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Archive for August, 2019

Idaho City and Placerville, Idaho

Posted by graywacke on August 26, 2019

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2454; A Landing A Day blog post number 890.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (N43o 55.308’, W115o 47.038’) puts me in W-Cen Idaho:

My local landing shows that I landed out in the boonies, but reasonably close to my two titular towns:

My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of Elk Creek.  You’ll have to trust me when I say that the Elk ends up in Mores Creek:

Zooming back, it’s apparent that Mores Creek discharges to the Boise River (2nd hit); on to the Snake (86th), to the Mighty Columbia (180th):

Here’ an oblique Google Earth (GE) shot looking up the Elk Creek valley past my landing:

Staying with GE, I couldn’t get anywhere close to my landing on GE Street View, and I had to go all the way down to Idaho City to get a look at Elk Creek:

And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:

Amazing, isn’t it, that this tiny little stream dug out that huge valley?

Just downstream from Idaho City, Elk Creek flows into Mores Creek.  Here’s a look at the creek a few miles southwest from Idaho City:

Moving right along . . .

As you might suspect, I looked at way more than just the two towns on my local landing map.  And as you might also suspect, they were all:

In fact, the above symbol pretty much says it all about Idaho City and Placerville.  But I did see that in Wiki’s Idaho City piece, there’s a section entitled “Chinese.”  Here ‘tis:

Four thousand Chinese lived in the Idaho Territory from 1869 to 1875. Like many Chinese immigrants, they came to work as miners, laundrymen and cooks.

Although today Chinese are rarely seen except as tourists, the 1870 Idaho City census reported at 1,751 Chinese, nearly half of city residents.

Annie Lee was one legendary Idaho city woman who like Polly Bemis, escaped enslavement from the “world’s oldest profession”. She escaped from a member of the Yeong Wo Company in the 1870s to Boise to marry her lover, another Chinese man. Charged by her owner with grand larceny, she told a judge that she wanted to stay in Boise City. The judge subsequently granted her freedom.

Polly Bemis was Wiki-clickable:

Polly Bemis was born in rural northern China. As a child, she had bound feet, which were later unbound. When she was eighteen, there was a prolonged drought, during which her father was forced to sell her to bandits for two much needed bags of seed.

[A daughter for two bags of seeds?  Such a deal . . . ]

She was then smuggled into the United States in 1872 and sold as a slave in San Francisco for $2,500.

[Her value went up quite a bit!]

It was common for Chinese men of that time to have multiple wives and concubines, all having some social status and living under the same roof. When a Chinese man moved to North America, he might take a concubine with him or acquire one there, as custom required him to leave his wife in China to take care of his parents.

An intermediary took her from San Francisco to Idaho, where her buyer, a wealthy Chinese man ran a saloon in a mining camp in the town of Warren

How she gained her freedom from her Chinese owner is uncertain.  However, in mid-1880, the census listed her as living with saloon owner and fiddler Charlie Bemis who befriended her when she first arrived in Warrens, and protected her from unwanted advances.

Wiki goes on and on about Polly & Charles’ life.  The story didn’t really grab me, so I won’t bother with it . . .

Moving over to Placerville, from Wiki:

With the decline of mining in the 1870s, the town’s population declined.  A good percentage of the population was Chinese, as the Chinese were allowed to work the less rewarding claims that the white miners would not touch. The Chinese also established services like laundries and restaurants.

I then Googled Chinese Idaho history.  I found this 2009 AP article by Jennifer K. Bauer.  Here are some excerpts:

. LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — A black ponytail in a 1920s mason jar, empty graves in an Idaho forest cemetery, a massacre in an isolated river canyon — they’re all links in the little-told story of the Chinese in Idaho, who came by the thousands but then drastically left at the turn of the century. At one point, the Chinese made up a quarter of the state’s population. They were drawn by gold and exited on a tide of prejudicial laws created to stifle their population.

The first recorded Chinese in the area was a man who signed the Luna House register in Lewiston in 1862. By the 1870 Census, 28.5 percent of Idaho’s population was Chinese, although their population was likely underestimated.

Chinese were among the thousands of miners who came to Idaho for gold, discovered in the fall of 1860 in Pierce. When gold became harder to find, or miners heard of bigger strikes elsewhere, they moved on and Chinese immigrants settled in, willing to work harder for less.

