2nd October 2019

Do You Remember?

We posted HERE back in February at the beginning of a long road, if you haven’t caught the stories in the Bonners Ferry Herald, the members of the Historical Society have spent these many intervening months researching and writing about the towns in our County with photos and bits of information about them.

Following is the finale article that was printed in the Herald:

The Gems of Boundary County

The series of historical accounts featuring “My Town” has come to its conclusion. This project began as a spinoff of Idaho Day, 2019: My Town, Idaho. Presenting a fresh approach and face lift for Do You Remember?, this series was designed to celebrate our communities, past and present; the “brain child” of the Museum’s Curator, Susan Kemmis. She saw this as a perfect opportunity to showcase Boundary County’s treasured past, reflecting upon our rich history, and the people who endeavored, often with sweat and blood, to create this incredible place we call “home.” But it isn’t by “magic” that a series such as this happens.

In the beginning, the project looked to be rather simplistic. Writing about Bonners Ferry, Porthill, Moyie Springs, Naples…what could be easier? But, as ideas began bouncing around the Museum Archives Room with Sue, Howard Kent (Historian), Terry Howe (Field Researcher) and several volunteers, it was soon determined that the history of Boundary County’s towns couldn’t be told by just writing about these four communities. “What about Mission Hill?” Sue asked. “That’s where it all began long before any other settlements sprang up.” “Or District 5 Village?” Terry asked.   Soon the list began to grow and expand, as the voices of communities whispering their names could be heard within and without the archival room. In all, this ”little project” stretched like a rubber band to include shadows of villages that many people in the community may have forgotten about, or some that perhaps have never been heard of. On more than one occasion, Sue could be heard saying, “We can’t leave out…. Or, what about….?”   And, did anyone notice that as the project continued, the stories became longer and longer, as she kept discovering more and more to include. There was simply too much to tell! In all, twenty-seven communities were featured from February through September.

The author of all the articles is none other than our own Curator, Susan Kemmis. With her nose in dusty volumes of old Bonners Ferry Heralds, spending countless hours gathering information from many sources about those brave folks from past generations who came here in search of land, jobs, opportunities, and wealth; pulling together the bits and pieces needed to weave the stories we have been enjoying each week. Learning to navigate through official homestead records, she was able to plat whose homestead was adjacent to whose, thus building her own visual representation of ownership and location of the county. Reading, rereading, taking notes on scraps of paper, and then…the real writing was yet to come!

Researchers helping with this project included Historian Howard Kent, who spent long hours digging through old Heralds, the Boundary County History Book, and other archival materials. Terry and Sue discovered pioneer writings recorded in books and handwritten records, and excerpts from these writings were used in some of the articles, adding a touch of local color and voice. Randy Cummings, a Museum researcher, discovered records from websites that have not made it into our archives, lending a great deal of information on families and their relationships. He has been helpful with genealogy, historical events and places. Don Morice provided additional research material as a long-timer in Boundary County. He was quick to correct a bit of misinformation or provide a link between people and places. Don has researched the schools of Boundary County, and this was valued information, as schools were among the first buildings constructed in these early towns. Beulah Patterson and Carolyn McNeill (long-timer families) tracked down news articles and gathered elusive details. Terry Howe, Field Researcher, was the go-to-guy whenever direction, location, geography, or map interpretations were needed. His knowledge of logging camps and operations provided much detail. Locating “land shadows” from the past is challenging, and Terry provided these links.

Interviews with individuals who grew up or lived in these towns, were held formally and informally, as Sue would meet people inside and outside the Museum who had something to say about “Somewhere, Boundary County.” From talking with people in this way, she was able to weave the oral histories that made these articles personal and down home. And, let’s not forget searching through thousands of photos recorded on the Museum’s Past Perfect computer program for just the right photo to accompany each story, and at times the frustration complicated by the lack of photos in some cases.

Draft, edit, draft, edit, proofread, draft. This naturally becomes the final step in the process of creating something from bits and pieces. Sue, and Dave and Dottie Gray put their heads together more than once on the articles before they went to press. Questions like: What do you mean here? Do we know this guy’s first name? Where was this located? There were more questions than answers at times.   What started out as a 400-500 word article began to blossom into the 1,000 -1,400 word range; then came the pain and agony of cutting down text, risking compromising the story.   What a conundrum for the editors. You have to tell the story! Hence, some articles just couldn’t be trimmed down. The Bonners Ferry Herald worked well with us, making room for every story.

Those who have worked on this project are thinking we can’t just walk away from all the time, energy, research (and fun!) that has gone into this series. Serious thought is being given to publishing a book based on the My Town series, one that would include maps of the locations of the various towns and communities, and additional photos to enhance the stories. Terry Howe is working on maps that will identify each and every one of the locations (for those of us who need visuals). Publishing is a huge undertaking, and so over the next months, information will be gathered in order to move forward. We sincerely hope you have enjoyed this series in “Do You Remember?” and that you will enjoy a new format in the future.

Over the next two weeks, the Museum will continue to be open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am – 4pm. The Museum will be returning to Fall/Winter/Spring hours beginning October 4th, when the days and hours will be Fridays and Saturdays only from 10 am – 4 pm. October 5th is Free Saturday, sponsored by a Friend of the Museum. Come see us at the Museum!


The Gems of Boundary County

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