PRESENTED TO THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
AUGUST 30, I960
THE STATE CF IDAHO CONDUCTED' A CONTEST
FOR ALL Hlffll SCHOOL SENIOi^ TO l^ITE A
HISTORY OF TH^IR OM COUNTY. DR. BLACK
WON IHE $^ FIRST PRIZE MONEY VJITH THIS
HISTORY WHn.E HE WAS A SENIOR AT THE
CHALLIS Hlffl SCHOOL, CHAI.LIS, CUSTER
Material for this treatise has been secured from The
Challis Messenger, and verified by Thomas Jose of Challis.
Many other pioneers have contributed and verified.
dates and occurrences.
SEP 2 8 1960
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
Custer County was formed iii 1880 from the counties of Boise, Idaho,
Alturas and Lemhi, and was named in honor of General Custer, famous
because of his part in the Indian fight known as "Custer's Last Stand."
It is located in central Idaho, with the county seat at Challis, so placed by
popular vote in June. 1881. Challis won from Bonanza and Crystal by a
majority of 30 votes, the latter being the closest. Many things have hap-
pened within the bounds of this county, of which no history has ever
Probably the earliest events recorded deal with Indian troubles, a
condition which is typical of all early history. It is said that H. F. Powell,
while hunting, saw bones, but paid no attention to them. Later Avluni Mr.
Harlnud discovered them, he, by curiosity, picked up one of the skulls
and iioticed that some of the teeth had gold filling. This at once convinced
him that the bones were those of white men, and he began an examination
of the gi'ound in that vicinity. Mr. Harland was not long in finding more
skeletons, (^nly three could be found at first. Two were near together, in
a hole, Avhere, from all appen ranees, the fight took place. The third was
found some rods from the others, and near it v/as a gun barrel, consider-
ably bent. This is reasonable evidence that the owner was endeavoring to
escaj^e anrl, being overtaken, fought a good fight in his efforts to stand off
his assailants. The barrel of one of the other guns was bent also, as if it. too,
had beer-, in a hand-to-hand encounter. The guns Avere all ' ' muzzle-loaders ' '
— one a common rifle and the other of the pattern used by the army prior
to the adoption of the ''breech-loaders." One bears the stamp on the lock,
"C. S. A. '61;" the other was a Harper's Ferry musket with the date
Mr. Harland reported his discovery on his return to Challis and a party
went out to examine the battle-field and to gather up the remains. Other
relics of a hard fought battle were found scattered around, such as gun-
caps, rifle balls, a cap box, a fragment of cloth resembling corduroy, and
the butt of a pistol. There were also several steel arrow heads picked up
near the skeletons, and broken and decaying arrow shafts, as well as a
broken bow. There has been nothing as j'^et that throws any light what-
ever on the terrible ti'agedy that occurred in that lonely camp years ago.
Some of the party who assisted in gathering up the remains are of the be-
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
lief that the unfortunate ones who composed the ill-faied expedition Wvare
killed i)y liie Indians.
There is more than ordinary interest attached to this discovery. Aside
from the mystery connected with the destruction of the outfit, there is
added that not unreasonable belief that there was a woman in the party.
After making an examination of the different skulls found, Dr. Pickman,
a physician in this section about 1880, pronounced the one containing the
teeth with the gold filling as that of a female. The beautiful and symmetri-
cally foi'med teeth, and the shape of the skull bones confirmed the belief.
Who the members of the party w'ere, and at whose hands they met
their fate, are mysteries that may never be solved. So long a time has
elapsed since the occurrence, and there being no permanent settlers in this
section of the country at that time, it is only a matter of conjecture as to
the time and manner of their destruction. Up to within a few years ago,
it was a very common thing for prospectors and immigrants to be swept
away by the red savages that then infested the whole Salmon river country.
The trailbuilders had both red men and road agents to contend with;
sometimes these went hand in hand when the occasion required a union
of the two forces of land pirates. Bones along the trail were not uncommon
for this occasion; two theories have been advanced. At that time guns of
any type were highly prized by the Indians and miners sometimes carried
considerable gold with them. "Dead men tell no tales;" the bleaching
bones on mountains and trails are as silent as the rocks, and cannot give
up the secret which death holds.
The location of this point lies in a hole on the top of the most southern
of the three small buttes, about one mile south of the Challis cemetery,
and one-quarter mile west of the main highway. The date, according to
some old Indians, was about 1845. This conflicts with the engraving on
one of the guns, "C. S. A. '61;" whether this inscription represents the
year of the tragedy or not we have no way of ascertaining.
From 1862 to 1870 Idaho was the center of many placer mine stampedes,
and later, in 1879, occurred the Yankee Fork quartz rush, which was ex-
traordinary. Only one of those who have been on such excursions can
realize the extent of excitement that enters into every one, how he feels,
and how all are buoyant with hope. While in this condition, often caused
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
by wild and most unreasonable stories, men will endure untold hardships
and put forth every effort to be the first to reach some gold field. The
Stanley Basin Stampede, although lasting a feAV years, was an exciting
one. Gold was first discovered thei-e late in the fall of 1863 at Kelly's
Gulch, about sixteen and one-half miles from Stanley, by Frank R. Coffin,
Dick Douglas, Robinson. Mathew Zipp and A. P.. Challis. The mine, when
first discovered at Kelly's Gulch, was known as the Summit Mine, until
1864. Immediately after the finding of the gold the discoverers departed
for other sections of Idaho, in which to spend the winter. In April, 1864,
a party of about twenty-five men left for Stanley. Among them was Doug-
las. They went down to Boise City, where provisions and other necessities
for the journey were purchased. Then they hastily proceeded on their way,
going by the Little Camas Prairie to the South Boise River, which they
followed up to the extreme head-waters and passed over the Sawtooth
range near the present town of Sawtooth. On the way they followed an
old Indian trail to the Salmon, and on reaching the summit of the Saw-
tooth mountains, the loftiest and grandest range of mountains in Idaho,
they experienced much difficulty in getting through the deep snow. At the
time it was necessary for both man and beast to v/ade down the cold
streams of Bear Creek, which was swollen by the melting snows.
