Salmon River Story – The Smiths

The Salmon River Story – The Smiths on the Salmon River, Idaho 

This is a summary of 21 newspaper articles found in the Marshall Edson collection at Boise State.
Some of these quotes are from the Spokesman Review September 22, 1946 and the Salt Lake Tribunes and other unnamed papers.

Unfortunately Mr. Edson cut off the dates and newspaper names when he posted these articles in his scrapbook.

The trip began about March 20 and ended 14 days later on April 2, 1946.

Shoot Big Salmon – March 20 – Danger threatens the party or any man who challenges nature’s treacherous domain in the Salmon River Country.

Thursday March 14, 1946 – Game Department Party Will Ride Salmon River – Construction of the boat is nearly completed. The Smiths who will handle it on the river are also in charge of its building. They have made and piloted many such craft down the tricky channel. At many points along the Salmon there are rapids and rocks to be negotiated only by experienced boatmen. Since the middle of February the Smiths have been watching the river carefully to gauge its temper this spring. At this time the channel is fairly free of ice and it is anticipated that by launching day there will be sufficient flow in the river to make travel safe and fast.

If the boat went directly through without stops it could reach Riggins in four or five days. The game party however will spend a day or two at several points to study the country.
City of Salmon Christened Successful Launching Was Held Yesterday. The new river boat City of Salmon, was christened and launched yesterday afternoon and launched yesterday afternoon just back of the Guleke place in Salmon, where many other boats in past years have embarked to make the thrilling voyage down the River of No Return. The boat was hauled from the dockyard at the Don L. Smith residence in east Salmon, by means of a trailer and many will hands assisted in the task of getting it into the river.

Carol Clutis, Salmon high school senior, christened the boat by breaking a bottle against the bow. Miss Clutis was introduced by Slippery Dillon, an old time river rat who has made 14 trips down the Salmon River with the late Captain Guleke.  The voyage started this noon. A number of local people embarked to go as far as Northfork and will return by car this evening.

After the 28 x 8 foot scow, City of Salmon, had been duly christened by cracking a bottle over her blunt nose, the craft put forth Wednesday noon on the River of No Return at Salmon to carry a party of Idaho wildlife experts through the deep gorge that bisects Idaho’s famous primitive area.

The specially constructed craft, manned by two of the west’s most capable white-water river men, Clyde Smith, 58, and his son, Don L. Smith, Salmon, will pause at the junction of the Middle fork of the Salmon River, 60 miles below this point, and after going through the gorge, will stop at Riggins to refuel. Then it will put “to sea” again and go through Hell’s canon to Lewiston.

The 310-mile trip will take 15 days, and the party will descend from 3500 to 700 feet elevation. (The trip actually took 14 days.)

Don L. Smith, who has spent 16 years on the river and who has made two previous trips through the gorge, said the scow had a double bottom sealed with tar in such a manner that the tough outside boards could break a half inch apart and still the boat would not leak.

To protect the party from weather, a canvas top has been fashioned. Although it is planned that the party members should sleep on the shore at night, they could spend the night under cover in the boat if necessary.

A refrigerator for butter and other perishable foods was built into the flat-bottomed boat, which has two gasoline tanks at the rear. Between the tanks is space for the 23-hourspower motor, which will be used in those short stretches of the river where the current is inadequate.

The official party will go aboard at the Middle Fork Friday or Saturday.

Idaho Out of Doors by Dick d’Easum   The “City of Salmon” which is now bearing the fish and game department expedition through the exciting chasm of the River of No Return is without a doubt the most elaborate barge ever to tackle the canyon. It is not the largest being only eight by 28 feet. Several scows both wider and longer have been used to haul supplies to miners deep in the primitive area. Where the “City of Salmon” shines is in its equipment. In comparison with the boats made and piloted by such renowned pioneers of the river as Guleke, Merritt and Cunningham, the craft now afloat somewhere between Mille Fork and French Creek is a palatial yacht. It has two gasoline cooking stoves, cooling compartments, built-in provision chests and tables and an outboard motor delivering 10 horsepower along stretches where the Salmon does not choose to be in a hurry.

Further, there is a canvas canopy that can be rigged at night if weather is wet. The party of seven can sleep aboard ship. Clyde Smith and his son, Don, have built carefully and well because they expect to use the boat on several trips this summer. They will return it to the river again and again, barring a smack up on a hunk of rock, which seems highly unlikely, judging by the way the pilots handled the boat on the first leg of the 10-day voyage. When we last saw the “City of Salmon” last Thursday noon it was dashing through Dump Creek rapids, as serenely as a mallard crossing July Davis Park Lagoon. Ugly boulders threatened on both sides and white water roared but the barge sailed safely though without ruffling the hair of a photographer perched on the bow. On reaching Lewiston about April 2, the ship will be put aboard a trailer and hauled back to Salmon over the Missoula highway. It’s like youngsters going down a playground slide and running around to climb the steps for another slide.

Aboard the craft on the shakedown voyage to North Fork, 23 miles down the valley were the two Smiths and an assembly of photographers and sportsmen. The ride to North Fork was uneventful as far as headlines were concerned. It was however, a day of high adventure for at least a few who were privileged to tread the fir planks and feel the boat tremble on the worried was of the mysterious river. The bulky barge was a magic carpet and the crude sweeps were wands guiding the way into a land of marvels and excitement. Salmon, the last vestige of civilization faded into the background. Dogs racing along the bank to bark a friendly farewell gave up the chase. The “City of Salmon” slipped around a bend and surprised a herd of dairy cattle at the water’s edge. Somewhere in the distance an auto horn honked. Then we were along in the wilderness. Ducks discussed our approach. A small trout jumped, opened the floodgates of talk about steehead at the mouth of the Middle Fork. The Lemhi River poured out its muddy heart on the shoulder of the Salmon. With the addition of water, the main river picked up speed and bulk. Five Indians stood on a promontory in the sagebrush and watched the boat drift along the channel, sacred to their ancestors and the memory of Lewis and Clark.

Here indeed was a trackless, uninhabited land, a world of nature and pristine beauty. Nothing but cliffs, eagles, redmen, and wildlife on every hand.

A league or so up stream from North Fork the “City of Salmon” entered an ice gorge. Sheets of ice as thick as a tall man wall the river for a mile or more. There are breaks of course where the banks are flat and open. In this Alaskan scene we ventured munching on bananas donated by a local merchant.

Suddenly a dreadful, snorting thing crept along the bank, and made a horrible noise – sort of a snort and a wail and an insult. All on the “City of Salmon” shuddered and recoiled. Our naturalist whipped out his field glasses advising us the creature was a member of family “motor car”. Genus sedan, species – Buick. A useful beast but inclined to be weak in all four feet and constantly hungry for its liquid diet on which all creatures of this family subsist.

The mist rose from yesterday and revealed today as the good ship tied up at North Fork, the spot where Lewis and Clark’s expedition of a century and a quarter ago left the Salmon and headed overland into Montana. On the way back to Salmon by car and good road we were somewhat abashed to discover that on the entire voyage through the impenetrable domain we had never been more than 100 yards from the highway.

Down in the canyon, of course, the going is really rugged. There is no road, and precious little trail along more than 70 miles of the river. That is the real course of adventure. That is the passage studded with such harsh-standing rapids as Devil’s Claw, the Growler, the Whiplash, Dutch Oven, and the Gun Barrel. To ride them will be an experience unparalleled. To have drifted through the suburbs of adventure with the barnacles of civilization attaching at very bend has been an exhilarating delight.

In September, Hall Roach, Hollywood motion picture producer, and Clark Gable, actor, will make the trip.

The boat is carrying a supply of salt, which will be distributed for big game at various points in the gorge, the Smiths said. Game officials will check on bear, elk, deer, mountain sheep and mountain goats during the dangerous trip.

Just how dangerous the gorge is well demonstrated in photographs the Smiths possess which show the cracked-up boats of others who have tried to make the descent in lighter craft.

It was the Smiths who guided the National Geographic Society expedition through the gorge in 1935 and who took the geodetic survey crew through last year.

There is a stone monument at North Fork, 10 miles below Salmon, to mark the place where Old Toby, an Indian, showed the Lewis and Clark expedition that it could not go down the river by boat, but would have to use pack horses over Gibbon Pass into the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.

Salmon River Barge Bears “Precious Gift” The City of Salmon, plucky barge carrying a fish and game department survey party down the treacherous Salmon River rapids to Lewiston carries a precious gift. The president of the Lemhi County Sportsman Club sent a pound of butter to the club in Lewiston.

River men Start Second Day of the Treacherous Salmon Trip – March 21, 1946 Intrepid river men shoved off Wednesday to guide down the treacherous Salmon – dubbed the River of No Return – a group of game officials and wildlife experts. The men hope to obtain pictures and information of wildlife habits in one of the NW’s most primitive areas.

The Salmon cuts directly across central Idaho through a region that is accessible only by plane. The river drops 3600 feet from Salmon to Lewiston, a distance of 310 miles. At one point the stream runs 7000 feet below the lip of the canyon.

Veteran river men, Don and Clyde Smith of Salmon, built and will handle the 28 by 8 foot flat-bottomed boat. Five men will accompany the Smiths. Three other men plan to make only the first day’s trip, 22 miles, leaving the boat then to make room for additional supplies.

Boat at Riggins Tuesday. A warm welcome awaited seven boat men whose home built barge is due to arrive here out of the Salmon River Canyon Tuesday after a 10-day game survey expedition in the wild reaches of the Idaho primitive area.

The river party embarked from Shoup and were dropping through the River of No Return channel at an average of 19 feet a mile. The party included the boat’s builders, Don and Clyde Smith of Salmon.

The Smith’s boat will be trucked from Riggins back to Salmon for more trips, perhaps during the summer at a cost of $1200 for six persons. This includes food, guide service, everything but the passenger’s own bedroll. Only other scheduled trip down the Salmon this year is by Clark Gable and Producer Hal Roach of Beverly Hills.

In the heart of one of the lower canyons these adventuresome wayfarers left a record of their trip and challenge to other voyagers. Designating themselves the One Way Club, they made a tablet from a stout plank, carved their names thereon, picking out the carving with paint and spiked it securely to the canyon wall. Certainly it is one of the most exclusive clubs in the world and the only one wherein men will almost kill themselves to attempt to get in. But the charter members declare the Salmon’s magnificence is worth all its dangers. It seems to hear them tell their tales.

Marshall Edson told one tale of catching fish and cooking them in this primitive area which sounds like a tall tale. While camped near some hot spring in the upper area, they pulled five-pound steehead from the river and dropping them into the hot springs cooked them in 5 minutes. No wonder, it was 150 degrees hot. At their camp one night at Hot Springs creek, they saw mountain sheep and Big Horn mountain goats just across the river. The game was as much interested in the men as the men in the game and deer let them come as close as 10 feet with cameras. They are yet to learn what civilized men are like.

RIVER OF NO RETURN JOURNEY ENDS WITH RECORD DAY’S RUN – Boatman Clyde Smith and his son, Don, reported the trip was the roughest of the more than 20 journeys they have made down the “River of No Return”.

Ending their down river run with the longest day’s journey known, a tired and whiskered crew tied the river barge “City of Salmon” up at 4:55 p.m. Tuesday at the end of a 310-miles journey. The 72 miles covered by the expedition Tuesday is the longest run in daylight hours known for a Salmon River barge. Embarking at 8 a.m. several miles above the mouth of the Salmon River, the expedition battled rough water down the Snake River and then used a 10-horsepower motor to drive the barge down river towards Lewiston.

The recent expedition does not claim to be the first to negotiate the entire river from Salmon to Lewiston, but it does believe it is the first to establish a recording tablet.

Some writers claimed that the trip was one of the most momentous expedition in the history of the northwest – the long barge voyage down the River of No Return.

The toughest part of the trip was described by all members as the portion downriver from Whitebird. The earliest trip yet known, the Smiths boatmen from Salmon, explained that the water was high enough to be fast and rough, but that it was not yet high enough to cover many of the large, mean boulders which make the lower canyons dangerous. Higher water later in the season covers these danger spots.

Salmon River Barge On Motor Trip Home – For the first time a “River of No Return” barge was headed for the head of the river and another trip down the Salmon River gorge.

The 28 x 8 foot barge was hoisted from the river before noon yesterday and loaded onto a two-wheeled trailer for the trip across northern Idaho and south through western Montana and back to the Salmon.

Boatman Clyde Smith and his son, Don, supervised the loading as Kyle McGrady attached his powerful hoist to the barge and pulled the boat up onto a loading ramp. An auto wrecker from a Lewiston garage hoisted the front of the boat into the air and swung it onto a special seat on the back of a pickup truck. The rear of the barge was placed on a two-wheel trailer attached to the truck by a tongue.

The barge, “the City of Salmon” carried a seven-man crew on a 310-mile trip from Salmon, Idaho, as part of a state fish and wildlife survey.

World Traveler Delighted – Paul Hoefler, who has made photography trips down the Amazon, Nile, Congo, and Yellow rivers, said the trip gave him new thrills and material for pictures. The veteran Hollywood photographer and journalist said about the world’s river. “None can compare with the Salmon for thrills and interest. All the way game was abundant, and I saw a mountain goat for the first time.”  Paul shot film for a color and sound motion picture of the journey. Mr. Hoefler of Los Angeles is a member of the Royal Geographic Society and the Explorer’s Club.

Larry has amassed a collection of stories of the Smiths on the Salmon River starting in 1930. They became legends. Until we get it rewritten, here is the collection:

By Larry Smith

315 Laurelwood Drive

Jacksonville, Oregon 97530



 Traceable Movements of the

Eli and Elias and Aaron Smith Family.

Some dates are approximations based on places of birth, census records, and family stories.

1780s -Pennsylvania- Henry and Mary Smith

1810s -Pennsylvania- Eli and Elizabeth Smith

1830s -Ohio- Eli and Elizabeth Smith and Noah

August 1848 President Polk establishes theOregonTerritory, includingWashingtonandIdaho.

1850s – Indiana – Eli and Julia Tuttle Smith and Elias W., Aaron T, Flora, & Roy (Leroy M.).Elizabethhas died. Eli has married Julia Tuttle whose husband has died.

1863 – President Lincoln creates theIdahoTerritoryout of theOregonTerritory.

1866 – Eli and Julia Smith and their children move toMarshal County,Kansas.  Eli dies a few years later leaving Julia with two kids to raise.

