Sandpoint and Surrounding Communities History

Early Sandpoint Remembered

by Bob Gunter

Elizabeth Montague Whatley shares, in her own words, some of the things she remembers about her family in early Sandpoint.

We came in thirty-three, we came here to Clagstone, Idaho, where we landed in the Depression days. We came out of California and Papa brought us here. He said that if he could get his old Dodge working we could make it. It had a flatbed on the back and we looked just like the Beverly Hillbillies.

We stayed out there at Clagstone and lived in the dwellings that were made from the railroad boxcars out there. They were cut in two in the middle. They had doors in the end of 'em and big chunks of logs, four feet across, were used as steps to get into the end. The inside of them had two wooden bunks, and the first thing that our father showed us was how to go out in the woods and strip the fir trees of all the little branches. We brought them in and piled 'em up and put burlap over 'em and those were our mattresses. The stove was a fifty-five gallon oil drum, turned on its side, and flattened on the top, and that's what Mama cooked on.

The Bloods and the Payettes lived there and the Matt Vigs had the Clagstone store. There was a one-room schoolhouse that we went to and Betty Bandelin, the prosecuting attorney's sister, was our school teacher. When it came Christmas time, Mrs. Matt Vig took shoe boxes and made every girl and boy a gift for the Christmas program.

In the spring Papa bought forty acres up on the top of the mountain above the Griggs homestead. It was a large spread up there, a couple hundred acres, and he got forty acres for four dollars taxes and we stayed up there for a year. My brother, George, and I were nine and eleven and it was our job to go out in the snow that was six-feet deep to help Papa. He felled some big trees that were so large it would take us all day to take off one cut of the log with an eight foot cross cut saw. We'd start up at the top and then we'd dig the snow as we came down, that's how large they were.

We didn't have shoes that were very good. We had tennis shoes, and this is kind of laughable, but Papa took old inner tubes out of the car, and he wired the end of 'em real tight. Then we pulled the inner tubes up on our legs, over the little shoes, that we had which were not winter shoes. Then we wrapped burlap bags all around the rubber and crisscrossed it and tied them on with rope like the nomads did and that's what we tromped through the snow in. We weren't the only kids that did that, there were a few others.

My first trip to Sandpoint was in nineteen thirty-four where my Grandma lived. She stayed in Sandpoint all of her life and she passed away in thirty-five. There is a humorous story about Grandma. She wanted a piece of property on the West side of Sand Creek so she got on a little raft that was used to cross the creek, about where Coldwater Creek is today. She went across on the raft and then she walked to a piece of property between what is now Washington and Jefferson. She platted a piece of land and later built a house on it.

Grandma had a cow and she wanted her cow up on that property. The man, who had the raft, told her that the cow would turn the raft over. Grandma told him that she would hobble the cow and stand beside her to keep her from moving. He finally agreed to put the cow on the raft and, sure enough, she stood real still and the man took them across on the raft. Grandma marched her out to that piece of property in the woods. You know, it was all woods out there and people were just beginning to settle out in that area. Whether that was the first house they built or whether they had a shack or something there originally, I don't know.

When I first came to Sandpoint in nineteen thirtyfour there was a little one room schoolhouse on Division and that's where my Papa went to school until the third grade. He always said he had to quit school because he and his brother only had one pair of pants and Uncle Sam had to wear that pair of pants so he could go to school. So that was always the story about why he only finished the third grade.

 

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All photographs have been used with permission of the Bonner County Museum.

 

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