A Story Worth Telling

bunker hill mine and smelter front porch stories idaho humanities council svedc the big burn uptown kellogg Aug 21, 2023

By Paul Roberts

     Most of you know that last week, Carol and I had the wonderful opportunity to share some family history stories in conjunction with Project Uplift Kellogg, the Idaho Humanities Council and the Silver Valley Economic Development Corporation (SVEDC). For six weeks in uptown Kellogg, various locals were invited to share at “Front Porch Stories” as a means to celebrate and revitalize the uptown Kellogg area, along with the greater Silver Valley region. Most of what we shared was somewhat extemporaneous, based on the notes we both had garnered from our research and the writings of family members.

     However, I opened the night with the 8 minute scripted selection you see below.


     One of the things Carol and I would like to do tonight is encourage people to write their stories, and tell their stories. It’s how we celebrate who we all are, by talking from time to time about the dates and events and people of our past.

     Let’s begin with August 20, 1910. Now I’m sure someone here tonight can come up with the most important event of August 20th, 1910…the fire, yes, the Big Burn…well yes, that was significant, but for me, well I’ve got a different story to tell, and much of it comes from the writings of my ancestors.

     You see, well before 1910, all the way back to October 16, 1882 in LaPlata Mo., the sixth of eleven children was born to Nancy and John Wesley Taylor. It was a boy, Baruch Wesley Taylor. Wessie, named after his dad, grew up smart and strong and deaf due to what the family records call a “brain fever” as a very young child.

     The Missouri Taylors became the Kellogg Taylors in the late 1890’s, after two of the oldest boys traveled west after hearing of the availability of work in the relatively new mining industry in north Idaho. With a good report about the possibility of employment and homesteading opportunities, John Wesley and Nancy Taylor traveled west with all those children, and their families, and “immediately homesteaded 160 acres of virgin land one mile east of Kellogg and ½ mile from the South Fork of the CDA river” - just past the current cemetery and up the hill from Ross Ranch.

     John Wesley and Nancy raised cows, pigs, chickens and horses on the homestead, and the children settled into the local community. Once again, according to family records, “Eldring, the oldest son, was able to get employment with the Bunker Hill company as a blacksmith. Sirvetus ( I love these names) worked at the upper Bunker Hill mine. Irving was on the Kellogg police force. Walter was probably the least inclined to work for a living and usually left the area for long periods of time…Ellis became proficient as a butcher operating the meat market for Papish Company. Leo, the youngest of the family, attended local schools, played baseball on the city league and went to the National League Giants via the U.S. Navy…”

     Of the 3 Taylor girls we know that “Myrtle was rather sedate but very religiously inclined; she wrote poetry…Ivy decided she would make her mark in the world and became a nurse…Pearl, the youngest daughter, was the cut up of the family, attended Kellogg High and was a member of the Kellogg varsity ladies basketball team.”

     That leaves us Baruch Wesley Taylor to catch up with - we’ll call him Wessie, from here on out -  and he’s the centerpiece of this story. 18 or 19 years old when the family moved here, Wessie “spent his early twenties at the farm clearing trees from the upper portion of the homestead in order to supply fire wood and tillable land suitable for hay or alfalfa.”

     His deafness - some might call it a handicap - brought on by that childhood brain fever turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

     In those early years of the 1900’s while the Taylors were settling into the Silver Valley, a beautiful young lady by the name of Mary Elizabeth Cavanaugh was adjusting to her new life in Harrison, Idaho, which at the turn of the century was the largest town on Lake CDA. Her sister, Ella, had somehow settled there in Harrison, after the Cavanaughs had left Nova Scotia for St. Paul, Minnesota, after their father passed away in Lewiston, Idaho while headed for the Alaska gold fields, after Mary Elizabeth left the Washington School for the Deaf in Vancouver, WA, Mary Elizabeth - her papa called her Mamie - Mamie and her mother joined sister Ella who had a good job operating a millinery shop in Harrison. (bonus points - what is a millinery shop?)

     Mamie’s deafness was the result of “a debilitating bout with measles when 3 years of age.” But her training at the school gave her not only the necessary every day accomplishments of learning” but she was also taught rhythm dancing and “became somewhat of a fancywork expert.” (more bonus points, anyone?)

     "Somehow or other," Wessie heard of a deaf girl living in Harrison. His brothers told him “You need to meet this single young lady.” And meet they did. Wessie and Mamie - he called her that, just like her papa did. He’d spell it into her hand as they sat in a cozy corner while courting, or across a crowded room, where, uninterrupted by the spoken conversations going on around them, they could share the secrets of a young couple falling in love. And with that quietness to bind them, on October 27th 1909 they were married by the justice of the peace in Harrison. Wessie’s father deeded 40 acres of the homestead to the young couple; they were able to build a home there, and 10 months later they had their first of two children…and now we’ve come almost full circle.

     10 months after they were married in October of 1909, would make it August of 1910. And while for most of you August 20th, 1910 is all about the raging wildfires, for me, it’s all about the birth of my grandfather, Paul Arthur Taylor. It’s about the family story of which was coming first, the fire or the baby.

     It’s about Paul Arthur courting that cute young girl in his Latin class at Kellogg High School, Naydeen Bushnell, then getting married and settling down to have a family of his own. Paul and Naydeen’s children included a daughter, Patricia Jane. Patricia grew up to graduate from Kellogg High in 1954, then married a Roberts fella from southern Idaho, and they had 6 kids of their own, the third one was a boy who they chose to name Paul, after his grandfather. 

     But that’s another story for another time.


I hope this encourages my readers to write down and share some of your own family stories. After all, as Carol likes to remind us all, you are the only one who can tell your story. And I’ll add to that with this thought: We all have a story worth telling. 

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