1870s -NebraskaandIdaho- Julie Smith, without Eli, and the Smith kids start spreading out but eventually most gather in centralIdahofor a few years. Mostly farming, with a bit of preaching and storekeeping, logging and building.

1879 or 1881 – Leroy and his mother, Julia Smith, the widow of Eli Smith, arrive by wagon inBig Bear Ridge,Idaho, 13 miles north east of Kendrick.

Twice widowed, Julia Tuttle Smith came by wagon train fromKansas, with her 15 yr. old son, Leroy Martin Smith. They settled on Big Bear Ridge, a few miles south of Deary,Idaho.  They came to Big Bear Ridge because three others of Julia’s children had settled there – Elias, Aaron, and Flora Rhoda Smith- older

On Julia’s death in 1886 she was buried in theBigBearCemeteryon Big Bear Ridge. The name of the Cemetery has been changed to:WildRoseCemetery. Wild Rose cemetery is northeast of Kendrick. Take Hwy 3 for about 7 miles and turn right ontoWild Rose Road. The cemetery is just a short distance on your right.

On Julia’s grave is written: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy

1886 – Julia dies at age 60 (Nov. 6, 1826 – Oct. 24, 1886) and is buried in Yellow Rose Cemetery, ID  (formerly known asBigBearCemetery).  Leroy proves up his homestead by marrying Hattie Hill to legalize the transaction. Leroy was only 20 at the time and needed a wife to be a legal landowner.

Buried with Julia are two of Leroy’s boys: Everett Louis Smith, b. October 31, 1887, d. 1894 – seven years old – died of cancer of the ear. And his brother: Oliver Leroy Smith, born: May 18, 1890, d. 1890 – age four months.

Leroy Smith and family then move and move and move.Montana,Idahoand eventually to Daisy,Washingtontrying out different farm and logging jobs and trying to make a living farming and running hotels and inns.

1904 – Elias and Ida Smith and their three remaining boys, Clyde, Lee (Leroy) and Aaron, homestead inAlberta,Canada. Their other three boys had died.

1905 – Aaron Victor Smith marries Gertrude May Bennett inAlberta. Eva born in 1906. The Smiths and the Bennetts had homestead nearly next to each other.

“When I first met Aaron, I did not like him at all, but he was so persistent that I prayed about it. I told the Lord if He changed my feelings I would accept that as a sign that I should marry him. My feelings were changed and I accepted Aaron’s proposal. My brother,Chester, was very much against my marrying Aaron. I guess he was afraid that Aaron could not provide for me. He tried to talk me out of it. One day I toldChesterthat ‘I had to marry Aaron.’ I did not realize at the time thatChestercame to the wrong conclusion – thinking I was pregnant. Several years laterChestertold me that I must have been mistaken about having to marry because Eva was born 10 ½ months after we got married. So I explained toChesterthat I felt it was the Lord’s Will to marry Aaron. Sometimes our words are misunderstood.”  Story from Aunt Ethel Smith Perkins Wold – October 2009 quoting her mother – Gertrude Bennett Smith.

1907 (October 15) Addie Smith (Wold) born inSpokanein an apartment house near theSpokaneCountycourthouse – where Gertrude’s in-laws lived. (Elias and Ida Smith)

1908 – Elias Washington Smith and family, now with some daughter-in-laws in-tow, move back toIdaho.  The Smith family moves several times inIdahofor the next seven years. Elias farms and preaches.

During the summer of 1908, the AV Smith family lived on a 5-acre place Elias Smith had bought at Valley Ford, Washington, 17 miles south ofSpokane.

In the fall of 1908 the AV Smith family moves toTexas Ridge,Idaho, between the towns of Deary and Kendrick.  Ila May was born there, Dec. 28, 1908.

1909 –  Spring of 1909 the AV Smith family moves to Onaway, near Potlatch. That fall they moved to Little Bear Ridge, also in the vicinity of Kendrick.  July 1, 1910 Fern Delena born.

While in Onaway AV Smith works as a saw filer for Potlatch Lumber (one of the biggest lumber companies in the nation at that time) and for the Diamond Match Company.

February 1911 the AV Smith family moves to Big Bear Ridge and to the farm of Aunt Flora Smith Harrison, sister of Grandpa Elias Smith.  Elmer born there January 4, 1913.

June 1913 the family moves back to Onaway.  Little Elmer Smith was so used to hearing his mother say “you girls” to his four older sisters, that one day when a neighbor, just for fun said, “hello, boys”, that the little fellow drew himself up to his full height – whatever it was, and loudly announced, “We’re not boys, we’re girls!”

Elmer learned to walk while the Smith family was living with the Jacob and Flora Smith Harrison. One morning Elmer took a bad fall down a flight of stairs, knocking the wind out of him. He was having such a hard time breathing that his father, Aaron, rushed him outside and the coldIdahoair prompted Elmer to start breathing again. (Story from Dad, November 2009)

AV was apparently once again working as a saw filer for either Potlatch or the Diamond.Match lumber companies.

1916 – Elias and the Smith brothers try their hand at homesteading inEastern Montana. Drought and crop failures drive them back to westernMontana.

1918 – Aaron V. and family, and eventually his brothers (Clyde and Lee) and father (Elias), move toEssex,Montanato work on the Great Northern Railroad.

1928 – Gertrude Smith moves her family toSouthern Californiafor two years without husband Aaron V. She was tired of the snow and cold winters and harsh living conditions.

1930 – Gertrude Smith and family move back toMontanaleaving behind oldest son Elmer so he can complete high school. She refuses to return toEssex, so she settles down in Kalispell.

1930 – 1942 – The Smith family, what is left of it, moves back toKalispell,Montana. Actually, the Smiths are in the 1930 census twice. Early in 1930, Gertrude and the children are recorded living inL.A., in the same neighborhood as Aunt Winnie and family. Later in 1930, the U.S. Census shows them back in Kalispell.

While Elmer and his father Aaron, and other Smiths are on theSalmon Riverfor nearly a year trying their hand at gold mining, Grandma Gertrude and the rest of her family settle into living in Kalispell. It was a trying time for the family, economically and emotionally.

While Elmer and his father, Aaron, were down on the Salmon River inIdahofor most of 1932, Grandma Gertrude and the rest of the remaining kids settled into an economically stressed life in Kalispell. Ruby (who had not yet met her future husband – Elmer) Rasmussen’s mother, Dagny Rasmussen and her very good friend, Kate Richardson, would bring food over to the Smith home. Aunt Ethel remembers how much they appreciated these acts of kindness. (April 2007). Ruby Rasmussen worked for Mrs. Richardson in her kitchen potato factory while in high school. Ruby’s job was to help slice and package the chips into 5-cent bags to be sold mostly in bars and taverns.

1932 – Elmer Smith graduates fromBelmontHigh SchoolinLos Angeles,Californiaand moves back toMontanato be near his mother, then toIdahoand the Salmon River and then back toMontanaonce again.

1933 – Elmer and Ruby meet at church while Elmer is working atGlacierNational Parkfor the CCCs.

1935 – Elmer and Ruby marry inIdaho. Goes to work delivering groceries.

1939 – Elmer and Ruby Smith move toSouthern California.

1942 – Tired of the snow of Kalispell, Gertrude Smith and the kids move back toSouthern Californiawithout Aaron.


1940 – Larry and Lloyd are born.

1946 – Elmer, Ruby, Larry & Lloyd move toSouthern Oregon.

1966 – Lloyd and Helen Smith move toGrants Pass,Oregonand Linda and Larry Smith move toAshland,Oregon

1973 – Larry and Linda Smith move toJacksonville,Oregon

2001 – Lloyd and Helen Smith move toLongview,Washington.

Keith and Kenneth settle into theSeattlearea. Amber and Richard and kids live inPortland,Medfordand eventuallyJacksonville,Oregon.

Brian and Helen Smith live inPoulsbo,Washington,Colorado,Nepal, andPhoenix,Oregon

2010 – Brian remains inPhoenixand Helen and the three kids move toJacksonville,Oregon

# 5 Family Memories


Written by 88 year-old Elmer Smith,

DECEMBER 18, 2001

Memories of my childhood and my Mother and Father have always been nothing but fond–and the feeling of being loved and of peace and contentment were there because we knew that Dad and Mother loved each other. What a security blanket.  I wish all families were as fortunate.

Dad had a steady job and Mom was a genius at spreading the monthly paycheck to meet the needs of her family–always denying herself for the good of her children.  I have never known a more unselfish lady and only one that could match her–my sweetheart.  Mother set the pattern in my young mind for the girl I wanted for a life’s partner.  My sights were set very high.  She taught me that ladies were special and should be treated as such.  Her Father was a lay preacher and she always used Scripture to teach us how to live.  I can still hear the music and old church hymns as we gathered around the old pump organ–played by my sisters–and Dad with his violin (that he loved so dearly) and sing the Gospel songs that were so meaningful.  What an impression they made on me–they made the Lord very real.  The truths of those words have been my guide and staff through life.  It is a shame that this generation is not exposed to these hymns.  Why does church music have to be a replica of the gutter music so popular with the unsaved?

I remember when the Medics came in the middle of the night– (we were still in Kalispell at this time)–when I was about 5 and before we went to live inEssex–and took Mom to the hospital with a deadly case of pneumonia where she stayed for many days.  It seemed like forever.  Those were frightening days.  I remember the paramedics coming in the middle of the night and carrying Mom out on the stretcher. Everything was so dark.  Then Dad fell sick with scarlet fever (In another interview Dad says it was typhoid fever) when I was about 9 and he was rushed by train fromEssexto the nearest hospital 60 mi. away in Kalispell–we nearly lost him.  Those were lonely days because Dad was never sick nor was Mom.  (Dad cannot quite remember, but he thinks his father was gone nearly a month.)

I remember the joyful summer days when there were no locomotives scheduled to return for the rest of the day, Dad came home early and Mom prepared a picnic dinner and the Gang all went to the River at what was known as the Picnic-Grounds.  We always had special food and looked forward with anticipation to these occasions.  The Walton (Essex) Ranger Station forGlacierParkwas just across theFlathead River. The swimming hole was a “backwater” so the river flowed through slowly allowing it to warm up. The main channel of the river was too cold to stay in very long.  Flooding probably removed the old swimming hole years ago.

Mom never missed a chance to point us to Jesus and to magnify the name of her Lord.  The summer (1928) we moved to ourCaliforniahouse, theFoursquareAngelesTempleset up a large circus tent directly across Hi-way 101 from our house inRedondo Beach.  Barnum and Bailey had just folded their tent and left town.  Mom saw to it that we were there on opening night.  With the previous urging I had received from my sister, Ila, after she had returned from a visit with Gmpa. Smith–a minister inWashingtonState– with a heavy burden for her brothers and sisters–coupled with Mom’s example and her teaching, I was quick to get the point and about the third night I hit the Sawdust Trail.  Sister Addie gave Elmer a copyrighted 1898 Bible.

After the Foursquare tent meetings shut down they rented a building in Hermosa–about 2 blocks away from where we lived inRedondo Beachand started a church.  Soon the Pastor thought the newly saved folk should be baptized in water.  So the date was set for the water baptismal meeting to be held inAngelesTempleinLos Angeles.  There were about 10 of us.  All 10 of us got into the tank and Aimee was at one end.  Everyone held hands and when she gave the word everyone went “down under”.

Howard Rustoy, a youngAngelesTempleBibleSchoolgraduate, was preaching his first at that evangelistic meeting in 1929.  Twenty-five years later he held some meetings in our Assembly church inAshland,Oregon, and I reminded him of my conversion in Redondo.  I am so thankful for a Mother who made it so easy to come to Jesus. I remember how she steered me away from a girlfriend of my sister’s and she was overjoyed when I chose my lifelong sweetheart.  She could not have been more pleased.  She told someone that she knew for sure that we would never separate.  Her prediction was right on.

Due to polio and or the flu virus, at age 3/6 and despite the fact that Dad had only one strong leg and used a crutch to substitute for the other leg he could do just about anything a man could do with two good legs. He went to the shops of the Great Northern R.R, seven days a week, to work on the big Mallies that pushed the long freight trains over the Continental divide and returned back to the shops inEssex.  In the springtime when the middle fork of the Flathead River was running high Dad and I would take our bamboo poles and wood grubs for bait and head for our favorite fishing hole at the confluence of Essex Creek and the Flathead about 200 yards from our house. GlacierNational Parkwas just across the River.  We used a large cork for a bobber and cast it into the upper end of the hole to let it drift downstream.  When the cork disappeared we had a fish and in about three quarters of an hour we had enough fish to feed the Gang–enjoyed by all.  Later in the summer and fall when the Dolly Vardens were running we fished along the River in our favorite holes and riffles for the big fish.  It was thrilling to catch a Dolly Varden–when you hooked one of those babies they cleared the water by a foot or more trying to shake that big wobbler loaded with triple Snell hooks out of their mouths.  Sometimes they succeeded but not often.

It was amazing how Dad could travel that river canyon with nothing but rocks and boulders and without a trail but he did it and kept me breathing hard to keep up.  When we went on an extended trip with a packhorse he had no trouble swinging into the saddle with theWinchesterrifle in its scabbard.  I remember when I built a rabbit pen out in the woods with some pointers from Dad, my first pair increased quite rapidly.  Dad thought we should reap the harvest like any sane farmer should do but I was not sane–I was crazy about my bunnies so he did not make me do murder.  I remember how Dad was always concerned with the comfort of his family.  Even though the temperature in the winter dropped to -40 degrees and the snow was five feet deep we always had a comfortable home.  When our coal supply was low he would inform the foreman and within hours we would have a new pile of coal.  It was my job to get it into the coal bin.

Even as a young kid, Dad would ask Grandma, “What does this food do for me?” He has always been interested in eating healthy.

When Dad was about 12, Uncle Clyde asked him to accompany him on a long road trip. Along the trip his uncle would make numerous stops. Dad found out later that Uncle Clyde was on a “business” trip. He was delivering his homemade moonshine to his regular customers.

In the fall Dad would say, “Son, be around when I come home and we’ll cut wood”.  We would go into the woods a quarter of a mile armed with a two-man crosscut saw, ax, falling wedge, a splitting wedge, mall, a bottle of kerosene for cleaning the saw and a 16 in. measuring stick.  At about 10 years of age I began pulling my end of the saw of pitch.  Dad had worked for the Diamond Match Co. inIdahoas a saw filer and it was fun watching those 4-inch shavings roll out from under the saw because of the expert way he sharpened our crosscut.  About dark Mom would come out with our supper and we enjoyed it around a bonfire.   Our heating stoves were the cast iron potbelly coal burning stoves but the large cook range burned wood and it consumed 8 or more cords annually so it took a few trips to the woods.  Then it was my nightly chore to split and carry it into the house from the large woodshed.  It was my sisters’ job to wash dishes and do the housework.

