Our Life on Squaw Butte
by Vera Meree Fowler Schneider
Born 16 May 1905 – Died 30 Jan 2000
Retyped by Clella Stiles January 2006
Note: The Fowler family lived on the Butte for a little over 14 years.
Our parents both lived in Pawnee Co., Nebraska, near a small town, Armour. Our mother taught school. Our father was farming, “batching” with a cousin, Frank McKinley. Bonnie May Alcorn and Fred Lee Fowler were married 29 Jun 1904. They lived in the “old Finney” place, where I was born 16 May 1905 and my sister, Avis Ethel, was born 18 Feb 1907. Mother’s parents lived on a farm and she had one brother, Chester Ray. Grandma Kate did quite a bit of mid-wife work. Grandpa, Cornelius (Neal) Alcorn farmed. He carried mail for several years. He had a buggy equipped for it. He was such a patient, quiet, good humored fellow.
Our father’s parents had been farmers, but when Grandpa’s health began to fail (Parson McIntyer) they moved to Armour, where he ran a grain elevator and a livery stable. Grandma “Mary” Fowler’s parents had gone on west and settled on a place at the foot of “big Squaw Butte”, near Emmett, ID. After her father’s wife, Mary, died he moved farther down the Butte, to his son’s place (the old Cupp place).
Great grandfather was Benjiman McDowell. The oldest son was Henry McDowell – Grandma Fowler’s brother. Then “Uncle Ben” rented his farm at the foot of the Butte and moved to Caldwell where he died 31 Mar 1908. Grandma Fowler became heir of ¼ interest in the Butte ranch. The family elected my father to go by train to look at the place and decide if they should buy the other 3 interests or sell the ¼ interest. The doctor had told our father he should move farther west, away from the dust that occurred in Nebraska. He went during the spring and was pleased with the ranch. He bought another 160 acres adjoining the homestead he had filed on. He learned there was another homestead available nearby. Grandpa Fowler filed on that one when he arrived here. Father sent a card back with the ranch he had come to see marked on it. Arrangements were made. Grandpa sold his livery stable and grain elevator. Father got his crops harvested and sold. They rented a freight car that held all the furniture of both families, some machinery, two teams of horses and Grandpa’s dog. Our buggy tongue went through the side of the dish cupboard – that hole was there until we stopped using it. (I still have the ironing board).
In late November Dad came with the freight car. He rode in the caboose, but went to feed and water the stock and check every time the train stopped for awhile. I don’t know why but it took him more than a week to get to Emmett.
Dad’s 15 year old brother, Raymond, came with Mother and we girls, Avis, one and a half and I, three and a half years old. Every time the train stopped he had to get off and look around. It worried mother because she never knew if he were aboard until he came back to where we sat. I have heard her tell that many times. Raymond’s two brothers, Jim, 4 and Max, 8 and sister, Marvel, came with their folks a week ahead. Two older girls stayed in Nebraska – Blanche to finish school and Ora was teaching.
We arrived in Emmett 16 Nov 1908 and stayed with the Henry McDowell family – they lived just across the road and down a short slope from the one room house where we would live – just inside the gate of the place Dad had bought. We were at the McDowell’s a week before Dad came. That one room house was on a slope, so the east side was a few feet off the ground. The coal for the cook stove was stored underneath. The soil there was doeby – it clung to overshoes, wheels etc.
Later we girls made play dishes with it – get it just damp enough to shape into cups and saucers etc and let it dry in the sun until it was hard as a rock. Some of the soil on the Butte is rich and some black and mellow. I can remember getting coal from under the house, in a little bucket and bring it in several times a day. To keep busy, I expect.
The folks bed was up a ways with the sewing machine and a rocking chair underneath. Avis and I had a small bed at the foot of theirs – down low. The stove and wood box and coal skuttle (bucket) was on the south wall. I don’t remember the rest.
Dad must have used the “Bank of Emmett” because we received a small plate, with a calendar attached, at Christmas time. We still have the plate. It was for 1909.