Chinese mining methodology was different. While many miners worked alone, the Chinese worked in large, often related groups and drew from their experiences using water in agriculture. They formed neighborhoods with stores, gardens, and medical

But far from being seen as contributors to the evolving Western society, the Chinese were seen as a threat.

When the Nez Perce Indians first encountered Chinese people in the 1860s, they tried to talk to them, said Allen Pinkham, a Nez Perce tribal historian.

“All we got was a blank stare,” Pinkham said, so they called the Chinese “zelmin,” meaning “blank stare.”

Americans had very little understanding of Chinese customs. The perception exists today that most Chinese were opium addicts.

About one-third to one-fourth of the Chinese smoked opium.  Unless locally banned, the imported drug was legal until 1909. A fingernail-sized amount, about three puffs, cost 25 cents and was about as much as the average miner could afford.

“If you’ve been out there on that rock pile six days, you’re probably going to want a little relaxation. That’s probably all you would need to forget you were hungry.”

Chinese had separate cemeteries, carefully chosen through feng shui practices to balance spirituality and geography. They were often located on the slope of a small hill enveloped by surrounding hills, said Terry Abraham, a retired library archivist from Moscow who studied Chinese cemeteries throughout the Northwest.

Some of these cemeteries contain shallow, empty graves.

It was customary for Chinese men to plan for the possibility of their death in the foreign land and make provisions for their remains to be shipped home, Abraham said. About every 10 years, someone would come West to collect remains. The culture’s emphasis on patrilineal descent meant the bodies of women often remained.

Various laws prevented Chinese men from staking their own claims, from returning to the United States once they left, or bringing their wives or parents to the country to start families. One 1882 law put a 10-year moratorium on more Chinese laborers entering the country. Even before the law passed, the Chinese population had dropped by 1,000 in Idaho.

In 1883, Lewiston’s Chinatown, located downtown near the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, caught fire, says Lewiston historian Garry Bush. “No Lewiston firefighter would fight it until it threatened white structures.”

Bush says whites would cut off the queues of Chinese men to terrorize them. Cutting the traditional ponytail was a sign of treason in China, leading to execution. A couple of years ago, Bush was given a queue in a 1920s mason jar by someone who lived in the Clearwater River region.

One of the worst racial crimes in Northwest history occurred in Hells Canyon in 1887, when as many as 34 Chinese miners, who had worked their way upriver from Lewiston, were slaughtered along the river.

The crime was discovered when some of the bodies washed up two weeks later in Lewiston. Six Oregon men were charged with the crime, several from prominent families in nearby Wallowa County, Ore., says R. Gregory Nokes, a retired Oregonian newspaper reporter and editor who has written a forthcoming book on the massacre that lays out the case for a cover-up.

“It’s one of the worst crimes in Oregon history and it’s not in Oregon or Northwest history books,” he says.

Three of the accused fled and three were found innocent in a short trial for which few records exist. The crime was never fully investigated by U.S. authorities, despite complaints from the Chinese consulate.

Nokes and Wegars were part of an effort to change the name of Deep Creek where the massacre took place. Over the objections of Wallowa County commissioners, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names officially renamed it Chinese Massacre Cove in 2005.

“In my knowledge,” Nokes said, “it’s the first official acknowledgment that anything actually happened at that particular place.”

I’ll end this post with a couple of pictures posted on GE within five miles of my landing.  First this, by Wade Patrick:

And then this, by Bentley Hunter and Gigee Lindsley:

That’ll do it . . .




© 2019 A Landing A Day

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Mount St. Helens, Washington

Posted by graywacke on August 14, 2019

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2453; A Landing A Day blog post number 889.

Dan:  First, let me apologize for my tardiness.  It has been more than two weeks since my last post.  Sometimes, life gets in the way of posting . . .

Anyway, today’s lat/long (N46o 16.816’, W121o 56.372’) puts me in SW Washington:

My local landing map shows that I landed a mere 14 miles NE of Mount St. Helens: 

My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of Elk Creek, which is part of the Clear Creek watershed:

Zooming back, we can see that the Clear Ck discharges to the Muddy River (1st hit ever!). 

The Clear Creek loses its soul when it hits the Muddy!  Anyway, the Muddy discharges to the Lewis River (also 1st hit ever!), on to the Mighty Columbia (170th hit).

