The River Took Them

November 27, 2019 2 Comments

Lewiston Morning Tribune – July 23, 1933

North Central Idaho is blessed with mountain beauty and wild rivers.  In the early days small boats, or ferries were used to cross the Clearwater.

The Idaho Statesman – June 20, 1899


The Steamer Hannaford Ran Into the Wire Cable.

Lewiston Tribune:  C. C. Fuller, one of the interested parties in the Oro Fino townsite and ferry, arrived in Lewiston yesterday afternoon from Moscow.

Mr. Fuller stated to a Tribune representative that the ferry at that place is now tied up owing to an accident to the cable caused by the steamer Hannaford running into it and breaking a strand, and owing to the extremely high water it was deemed unsafe to run it.  Mr. Fuller immediately came out and telegraphed to Portland for a new one.

Mr. Fuller states that the drowning of men and horses there is nearly an every day occurrence, and within a few days five men and a dozen horses were drowned in the treacherous Clearwater.

Mr. Fuller expects great things for the new town of Oro Fino, and predicts a rapid growth.  The town now boasts of a newspaper, seven business houses, and a number of minor enterprises.  He expects to return within a few days.

As early as 1883,  a bridge, over the Clearwater to Lewiston was being built.  As automobiles became common, more bridges were built, over the creeks and rivers.

The rivers which sustain life, sometimes choose to take it.

Following are several accounts of people, with connections to Cavendish-Teakean, who were taken by the river.

Earnest Leonard Brown – October 1883 – June 24, 1900

Earnest Leonard Brown was born in October of 1883, the second child and son of Samuel and Lucy (Ives) Brown.

The Brown family settled in the Palouse area in the Spring of 1881 and were followed by Samuel’s parents, who settled near Leland, on the Big Potlatch, later that same year.   The Brown’s were one of the first settlers of the region and Earnest’s grandfather James William Brown, was the 1st white settler to die and be buried, in the area, his final resting place is the cemetery in Southwick, Idaho.

The only information about Earnest, other than census information are two short mentions, in local papers:

The Colfax Gazette – June 29, 1900

A 16-year-old son of S. L. Brown was drowned Monday while attempting to swim a deep hole in Union Flat Creek, near the Hamilton bridge.

The Pullman Herald – July 7, 1900

A sad drowning is reported from Union Flat Creek, 15 miles south of Pullman, the victim being Earnest, the 16 year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. S. L. Brown.

Earnest’s body was recovered, he is buried in the family plot, in the Ewartsville Cemetery, which has a stone for Earnest, with his initials E.L.B.

John Stauffer – August 1864 – December 21, 1902

John Stauffer was born in Davis County, Iowa, in August 1864.  He was the first of eight children born to Christian and Nancy (Lehman) Stauffer.  The family settled in Teakean, prior to 1900. On December 21, 1902, he lost his life in the North Fork, of the Clearwater river:

Lewiston Morning Tribune – December 23, 1902


John Stauffer Drowned at the North Fork Sunday


Saddle Horse Reared and Fell Backwards–Several Witnesses to the Fatal Accident.

Teakean, Dec. 22.–(Special to the Tribune.)–John Stauffer, a well known farmer of this locality, was drowned in the North Fork of the Clearwater at 10:30 o’clock yesterday morning at a point seven miles east of Teakean and one mile above the mouth of Canyon Creek.  The unfortunate man was endeavoring to ford the stream on a horse when the accident happened which cost him his life.

Stauffer was driving an unruly pack horse, and when the animal reached a point a short distance from the shore he started to wade down the stream.  Stauffer then turned his horse down the stream in an endeavor to check the pack animal.  In a moment Stauffer’s horse was carried into deep and rough water, when he began rearing and finally fell backwards.  Stauffer was then thrown from the saddle, and almost instantly disappeared beneath the surface.

There were several eye witnesses to the drowning and a boat was hastily pushed into the stream, but no trace of Stauffer could be found.  The body has not yet been recovered.


Lewiston Morning Tribune – March 31, 1903


Probably That of John Stauffer of Teakean Section.


Coroner Vassar Will Hold an Inquest on the Remains at Ahsahka This Morning.

County Coroner Vassar yesterday received a telegram from Peck announcing that the body of a dean man had been found in the Clearwater river near Peck and was being held there awaiting the arrival of the coroner to hold an inquest.  The telegram was sent from Peck by Ed Piatt and stated that while the body had not been identified it was believed to be the remains of john Stauffer.  Coroner Vassar left for Ahsahka on the train yesterday afternoon and will conduct the inquest this morning.

