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Article by Dale Fisk

Dale is Connected with the Adams County History and Museum in Idaho.

You can see the two Articles below plus other interesting articles he has written

I apologize for missing a week sometimes in writing the History Corner.
I have the roof off of our
house, and have had to to burn the midnight oil on my remodeling job
between rain storms.

This time, I thought I would throw together a few things about one of
the families that helped make
this area what it is today. Part of what peaked my interest is a grave
of a fairly young woman, located
under a pine tree just off the Council Cuprum road.

Forty-two year old Frederick C. Wilkie, his wife Sarah, and their four
sons, (Fred, Arthur, Ralph
and Richard) settled on Hornet Creek at "Dale" (now called "Upper
Dale") in 1882. They lived
where Mill Creek meets Hornet Creek, just south of the old Hornet Guard
station.

In the spring following their arrival here, Sarah gave birth to a fifth
son, Oscar Craig Wilkie. (He was
known by his middle name, Craig.) Almost exactly a year later, in March
of 1884, Sarah died. Her
grave is about a quarter of a mile east the Wilkie homestead, about 100
yards above the road. She
was only 33 years old.

Just over a year and a half after Sarah died, in 1885, Frederick
married Fannie Fletcher. A girl and
two more boys were born during their ten and a half year marriage.
Frederick and Fannie were
divorced in the spring of 1896. During the time that Fannie was married
to Frederick, she taught
school at Upper Dale and at several locations near Salubria and
Midvale.

Frederick Wilkie had been a Major in the Union army during the Civil
war, and was known locally as
"Major Wilkie". He was involved in local politics, serving as justice
of the peace and county
commissioner. He and his sons are probably best remembered for
establishing one of the first
sawmills in the area.

The first sawmill that the Wilkies used was one Frederick bought in
1885 from A.F. Hitt, the man
after whom Hitt Mountain near Cambridge is named. Hitt had run an
active lumber business with this
mill on Hitt Creek some miles west of Cambridge, until one day in 1884,
while working at the mill, he
slipped and fell into the sharp teeth of the saw. One of his feet was
caught in the saw in such a way
that the heel was cut off. It was an extremely painful, debilitating
injury that never did heal, forcing him
to sell the mill the next summer.

This sawmill was a "sash" type mill that had a saw blade that
reciprocated up and down. It was
outdated even at that time. When Hitt operated the mill, the Indians in
the in the area didn't
understand how it moved by itself and were extremely afraid of it. They
would come no where near
it. Former residents of Norway, however, are said to have had a
different reaction to the sash mill.
The mill made a peculiar sound that resembled the rhythm of a Norwegian
folk song, and any time a
Norwegian came within hearing distance of a sash mill, it is said they
had the irresistible urge to do a
folk dance.

By all indications, the sash mill was a water powered mill under the
ownerships of both Hitt and the
Wilkies. It is thought that when Wilkies operated the mill, it sat
beside the creek in the depression just
north of the Council - Cuprum road, just before the road turns up Mill
Creek. It is probable that the
creek here was named "Mill Creek" because of the presence of this early
mill. Also, the narrow
canyon through which Mill Creek flows just before reaching Hornet Creek
is called Wilkie Canyon.

There were very few sawmills in the Council Valley vicinity during the
early years of settlement, and
demand for lumber constantly increased as more and more people came to
the area. By 1891, the
Wilkie sawmill was not able to keep up with the demand for lumber. In
1894, they acquired new mill
equipment. The new set up probably had two circular saws which were
aligned so that one cut the
upper part of the log, and the other cut the lower part.

The Wilkies operated mills in various locations in the head of Hornet
Creek and Crooked River. By
1899, they had mills both on Hornet Creek and the Middle Fork of the
Weiser River.

Fred Wilkie Jr. had more scholarly interests than his sawmilling
brothers. He worked for several
newspapers, including the Weiser City Leader, the Idaho Citizen (at
Salubria) and the Idaho
Statesman. He later became president of the Northwestern Engineering
Co. After a stint at a paper in
Utah, he came back to Hornet Creek in 1900. His house was just across
the creek from the Upper
Dale school. This house later belonged to W.R. Shaw (Deb Shaw's
father).

Although he didn't seem to take to the vocation of sawing boards, he
didn't stray far from the family
business after he moved back to the area. He made his living here as an
architect and carpenter.
When the old I.O.O.F. hall was built in Council in 1905, Fred Wilkie
drafted the plans for the
building.

More on the Wilkies next week.