When the Warm Springs on the Salmon, about forty miles above
Stanley, were reached, a band of Indians made their appearance on the
mountains near by. The prospectors were very anxious to find Kelly's
Gulch, but others had reached it before they arrived. They tried to com-
promise with the Indians to come down and smoke the peace-pipe but they
feai'ed that the whites meant to kill them. Failing to get any informa-
tion from the Indians the men hastened on and camped at the mouth of
Valley Creek. A short time after going into camp a band of gold seekers
who did not know the location of Stanley Basin, but had heard reports
of the diggings, arrived. In a few hours two hundred men Avere at the
camp, only three or four miles from the mines. When daylight daAvned the
following morning, there Avas a big rush. Many, leaving their provisions
and blankets at camp, mounted their horses and galloped ahead, while those
who had not provided themselves with animals went with all possible
haste on foot. All, however, were doouipd to disappointment, as the gi'ound
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
was all taken in the gulch and on the bar. Buckley, former sheriff of Walla
Walla county, Washington, Avas the lucky possessor of the good ground
on Buckley's Bar. It still bears his name.
In a few days, finding that all the good ground had been located,
the stampede dispersed, some of them returning to the camp from which
they had come, Avhile others scattered throughout the mountains in search
of other places. One party of several men Avent through the Lost and
Wood river country, but Avere not successful. They found some copper
and galena ore, but considered it worthless; it is now the White Knob
a very productive mine. Placer claims in Stanley are still successfully work-
ing, and old machinery can be found where mines have been deserted.
A fcAv miles above Stanley, on the side of a hill one or tAvo hundred
yards from Valley Creek, are three forts in a roAV and a fcAv feet distance
from each other. They are built of unhcAvn granite boulders and have an
ancient look, being almost filled Avith earth. When the first Avhite man
visited them in ]86.3, and built the ca])in Avhich still stands in a gulch north
of the Duffy place, betAveen the intersection of Valley and Stanley creeks,
they appeai'ed as old as they do at the present time. By Avhom they Avere
constructed, or Avhat their purpose Avas, Avill remain, as the massacre, un-
The folloAving is an incident from the pen of Jud Boyakin, one of
Idaho's pioneer editors, Avhich occurred in Stanley Basin:
"A fcAv evenings ago some old Idahoans met, and Avith lighted cigars,
fell into a reminiscent mood, indulging in stories of early days long past
Avhen these grizzled pioneers Avere young men Avith smooth faces, and
Idaho Avas a part of Washington Tei'ritory, Avith more Indians on its trails
than Avhite men. The conversation turned on great Atlanta, Avhich at this
lime was attracting so much attention. The ''Denoerat" learned it Avas
discovered in ISC'], by the party of prospectors on the upper tributaries
rf the Simtli Fork of the Salmon river, a region Avliich at that tiir.e had
neve;' l:cen trodden b.v the foot of Avliite men. The party numbered twenty-
three men, Fi-ank K. Coffin being (-.ne of them. All had mined at F'oreneo
the previous year, a fabulously rich placer camp, situated in a basin
twelve miles from the main Salmon. They Avere now going to look for a
similar ]:."siii, Avhich ihcv felt certain Avould be found in the Avild and
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
rugged niouiitains they Avere going to explore. Nothing of value was dis-
covered until reaching Stanley Basin, named for Captain Stanley, the
eldest man of the party. They found gold on two different gulches, but
to work them involved the bringing of water a long distance. The remote-
ness of the country from supplies and the feeling of uneasiness on ac-
count, of fresh Indian signs on their trail made it inadvisable, if not im-
possible for them to avail themselves of what in after years proved to be
a rich placer camj).
*'At Stanley the partj'^ divided provisions and separated; thirteen,
under the leadership of Joe Haines, returned to Warren diggings. At-
tempting to go back by following the river, they got into deep canyons,
where they had to abandon their hoi-ses, after killing some of them for
food. Enduring great hardships and losing (me of their number by deutli,
twelve out of the unlucky thirteen, reached Warren.
• ' The party of ten, consisting of Captain Stanley, Barney Parke, Ed.
Deeming, Jack Frowell, Ben Douglas, Dan Lake, Mat Gardner, Frank
Coffin, Lee Montgomery and one v/hose name has been lost, left Stanley
the same day the returning party did. As their provisions were nearly gone,
they hoped soon to find a pas-^ through the mountains that Avould lead
them to Boise county, or Bannock, as Idaho City was called at that time.
The}' had gone about fifteen miles over the old Indian trail ist of Stanley,
when suddenlj' and unexpectedly they came onto a band of about sixty
Indians camped on a large creek. In a twinkling of an eye the Indians
disappeared in the tamarack of timber beyond them. This was a poser
that called for a council of war. Dropping back on the trail behind the
point that had brought them into view of the Indians, the veteran Stanley
was appealed to for advice; l)ut alas! he who had been through the fire
of a scene of desperate Indian battles, and bore on his weather-beaten
frame the sears as unmistakable evidence of his courage, was no longer
a leader. The old man's nerve was gone, and he begged and implored the
]>arty to turn back on the trail and overtake the Haines company.