Stauffer, who was a well known farmer of the Teakean locality in the Potlatch country, was drowned several months ago in the North Fork a few miles above Ahsahka.  He was fording the stream at that point and had endeavored to prevent a pack horse from leaving the ford when he was carried into deep water and sank before assistance could reach him.


Lewiston Morning Tribune – April 1, 1903

Body That of John Stauffer.

County Coroner Vassar returned yesterday from Ahsahka where he conducted an inquest on the remains of John Stauffer, whose body was found in the Clearwater at Black Rock eddy on Sunday last.  The body was identified by means of a warehouse receipt and other papers found in the pockets of the dead man.  Stauffer, who was a resident of the Teakean country, met his death on December 21, while endeavoring to ford the North Fork.  The body will be taken to Teakean for interment.

The family would remain in the area, John’s parents relocated to Latah County, prior to 1910 and then left for Saskatchewan, Canada and settled there, for the remainder of their lives. Two of John’s brothers also died tragically.   It is interesting to note, the only cemetery in the area in 1903 was the Southwick (Pine Hill) Cemetery.  It is quite possible John Stauffer was buried on the family homestead.  There are no known Stauffer descendants in the area, none of the Stauffer men married.

Oliver Cromwell Stalnaker – July 12, 1831 – November 23, 1908

Oliver Cromwell Stalnaker was born July 12, 1831, he was the first of five children born to Asbury and Rachel (Stalnaker) Stalnaker, in Randolph County, West Virginia.  He would grow to manhood, in West Virginia and in 1853 marry Susan Rachel Mustoe.  They would raise a family of nine children, including daughter Martha Ellen, my great-great-grandmother.  Martha would marry David H. Daniels and move west, in 1891 to settle in Cavendish, Idaho.  Oliver, wife Rachel and six of their children would join them in Idaho. Susan would pass in 1904, leaving Oliver a widower.  In November of 1908, the river took him:

Lewiston Morning Tribune – November 25, 1908

Accident Occurred Monday Evening Near Lenore and Body Was Recovered Yesterday

Oliver Stalnaker an aged and well known resident of the Peck section, was drowned Monday evening in the Clearwater river, about two miles above Lenore.

News of the drowning was brought to the city yesterday afternoon by passengers arriving on the Clearwater train. Advices relative to the drowning are to the effect that Mr. Stalnaker had decided to go from Lenore to some point in the Peck locality and walked up the railroad track for a distance of two miles, where he secured a small boat for the purpose of crossing the river to the south bank. He had reached a point only a few feet distant from the shore, when he uttered a cry of alarm to the effect that the boat was leaking. A person on the south bank yelled to him to turn back to the other shore, when Mr. Stalnaker replied that it was impossible for him to do so. At this instant he either fell from or jumped from the boat and soon disappeared from view.

His body was found yesterday morning a short distance below the point where the accident occurred. The body was taken to the home of a son-in-law near Peck. The deceased was 77 years of age, has resided in the Clearwater section a number of years, and is well known there. Among his children is George Stalnaker [possibly John Grant], of the North Fork section.


Kendrick Gazette – December 4, 1908

Southwick Items
Oliver Stalnaker, who was drowned in Clearwater river last week, was buried in Southwick cemetery on Thanksgiving day.  Services were held in the Methodist church conducted by Rev. Ross.

Oliver is buried in the Southwick (Pine Hill) Cemetery.  Many of his descendants, still reside in North Central Idaho.

When I found this information I was very surprised and because the Lewiston Morning Tribune article, states Oliver’s name as Ira, which was one of his sons, I didn’t realize what I had found but with the help of extended family and matching dates, I was able to piece together this family tragedy.  My grandmother, Wanda (Daniels) Wood, was wonderful about sharing family stories but she never mentioned this story of her great-grandfather.  I have no idea if Grandma knew the story, her father, Fred Daniels, would have been about twelve, when his grandfather drowned.

William Albert Crow – April 4, 1861 – August 13, 1911

William Crow was born April 4, 1861, the second son and fourth child of Jesse Walker and Elizabeth (Coley) Crow, in Pike County Illinois. William married Catherine Batz, in Pike County, on June 25, 1885 and they were the parents of seven children, six sons and one daughter. William, his family, and along with several of his brothers and sisters came West and settled in Cavendish-Teakean.  On August 13, 1911, he and William Choate were drowned:

The Anaconda Standard – August 14, 1911




Special dispatch to the Standard.

