Dearest Blogmates ...
As you might glean from these little industrious Canadians above, we are back at 'our home on native land' and re-engaging with the many work projects at hand. It's been a month since our last check-in! We apologize for leaving you stranded near the end of our trip. Number one on the 'due-do' list for us is to begin to bring the blog home and with it, all of you!
I'm (Elizabeth) excited about this chapter. It has to do with a history celebrated by the descendants of these three amazing "Golden Girls from the West" ... the Kettenbach sisters of Lewiston, Idaho.
Meet (above) these daughters of pioneers:
- Elizabeth LeRoi Skillern (1896-1975), eldest sister, whose vivacious charm and civic leadership, landed her the nickname of "Blizz" (short for 'Blizzard');
- Sally Mary Lorenz (1898 - circa 1983), middle sister, who I was always told I looked like;
- and my own mother, Wilhelmina Frances Eberhart (1907-1997), known as "Dudie", a shortening of her father's nickname for her -"Doodles Sack" ("bag of wind"), supposedly the German name for a 'bag pipe' ..
The most interesting 'find' was a first hand autobiographical account dictated by the grandmother of the 'Golden Girls', namely 'Elizabeth (Libby) Ruddy White'. She lived with the sisters in the Kettenbach home for the last chapter of her 87 year life. Mom told me she loved to go to the 'picture show' and when she returned home would tell 'the wholllllllleeee' story to anyone who would listen. Her story telling gift is evident from the account she left. I want to share some of it here for the sake of all the cousins, believing it is interesting enough historically for the rest of you to appreciate.
So where does this story begin? No doubt with the Nez Perce Indians who hunted in the hills and valleys around the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. Below is their famous leader and humanitarian, Chief Joseph.
Next would be the renown Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806), commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, headed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and greatly influenced by the efforts of a young native scout and mother, Sacagawea. It was the first 'American' overland exploration to the Pacific coast and back.
Chief Joseph offered hospitality to this expedition and had this to say:
The first white men of your people who came to our country were named Lewis and Clark. They brought many things which our people had never seen. They talked straight and our people gave them a great feast as proof that their hearts were friendly. They made presents to our chiefs and our people made presents to them. We had a great many horses of which we gave them what they needed, and they gave us guns and tobacco in return. All the Nez Perce made friends with Lewis and Clark and agreed to let them pass through their country and never to make war on white men. This promise the Nez Perce have never broken. (1874)
What followed, were thousands of settlers along what became known as, "the Oregon Trail" ...
For three years he worked in the mines near Kamiah and Elk City, eventually owning and selling a mine (after the original owner became ill). With his saddle bags full of valuable nuggets of gold, he made the perilous trip to Lewiston through country where robbers were plentiful. Eventually Daniel came to own and operate "White's Ferry" (the Lower Ferry at Lewiston) that taxied people and goods across the Snake River.
There were few white women in the Lewiston district. Part of the story that Libby didn't choose to record involved Daniel's 'common-law' relationship with a Nez Perce woman who gave him two sons (Forest and Frank?? Come on here, I need some help). Both Dudie and cousin Betty spoke to me of these half-uncles who were a part of their lives. Betty was always ready to give you the real scoop, right?
But Daniel, like other early traders and settlers, held out on any official marriage until the white women came west.
Enter, the 'Ruddy' family from Exeter, Ontario! It's true .. I'm not the first Canadian in this lineage! Michael Ruddy and his wife Elizabeth O'Neill Ruddy had farmed 100 acres and produced a family of 2 brothers and 6 sisters, all born in Canada.
One day Michael came in from a ride and said to Elizabeth, "I'm tired of living through the long, hard winters here and I'm going to find a home where it is warmer". (Canadians who have endured the winter of 2007-8 will be able to identify, eh?) So in May of 1868, Michael took his family to San Francisco on the second train to cross the continent! "Remember", Libby remarked, "the train was not like the modern luxurious trains of today. There were no meals served, no sleeping accommodations, and the trip took 8 or 9 days. It was quite an experience for Father and Mother taking care of a big family."
For two years the Ruddy familly lived in San Francisco. Michael traveled all over California looking for the right place to resettle his family. As there was yet no irrigation system in California, Michael became discouraged over the lack of water and decided to look elsewhere. He had been told of the rich soil and good prospects of Idaho . Taking a steamer up to Portland, Oregon, then a boat up the Columbia and down the Snake Rivers, he finally came to Lewiston, at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers. When Michael first looked at the land surrounding Lewiston, he was bewildered. "How could you plow such hills", he wondered.