When Uncle Ben and my great grandfather lived on the place at the foot of the Butte, the barn was across the road some distance from the house. Before the McDowell’s owned it there had been a grape arbor from the house to the road. They said they could walk to the barn without the Indians seeing them. The road ran around the corner of their yard. A few Indians were still around but I don’t think people minded one bit. Later Dad was acquainted with Indian Jake Wood. He had a ranch behind the Butte and raised horses. He came to town now and then and Dad saw sometimes and liked him a lot. I remember seeing him at least once. He was sort of stocky built. He died 14 Feb 1918 and the Walter Knox family put up a head stone for him – shaped like the trunk of a tree. He was 65 years old.
When we came to Idaho Mother’s folks were sure we kids would be scalped, kidnapped or attacked by bears. The first bear I saw was at the Boise zoo.
Back to the grape arbor. Some of it was still there. It was fun walking through it. There was no lawn but lots of fruit and nut trees - three great big chestnut trees. When those burrs fell and burst open and left the stickery shell behind, they were hard on kids bare feet. We really did enjoy the roasted chestnuts, black walnuts and almonds.
The Henry McDowell family only lived on the Cupp Ranch about 3 years. They had five children, the youngest was about one month younger than I. He started to school on the Butte. The Cupp family raised sheep and some of the Butte men herded for them. They had a big dining room to serve all the men working for them. They also had a big kitchen and pantry.
During the winter of 1908-1909 Dad went to Dry Buck, north of Sweet, with a four hose team to bring lumber for a new house, making quite a few trips. He would have liked to build it near the road – there was a nice field and a creek near – but it must be built on the homestead to “prove-up”, so it was built about a mile from the road – 26 feet square.
In early spring a carpenter started building. I can not think of his name but he sang all the time he worked. A lot of time it was “Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown.” The house had 5 rooms and a porch all along the south side. It was remodeled later. The scrap lumber was used to build a tiny play house about 6 or 7 feet square. It had a shelf along one side and two chairs (sort of). We moved to the new house in May 1909. We did the papering, linoleum in the kitchen and dining room, carpet in the parlor. A small barn was built – just up and down boards and a garden fenced in.
Dad and Mom used Y shaped peach limbs to decide where to dig a well. I remember seeing them walking back and forth holding those limbs. A cellar was dug, with a storage house built above it, with 4 steps from the ground. The cellar had slanting doors that lifted in two sections, shelves on two sides for fruit etc. We canned about 300 qt each year. Later we used quite a few half gallon jars. Things kept quite cool when set on the dirt floor but in the summer time the butter and cream was kept in 10 lb lard buckets and hung down the well. The water was cold! Two kids would go get them just before a meal and take them back right afterward. A plank was lifted and set aside, then pull up the bucket on a rope. There may have been a little dust trickle down – but we seemed to thrive on it.
Genevieve May was born 7 Jun 1909. Doctor Clark and a lady were there. My Aunt Blanche, Dad’s sister, read stories to Avis and I out in the play house and we went for a walk looking for wild flowers.
I started to school at age 5 + 4 months to make enough pupils to keep the district. It was a little 16x24 foot building, but we thought it was really nice. The district had bought a small piece of land from Dad, so it was not too far from home. The teacher ‘boarded’ with us. We had an extra bedroom and a parlor. I had been tongue tied and Doctor Clark had clipped it. I remember him lifting me up on the counter, but none of the hurting – if it did. On the way home from school, I would tell Miss Bell something and not pronounce it correctly – so I would have to spend the rest of the way repeating it over and over and over.
The McDowell’s had moved to town by this time – on 4th street – a little ways from Wardwell Ave. (later was the Middle School parking lot). Grandpa Fowler spent some time with them – when he became ill with Rocky Mountain fever. Grandpa Fowler died 29 May 1910.
One thing I remember – our family went to see Grandpa while he was staying with the McDowell’s. Mother got me all ready. I went outside to wait for them to get ready and sat down where a chicken had passed by when Mother discovered I was not presentable. She washed out my undies quick and hung them on the back of a chair in front of the open oven door to dry. We needed to get started because it took some time to drive the eight miles. When we got almost there I realized I was not fully dressed. When we got there my petticoat was pinned at the hem and I could play with the other kids - Jim, Max, Carl, and Avis. There was a cellar in the back yard. We could run up one side and slide down the other.