Spokane, Wash., Aug. 13.–While bathing this afternoon at Thompson’s sawmill on the north fork of the Clearwater river, about one and one-half miles above Ahsahka, Idaho, William Crow, aged 52 years, a farmer of the Teakean district, and William Choate, aged 23, son of Fred Choate, a Teakean merchant, were drowned.  The bodies were recovered about an hour after the accident by a party of tie drivers, notified by Mrs. Frank Marquette, who witnessed the drowning from the opposite side of the river, but was unable to render assistance.  They were found lying on the bed of the river about where Mrs. Marquette saw the men sink for the last time, their outstretched hands touching each other, indicating that they were clasped in one another’s arms when they went down.

When the men left their homes a short time before the accident, Choate, who could not swim, remarked that he was going into deep water so that he would be compelled to learn to keep afloat or drown, and from what Mrs. Marquette saw of the tragedy it is evident that Crow, who was an expert swimmer, sacrificed his own life in endeavoring to save his companion.  Mrs. Marquette heard a call for help and saw Choate struggling in the water and Crow running down the bank toward him.  Choate sank before Crow reached him and the latter dived and brought him to the surface, where they were seen struggling for several minutes before they again disappeared.  It is believed that Choate was taken with cramps and that when Crow reached him he clutched him about the body so he could not swim.

Choate was unmarried, but Crow leaves a wife and seven small children.

William was buried in the family plot, at the Teakean Cemetery.

William R Choate – September 25, 1888 – August 13, 1911

William R. Choate was born September 25, 1888, the second child and son of Frederick Z. and Wilhelmina (Freytag) Choate, in Teakean, Idaho.  According to the 1910 census, William worked as an engineer, at a sawmill.  The Choates are some of the earliest settlers, of Cavendish-Teakean and several descendants still live in the area.

Lewiston Morning Tribune – August 14, 1911




Both Men Were Residents of Teakean–Crow Survived by Wife and Children.

Orofino, Aug. 13.–(Special to the Tribune).  William A. Crow and William Choate, both residents of Teakean, were drowned this afternoon in the North Fork a short distance above Ahsahka.  The drowning was witnessed by a number of parties but the bodies were not recovered for fully an hour after the men disappeared.  The bodies were found about fifteen paces up the stream from where the men went down, due to an undercurrent and this accounted for the long time required to recover the bodies.

Messrs. Crow and Choate went to the North Fork today with a number of others from the Teakean section, to enjoy a swim in the river and selected a swimming place a short distance above the Ahsahka sawmill.  It appears that Choate could not swim and got out beyond his depth and was swept down into deeper water.  Crow went to his assistance and both men were carried to the bottom by the treacherous under currents.

William Crow was about 50 years of age and is survived by a wife and seven children.  He was a brother of Robert Crow, of Ahsahka.  William Choate was a young man, 23 years of age and unmarried.  He was a son of Fred Choate, of the Teakean section.  The remains will be taken to Teakean for interment.


The Orofino Tribune – August 18, 1911


While Bathing Near Ahsahka two men Meet Watery Death in Rapid Stream.

While bathing in the North Fork, about one and one-half miles above Ahsahka near Thompson’s mill last Sunday, William Crow, aged 51 years and William Choate, aged 23 were both drowned.

Mr. Crow is a farmer in the Teakean section and leaves a wife and seven children.  Mr. Choate is the son of Fred Choate a merchant at Teakean, being a single man.

The bodies of the two men were found near the spot where Mrs. Frank Marquette, who witnessed the drowning from the opposite side of the river, seen the two men go beneath the water.  The lady heard a call for help and investigating the sause saw two men in the water but could not render any assistance to the unfortunate men, the lady states that from what she could see of the tragedy it is believed that Crow who was an expert swimmer tried to help Choate and was drowned in the attempt to save his friend’s life, as the two men were seen struggling in the water and Crow was seen to dive and on coming to the surface had hold of the other man and trying to swim to shore, but his strength failing him he sank to his death.

Both the drowned men were buried at Teakean, Mr. Choate Monday and Mr. Crow Tuesday, a large concourse of people attended the funerals.

Lowell Mason Smith – August 3, 1913 – May 15, 1925

Lewiston Morning Tribune – May 18, 1925

Lowell Mason Smith was the adopted son of Wickliffe R. and Altha D. (McDowell) Smith.  Lowell was born August 3, 1913, in Wallace, Shoshone County, Idaho.  Lowell’s father Wickliffe was a minor celebrity, in the area, he taught school, published a short lived Southwick newspaper, Potlatch Star and served at State Representative for Nez Perce County.  One of Wickliffe’s business ventures was Perun Elixir, a tonic sold to cure “catarrh.” I am not sure if it cured your congestion but the 28% alcohol content probably ensured, you didn’t care.  The product was no longer sold after 1912; Wickliffe would always be known as “Pruney,” afterwards.