History Corner
by Dale Fisk


Of the Wilkie boys, Art and Rich were apparently the most ambitious.
The two seemed almost
driven to achieve. Whether it started out as the grand plan it would
become, may never be known,
but things began to fall into place in 1908. About this time, Art
Wilkie built a planing mill at the
railroad about a half mile east of the main Weiser River, about six and
a half miles north of Council.
Here, the road to the West Fork of the Weiser branched off of the crude
wagon trail that
criss-crossed the river on up to Starkey where the trail ended. The
mill was probably built on the flat
between the railroad tracks and the lone hill at the present site of
Fruitvale.

By the fall of that year (1908), the operation was in full swing and
things were looking good. The
P+IN railroad even built a siding at the mill, probably at the request
of the Wilkies. But it wasn't long
until their good fortune took a turn for the worse. Sparks from the
steam engine that powered the
planer mill started a fire which destroyed the mill, the lumber yard,
and even the engine itself.
Undaunted by the major setback, the Wilkies immediately built another,
even bigger mill on the same
spot.

It must have been late 1908 or early1909, when the Wilkies, under the
name " Wilkie Traction and
Transportation Company", built a road over the "Ridge" to the present
site of Fruitvale. The plan was
to process the lumber from their sawmills here at their planer, and
load it on train cars. The tracks
were closer to their operations at this point than at Council.

The Wilkies were some of the first people to use steam powered
tractors, then called "traction
engines", in this part of the country. They almost certainly used them
to build this route which became
known as "the traction road". Stationary steam engines had been in
common use for some time in
applications such as the Seven Devils mines. But these mobile engines
were something new, at least
in this area. One of the steam engines in Council's town square is
thought to have belonged to the
Wilkies.

Maps of the area dated 1912, show the Wilkie Traction Road going east
across the hills from the
Peck place near Dale. (This is the old Armacost place - the OK ranch -
a mile or so toward town
from the old Hornet Guard station.) Traces of it can still be seen
here. The road went across to
North Hornet Creek, then continued east, probably up what is now known
as "Traction Gulch", to
the present end of the Ridge Road. From the head of this gulch, it most
probably followed the route
of the present Ridge Road except for a half mile or so just before it
crosses the West Fork of the
Weiser. Here, the original road followed the creek bottom. Sometime
around the 1940s, it was
changed to the side hill. Before this, the original stretch of road
here was sometimes a bottomless
mud bog in the spring.

Sometime between 1909 and 1912, homesteaders on the Ridge built a
shorter road connecting the
Hornet Creek road to the Wilkie traction road. It started just up from
the Lower Dale school and
went north west up what was known as "Warner Gulch", and connected with
the traction road where
the road now tees at the cattle guard. This Warner Gulch road, along
with the traction road that went
on to the present site of Fruitvale, became the county road in 1912,
and is now called Ridge Road.

At the time the Wilkie Traction road was built, about 1908, there were
five homesteaders living on
Pleasant Ridge. By 1912, the Ridge had become a booming homestead area
with about 26 families
living on scattered dry land farms across the rocky hills between
Hornet Creek and Fruitvale. Using
two traction engines, the Wilkies pulled three or four wagons at a time
with each engine, hauling
about 10,000 to 12,000 board-feet of lumber each trip. By 1912, the
Wilkies would ship about 7
million board feet of lumber from Fruitvale by rail.

In 1909, a post office was granted to a spot near the Wilkie planer
mill. The general area had
heretofore been referred to as "West Fork". The new post office was
officially given the name
"Lincoln". At the same time, Art Wilkie, along with some other men,
formed the Lincoln Lumber
Company, with Art Wilkie as president. A young man named Andy Carroll
became the first
Postmaster. Carroll, a friend and sawmill employee of the Wilkies, was
also Secretary and Treasurer
of the Lincoln Lumber Company. The post office may have been in the
Lincoln Lumber Company
store which records show was managed by Carroll in April of 1910.
Andy's father, Joseph Carroll,
who had run stores in Midvale and Council and had run the hotel at Lick
Creek, may have been
involved with the store at this time. Another source says that the
store belonged to Rich Wilkie.
Almost as soon as the name Lincoln was granted by the Postal
Department, the name was changed
to "Fruitvale".

After moving to Fruitvale, Rich Wilkie sold fire insurance, was a
notary public, and helped publish a
newspaper called the "Fruitvale Echo". Art Wilkie, owned and operated
the Fruitvale hotel for a
time. (Joslin's house now.) Aside from the family operations in this
area, he was also was involved in
logging operations at Tamarack for a time.

By 1910, things were going so well that the Wilkie brothers found the
traction road inadequate to
handle the demands that lumber and freight traffic placed upon it. They
made plans to build a railroad
line between Fruitvale and Crooked River and organized a stock company
to sell shares in the
venture. The planned route was to parallel that of their traction road.
For one reason , the rail line
was never built.