' ' In a short time after the Indians vanished into the timber, seven of
them rode out in sight, with superb grace and dignity, and one of them
dismounted, divested himself of his blanket and accoutrements, laid his
rifle on the ground at his feet, and, raising his open palms upward, made
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
signs that he would like for one of the white men to meet him unarmed
on the open ground between the two parties. Frank Coffin, being an ac-
comi)lished Chinook linguist, Avas selected, to meet the gallant l)rave. Ob-
serving the same formality that his red brother had, he proceeded to the
ground designated by the Indian, for the talk. When they met, the Indian
extended his hand, and with many assurances in poorly spoken Chinook,
but very expressive sign-language, convinced Coffin that his people did
not want to fight. The representative of the white men, in elegant Chinook,
and with much impressive gesture, assured the red men that neither were
his men on the Avarpath, but were gold hunters on the way to Boise county.
The red ambassador was a si)lendid specimen of the North American sav-
age, young graceful and supple as a leopard. On his way to Montana in
1867, Coffin met this Indian again, on the Wood river, near where the
town of Bellevue noAv stands. Thcj brave in his recognition, referred to
Coffin's moustache, which had been added since their meeting in 186.3
and reminded his white friend that he was no longer a 'papoose chief.'
"Proceeding a few miles along the trail from Avhere they met the
Indians, they left it and bore directly for what appeared to be a low pass
ov(u- the range; but, after floundering around for two days in the timber
and brush, they were confronted with toAvering cliffs and lofty i)rependi-
cular mountain Avails that barricaded their path. They had reached an
elevation that enabled them to see that they Avould have toJ retui-n to the
trjtil they had left and travel further east before they could get over the
range. Retracing their steps they struck the trail not far from Avhere they
had left it three days before.
"Near Avhere they came to the trail again, on a freshly blazed tree,
Ihe adventurers read a history of their sensational meeting Avith the In-
dians in a beautiful pictograph. It Avas about five feet long and eighteen
inches Avide, and on its surface the artist had done his Avork so Avell in
red and black pigment that eveiy one of the ten men read it at once. On the
upper end of the blaze they had painted the figures of nine men and
horses, representing the number the Avhite men had, and their only dog.
On the loAver end of the i)ictograph six mounted Indians and a riderless
horse appeared, not far from which the artist had painted a rifle and the
accoutrements of Avhich the Indian had divested himself. In the middle
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
of the picture the tAvo ambassadors were represented with clasped hands,
Between them and the figure representing the white company, the artist
had painted a miner's pick, near which was an arrow pointing in the direction
the white men had gone. There was no mistaking the object of the picto-
graph; it was to advise their people passing that way that there may be
or had been a party of gold hunters in the country. ' '
This place is about 15 miles east of Stanley on Muley creek ; hoAvever,
no remains of a pictograph can be found there at present.
As far back as 1865, a party of easterners coming west in quest of
wealth, made their way from Bannock, Montana, into the then strange
and wild country of Loon Creek. For some time they camped at what .seems
to have been the meadows on the mouth of Warm Spring creek, eight
miles below the subsequently famous placer camp on the main Loon. The
l)arty had several members; one of those Avas T. H. ClcA'eland. CleA'eland
being considered a tenderfoot, was the cook and Avhen he reported finding
yelloAv pannings in the nearby mountain, the other members of the party
did not believe him. The party broke up and returned east Avhere, after-
Avards it came to Cleveland to get assays on the ore containing the yelloAV
substance. To his surprise it Ava.^ very rich and he returned Avest, but his
search Avas in vain.
In the spring of 1869 Liege Mulkey, Barney Sharkey and Bill Smith
of Leesburg, Idaho, outfitted Nathan Smith to prospect on the headAvaters
of the Middle Fork of the Salmon river. Smith was considered a lucky
prospector for placer mines. He Avas one of the party that struck Warren's
diggings in the northAvestern part of Idaho and had the honor of being the
first one of the party to pan gold there. This man Avas also at Suiter's
mill Avhen Marshall picked up the first piece of gold found in California
by a Avhite man. Smith found diggings at Warren and various places in
California and panned through the ups and doAvns of the California min-
ing life before coming to Idaho. He and "Doe" Wilson, in the fall of '69
discovered gold at YelloAv Jacket ; of course this news caused another panic,
but the mines proved Avorthless at that time, so they were soon abandoned.
Smith and his companions had been out scA'eral Aveeks Avhen they reached
Loon Creek, Avhich is 88 miles from Challis, in the northAvestern part of
Custer county, the largest tributary of the Middle Fork. Here they found
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
j,'()ld which they claimed valued $2.50 a pan. They immediately returned to
Leesburg and reported their find. As a result every man who could possibly
get away stampeded to the new diggings, many coming even from Montana.
This was in August, 1869; it increased and about 200 remained there dur-
ing the first winter, but the next year, 1870 and 1871, it increased to about
800. The camp was booming and was known as "Oro Grande," being sit-
uated on a high bar on the west side of the creek. Gold dust was plentiful
and business good. There were five business houses: McNutt & Philips, J.
Gallatin & Cross, Walferson & Peck Bros, of San Francisco, Mart Oben-
dorfer & Co. of Boise, besides several small dealers.
