03 Feb Ranch History Podcast: Episode 9
a Century of Family History
I am excited, this episode, to dive into my Grandma’s story. Her mother’s family arrived on Gold Creek in 1918; over 100 years ago.!
Good morning. We’re here today with grandma, Virginia Wood and I’m pretty excited to talk with her today. We’ve kind of transitioned, after we finished with most of our questions for grandpa, which we do have some followup stories that we’re going to come back to with him. But for now, we’re going to move on and talk with my grandma. So, good morning!
Grandma, we’re going to start out with a little history of your family and their coming to Idaho. So, let’s start with the Bonnie family, which is your mother’s side of the family. When did they come to Idaho and kind of why do you think that they decided to move to Idaho?
Okay. This is information I received from my aunt Lila, who was married to my uncle Casey and her story says, Isaac Bonnie and friend Walt Clark came to Sandpoint, Idaho from Burlington, Colorado, August 1918 to look over the country. And getting back to the Humbird days, I’m sure that is what brought them here is ads in the paper saying cheap cutover land in North Idaho.
So then, Isaac bought a piece of land while there. Isaac and Flo Bonnie with family Pearl, Casey, Mildred, and Lyle arrived in Sandpoint by train March 13, 1919. They built a house on their property that year.
So that property that your aunt mentions in that letter, what property is that?
That property is what we call now the “Bonnie Hole” on Lower Gold Creek, which adjoins our property that was in the Wood family since 1940.
That piece that we call Bonnie Hole, that was purchased by the Bonnie’s in 1918, and in 2018 we were able to celebrate down there a kind of Centennial of our family roots. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Just what we did, who was there, and kind of how that celebration took place.
Okay. I had an agenda that we started out at 10:00 at the Gold Creek campground, followed by a flag-raising ceremony and Pledge of Allegiance by the Selle Valley Carden School. Then we traveled to the Bonnie Hole and Jim talked about the settling years, and I had a short history, and then we had a report from Bri, our son Brian, about buying the property, and two of my Bonnie cousins were able to come, Marvin Bonnie and Barb Gover.
That’s great! So it was just kind of a family celebration and that was really all possible because Bri and Penny were able to purchase that property just shortly before that. So that property, that was kind of the original spot where our family came to years ago is now back in the family.
Which is exciting! Your mom’s parents came to Sandpoint and bought that piece of property. You have a couple letters. Tell me about who those are to and who they’re from, and kind of what the timing was around those.
Okay. This letter is dated March 15, 1919, and it was written to Pearl Snow, who was my grandma Bonnie’s sister. This is what she says, “Dear sister, Well we got here okay, and we have rented a three-room house here in Sandpoint. We sure have seen some sites. We started the 13th, our 10th anniversary, got here Saturday afternoon. It has been raining all day, just coming down slow, and the ground is covered with snow. But it is melting night and day. You can see green grass close to the trees where the snow is not. I received a letter from mama just before we started out here.” Flo and family.
That sounds a lot like the weather this year.
Yeah, it does. And then I have another letter dated March 14, which I should have read first and this is to say… and this is writing back. My grandfather wrote this back to his family and it said, “Dear mama and family, from Flo and family. We are in Sandpoint, Idaho. Got here yesterday afternoon. We are at a hotel. Isaac rented a house here for a short time. It has been snowing here, but it is melting as fast as it falls. On March the 22nd, we all have the flu. I am nurse. The rest are all in bed. We all were up to the breakfast table. Pearl has gone back to bed.” Ike.
Ike is short for Isaac, right?
Got it. Kind of moving over to the other side of your family, the Hoffine’s, which was your dad’s family, when did they move to Idaho and where did they come from?
We might add something about my grandfather my mother’s side, Isaac Bonnie. My grandfather was a logger and there wasn’t much timber left, so he bought another piece of property one mile up the road beyond our Gold Creek place. So then the Hoffine’s, James and Lilly, from South Dakota area, came in 1926.
So the Hoffine’s came in 1926?
Right, and settled next to the Bonnie’s, along with their three sons, Paul, Lester, and Leon. Andrew, the oldest, came by covered wagon three months later.
We were stupid not to quiz him about that trip, but we don’t really know a whole lot about it.
When you say the Hoffine’s settled next to the Bonnie’s, this is where we’re talking about now…
When the Bonnie’s… When I just said they moved… The Bonnie’s had already moved up to Upper Gold Creek.
Right. So they were moved up kind of up Meadowood Road?
So this is, the Hoffine’s have moved next to the Bonnie’s on that next piece of property that they had after the Bonnie Hole, which was up Meadowood.
Yes. And Paul soon became attracted to Pearl Bonnie. They were soon married, and I arrived on April 25, 1928. The family was short-lived, however. When my mother Pearl passed away from cancer, I was 10 months old.