More on Fruitvale and the Wilkies next week.



HISTORY CORNER
by Dale Fisk


At some point, the Wilkie brothers began to form a plan that would make
the place where their new
road met the railroad nothing less than the hub of the local universe.
Aside from serving their own
lumber shipping needs, they realized that, with their new route,
Lincoln would be the nearest railroad
point to upper Hornet Creek and all of the Seven Devils mining area.
And it was also very near the
hot springs at Starkey, which, since being reached by the railroad, was
becoming a very popular
tourist destination.

As county after county was being created across the West, the
competition between towns for the
prize of becoming the county seat was very heated. Sometimes it even
resulted in violence. When
Adams County was carved out of Washington County in 1911, it was a
custom made opportunity
for Art and Rich. The Idaho legislature appointed Council as the
temporary county seat, but a
permanent county seat would be determined on the next election, which
would be in November of
1912. If Fruitvale could become the county seat, it would turn the
Wilkie real estate holdings into
gold.

The Fruitvale Echo newspaper began publication in April of 1912. The
publisher was listed as the
"Fruitvale Commercial Club", but public perception seems to have been
that it was published by Rich
Wilkie. And in reality, the paper may have been little more than a
vehicle for his personal ambitions.

The new Fruitvale newspaper was almost immediately a thorn in the side
of its rival, the Council
Leader. For months after the Echo first appeared in print, the Leader
editor, James A. Stinson,
patiently ignored the soap box editorials printed in the Echo as one
would the tirades of a younger
sibling. His only comment was the veiled reference when the Echo first
began publication, "It was
only an 'Echo' drifted down from the hills." Finally in September,
Stinson reached his breaking point
and cut loose with a scathing front page attack, responding to a
comment the Echo had made on an
article in the Leader. In one of the three separate shots at the Echo,
Stinson said, "... the poor thing
does the baby act by crying that we abused it. If you can't stand it
why don't you get a man in your
place?"

During the short life span of the Echo, Rich Wilkie waged an incessant,
unrelenting, almost religious
crusade to make Fruitvale the county seat instead of Council. Among
other virtues, he extoled the
central location of Fruitvale in relation to other communities in the
county. Wilkie spent a great deal of
time and energy traveling all over the new county, especially in the
Seven Devils, gathering 506
signatures on a petition to put Fruitvale on the upcoming ballot as an
official candidate for county
seat. When the deadline for filing the petitions had passed, Wilkie
went to court to bar New
Meadows and Council from appearing on the ballot. Represented by well
known attorney Frank
Harris of Weiser, Wilkie claimed that Council and New Meadows didn't
gather the number of
signatures required by law. Wilkie also contested the names of 73 New
Meadows petition
signatures. He must have gone through them with a fine toothed comb.

The controversy dragged on for months, but by a few days before the
election, Judge E.L. Bryan
ruled that the law didn't outline requirements for inclusion on a
ballot in such a case, and ruled that the
towns could indeed appear on the ballot.

At this time, some Meadows Valley people were still steaming from the
fact that the railroad had
been built to New Meadows instead of to the established town of
Meadows. They felt that land
investors at New Meadows had pulled strings in order to make themselves
wealthy. Some thought
that Wilkie's motives in his lawsuit were suspiciously similar, as he
and his family had much to gain
from the success of Fruitvale.

When election day rolled around, the weather was miserable. A blinding
storm with a mixture of rain
and snow plagued the area all day. The weather proved to be an ill omen
for the dreams of the
Wilkie family. Council won the county seat election by a land slide,
with a total of 919 votes. To add
insult to injury, voters from the Fruitvale precinct gave 76 votes to
Council, a number almost equal to
the total number of 87 votes that Fruitvale received from all over the
county! The Seven Devils towns
proved to be the most supportive of Fruitvale, but only by a narrow
margin.

When it became clear that Fruitvale was not going to become what the
Wilkie family had hoped, they
seemed to lose interest, and left for greener pastures. Not long after
the election, Ralph moved to
Portland. The following spring, Art and Craig moved their families to
Ashton, Idaho. In the election
of 1924, Art, who was still living in Ashton, ran as a candidate for
the Idaho Supreme Court judge.
Evidently he lost in the primary election.

Rich Wilkie soon followed his brothers to south eastern Idaho, settling
in Idaho Falls. He eventually
became a lawyer there. He died there of a heart attack, in 1925, at the
age of 49.

A few years ago, some relatives of the Wilkies were in Council looking
for local information on the
family. This was before I collected all of this, so if anyone knows how
to reach them, please let me
know.



History Corner

by Dale Fisk


 

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