Grit Blogs >

The Lazy Homesteader

Murray, Idaho, in the Historic Silver Valley

Diana GI have been wanting to do a few of my blogs on historic towns, but have neglected to do so until this month. Since moving back to Idaho, I have become increasingly aware of the rich history of the area I always considered home. Since my husband and I travel around northern Idaho and eastern Washington doing craft fairs, gun shows, and the occasional flea market here and there, this is the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at some of the tiny towns that dot our neck of the woods. For the Fourth of July this year, we were in the tiny town of Murray, Idaho. Murray has a population of between 25 to 50 people depending on who you talk to, but people come "home" from Arizona or drive in from Montana and Washington for the towns annual events.

Murray itself is a sleepy little near-ghost town in the northern panhandle of Idaho. Located in the historic Silver Valley east of Coeur d’Alene, it has seen its share of colorful characters come and go. From 1886 to 1887 it was actually the county seat for Shoshone County, Idaho. At one point in its heyday, the tiny town boasted 44 bars along its main street. Below is a picture of Murray Circa 1900 —  one site has the photo dated to 1888. Below it is another photo that was colorized and made into a penny postcard. As with everything else, we will probably never know the exact date the picture was taken. There is still a plethora of information available online about the town, but you do need to be a little cautious about what you read, as I have found some of it to be very outdated now.

murray_ID

Penny Postcard of Murray Idaho

In 1882 or 1883, A. J. Prichard discovered gold on Prichard Creek and the rush for gold in Idaho was on. According to some accounts, more 10,000 people made their way into the northern panhandle of Idaho hoping to strike it rich, and the central point for these little towns was Murray.

In 1884, Adam Aulbach decided to start up a newspaper. As with everything else, there are differing accounts on how this came about. In one story it says he established a newspaper in Belknap, Montana, a Northern Pacific Railway station along the Clark Fork River. Since most of his stories centered around the mining boom in the Coeur d’Alene area of Idaho, he decided to move the paper, and during the summer of 1884 he tore down the presses and hauled the whole outfit into Murray on the backs of 45 mules. The town, located on Prichard Creek about 12 miles north of Wallace, was then only a few months old. He published the first issue of the Idaho Sun on July 8, 1864 (1884). I am thinking the year of 1864 was a typo since he didn’t even move his paper to Murray until 1884. The following year he changed the name to the Coeur d'Alene Sun. The other story says he moved the newspaper on the backs of 45 mules from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and The Idaho Sun was born.

Mr. Aulbach began the newspaper in what is now called The 1884 Murray House — a current picture is below. This historic old beauty is one of the few remaining original buildings from that time period and is now a bed and breakfast, but it was originally only single story. As is normal with most old buildings, it has had several incarnations over the years, originally serving as the town bank. Mr. Warren Hussey owned the bank and he rented one side of the building out to Mr. Aulbach for his newspaper. Hussey later sold the building to Aulbach and moved his bank into Eagle City. The current owners have worked diligently to find out all the information they can on this pivotal little town. As is obvious, Murray means a lot to the people who currently live here and has gained almost a cult following with weekend history buffs and tourists trying their hand at panning for gold.

1884 Murray House  Murray Idaho Blog Photo

The Masonic Hall is another one of the great old buildings in Murray. Dating from 1884, it has the distinction of being the oldest running Masonic Hall in Idaho and is still active to this day. In 1886, Adam Aulbach donated the building to the Masons Association, who maintains ownership of the building to this day. In the picture below of the original charter for the lodge, you will see that the word "State" has been crossed out and the word "Territory" has been written in above it. That is because when the Masons started this particular lodge, Idaho was not yet a state. It was still considered a territory. The Lodge itself was chartered on September 16, 1886. The other picture shows three banners belonging to the Masons that are also original to the lodges startup in 1886, as is the wallpaper, carpet, and other furnishings. The Copyright on these three pieces is 1882.

Free Masons Charter  Murray Idaho Blog Photo

Copyright on These is 1882  Murray Idaho Blog Photo

Free Masons Meeting Room  Murray Idaho Blog Photo

Masonic Hall Murray, Idaho

Another of the more interesting buildings in Murray is the courthouse, which also doubled as a bar. Back in the day, the guys would sit at the bar and wait to see what their sentence might be. If they were sentenced to jail, they would be locked up right then and there. The old brick jail is still there. It is said that Wyatt Earp stayed there frequently as one of her tenants. He owned a bar in Eagle City about 3 miles away, but was better known at the time for his escapades in claim jumping. The building itself is not totally original anymore, though. It seems age got to the old girl at one point and it fell down. Local citizens pulled together and lifted her back up, but due to the fall, part of the original structure was lost. The pictures below show the original building in 1978 when it was still being used as a bar and café, and then before its collapse in 1986, and now as it has been lovingly reconstructed. There is still a lot of work to do to bring her back to her past beauty, but with enough love and attention it will be done.

