Friday, August 30, 2013

A Brief Soujourn in Idaho (part 2): Eats, an Old Boomtown and More Cemeteries


Hiking was not the only thing we managed to do while at the cabin.  We are always looking to take in some history and good food.  When traveling with H, good food is a must, and some of the small towns of the Inland Northwest offer up some surprisingly tasty eats.  Of course, it could have been because we been living in Asia for the past year and craved some good old American staples, particularly steak, or that hiking generated healthy appetites.  One thing is for certain, the serving size in an order of restaurant food in the US dwarf those of Asia. Those of northern Idaho and western Montana are particularly generous.

While we were hiking in the Bitterroots Mountains, we stayed in St. Regis, Montana.  St. Regis is not much more than a small village, offering a few overpriced antique stores, small motels, and a couple of truck stop-like diners.   We had no complaints about the food, however.  The steaks were large, juicy, tasty, and cheap.  The service was great as well.

Head north from Wallace, Idaho up a winding and lonely mountain road, and you drop down into a valley once known about 120 years ago for its gold and silver mining.  The mining industry has basically disappeared, but the tiny village of Murray still remains.  Murray, once a booming mining town, is now known only for its history and the Spragpole Inn and Museum.  The museum is probably more widely known, but the bar/restaurant more than holds its own.  The owners are friendly, the place is popular with the locals, the beer is cheap, and the food fabulous.  T's steak and H's prime rib pictured above probably were the best we have had in a very long time.

Back in the Lake Pend Oreille area, in the small town of Clark Fork (yes, named after William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition), is one of our favorite local restaurants, the Squeeze Inn.  It may not look like much, but the two sisters who run the place, locals who grew up in Clark Fork (population about 500), put a lot of heart into the business and can cook up some great dishes.



The background includes the beautiful and rugged mountains of the Scotchman Wildnerness.  Learn more about them at the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks here and our own hike up to the top of Scotchman Peak here.


To our surprise, the younger sister came out and sang Italian opera...in Clark Fork, ID!  Neither of us are very familiar with opera, but she sang with a passion and sure sounded great.  She later told us had recently graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and has big aspirations.

Back to Murray. Murray, Idaho, mentioned in a previous entry for its very interesting cemetery, was once a boomtown because of the nearby discovery of gold in the 1880s.  For a brief period, it followed the path of many such towns, such as Tombstone, Arizona and Virginia City, Nevada, which, as long as the riches flowed from the mines, thrived and grew exponentially.  Once the profits started to dissipate, however, the towns rapidly shrank to a shadow of their former selves or disappeared altogether. Learn more about Murray here and here.

Murray looked like this in the 1890s.
Today, there are just a handful of buildings left on one street.


Post office.

Bedroom Gold Mine Bar, one of two such places in town.

This place was for sale if you are interested...

And then there is the Spragpole Inn.  Not only does it have some fine food and a large bar, it has a quaint museum that depicts the history of Murray and the surrounding area.
The Spragpole around 1890.
The museum pays homage to the few things that gave Murray and the surrounding area its brief fame, fortune, and notoriety, chief among them was mining and the minerals the miners sought.




Mining tools.
And what came with the prospectors, including rowdy men seeking fame and fortune and prostitutes to service them.


Maggie Hall, aka Mollie B'Damn, a prostitute of Murray during the boomtown days.  We wrote previously about her here during our walk thru of the old Murray cemetery.  The people of Murray continue to celebrate the good deeds of Ms. Hall during the annual Molly B'Damn Gold Rush Days (and we have the t-shirt!).

The imagined room of Ms. Hall.
The museum also contains some revealing photos of the town during its boom days as well as of the Great Fires of 1910.

Murray in the late 1880s.

And then again in about 1890.
The town of Wallace after the Great Fire of 1910.
Fascinating photograph of men disembarking from a train in smoke-shrouded Wallace, ID during the Great Fire of August 1910.  They have been recruited to fight the fire by the embryonic US Forest Service.  Most of them are immigrants speaking little to no English and few have any idea what they have signed on to.  More than a handful will not survive the next few days or will be maimed for life by a fire storm more powerful than they could possibly imagine.
When traveling with us, no road trip is complete without a brief swing through a couple of old cemeteries to take in the history and culture of the local community.  This past summer was no exception as we managed to walk through a couple of cemeteries, which, while not particularly old, nevertheless provided some questions to ponder.  


Wallace, ID cemetery.  Tribute to some of the firefighters who died battling the blazes outside the town.
I guess the citizens of Wallace figured they had to keep the Irish Catholics separate.  It took a long time for Americans to accept the Catholics that flowed into the country in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

We were not absolutely certain that this "JB" Beauchamp is the same as the Joseph Beauchamp who was killed during the Great Fire of August, 1910.  Joseph Beauchamp owned a homestead in the local forest and was killed along with several firefighters when they tried to escape the conflagration by hiding in a root cellar. We visited the grave sites of the firefighters who died on the Beauchamp place, all of them volunteers,  in an earlier blog (here).
Just outside of Hope, ID, there is another cemetery that some of the locals call the "Chinese Cemetery," a nickname that certainly peaked our interest.  This was the only Chinese tombstone we found, situated on the edges of the grounds, but it was still fascinating all the same.  Makes one wonder about the life of "May B. Den" ("Maiden?"). She died awfully young.   How did she get to Hope?  What did she do?  Was she a prostitute as many young Chinese women were in American West of the 19th century?  Did her family work on the railroad as did many of the Chinese during that time?  Did she have children?  What happened to them?

There were quite a few grave sites of children who died very young.
The 50th NY Engineers served during the Civil War.  How did this man make it all the way to northern Idaho?

What a great view for those buried here.

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