Chelan. Continuing on the next morning they found what looked like a good hunting area and set up camp. Turns out the hunt wasn’t very successful due to bad weather and missed shots, but on the boat trip back to 25 Mile Creek they met Frank Wilkeson, a well-known mining engineer, who owned the store at Bridge Creek in the upper Stehekin Valley. This meeting aroused their interests about prospecting and mining in the upper reaches of Lake Chelan. 

  Excursions uplake became more frequent for Jim and Lee, sometimes rowing their skiff to Lucerne allowing them to have greater access to hunting and prospecting sites on both sides of the lake. With the post office at the Moore Hotel, and meals available at Moore’s and across the lake at the Lucerne House, that part of the lake, forty miles from Chelan, became their home. Soon, they had several trap lines out and even rented extra traps to others in the area. Jim’s many skills in carpentry, mining, and, woodsmanship kept him busy working for others in the area as well as his own projects. The Moores hired him on a regular basis working around the hotel and doing assessment work on some of their claims. He ordered a portable forge, dynamite, and other mining tools from Montgomery Ward and before long was involved in several other claims along the lake, sometimes trading work in exchange for the deeds to claims. Many long days were spent drilling and shooting tunnels, dressing (sharpening with forge and hammer) drill steel and bars, making charcoal for the forge, building wheelbarrows and ore carts and even track for the cart out of poles. On top of all that, once they got back into the mountain and found the vein of ore, they filled bags of the mineral, packing them down to the steamer landing to ship to the assay office in Spokane.

  Tragically, on October 1, 1894, almost a year after their arrival, Lee drowned near Canoe Creek as a large swell upset the boat while he was taking down the sail, throwing him in the lake. His body was never found after several days of searching. Diary entries clearly indicate how saddened Jim was. One entry from October 19 mentions the arrival of Ned Church, Lee’s brother. “Ned Church came up on the steamer Stehekin. I was extremely glad to see him. It was a great relief to me to talk to him about Lee.” 

Rex Creek cabin with Lake Chelan in background

  Months following Lee’s death, Andy Crumrine, who had a cabin near Railroad Creek started working with Jim on the claims. Andy used a couple of horses to haul supplies to his own claims up Railroad Creek, so occasionally they sent them across the lake on the Dragon to pack gear into claims further up the mountain. 

Jim took out a homestead at Rex Creek and continued to work many years around the Moore Point area, fixing the waterwheel, mending shoes, catching trout for the evening meals at the hotel, varnishing fly rods and a host of other chores necessary to keep things working for the guests. One diary entry mentions catching forty one trout and picking ten gallons of strawberries! In his late seventies age was beginning to wear him down and he eventually moved to Lakeside where, after a stroke, was confined to bed for 4 years. He passed away in a Spokane Hospital in September 1939.