“In my mind’s eye I can see Dad getting his violin down from the shelf after the evening meal and playing our favorite old hymns evening after evening.  They were like a sermon to me. He was a good Dad–I’m sorry I did not tell him how much I appreciated what he had done for me.”

In the spring of 1928 Mother’s only sister, Winifred Frizell, invited Mom to visit her inRedondo Beach, Ca.  Dad was entitled to one “foreign” pass per year on R.R. lines other than the Great Northern so Mom accepted the invitation and she fell in love with So.Cal.  Mom wanted to get her family out of that little railroad town up in the mountains into civilization.  Dad did not want to give up his job.  This was the first time I ever heard them argue and that was quite by accident.  They stopped short when I walked in.  I presume Mom won the argument because Dad agreed to send a monthly money order to us inCalifornia.  Aunt Winnie continued coaxing and even located and rented a house one block from her home.  The carrot was too tempting and Mom calculated she was doing her best for the family. Dad got another foreign pass (guest pass on a RR other than Great Northern) and we went south.  The shock for Dad of being without his family finally set in and he asked Mom to return home.  He sent her another foreign pass and threatened to stop sending the p.o. money orders.  Uncle Lee who lived inLos Angelesoffered to let me stay in their home and finish my last 2 years of hi-school. Those were tough decisions for Mom but the fact that I could finish hi-school made it easier for her–always thinking of her children.

Elmer Bennett Smith–2 weeks short of being 89 on Jan. 4, 2002  – with some additions by Larry.


After graduating from 8th grade in 1927 in Essex Dad spent the year after working at odd jobs. Only Dad and one girl passed the eighth grade-graduating test, so the rest of the class had to take the year over again. There was no high school inEssex. The closest was 60 some miles away in Kalispell. Dad worked on the county road crew building a road through town. The road crew used mules and horses to run the road equipment.

The Smith family left Essex in 1928.  When Grandma visited her sister inCalifornia in 1925, she came up with the idea of eventually moving the family south.  Dad needed a high school and the rest of the family needed to be in a warmer climate. Harland and Ethel were left in an orphanage for a year.  Grandma Smith had no choice because she could not economically handle all of her kids.

Great Grandpa Smith’s niece, Edith and Burton Stewart (daughter of Leroy Martin Smith), wanted to adopt Ethel, so she went to live with them for a while inSpokane.  Harland eventually went down toRedondo Beachto join the family, but Ethel stayed behind for almost a year.

Gmpa. Smith stayed on inEssexfor another two years without his family until about 1930.  He worked for the Great Northern for a total of 15 years.

Grandma Smith returned toMontanain 1930 after Gmpa Smith threatened to cut off the money if she did not return with the family. He missed his family. She stayed in Kalispell until 1942 at which time she returned the family to southernCalifornia.

Grandpa’s brother and sister-in-law, Lee and Emma Smith were living inLos Angelesby this time. Grandma went to visit the family intending to stay only for a couple of months, but instead ended up staying for two years.

Dad said that after arriving inRedondo Beach, he and his friends would play football out in Highway 101. The traffic was real light in those years. Few people could afford cars. If and when a car would come down the highway, Dad and his friends would stand on the side, allow the car to pass and then move back onto Hwy 101 and continue the game where they left off.


A bit frustrated from not finding a paying job, Dad made the decision to head for his mother’s house in Kalispell, arriving at the end of June 1932. The next day he was approached by his uncle Clyde and invited to go gold mining for the winter down on the Salmon River, the “River ofNo Return”. Clyde needed Dad’s little car to help transport supplies and people. Uncle Clyde told Dad, “The Salmon will be an experience you will always remember.” And it was! They left the next day for Salmon City, Idaho; Gmpa Aaron Smith, Uncle Clyde Smith (Grampa’s brother), Clyde’s wife – Aunt Anna, Dad, Clyde’s two sons (Dad’s cousins) Don and Jack.  Two guys who were boatmen, George Locke, and Big Swede – a woodsman, and Aunt Anna’s brother and wife, the Osburns. Clyde’s 9 year-old son, Leon, rode down to Salmon and then was taken by the Osburns to his mother’s parents atBig Bear Ridge,Idaho.

Clydewas driving a late model Chevy, about a 1931.  He sold it to Anna’s brother, Tom Osburn, atSalmonCityand they parted ways taking Dad’s cousin Leon with them. Tom Osburn later went into a life of crime. One time he crawled into the back seat of a car, waited for the driver to come and take off. As the car was underway, Anna’s brother, Tom, hit the driver over the head and the car crashed. The brother ended up in prison. George Locke eventually moved toPhoenix,Oregonand worked for the City ofPhoenixin their water department. Dad would stop by the shops and visit with “Loxsy”.



One reason for the 1932 – 33 Salmon River trip was that Uncle Clyde was trying to begin a new life. He wanted to get away from his bootleg business. Wanted to dry out.  In 1981 Dad’s cousin, Don Smith told me that, “ I have seen too much moonshine.  Was raised with it.  I don’t drink now.”

(They may not have gotten away completely from the booze business because there are references of miners stopping off at the Smith Cabin on the Salmon and trading supplies for Smith booze.)

Clydehad visited the Salmon region in 1922 and saw how people lived.  He worked for a while at servicing gas engines, made moonshine, and for the Great Northern Railroad. He decided back then that he would return to the Salmon area if times ever got tough. Times were tough and the Smith family was returning.

Thirty miles out from Kalispell, while heading around the south end ofFlatheadLake, the tie rod on the Puddle Jumper, a shortened Chevy, lost a bolt in the steering, causing the car to swerve and flip over. Don Smith was driving.  It was an open car and they should have been crushed, but luckily the car tipped over onto the borrow pit giving the three guys room to escape serious head injury after the car had righted itself. Dad was unscratched Jack’s arm was cut. He was treated at the hospital. Don was scratched and scraped on his face and side. Their father,Clyde  took Jack and Don back to the hospital in Kalispell for treatment.  The rest stayed overnight with Grandma Smith.  The windshield was crushed and the axle was bent. The car was repaired and the prospecting caravan continued on to Salmon.

Dad had with him a $10 gold piece that his sister, Addie, had given him at Christmas.  Dad used it to buy groceries and supplies. The team built a boat atNorth Forkon a sand bar. After a month of building and camping, they put in the river. (Uncle Clyde had been waiting for several of his former boot legging customers to come by and pay off their debts. A couple did, but others still owed him. Hard to collect those types of debts.) Some of the men in the group worked in a sawmill during the day to pay for the lumber they needed for the boat.  They worked on building it at night.

The group floated 40 miles down to the confluence of theNorth Forkand the main stem of the Salmon.  They camped at the “v” point where the two rivers met and where they found a very old sod covered miner’s cabin that Anna andClydedecided to live in. The men also gathered in the cabin to eat. They would use the boat to cross over to the other side of the river for firewood and gather supplies.

Dad, the cousins, his father, the Swede, and another man lived the winter in a big canvas army tent. Dad built a stove out of a lard can, cut a hole on the side and then connected condensed milk cans together as a stovepipe. Holding the condensed milk cans over a fire, Dad was able to melt the solder and knock the tops and bottoms out.  By crimping the ends he was able to connect them together to get the smoke out of the tent. “It was always very warm in the tent.  Did not take much wood.”  Dad and cousin Jack built bunk beds and went out and collected “stove pipe” type plants, dry snake grass; those with the pithy insides, to use as a mattress. “The grass made our bed cribs like an air spring mattress.” The snake grass also worked as a fire starter.

For most of the summer they mined for gold, but found little. That fall they shot a deer and cooked and ate the warm carcass that gave some of the men bad cases of diarrhea. During one bad episode, Don ran out of the then in the middle of the night and exploded “his body heat” on the sand bar, and was quickly followed by barefooted brother Jack who promptly stepped in Don’s pile. Dad remembers Jack swearing at this brother for not warning him.  Anna, who had to do all the cooking, tended to complain a lot.  The guys just got used to it.  Jack, about 15, had completed one year of high school. Dad taught him algebra so he could keep up on his studies.

 From Mother – March, 2003 During the winter that Elmer was down on the Salmon River there was a fellow who lived on down the Salmon River a bit farther than they were camped This fellow needed more supplies so he walked out to Salmon City during the winter and on his way back he stopped for a visit and then went on “home”.  Later he told the Smiths that when he arrived at his house the roof had been torn off etc. and everything was a shambles inside. This big boar bear “woke up” from his winter nap and decided he needed a snack, so he visited his nearest neighbor. Well, when the fellow saw this mess at his house he went to Mr. Boar’s house where he was found fast asleep again and shot him–so there– he wouldn’t tear up his house again. I suppose he ate him also because meat was scarce. This took place in the winter of 1933.

 Invisible Hands    October, 1932 One fall day Dad and cousin Don (two years younger to the day) set out looking for a mountain goat to shoot.  He could see them up in the cliffs above their camp.  So they started climbing.  “Every time we came over a ridge we would see him on the next ridge. He was going the same speed as we were.  We got separated as we took different routes.  I continued walking for two hours up the Big Horn Crags.  I came to a 40-foot deep chasm in the crags.  I had a choice.  I could either go back and climb around the obstacle, or I could try to jump it. I decided to jump the 5 to 6 foot crack.  I had a 32 Winchester Special rifle strapped on my back, soldier style, with the barrel extending slightly above my head.  I backed up and took a jump.  Just as I landed the barrel hit an overhead rock that extended over the top of the nook I had landed on. Tucking down as I landed and barely making the jump, the extending rifle barrel hit the overhanging rock throwing me back and off balance. I resigned myself to falling.  I knew I was going backward.  Waiting for the hit at the bottom of the cliff I felt two hands and a mighty rushing wind and a strong force gently pushing me up. And found myself standing on the edge of the ledge.  I scrambled out. I should have fallen to my knees and thanked the Lord, but I wasn’t mature enough.  I found Don and we gave up the hunt. I could only jump 5 feet, but Don could jump 20 feet.”

A hogback came down to the river where we were camped. One day while scanning the cliff above us, Uncle Clyde spotted two mountain goats. Clydetook off, went down the Salmon a bit and then climbed up the hogback.  He managed to shoot both of the goats.  The morning we pulled the boat up the river to near where the two goats had been shot.  As we climbed up we found the first goat had fallen 200 feet after being shot and had recovered and walked away.  The other goat was still there with its four legs sticking up.  We rolled him down to the boat. We rowed the boat back to camp. Clydeeagerly cut the steaks and fried them, but the meat was so tough we couldn’t cut them.  We were able to eat only the liver and the heart.  The entrails of a mountain goat are tied so tightly with ligaments, every inch had to be cut out to get to the meat.  The tallow had such a strong smell it had to be discarded also. We did tan the hide and made mittens.  The skin was so thick and tough the gloves did not wear out even after being used to move rocks.  Uncle Clyde used iron wood bark for the tanning process. He had learned lots of outdoor lore and tricks from the Nez Pierce Indians inIdahowhile Great Grandpa Smith was preaching in their area ofIdaho.  Grandpa Aaron Smith also learned Indian lore along with his brothers.

There was no cook stove at first, so they cooked over an open fire. A new windowless cabin, 9 x 12, was finally started that winter. The hewed logs were cut a half-mile up the river. It was finished the next fall after Dad had pulled out. With the river frozen over, it was much easier to slide the logs over the cabin site. Up on the hillside, across the river, was a stand of straight pine trees.  After the men cut the trees, Swede, (Albert eventually walked out and lived and worked inSalmonCity until he died. Never married) who was good with a broad ax, would flatten the sides and remove the bark. They would then team up and slide the logs over the ice.  Dad had made a pair of ice grips out of an old tire that had some how made its way into the camp. Dad cut out two sections of tread, and using buckskin thongs, he was able to fasten them to his rubberized shoes/boots.  The rest of the men would slip and slide, but Dad had excellent traction. One time, as they were sliding a log with a crook in it over the ice, Dad was at the end when the log suddenly flipped over cracking the ice shelf Dad was standing on the ice shelf next to open water. The water was open because of a strong rapid. The ice shelf broke loose taking Dad down stream. He hesitated a moment, gathered his strength, and jumped from the floating ice floe back onto solid ice.Clyde and Don stood there in astonishment. Dad watched as the ice floe he had been standing on tumble through the rapids and then watched as it was sucked down under river ice near their cabin. If it had not been for the traction devices Dad had on his feet, he would have slipped trying to get off.

The single men ate in the old sod cabin, but slept in the big tent.  When they finally ran out of food,Clydeand the Swede walked out the 40 miles to town.  Dad said when they appeared a couple of weeks later in the new boat they had built for the trip downriver, the stranded group was so weak they could not do their work. Clydehad picked up several hundred pounds of spuds for them to eat.

The crew supplemented their food with fishing. Steelhead, Rainbow trout, and Squawfish.  Dad once saw a sturgeon in the river, but it was not native in the Salmon. Dad says, “It had taken a wrong turn somewhere.” The fishing stopped after the river froze over or the runs stopped running. Dad remembers seeing pictures of Indians and others out in the middle of the Salmon with pitchforks hauling in the salmon they were so thick. The last time he was in Salmon, about 20 years ago, he was told that theSalmon Riverno longer had salmon.

Dad’s cousin, Don Smith told me on June 8, 1981 that “Elmer didn’t seem to fit our group. We were busy sowing our wild oats. He didn’t take part.”

The Smith cabin was eventually sold by Uncle Clyde, along with the claim and 20 acres, to a lawyer from Salmon for $800 and two lots in town after having lived and worked the claim for 8 years. Uncle Clyde moved intoSalmonCity.

I remember Salmon River floaters fromJacksonvilletelling me that one of the landmarks along the river where the two rivers meet is known as the “Smith Cabin” to this day.

After the Salmon River experience and after gold mining fever was out of their system, the Clyde Smith family became expert river guides taking many people down the “RiverofNo Return”, including the National Geographic in 1935. Uncle Clyde died inSalmon City,Idahoin the 1950’s.


From: Lloyd Smith <>
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2008 03:03:59 -0800

Subject: Had a chat with Dad

I talked to Dad on the way to drop him off today in Eugene. Lots of history covered.