Grandma sold the place she had inherited about 1911 and bought a house and big lot in town at the corner of Wardwell and River street. The two girls, Ora and Blanche were teaching at the Wardwell school. Marvel was still in high school. The 3 boys were in school. It kept Grandma busy keeping house for them. Wardwell Ave went right into the river. In the summer it could be forded and drive bias to the road going to the Bench (Bluff Road now). There was sort of a sand and cobblestone bar. Jim (about my age) and we girls enjoyed playing there at the river’s edge. There were lots of willow trees to keep it cool and a sandy beach. We made sand castles etc. The big barn across the road from Grandma’s was an interesting place to play. It belonged to the Martin’s but they did not mind if we played there (I don’t think they did). We played follow the leader and Jim was always the leader. He was 8. We went all over that barn – sometimes loft high – on the cross beams and along the walls. It was a wonder we lived to tell about it. NO! we didn’t tell what we had been doing. It was fun then.
The Joe Hanson family lived on the corner nearer the river. Their two boys were a bit younger than we were.
Grandma’s homestead was rented. Dad helped work out the assessments each year so she could “prove-up” on it. The house only had two rooms. It was mostly pasture with two small fields. When one couple lived there, the man was very ill. I think it was pneumonia because mother took things to make an onion poldus for him several times. She and Dad took turns staying with them – his wife was so frightened. They stayed day and night for awhile. I don’t remember the outcome for sure – but believe he got better.
Dad rented the lower orchard on the upper place from Grandpa and it was reserved even after it was sold. He had it for several years. There was a fruit orchard at the house also. The lower orchard was by a creek on a slope - all grassy and easy to irrigate - all sorts of fruit, grapes and some nuts – just a few of each. Max slid and fell there once and ran a stick into his thigh. The doctor had trouble removing it. That place was sore for a long time.
Mother canned and dried a lot of fruit from the orchard and gave a lot to the neighbors. To get to our house from the main road, we went through a field, over a little creek, up bias on the steep bank to a ledge of rock strewn ground about ½ mile wide. Some of the rocks were big and lot of them. We thought some marked Indian graves. Then we went bias down the other side – over another creek and through a field to the house. Dad had alfalfa on one side and grain on the other. He and others spent hours grubbing out sage brush, one bush at a time. It took several years. The big trunks were cut up and used for wood. It made a hot fire. At the north side of our place was a big clump of willows, tall and thick, and a mossy place below them. A spring started there. Dad drove a pipe aways into the slope and had enough water to run to the house to water the garden. Later he put a lot of work into it and could water some of the fields. We had a long rope swing among those willows and could swing away high. Lots of gophers liked the fields. Dad showed we girls how to set traps for them. We received 1 cent per tail. We usually just showed him the gopher and buried it.
About 1910 we drove to Homedale, ID to visit some of Dan’s uncles and cousins. They had a picnic and the men fished for sturgeon. I can remember playing on the sandy beach along the Snake River with a group of children and then this great big ugly fish was pulled up onto the bank and then pulled up onto a flat bed wagon. It’s head was clear to the front and the tail hung off the back. Honest ingin! It was a little bit scary. I have no idea how it was caught or what happened to it later but I’ll bet we took some of it home? I saw a picture of it later but don’t remember who had it.
There was no restriction on fishing for salmon in the Payette River. The fellows saved pine knots and went fishing during the salmon run. They lighted the knots (water would splash on lanterns and break the flue) and fish at night. Lots of salmon went up the Payette River. There were special spears to catch them with. What they caught was ‘put down’ in salt to use during the winter. A favorite spot was just below where the dam is now. The salt was soaked out, but it made good patties, soup or fish loaf.
On Dec 5, 1911 a little sister was born but died that same day. Doctor Clark said she was perfect but just did not get to breathing properly. I can remember seeing her as she lay in a basket, on a chair in the corner of the parlor with a frilly dress and bonnet. She looked so pretty. Doctor Clark was so sorry about it that Mama was so sorry for him that she did not feel so sorry for herself. Baby was not named but later Mother said they thought of Genell. Dad had drive to town with the wagon to bring a casket. He backed up to the front door to unload it into the parlor.
About 1913 an agent came along selling ‘vertical feed’ sewing machines. Dad bought one for Mother. She had gone to sewing school. The agent wanted to leave the old one for we kids to practice on but Mother said, “No, we must learn to use the new one.” We ripped a lot of seams trying to get them right. The first thing I learned to sew on was a small rip in the side of my night gown. Then I made a scarf for my doll’s dresser.
