By George Hopkins
About half a mile below us on the north side of the river was the McClosky cabin. Upriver, a short mile away, was the shake cabin of Dave Christopher. The cabin of Mrs. Vail and her family of five boys and two girls was a little farther up, and about two to three miles upriver were the cabins and claims of Foster Sawyer, Leslie Sawyer, and Wash Humphrey, and then the Schofield family and the Higgins family. I remember well one day how thrilled I was when I took little redhaired Annie Schofield by the hand and helped her along from rock to rock in the shallow water at the river’s edge. Beyond the Higgins ranch and across the river was the cabin of Mr. Brasch. Mr. Snyder’s ranch was between Christopher’s and Leslie Sawyer’s on the opposite side of the river. Snyder’s memory will long continue as he had much to do with the location of trails throughout the County.
Mr. Irving W. Garland was back in from the river about five miles from us and upstream. His shake cabin stood on a large hill that had been burned over, and we called it “Burnt Mountain.” Herman Kopp had a claim a few miles away from Garland’s on the Calawah River.
To the south of us in the flat valley beyond our nearby hill were the cabins of Buck Cable, Mike Bigler, John Anderson, Elmer E. Hopkins, Irvin E. Franklin, C. A. Gorder, George Town, and Chris and Hans Emmett. The Eiholtzer ranch was on the Calawah River about three or four miles southeasterly of us.
Cable had located a claim over near Pysht Mountain and had built a cabin there, but abandoned it for a new location mentioned above. One day Buck Cable killed a fine elk near his cabin and then came down to our place to invite us to get as much of the meat as we wanted. The Doolittle family lived over on Upper Bear Creek for a while and then spent some time with Dave Christopher a little way upriver from us.
The claims of E. E. Hopkins, Franklin, Gorder, the Emmetts, George Town, and many others, were timber claims, and the stand of Sitka spruce and Douglas fir around their cabins was beautiful to see.
Other neighbors that must be mentioned were the Dimmels, who built a home about midway between us and Sappho on the north side of the river. The road ran much closer to the river than the present 101 highway does. The Diimmels had a small store and we took advantage of this quite often. They had previously lived near Beaver.
The community began to worry about school since the number of youngsters was increasing. In 1894 all five of us youngsters went to school, and there were four of school age in the Vail family, with two others coming along fast. Bert Vail, the eldest, and my brother Darwin attended school for a year or so and then dropped out as both were well able to work. Our first school was held in the summer of 1894 in the Dave Christopher cabin and Dave was our teacher. At the end of each day, each class was given a spelling test and the boy or girl who was at the head of the line at the end of the class was given a “headmark” written by our teacher.
During our six years in the County, school was held during four summers for a grand total of twelve months of school during the entire six years. Our next teacher was Ed Lamereaux of Beaver, who taught us for two summers, and the summer of 1897 Miss Sue A. LaFollette had the school. We all loved Miss LaFollette and I am still the proud possessor of two letters she wrote me during the summer of 1898 when she was teaching at Piedmont.
Numerous little incidents occurred as time went by, many of which recall vividly. One rather minor incident, to me it was quite tragic, stands out very definitely. Good footwear was scarce. I believe it was John Iverson who made shoe pacs for as many as he could supply. Steve and I had passed the winter of 1893-94 with practically no shoes at all. However, our minds worked overtime on what we would like to have, and after a great deal of coaxing, I had been promised a pair of red boots which were to come by mail from Tacoma.
The day arrived when they were to reach me. My brother Elmer was to bring them from Pysht and I waited on the river bank, dancing up and down and hollering “Oh, my pretty little red boots, my pretty little red boots”. The moment came, Elmer arrived with the mail and we opened my package on the spot. My “pretty little red boots” proved to be a pair of men’s No.9 shoes in which I might have lost myself.
Another memory creeps in: My father had obtained a brass fife and he was quite good in the use of it. Many times Steve and I would be playing Indian back in the woods, sometimes a quarter of a mile away, and the shrill tones of the fife would come to us clearly and distinctly. I have always liked to think of him sitting out on the porch of the cabin playing his fife.
One event I remember very definitely and distinctly and I have told the story to my own children and grandchildren a great many times. My sister May and I were returning from Sunday School at the Wisen home one day. We were idling along busily talking, and the dogs, old Fan and her pup Major, were somewhere in the brush behind us. I glanced up and saw a “stump” in the trail ahead, and then a few seconds later decided that I did not remember any stump in the trail at that point, and pointed it out to May. It was about sixty feet ahead of us and right in the middle of the road. As I pointed toward it, our little dog Fan came tearing by and made straight for the cougar! She was followed about two jumps back by Major, who was considerably bigger than Fan. The cougar didn’t dally at all but got the heck out of there at once. On the first leap he made the top of a windfall and then disappeared in the woods with the dogs close behind. It was a big cougar and we had had a close broadside look at him as he left the road. May and I made it back home in a hurry.
To be continued ….