He told me about an old prospector that was close to where they were mining on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. One day the old guy left to go get supplies and when he got back to his cabin a bear had torn the roof off and ate a lot of his supplies. He was so mad he tracked the bear back to its den and shot it.

The gold on the Middle Fork was mixed with silver so was not worth a lot. After working all winter and mining after it thawed, Dad got his share…5 bucks. After Dad left, the crew moved further down the Salmon and found better gold. Dad’s uncle and cousins decided they could make more money hauling tourist down the River of No Return and they started their boating business.
I searched the Web and found a few references to Dad’s uncle Clyde Smith and his cousin Don Smith.,M1 <;pg=PA23&amp;lpg=PA23&amp;dq=clyde+smith+salmon+river&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=SD8ReLhv6c&amp;sig=o3BC4Rwr8xjq076F2O0rXrRsor0&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=book_result&amp;resnum=1&amp;ct=result#PPA23,M1>

On June 9, 1940

the first commercial whitewater trip though the Snake River Canyon, south of Jackson, was launched. Clyde Smith and sons Jack and Don of Salmon, Idaho – a veteran riverman on the Salmon River guided the trip.

This is similar to what Dad took down the Salmon.




Dad even came up with the name of Guleke, one of the first ones to run the river.

Dad told me how he kept warm at 40 below in a tent and then a cabin. “We piled on the blankets”. They had an empty 50 lb lard can and Dad built a wood stove out of it. Dad collected the condensed milk cans and heated the bottoms and melted the solder and took the bottoms off. He then stacked them together and it made the stove pipe for his new stove in his cabin. He built bunks and his dad stayed in one and he in the other. For a mattress they collected swamp grass and dried it and it made a comfy mattress for them.

Dad told me about his uncle Clyde making moonshine. The Feds set up a stake-out in the area and was watching his still and they arrested him when he went to work it. He had a $100 fine or 1 year in prison. After 6 months he got his brother Lee to send the money and he got out. Dad does not think he ever paid back his brother. I asked if Clyde went to work for the railroad and he said that he continued his moonshining but did it smarter. He had stills all over in the woods. Dad said he even went with his family as Clyde took orders and delivered the hooch. Dad did not know it at the time but soon figured it out. Clyde drove a brand new 1925 Chevy, I think Dad said. After a while Clyde saw that his wife was drinking and his kids were drinking and saw the destruction it was causing and that is when he decided to head to the Salmon and Dad was invited. Dad was invited because he had a car.

Dad told me a story about how they did had not had any meat for a longtime and they finally got a deer. They were so hungry they did not let the deer cool and cooked and ate it. They all got sick with diarrhea. Jack was the first one out and then the next one out stepped in Jack’s “pile”. Dad was really laughing when he was telling me the story.


 Sent: Saturday, November 02, 2002  –

Subject: Re: Salmon Country in Idaho

Just the g. sons–wondered if the others would be interested. I hope you realize what an effort your Dad puts forward to write–to write below while looking at the screen.  He wrote on every line– 3 and 1/4 pages. And his hands are so used to hard work and then to use a pen–it is not that easy.  I am sure you know besides attending California Flyers –enrolled there as soon as we moved South. Then he was hired by Douglas Aircraft and while there they sponsored more training classes at a Trade School inSanta Monicaand then when you fellows were about two he took some classes at U.C.L.A.  He has always been so eager to learn. We lived not far from the University.  You guys and I would take him over and then pick him up.  That would have been in the early 1940’s.  I shudder to think if I had married someone else who would not have been a good husband, nor lover, nor provider etc.  Never ever have we been without money.  Such a good husband I have had.  GG (Ruby)

One of Dad’s projects at CALIFORNIA FLYERS was to draw to scale THE B -17.  Lloyd will go crazy if I might mention that we MIGHT–ONLY MIGHT still have the drawing!!!!!!! Your Dad was very, very good at “drawing”.  He got to go flying with the student flyers and instructors because he got good grades.  This was when we first moved to Ca. and he started school inInglewood.  He was about age (July 2007)


Written by Elmer Smith to nephew Ken and Bobbie Wold 

no date on original   (perhaps November 2002)

Dear Nephew and Bobbie,

Here you are Ken–a complex answer to a simple question.  If you do not have time to read it all that will be O.K.

We are blessed with the e-mails you pass along and Ruby, bless her heart, sends them to all of her contacts.  Anything that glorifies Jesus should be passed on.

I have always admired you, Ken, because you were so much like your Mother and now you have a clone in Lloyd’s son, Kenneth.  We see the same tender spirit–even the same name.  I do not know how that came about unless it wasProvidence.

No, I did not live inSalmonCitybut I did live on theSalmon Rivera long time ago–the summer of 1932 and the winter of 1933.  I had just graduated from Belmont High inLos Angelesand a gymnast buddy and I drove our car that we had bought from Uncle Lee, up toMoscow,Idahointending to attend theForestrySchoolatMoscowUniversity–the best forestry school in theU.S.according to the literature they had sent us.  The government appropriated money every summer to provide jobs for forestry students.  We were in the middle of the Great Depression and President Herbert Hoover was busy doing nothing for the country.  He already had his millions that he had made off of the government.  The chalkboards at the employment offices inMoscowandSpokaneread “Bed, board and cigarettes– and neither one of us smoked.  When we could not find work that paid money Bert decided to hop a freight and go back to Missouriwhere he was raised– he later returned toLos Angeles So I drove him to the freight yards inSpokane, gave him a verbal IOU for his half of the car and pointed the little Chevy East to Kalispell.  I had no clue at the time but later when I met my sweetheart in the Sunday School Class I knew that God had His loving hand on the steering wheel.  Praise His Name.  I’ll always thank Him for pointing me toward Kalispell like the needle on a compass.

Uncle Clyde, Dad’s brother, had been in the moonshine business for about 6 years with his boys manning the stills in the woods and peddling it at drinking parties going on in Western Montana, Northern Idaho andEastern Washington.  He suddenly saw what it was doing to his family and decided to get out.  I saw him turn down flat– offers from old friends–saying that he did not drink anymore.  He put the old life behind him and organized a gold prospecting party to go down into theSalmon RiverCanyon.  Before the jet engines for boats were developed the Salmon had so much white water it was known as the “RiverofNo Return”. Once committed there was no return.

The second day I was in Kalispell he asked me if I would go with them.  I think it was because I had a car and a lot of muscle to shovel rock into the sluice box.  We built a large riverboat at the mouth of the North Fork–20 miles belowSalmonCity.  We loaded all our tools, tent, bedrolls, cosmetics and provisions for 9 mo. and set sail. Clydeappointed me as the anchorman because he said it had to be someone “quick and fleet of foot”.  My job, when we wanted to stop, was to jump on the boulders on shore with the hawser rope and quickly snub the scow to a large tree or boulder, whichever came first. It was up to me to get that boat stopped and I took my job very seriously and I never missed a snub.

We had a plank deck with a small boat on a rack overhead in case we hung up on a large boulder in the middle of a rapid and we did just that very thing on the second day. That little boat was really a lifesaver.  There were 8 on board and there surely would have been some loss of life for half did not know how to swim and no one had a life jacket–without which swimming skills are practically useless in white foam.  Some don’t make it out with a life jacket.  The only way the large boat could be turned right or left was with large sweep oars mounted on a tripod at the front and back on a 16 ft. pole extending 8 feet in front of and behind the boat.  As we entered the rapids andClydeon the back sweep made his decision and hollered, “keep right”.  The front sweep man, who claimed to be a river man on theFlathead River–the reason he was chosen for the group– started right– then too late tried to sweep left and set us right on top of the big boulder.  The front of the boat was so high the back began taking on water–but I believe that God had placed another big flat rock directly in line and just the right height to prevent the boat from swinging down stream and rolling over.  There we sat with white water roaring by on both sides. Communication was difficult.  We lowered our life boat over the side with Clyde in it and tethered it with a sturdy rope, then fed it out until he was out of the rapids–pulled the boat back up along the shore even with our stranded boat–shot a line to us and with both ends anchored and drawn tight and with a short rope looped over the anchor line and tied to the life boat we pulled it back and forth from ship to shore and unloaded the passengers first–one at a time except for us stevedores who off- loaded the saturated cargo from below the deck.  After we were all on shore and the boat was lightened of its cargo we rocked it off the boulders with the tether ropes and it swung through the rapids to shore. I still remember seeing a stream of syrup running from the bottom of a 25 lb. cloth bag of sugar. I dried out about 15 lb.  The bedrolls were in the same condition and the dried fruit had to be sun dried the second time.

We spent the next day drying out our belongings on the hot rocks of the canyon walls and resumed our voyage to the mouth of the Middle Fork. Clydehad his son, Don, and myself take the little boat ahead to spy out the bad rapids and alert the big boat.  We dropped into one swell that was too big for our small craft and almost filled the boat and leaving just enough flotation to make it to shore and empty the water.

Uncle Clyde delighted in playing tricks on the rest of us so I was watching for a chance to get even–getting even is not very Christian in most cases. Clydehad been warning us with emphasis to watch for rattlers.  I had my opportunity when we were floating down the river and anchored at the mouth of a nice stream for our midday meal.  After we had eaten Don and I took our fish poles to try our luck.  When we returned Dad andClydewere sitting on the bank with their backs to us.  I gave Don the signal for silence and with my pole extended butt out I placed my clicker reel within inches and gave a sharp tug on the line.  I have to suppress a belly laugh when I recall his sudden reaction.  If you have ever seen a cat suddenly frightened you can get the picture. He jumped just as high and gave a howl just as loud, but the horrified look on his face made me wish I had not done it.  I now realize that if he would have had a heart attack we would have been in a mess.  Everyone laughed exceptClyde.

The Middle Fork was a beautiful crystal clear stream that flowed out of the Big Horn Crags and had lots of trout and so with the mountain goats, the curly horn mountain sheep and the venison we did all right in the meat line.  In the spring we had 23 hides hanging in front of the cabin.  The game wardens did not bother us–we were so isolated we did not know who won the presidential election until Clyde, Don and I came out in March to build another boat and trade our gold for food–but “In spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns”– so I parted company to continue my quest for the girl of my dreams and the Lord led me back to Kalispell where she lived.  When I saw her for the first time I immediately recognized her for the one I had been dreaming about.  I knew she was going to be my life partner. As soon as she graduated and I popped the question, she could not refuse.  Mom was the only one I told and it made her very happy.  In June 1935 we drove down to the ranch on the Salmon nearNorth Forkwhere I had worked the spring and summer when I came out of the Canyon.  I had found some very dear friends in the Haglers and Pansy cried when I left in the fall.  She had lost her only son who would have been my age.  They wanted to adopt me.  We were wed inSalmon Citywith the Haglers as witnesses and with their blessing.  (We kept our marriage a secret for 5 months)  When we were driving away from their ranch Pansy said at the last minute–“If you ever have twins we get one of them”.  We had twins 5 years later but we decided to keep both of them.

“The rest of the story” is common knowledge.

Uncle Elmer    (age 89–to be 90 on Jan. 4)


 Uncle Clyde and his two boys eventually returned to the Salmon after 8 years of fruitless gold mining and developed a profitable business running float trips down the river. Cousin Don shot himself to death several years ago because of poor health. His sons and grandsons are still running river trips on theSalmon River.  Linda and I stopped byNorth Fork, on 4th of July Creek, and visited with Don and his family in 1981.  Spent the night with them sleeping in our little trailer. We were warmly welcomed.  We noticed that there was still a Smith Store atNorth Fork.

From “The Handbook to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River”

 an interview with river guide Don Smith

Located at the mouth of the Middle Fork, on the flat to the left, is the cabin site of Clyde Smith and family.  Don Smith recalls, “My father and mother,Clydeand Anna Smith, my two brothers, Jack and Leon Smith, and I lived in the cabin.  The cabin at the mouth at the Middle Fork was built in the winter of 1934 and 1935.  The Middle Fork cabin was our headquarters for eight years when we were placer mining on theSalmon River.

“My younger brother, Leon, was always slow about doing the dishes. It was his job while the rest of us had to shovel gravel in the sluice box, but he moved darn fast one day when a yellow jacket went into his pant leg!

“We pulled two 22-foot double-endedAlaskabateaus up the Middle Fork with our mining equipment and supplies on board. As we went, we mined as far as Elk Bar. It took five day’s towing time upstream, but only about three hours coming out.

“About that time black widow spiders were discovered when my brother found one in his shoe one morning.  It was the first one we had ever seen. Our cat had kittens and our dog had pups on the foot of the bed.  We ate one sheep going up, along with a lot of fish and lye hominy.  We got 22-ounces of gold in 30 days.  Middle Fork gold was worth about $22 an ounce.  (Middle Fork gold had silver in it, so assayed out at less than most other gold.) We shot two sheep on the way out.  By the time we dressed them out and got going, it was after dark when we got back to the Middle Fork cabin.  My brother, who was running one boat, ran head-on into a rock below Goat Creek and fell into the river and almost drowned.  He had a long-barrel .44 gun strapped to his side and it was dark. The third time he came up he got a hold of the boat.”

In 1935, the Smith family had the privilege of taking the National Geographic on a Salmon River expedition.  An article, accompanied by several photos of the Smiths appeared in the July 1936 edition of the National Geographic magazine.  One photo shows Don Smith crossing the main Salmon to his cabin on the Middle Fork in 1935 using a hand pulled cable car.     

The article continues:  By 1950, only a handful of hardy adventurers had attempted to drift the river.  During the early 1950’s, surplus rubber rafts from W.W.II became cheap and easy to obtain.  The guides soon found the rafts made boating the Middle Fork much simpler and safer.  Commercial boating became easier and more profitable.  As the rafts increased in size, more passengers could be carried.

Idahoriver guide Don Smith has been running the rivers since 1933, and has seen many changes. He says, “Well, guiding has changed with the times.  It takes less skill to run a rubber boat–and you can haul a larger load. A rubber boat overloaded will get down the river better.  You can pull it around at the last minute.  A larger 36-foot scow made of half-green lumber has to be in place a long ways up the river at all times.

“Bob, Jack, and Kenny, my sons, all grew up on the Salmon River. By the time they were fourteen years of age, they were running a sweep boat or jet boat.  They just naturally grew into it, as I was on the river from 1928 until 1975.  (Cousin Elmer Smith disputes Don’s 1928 date because his cousin floated the river for the first time with Dad in 1933 along with the rest of the family.)