There were several large buildings in this place, but by the fall of
1872 it Avas abandoned and sold to some Chinese miners. In 1878 a lost
bunch of the Sheepeaters, an Indian tribe, were in great need of provis-
ions. The prospectors told them they had none to spare; the best thing they
could do was to go down to old Oro Grand on Loon creek, to get Si.me from
the Chinamen. Captain Varney was sujjposed to have been the only eye
witness of the fight. The Indians came into the camp about supper time,
and their first act of violence was to kick over the coffee pot which was
steaming on the camp fire. There were twelve or thirteen Chinamen; the
Sheepeaters' band comprised twelve men and boys. In a few minutes they
were fighting in earnest, nearly all of the Chinamen being killed. It was
estimated that two of the Chinamen fled for Bonanza, but one of them
was lost on the way; the other reached Bonanza. They left the provisions
for the Indians, but it proved only a temporary relief, for Captain Bernard
was sent to subdue them. Acting under orders from General HoAvard of
Vancouver, three different companies headed by Ca])tain Bernard and Lieu-
tenants Catley and Farrow respectively, slowly and cautiously forcV>d
their way through the wilds of the Salmon river country, like hunters in
search of game.- And never had hunters more wily game. Bernard said:
''They go from point to point much faster than Ave can, even if we knoAv
Avhere to go. ' '
The Indians surprised Catley 's command, defeated them and cap-
tured their j)ack-train and supplies, so that they Avere forced to give up
their part of the campaign. More troops Avere sent out, but it Avas Lieu-
tenant FiirroAv who flanked the Indians' position and forced the entire
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
band of about sixty to surrender. After sixty-two days of marching over
the snow-clad mountains and plains, he turned them over to General How-
ard at Vancouver. The victory took place on Loon creek, near its junction
with the Middle Fork of the Salmon river, on August 20, 1879, but they
escaped to cause more trouble. Farrow forced these Indians to surrender
in the Seven Devils region on the following September ], and this was
supposedly the last of the Indian wars in Idaho.
In 1871, while the Loon Creek stampede was still on, Varney discov-
ered mines on Jordan creek. His find was reported, and the population of
Loon Creek stampeded to the future city of Bonanza. Varney sold his claims
to J. G. Morrison in 1872. The usual life of a placer camp was two or
three years; Bonanza was no exception. In the case of the Yankee Fork
district, the claims were scattered out for some 15 miles along Jordan creek,
thence into Yankee Fork and to the Salmon river. A meeting was called at
that time for the purpose of laying off a townsite. Among the miners pres-
ent Avcre James McKim. I. S. Johnson and Elden Dodge, who constituted
a committee to locate the streets. This was in February, 1877. They decided
on Bonanza for a name, everyone present believing that was what they
had struck. McKim ami Johnson had already built a house on the new town
site in the summer of 187G.
About July 1, 1879 the Yankee Fork Herald began publication, with
]\l. M. ]\'Lusgrove as editor. The issue of August 28, 1879 contains the adver-
tisements of nine saloons, three hotels, two doctors and five lawyers in the
city of Bonanza. The leading gambling house advertised thus: "Classy
and Hogle, Bonanza City, Idaho. WE ARE HERE." George L. Shoup of
Salmon City had a full column of advertising Avines, liquors, clothing, drugs,
furniture and miners' supplies. Another advertisement was as follows:
"Celestial Laundry, Charlie Gumboo, Prop. This is by far the neatest
wash house in the temtox-y. Shirts nicely starched and beautifully pol-
ished. ' '
The firsi, white child l)orn in that part of the country was a daughter
of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel McCall, whose birthday Avas on January 1, 1879.
The value nvd extensiveness of the mining here can be estimated by
an article in the t)!iia.ha Republican, on August 15, 1879, which reads:
''Yesterday v^•e treated our eyes to some of the finest specimens of gold
10 HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
niui silvei- ore that was ever exhibited in Omaha. These! have just arrived
from the Yankee Tork of tlie Salmon river region, Idaho. There are some
twenty pieces from these mines. The most beautiful and the largest pieces
are from the famous Montana mine on Estes mountain, near Custer, and
were literally glittering Jind interlaced with small nuggets aad wires of
pure gold. ' '
Strange as it sounds, development had reached this stage without
Avagon roads, all supplies being brought in on the backs of hoi'ses and
burros. The freight charge was 20c a pound. Even Custer was started in
1878 with no road, which is two miles from Bonanza. Bonanza is 66 miles
from Challis and Custei'\ is 08 miles. The townsite of Custer was laid off
by Mordiff & Black and lots were given to anyone Avho would erect a
building on them. The first house, or cabin, on the present site' of Custer
was built in the spring of 1S78 by Sam Holman and "Doc" Adair.
By this time eastern capital and California capitalists and mining
engineers wore becoming interested in this country. Alex Topence was con-
structing a toll road through from Challis and Bonanza; the need tif it was
so pressing that two crews of men were kept at Avork, one at each end of
the road. The first stage with its load of passengers slid into Custer on
January 26, 1880 in a sled. The charges on the road as taken from an ad-
vertisement in the Yankee Fork Herald, were as follows:
Oiie wagon and one span of animals $4.00
Each additional span 1.00
Man on horseback .50
Pack animals .25
Loose animals, other than sheep and hogs .25
Sheep . .10
H. MYERS— President.
Of course, the opening of the first road was a real occasion for a
celebration after the most approved western style. A large feast was served,
including such dainties as ice cream, candies, a dance following. Mrs. Belle
Thompson v.as the first Avhite woman in Custer and her son George, was
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY 11
the first white child born there. She and her son are now living on u small
farm about a mile and a half up Garden creek, above Challis.
