By Dottie Gray
“a grassy hillside with rocks”
Perched on a hill above what was once called Ockonook (“a grassy hillside with rocks”) at the very top of Boundary County lies a small cemetery with an incredible history dating back to 1898.
Familiar historical names such as Klockmann, Sloop, McLoughlin, Baker, and King can be found in this, the Porthill Cemetery, along with many many others.
On Saturday, September 24, The Boundary County Historical Society and Museum under the direction of Sue Kemmis, Curator, Howard Kent, Historian, and Terry Howe, Field Researcher, gathered with 61 others for the annual Museum Cemetery Tour.
Porthill IOOF Cemetery
Sue had done her homework weeks in advance, mapping the route and researching the families that told her story. Family histories, engravings and symbols on stones kept the group engaged as her labyrinth unfolded. Howard, Terry, and many attendees added additional tidbits throughout the tour.
The history of the cemetery is a story in itself. In 1901, the International Order of Odd Fellows opened Boundary Lodge #63 at Porthill. Land for the lodge was owned by Zachariah Montgomery, who sold the piece of property to the lodge in 1906.
John Jacob Stitch acquired a portion of the homestead belonging to John and Louisa Sloop in ’07, selling one acre to Boundary Lodge #63, IOOF in ’08. This acre became the IOOF Cemetery.
Later on, J.J.Stitch sold one-half acre to the Roman Catholic Church so the cemetery would have a Catholic section, which enlarged the cemetery to one and one-half acres. Due to the IOOF Lodge closure in 1972, the cemetery ownership was transferred to the Porthill Community Cemetery Association, which now operates and maintains the grounds.
The oldest burial site, dating back to 1898, belongs to Louisa Sloop. Albert and Martha Klockmann are familiar names associated with the Continental Mine and The Klockmann Diary. David McLoughlin, also known as “Kiskayooka” by the Kootenai people, and his wife, Annie Grizzly, can be found not far away.
More recently, former Boundary County Commissioner Chester Baker’s final resting place is in this cemetery.
There are records of burials with no grave markers: Katie Pries and Hugh English lie somewhere on this piece of land.
The crowning event of the day was the arrival of “the King”… Hartley King, that is.
Hartley arrived in Porthill with his family in 1904 and has just recently celebrated his 100th birthday.
He participated in the two hour tour with colorful antidotes about people and events that were part of Porthill’s early days. Assisted by his loving wife, Janice, Hartley traversed the path crisscrossing the cemetery.
Houck Family Farm History Tour
Following the tour, many continued on to the Houck Farms, three miles south of Porthill in District #6, to visit the Denton Black house, built in 1901, which became the home of the Houck family in 1924.
A history of the Houck family and the house itself was shared by Jeff Hood, a great grandson of S.I. and Gertrude Houck. A good time was had by all!
The Museum appreciates the partnership with the Porthill Community Cemetery Association for this tour.
Members of the Association had a work party prior to the tour, and were part of the tour itself. A minimal donation was requested by the Museum, which was split with the Association.
Thanks to all who joined in for a beautiful fall day full of stories and a bit of “oral” history.