In 1918 tragedy first struck the family, when adopted daughter Etha Virginia would pass away at 11 months of age, on November 1st.

On May 15, 1925 the family would be devastated once more when Lowell and his mother, Altha went on a fishing trip, with friends and the river took him:

Kendrick Gazette – May 22, 1925

Southwick Boy Drowned

Lowell Smith, the eleven year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Smith of Southwick, was drowned in the North Fork of the Clearwater river at 10 o’clock last Friday morning.

The accident was caused by a broken railing on the Elk Creek bridge, which caused the boy to fall into the creek and from there he was swept into the Clearwater.  The body has not been recovered.

Mrs. Smith and her son and a party of Moscow friends were fishing on the North Fork near the mouth of Elk creek when the accident happened.  The boy was swept into the main current before aid could reach him.  A diligent search has been kept up on the river since the drowning.


Kendrick Gazette – February 5, 1926

Lowell Smiths Body Found

The skeleton of a boy was found by Lewiston Boy Scouts on the west bank of the Snake river abut three miles below Silcott, last Saturday afternoon.  It was identified the following day by Wickliffe R. Smith of Southwick, as that of his adopted son, Lowell Mason Smith, 11 years old, who fell from a bridge across the mouth of Elk Creek on May 15, 1925, when a railing broke.

The shoes worn by the boy were the only means of identification.  They still remained attached to the feet when the skeleton was found.

The remains were shipped to Southwick where funeral services were held Monday afternoon by the Rev. Geo. F. Calvert of the United Brethren church.  The funeral was largely attended.


Idaho Statesman – February 8, 1926


LEWISTON–The skeleton of a boy found on the west bank of the Snake river about three miles below Silcott, Saturday afternoon was identified by Wickliffe R. Smith, as that of his son, Lowell, who is believed to have fallen from the bridge across Elk creek, May 15, 1925.  Shoes which remained attached to the remains made identification possible.  The body was taken to Southwick by the father for burial.

It is hard to know the absolute grief Wickliffe and Altha suffered after losing both of their children but it did destroy the family.

In May of 1926, Altha, along with Fred C. Choate were charged with possession and manufacturing of intoxicating liquor and maintaining a nuisance.  On October 25, 1926, Altha filed for divorce.  The divorce action was dismissed but Wickliffe refiled on June 12, 1927.  Wickliffe also filed a charge of adultery against Altha.  Apparently Fred C. Choate and Altha had run off to Nevada, together.  Fred and Altha would eventually divorce their respective spouses, marry and live out their lives together.

William Marion Carey – (Photo Courtesy of Doug Huffman, restored by Debbie Bray)

William Marion Carey – October 16, 1911 – June 12, 1933

William Marion Carey was born October 16, 1911, the first child and son of William J. and Eunice (Mapes) Carey.  The Carey family were early settlers of Cavendish-Teakean and the Mapes family settled at Freeman Creek, in 1904.  By all accounts, Willie, was a bright young man, with a promising future.  Willie was working for the Forest Service, when the tragedy occurred.

Lewiston Morning Tribune – June 13, 1933

Forest Worker Drowned After Spill In River

Orofino, June 12.–William Carey, Jr., 25, of Teakean, drown in the north fork of the Clearwater river, 24 miles west of the Bungalow ranger station, this morning.  It was the fourth drowning in this area in 10 days.

Carey, employed in the forest service, was sent out to assist in repairing a bridge that had been washed out by the high water last week.  While walking on a stringer he lost his balance and fell into the stream, running at flood stage.  He was seen to come to the surface once.  A search for the body started but it had not been recovered tonight.


Kendrick Gazette – June 16, 1933

Still another victim was added to the list of drownings in the Clearwater river within the past two weeks, when William Carey, Jr., 25, of Teakean, was drowned in the north fork of the Clearwater river, 24 miles west of the Bungalow ranger station, last Monday morning, while assisting in repairing a bridge that had been damaged by high water he having slipped from a stringer and fallen into the raging torrent.


Clearwater Tribune – June 16, 1933


Our committee, Mesdames Clanin and Brock and Miss Wanda Daniels, are practicing the children preparing for a joint Children’s Day program with Cavendish which will be given Sunday, the 18th, at Cavendish.