There are several hundred small mines in Central Idaho, many of these
being located near Custer and Bonanza which was a very rich section for
minerals. Estes mountain near Custer, was a center of the mining. The
Montana, Lucky Boy, Lost Swim. Big Chief, McFadden, Black, Golden
State, Snowdrift and Buster Quartz mines are names of a few in this sec-
tion. Montana mine was the richest and produced more than any of the
others. Robinson Bar, now a popular summer resort, was once a placer
mine. The Sunbeam mine, 57 miles from Challis, was booming and across
Jordan creek from the Sunbeam village, and directly on the Loon Creek
road, stood a hospitable wayside inn known as the Lake Hotel. The Bay-
horse Mining District was located in September, 1863, but little was done
until 1877 when Jack Hood, George Harland, Bob Beardsley, A. P. Challis,
and Sam Blackburn started development. Some of these mines have min-
erals in them and Custer county is vei'v active in mining as can be proven
by the last reports ranking Custer county at the top for the production
Challis, the county seat of Custer county, and one of its earliest towns,
is still in existence and has increased to a population of about 500 at the
present time. It was laid out in January, 1878. by S. G. Fisher and Jame«'
H. Vancamp, according to Mrs. Vancamp, who is now living in Challis. The
name is in honor of Alvah P. Challis. Mr. Challis mined all over the Avest,
coming to Leesburg in 1867 and then to l^oon Creek when the stampede
was on. He came to Round Valley, the name of the valley in which Challis
is located, and settled on Challis ei'cek, a small stream about four miles north
of Challis. He was one of the earliest of the white settlers in this part of
the country where he, with his partner, raised cattle. Cattle business was
not a success for him; instead, it caused hitn to go heavily in debt. He soon
quit the cattle business and started placer mining again to defray expenses
incurred v/hile stock raising. He went to Stanley Basin — the grouj:* of
claims now owned by his estate and by Mr. Sturkey. He was one of our
noble pioneers; returning east in the fall of ir>02 he passed away April
17, 1903, at Carbonsdale, Indiana.
12 HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
The town is beautifully located under the overhanging brown cliffs,
and looking out over the valley from Lone Pine Summit one sees a vast
extent of mountains, each successive range rising higher and higher, like
a vast ampitheatre. This mountain to the north of the town is a creamy
mass of chloi'ite studding which contains a valuable supply of building
stone of which tlie Challis High School is constructed. It is at the mouth
of the canyon where Garden Creek flows out into the fertile valley and
about three miles from the Salmon river. This river, with its rugged buttes
and towering cliffs overlooking it, Avends its way to the northward.
The fort which was made of stone and post in the summer of 1878
in Challis, on account of hostile Indians, does not stand. It covered the
territory near the Challis cemetery and the home of Mrs. Hess, Mrs. Van-
camp, Henry Nichols and others living in that vicinity. An old well Avhich
was used inside the fort can still be seen just below the home of Mr. and
]\rrs. Nichols; it is now nearly filled with earth. This fort was used only
Avhen the Indians v.-eve near. The homes Averc built along the creek, the
fii'st home sftill standing in a jn-ominent position on Main street. It Avas
built by ''Doc" Stores. Another old Imilding across the street from the
Challis post office Avas built in 1897, as the date is Avritten on the front.
It was a nieat market but now it is abandoned. The first school house stood
v.hcre the old fox farm Avas. The first school teacher, Mr. Hainey, Avas a
UiAvyer and later became' Avell knoAvn. The logs of the old schoolhouse are
noAv in the Garden Creek Cash Grocery on Main street, OAvned by John
L. Hammond. Challis had a setback by fire on April 25, 1894, Avhich took
the niost of the l-usinoi-s section. Tavo of the old pioneers Avho Avere in the
fort in 1878 are still living in. Challis. They are Mrs. Funkhouser and Mrs.
Vancamp, avIio can relate many exciting and hair-raising tales of those
days. J. D. Wood Avas the first postmaster, Avho later became the head of
the Wood's Livestock company.
Farming and stockraising — tAvo of the valley's chief occupations —
Avere carried on even as early as 1885, Avhen a farm Avas tilled along the
Salmon riA'er, about' four miles from Challis, Avhich covers the places now
OAvncd by Joseph Rodgers, Frank Bradbury and William Chivers. The trees
that Avere plajitcd in that year are still alive around the farm home of the
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY 13
Rodgers j'jlace, and about half a mile east of this home and about one mile
from the Salmon river, is a cabin whi«h was built in 1885. To John Stale
is due the credit of proving that fruit could be raised in Round Valley. He
spaded the earth and harrowed it Avith a wooden toothed harrow, Avhich he
drew himself. Now there are many producing orchards near Challis, cared
for with modern inventions.
In 1883 Captain Bonneville, who had served with the Hudson Bay
company, established a trading post in Round Valley. During the following
year one of his associates, a Frenchman named Meershaw, made a trip to
Snake river by way of Lost rivex-, and said that the snow was so deep that
the tops of trees were scarcely visible. In this year the buffalo were ex-
terminated from Custer county on account of starvation.
While Challis was very small, yet prospering from the mines in this
vicinity, one of the hardest Indian fights that ever took place in Idaho,
was fought at Battleground. The victims were freighting supplies here.
Following are details of the fight, as enumerated by Daniel Wade
and others, who were here at that time :
' ' It was in the summer of 1S78. The Lemhi Indians were peaceful un-
der the leadership of Chief Tendoy, which fact was a great aid to the
settlers. The railroad terminated at Oneida, Idaho, and it was necessary to
import all supplies by ox-team-T into the interior. A large consigament of
flour and general merchandise Avas assigned to Joe Skelton. The freight
train, consisted of four nine-yoke teams, with three wagons to each
team. George Dinsmore, Avith one nine-yoke team, joined our outfit. The
personnel of the train was as follows : Joe Skelton, wagon boss ; Joe Cur-
rier; Henry Skelton, brother of Joe; Will Bush, Daniel Wade and George
"They loaded at Oneida, July 20, 1878, knowing that the Indians were
hostild and that each was supplied with plenty of ammunition.