Before moving on, a quick word about the Lewis River.  I bet you assumed (as I did) that it was named after Lewis from Lewis & Clark.  Well, listen up (from Wiki):

Unlike nearby Lewis County and Fort Lewis, the Lewis River was not named for Meriwether Lewis, but rather for A. Lee Lewis, an early settler who homesteaded near the mouth of the river.

Moving over to Google Earth, you can see that I was able to locate the Orange Dude fairly close to my landing:

And here’s what he sees:

The landing is down in a valley, about a thousand feet lower than the roadway . . .

The OD was anxious to get a look at my local drainage, so he found a spot to get a look at Clear Creek:

And here’s his upstream view:

His downstream view shows us many old logs:

If I had to guess, I’d say the logs are detritus from the eruption . . .

Did you notice some Street View blue lines up on the mountain?  Evidently, some Google Dude with a Google Cam hiked up to the summit!  And here’s the view, looking down towards the blown-out side of the mountain (with Mount Adams in the background):



Speaking of the blown-out side of the mountain, here’s a map showing the blast zone:

And here’s a GE shot, where you can still see all of the scars:

Staying with GE:


So.  I’ve written quite a bit about the geology of the Cascade volcanoes, and won’t do again now.  If you really want to learn about the regional geologic context of Mt. St. Helens and other volcanoes in the northwest, check out my Mt. Shasta post.  For a shorter version, try my White Swan and Mt. Adams post.

While I landed about 14 miles from MSH, I landing only 8.5 miles from Spirit Lake.  From Wiki:

Spirit Lake is a lake on the northern flank of Mount St. Helens in Washington State. The lake was a popular tourist destination for many years until the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Prior to 1980, there were six camps on the shore of Spirit Lake: a Boy Scout camp, a Girl Scout camp, two YMCA camps, Harmony Fall Lodge, and another for the general public. There were also a number of lodges catering to visitors, including Spirit Lake Lodge and Mt. St. Helens Lodge; the latter was inhabited by Harry R. Truman.

Of course, Harry Truman was Wiki-clickable; more about him in a bit.

Before 1980, this was quite the bucolic place:

Back to Wiki:

During the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, Spirit Lake received the full impact of the lateral blast from the volcano. The blast and the debris avalanche associated with this eruption temporarily displaced much of the lake from its bed and forced lake waters as a wave as much as 850 ft above lake level. The debris avalanche deposited about 430,000,000 cubic meters of pyrolized trees, other plant material, volcanic ash, and volcanic debris of various origins into Spirit Lake.

Lahar and pyroclastic flow deposits from the eruption blocked its natural pre-eruption outlet to the North Fork Toutle River valley at its outlet, raising the surface elevation of the lake by approximately 200 ft. The surface area of the lake was increased from 1,300 acres to about 2,200 acres.

However, the deposition of volcanic material decreased the maximum depth of the lake from 190 ft to 110 ft.

The eruption tore thousands of trees from the surrounding hillsides and swept them into Spirit Lake. These thousands of shattered trees formed a floating log raft on the lake surface that covered about 40% of the lake’s surface after the eruption:

So, what about this Harry Truman guy?  From Wiki:

Harry R. Truman (October 30, 1896 – May 18, 1980) was the owner and caretaker of Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake near the foot of the mountain, and he came to fame as a folk hero in the months preceding the volcano’s 1980 eruption after he refused to leave his home despite evacuation orders.

Truman is presumed to have been killed by a pyroclastic flow that overtook his lodge and buried the site under 150 ft of volcanic debris.

[Oh, come on!  “Presumed to have been killed” ??  Give me a break  . . . ]

During the 1930s, Truman divorced his wife; he remarried in 1935. The second marriage was short, as he reportedly attempted to win arguments by throwing his wife into Spirit Lake, despite her inability to swim.  He began dating a local girl, though he eventually married her sister Edna, whom he called Eddie.  They remained married, operating the Mount St. Helens Lodge together until Edna’s death from a heart attack in 1978.

In the Mount St. Helens area, Truman became notorious for his antics, once getting a forest ranger drunk so that he could burn a pile of brush.  He poached, stole gravel from the National Park Service, and fished on American Indian land with a fake game warden badge. Despite their knowledge of these criminal activities, local rangers failed to catch him in the act.