Sad news came to the Careys and Huffmans Monday of the drowning of their nephew and cousin, Willie Carey, son of Mr. and Mrs. Will Carey of Freeman creek. Willie had left for his summer’s work in the woods and was working on a bridge when, according to report, she slipped and fell into Skull creek Monday morning. The bereaved ones have the sympathy of their many friends of the Teakean community.


Clearwater Tribune – June 23, 1933


The first casualty on the Clearwater forest this year was reported to the Orofino office of the forest service Monday morning. The report stated that Wm. Carey, Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Carey of Teakean, was drowned in Skull creek and that his body was carried by that stream into the North Fork of the Clearwater, and although some effort had been made the body was not recovered. Both streams are running at high water stage.

The recent run-off of melted snow caused the bridge over Skull creek to wash out. This creek is about the size of Orofino Creak or a little larger and is 24 miles down river from the Bungalow ranger station. The bridge was located about one=quarter mile above the mouth and a new one was being put in. Two or three log stringers had been put across and Carey was crossing one of these logs. When he was about in the middle of it the log began to jiggle and the young man made a dash for the shore and safety but fell off into the creek. Other members of the crew stated that his body was seen just once, about 100 feet below the bridge, after he fell in. This happened at 9:40 in the morning.

Carey was about 25 years old and is the fourth victim to be claimed in a watery grave in this country during the last two weeks. Two fishermen were drowned in the Middle Fork above Kooskia a week ago Saturday when their raft was torn apart by swift water and a Civilian Conservation Corps worker was drowned the latter part of last week on the South Fork.


Lewiston Morning Tribune – August 13, 1933


The body found in the north fork of the Clearwater river several days ago by H. P. Barnes, Lewiston, was not that of Charles Peters, placer miner, but the body of William Carey, forest service employee, drowned June 12 at the mouth of Skull creek, according to a report from the coroner of Clearwater county.

When taken from the water, was badly decomposed and identification was almost out of the question, but identification was later made by the clothes worn.

The body was interred at Teakean cemetery Thursday afternoon.

Willie is buried in the family plot, in the Teakean Cemetery.

Arlene Cosner – (Photo Courtesy of Karen Hunter)

Arlene Burnice Cosner – December 27, 1940 – December 22, 1941

Arlene Burnice Cosner was born December 27, 1940, the first child born to Richard Havelock and Vera (Jenkins) Cosner.  On December 21, 1941, six days before her 1st birthday, tragedy struck her family, ending her short life.

Lewiston Morning Tribune – December 22, 1941

Child Victim Of Truck’s Plunge Into Clearwater

Cavendish Couple Escape, But year-old Daughter Dies In Submerged Cab In Accident Near Lenore

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Cosner of Cavendish escaped late yesterday when their heavy truck plunged into the Clearwater river 30 miles east of here, but their year-old daughter was trapped in the submerged cab, Sheriff W. W. Hays reported last night.

An attempt will be made today to recover the body of the child, whose name officers reported as Arlene.

Hays said the truck struck gravel on a curve, skidded out of control and over a  50-foot embankment.  It landed upside down at the river’s edge, with only the wheels protruding above the water.  Mrs. Cosner, whom Hays said was at the wheel when the accident occurred, three miles beyond Lenore, managed to extricate herself from the cab and get to shore.

Cosner Rescued.

John Duty, resident near the Lewis & Clark highway someway managed to get Cosner out, Hays said, but added that he didn’t know just how Duty reached the submerged man.  They were unable to locate the child.

According to Hays, Cosner, his 18-year-old wife and baby, had been to Spalding and were returning to their home at Cavendish via Orofino, between 3:30 and 4 p.m.

“As near as we can figure it out,” Hays said.  “Mrs. Cosner was driving when the truck, about a ton and a half, reached a slight curve.  The truck apparently struck the gravel on the side of the road, and when Mrs. Cosner tried to right the machine it whipped around, and went over a sort of bluff or embankment raising about 50 feet from the river.  The truck landed upside down, one end nearly on the shore, and its wheels standing out of the water.

“Someway, Mrs. Cosner got out of the cab, buried in the murky water.  The accident occurred right in front of the driveway of the John Duty residence and Duty must have seen or heard the truck’s crash, because he got there right away and helped Duty from the cab.

“They couldn’t locate the baby,” Hays said.  “When we arrived, we had no better luck, and because of the darkness and the roily water, we decided against trying to move the cab until daylight for fear the body might drift down the river.”

