CLEARWATER TRIBUNE HOME

APRIL 29, 2010

Threshing on the Nez Perce Prairie with Booth & Sullivan threshers on the Booth place. Pearl Mooers was the cook; she is standing by the cookhouse in the back. Charles Lynch is standing in the right with the men on top of the bags of grain. The photo was taken about 1910.

Orofino, a history to tell (Part V)

By Alannah Allbrett

The farmers

   “The corn was as high as an elephant’s eye,” but in this case it was tobacco that was towering over Isaac Buckley. He tried, rather successfully, to grow tobacco on the prairie near Fraser. He raised plants with elephant-sized leaves and won first place for one of them at the St. Louis Expo in 1904. With mule drawn hand plows, farmers also grew beans, and grains like wheat, grass, and alfalfa.

   There was no Jolly Green Giant, so each family had to grow their own vegetables and root crops. They would load up their wagons once a year and head to town to celebrate their hard work for three or four days, at the big fair in Orofino. The Clearwater Tribune reports that people in town often put them up in their homes. They enjoyed picnics, dances, seeing old friends, and if they were lucky, taking home a blue ribbon from the Clearwater County Fair & Lumberjack Days. Back home, they were able to line their pantry shelves with a colorful display of fruits and vegetables that would see them through the winter.

The settlers

   The Nez Perce originally inhabited the land in and above the Clearwater River, followed by missionaries, followed by an influx of miners, and then pioneers. Each denomination of missionaries wanted their own designated area in the Nez Perce land from which to proselytize, so settlements sprang up of Catholics, Methodists, and other denominations. One such Catholic family was Bridget and Patrick Gaffney. Bridget came from Ireland in 1833, moved to Boston in 1851, and then came west with her husband to Pierce, ID in 1867 where he became a placer miner. This was the Gaffney family who had the Gaffney Stage mentioned in an earlier article.

The schools

 The pioneers added their families, churches, and schools to the mix. What would surprise most people today is the great number of schools that dotted the landscape. With names like Gray Eagle, Victory, Angel Ridge, Golden Rule, Okay, and Headquarters – the one room school houses served as community meeting places and where their children could be educated.

   One school in particular, Ahsahka took the measure of how tough that generation was. In 1916, about 30 children, accompanied by parents and perhaps a teacher or two had to board a wooden ferry to cross the North Fork of the Clearwater River each day.

   Consolidating schools is not a new thing. In 1912, the Board of Education decided it was best to consolidate the schools of Districts 23 and 31 to provide a more central location and cut down on the number of schools needed. Bernice Pullen, Director of the Clearwater Historical Museum, painstakingly did a study and mapped all the schools in the area, ones that now only exist in memory, where great-grandparents attended. There is a large display of pictures of these prairie schools, each with their own unique design – a footprint that exists only on paper, glass negatives, and a few rickety old structures that still remain.

New fangled gadgets and sewing notions

   The museum has a stereoscope, a precursor to our 3D movies today and a Phonograph with music on cylinders made by the Thomas A. Edison National Phonograph Company, Orange, NJ. There is a display of quilts and sewing notions in a two-tiered wooden basket. The letters stitched into one quilt are “YWIF Club.” After puzzling over the meaning of the letters, Bernice was informed that it stood for the, “You Wreck, I Fix Club. No more needs to be said about that.

Socializing and learning

   In the 1930’s a gentleman from the Midwest, by the name of Ross, decided women in rural communities needed a social institution, so he formed the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority which became quite popular. The women met once or twice a month for an informative program that could be on any subject such as a member’s travels or some craftwork. One member of that sorority today, is Martha (Marty) Johnson who, in her eighties, lives out of Orofino on the land where she was raised.

    She grew up in a small cabin, which stands today. And Marty has created a large stained glass window for it. Marty is also a member of the Red Hat Society and an artist in water colors and stained glass. She is also an author of an interesting book entitled: History of a Homestead (1901 to 2001), telling of her family’s own pioneering days in the valley. This book is one of several of which the museum may boast.

   Another book, which I had the privilege to thumb through, is a large, tooled-leather volume entitled Illustrated History of North Idaho Counties by John P. Vollmer, published in 1903. This book is filled with engraved likenesses of the people who came to live their lives in this land. The book has a fitting dedication: “To the brave men and devoted women, those who have gone, and those who remain.” A copy of this book is also in the Clearwater Memorial Library reference section.

   If you’ve followed our series on the Clearwater Historical Museum so far, then you know this is the time when I na. . .urge you to go see the wonderful collections for yourself.

 

About 30 children, accompanied by parents and perhaps a teacher or two had to board a wooden ferry to cross the North Fork of the Clearwater River each day just to get to school.

 

Isaac Buckley grew tobacco on the prairie near Fraser. He raised plants with elephant-sized leaves and won first place for one of them at the St. Louis Expo in 1904. 

 

Bernice Pullen, Director of the Clearwater Historical Museum created a special exhibit, with a map and historical photographs, of the location and history of the prairie schools.

 

Some of the hand made quilts of the pioneer women are on display with a two-tiered wooden basket along with other handicrafts.

  

A collection in the Clearwater Historical Museum focuses on children’s toys and items they used in school.

 

The old phonograph displayed with music cylinders made by the Thomas A. Edison National Phonograph Company, Orange, NJ is an interesting exhibit in the Clearwater Historical Museum.