The Clearwater Story:
A History of the Clearwater National Forest

Chapter 20
Mountain Tragedies

There have been a sizable number of people who lost their lives while on the Clearwater National Forest. I will give the circumstances surrounding the death of those who died while working for the Forest Service and other people who are buried on the Forest. I will not attempt to cover those who were killed on its roads, shot in hunting accidents, drowned while boating or rafting its streams, killed in airplane wrecks or lost their lives logging. These people are important, but I do not have the time to do the necessary research.


Moose City was a mining camp about 1879. It lasted only a few years, but during the time it was occupied as a mining camp, a small graveyard was established. There are three graves in this burial ground. The names of persons buried here are unknown. Henry Hellman, one of the oldest miners in that area, told me that one is the grave of an old man of Norwegian descent. Another is the grave of a 17 year-old-boy who had cast his lot with the miners and could not survive the rigorous life. The third is the grave of "Moose Creek Molly", a dancehall girl of Moose City hey-day. Hellman told me that when he first visited the graves there was a fence around them. Although the mounds were still there when I was to the graves last, there was no trace of a fence. Apparently the fence has decayed.


Rhodes' grave is just below an inclined tunnel and about 30 feet above the old trail which leaves the first saddle east of Blacklead Lookout and goes down into Silver Creek. The trail makes two short switchbacks and then crosses a springlike creek. Rhodes' grave is above the trail and just across the creek. It is marked only with stones. The Forest Service has placed markers at his grave at different times, but the snowslide has swept them away. (See article on Rhodes under mining.)


Isaac Hill for whom the Lost Mine was named was buried by Jerry Johnson on the ridge about half-way between Tom Beall Park and Grave Peak. This must have been about 1892.


There is a small meadow and a spring off the present Lolo Motorway and to the west of the road to Indian Grave Lookout. This is called Indian Grave Camp because of an Indian grave at the edge of the meadow.

According to Jimmy Parsons, a brother of the boy buried here, the family arrived at this camp late in the evening and prepared a hasty meal. The next day every member of the family became seriously ill. Several came close to death and Albert Parsons died. What caused the illness is unknown, but years later Jimmy recalled what happened and concluded that food poisoning was the most likely cause.

There is some confusion over the year that this boy died. The tombstone states that Albert Parsons was born in 1881 and died at age 14, which would make his death in 1895. However, a map dated 1894 shows the grave. In discussing this inconsistency with William Parsons, he said that the birthdate was correct and taken from written records, but that the date of death was supplied from memory and could be wrong. I was told by Cully Mooers, an old pioneer and early day Forest Service packer, that the death occurred in 1892, but this is also from memory.

The boy was buried near the meadow. A headstone without letters was placed at the grave. After the fire of 1910, the Forest Service placed a pole cover over the grave. About 1935 this pole covering became so decayed that it started to fall apart, so the Forest Service replaced the cover. By 1959 the second cover broke apart and in 1960 William Parsons marked the grave with a tombstone.

The name on the grave is Albert Parsons Mallickan. Mallickan was his Indian name and was an old Indian family name in the Kamiah and Kooskia locality. In the early days Nez Perce Indians frequently had both Indian and English names.

Albert Parsons Mallickan grave marker.


The grave of George Colegate, commonly spelled "Colgate", is a few feet below the Lewis and Clark Highway east of where the water from the Colgate Springs goes through a culvert. It is marked with a Forest Service marker. See the "Carlin Party" for information on his death.


In 1907 the Land Office was dividing the township into sections around Junction Mountain and established a camp there. A man named Hughes was cooking for them. He became ill and on his deathbed requested that should he die, that he be buried in the mountains. His grave is located on Junction Mountain to the left of the trail as you travel from the saddle towards the top of the Lookout. George Englehorn, who was a trapper in that country, thought this man was buried at Cook Mountain and that is how Cook Mountain got its name. Of course, there may have been two cooks who died, but it is more likely that Englehorn was mistaken. Hughes' grave was lost for a number of years, but was discovered by my brother, Roy Space, while smokechasing in that vicinity in 1921 or 1922.


In 1908 William Walsh found a dead man in a cabin about three miles up Deadman Creek at an elk lick. Nothing was left of this man except his bones.

He was buried near the old cabin, but probably this grave cannot be found.

Deadman Creek obtained its name from this incident. A cedar slab marked the grave at one time, but doubtless disappeared long ago.