You said they came from South Dakota. Do you know where in South Dakota?
It wasn’t too far from the Black Hills, but I can’t remember the name of the town. Hearing them talk, the reason they left there is because the soil all turned to alkaline.
Does that happen when you grow too much of the same crop?
You’ll have to ask somebody else.
But there again, the Hoffine’s were just doing the same thing that the Bonnie’s did. They were renting this property and they weren’t making a decent living, and they saw this cheap cutover land in North Idaho, so that inspired them to move on.
Yeah. So jumping back a little bit, the Bonnie’s, they came here in 1918. I don’t think… I forgot to ask you. Where did they move from?
They moved from Burlington, Colorado.
And I do not know what my grandfather did there. However, I do know that my great-grandfather had a post office near Burlington, Colorado that was called the Bonnie Post Office. As far as I know, still today there’s a dam that was named after the Bonnie family in that same vicinity.
Okay, well that’s cool. Do you know anything about, well I guess we kind of briefly covered it about how they… Your uncle Andy came, by covered wagon. How did the rest of the family travel when they came to Idaho?
They had a car.
Of some sort?
Yeah, a sedan that they were all… Well, let’s see. There would’ve been five of them, was able to travel with them. I don’t know. Surely they must have had a trailer or something that of course… I think Andy, of course, had a lot of their belongings and of course their team of horses.
And then the Bonnie’s, in that letter it says that they came by train.
Which is kind of cool. It would’ve been an interesting way to travel. Grandma, kind of jumping forward now into your story, you grew up on Upper Gold Creek up the road from the ranch. You were raised mostly by your grandparents?
Which set of grandparents would that have been?
My grandparents, James and Lilly Hoffine, my dad’s parents.
Got it. I’ve heard several stories from your childhood and I want to start by asking you about some of those. So at one point the house that you were living in caught fire. Can you tell me about that?
That happened to be… My two sets of grandparents only lived only about a quarter-mile distance apart, and as I remember, I just happened to be staying up at my grandparents, the Bonnie’s, when the house caught on fire. I’m not sure I remember this, but mostly from stories I heard. The bedrooms were on the second floor. It was a nice log house that my grandfather built.
And you have a picture of that house.
Oh, yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
It’s a really neat looking two-story log house.
Right. Well anyhow, the fire was getting pretty intense and somebody put me out the window and dropped me down to somebody on the ground. I do remember sitting some distance away on a blanket and watching the crew try to save the barn, which they did. Several of the neighbors had come and they had quite a water brigade, and they did save the barn.
Do you know roughly about how old you were at the time?
Oh, I’d say I was maybe four. I might add that my grandfather then, and with the help of the boys, built another log house, almost like the first one.
So your grandfather, grandpa Bonnie, how many children did he have?
He had four. My mother was the oldest, Pearl, then my uncle Casey, and my aunt Mildred, and uncle Lyle.
Okay. And then on your Hoffine side of the family, which is who you were raised by, how many kids did they have?
They had four boys.
Andrew, Paul my dad, Lester, and Leon. As I was growing up, my dad, well all of them worked from time to time in the woods and my dad and the others too would be gone during the week someplace, where I don’t remember exactly where all, but working and then they’d come home on weekends.
Where are they logging? Were they working for Humbird or were they working for themselves doing jobs they had found?
Well, I think they probably were working for somebody. I don’t know that it was Humbird, but I’m sure they were working for somebody. I don’t think they were on their own at that time.
So I heard another story once about you and your cousin on the hunt for something good to eat.
Yeah. My cousin, that was my uncle Lester’s son, only a year younger than myself.
What was his name?
Charles Hoffine. They called him Chuck, though. Anyhow, I convinced him that we ought to go up to my grandma Bonnie’s and get a peanut butter sandwich. For some reason, peanut butter must’ve been a new thing. I don’t know, because we didn’t have it at our house. So I talked him in, and we went up and told my grandma we needed a peanut butter sandwich. So, she took us out to the cellar and made us each a sandwich, and they came out and here come my grandfather and my cousin’s dad. So, they were not very pleased with us, but my grandfather picked me up, this is Hoffine, put me on his shoulders, and my cousin got a whipping.
Okay, so you have told me another story about… Okay, well let’s actually do a little prefacing to this story. So you were raised by your Hoffine grandparents. They had four sons.
So you grew up in a family of a lot of men.
Yes, that’s true.
Did they kind of have a little bit of rough language?
Okay, so we’re going to go into this story. You were asked to go collect some eggs, right?
So what happened in this story?
