Monday, November 12, 2007

Bayview Mailboat

L-R Shirley Williams, Argle Midland, John Thaxter

Several people have asked me to make the unedited version of my story that recently appeared in the Handle Extra, S/R, available. Space restrictions, always in play with a newspaper, cut around 300 words from the history. This is reprinted, courtesy of the Spokesman-Review.

The spirit of the Pony Express is not dead yet. In these modern times, with the internet, E-mail, bill pay on line, some old traditions endure. Bayview, the southern most town on Lake Pend Oreille features a mail boat, one of only three such methods of delivering the mail left in Idaho. We hitched a ride on this boat recently with the current mail man, John Thaxter.

Leaving Bayview at 9:00 am we set out for Lakeview, the once- thriving boom town, now a ghost of it’s former self, but still home to a few hardy souls. There are most always folks on the dock meeting the boat, but the first, always to stick their nose into the mail boat, are one or more of the dogs accompanying their owners. For the entire thirteen years John has run the mail route, dog treats are always presented. We met Rich McKinny, Rob Kilborn, Vicki Growe and of course, a big friendly dog. We met another resident, a part timer, Steve DeHart, who lives in Kodiak, Alaska most of the time. He tells of his son Craig’s birth in Lakeview. It seems that when his wife’s time had come, May 12, 1984, George Johnson, then the mail carrier, toted two midwives over to assist with the birth.

Onward up the lake we went, bypassing Cedar Creek, a regular stop because our mail man knew the only current resident wasn’t home. Pioneers, Jack Needham from Illinois homesteaded in the valley a small distance from the shore. At one time, Cedar Creek was known as Clara. Needham ran a 60-mile long trap line up into the Cabinet Mountains. in the valley he had claimed. More recently, Bayview resident and entrepreneurs, Dick and Shirley Hansen now own what was once the Needham place.

We next stopped at Whiskey Rock, where we were greeted by Argyle Mydland, a seven-year resident and Shirley Williams, having lived there year round for seventeen years. A dog, nosing up to us for the traditional treat was the first to greet us. The one story that stands out is the stranding of Ed Hall on Whiskey Rock. He was picked up finally by the steamer, Mary Moody, arguably the first official mail carrier. Old records indicate that Whiskey Rock got its name back in the 1890's. From 1931 to about 1947, Ed and Lillian Hall operated a resort and bar. Ed would boat over to Bayview in his 28-foot boat which was powered by an aircraft liberty engine, to pick up a dozen or so sailors for fun and frolic at Whiskey Rock. Jim MacDonald, mail boat operator between 1953 and 1965, tells us that Hall would wait until the sailors were broke, then cart them back to Bayview where he picked up another load. Attractions were slot machines and seemingly unlimited supplies of whiskey.
We stopped next at Granite Creek. There we were met by Earl Tacke, the only year round resident. Granite was originally settled by the Charles Schroeder family in 1893. After filling a homestead claim, they bought fifteen heads of cattle, delivered to Granite by barge. He operated a ranch there for many years. Old mine sites and glory holes dot the area. Granite is now home to several families.

On, to the final stop of the mail route, Kilroy. We met Ken Gonzer, Jack Garland and Velda McTighe and of course, another dog, sniffing for a treat. On the way back, we were treated to several stories about the lake and John Thaxter’s experiences. Asked what outstanding experiences he had in the thirteen year he has ran the lake, he told us,” I’ve had about six boat sinking rescues, usually alerted to by Bonner County Rescue, and four medical evacuations.”
Some of the history of mail service on the lake date back to the 1860's. Individuals that were heading up lake from Pend Oreille City,(Buttonhook Bay) would carry mail and goods on the way to their destinations. From 1866 to about 1872, the steamer,”Mary Moody was the official mail carrier, serving the water portion of the mail route from Ft. Walla Walla to Helena, and Ft. Benton, Montana.

From 1938-39, Jack McCollough ran mail between Bayview and the present route with the early inclusion of Pine Cone, no longer in existence, and Cape Horn. Roy Ellis had the route from 1939-42, and following the interruption for WW11, resumed the route in 1946 through 1950.
Danny Knolls carried the mail from 1942-1946, but drown in a storm, of which Lake Pend Oreille is famous. Max Krackenberg cruised the mail from 1950 to 1953 after which Jim MacDonald, owner of MacDonald’s Hudson Bay Resort took over. Jim ran the route from shortly after his parents, bought the resort. MacDonald ran the mail until 1965. It was then called the Star Marine Route. He delivered mail from Bayview to the Navy barge, anchored in Scenic Bay, then Lakeview, Cedar Creek, Cunningham’s Castle, (no longer exists) Whiskey Rock, Granite Creek, Kilroy and Pine Cove, Cape Horn, before the road was built and back to Bayview.

1965-78 was handled by Hugh Davis, a native of Arkansas. In 1965, he and his wife moved to Bayview, after running boats in Alaska. During the thirteen years he carried the mail he missed only two days. George and Darlene Johnston carried the mail from 1978-1991. Darlene would carry the mail during Summer and George during the Winter. Tragedy struck when Darlene was running one day in 1982. Just after gassing up at Boileau’s, and carrying a young man as passenger, the boat caught fire and sank. The passenger, 16 year old Joe Dory didn’t swim, nor did Darlene. Dory made it to shore. Darlene drown, after throwing the mail sacks overboard. Boyd Westphal ran the route 1991-93. John Thaxter, the present mail carrier and our host, runs the lake six days a week, through rain, snow, fog , well, everything but famine and pestilence.

Source: Historical data obtained, courtesy of Linda Hackbarth, Bayview Historian.
Without Linda, this story would have been the worse for lack of info ...


Phil said...

You get to have all the fun!

C. Rush said...

Took the mail boat this summer with John - great storyteller. Best kept secret of the area!