"The ti'ail north from Oneida crossed the Portneuf river, at Avhat is
now Portneuf Canyon. Then they traveled north along the Snake river
through Ross Fork to Eagle Rock, now Idaho Falls, to Mud Lake, now
Roberts, to Camas Lakes and from Camas Lakes to Birch Creek. At Birch
Creek they were instructed to look for a letter from Shoup & Co. They
14 HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
reached Birch creek, but found no notice. If the Indians were on the Lost
river side, they could have gone to Salmon as Shoup & Co., had a store
there also. Finding no letter, their hopes were bright for a safe journey.
The company traveled from Birch creek, along the cattle trails, making a
stop at Jim Kennedy's ranch on Lost river, near Old Arco. The train
pressed forward, and on August 10, came to the Narrows on Lost river,
which was the most dangerous and difficult part of the route. After camp
was made, Skelton rode ahead to see how the ground lay. On his advance
he saw McCaleb and party from Challis, approaching and mistook them
for Indians. Rushing back to camp Skelton shouted: 'Get your guns boys;
get ready to shoot.' Every man Avent for his rifle. Upon nearing the eamp
McCaleb, who was bald-headed, took off his hat and revealed his identity.
The visitors made known that the Indians had turned back from Oregon
and were expected to ai-rive any day.
''After thf mid-day meal they again yoked up the oxen and drove to
the meadows, v/htre they camped for the night. They had no guard, as they
believed there were no Indians near. Next morning, Avhile Harrington and
Wade prepared breakfast the others went after the stock, which had
strayed during the night. IMcCaleb's party went for the horses and the
others for the cattle. The horses were brought in; however, the cattle did
noi arrive. Becoming anxious Wade got on a saddle horse and rode out to
hec if he could locate them. He met Dinsmore^ who had seen one Indian
which disappeaied as soon as observed. They knew more Indians were near
for they never traveled separately when on the war path. The camp Avas
warned, but no preparation was made as they thought Dinsmore was mis-
taken. Wade and two others returned for guns, as the men were unarmed,
uni] ilie T;)dians Avere betAvecn camp and the cattle. Pickets Avere sent out on
the knolis east of the meadoAvs, soon returning to report that they had
seen a ])Hnd across the river. The Indians ascertained they Avere being ob-
serAcd and modified their jilan of attack, hiding in the AvilloAvs. It Avas
about 8 o'clock, and no defense Avas yet l)eing made. When the pickets re-
liirned, all hands set to Avork arranging the Avagons in a circle, Avith some
of the animals Avithin, digging trenches and piling flour up as a breastwork.
McCaleb was in charge, as he had been in the Confederate army during
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY 15
the Civil war and had been in 36 engagements during that time. He pos-
sessed a good general knowledge of military functions. While the work was
yet unfinished, a few Indians came down and hallowed: 'Joe, can we come
into camp 1 ' He was speaking to Joe Raney, a half breed. This was partly in
broken English, and he replied, 'No." Making his answer more emphatic,
he took aim over the wagon wheel. The ball cut dirt among them and they
scattered to the hills. At the first shot Indians seemed to spring out of the
ground and began firing upon them. The camp was entirely surrounded and
they kept up a continuous fire. They saw Trelaor's pile of yokes, and knew
a man was there. They tried to shoot under and over the pile of yokes, to
no avail, although Trelaor moved. McCaleb's portholes between the sacks
were too small for much practical use. He moved to the left of his de-
fense, resting his gun on a spoke and felly of the wagon wheel under which
he lay. Skelton warned him to keep his head down. His gun was a Win-
chester repeater. He had just shot, and thrown the lever forward to eject
the shell, when a ball from the enemy struck him squarely in the forehead,
the shot first passing through his hatband.
"This was about 10 o'clock on the morning of August 11, 1878. Joe
Currier was just in the act of crawling over Jesse's feet when the latter
was shot. Wade lay opposite him in the corral and was not shooting at the
time. We all knew that Jesse had been killed, although he uttered no sound.
The heroic figure lay upon -his face, and breathed occasionally until about
11 o'clock, when he expired. There was no motion of his body cxcei)t the
occasional breathing, he being unconscious to the end. Nothing was done for
him — nothing could be done. His horse, too, was killed in the corral the
' ' The Indians did some excellent shooting. They splintered the spokes
and cut the ground all around us. They aimed at the end-gate rods and
bolts in the hope of getting a glancing missile to do personal damage. They
shot into the sacks and covered us with flying flour. But the sacks stopped
the bullets, excepting the top sacks, which a shot would sometimes pene-
trate. At noon we counted 57 Indians on the attack, but we knew there were
16 HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
•*In the afternoon an Indian whom, from later information, we be-
lieve was Chief Buffalo Horn, rode around the camp on a full run. He was
not more than 100 or InO yards away, but moved about on his horse, run-
ning generally on the further side. Everybody in the corral shot at him but
couldn't bear him down. Joe Raney was one of our finest marksmen, but
he sent a dozen bullets at this mark without success. It is inferred that
this ride around the camp had been to induce us to expose our heads for
the benefit of the shai'pshooters outside.