The next day he fell to talking with a man on the street and was told of the amazing fertility of the Idaho soil. The man said, "I have a place up there on top of that hill. I am going there tomorrow. Come with me." The man was Bill Caldwell. He later married Maria, one of the Ruddy sisters. Below, see some of the fertility of those Lewiston hills ...
The farm that Mr. Caldwell showed Michael was about a mile from the top of the hill. "It had never been surveyed, but had been plowed and there was grain growing two feet high - also wild gooseberries, currants, wild cherries and salvus berries, and plenty of nice water running all around the place." When the family later followed, they were apprehensive about the steepness of the hill they had to climb from Lewiston and the frequent appearance of Indians, fears that were soon overcome. But the native bachelors had this to say about the new family: "We can all have wives now for Mr. Ruddy has arrived with six daughters!"
Above meet the teller of this history, Libby Ruddy White with two of her great grandchildren, Bill and Eloise Eberhart, my brother and sister (circa 1938).
"The three room house my father built after he had purchased the place," Libby wrote, "was built of thick boards, just cut from logs and hand hewn for shingles. This house, though rough, was warm and had a good fireplace that helped to make a very comfortable living room. There was a little kitchen and a long table in the living room that served as a place to dine for the big family and their frequent guests. Travelers coming from the mines would stop for meals. Settlers and miners on their way to Lewiston for supplies would stop to rest and visit and stay for dinner. On the way back, they would again stop for dinner and spend the night."
Below, see the 'Ruddy home' that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by National Park Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior on July 30, 1974.
Michael died shortly after the family was settled in this house, and Libby's mother found a way to turn the natural flow of humanity into a business. Her home became an 'inn' and an official stop for ...the Well's Fargo stage coach. A dime was the smallest change at the time, but most transactions were negotiated in gold dust, which was measured out in spoonfuls. Imagine!
One of the more famous visitors at the Ruddy Family Inn was ...Buffalo Bill Cody, army scout and founder of "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show". Remember 'Annie Oakley'? She was one of his best acts.
Libby says, "There was no school when they arrived for she and her siblings to attend. The second year they were in Idaho, her mother said, 'I am going to Lewiston and see if I can find a way to send you girls to school.' She rented a small house about a block from Fifth Street near where the Idaho Hotel now stands. (Does it still stand?) The town was very new and rough, with chickens and pigs running loose. Mother (Elizabeth Ruddy) then rented a small room and hired Mrs. Simons for a teacher. There were only a few pupils - I remember Josie McGrane, Anna McGrane, Tom McGrane, Emma Norward, and Dr. Stanton's step daughter, Nellie Leland."
"Mrs. Simons decided to put on a play at the end of the first school year. She rented a large room near where the Bollinger Hotel now stands, that was generally used for gambling. She whitewashed it inside and out and arranged for seats. it was quite an undertaking, as there was to be no charge for the play. It's production was for the purpose of training us children. In those days the soldiers at Fort Lapwai often rode into town, tipsy. However, some of the children at the Fort joined us at school. Though our play was free and there were so few of us, the night of the play there was a good crowd made up mostly of gamblers and a few women."
"Dressed in white, with full skirts and flowers in my hair," Libby describes, "I was almost a leading lady. Here is the song I sang ...
I wear fine clothes and puff my hair
And how the gentlemen at me stare
When my husband's in the Army!
"One evening he came up the hill and stayed for dinner. Later, as was the custom, we 'sat up' in front of the fireplace. Before telling me the story of his life to that point, Daniel first asked if I would sing. And so I sang ...
I became your happy bride.
I changed a mansion for a cottage
To dwell down by the river side.
"Mr. White immediately began to build an addition to his 'house by the river', enlarging it to the point where in those days it was, truly, a 'mansion by the river'. We were married in Lewiston on New Year's Day 1877 in the home of my sister, Mrs. Wordon, with Father Catalda officiating. Mr. and Mrs. C.P. Coburn stood up with us. After the wedding supper we all went to a dance, and later, with a team and buggy, we drove to our new home by the river. As we approached, we saw the house all lighted up, a fire in the fireplace and cakes and pies in abundance. This was the work of our Alpowa neighbor, Mrs. Freeman. My sister and her husband, Mr. Caldwell, were there. I was shown my new home for the first time. It had two stories, a large parlor, and the most beautiful bedroom I had ever seen. There was a carpet of exquisite beauty, a gorgeous walnut bedroom set with marble tops, a nice rocking chair, and two with straight backs."