The sheriff said he and Clearwater county authorities would try to locate the body early this morning and also move the truck from its resting place.

Cosner, taken to the Orofino hospital following the accident, told him his wife was driving, Hays said, and that his wife had realized she was too near the edge of the road and in the gravel, but in trying to get the machine back onto the highway lost control.

A later report from Orofino last night said that Cosner had an injured back, but otherwise was not seriously hurt.  Mrs. Cosner, the same report said, suffered an arm injury, but otherwise was principally suffering from the shock of the experience.

Investigating officers besides Hays were his deputy, B. L. Campbell, State Policeman Pete Henson of Orofino, and Sheriff Leo Ratliff of Clearwater county.


Lewiston Tribune – December 23, 1941

Drowned Tot’s Body Missing

Sunday Accident Victims Recover From Tragedy; Child Swept Down River

Residents and travelers along the Clearwater river below a point three miles east of Lenore yesterday were asked by Clearwater and Nez Perce county authorities yesterday to watch for the body of one-year-old Arlene Cosner, drowned when the truck in which she and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Cosner of Cavendish, plunged into the river Sunday afternoon.

Mrs. Cosner escaped unaided from the submerged truck cab.  Her husband was rescued.  Searchers were unable to find the baby, at first believed in the cab of the vehicle.  Sheriff W. W. Hays of Nez Perce county last night said he believed the child had been washed from the cab when Cosner was pulled from a door.

The Cosners were on their way home to Cavendish via Orofino after a trip to Spalding when the accident occurred on a slight curve, the truck plunging over a 50-foot embankment and landing upside down in water which covered all but the wheels.

Cosner’s Life Saved

Sheriff Hays last night said he believed the baby’s body may have been washed downstream when John Duty, farmer and his son rushed to aid the imprisoned Cosner and “probably opened the door and got him out of the cab just in time to save his life.”

A wrecker from Orofino and law enforcement authorities of both counties yesterday moved the truck back onto the highway.  A party of three men took a rowboat six miles downriver, Hays said, as part of the search.

“Persons traveling or living along the river should call either the sheriff’s office here or at Orofino if they sight the child’s body,” Hays said.

Cosner is expected to leave the Orofino hospital today.  He suffered back and shoulder injuries.  Mrs. Cosner was said to have been stunned and slightly shaken up.


Lewiston Morning Tribune – December 24, 1941

Sheriff Asks Travelers Watch For Baby’s Body

Sheriff W. W. Hays of Nez Perce county last night again requested drivers and residents to continue to watch for the body of one-year-old Arlene Cosner, drowned Sunday when the truck in which she and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Cosner, Cavendish, plunged into the Clearwater river three miles east of Lenore.

Sheriff Hays said “the only chance to find the body will be if a person traveling or living along the river chances to sight the body.”  Mrs. Cosner was released form the Orofino hospital Monday and Mr. Cosner was expected to have been discharged yesterday, said Hays.

Arlene’s body was never found.  Richard and Vera would have eight more children, three boys and five girls.  They would divorce, in 1962, both would remarry.  Richard had two more children, a boy and a girl, by his second wife.  Richard remained in the Cavendish-Teakean area and passed away, in 1993.

Log Drive Accident – May 15, 1949 (Photo Lewiston Morning Tribune, May 16, 1949)

Leonard Wilson Chase – December 9, 1920 – May 15, 1949

Leonard Wilson Chase was the fourth child and third son born to Claude A. and Mattie (Campbell) Wilson, on December 9, 1920, in Breckinridge, Texas.  Claude and Mattie would divorce and Mattie would marry Orvil C. Chase, in 1927, at Orofino.  Leonard would take his step-father’s last name, it is unknown if he was officially adopted, or if he was in contact with his birth father.

On December 9, 1939, Leonard married Alice Lue Stalnaker, the daughter of Lewis Ellsworth and Myrtle (Widvey) Stalnaker. in Lewiston.  Leonard and Alice would have three children, daughter Nancy Leanna, died at 5 days old, in 1940; two boys would follow and live to adulthood.

On May 15th, 1949, tragedy would engulf the community and the family of Leonard Chase.

Lewiston Morning Tribune – May 16, 1949

3 Loggers Perish in Clearwater; Bridge At Peck Swept From Piers

Seven men fought the boiling rapids of the Clearwater river at Lenore at 3:15 yesterday afternoon and three of them are believed to have drowned while acting out the drama before 200 Sunday sightseers.  The swollen stream’s victims were Leonard Chase 28, Orofino; Walter Anderson, 40, Pierce; and Ray Fitting, 32, Stites.