“My son, Bob, hauled a bus down the Middle Fork to the Flying B Ranch.  The largest load I hauled down theSalmon Riverwas a DC caterpillar with a blade and winch–five tons in one piece.  We used 14-foot blades on a 22-foot sweep handle.  My arms never got over that trip.”

River guiding became so lucrative that son Kenny ended up selling out his river license in the early 1980s for $200,000. What a change of fortunes in only 50 years.

 An interview with Elmer’s cousin – Don Smith  – by Larry Smith

 June 1981 – at Fourth of July Creek, Salmon, Idaho, age 65. Don was in poor health and the suffering got the best of him.  He ended up shooting himself a few years after our visit.

The Smith family and theSalmon Riverwere featured in the July 1936 National Geography.

Grandpa Aaron Smith spent two winters on the Salmon.  He chewed horseshoe plug tobacco since he was 14 or 15.  Never had any tooth problem. Never owned a toothbrush.  Ran out once while on the Salmon. Walked out to a nearby mine to get more.

The walking trail into theirSalmon Rivercamp ran from Shoup to within a mile of the Smith cabin.

Don’s son, Bob, was building toy boats at age 5 and later in school.  Built his first powerboat at age 14 and soon began taking tourists down theSalmon River.  He owns a lodge on the River, flies customers in and out in own plane.  Also builds $22,000 custom jet boats for customers all over the west.

Cousin Don operated the North Fork Store, atNorth Fork,Idaho, from 1955 until about 1971 when he sold the store and 150 acres.

Don was the first person to ever run a powerboat back up the Salmon, the River of No Return.  Don ran the Salmon professionally for 35 years.  The Smith’s were the first to run the River on a regular basis.  Ran the first aluminum boat down the River in 1955.  Many stood on the shore and watched because they said this feat would be impossible.

The Clyde Smith family, Don’s father (Elmer’s uncle), mined gold for 8 years while living in a cabin at the mouth of the Middle Fork for two of those years.  Clyde, Anna,Jack,Leon, and Don lived on a houseboat for three or four of those years.  The boat was allowed to slowly drift down river while working the gold bearing ore along the gravel bars.  Lots of gold was taken out by others, but by the time the Smith’s went to mining in the mid to late 1930s, they barely made wages.  The family finally had to go to work to pay off their debts.  Don does remember during one 60-day period they were able to collect 22 ounces of gold in one pan at one time.  That would have been over $600 worth of gold.  Don’s family was the first to run tourists down theSnake Riveron 3 day float trips.

Don and his brother Jack, before they married, worked in Winnemucca, Nevadafor several years doing deep shaft gold mining. They had to take elevators deep underground. The guards checked their clothing and body cavities for stolen gold nuggets. Don eventually married and moved back to Salmon Country and began running the Salmon Riverprofessionally.

 Bev (Caton) Pinelli – Apr 15, 2004   Categories: Clyde Smith Family, Obits

The Recorder Herald, Salmon, Idaho

 Funeral Rites Announced For Clyde Smith

Funeral services for Mr. Clyde E. Smith, 74, will be held at the Jones Funeral Home on Friday July 26, at 2 p.m. with Rev. Don I Smith officiating.

Mr. Smith was born inKnox County,Nebraskaon February 8, 1889, the son of Rev. Elias and Ida Smith.   While he was still a small boy the family came toIdahoand settled on theClearwater River.

His father was a protestant minister and traveled and preached in theClearwaterarea.  Clydeattended school and grew up there.   He met and married Anna Mae Osborn on February 8, 1913, inGreat Falls.   Mr. Smith was a fireman with the Potlatch Lumber Co.

In a few years they took up a homestead inBruce,Montanaand remained there for about three years.   He also worked for the Great Northern Railroad for about eight years making his home atEssex,Montana.

In 1931 he came with his family to Salmon where they placer mined theSalmon Riverand also did some hard rock mining.   They operated the Shenon Mine for a while.

During World War II he worked on the Arab desert for the Navy Gun Plant and later worked in a machine shop inLos Angelesassisting in the war effort.

He returned to the Salmon area in 1945 and worked at Cobalt until his retirement about four years ago.   He remained in Salmon until the time of his death, July 23, 1963, in theSteeleMemorialHospital.   He is survived by his wife, Anna; three sons, Don I. Smith of North Fork; Jack P. Smith ofTucson,Arizona; and Leon F Smith ofNorth Ridge,California, and seven grandchildren.

Pallbearers will be James Caples, James Egge, Donald Martin, Jack Bowman, Tony Schmuck and Dyke Powers.

Burial will take place in theSalmonCemetery.

Provided by Glenna Johnston,Orofino,Idaho

Researched by Dave Call, Salmon,Idaho   Transcribed from a very faded copy by Beverly Pinelli

Clydeand Anna Smith

From Bev (Caton) Pinelli – Apr 17, 2004  

Clyde Smith made a vacation trip to theSalmon Riverarea in the early 1920’s.   He liked what he saw and decided if he ever lost his means of livelihood, this is where he would end up. This was exactly what happened during the height of the Depression.   In 1931, Clyde and his wife, Anna, and three sons, Don, Jack and Leon arrived atNorth Fork.   They built a boat and headed down the river to placer mine.   After several mishaps on the river, they tied up at the Middle Fork and started mining.   When winter set in, they logged trees off the hillside and built a cabin for headquarters. The cabin still stands today.   They placer mined along the river until about 1935.

They would walk out to Salmon twice a year to sell their gold and buy supplies.   A new boat was constructed for each trip back down the river. These were built at a sawmill on Sage Creek, owned by John Moore.

In 1935, they all left the country. Clyde,Anna,Leonwent toSpokane.   Don and Jack went toNevadato work the mines.Clydeand Anna returned to Salmon in 1941, and Don and his family joined them in 1942.

They worked at the Pope Shenon Mine. They spent two winters at Cobalt working for the Bureau of Mines.  Clydeworked for the war effort.   Jack and Leon entered the service during World War II.   Don went toPortlandto work in the shipyards.

Clydeand Anna returned to Salmon in 1945. Clyde and his son, Don, started a boat business on theSalmon River.  Don boughtClydeout in 1948.  Clyderetired in Salmon where he enjoyed gardening. Anna was born February 8, 1895 inSterns County,Minnesotaand passed away in 1988.   Clyde was born February 8, 1889 inKnox County,Nebraskaand passed away in 1963.   Don passed away in 1987.

Jack now lives inArizonaandLeoninCalifornia.

Written by: Marian Smith  – Wife of Don Smith Source:  Lemhi County History Book pg 714

 Don Smith was born on a homestead in Montana January 4, 1915.

He moved to the Salmon River Country in 1931 during the Depression.   His family built a scow toNorth Forkand headed down the river to placer mine.   They built the cabin at the mouth of theMiddleForkRiver.   In 1935, the Smiths left the river and went up Fourth of July Creek to hard rock mine.   In 1939, Don went toNevada.

Don married Marian Wootan inWinnemucca,Nevadain 1940.   They returned to Salmon in 1942 and Don mined with his father,Clyde, at the Pope Shennon Mine. They spent two winters at Cobalt working for the Bureau of Mines.   Don went toPortland,Oregonin 1944 to work in the shipyards.   During this time, Don and Marian had three sons: Bob born in 1941, Jack in 1943 and Kenneth in 1944.

While Don was inPortland, the Army Corp of Engineers contracted him to haul them down the Salmon River to survey it from Salmon toLewistonfor dam sights. Don and his father,Clydebuilt two scows, one for sleeping and one for cooking and eating. They also built a small motorboat.   When moving the crew, they would run one scow down the river, and then use the motorboat to go back up-river, so they could run the other scow down.   With this method, they were the first ones to actually run the river back upstream.   This had never been done before.   Until then, it had been known as the “RiverofNo Return”.

This trip gave Don andClydethe idea of taking parties down the river. They began this business in 1946.   Two years later, Don bought out his father. Don started with a wooden scow for these trips.   Marian would drive around to either Riggins orLewiston,Idahoto pick them up.   In 1948, Don had an aluminum scow built, which was more durable and was equipped with a galley, refrigerator and bunks for sleeping.   About 1950, Army surplus rubber rafts were used which were easier and lighter to handle.   At that time, Don built his first permanent camp on theSalmon Riverat Squaw Creek.   He used the aluminum scow for a kitchen and built bunkhouses.  Don built his first powerboat using two outboard motors and was able to come backup the river.   From this camp, he took out hunting and fishing parties in the spring and fall.   He continued to run trips through to Riggins and also down the Middle Fork during the summer.

In 1955 Don and Jack Cook bought the North Fork Store and ran it in conjunction with the river trips.   Don sold his hunting outfit in 1967.   He then built a camp at Arctic Creek just aboveSalmonFalls, which he operated for five years.   In 1971, Don and Marian sold the store and turned the boating over to their oldest son, Bob.

Don’s three sons started running the river at an early age.   Bob had started in the boating business when he was fourteen.   He built his first powerboat when he was seventeen.   After serving in the National Guard, Bob established his own camp at Barth Hot Springs.   He eventually moved his camp down to China Bar on Lemhi Creek.   He sold his business in the spring of 1990. He continues to design and build boats.   He is one of the best-known and most capable boatmen on the river today.

Jack served in the Navy from 1961-65.   He worked inAlaskauntil 1975, when he took over the Arctic Creek Lodge from his father, which he continues to operate today.

Bob and Jack now haul parties who float down the river back up from Riggins, thus saving the long drive around.   They have specially built boats, which Bob has designed. Kenneth served in the Marines from 1962-67.   Kenneth took over the Middle Fork float trips, which his father began. He sold the business, Middle Fork River Expeditions, in 1980. Don passed away in 1987.   Today Marian lives in Salmon. Their three sons all live in theNorth Forkarea.

Written by: Marian Smith  – Wife of Don Smith

Source: LemhiCountyHistory Book

(No date given. Maybe about 1990)

Wife of Clyde Smith – Obit  

Bev (Caton) Pinelli – Apr 17, 2004   Categories: Clyde Smith Family, Obits

The Recorder Herald, Thursday, February 4, 1988

Anna M. Smith, 92, service held at local cemetery

Funeral services for Anna Mae Smith, 92, were held at the Salmon Cemetery on Wednesday, February 3, 1988, at 2 p.m. with Rev. Wilfred Keele of the Faith Bible Chapel officiating. Mrs. Smith died January 29, 1988 atSteeleMemorialHospital.   She had been in poor health and had been residing atSalmonValleyCareCenterfor 1 1/2 years.

She was born on February 8, 1895 inStearns County,Minnesota, a daughter ofPrestonand Hattie Baker Osborn.   She grew up and received her schooling inMinnesota.   When she was in her teens, she moved to Deary,Idaho.

She married Clyde Smith on February 8, 1913 inGreat Falls,Montana.   They took up a homestead inBruce,Montanaand remained there for about three years before moving toEssex,Montana.

In 1931 they moved their family to Salmon where they placer mined theSalmon Riverand also did some hard rock mining.

They operated the Pope Shenon Mine for a while.   They lived in Salmon and Mr. Smith died in 1963.

She remained in Salmon for a short time and then moved toNorth Fork.

She is survived by two sons, Jack P. Smith ofCasa Grande,Arizonaand Leon F. Smith ofNorth Ridge,California; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.   Also surviving are four sisters, Nettie Jones, Mamie Webb, and Dora Anderson, all ofLewistonand Gertrude Olson ofMoscow; and one brother, Delbert Osborn.

She was preceded in death by one son, four brothers and two sisters.

Burial took place in theSalmonCemeteryunder direction of the Jones & Casey Funeral Home.


Robert Leroy Smith

Robert L. “Bob” Smith, 62, of Salmon passed away Thursday November 27, 2003. He was born April 15, 1941 to Don and Marion Smith inWinnemucca,Nevada.

The family moved toIdahowhen Bob was a toddler.   Like his father and grandfather, Clyde Smith, Bob loved theSalmon Riverand backcountry.   He worked with his dad in the outfitting and guide business from the time he was a teenager.   His folks couldn’t keep him in school; he wanted to be on the river.

Bob married Jill Hart in 1965.   In 1967 he was involved in a two-vehicle car accident in which he was seriously injured and his best friend Larry Ziegler was killed.   Recovery was long and painful; pain was his constant companion from that time on.

Bob was naturally gifted as a draftsman designer and inventor.   He built a replica of his dad’s scow at the age of five or six.   He built his first powerboat at the age of 14. When he broke his arms, he rigged up a way to steer a powerboat with a stick that he and other boatmen came to prefer.   Bob designed and built all his own boats.   He would get a better idea, sell the old boats and build a new one.

More than boating Bob loved flying.   He owned three planes and had logged 238 hours in his logbook.   Flying over the wilderness was awesome and   he loved it. Most of his flights were to the backcountry to acquaint himself with the airstrips and visit the river folks.

Once Bob was flying home fromBoiseand a bad storm caught him, it was getting dark, he was lost and the gas was getting very low.   He earnestly called on his Maker to get him home to his wife and kids.   “But” he said, “If you do get me landed O.K., I’m gonna stop at the Owl Club and have a couple of stiff snorts.”.  It was sad for him to loose his pilot license due to diabetes.

Bob loved life and lived large.   He was good, kind, honest and humble.   He worked hard and enjoyed it. His family was never in want.   Bob played hard too.

His smile lit up a room.   Fun and humorous, an original thinker, it was a pleasure to be in his company.   He said if he made someone laugh, his day was made.

Cancer was Bob’s last cruel enemy. True to his character, he faced it with great courage. Faith never knows where it’s being led but it knows and loves the one who is leading.  The life of faith is not a life of mounting up on wings but of walking and not fainting.  The final stage in the life of faith is attainment of character. Bob walked the walk, he showed as Christ.

Bob is survived by his wife Jill of 38 years, daughters Bobbie Grace Smith and Katy Jo Smith, mother Marion Smith, all of Salmon; brothers Jack Smith of North Fork and Ken Smith of Coalville, Montana, six grandchildren Jake Smith, Colt Ford, Kristina, Stephanie, Tracy Aryanna and Adrian Clamor; sisters-in-law; Josie (Mike) Anderson of Minnesota and Jeni Summers of Pocatello, Idaho; five nephews: Troy, Nathan, Paul, Thore and Danny; two nieces: Colette and Teal and many dear and true friends.   Bob was preceded in death by his dad, Don L. Smith.

Memorials are suggested to the Gibbonsville QRU or Hospice of Salmon,Idaho.