(jumping back) In the winter of 1908 Dad got a job helping to rebuild a dam west of Horseshoe Bend. It would take water to the bench land. He worked for the Emmett Irrigation Company off and on – first as a laborer, then a construction foreman, ditch rider and was superintendent for 14 years (from 1923 until he died in 1937.)
Avis and I went with Dad once to the upper dam. Mr. Yates was cook there and on several projects later. The cook house (shack) and machine shop was on the hill just north of the dam. Some of the place was taken away when the road was built along the river. The old road was away up on the hill; some of it can still be seen on the east side of that hill. That evening we came home late. The moon was shining bright. We drove right along the edge of the river. The flume was braces against the side hill with high braces (trestle). The flume was made of big sheets of steel. We called it Canyon Canal steel. It leaded some along the seams so we could hear trickles of water but Dad knew when any was louder than usual. It was a lonesome sound. The willows along the river were tall and pretty. We were in and out of the moon light. The horse’s harness and wagon wheels on the gravel were another lonesome sound. Then there was the high flume. It was farther east of the long flume. It spanned a canyon. We spent parts of one summer there with Dad. We had two big tents, one for a bed room and one for living. Our tents were north of the flume and a ways away. The Foster’s were on the south side. They had a telephone. One evening a high wind came followed by a cloud burst. The flimsy telephone line was blown down. It sputtered, crackled and spit sparks. Dad and Mr. Foster were ditch riders. When the storm started, Mr. Foster ran to open the waste gate up the ditch a ways. The water poured into the ditch from the hill side – filled the ditch to overflowing. The weight of the water made one sheet of steel come apart some. Dad took one of our heavy comforters and managed to push it into the seam. Mr. Foster brought one of theirs also. The flume was saved and they received praises for it. The flume had braces across the top and a couple of 2x12 planks laid length wise – to walk along the top. But with a high wind and raining pitch forks it was a risky business – away up there. There were a lot of great big grasshoppers around there. We girls caught some and tried to make a thread harness and drive them – but they spit tobacco and their spiny, saw like legs kept getting tangled in the harness. We did have fun catching tadpoles in the creek. We made a screen wire cage – kept it in the creek so we could watch them grow. We fed them, but I don’t remember what?
One summer the men were working on Cherry Gulch flume (just north of where the N. Dam Park is now). We had two tents on wooden floors and boarded up a ways. One had a long table down the center. We set it with tin plates, cups and tools and took them off after the men left and then helped wash them. Mother cooked. We played along the river making sand castles etc. Mother did not worry as long as Prince (the dog) was with us. She knew if we fell he would pull us out.
************ Some of her writings here I didn’t copy. The complete story is found in the Emmett Family History Center. It also includes her journal April 1918 – late spring of 1923.
We became acquainted with Adam Klingback and his brother, Charley, very soon after coming to the Butte. They had a brother, John, also. They and Joe Hanson were cousins. Adam had a horse that ate table scraps that he put on the edge of the porch. We kids thought that was real funny. Dad and Adam exchanged field work a lot and he was at our place often on Christmas, Thanksgiving etc. unless there was a community dinner some place. One time he brought a big roaster full of candy and nuts. We were overwhelmed. We used that roaster a lot.
Walter Sisler and Mr. Sanders wanted Dad to go in partnership with them and raise horses. Dad borrowed $2,000 and had a big barn built. That amount sounded tremendous to me – how could it ever be paid back.
When we first came to the Butte we could drive right bias across the bench to the lower bench road. Then farms began to be fenced – so went along the edge of the bench to about Idaho Boulevard - then started having corners. The road in summer was dusty. We had a duster, a light cover for our laps and feet. If the horse, or horses, trotted it kicked up a lot of dust. If they walked it was not so bad. We always wore hats and for something special, gloves. We used the single buggy for quick 4 hr trips – two persons – or the two seated buggy for family trips or stormy weather - the wagon for loads of this and that. Dad went horse back some but I don’t think I ever did.
