Edward Stahl shared a bit about his early days with the Forest Service. This segment starts with his elevation to the Supervisor’s office in Libby. I hadn’t realized that Stahl was a seasonal – I never met a Forest Service seasonal who wound up with a mountain named for him. It looks like he was responsible for the route over Dodge Creek to the Yaak. The whole story is at npshistory.com.
I was laid off October 1st and met a party from Eureka and joined them hunting goat at Bowman Lake. We had an early snowstorm and crossed the range to Eureka via Yakinikak and Grave Creek. This trail traverses the locale described by Ernest Thompson Seton in his story, “Krag, the Kootenay Ram.”
My vacation at Eureka had just ended on January 1, 1907, when I received instructions to report for duty to David Kinney at Libby, Montana, Supervisor for the Kootenai National Forest. (Glen Smith, Roscoe Haines, and I.)
We built a Ranger cabin near Pipe Creek, twelve miles north of Libby, that winter. Bill Doak, our neighbor, had been purser on a steamboat that plied the Kootenai River between Jennings, Montana, and Fort Steele, British Columbia, in the late ’90’s. It takes some stretch of the imagination to believe a steamboat could navigate the Koontenai. Two steamboats were wrecked on the same day in the rocky canyon north of Jennings. Boat traffic was discontinued about 1901.
In the spring I was sent to Gateway to cut trail across the Purcell Range, to the Yaak River via Dodge Creek. I bought two matched black ponies and packed to the base of Yaak-Mountain, crossing the Kootenai on Mills’ Ferry, located in British Columbia.
A Frenchman named Solo Joe was placering near the summit of the Purcell Range. He warned me that if I ever ran across a trapper named Olson in the Yaak River District to mistake him for a mountain lion and shoot him. If I had followed Joe’s advice it would have saved a lot of misery. But I never saw Olson. He was crazy. “Dingle on the bean,” Joe said. Olson had once set a bear trap in the trail for Joe. A year later Ranger Raymond wrote the Supervisor at Libby to have an officer pick up Olson as he was dangerous. The Supervisor, a new man from the east, kidded Raymond for being afraid of Olson but took no action. Two of Raymond’s laborers on tail work, upon going to their homestead for the weekend, met Olson coming out the door. He said he had called to borrow some soda, but he had put strychnine in the sourdough can. One man died that night but the other one survived. Their names were Todd and Hensley. Raymond took Olson in and he was placed in an asylum, where he later died.
It was a lonely job cutting trail until a man named Cody was sent up to help me. He was the best all-round woodsman, packer and horseman I ever met. He had two half-broke horses loaned to him to break for their use. He did not agree on the route I picked for the trail so I told him he could move over to the western slope and cut trail where and how he chose, which he did. We met on weekends to go for supplies.”