Services were held Wednesday, December 3, at theGIACenterin Gibbonsville.   Arrangements were under the direction of the Jones and Casey Funeral Home of   Salmon,Idaho.

The Recorder Herald

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Marian Rose Smith

Marian Rose Smith, 85, passed away April 3, 2005 at her home in Salmon,Idaho.

Marian Rose Wootan Smith was born June 13, 1919 inWarren,Oregonthe daughter of Daniel and Celia (Stafford) Wooten.

She attended schools inPortland,OregonandWinnemucca,Nevada.  She was united in marriage to Don L. Smith on April 6, 1940 in Winnemucca and to this union three sons were born:  Bob, Jack and Ken.

She was the brain of the family business, the store and cafe, helping with the outfitter and river guides and the running of three rowdy boys.  Imagine her driving from North Fork to Lewiston, or Riggins, which ever, in an old WWII armored converted half track with no power steering and a 32foot trailer, meeting her husband, looking slim and fresh in her cotton print dress and red hair glowing with the boys neat and pressed long before the days of wash and wear.  This was Marian.

She made wonderful salads.  Huge bowls of new recipes, macaroni and potato salads, made from he latest kitchen gadget were served up with a load of fried chicken.

She also crocheted beautifully, making man Afghans, baby blankets, shawls, table covers and doilies as gifts, and let’s not forget her needlepoint, pictures, pillowcases and quilts.  Marian did her crossword puzzles in ink and enjoyed playing bridge with friends.

Marian with her eloquent fine bones may have looked frail, but she was one strong woman.  Strong to the end and lived like she died, with grace and dignity.  Marian held on until she was able to say good-bye to all her loved ones.

Marian loved her family and a good laugh, like the time when Don drove up in a beautiful new Cadillac. Now here’s something a real lady can drive.  Off goes Don in the new caddy and back in a few hours with big decals of deer, elk, fish, bear, goat and sheep and the Salmon River Boat Tours sign all over the caddy.  So much for being elegant, nothing to do but laugh.

Marian is preceded in death; by her parents, her husband, Don, son, Robert, two brothers and one sister.

She is survived by her sons: Jack Smith ofNorth Fork,Idaho; Kenneth Smith ofCorvallis,Montana; daughter-in-law, Jill Smith ofNorth Fork, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at theGibbonsvilleGIABuildingon Saturday, April 16, 2005 at 2:00pm.

Memorials are suggested to the GIA Building Fund at P.O.Box  73, North Fork, Idaho, 83466 or to Salmon Advanced EMT’’, P.O. Box 2452, Salmon, Idaho 83467.

The Jones & Casey Funeral Home of Salmon,Idahois in charge of arrangements.



 13 Jun 1919 03 Apr 2005 (V) 83467 (Salmon, Lemhi, ID) (none specified) 540-18-5284Oregon

Coming out of the Salmon – Elmer meeting Leo and Pansy Hagel

As the spring of 1933 approached, living conditions on the Salmon had begun to deteriorate. There was little food left. Gmpa Smith had run out of chew, which he had been using since he was 14. “He was wishing he had some.” The smokers had run out of cigarettes.  Dad had talked his father into leaving before their planned departure sometime in the summer. There was still ice on the river. Dad felt that Gmpa could walk out easier, using his crutch, if he could walk at least part-way on the river ice, then they would scramble over the river rock and get up on the trail into the town of Shoup, and there hopefully they could catch a ride into Salmon City. They would have to camp out in the snow and cold for one night, but Dad figured they could do the trip in two days. They did not tell the others. Dad had spent February building a bear trap up on the cliff overlooking the river. They had used smooth half logs on the inside to prevent the bear from clawing out. They were looking forward to having some fresh bear meat.  But unfortunately, only a cub was caught, and the momma bear tore the trap apart from the outside and releasing her cub.

Gmpa and Dad had talked and agreed to leave the day the trap was finished. When Dad got back down to camp he found out that Gmpa had not packed up and had changed his mind. He did not want to chance the trip. “I was really ticked off.”  Dad had built a small sled to haul their stuff over the river ice.  He wanted to move on with his life. “I knew my dream girl was not down there.  I came out (of the Salmon) and found her the first thing. I knew I had found her because I had been thinking about her for a long time.”

Dad stayed another month as the near starving crew gathered a small grubstake of gold dust that was enough to buy food for another couple more months. As Clyde, cousin Don, and Dad were walking to the boat to be rowed to the other side of the river to hike out for provisions and supplies, Dad announced his intention of not returning to camp. Uncle Clyde was a bit put out. Gmpa was not a hugger, so when Dad said goodbye to his dad, they shook hands.

The three hiked the first day on the river trail, camping out the first night.Clydehad taken Dad’s tools out his car, so Dad packed them back out in his knapsack. By 10:00 the next morning, they were able to catch a ride to Mr. Moore’s cabin at Shoup. By this time, with the warm weather, Dad’s feet were being to hurt walking in rubberized shoes. As they hit civilization, Dad spotted an apple orchard with last year’s apples. They picked a peck to eat.  Even as a youth Dad loved his fruit. “ Mr. Moore was a friend to mankind. Everyone knew him.” He helped everyone who came by. Gave them all a warm meal and a room to stay. The Smiths stayed with him every time they came out. They were never charged.  Dad helped them start building a boat for the return, but he knew he had to get a job soon and earn some money for his return to Kalispell.

They had been so isolated all winter that they did not even know that FDR had been elected president.

On the first of April Dad talked about finding a job to Mr. Moore, whose cabin sat at the mouth of theNorth Fork, about a mile from the Hagel Ranch, who suggested checking out Leo Hagel to see if he needed a ranch hand.  Dad walked down to the Hagels and asked if he needed any help. “Yeah, I guess we could use you, but I need to check with Pansy my wife.”  Dad was then invited to stay with the Hagels.  They gave him board and a room in the bunkhouse/creamery room.  Leo felt so sorry for Dad’s tattered look that he went immediately to town and bought him clothes.

 In a June 1981 conversation with 93 year-old Leo Hagel, Leo told me that Dad’s clothing was barely hanging on him because they were so worn.  “He was a starving boy. He hadn’t eaten for some time when he got toMoore’s farm nearNorth Fork asking for a farm job.” Leo took Dad down to the North Fork Store and bought him a new pair of pants for 75 cents, a new shirt and shoes.  Leo and his wife, Pansy, were witnesses at Dad’s and Mother’s wedding inSalmonCity in 1935. Leo took pictures.  He asked the caretaker, who was mowing the lawn, to please take a picture of them all together.  He still had Dad’s wedding pictures and recounted these stories as though they happened yesterday even though it has been 45 years.  Leo is now 93 and living 8 miles north ofNorth Fork. Linda and I spent several hours visiting with him and his “new wife.”  Pansy had died.  Leo told me about strip-mining his place near the river.  According to Don Smith, Leo made a lot of money off the operation. Back in 1933 Leo had offered to share the profits of the operation if the Smiths would stay and mine his field, but they instead chose to head on down theSalmon River.

Dad helped Leo herd cattle, milk cows, bring in hay, did farm type chores, cleaned out Leo’s two mile-long irrigation ditch that Leo had dug several years earlier, and cleared land for a new alfalfa field by using a team of horses to pull out sage brush. They used a “stone boat” to collect and remove the rock.  At one point, as the Hagels headed into town, Dad asked Leo to bring back some CCC enlistment forms.  Dad had been thinking hard about enlisting. “It was the middle of the Great Depression.” Leo came back empty handed, but offered Dad a $1/day if he would stay, which was the same wages as the CCC paid. He must have gotten the hint of paying a wage from the enlistment form.

While Dad was working at the Hagel’s, the owner of the Safeway store inSalmonCity, where the Smith did their trading for their trip down the Salmon, fell to his death and drowned when the cable car he was using to cross theSalmon Riverbroke during a flood.

Dad stayed on with the Hagels from April to August. Grandma Smith was sending Dad letters asking him to come back to Kalispell.  Dad had left his little “Puddle Jumper” parked alongside some guy’s barn, so when it came time to leave, Dad walked down and retrieved his dead battery.  Gave it to the postman who took it to town and brought it back the next day charged up. Dad had said his goodbyes to Leo and Pansy, so was waiting for the postman when he arrived.  He reimbursed the postman 50 cents the service station had charged to recharge the battery. Dad installed the battery, and headed north to Kalispell.  Dad had saved up about $100 to begin this new phase of his life.

Dad is a bit remorseful that he did not think about going after his Dad with Leo’s horses. “He would have loaned them to me. It would have made it easier for my dad to come out by horseback.  I did not even think about it.”  Gmpa stayed down on theSalmon Riverfor another winter. He spent the winter in the new cabin that had been finished after Dad pulled out. Grandpa Smith left theSalmon Rivercamp, August 1934 for Kalispell.

After pulling out of the Salmon River

and life with Elmer’s sister, Fern Kraft.

Dad went to work for his brother-in-law, Harry Kraft, Sr and sister Fern, in theFlatheadValleyatLakeside. About two miles fromFlatheadLake.  Harry was living at the place free while working as a caretaker on a small farm with an apple orchard He wanted Dad to help him pick the crop. The crop did not sell and Dad never was paid.  They were supposed to split the cost.  Dad spent “ two to three months there working his head off.”

 Dictated by Elmer Smith – October 15, 2006

After being a year on the Salmon River I returned to theFlatheadValleyand I was harvesting a crop of apples on theFlatheadLakeShore.  The owner of the orchard had a dude ranch about 30 miles East over a range of mountains and he offered a young pony for use at the apple orchard so I rode the horse that we had over to get the pony–stayed over night in the bunk house and left the next morning–riding the pony and leading the old horse.  When we got into the hills the climb was too much for old horse and she wouldn’t lead.  So I had to ride her and lead the pony. As we neared the top I felt a tug in his rein and looked back and he was standing on his hind legs–wild eyed and nostrils flared.  He fell on the down hill side of the trail on his side and took off like a toboggan on a very steep slope and ended up in the trees below.  I scrambled down the hillside to him thinking I had a dead horse on my hands.  Just as I arrived he jumped to his feet and was raring to go as if to say, “Let’s try that again.”

I’ll never know what really happened to him unless it was altitude sickness.  We made it fine over the top and down the other side–arriving after dark.  The pony turned out to be a fine horse –holding his head so high that I could ride him bare-back holding onto his neck and reins at full speed but–some time later while a neighbor boy was feeding the pony in the manger he knocked down a 5 gal can of gopher poison from the hayloft into the manger and not knowing what it was the boy did not clean out the manger and the pony ate the hay and died.

Elmer B. Smith
age 93 plus 10 months

 Gmpa Aaron Smith eventually ended up living out on the Lakeside farm with Fern and Harry after he came out of the Salmon and he continued living with the Krafts until they moved to Kalispell around 1939 or 1940. He “retired” at that point. Died at age 81, in 1957. He loved playing his violin. It was a tragic turn of events when he lost his arm in 1951.  Years of using a crutch had destroyed the nerves and crushed the blood vessels of his under arm bringing on blood clots and gangrene. Without his arm he could no longer play his beloved violin and could not use a crutch. From then on he was confined to a wheel chair. I remember seeing him 1948. He still had both arms. When Lloyd and I visited him in 1951, he was in the County Home, minus his right arm. He talked about how it continued to itch and was not there. He was in really good spirits. Was happy to see Lloyd and me.

 From the Salmon City, Idaho newspaper – RASMUSSEN – SMITH Ruby H. Rasmussen and Elmer B. Smith, both of Kalispell, Mont, were united in marriage here Monday afternoon, June 10. The ceremony was performed by Probate Judge Emerson Hill in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Hagel of North Fork.


Sunday, June 1935, Mother and Dad left Kalispell with the spoken intention of “visiting” Leo and Pansy Hagel inSalmon City,Idaho.  Instead they had marriage in mind. The Hagels did not know they were coming. They just showed up. I wonder if Grandma Rasmussen had noticed that the two of them had dress up clothes with them. Great Grandma Smith had it figured out before the young couple left for the Salmon.  She was real pleased Dad was marrying Mother. Margaret Snyder had been chasing Dad, and Great Grandma Smith was glad Ruby had won. (Margaret later took off for nightclubs and become an entertainer. Musically talented.)

Aunt Fay, age 7, noticed that Dad had purchased new shoes for his trip with his girlfriend (Mother) to the Salmon.  “You are going to get married aren’t you?” she asked.  Dad was a bit perturbed that his little sister had figured it out.  Their wedding plans were supposed to be kept a secret.

Grandma asked Dad and Mother, while preparing to head to the Salmon, to please drop sisters Fay, 7, and Ramona, almost 6, off at Fern’sLakesideranch. The two little girls were dropped off on the road and allowed to walk the long driveway back to the farmhouse. “We were in a hurry to be on our way.” It was early in the morning with the sun just beginning to show when the two sisters began their long driveway walk.

 Ruby and Elmer were married June 10, 1935 at the County Court House inSalmonCity by a presiding judge.  Leo and Pansy were pleased to be the witnesses.  They later sent copies of the wedding photos after the newlyweds leftSalmonCity to return to Kalispell.

During their “honeymoon” Dad and Mother spent much of their time riding horses and even tried their hand at herding cattle.  The two horses were perfectly unmatched. One was a big black beautiful mare well over 2,000 pounds – ready to go at the slightest command – anxious to get the job done. The other, a sorrel, same size, with nothing on his mind but eating. His feed bill was probably twice the other horse’s.  His side of the double tree was always slack with the chains rattling.

As they were leaving the Hagels, Pansy said, “If you have twins, we get one.” After we were born, Dad wondered which one he should send.  The Hagels had lost their only son when he was about five or six. About the same age as Dad.  That is one reason they liked Elmer so much.

 Notice from the Salmon City, Idaho Newspaper – 1935


Ruby H. Smith and Elmer B. Smith, both ofKalispell,Mont.were united in marriage here Monday afternoon, June 10. The ceremony was performed by Probate Judge Emerson Hill in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Hagel of Northfork.


On 3/5/11 10:36 AM, “Jeana and Al” <> wrote:
Many thanks. Great story. A Don Smith passed a way in Salmon a few years ago and must have been related to you. He once took a VW bus from Dagger Falls to the Flying B ranch on  a sweep boat. Quite a feat. Get ahold of  a copy of Cort Coley’s book. The Middle Fork” and there is a photo of Don and that  bus.

