A History of the Salmon National Forest



A sociological phenomenon of unusual interest is the resident population of "hermits" in the Salmon National Forest. There is no way to accurately catalog the hermits that have lived on the Salmon Forest but some estimates suggest that there have been times when the population of socially remote people in the Salmon National Forest was as high as 150. With a very few exceptions these have been and are all single males who for various reasons have chosen to live in isolation of varying degree. A few examples are given of this type of forest resident.

Tom Tobin had placer claims in Bear Valley up Hayden Creek. He was there before 1894, and for many years afterward. His horse herd grew to 50 or more. It is believed he came to the area as an Indian scout.

Snowshoe Johnson was a miner. He built an arrastra mill high on Wilson Creek. He also had a cabin on the Middle Fork, above Wilson Creek.

Frank Love lived in a cave on the east side of the Middle Fork below the mouth of Camas Creek. He lived there at least two years. Later he lived in a cabin on the Middle Fork across from Sheep Creek. Several different people have, at one time or another, occupied caves along the Middle Fork.

One Middle Fork "hermit" was Earl K. Parrott, a native of Iowa who came to the Middle Fork from Florida around 1900 with two horses, a cow, and prospecting equipment. He built a cabin at the mouth of Nugget Creek, put in a garden, and devoted his time to prospecting. He made a boat, and fashioned his own clothes, usually from deer hide. His living expenses were covered by about $35.00 per year, the money coming from his panning gold. His garden and wild game provided his food. His home was on a ledge, and he used ladders and ropes to get down to the Middle Fork. His place was always very clean and neat. Around 1941 he became ill and a packer brought him out. At that time he reported he had not seen a human being for two years. He lived briefly at the Emmet Reese ranch on Pine Creek and later was cared for in Salmon until his death in 1945.

Tom Christenson (Hacksaw Tom) and Gus Peebles were well known to Salmon residents because of their location. Hacksaw Tom lived in a cabin above Shoup, across the Salmon River from the road, reached by a cage on a cable across the river. Gus Peebles lived at the mouth of the Middle Fork, across the river from the road.

"Cougar Dave" and "Uncle Dave" were nicknames for Dave Lewis on the Middle Fork. His home was on Rush Creek, tributary of Big Creek, on the Idaho (now Payette) Forest, but he was well known in the Salmon Forest also. He had been a scout for Captain Bernard during the Sheepeater War in 1879, and was famous as a cougar hunter.

A common story in the late 1930's and early 1940's was that of families who had gone into the back country, perhaps as a way of surviving the depression. Some of the parents taught their children at home, others were situated where their children could attend a one-room rural school. When the children reached high school age they often boarded with other families in the town of Salmon. In 1947, thirteen-year-old Roy Safford visited Salmon, 55 miles from his two-acre home on Beaver Creek, tributary of Panther Creek, where he lived with his parents and two brothers and a sister. He had not been to town for eight years, and was so young at that time he could not remember it. Of his new experiences, the electric clippers in the barber shop seemed the most amazing to him.1

1The Recorder-Herald, August 21, 1947, p. 1.

One category of "hermit" in the Salmon National Forest was composed of disillusioned war veterans, and examples of this type could probably be found after every war, beginning with the war between the states. An outstanding example of this type was Major Downey who lived for a time around 1954 and 1955 on the East Fork of Owl Creek. He was a veteran of World War II and had experienced a long imprisonment on Corregidor.

The phenomenon of the socially remote hermit or isolated family is becoming much less common, and very few are on the Salmon Forest at present, possibly because of cultural changes in America and because with vastly increased recreational use of the Salmon Forest, there are few really remote areas, and present Forest policy discourages the use of unpatented mining claims or "squatters rights" for living purposes.


Brief notice is made here of some of the graves which are scattered throughout the Salmon National Forest. Most of them pre-date the time when improved transportation made it practical to transport the dead to a common burying place.

The Indianola Ranger Station has several graves in the horse pasture. Retired Ranger Neale Poynor reports that two were unmarked. The others are Charlie Spades, James McConn, Rodney Parks and William M. Vergis.

There are fenced graves by the Salmon River near Spring Creek. One is Henry Clay Merritt, who drowned in the Salmon River in 1884. Another is Joe Lockhorn.1

1Billy Taylor.

Johnny Burr is buried by the Salmon River near the mouth of Cove Creek. He drowned in the Salmon River, probably before 1900.1

In the summer of 1907, the local newspaper reported the death of a sheepherder and his dog, struck by lightning on the ridge between Forney and Yellowjacket, under Red Rock Peak. The herder, named M. Taggart, was employed by the Wood Livestock Company, but no one knew his first name or the whereabouts of his family. Maurice Christensen, Ranger, found him. He was buried there and a marker was placed there by the Forest Service. A nearby gulch is named Sheepherder Gulch.2

2The Lemhi Herald, August 8, 1907, p. 3.

Lester Gutzman.

There are graves at the Mormon Ranch on the Middle Fork. One is Mrs. Lee Wyatt (Mamie). Another is Ben Beagle.3

3Wayne O'Connor.

Scotty Stewart is buried up Pine Creek, near his mine, the Big Lead.4

4Herb St. Clair.

On Beaver Creek is the grave of James Vier, an old miner.3

3Wayne O'Connor.

Near Little Spring Creek, across the Salmon River from the road, is a cemetery on a hill by a cabin. Bill Hall is buried there, as are his parents. Neale and Laura Poynor remember attending the funeral of Bill Hall. Everyone attending the funeral crossed the river by the cage and cable.5

5Neale and Laura Poynor.

Moyer, for whom Moyer Creek is named, was killed along the Thunder Mountain trail, and is buried on a ridge near Moyer Creek.1

1Lester Gutzman.

Near Middle Fork Peak is the grave of a Mr. Armstrong, who died of mountain fever during the Thunder Mountain boom.2

2Wayne O'Connor.

Graves at the mouth of Musgrove Creek include Charles O. Scott, a hunter shot by a hunting companion, and Neal Stewart, a miner who fell to his death.3

3Mrs. Otis (Virginia) Slavin. Wayne O'Connor.

In the Moose Creek area there is a grave near the old racetrack.

Up the Lemhi Valley there is a grave at the mouth of Grave Gulch near Mill Creek near Lemhi. In 1938, Mrs. Yearian gave the following information about it to Clinton Quesnel who was Lemhi District Ranger. While the Lemhi Indians were on the Lemhi Reservation, some Cree Indians came from Canada to visit them. There was a single buck, and a family of a man, wife and child. Yearians hired them to get out fencing material. They camped near Mill Creek (near the 1938 site of Hill's mill), to get out timber. While there the child died and was buried there. This was about 1902. Quesnel rebuilt the crib fence around the grave in 1938.4

4Clinton C. Quesnel, letter to Forest Supervisor, "Graves Record," October 21, 1938.

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Last Updated: 12-Sep-2011
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