Well, of course, everybody had a few chickens, and chickens have a way of getting out of their pen. So this particular hen went out to the barn and crawled under the hay. Now when I say hay, this isn’t baled hay; this is loose, stacked hay. My grandfather found where she was laying. It was just a little hole underneath the hay. I happened to be with him and he said, “Virginia, why don’t you crawl under there and get those eggs?” And so I started in and it got all dark and I come out backwards and I said, “Hell, no! Gingie’s not going under there!”
During your childhood, was most of your family’s food, was it grown, or hunted, or gathered up near where you lived, or did they buy supplies in town?
All of the same.
All of it?
They did hunt deer, which supplied most of the meat. In those days, about every family that came here had a few milking cows. So about everybody was milking cows so you had milk, and then like I mentioned, chickens, and eggs, and meat and yes, my grandma Hoffine raised a big garden. I can remember shelling peas by the bucket full, and she canned a lot, and yes, there was a weekly run to town for two reasons. They had to take their cream to the creamery at Sandpoint, and that was their grocery money. At the same time when they took the cream to town, they also bought their groceries. As as I was growing up, Saturday was the going to town day.
Which, that sounds like maybe that was kind of a common theme for the whole neighborhood up there on the Hill.
It was. It was.
I think you told me once about… I had asked kind of a similar question and you had told me about your lunches that you would take to school with you, and you got to bring oranges with you to school.
Yeah. I guess we bought them in town. That was part of our lunch, was an orange, also a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Apparently it was a unique thing to have. I mean oranges aren’t grown here or even regionally, so was that something that was shipped in and a lot of people had or was that kind of a treat?
No, I think it was something that was shipped in. I can remember at Christmas time, the school would sack up a bunch of goodies for the kids and it would always have an orange in it.
How did you get to school?
I walked. I’ll back up a little bit. When I first started school in the first grade, there was no school on Gold Creek, so we had to go to Grouse Creek School, which was way too far to walk. So I don’t know for sure. I think my uncle Andy drove us part of the time, and one of the other neighbors took us down there part of the time.
Where was the Grouse Creek School?
You know where Northside Christian Fellowship is now?
Okay. It was kind of just across the street, Colburn Culver on the North side of the road.
On Colburn Culver…
In the corner of Colburn Culver and Grouse Creek cutoff.
Yeah, so on the west side of Grouse Creek.
Okay. So the school on Gold Creek though, which is where you went, second grade through eighth grade.
Well, actually we had… mid-way through school, just before Christmas, there was an epidemic of whooping cough, and we were… I had it pretty bad, and we were out of school for a week or more. I can’t remember how long, but by that time Gold Creek School had been built. So I went to the rest of my grade school years at the Gold Creek School.
Where was the Gold Creek School?
It was about a mile up from what is now called Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, up the road about a mile on Upper Gold Creek road.
So you would walk from your grandparents’ house on what would be Meadowood, to the school. Did you walk up the road or was it more of a cut across country kind of deal?
Well, there was a cut across. We did have… There was a cut across; cut off quite a little bit, and there was several families. The Wood’s, the Sylvester’s on down the road, so most of the time we would meet up and walk the rest of the way to school.
What was a day in school like for you?
Well, let’s back up a little bit.
In my first grade, going to Grouse Creek, it was not a happy time for me. I was kind of a protected little kid at home and I just didn’t… I was just kind of lost. But anyhow, then going to Gold Creek, I grew up a little bit I guess. From the second grade on up, I was the only student in my class. However, the teacher let me join in, in some of the grades ahead of me along the line, but anyhow…
Well, we started school with a prayer and Pledge Allegiance to the Flag, and pretty near always, we sang two or three songs and then we started our schoolwork. We’d have a break halfway in the morning, 15 minutes, and then at noon a lunch, and another break in the afternoon. I think we got out at 3:00. I liked school. I did well.
You said you were the only one in your grade. Were there other kids that lived on the Hill that were kind of your friends at the time?
Yes. Yes. When that school first opened up, I think we probably had maybe up to 14 kids, but a lot of people, before I graduated out of the eighth grade, had moved on.
Grandma, I know that grandpa also ended up attending the Gold Creek School, so tell me about when his family moved there and his family starting to go to the school.
Okay. In 1940, the Wood family came to the Gold Creek area and bought property just down the road from where I was living. When I heard that and they had four children and I thought, “Oh, I’m going to have a classmate!” But it ended up, the two older ones were in high school, and the other two were one behind me, a couple of grades. One was just right behind me and the other one was a couple of grades. So anyhow, I didn’t get a classmate, but that’s where I first met my future husband when he came to school on the first day. Back then, all of my family wore bib overalls, and when Jim and his sister come walking up the road and holy mackerel, he had on tight jeans and I thought his legs were long! But anyhow, that was my first impression.
Oh, that’s funny. I think we’ll wrap up there for today. Next time that I talk with you, we’ll be talking a little bit more about your childhood and we’ll move into probably your high school years. So, until then.