PS: That cabin is still there and every fall some folks show up to fish for steelhead

At 11:04 AM 3/5/2011,

Movie – Plot Summary for 
River of No Return  (1954)

Matt Calder, who lives on a remote farm with his young son Mark, helps two unexpected visitors who lose control of their raft on the nearby river. Harry Weston is a gambler by profession and he is racing to the nearest town to register a mining claim he has won in a poker game. His attractive wife Kay, a former saloon hall girl, is with him. When Calder refuses to let Weston have his only rifle and horse, he simply takes them leaving his wife behind. Unable to defend them against a likely Indian attack, Calder, his son and Kay Weston begin the treacherous journey down the river on the raft Weston left behind.

The greed of a reckless gambler who has won a mining claim in a poker game forces three people, a farmer named Matt Calder, his son and the gambler’s wife, Kay, into an adventure down the river and through the wilderness from which they may never return.

The title river unites a farmer recently released from prison, his young son, and an ambitious saloon singer. In order to survive, each must be purged of anger, and each must learn to understand and care for the others.


 Down the River of No Return with Don L. Smith

By Ray Doc Martin about 1960

 From the time I boarded Don Smith’s special built boat, at the end of the road below Shoup on theSalmon Riverthere was never a dull moment.

The boat was specially designed and built for the purpose, powered with two 40 H.P. outboard engines, combined with Don Smith’s 29 years of experience on the river gave Don’t guest and myself a feeling of confidence that was most gratifying, as we shoved off and started our trip down the river, we would hit stretches of roaring white water in the narrow canyon that would soon level out again to a smooth flat surface with the rippling rhythm of a symphony, then plunge again into another stretch of white water, this contrast continued at intervals for 25 or 30 miles down stream where, we reached Don’s camp.

I was pleased and surprised to see such fine accommodations – single and double bunks with springs for your sleeping bags, excellent food well prepared, meat house for fish and game, and hot and cold water for showers. Of course fishing was our main objective, so after looking over the camp we got busy rigging up our gear. This done, and with excellent water and weather, we were in business.

During our stay of several days, we were actually releasing steelhead 9 and 10 pounds.

Don also operates two big game hunting camps, one on either side of the river about 8 miles from the main camp on the river.

With patient and courteous guides and plenty of horses, those in search of elk and deer certainly had come to the right place. We met parties from Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, and California and, as well as having a wonderful time, most of these hunters went home with their elk, deer and two steelhead each.

This to me was truly remarkable. Also the condition of the fish and game was excellent.

This is one trip I truly enjoyed and hated to see come to an end, However, there is always the satisfaction of looking forward to the boat trip up the river, under full power, and for my money more exciting and thrilling than going down.

Well, put it this way. Do you remember your first merry-go-round ride, when you were a kid, and you stayed right there and road it all day at five cents a copy until you went broke, and that was all thought about until the circus came to town the next summer?  Well, that is the way I feel about a trip down theSalmon Riverwith Don Smith.

I could ride up and down theSalmon Riverevery day in the year and never tire of it.

This is a trip you tow for yourself and one you never for forget. You will never know the excitement, mystery, and romance of the Salmon River andSawtoothMountainsuntil you have met them face-to-face.


Interview with Jack Smith, son of Don Smith, grandson of Clyde Smith, brother of Bob Smith – at his house at North Fork

By Larry Smith

 July 2011

 Jack P. Smith

1924 Hwy 93 N

North Fork,ID83466


Jack was born in 1943, which makes him about 68 years old. Is a hard worker. We met with him while his was sawing up his winter’s firewood. Has a real nice place right on the banks of the Main Salmon atNorth Fork. Neat and organized. Lots of boats and boat parts in his sheds. Lives above his shop. He told us that he had a lot of help building the place. Jack has never married. His girl friend moved out recently, leaving him without a computer.

“My girlfriend took off. But before that she helped my mother when she got ill.”  His mother Marion died in 2005.

His father, Don, owned theNorth Forkstore for many years. Don ran his river expeditions out of the business. Don tried to sell the store and station to his son Bob, Jack’s brother, but Bob was not interested.

Back in 1932 the Smiths would have bought the lumber for their scow sweep boats from a sawmill up on Squire Creek. They did not work for money, but rather took their wages in lumber. When they had enough for the scows, they quit. The sawmill was 6 – 8 miles way from the put in site.

Jack took his uncle Leon down the Salmon about 2003.Leonhad been left behind when the family spent the winter of 1932/33 down the river. . (Clyde’s 9 year-old son, Leon, rode down from Kalispell to Salmon and then was taken by this mother’s brother and sister-in-law – the Osburns – to his mother’s parents atBig Bear Ridge,Idaho.

Leonreturned the following year and lived with his family on the River for seven years.Leontold his nephew Jack about the time he was with several buddies and they decided to float, rather than walk the trail down to where his parents were camped. They each grabbed a log and down they went. No life jackets or other protective devices as they floated down to their camp.

The cabin:  Leon Smith said that the “Smith” cabin was “so damn cold in the winter that we could throw a cat through the cracks.”

Leo Hagel’s place was up theNorth Forkseveral miles. “He made a lot of money when he ground sluiced his field near the river.”

As for why the Smiths left the remoteness ofEssex,Montanaand their railroad jobs, Jack said, “The local Gestapo asked them to leave town.”  Probably had something to do with Uncle Clyde’s moon shining activities and his past troubles with the law.

We had been told thatClydewanted to get away from the liquor and start a new life. There are stories in the history books about the Salmon that tell of people stopping by the Smith Cabin and trading supplies for liquor.

Bobbi Smith’s son is named: Jake Smith. Apparently Bobbi either did not marry or she took her former name back.

As we left the banks of the Salmon Jack told us, “Thanks for feeding some of my mosquitoes!

He certainly has the funny Smith streak in him.


 Fall 1935 – Don and Clyde Smith pole 3 miles up from the mouth with National Geographic Expedition team.

The National Geographic and United States Geological Survey party brought still more notice to Guleke’s river traffic. Congressman (and later senator) D. Worth Clark joined geologists Philip J. Shenon of Salmon, John C. Reed, and A. W. Farenwald and forester Howard R. Flint in an expedition reported in July 1936. Guleke was nearing retirement after a four-decade career, but Elmer Keith, who had joined him in 1930, was preserving his boating tradition. Keith developed a national reputation as a specialist in firearms as well as navigation, andSalmon Riverboating survived on an ever-growing scale.

Protection of a large centralIdahowilderness region, in which cougar and other wildlife could retain a territory free from roads and other encroachment, helped preserve much of theSalmon River’s integrity. In 1930, Senator William E. Borah and Governor H. C. Baldridge requested Forest Service designation of a largeSalmon Rivermountain primitive area, which was accomplished a year later through administrative action. Road-building projects below French Creek and above Corn Creek shortened a slowly decreasing gap inIdaho’s forest road system, but a substantial segment of the canyon was finally reserved for boaters. That arrangement originated as a result of natural obstacles to road construction but finally was accepted as having positive value.

Important changes eventually transformedSalmonCanyonnavigation after a half-century of one-way trips by river scow. In 1945, Don and Clyde Smith used an Army Engineers motorboat to go upstream to pick up surveyors whom they supplied with two scows on another river dam site investigation. Although they did not make a single upstream trip, they went upstream several times over their entire Salmon-Lewiston route. Then in 1947, Rogue River boatman Glen Wooldridge ofGrants Passbuilt a plywood motorboat at Riggins and took it up to Salmon that summer. Soon jet boats made return trips much more practical, and theSalmon Rivercanyon became a water highway.

Congressional approval of national wilderness legislation in 1964 and of wild and scenic rivers protection in 1968 also affected the Salmon River Gorge. Finally in 1980, additional federal statutory protection was provided specifically for theSalmon River. As a wilderness attraction,Salmon Rivernavigation continued to expand. But rubber rafts and jet boats displaced Guleke’s old freight scows. And channel improvement reduced a number of hazards that had confronted Guleke’s early operations.

Information provided by Larry Jones

Publications–450 N. 4th Street, Boise, ID 83702–208-334-3428

1937 – Don and Clyde Smith pole upstream from the mouth to Elk Bar.

June 9, 1940 – The first commercial whitewater trip though theSnake RiverCanyon, south ofJackson, was launched. Clyde Smith and sons Jacks and Don of Salmon,Idaho – a veteran river man on theSalmon River guided the trip.  (History of White Water Rafting in WY)

1946 – The principal addition to the collection is a scrapbook of newspaper clippings and photos relating to a boat trip down theSalmon River undertaken by Edson and a number of other fish and game officials and wildlife experts in 1946. Clyde Smith captained the “City ofSalmon” down the “River ofNo Return.” The trip received widespread press coverage. Marshall C. Edson Papers, 1946-1993   MSS 155  Boise State University, Albertsons Library, Special Collections Dept.

June 1969 – Bob Smith transports a Volkswagen bus from Dagger to the flying B on a sweep boat.


Sun Valley Magazine – Summer 2011

Carved by Water

The Salmon River, Forever the Wild Soul of thisGreatState ofIdaho


The Modern Era: Adventure and Outfitting

Where the river once provided sustenance for Native Americans, then opportunity and wealth for the pioneering trappers and placer miners, after the turn of the 20th century, it became a nexus of adventure for outfitters and their clients.

And if there is a first family of outfitting on the Salmon River, it is the Smith family. Clyde Smith and his teenage son, Don, built their first wooden scow in 1930 and ran it from North Fork down the Salmon to Long Tom Rapid, where they wrecked just before the confluence with the Middle Fork. This became the site of the family home they would build. Then in 1945, Clyde and Don took the Army Corps of Engineers down the river in a wooden scow to survey it. Along with them, they took a 17-foot boat with a 22-horsepower engine to ferry surveyors up and down the river. This was the nascent beginnings of the Salmon River jet boat business.

The Smith family, running its “Salmon River Boat Trips” out of the North Fork Store, created for the first time an outfitting business, taking fishermen and hunters into the river corridor. Don’s sons, Bob, Jack and Ken, in turn, all grew up on the river and all became outfitters. The Smiths were also innovators. It was in 1948 that the Smiths first took a party down the Salmon in a welded aluminum boat, a material more forgiving than the green-wood scows used up to that time. Bob Smith, who died five years ago, was particularly adept at building and navigating boats. His daughter, Bobbi, now 40 and working at a guest ranch on the Middle Fork, says her dad, “never wanted to go anywhere else, this was his life. He was a boatman, a hardworking, good person, just a sweetheart.” Bobbi describes how her Grandmother Marian, when she saw Bob’s intense interest in the river life, sent him off toSeattle to learn how to make boats. And make boats he did—welded aluminum boats with motors that could navigate upriver.

Bob and his wife Jill built a home at Hughes Creek in North Fork, Idaho. And after working out of several camps on the river, including the old Guth camp at Barth Creek, Bob eventually built the China Bar Lodge at Lemhi Creek on the Salmon. Over the years, he earned the reputation as one of the most skilled boatmen on the river. With his motorized aluminum boats and up river “jet backs,” Bob put to rest the moniker “River of No Return.” It was the beginning of a generation of boatmen working the river—up and down—taking guests into the wilderness to hunt, fish and sightsee. But Bob’s knowledge and skill were legendary, once running a scow loaded with a VW bus down the Middle Fork from Dagger Falls to the Flying B Ranch, 67 miles through class III and IV rapids. For Bobbi, who spent many of her young days on her dad’s lap steering a jet boat, the connection to the river has passed through four generations. “I belong here, I guess.” Thinking about it for a moment, she adds, “It’s really like a fairy tale, living on the river.”



By Johnny Carrey and Cort Conley


p. 23 – Some have mistakenly considered sweep boats anIdahoinvention. But flatboats or broad horns, as they were called, were in use on theMississippia hundred years before they were seen on the Salmon.

The boatman whose personality brought the Salmon scow and theRiverofNo Returnto national prominence was Harry Guleke. He arrived in Salmon several years after others had been using the river as an avenue for freight as far as Shoup. Yet it wasn’t long before he became the most magnetic and knowledgeable boatman on the river.

Harry Guleke was a strapping, muscular, handsome and friendly person. According to Don Smith, of North Fork, Idaho, Guleke always greeted acquaintances on the street with a booming but mellow, “Well, well, well, well.”

p. 54 – 55 – If any name can be said to have supplanted that of Guleke on theSalmon River, it could only be Smith’s. Clyde and his son Don, who was 15 at the time, came down the Main Salmon in 1930 on a wooden scow they constructed inNorth Fork. Not being made of green lumber, the boat was too rigid to absorb repeated impacts, and they wrecked it on a rock in Long Tom Rapid. Undismayed, the family settled at the mouth of the Middle Fork, building a cabin that still occupies the bar on the downstream side of the confluence. They headquartered there for eight years. (The cabin was actually built during the winter of 1932-33.)

Clyde Smith was fromKansasand had spent time inAlberta,CanadaandMontanabefore coming toIdaho. He made a sweep boat run on the Snake River inWyomingfromJennyLaketo a point 16 miles down river, shortly before arriving in Salmon.

The family placered for gold, gardened, hunted, and fished in order to survive. WhenAmericabecame involved in the Second World War, the Smiths left the river to work in war-related industries. They returned in 1944 to guide the Army Corps of Engineers down the river on a power-site inspection. Again in 1945 they boated the Corps survey party through toLewistonin wooden scows, taking two and a half months.

When placering played out around the Middle Fork, the Smith began working their way down river in wooden boats provided with removable canvas roofs. When they found a likely spot, with lost of driftwood for fuel, they would beach for the winter and go back for a last boatload of supplies before the river iced over.

They also began outfitting for tourists, hunters, and fishermen. In 1943 they took the Fredric Christian motion-picture party down the Salmon and carrier pigeons were used to send messages back to town. In 1948 they floated the Wolff party toLewistonin the first welded aluminum scow used on the river. It was lighter fully loaded than were the wooden boats when empty.

Robert Smith, born in 1941, was the first of three sons raised by Don and Marian Smith. If any person can be said to have earned the mantle of the most skilled boatman on the river, it was this man.

Bob Smith moved to the river when he was six years old. About that time his father took him on his first float trip. He studied water in general and theSalmon Riverin particular. He learned oars, sweeps, and eventually motors. By the time he was 14, Bob was taking the Forest Service down the river in a rubber sweep boat.

In 1960 he attempted to run a powerboat up theColoradofrom Lake Mead through theGrand Canyon. The craft had two 80-hp Mercury outboards, but the water was high and they were unable to overcomeLavaFalls.

