Six Years on the Soleduck River Part 2

  • Fri Oct 11th, 2019 8:40am
  • News

by George Hopkins

We made the first part of the trip to the base of the climb without event, and all stayed fairly well together. Steve and I were lifted out of our boxes and walked up the mountain, followed by Father and Mother. Mother gradually weakened and by the time the rest of us had reached the top she and Father had fallen far behind.

We passed Buck Cable’s cabin on Upper Bear Creek and then came to where it was necessary to cross the creek. Again we two youngsters came out of our boxes and were led across the rain-swollen creek on a small foot log. The horses forded without difficulty, but the little jack had to swim.

It had been raining hard all day and darkness began to fall after we crossed the creek. It became difficult to keep in the trail. The horses followed along without trouble, but those walking had a difficult time. It wasn’t long before Franklin slipped off the trail in the darkness. May was riding up ahead with Garland who had ridden from Collins’ place to the Bear Creek crossing to meet us. She called back, to Mr. Franklin, are you all right?”

Franklin, who was splashing around in the brush off the trail, answered, “Go on, May go on, and leave me here to die.”

Eventually, we all arrived at the Collins home, all cold and wet, well after night had fallen.

That is, all arrived safely except Father and Mother, who did not reach Collins’ place until the end of the third day. Those of us who did get through greatly appreciated the hot supper of elk meat and potatoes that Mary Collins set before us.

The next day, Collins and Franklin started back to look for Father and Mother. It had been raining continually and was still raining hard. Bear Creek was high. The foot log was gone and the men did not get through to Cables’ cabin until nightfall, but they found the lost couple in the cabin and safe.

The experience of Dad and Mother had been terrific. They had made Cable’s place at nightfall. Mother had had a hard time on the trail, and they were thankful to find shelter from the hard rain. The cabin stood in the midst of tall spruce trees and one great tree stood very near the corner of the building.

Rain was pelting the roof and the wind began to howl about the shack. Father had been unable to start a fire that first night, and the two huddled in a corner of the cabin in each other’s arms. They could hear falling trees crash out on the hillside and they shivered with fear lest their shelter should be struck by one of the falling giants. Then the great spruce tree at the corner of the cabin began to creak and groan and finally broke and began to crash down.

The two people huddled close in fear that the big tree would fall on their shelter. It finally landed with a crash, the cabin still stood, and they were safe. The next morning, Dad found that the big tree had fallen directly away from the house. They stayed in the cabin that second day, and at dusk Collins and Franklin came with food. The folks reached Collins’ home the end of the third day, safe and sound, and happy that they had been spared.

The next journey was the two miles from the Collins’ home to our new home. There was but a foot trail. It led past the Wisen location, where Mr. and Mrs. Wisen were to live later, and past the home site of their son, Charley. We reached the Soldeuck at the big bend, were rowed across in Dad’s homemade boat and in ten minutes we were HOME. Our dog, Fan, a little black longhaired, some-kind-of-a-terrier, who had come upon the Garland with us, and who had remained alone at our cabin, after a trip over with Dad from Collins’ the day or so before, met us at the house. Father had laid something down on the porch and Fan had stayed to watch, while Dad went back for his family. The little dog was to play a great big part in our life on the “ranch”.

Our cabin was made of logs, calked with moss, with a porch extending out at the front end for about six feet. The shake roof carried out over the porch. The cabin faced north toward the river, which was about one thousand feet away. Directly behind the cabin, the hill rose steeply. There was a single sash window in front and one similar window on the east side, looking back up the trail. The one-room home was twelve feet by sixteen feet inside, and within three years was to shelter eight of us. That first night there was a tier of double bunks on one side and about four feet away a double bed for Dad and Mother, and for the first few nights, Steve and I slept at the foot of the big bed. Later there was another bed build in the bunk style over the double bed.

Mother found a good substantial cookstove in place, and the chairs and table were hand made. The house stood on a bench about 40 feet above the bottomland, and at the foot of this bench, about one hundred fifty feet away, was a wonderful permanent spring, later the spring was dug out to fair size and rock-walled and a shake house built over it. This was our spring house, and during the years when we could afford a cow, my mother kept the milk here.

I do not especially recall what happened that first winter, and it will be difficult to state definitely when each particular event occurred, but we got through the first winter and through five more. I do remember the winter of 1893 in particular. The snow lay three feet deep over everything and one afternoon I stood at the window on the east side looking out over the snow that covered the trail as far as I could see. The air was quiet, there was no snow falling, and there had not been any snow since morning.

Suddenly, without warning, heavy snow began to fall, the flakes were large, very close together, and the underside of the falling snow was like a great blanket, level in all directions. Small as I was, I began to wonder how we could continue to live, where our food would come from. We could keep warm, but food was scarce and could be obtained only after a hard trip to Beaver, over almost impassable snow.

About this time a figure was seen coming down the trail over the snow with a pack on his back and with snowshoes on his feet. It proved to be Mr. Eiholtzer who was bringing us a sack of flour. How he happened to do this I never knew. Eiholtzer with a wife and two daughters lived about three or four miles away on the Calawa River southeasterly of us. The Eiholtzer family was to play a big part in the life of the County.

I do not remember Mrs. Eiholtzer, but I do recall Hr. Eiholtzer and the two daughters, Cordelia and Nettie, very well, Cordelia, the oldest, later married A.M. Konopaski, and Nettie married Theodore Klahn. Klahn and Konopaski had visited us with Eiholtzer on their way over to Eiholtzer’s claim during our first winter.

A few years after we had left the County, I returned and found Cordelia living at Beaver. Later, I met Mr. Klahn on his farm west of Beaver and he told me of the loss of his son the year before. The boy had been gored by a bull. I recall very well indeed having a little party with Nettie out in our front yard.

Nettie was about one year older than me. We spent a happy afternoon roasting elk meat over an open fire. A number of years later I was at Clallam Bay and found Nettie living only a short distance from the dock. We had a good visit, and when I left to go to the boat, Nettie walked down to the boat with me, followed by seven small youngsters.

By the year 1893, neighbors were getting more numerous. Down the river at the mouth of Bear Creek were the Obergs, up Bear Creek were the John Iverson family and Bert and Mary Collins, with their little daughter, Millie. And between us and the Collins Ranch, later to be designated Collins Post Office, were Mr. and Mr. Wisen’s and Charley Wisen’s cabins.

We did not see much of the Wisen family. I remember one day when Mrs. Wisen was sick, my sister May and I stopped to see her on our way to the Collins and gave her a big bunch of wildflowers, big yellow lilies, but they were not greatly appreciated. They proved to be skunk cabbage blossoms!

to be continued ….