"We lived at the river house about eight years and my daughter, Mary Jane (mother of the Kettenbach sisters) was born there about a year after we were married. Two years later my son William Johnson White was born. My husband was indeed kind and patient, teaching me many things, even how to cook. However, he continued to cook breakfast himself each morning. We girls were never taught to cook at home, as Mother preferred the kitchen to herself." (And this must be where 'out of the kitchen!' came from.)
If you're still reading, you've been very patient. But after all these years, Libby's account demanded to be shared. How could I keep something so rich just for myself?
So come with us now into 'Kettenbach' country ... starting with Salem, the capital city of Oregon.
Descendants of the early pioneers, discussing life ... Let's get closer. Meet Sam Skillern, my first cousin and son of Auntie Blizz. He is famous in our Eberhart family for having found the solution to a rather obnoxious 'attention getting' formula I had found as a toddler with the use of the word 'shut up'. While driving with us through Yellowstone Park, he suggested we throw 'shut up' to the bears, being fed in those days by tourists through the windows of their cars. At any rate, this seemed to do the trick. Thank you, Sam ...
Salem is a beautifully floral town and Sam , like his father, has enjoyed the hobby life of a gardener. Though he and wife, Teddy, have moved to an apartment to facilitate wheelchair access after Teddy's long battle with MS, we wanted to travel back down their street to find their old home.
The back yard at their house, as I remember it, was like 'the Garden of Eden'. It had authentic 'holly bushes' too.
Here we are at Sam's church after a wonderful service on Sunday, May 4th.
One of the thrills of showing up after so many years, is that the children have all become wonderful adults! The night we arrived, Sam's son, Sammy the turd(3rd), and wife Jennifer had pylons outside on the street to save room for the RV, and a big Canadian flag on their porch to welcome us. Inside was a roaring fire and everyone had gathered to greet us.
(Left to right) 'Lil the Pill', Sam, Samuel (4th), Teddy, Jennifer, Sammy (3rd), and Andrew. Andrew, Sam and sister, Sarah Skillern smile on terra firma with Samuel up top. Did you know, Samuel, that garage climbing has a long history in this family?
Here we are with our marvelous hosts during the Salem chapter. There is so much to brag about these guys. Suffice it to say they are very involved in the outreach ministries of their city. Thank you, Sammy and Jennifer, for your AAA hospitality. Best of luck with those ongoing renovations on your prairie cottage home! Come see us up north!
You are now getting a peek at the famous Columbia River Gorge through the Cascade Range, down which the Lewis and Clark expedition found its way at last to the Pacific Ocean. (Side bar: .. members of the expedition were 'meat' eaters, and nearly starving the winter they spent here, forewent the fabulous salmon from this gorge in favor of horse and dog meat!)
What followed were fur trappers and traders, as one beaver pelt could command1/2 lb of beads, a kettle, one lb of shot, 5 lbs of sugar, 1 lb of tobacco, 2 awls, 12 buttons or 20 fish hooks (thank goodness for digital cameras).
During the Steamboat Era (1851-1920) 200 vessels made daily use of the Columbia, and in the 1880's rail lines through here linked Oregon with the rest of the Union. With the coming of the gasoline engine, the Gorge still remained a highway. Whether you travel the historic route as we did, take Interstate 84 or #14 on the Washington side of the river ... you will be treated to a visual feast of water, cliff and sky.
Samuel C. Lancaster, design engineer of the highway envisioned Crown Point as the perfect place for a rest stop and observatory. Portland architect Edgar Lazarus designed 'Vista House' to "recall the ancient and mystic Thor's crown". Vista Point was dedicated on May 5, 1918 to the memory of Oregon's pioneers, just two years after Woodrow Wilson officially opened the highway. Here we are picnicking at Vista Point.
Inside view. A subterranean gift shop, restaurant and museum celebrating the history of the gorge can be found circling Vista House below the parking lot. It's a very cool design. Thankfully, a heritage group has saved this building from dereliction, cost over runs, and the natural deterioration of the powerful wind and elements.
Have a last look at the gorge while contemplating what Oregon Governor, George Olgott, had to say in warning to the legislature in 1921 ...
nature been with us;
has she spread her feasts
at our banquet table
We have been apt to feel
that these glories
would be never ending.
The Gorge is honeycombed by wonderful waterfalls.
Famous Multnomah Falls. Perhaps your grand parents were once here?!
Where is Waldo?
September 4, 1995, a 400 ton rock slid from the face of upper Multnomah Falls and dropped 225 feet into the Falls upper plunge pool. Weighing as much as a school bus filled with concrete, it sent a 70 foot splash over the Benson Bridge, drenching a wedding party. You heard it here.