They were swept away by 10 foot waves and a flood-stage current when the 36-foot Potlatch Forests, Inc., wannigan in which they had been working was swamped and turned at it struck a snag at the base of a pine tree 40 feet off the north shore.

Four men crawled across the bottom of the water-swept craft and into the branches of the same tree which upset the boat.  They were Ben Larson, 51, Lewiston; Tom Kiiskila, about 40, Orofino; Al Smith, about 30, Weippe; and B. Oakerman, about 55, Orofino.

They sat exhausted in the tree’s branches three feet above the roaring water and silently watched as their companions were carried under the Lenore bridge 300 yards west.  None of the victims was sighted after passing under the bridge.  Each fought a losing battle against the tug of the current.

Wannigan Recovered

The empty wannigan was found one-half hour later five miles west of Lenore floating upside down.  It was dragged to shore by the Hoisington brothers and William Steigers, Cherrylane, who were catching driftwood.

The tragedy was an ironic finale to the PFI spring log drive, L. K. (Boots) Edelblute, driver superintendent, said last night.

“Those rapids at Lenore were tame to what we went through on the North Fork,” Edelblute declared.

The seven experiences rivermen put off from the north shore in the wannigan approximately seven minutes before it was upset.  Using their pike poles they pushed toward a tree 40 feet off shore against which logs were lodged.  They pushed the logs loose, but the huge timbers bumped the wannigan and it was carried 30 yards west and hit the base of a second tree.

The wannigan twisted in the current after hitting the second tree and caught upon a submerged snag. The snag lifted the wannigan out of the water and upset it.  All seven men were pitched into the river.

Four Reach Tree

Chase, Anderson and Fitting were thrown off the south side of the wannigan and into the swiftest part of the current.  Larson, Kiiskila, Smith and Oakerman fell into quieter water and were able to grab the bottom of the boat.  Before the wannigan was torn away by the current they crawled across the bottom of the craft, reached their feet over their heads and dragged themselves into the tree’s lowest limbs.

Dale Houston, Lenore, and his wife were on the north shore and near the scene when the wannigan was upset.

Houston said he saw two men battling the current.  One was approximately 40 feet off shore; the second further out and grabbing at the slippery bottom of the wannigan.  Houston and his wife ran along the shore, shouting encouragement to the man nearest them.

” I found a two-by-four,” Houston said, “I thought perhaps I could hold it out to the man closest to me.  Then I saw that I couldn’t reach him.  By that time they were getting close to the bridge.  I went on top and tossed the plank in.

“I don’t think he saw it.  I could see his face and hear him screaming for help as he went by, it was a young face and I’ll never forget it.”

Houston said it was almost impossible to run along the shore and keep up with the helplessly drifting men.  His wife was unable to do so. The speed of the stream at this point is estimated at 15 miles an hour.

The victim who was clutching the wannigan lost his grip under the bridge where the current is the swiftest and the waves 12 feet high.  He disappeared.  The third man was never seen after the wannigan upset, Houston said.

Seven remaining crew members who had been working on shore got into a second wannigan there and went in pursuit.  They poled their way one-quarter mile through the rapids, but were forced to return to shore when the craft was in danger of being swamped.  They saw no sign of the missing men.

E. C. Rettig, PFI assistant general manager, said he drove from Lenore to Big Eddy along the north shore, yesterday afternoon but could see no trace of the men.  Rettig said this was the first drive mishap since a logger was drowned in 1929.

Brought To Safety

After it became apparent that further search for the three men was fruitless, the second wannigan was returned to Lenore by truck.  A line was attached to a tree and the craft allowed to drift into the pine on which Larson, Kiiskila, Smith and Oakerman were sitting.  The four men were helped into the wannigan and it was pulled back to the first tree and poled to shore.

All three victims are married men.  Mr. and Mrs. Chase have two children; Mr. and Mrs. Fitting four; and Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, four.  Chase is a veteran of World War II and saw service in Europe.  His parents, Mr. and Mrs.  Orval Chase, live at Pierce.  He also has a twin brother, Raymond, and another brother, Leslie, Orofino, and a sister, Mrs. John Rugg, Orofino.

Fitting visited at Stites Saturday evening with his wife and children before returning to the drive.  His mother, Mrs. Lee Hart Lives on the Salmon river.