In 1908 Henry Sebring became lost while hunting and died. His body was found by a group of nine men. They buried him and blazed a large cedar tree near his grave. On this blaze they wrote the name of Henry Sebring as well as their own. The names are now so old that they can no longer be read. This grave is located near Pete King Creek in Sec. 22, south of the creek in a grove of large cedars. The Pete King fire of 1934 originated near this grave.


In November 1908 a severe snow storm accompanied by extremely cold weather came to the Forest. After the storm, Jack Sprague and Fred Dennison started to go over their trapline from their cabin at Jackknife Meadows. They found the body of a man who had camped by the trail. He had only a small piece of canvas for shelter. His clothes were in rags and he had no coat. He was equipped with a bow and arrows but he had no firearms. Apparently he had died of exhaustion, starvation and exposure.

Fred Dennison snowshoed out to Pierce and reported what they had found. The county deputized Jack Harlan as coroner to investigate the case. Harlan snowshoed back to Sprague's cabin and buried the man beside the Pot Mountain trail above Jackknife Meadows. The grave is marked only with stones.


Trapper Jack Sprague and another man attempted to raft the North Fork of the Clearwater at the Bungalow Ranger Station during high water of 1914. They built a small raft on which they put their packs and Sprague tied his two hounds. In crossing they found that the water was so high and swift that they could not control the raft.

They did succeed in maneuvering the raft to the Bungalow side close enough that the other man thought they could jump to a point of land He told Jack to jump as soon as they were near the point, but Jack stopped to untie his dogs and failed to make it ashore, but the raft continued down river until in the spring it stuck a rock and upset. Jack was never seen again. His dogs swam back and forth across the river looking for him until they also perished.


The following story was told to me by Ernest Hansen and Albert Cochrell. In the fall of 1907, two men arrived in Superior, Montana. Their names were George Gorman and Clayton Shoecraft. They came from Deerlodge, Montana, where they had been accused of killing a man. While the supposed murderers were not convicted, public opinion was so much against them they decided to make themselves scarce.

They were almost broke, but inquired of Williams and Young, contract packers, what they would charge for packing them into the back country of the Clearwater. The charge for packing was so great that they decided to go to Lolo Hot Springs and see if they could get a better bid.

In Lolo Hot Springs they found a packer who agreed to pack them into the Cayuse Creek country. However, the price was so high that they had very little money left to buy food and equipment. Therefore, they bought some dried fruits and vegetables and a few other staples such as flour, sugar and salt, and a few traps. On their way to Cayuse Creek they went past Hansen's cabin on Blacklead and while there discussed their plans for trapping during the winter. The Hansens learned that they had very little food and that they planned to depend on game to subsist.

Upon arriving at Cayuse Creek they built a cabin or may have merely moved into a cabin that was already there. According to their diary, they killed two elk and salted them down in some containers hewn out of wood. They established a trapline up Cayuse Creek.

In mid-winter they began to suffer with an ailment they believed to be rheumatism. According to a diary one of them kept, their joints swelled, they had pains in their limbs and their teeth loosened; almost sure signs of scurvy.

During the winter George Englehorn, another trapper on what later became known as Raspberry Butte, was tending his trapline. When he saw smoke from the trappers' cabin on Cayuse Creek, he considered going down and paying them a visit. After thinking of the time and effort it would take, Englehorn decided against it. Had he made the trip, the chances are good that he would have been able to get aid and might have saved their lives.

The condition of the men gradually got worse. They managed to hang on until the snow melted along the banks of the creek. They tried taking walking exercises to see if that would help their condition. It didn't. It was not until about this time that one of them finally concluded that they had scurvy but were too weak to go anywhere. In the last diary entry one man reported that his partner was dead and that he was no longer able to get out of bed.

In the spring of 1908 the Hansen Brothers wondered what became of the trappers and reported the missing pair to the sheriff's office at Wallace, Idaho. This area was in Shoshone County at that time and Wallace was the county seat. The sheriff instructed the Hansens to look for the trappers and, if they found them dead, to bury them and bring any possessions of value to the county office.

Hansens had a little difficulty finding the cabin, but finally located the trapline blazes and followed them to the cabin. They buried the two men in a common grave and erected a marker made of a cedar slab. They searched the cabin and found nothing of value. In fact, all indications were that the men had lived in the most abject poverty. Contrary to subsequent reports, no gold was found in the cabin.

If these men had committed murder, they certainly suffered far more by taking to the mountains than would have been the case had they stayed in Deerlodge either in or outside the prison walls. If they were innocent, then society tortured them unjustly.