Hell’s Canyon of the Snake presented another challenge. Bob, along with Paul Filer, attempted to run it in 1962 with an open 20-foot aluminum boat powered by twin 50-hp Mercs. At that time there were awesome rapids above Granite and Wild Sheep: Squaw, Buck and Kinney creeks – Since inundated by an Idaho Power dam. As Bob remarked, if an engine failed “you might as well throw your hat in and go after it.”  He ran all the rapids – up and back = in one day.

Bob has handled a variety of boats, and cargoes, improbabler as jeeps and bulldozers. He is a fishing guide, pilot, and builder of aluminum jet boats.

He is also the only man who can actually run the river in the dark. With an aluminum hull and exposed jet pumps a single mistake represents nothing less than expensive repairs. Yet he has managed to memorize the location of every rock that can come with within inches of the river’s surface at any water flow. It requires a muscular effort of the imagination to even conceive of such an accomplishment. Only the steamboat pilots who ran theMississippiat night in the 1890s displayed similar ability. Bob Smith has no betters and no peers among this country’s jet-set.

p. 59 – When Don and Clyde Smith brought the Army Corps of Engineers down from Salmon in two wooden scows to survey the river in 1945, a 17-foot boat accompanied them with a 22-hp engine. The Corps provided the boat and the spare engines.

To facilitate the survey, Don would drop off a rod man, motor down as far as could be seen, drop the instrument man, and motor the second rod man down as far as he could be viewed. When calculations were completed, Don would motor back up to the first rod man, pick him up, and then the instrument man, and repeat the process.

On days when they moved the camp boats, Ed Wilson would row the motor boat four or five miles down to the first scow, Don andClydewould motor back to the second scow and run it down while Ed rowed the motor boat a second time.

They dumped the boat a few times, but in this manner they returned in stages several times over every stretch of the river fromLewistonto Salmon.

The Middle Fork – A GUIDE

Carrey and Conley


p. 36 – 37

Meanwhile, back at theMain….

In the fall of 1935 it was a low water year on the Salmon. The National Geographic Society set off on a scow trip down the Main Salmon River. At the confluence of the Main Salmon and the Middle Fork they metClydeand Don Smith, river people with a cabin on the downstream side of the confluence. Hoping to discover one edge of the Idaho Batholith, the Geographic expedition made arrangements with the Smiths to take a wooden boat up the Middle Fork.

With Clyde Smith standing in the bow of his boat fending off rocks with a pole, the four other members of the party roped and lined the boat upriver better than three miles. They camped for the night.

The next morning, without having found the desired geological evidence, they had to turn back. With Don and Clyde Smith running oars like sweeps off the front and rear of the boat, they slipped back down to theMain. Boatmen were probing the Middle Fork from both ends.

The Idaho Batholith is a composite mass of granitic plutons covering approximately 15,400 square miles in centralIdaho. The outer perimeter of the batholith is irregular and in plan view it has an hourglass shape. It is approximately 200 miles long in the north-south direction and averages about 75 miles wide in an east-west direction.

The Idaho Batholith is a prominent geographic feature and represents a major episode inIdaho’s geologic history.

(Map 1).    It intruded an area-approximately 400 by 130 km in centralIdaho and affected the country rock over a much larger area. Heat from the intrusion of the batholith caused a wide contact metamorphic zone along its northeastern boundary.

Memorable runs down the Salmon….

p. 86 – During the second week of June 1969, Bob Smith ofNorth Fork,Idaho, set off fromDaggerFallswith a large sweep boat. His cargo included a Volkswagen bus. He remembers being unable to pull in before Indian Creek Campground. Bob floated the bus sixty miles to the Flying B Ranch. Bob also floated a Jeep down the river.

Clyde and Anna Smith

 From: bg Smith <>

To: <>

Date: 4/20/2007 10:26:47 AM

Subject: family tree

Dear Beverly,

I am trying to get more information about my family tree on the Smith side of the family.

My great grand father was Clyde Smith and he was married to my Great granny Annie.(Anna Osborn) I found your email on RootsWeb.

I am Don and Marion (Wooten) Smith’s granddaughter.

If you email me I will highly appreciate it.

Sincerely Bobbi G Smith


On 4/20/07 6:18 PM, “Beverly Pinelli” <>



Your Grandfather Clyde was a brother of my Grandfather, Aaron Victor Smith.

Another AV Smith grandchild, Larry Bennett Smith and I have gathered

much information, oral history, photos, etc. Larry is compiling a Smith Family Book. I will forward this to him because I know he would appreciate contact with you.

I will also send you an invitation into the private MYFamily site where some of this information is posted.

The invitation will be from MYFAMILY with instructions and a link into the site. They will give you a temporary password, which you can change at any time.


On Apr 21, 2007, at 12:18 AM, Larry Smith wrote:

Dear BG Smith,

Over the years we have collected many hundreds of pages of Smith Narrative material. Most of it descends from Aaron Victor Smith, but we do have about 20 pages on the Clyde Smith family during their time down on the Salmon.

I would be happy to send it to you electronically.

I do have an almost complete Smith family tree descending from AV

Smith, but going back to Elias and Eli Smith.

I am still working on it, but would be happy to send the draft I have. Perhaps you could fill in the Clyde Smith line for me.

My father, Elmer, and cousin Don, grew up together inEssex. Don was

One year younger. I also have a few photos of Don andClyde.

Where do you live?

Larry Smith   Jacksonville,Oregon

On Apr 23, 2007, at 11:18 PM, Larry Smith wrote:

This is the Smith family tree so far. Still a draft and had not been completed.

I ask that you please send me a Clyde Smith family tree. That would be much appreciated.

Where do you live and when and where were you born?

Dad (Elmer – cousin to theClydekids) says that their third son was named “Jack”.

I hope this helps you connect to the Smith family.

Is your last name Smith?

Larry Smith


On 4/23/07 3:41 PM, “bg Smith” <> wrote:

Dear Larry,

Wow this is very exiting to me.

I do not know anything about our family tree before my great grandfatherClyde.

Clyde and Anna Smith had three sonsDon,Leon, and Jack.  Don and Marion Smith also had three sons Bob Jack and Kenny. Bob and Jill  Smith had two daughters – myself and my sister Katy. (We have 6 children between the two of us). Jack has no children and Kenny has two sonsTroyand Nathan.

I would love to see our complete family tree and I appreciate your e-mailing me. Who were they? AV Smith I am very curious. I have plenty of photos ofClyde, Don and sons and family.

Thank you Bobbi Smith


From: bg Smith <>

Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 00:01:43 -0600

To: Larry  Smith <>

Cc: bg Smith <>

Subject: Re: family tree

Yes your dad is rightWayneis either Leon’s or Jacks son and he is my older cousin who lives inNew Zealand. I may have to make you a family tree forClydeit could take a couple days. But I sure don’t mind doing it. It needs to be done anyway.

I Live in North ForkIdahoand was born in Salmon Idaho. Yes thank you this is definitely helping. I can give you a short version for now:

Clydeand Anna Smith Had three sons:

Don,Leon, & Jack

Don & Marion Smith had three sons also:

Robert Leroy Smith (my Dad had 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren)

Jack Patrick Smith, (no kids) and

Kenneth L. Smith (2 sons and 2 grand children so far)

I will have to ask my uncle Jack when he comes back from vacation who was Wayne’s and Tammie’s (?) father if it wasLeon’s, and if Jack had children. I met both my grandfather Don’s brothers when I was a young child. His brothers are both deceased now.

I will do my best to help you sort it out, however we do not have much official documentation, unless my uncle Jack has some stuff that I don’t know of.

If you don’t mind my giving your email to my uncles wife Kathy. She will be helping me with this project. She and I are both very excited

about this family tree and history. I will be forwarding this attachment to her.

Also I have never made a family tree before any tips will be helpful.Thanks again. Bobbi

The Recorder Herald

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Marian Rose Smith

Marian Rose Smith, 85, passed away April 3, 2005 at her home in Salmon,Idaho.

Marian Rose Wootan Smith was born June 13, 1919 inWarren,Oregonthe daughter of Daniel and Celia (Stafford) Wooten.

She attended schools inPortland,OregonandWinnemucca,Nevada.  She was united in marriage to Don L. Smith on April 6, 1940 in Winnemucca and to this union three sons were born:  Bob, Jack and Ken.

She was the brain of the family business, the store and cafe, helping with the outfitter and river guides and the running of three rowdy boys.  Imagine her driving from North Fork to Lewiston, or Riggins, which ever, in an old WWII armored converted half track with no power steering and a 32foot trailer, meeting her husband, looking slim and fresh in her cotton print dress and red hair glowing with the boys neat and pressed long before the days of wash and wear.  This was Marian.

She made wonderful salads.  Huge bowls of new recipes, macaroni and potato salads, made from he latest kitchen gadget were served up with a load of fried chicken.

She also crocheted beautifully, making man Afghans, baby blankets, shawls, table covers and doilies as gifts, and let’s not forget her needlepoint, pictures, pillowcases and quilts.  Marian did her crossword puzzles in ink and enjoyed playing bridge with friends.

Marian with her eloquent fine bones may have looked frail, but she was one strong woman.  Strong to the end and lived like she died, with grace and dignity.  Marian held on until she was able to say good-bye to all her loved ones.

Marian loved her family and a good laugh, like the time when Don drove up in a beautiful new Cadillac. Now here’s something a real lady can drive.  Off goes Don in the new caddy and back in a few hours with big decals of deer, elk, fish, bear, goat and sheep and the Salmon River Boat Tours sign all over the caddy.  So much for being elegant, nothing to do but laugh.

Marian is preceded in death; by her parents, her husband, Don, son, Robert, two brothers and one sister.

She is survived by her sons: Jack Smith ofNorth Fork,Idaho; Kenneth Smith ofCorvallis,Montana; daughter-in-law, Jill Smith ofNorth Fork, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be held at theGibbonsvilleGIABuildingon Saturday, April 16, 2005 at 2:00pm.

Memorials are suggested to the GIA Building Fund at P.O.Box  73, North Fork, Idaho, 83466 or to Salmon Advanced EMT’’, P.O. Box 2452, Salmon, Idaho 83467.

The Jones & Casey Funeral Home of Salmon,Idahois in charge of arrangements.



 13 Jun 1919 03 Apr 2005 (V) 83467 (Salmon, Lemhi, ID) (none specified) 540-18-5284Oregon


Following in the ‘float prints’ of their father

July 24, 2011

By Paul Fattig

Mail Tribune

We get a ton of emails in this profession, many of which are unceremoniously zapped with the tap of a kill finger.

ButJacksonvilleresident Larry Smith sent an electronic message last week that stayed my deadly digit.

After the fiveMedfordmurders Monday morning, it was what I was looking for — a feel-good story to buoy the human spirit.

Attached were photographs of Larry and his identical twin brother fromLongview,Wash., Lloyd, floating down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River inIdaho. They were having a ball.

An accompanying e-note proclaimed the daring duo had just retraced their father’s trip down what’s known as theRiverofNo Returnnearly 80 years ago.

“I just had to show you how 71-year-old twins celebrate their birthday,” Larry says of their July 3 birthday bash midway into the 100-mile float trip.

The retired teacher was referring to last Sunday’s column in which I mentioned that my twin, George, had turned 60 on July 15.

We’re fraternal twins. Not only do we look like we swam out of a different gene pool, but we’re not precisely the same age. Yep, I’ve been studying this world seven minutes longer.

With the L&L twins, Larry is the senior, having arrived three minutes earlier than his mirror image. They graduated fromPhoenixHigh Schoolin 1958.

The story of the Smith brothers — no relation to the cough-drop folks — retraces what Larry cleverly coined their father’s “float prints” in June of 1932.

Their father, Elmer, died last December at age 97; their mother, Ruby, died three years ago. The couple were married more than seven decades.

“To his dying day, Dad was talking about that trip down theSalmon River,” Larry recalls. “He was only there for seven months but it had a real impact on his life.

“He also lost 10 pounds and earned only five dollars for seven months work as a gold miner,” he adds. “It got to 40 below zero that winter and the river was frozen over.”

The intrepid brothers decided this summer they would float the section and visit the sites where their father once floated and walked. Joining them was Lloyd’s son, Kenneth Smith.

Their wild float took them through the nearly 2.4-million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, created in 1980. (Incidentally, my twin worked at a resort on the banks of the middle fork deep in the wilderness for several summers in the 1990s.)

But there was no official wilderness when Elmer Smith bobbed down the river as a young man in a wooden boat. It was just plain wild.

He had joined several relatives, including his uncle Clyde Smith, who wanted to try their hand at mining for gold during the Great Depression.

Larry’s great uncleClydewas apparently a bit of a mischief-maker in his youth, despite the fact his father was Elias Washington Smith, a fire-and-brimstone preacher. Uncle Sam arrested Uncle Clyde for making moonshine and sent him up the river for six months before he was bailed out, Larry reports.

In any case, the bootlegger quit moonshining cold turkey and headed down the river wild with his family. They would spend that winter gold mining and living off the land.Clydeand his wife, Anna, lived in a little sod cabin. The other men wintered in a tent.

“The Middle Fork of the Salmon was a beautiful, crystal-clear stream that flowed out of the Big Horn Crags and had lots of trout,” Elmer wrote in a 2001 memoir. “With the mountain goats, the curly horn mountain sheep and the venison, we did all right in the meat line.”

They were so isolated that when they came to “town” in March of 1933, they did not know who had won the 1932 presidential election, he noted.

That would have been FDR, of course.

But Elmer did not go back into the wilderness that spring. He would meet an attractive young lady named Ruby during a church service inKalispell,MontananearGlacierNational Park, where he was working for FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps.

Clydewould discover there was gold in taking tourists down the river, and he was featured in the July 1936 edition of National Geographic magazine, launching the Smith family river-guide legacy.

“Uncle Clyde really got it rolling with the National Geographic article,” Larry says. “Three generations of Smiths ran people on the river. That continued until 2006. They are all retired or gone now.”

As for Elmer and Ruby, they were married inSalmonCityin 1935. Witnessing the ceremony were Leo and Pansy Hagler, the folks who hired Elmer to work for them in the spring and summer of 1933. The Haglers’ only son had died earlier.

“As they were driving away, Dad said that Pansy yelled, ‘If you ever have twins, we get one of them,’ ” Larry says with a chuckle.

Five years later Elmer and Ruby had a pair of twins but you couldn’t have pried them away from the proud parents with a stout oar.

After all, they knew the matched pair were Smiths, the kind made to float theRiverofNo Return.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at



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