Truman was a fan of the cocktail drink Schenley whiskey and Coca-Cola. He owned a pink 1957 Cadillac, and he swore frequently.  He loved discussing politics and reportedly hated Republicans, hippies, young children, and especially old people.

[Strange mix!]

When his wife Edna died in 1978, Truman closed his lodge and afterward only rented out a handful of boats and cabins during the summer.

Truman became a minor celebrity during the two months of volcanic activity preceding the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, giving interviews to reporters and expressing his opinion that the danger was exaggerated. “I don’t have any idea whether it will blow,” he said, “but I don’t believe it to the point that I’m going to pack up.”

Truman displayed little concern about the volcano and his situation: “If the mountain goes, I’m going with it. This area is heavily timbered, Spirit Lake is in between me and the mountain, and the mountain is a mile away, the mountain ain’t gonna hurt me.”

Law enforcement officials were incensed by his refusal to evacuate because media representatives kept entering the restricted zone near the volcano to interview him, endangering themselves in the process. Still, Truman remained steadfast. “You couldn’t pull me out with a mule team. That mountain’s part of Truman and Truman’s part of that mountain.”

Truman told reporters that he was knocked from his bed by precursor earthquakes, so he responded by moving his mattress to the basement. He scoffed at the public’s concern for his safety, responding to scientists’ claims about the threat of the volcano that “the mountain has shot its wad and it hasn’t hurt my place a bit, but those goddamn geologists with their hair down to their butts wouldn’t pay no attention to ol’ Truman.”

He caused a media frenzy, appearing on the front page of The New York Times and The San Francisco Examiner and attracting the attention of National Geographic, Time, Life, Newsweek, Field & Stream, Reader’s Digest, United Press International, and The Today Show.

A historian named Richard W. Slatta wrote that “his fiery attitude, brash speech, love of the outdoors, and fierce independence… made him a folk hero the media could adore.”  Truman was immortalized, according to Slatta, “with many of the embellished qualities of the western hero.”

As the likelihood of eruption increased, state officials tried to evacuate the area with the exception of a few scientists and security officials. On May 17, they attempted one final time to persuade Truman to leave, to no avail. The volcano erupted the next morning, and its entire northern flank collapsed.

Truman was alone at his lodge with his 16 cats, and is presumed to have died in the eruption on May 18.

[There they go again.]

The largest landslide in recorded history and a pyroclastic flow traveling atop the landslide engulfed the Spirit Lake area almost simultaneously, destroying the lake and burying the site of his lodge under 150 feet of volcanic landslide debris.

Truman emerged as a folk hero for his resistance to the evacuation efforts.  The Columbian wrote: “With his 10-dollar name and hell-no-I-won’t-go attitude, Truman was a made-for-prime-time folk hero.”

Truman’s friend John Garrity added, “The mountain and the lake were his life. If he’d left and then saw what the mountain did to his lake, it would have killed him anyway. He always said he wanted to die at Spirit Lake. He went the way he wanted to go.”

Truman’s niece Shirley stated, “He used to say that’s my mountain and my lake and he would say those are my arms and my legs. If he would have seen it the way it is now, I don’t think he would have survived.”  Truman’s cousin Richard Ice commented that Truman’s short period as a celebrity was “the peak of his life.”

Moving right along . . .

So.  Harry wasn’t pleased with those damned long-haired geologists.  Well, one of them was killed within seconds of when Harry was killed.  From Wiki:

Due to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, approximately 57 people were killed directly, including innkeeper Harry R. Truman, photographers Reid Blackburn and Robert Landsburg, and geologist David A. Johnston.

Mr. Johnston was Wiki-clickable:

David Alexander Johnston (December 18, 1949 – May 18, 1980) was an American United States Geological Survey (USGS) volcanologist who was killed by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. A principal scientist on the USGS monitoring team, Johnston was killed in the eruption while manning an observation post six miles away on the morning of May 18, 1980. He was the first to report the eruption, transmitting “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!” before he was swept away by a lateral blast.

[USGS personnel were in Vancouver, WA (about 50 miles SW of the mountain) monitoring the situation.]

Despite a thorough search, Johnston’s body was never found, but state highway workers discovered remnants of his USGS trailer in 1993.

Here’s a video of the eruption, viewed over 6 million times:


I’ll close with this photo posted on GE by Dave Smith:

That’ll do it . . .




© 2019 A Landing A Day

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