We're heading up into the Wallowa Mountains to find more cousins.
Following the trucks through the moutain towns of Minam, Lostine, and finally .. "Enterprise".
Following my cousin's directions, we finally found 'Hurricane Creek Road', where the views from front yards were spectacular ...
Nestled at the foot of the mountains is the retirement home of Patsy and Tom Wade. Both were public school teachers in Portland.
Let's have a look out their living room window and dream.
Here I am with Patsy & Tom at Wallowa Lake in front of Chief Joseph Mountain. Patsy is one of Auntie Blizz's grand daughters. Her mother, Sally Ann Hayes, was my first cousin. But being the youngest born of that generation, I have been closer in age to my first cousins once removed. The summer of my 9th year I spent out west by myself with Auntie Blizz and Aunt Sally. Patsy was one of my favorite play mates here at Wallowa Lake, where we stayed at her grandmother's wonderful summer place, called "Skillern's Stockade". It's been sold and gone from the family like too many of the patron saints.
Tom is a man with a mission. He can build anything, here re-roofing the chicken house.
Old dog runs are becoming well protected vegetable gardens. Patsy, can't believe I don't have more pictures of you! Guess we were having too much fun to bother. Please give Yeller (the yellow lab) and Maisie ( a basset hound) a good scratch for us. Enjoy these fabulous bonus days in the clean air of Enterprize. Here's to a female cousins retreat and possibly a writing workshop out there. Thank you both for an unforgettable reunion. xoxoxox
And speaking of writing and good books, here's a great story told by a master. Last Go Round is a true story of the very first Pendleton Round-Up, when the top cowboy contenders were an afro American, George Fletcher, a Nez Perce Indian by the name of Jackson Sundown, and a young cowboy from Tennesee, Jonathan Spain. Through out the trip we have been reading books out loud to each other, appropriate to the areas we were visiting. We got on a cowboy jag with cult favorite, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. But Last Go Round is equally as good, much shorter, and its true! The next round up is September 10-13th. Can't make it this year, Patsy, but we'll definately meet you and Tom there another year!
We did pay a visit, however, on Saturday, May 10.
Pendleton (just like Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan) has an historic underground city of it's own. In both cases it was truly an 'underworld' of saloons and gambling during prohibition. But these underworlds were also the places from which Chinese immigrants conducted their businesses, often 'Chinese Laundries'. It was also where they lived and retreated after curfew, places safe from the racist harassment of others .. a deplorable truth on both sides of the border. These conditions existed during the era of the local gold mines, roughly 1885 - 1916.
Above see the street grates with prism glass squares that dispersed light into the tunnels.
Here our tour leader shows us where the Empire Meat company butchered and stored their meat in ice pits, kept cool by an underground stream. Meet some of the locals ...
We also visited one of the former brothels of Pendleton ...
The original door, exposed for the first time in years since it was closed.
Come on up the stairs with us ...
Meet the famous proprietor, Madam Stella from Walla Walla.
Her 'girls' had working and private rooms. Below, a private room.
Enough of this ... Come with us now to the other side of the Columbia River to Kennewick Washington, where we spent a week with another first cousin, Cora Jane Williams & husband, Perry. Cora Jane is Sam Skillern's sister and one of Auntie Blizz' three children. Perry and Cora Jane have two sons and three daughters. How lucky were we to be with them on 'Mother's Day' when all but their oldest son, Dana, managed to come home for a visit.
Some of the men in the family .. from right, Peter, Perry, son John and son-in-law Jon.
And the women .. daughter Laura , mother Cora Jane, Lil, and daughter Sarah
This picture includes eldest daughter, Martha on the left.
Perry Williams has been a pro-golfer through out his career, ending as a rules official for the senior PGA. What I didn't know is that he was a Music major in college and has a wonderful voice! One of the joys of this encounter was the opportunity to sing in Perry's church choir on Pentecost Sunday, with Cora Jane behind me as an alto and daughter Laura, beside me .. a soprano whose debut Dudie came west just to experience. She was so proud of Laura's talent. I am now taking up the flag. To the Williams Family, one and all, we thank you! How great it was to be welcomed home by our faithful western clan as if we truly belonged there. Somewhere in the celestial choir, the sisters are pinching each other's wings and singing, "There'll be Joy!" (Natalie Sleeth)
The episcopal sanctuary prepared for a joint Pentecost and Mother's Day Service.
Moving toward Lewiston, Idaho and those characteristic hills.
Below, Lewiston Idaho along the shores of the Clearwater River.