For a time, the Forest Service could not find the grave of these men, but in 1922, A.N. Cochrell, who was Ranger over this part of the Forest at the time, received from one of the Hansens a description of the location of the grave and found it. The original marker is gone, but the grave is now marked with a Forest Service sign.


The first Forest Service employee to die on the Forest was Snoden Snyder. He had just returned form France after serving in World War I. He was a member of a telephone crew and with others went swimming after supper in the North Fork of the Clearwater near what is now called Snoden Creek. He suffered cramps and drowned. Bob Markham of Grangeville packed the body out to the Oxford the following day.


In 1921 Lester Loitved, a packer, drowned in a deep hole just above the mouth of the Orogrande under circumstances similar to Snoden Snyder.


In 1924 Lynn Leutty of Clarkston drowned while attempting to ford the river near the mouth of Beaver Creek. He was alone and had hiked down from near Sheep Mountain, headed for the Canyon Ranger Station. His tracks led into the river but did not come out and a search revealed the body in a deep hole below the crossing.


Also in 1924 Melvin Dial, working at Kelly Creek, either drowned or had a heart attack while fording Kelly Creek near the station. The water was not very deep and he was nearly across when something happened and he went down. The body was pulled from the water about a half mile below by someone from the station who ran down the trail and waded into the creek.


Mike Olson was a miner and prospector and sometimes did a little trapping on the side. In the winter of 1927 he took up residence in a cabin at the mouth of Deception Creek. The next spring Forest Service employees found him dead in his cabin. Apparently he had died of natural causes. He was buried near his cabin. His grave is marked with stones.


In 1932 or 1933 the Clearwater Timber Company was getting ready to conduct its regular log drive down the North Fork. The crew was camped at the mouth of Beaver Creek where the Company had a building. Nibler and his buddy decided to take a trip up the river. They failed to return. In searching for them, the crew found Nibler's body in a deep hole in the river. His partner was never found. It was assumed that the two men had constructed a raft and attempted to come down the river and had met with some sort of misfortune. When the road to Canyon Ranger Station was built in 1933 or 1934, Nibler's grave was covered by a road fill.


In 1934 a number of men were hiking into the Kelly Creek country to prospect. The mountains proved too much for Trojanowski who was rather heavy. He had a heart attack and died. The members of the party reported his death to the county authorities and his family. It was decided to bury him near the place where he died. Ranger Hartig, then a temporary employee on the Kelly Creek District, helped bury him. The grave is near the trail on Pollock Ridge.


In 1934, two CCC boys were killed by a falling snag while fighting the Pete King fire.

Also during the days of the CCC, two other boys decided to use dynamite to get some fish in a hole in the Lochsa River near the mouth of Fire Creek. They had stolen from one of the work projects some caps, fuse and a few sticks of dynamite. They rigged up a bomb out of a half a stick of dynamite, a blasting cap and a very short fuse. With some string they tied the cap to the stick of powder. One boy then split the fuse a little with his jackknife to expose the powder. He then lit the fuse with a match. He then became excited and confused. He threw his jackknife into the river and stuck the bomb into his pocket. The explosion was fatal.


Shorty Engler and Sherm Merry were crossing the North Fork of the Clearwater on a raft. The raft upset and Shorty was drowned. Sherm managed to swim ashore. Engler's body was found by him. His grave was located close to the Forest Service boundary on what was known as Bishops bar. It is now under Dworshak Lake.


Lloyd Hornby, who had at one time been Supervisor of the Clearwater Forest, was assigned to do a national study of fire planning. In connection with his work he returned to the Clearwater to observe the action of a fire burning on Toboggan Ridge in the fall of 1935. While thus engaged he suffered a heart attack and died.


Charley was killed by a tree he was falling while doing stand improvement work on Smith Creek in 1958.


In 1961, Charles Hogan, a 19 year-old employee on the Powell District was a member of a crew fighting a fire on Wendover Ridge when he was struck and killed instantly by a snag that burned off. Firefighting is dangerous work. However, as far as I am able to learn, only three have been killed on the Clearwater fighting fire in its 75 years.


The ashes of Bernard DeVoto were, at his request, scattered over the Cedar Grove that now bears his name. The ashes of Wagner Dodge were, at his request, scattered over the Powell Ranger District. Dodge had been a CCC boy, smokechaser, smokejumper and dispatcher on the Powell District. He was foreman of the Smokejumper Crew which suffered heavy losses on the Mann Gulch fire on the Helena.