' ' During the remainder of the afternoon, all was quiet. We kept our
vigils, however, without intcrniission, and finally night settled down, leav-
in<r only a dim moonlight by which to scan the stretch of sage brush where
lay the foe. About nine in tlio> evening, the stillness was broken by a faint
cry as of a coyote, a great way off. This cry was repeated again and again,
each time sounding nearer. Then other coyotes joined the band and as they
approached very near the camp their dismal bark was suddenly changed into
liie war-Avhoop of the terrific force, and the Indians ruslied to' charge the
"Some v.ei'e not the least frightened and spoke of experiencing the
calmest C'.)m|.osure, although ho[.(! fliciccied v,'hen MeCaleb had been shot.
l?ut the time Avas past and surely there was not a man to do anything but
j:hor,t. Some believed the end had come. We shot as fast as we could in the
direction of the sound, trusting to make the fusilade so hot as to run the
attackers. In this we Avere successful, for the tumult and shouting died, and
the enemy fled to cover.
"About 11 o'clock the charge was repeated, from the river side, the
enemy approaching under cover of our cattle, driving the animals to the
corral. We did not see them and the attack was a sui-prise.
"After the noisesome attack Avhich Ave had repelled by a terrific fire,
Ihe Indians returned a safe distance and talked to us. 'Some of you have
bce:i killed, and Ave Avill kill all of you.' They also said that they had a
Avhite Avoman captive in their outfit. We had a little dog Avhieh seemed to
enjoy the excitement of the fight. Whenever the reds came near, he Avould
run out and bark Avith all of his might. The savages tried under cover of
darkness to steal him. Once Avhen the dog Avas very noisy, the reds from
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY 17
the darkness said, 'Hello Boys; what's the matter with your dog^?' Joe
Raney thought he saw the buck who spoke and blazed away in that direc-
tion. Almost instantlj' three shots were i*eturned from the brush, every one
of which struck the wagon hub over his head.
"About 1 o'clock the height of the excitement quieted down. Daring
this interval we wrapped the unfortunate man's body in a Avagon sheet and
laid him at rest. Jesse McCaleb had sacrificed his life for the j)rogrcss of
Idaho. We stood guard unceasingly, taking advantage of the quietness to
build our breastwork higher.
"At 3 a. m. Wm. Trelaor, Joe Raney and Jack Flynn mounted and
started for Challis, about 50 miles distance, to summon help; at daylight
an Indian hallowed: 'Good morning boys, how you gettin' along?' At
o'clock on the morning of the 12th, we saw the last Indians riding out of
the brush and moving down the river. We think that they left us that day.
We did not leave our camp nor remove the guard. On the morning of the
13th, at daybreak, 30 men arrived from Challis. We rested until noon, until
we Avere satisfied that the foe was gone. Then we found that they had
roasted five head of our cattle in the willows. After noon we yoked and
made a half day's drive. We camped safely that night, and next morning,
still traveling with outpost, we dropped into Thousand Spring Valley.
"Moving up the valley, we suddenly observed a slight exciting char-
acter. Flvery scout was on the run to reach the wagons. The Indians were
running them in. We at once corralled and made reatly for the night. One
poor fellow was so hard pressed that he left his horse and craAvled into a
hole, where he spent the night. Everything was made ready for trouble, but
none came. We remained all the next day.
"On the morning of the 17th we moved out and at night camped at
Antelope Springs. That morning our escort left us and went toward Challis.
We had gone only about five miles when be met Jerome Calvin riding to-
ward the Thousand Springs Valley. About an hour later he returned and
told us he had seen a band of Indians who had crossed our trail behind us.
We put out guards the best we could, and passed the night peacefully. On
the night of the 18th we pulled down to the Salmon river and went into
camp on the river.
18 HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
"As soon as camp was pitched, a messenger from Challis told us to
go into town that night, because a big Indian force was moving down the
river. We yoked up, forded the river, and pulled to Challis that night, the
ISth of August, 1878.''
In November of the same year Colonel Shoup and others went to the
Battleground; getting McCaleb's body, they took it to Salmon, where it
was buried with signal honor, the whole country attending the funeral. He
was first buried on a small knoll overlooking the battlefield, now the
Mackay reservoir. A small fallen-down fence marks the place where the
body was laid away. This can be seen fi'om the highway on the point of the
knoll in the horseshoe bend of the road.
''Not long thereafter, a force of friendly Indians, Shoshones, captured
two reds, Avho were boasting of having assisted in the battle on Lost river.
They were placed in the county jail at Salmon to await trial. The sheriff
later turned them over to the Indian agent, who wanted to transfer them
to a reservation, but learning that a dozen or so of the citizens wei*e out-
side of the toAvn, for the purpose of hanging the Indians, he' tried to de-
liver them to tlie sheriff; the latter refused to receive them. By permission
of George Waiitz, the proprietor of the livery s'able, they left them in the
office. At night a crowd of unmanageable citizens took the prisoners away
from the agent, led them out to St. Charles street, to the southwest corner
of Jake Finister's field, and shot them.
The band which made the attack on the Lost river, was afterwards
captured by General Miles. They numbered about 300, and, it is said, they
were led by Chief Buffalo Horn. This Battleground is where the Mackay
reservoir uoav stands. Mt. McCaleb stands near Mackay and Avas named in
honor of Jesse McCaleb, whose courage and manliness were as lofty as the
peak itself: The grave, as located, marks the spot where the faithful fol-
lowers of McCaleb laid him at rest, after the fatal shot.
All travel was then accomplished by ox-teams; later horses were used.
The sturdy Concord Coaches, drawn by four or six horses, lumbered
through the ravines and sage brush flats. They were unable to make very
rapid progress: therefoiv, stations were placed at intervals of a few miles
each. Leaving Old Arco the traveler Avould stop at Kennedy's on Lost river.
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY 19
When this road was first completed, the first large shipment consisted
of machinery for the Bonanza mine.