Remember the famous family Inn on the top of the Lewiston hills? Here is a descendant enjoying their view and the characteristic winds, 4 generations after Canadians Michael and Elizabeth Ruddy brought their family here from San Francisco.
Then up the road west of Spokane, Washington, at Nine Mile Falls we came to this home, perched high on a hill above the Spokane River.
Meet Gwen Hyke Horvath and her husband, Bill. Gwen is another first cousin, once removed through Aunt Sally and her husband, Lorry Lorenz. We too share memories of that summer when I was 9 and came to Lewiston to play. We played again this time, and so did Peter and Bill,who shared their love of rock collections, shells and petrified wood. Bill is informed on so many fascinating topics and knows Canada well. He wrapped a few extra pounds around us with great pancakes, stir fries and sandwiches.
Gwen, retired teacher, loves her garden. It's 'show and tell' time. Sniff and smile.
Here's the view from the house ...
Bill is a wood worker two. Meet this American icon on a pole outside their front door.
After together watching the end of the made-for-TV series of 'Lonesome Dove', Gwen and Bill decked us out in a manner that fulfilled all our childhood cowboy fantasies.
Peter, in his new boots, gets a bit carried away... no political implications here, promise.
To the Descendants of those Golden Girls from the West, we bid farewell and thank you for a glorious time. There are more of you still to visit. So we will be back. In the meantime, let's allow Chief Joseph to have the 'last say'. Though we thought we were saving an ignorant, savage people, it is their wisdom of the sacredness of the Creation that now holds the power to heal the earth, and us ...
On a visit to Washington, D.C., 1879
At last I was granted permission to come to Washington and
bring my friend Yellow Bull and our interpreter with me. I am
glad I came. I have shaken hands with a good many friends,
but there are some things I want to know which no one seems
able to explain. I cannot understand how the Government sends
a man out to fight us, as it did General Miles, and then breaks
his word. Such a government has something wrong about it.
I cannot understand why so many chiefs are allowed to talk
so many different ways, and promise so many different things.
I have seen the Great Father Chief [President Hayes];
the Next Great Chief [Secretary of the Interior]; the Commissioner
Chief; the Law Chief; and many other law chiefs [Congressmen]
and they all say they are my friends, and that I shall have justice,
but while all their mouths talk right I do not understand why
nothing is done for my people. I have heard talk and talk but nothing
is done. Good words do not last long unless they amount to something.
Words do not pay for my dead people. They do not pay for my country
now overrun by white men. They do not protect my father's grave.
They do not pay for my horses and cattle. Good words do not give
me back my children. Good words will not make good the promise
of your war chief, General Miles. Good words will not give my people
a home where they can live in peace and take care of themselves.
I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick
when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises.
There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk.
Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many
misunderstandings have come up between the white men and the Indians.
If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live
in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them
the same laws. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All
men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers.
The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal
rights upon it.
You might as well expect all rivers to run backward as that any man
who was born a free man should be contented penned up and denied
liberty to go where he pleases. If you tie a horse to a stake, do you
expect he will grow fat? If you pen an Indian up on a small spot
of earth and compel him to stay there, he will not be contented
nor will he grow and prosper. I have asked some of the
Great White Chiefs where they get their authority to say to
the Indian that he shall stay in one place, while he sees
white men going where they please. They cannot tell me.
I only ask of the Government to be treated as all other men are treated.
If I cannot go to my own home, let me have a home in a country
where my people will not die so fast. I would like to go to
Bitter Root Valley. There my people would be happy;
where they are now they are dying. Three have died since
I left my camp to come to Washington.
When I think of our condition, my heart is heavy. I see men
of my own race treated as outlaws and driven from country to
country, or shot down like animals.
I know that my race must change. We cannot hold our own with
the white men as we are. We only ask an even chance to live as other
men live. We ask to be recognized as men. We ask that the same
law shall work alike on all men. If an Indian breaks the law,
punish him by the law. If a white man breaks the law, punish him also.
Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work,
free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own teachers,
free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and
act for myself -- and I will obey every law or submit to the penalty.
Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other,
then we shall have no more wars. We shall be all alike – brothers
of one father and mother, with one sky above us and one country
around us and one government for all. Then the Great Spirit Chief
who rules above will smile upon this land and send rain to wash
out the bloody spots made by brothers' hands upon the face of the earth.
For this time the Indian race is waiting and praying.
I hope no more groans of wounded men and women will ever go
to the ear of the Great Spirit Chief above, and that all people may be one people.
Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht has spoken for his people.
[TEXT: Chester Anders Fee, Chief Joseph:
The Biography of a Great Indian, Wilson-Erickson, 1936.]