There is a great deal of mystery about the trapper Franz Koube. Even the correct spelling of his name is in doubt. Elers Koch spelled it Kube and that is the way it appears on the map of the Powell Ranger District. Bud Moore spells it Koube. There is a family name of Kouba, for I once worked with a man by the name of Kouba.

All agree that he spoke German and it is usually assumed that he came from Germany. But many of the Austrians also speak German and the name Franz is Austrian as is the name Kouba. I will use the name Koube.

Koube was well educated. It may be that he could speak English before he came to America. He wrote to the universities and museums and collected plant and animal specimens for them. Since he had a knowledge of biology and had worked on the Black Forest in Germany it is likely his education was in forestry. When Ranger Frank Smith and a trapper Fred Shot, came to his cabin searching for him when he disappeared they found a moose head all skinned out and ready to be shipped. Attached to it was the permit the museum had to take a moose for scientific purposes.

There are two stories about why he left the old country. Like many people who came to America from Europe he was fleeing from the law. One story is that he fled to avoid spending a stint in the army. At that time in Germany and perhaps Austria, every able-bodied man was required to serve a training period in the army. On completion of this training he became a part of the army reserve subject to call in case of need. When I was a boy I knew several men who had fled to America rather than spend time in the armed services.

He came to the Powell Country about 1890. He had his headquarters cabin at Kooskooskia Meadows. He had several other cabins, one of which was at Kube Meadows. He trapped the country south of Powell. He was a good trapper and was well known for the excellent condition in which he kept his furs.

It was either in the fall of 1911 or 1912 when at Lolo Hot Springs he told some other trappers that this would be his last winter trapping because he had found Isaac's mine. He said that the Indian camp was there but it was in a most unusual place to camp. He met Supervisor Elers Koch on the way to Powell and told him that when he came out in the spring he would be through trapping. Some of the trappers Koube talked to had a feeling that he had spent so many winters alone in the mountains that he was beginning to have illusions.

When spring came Koube did not show up at Hot Springs so Ranger Frank Smith and Fred Shot, a trapper, went to see if they could find him. The water had been exceptionally high that spring, but by the time Smith and Shot took the trail it had dropped considerably. The searching party arrived at the Kooskooskia Cabin and found everything in good order. Everything was stored and had the appearance that the owner expected to return. They found the moose head mentioned before and a note that he had gone to the Hot Springs.

Ranger Smith and Shot came to Koube's place from Powell and had seen no sign of him on that trail. They knew that Koube could not swim and was afraid of water so they reasoned that he did not start directly for Powell where he would have had to raft the Lochsa River. They decided what he must have taken a route that would enable him to cross smaller streams. Following this route they went to the mouth of Colt Creek where White Sand Creek runs through a narrow gorge. The Forest Service now has a bridge across White Sand at this gorge. Here Koube had fallen a tree across the gorge and crossed. They knew it was Koube's work because it was fresh and Koube had an unusual way of falling a tree. Woodsmen normally cut a deep notch in one side of the tree and then cut in from the opposite side until it falls. Koube cut around the tree on all sides, like a beaver, until it fell.

They then went down White Sand Creek on the east side and found that he had fallen another tree across Storm Creek. When they came to Crooked Creek they found that he fell a tree out onto an island in the creek. Apparently he intended to fall another tree from the island to the west side of Crooked Creek but there the trail ended. Ranger Smith and Shot concluded that Koube fell off the tree and was drowned. Later that year Ranger Smith found a belt buckle in Crooked Creek which Gerber recognized as belonging to Koube.

Although the above appears to be a logical explanation of Koube's disappearance there were those that were not convinced. A few years after Koube disappeared a man came to one of the Forest Service trail camps during work hours when only the cook was in camp. This man had long hair, a beard and was almost naked. Some believed this was Koube and that he had lost his mind and went wild, staying in the mountains all year long and living off the country. This is unlikely since the trappers found no signs of him during the winter and his cabins went unoccupied.

Another story is that at the time Koube left Hot Springs he became angry at the storekeeper Gerber, because he felt he had been overcharged for food supplies. He owed Gerber some money and there were people who felt that he avoided going to Hot Springs so that he would not have to pay what he thought was an unjust debt. The people who believed this, point out that it was not necessary to cross Crooked Creek to get to Lolo Pass. He could have stayed on the east side and crossed Brushy Creek at a narrow place called the Fishery.

No one, of course, will ever know for sure, but if a jury were to consider the facts of the case they would likely vote to sustain Ranger Smith's conclusion.

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Last Updated: 29-Feb-2012