Courthouse in 1978

Courthouse 1986

Courthouse  Murray Idaho Blog Photo

Confiscated Pistol at Murray Idaho

As is common with many small towns, I have discovered way more than one can put into a single blog post. I will continue the saga in my next post, including the story of the lady who made the town famous, Miss Maggie Hall, aka Molly B’Damn!

I have added one last picture of Murray's Main Street, taken by me on July 13, 2017. For those who like to delve into the lesser known bits of history of this great country, there are a trove of books about Murray and the Silver Valley of Idaho, and Miss Molly, out there.

Main Street Murray Idaho 2017 Blog Photo

Stay Away From the Mud Puddles

Diana G

I don’t rightly remember exactly how old I was, but it was probably when I was about 4. Mama and I were living in a little two-roomed house up Ford’s Creek on one of the hills behind Orofino, Idaho. I remember we had a hand pump for water at the kitchen sink, a wood cookstove that also heated the house in the winter, and I took my baths in a big old galvanized tub in the middle of the kitchen floor. We also had an outhouse, or honey hut as we used to call them, for our bathroom privileges. And that small little "house" is what fueled this story. Below is a picture of me when I was about 4 — obviously not playing in the mud puddle!

Diana Age 4

My Uncle had come over with some other men to help mama by moving the outhouse for us. They moved the old outhouse building and dug the new hole, using the dirt from the new hole to fill up the old hole, and placed the building over the new hole. And, as is normal for dirt, as soon as it hit the water it quickly became mud and sank to the bottom of the old hole, so they had to find some extra dirt to finish filling in the hole. Since we lived out in the country, there was no shortage of dirt to add to the old outhouse hole.

My aunt had come along and brought her youngest son so we could play. He and I always had fun playing together, so she and mama did not foresee today being any different. And it wasn’t — to us, anyway. To our mothers, however, you would have thought it was the end of the world by the time that day was over!

To start things off, as we ran around playing we got hot, so we stripped down to our undies. It was still quite warm. And then we saw it: this huge mud puddle in front of the house. And it was glorious in our eyes! Being too young to know anything, it never dawned on us that the rest of the yard was bone dry and throwing dust everywhere whenever anyone walked across it. And, of course, it hadn’t rained. It was probably close to 80 or 90 degrees out there. We just saw this fantastically big mud puddle. You know, like in the cartoons when the star character's eyes pop out of their head, and the item they are looking at is set inside this huge star while music blares loudly, making it appear like heaven on earth. That is exactly what it was to us — heaven on earth! So we decided to go play in that mud puddle. Being so young, we didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to smell funny! We probably didn’t even realize it smelled funny. I mean, it was just a mud puddle after all!

I don’t know how long we were playing when our mothers finally caught us. I know we were laughing and splashing each other and having a great time. Now remember, we had stripped down to our undies. After all, we didn’t want to get in trouble for getting our clothes dirty! I don’t know if that was what actually went through our minds, but it sounds mighty good. I don’t really think anything went through our minds except playing in that glorious mud puddle. But when we heard our mother’s yelling at us, we knew we were toast. The look on their faces could have melted a cast-iron skillet!

They yanked us out of that mud puddle (old outhouse hole) and proceeded to drag us back to the front porch, screaming all the way. My mother was just going to toss us into that old galvanized tub and give us a nice cold bath. She didn’t want to smell us any longer than necessary and figured that would be good punishment. And since we were on well water it would have been extremely cold! My aunt thought better of it, though. She decided it would be better punishment if they just let us stand out on the front porch and dry a bit. Then they would use the dull side of the butter knives to scrape the mud off our arms and legs. My mother didn’t much like that idea, but my aunt finally won the debate and we found ourselves standing out on the porch in the sun while this smelly, slimy stuff turned to mud on us.

Well, needless to say, as warm as it was it didn’t take too long and then we got to face our punishment. My mama and my aunt magically appeared at the front door with knives in hands and proceeded to start scraping the mud off our arms. You could tell, though, mama wasn’t too happy about it. The men had disappeared somewhere doing whatever men do, but when we started screaming they suddenly appeared to see what was going on.

Thank God for a Mama’s heart, because she didn’t let that go on for too long before she went inside and started heating up some water to give us a bath. Before my aunt could do much more scraping on my cousin, mama had us both stripped down the rest of the way and we were sitting in that galvanized tub waiting for the warm water. My aunt was a little upset because she didn’t think we had been sufficiently punished, but mama was adamant that we had and once my mama made her mind up it was almost impossible to change it!

When the water was sufficiently warm, mama proceeded to pour it over us a little at a time, scrubbing until our skin turned red between each pour. I am not sure whether it was the scrubbing that turned our skin red or if it was already red from the short amount of time they scraped the mud off of us. I didn’t really care which caused it either. I think Mama changed our bath water out two or three times to make sure we were good and clean, too. I think my cousin ended up getting the worst part of the deal, though. Not being at home, he didn’t have any clean under clothes so he ended up going home in a pair of girls underwear! And his father made sure he knew how funny it looked for a little boy to be wearing girls underwear.