Lewiston Morning Tribune – July 10, 1949

Body Of Second Drowned Logger Found At Myrtle

Myrtle, July 9.–The body of Leonard Chase, 28-year-old Orofino lumberjack, was recovered this afternoon from the Clearwater river, which took his life in a log accident May 15 near Lenore.  It was discovered by two boys, swimming in the Clearwater at Myrtle beach, 20 miles east of Lewiston, at 4 this afternoon.

The body was buried in about three feet of sand and brush at the bank of the river with only the heel of the left boot visible.  It was identified through charting of the teeth, appendectomy scar, a scar on the upper lip, and clothing, Coroner Andrew Vassar said.

Chase and two other men — Wallace Anderson, 40, Pierce, and Ray Fitting, 32, Stites — were drowned during the May log drive of Potlatch Forests, Inc.  The bateau in which they were riding capsized at Lenore, eight miles east of here, and the treacherous current of the Clearwater swept them to their death.  Fitting’s body is still missing.  Anderson’s body was found at Lewiston June 2.

Glimpse Bootheel

Wendell McKay of Myrtle and Billy J. Hart of Lewiston Orchards discovered the body.  They saw the boot protruding from the water.  Closer examination showed the pant leg and the boys then notified McKay’s father, Verner McKay of Myrtle.  He notified Vassar and Sheriff W. W. (Bill) Hays.

Verner McKay, Vassar and Hays dug for about a half an hour to free the body.  It was taken to Vassar-Rawls mortuary at Lewiston.

Native Of Texas

Chase was born Dec. 9, 1920, at Breckenridge, Texas, and came to Orofino with his parents in 1923.  He attended Orofino schools.  He was married Dec. 9, 1939.  During World War II Chase served 22 months in the army.

He had been employed by PFI since last December.

Survivors include his wife, Alice, Orofino; two sons, Richard Allen and Charles, both at home; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Orvil Chase, Pierce, two brothers, Raymond and Leslie, Orofino; and four sisters, Mrs. Laura Edmonson, Cathlamet, Wash., Mrs. Mary Lee Rugg and Mrs. Dorothy Newell, both of Orofino; and Mrs. Betty Anne Grittman, Pierce.

The body will be taken to Blake’s funeral home at Orofino tomorrow.  Arrangements are pending.

Leonard’s wife Alice did not remarry, after Leonard’s tragic death.  She left Orofino in the early 1950s and lived in Lewiston, for the remainder of her life.  Alice passed away in 1994.

The same day the wannigan capsized, taking three lives, the Clearwater

Remains of Peck Bridge (Spokesman-Review, May 19, 1949)

claimed a bridge too. Just before 10:00 A. M. the bridge at Peck collapsed.

 The Spokesman-Review – May 16, 1949


PECK, Idaho, May 16. (AP)–The Peck bridge, a 750-foot span across the Clearwater river, collapsed suddenly this morning at 9:50 and toppled into the swollen waters of the river.

Only a slight rumbling heralded the crash, Marion Coons, Peck, county road supervisor, said.  The center pier was swept into the coiling current, pulling out first one span and then the other.  The concrete piers at the river’s edge were sheared through as though with a chisel.

There was no official version tonight of the cause of the collapse but E. E. Flomer, Lewiston, Nez Perce county highway supervisor, said the center pier was probably undermined by high waters in May, 1948.  He said power of the current and the pounding of logs floating down the river in a Potlatch Forests, Inc., log drive this month probably weakened the structure further.

There were no injuries but Coons said a pickup truck was driven across the bridge shortly before it collapsed.  Now jointly owned by Nez Perce and Clearwater counties, the bridge was first erected in 1917 at a cost of about $25,000.

These are just a few of the tragedies, which have occurred on our local waterways.  While growing up, our favorite summer swimming hole was Peck Beach, which is very close to the old bridge, parts of it remain today.  I still prefer rivers, over oceans, or lakes.  There is nothing that compares to the beauty and sounds of our Clearwater, treacherous as she may be.

2 thoughts on “The River Took Them”

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading your information about Teakean ID. I have relatives that lived there back in the day. I was wondering if any of these names sounded familiar to you or if you have any info about them..
    Jarvis & Flora (Graham) Kime, children Claude, Cora, Charley (my grandfather), George.
    I am trying to locate someone who knows about the Pine Hill Cemetery and could give me a phone number. Jarvis Kime was a civil war veteran and I would like to see about getting a VA headstone for him. Findagrave only has a pic of a small cement unmarked slab that I’m not sure how they know it’s him.
    Thanks for your hard work done in keeping history alive.

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