The passenger would, after leaving Kennedy's, advance to Old Hous-
ton, the largest toAvn in this part of the country at that time. It nestled
among the hills of Custer county, where the White Knob and Cliff JMoun-
tain ranges watch the glistening waters of Alder creek go noisily by. Vis-
itors found all inhabitants buoyant with hope over the mining, agricultural,
and stock raising advantages; for there was a great mining center with nat-
ural resources of unknown limit.
They had a fine school with about sixty enrolled. As one went up the
tiny streets, some of the business houses he saw were the Lost River Mer-
cantile Co., owned by B. F. Brown and J. H. Greene, the largest store in the
county; The Houston House, a very popular hotel, owned by George Wal-
burn ; a saloon, managed by H. E. Gilbert ; general merchandise, supervised
by Levi Staples; Mrs. Ray Boones' Restaurant and Lodging; the Houston
Meat Market, owned by C. S. Heinman; the Village Blacksmith Shop, owned
by George R. Ashton. Only parts of the foundations remain now, it being
deserted when the railroad came to the valley. This caused the town to
be moved and the name to be changed to Mackay. The railroad came 'to
Maekay in September, 1901.
The traveler was awakened at dawn usually, and was hurried on his
way, the next stop being at Narrows. This site is now covered by the Mackay
reservoir, where parts of the foundations can yet be seen, during low
water. This same meadow is where the famous battle took place in 1878.
A stop was made at Cedar, twelve miles this side of Mackay, going
toward Challis, and another at Whiskey Springs, about eighteen miles com-
ing into the interior. Bascomn's station at Dicky, was an old fort which still
remains, Bascomn living there. Lone Pine Summit was a station on top of the
summit between Challis and Mackay. Here a runaway took place at one
time, such as one reads about in western stories, and thrills over in pic-
ture shows. As the stages A\iere the only means of taking out the miner's
gold, it was a temptation for bandits to make a "holdup" and take the
money at any price.
20 HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY
The old Jensen bridge, about three miles south of Challis, was used
many years for the immigration to the mines. It still exists, though need-
ing some repairs, but is not open for public use. The road came to Challis,
not on the present course, but about one mile west and came into town
about Avhere Peck's Hill stands.
Challis Avas the center of the mining camps and the first road to Custer
and Bonanza went up Garden creek, but later was built by the preseni way.
The old toll gates, of Avhich a few old buildings still remain, were located
at the mouth of Mill creek all Yankee Fork; the rates have already been
given. The Fannie Clark station, as the toll gates were known, won con-
siderable renown. Crystal was a small freighting town, which stood near the
East Fork bridge, where a few old foundations can still be seen. The toll
road from Challis to Loon Creek, via Packer Mountain, was completed on
July 6, 1909. The first semi-weekly mail service from Challis to Bonanza
was started on January 17, 1911.
An old Indian trail leading to Pahsamjiroi, an Indian name meaning
"Two Waters,'' named because of the two springs at the head of the valley,
is still used by cattlemen entering the Pahsamaroi valley, at Trail creek.
Near Mahogany hill is an old cjrral made of Avoven willows constructed
many years ago by the Indians. It is built in a narrow passage and could
have easily been used by them to corral horses.
The first daily mail between Challis and May, Idaho, a small town
about thirty miles from Challis, and ten miles from the mouth of the
Pahsamaroi, was started on October 29. 1919. Stages still convey passengers,
freight and mail from Mackay to Challis. Challis is the center of the other
small towns in central Idaho, as Stanley, Foi-nej', Clayton and May.
I have endeavored in this treatise to give a complete history of the
County of Custer. This county, as many other small places, was settled due
to the rich mining claims found in them. Here the most valued industry
today is mining; our part of Idaho ranks among the first in production of
various minerals. However, many of these little camps have been abandoned
and all that is left to tell the history is a few fallen down buildings. One
thing we do have, nevertheless, to show the history of the past, is. a pic-
ture of the toAvn of Custer, painted by Cridman, in 1880. A popular legend
HISTORY OF CUSTER COUNTY 21
told by the old folks is that he was a vagabond in need of money. The pic-
ture was his salvation. This picture is now hanging in The Messenger of-
fice at Challis. It well portrays the life of the early camps. What tales
this picture could tell us would perhaps furnish entertainment for many a
campfire chat. As one looks more closely, he can see a patched place in the
center of it. Previously it hung in a saloon in Custer, and one night, in a
moment of insanity a drunkard threw a bottle through it. The buildings
are nestled in the gorges about the mill, against the towering mountains,
covered with the beautiful pines. The tram-way leads down the mountain
to the mill of thirty stamps, which could easily be recognized as such with-
out the sign on the side: "General Custer Mill." Its remoteness and isola-
tion is shown b}' the wild deer running along the mountainside. The home-
like group of dwellings are nestled in the deep wood-ladon ravines about
the mill, making a natural picture of western life. The large comfortable
boarding house was managed by Mrs. Normington of Wood River, Other
buildings, including the office and store room, look out over the Yankee
Fork, which flows quietly by the little village of industry and contentment.
Another thing we have to recall memories of the past, is the old Concord
Stage Coaches, which Avere used to deliver freight, passengers and mail be-
tween Challis and Maekay. They have never been preserved, being drawn up
and abandoned at the side of an old barn in Challis. These relics, never-
theless, force us to remember the hardships our fathers and grandfathers
suffered in order to make for us Custer county, as it is today.
A tribute to these trail-blazers was written by Clarence Eddy :
' ' Dreamers they were, those pioneers ;
Brave of spirit were the women folk.
And the bearded men were strong.
They cared not how rough the trail,
' Ho ! Westward ' was their song.
Where night drew its curtain^i of blue,
Lay the land they sought.
The land so large.
The land wiiere dreams come true."
I TRRftRY OF CONGRESS
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