Dad liked the circus. When one came to town he took Avis and I. Mother did not like them. It was always in Martin’s big pasture, between Washington and Wardwell, north of the railroad tracks. I remember the puppets and a big box of wiggly snakes and elephants. Jim earned money watering them. One time Dad gave me 25 cents to spend just as I wanted to. Jim and I rode the merry-go-round, browsed around but I ended up spending that whole 25 cents on merry-go-round rides at 5 cents each. That big pasture was used for ball games also. When the Martin’s moved off the Butte, they built a house on the south east corner on Wardwell Avenue. Mr. Martin was a very good carpenter.
The Lake family lived on a ranch south of us. Bill and Arillia came by to walk to the No. 62 district school with Avis and I – 1912-1914. Their family was Mr. and Mrs., Isabell, Rachel, John, Bill, Arillia and Erma – such a nice looking family, but I thought Isabell was beautiful – she was the first girl I saw wearing make-up. She came home weekends from high school. They sent us tamales once, wrapped in corn husks. We had never tasted them before and had never used garlic, but really did enjoy them. Mrs. Lake died in 1913 – the family sold the place to the Talbot family a year later.
During my teens Dad’s wages were paid in ‘script’. John McNish and a hardware store were the only ones that would take it in return for groceries or whatever. In later years he was paid by check, but when Dad went to pay Mr. McNish each pay day, he would give him a small striped bag of hard candy. We always looked forward to it.
In 1914 the Nichols and Knight’s lived on the Cupp place. Then in 1916 the Fred Smith family came from Utah. Their parents had come by wagon train (covered wagon) to Utah. Mrs. Smith went back once to visit while they lived on the Butte. The Smith kids were Floyd, Harold, Faye. Mildred was born Sep 1916 on the Butte and Glen in Sep 1917. The Smith kids called their mother, Mom. We kids thought that was a bit crude. As we grew older ‘Mama’ seemed a bit babyish – then we tried ‘mother’. She did not especially like that – seemed formal, so we tried Ma and Pa – that sounded too much like Maw and Paw – too hillbilly. Then one day I heard Mother tell someone that Floyd could put more love in the word Mom than she ever heard. After awhile we tried Mom and Dad and that is how it stayed.
One job that was very monotonous was cleaning the flues. They had to be cleaned almost every day. We saved the ‘Examiner’ then the ‘Index’ papers to use first, if the chimney was blackened, then washed, dried and polished it. Maybe a wick needed to be trimmed or the bowl needed more oil (kerosene). Sometimes we put strings of red yard in the bowl for color and interest. There were several lamps and two lanterns. They got smoked quickly. That is one thing we left on the Butte. At the E.I.D. company house there were bulbs hanging down in the center of each room – we had to reach up to pull a chain to turn them on.
I do not think there is a single building left on the Butte that was there in the ‘teens’. The No. 20 school house was torn down and used to help rebuild the Cupp place after it burned down. Our first house was torn down to help rebuild the old McDowell house. Our second house and all is gone. The Martin place has a house in a different location. The Adam Klingback house burned. They have a different house on the Phillips place. The Talbot house is gone. There are new houses in different locations.
When the Talbot family came they had a little boy, a year or so old – born 29 Sep 1913. When he was about 4 years old he got a new pair of shoes and was very proud of them. He and his mother walked up to our place one day and Kenny was bound to wear his new shoes. They rubbed a blister on his heel – it was sore and soon was blood poison. The doctor said it was the dye in the shoe. He was ill for some time. The Dr. gave Dad a ‘hipo’ and every so often he was to inject medicine into his hip. Dad said that was the hardest thing he ever did. Kenneth Carver Talbot died 16 May 1917. I think every one in the community attended his funeral. He was the 2nd dead person I saw. I try to visit his grave each Decoration Day. His little cousin, Lilly Mae Morgan, is buried nearby. Their little headstones are alike.
Note: The Emmett Family History Center at 980 West Central RD in Emmett, ID has Meree and Avis’s book. The genealogy part of this book was submitted to the Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File on www.familysearch.org by Clella Stiles at the request of these two sisters in order to preserve the work that they had done.
All materials contained on these pages are furnished for the free use of those engaged in researching their family origins. Any commercial use or distribution, without the consent of the host/author of these pages is prohibited. All images used on these pages were obtained from sources permitting free distribution, or generated by the author, and are subject to the same restrictions/permissions. All persons contributing material for posting on these pages do so in recognition of their free, non-commercial distribution, and further, is responsible to assure that no copyright is violated by their submission.