Tim Goodale’s Boise River Crossing
Jim McGill (Update 01-03-05)

As research continued on the information about the Goodale North route of the 1862 Goodale Wagon Train, from Boise to the Brownlee Ferry on the Snake River, it soon became apparent that there existed some information that might be interpreted to demonstrate that Tim Goodale did not cross the Boise River near the later Boise and proceed NW from near present Eagle, ID, to the area of Emmett. That the Goodale Train did travel from the Boise area to near the present Emmett is one fact that historians have been maintaining for the last several decades in writing and discussing Goodale. One available document from as early as March 1863, 8 months after Goodale passed, appears to identify this part of his Goodale Cutoff route. But some brief accounts, mostly later reminiscences in later years by Goodale Train travelers, might be interpreted to indicate that the Goodale Train did not cross the Boise River until the wagons got near the present Parma, ID.

This appears to be the contradictory scenario putting the Goodale Train at a crossing near Parma, ID, and this blended information taken from several sources:

Water in the Boise River may have been too high and fast for the Goodale Train to cross at Boise, or anywhere else until they went down as far as present Parma. William Curtis, member of the Goodale Train, drowned in trying to cross the Boise River. John Ross had a later (1867) ranch near Parma. One of Curtis’ daughters wrote as late as 1919, that her father drowned near the Ross ranch when her Train, presumably the Goodale Train, tried to cross the Boise River there. Daughter, Emma Curtis McKinzie Fowler, had returned to Idaho in 1865, three years after the drowning, and lived near the supposed drowning area (actually more than 10 miles away between Middleton and Caldwell) for many years.

Nellie and Oliver Slater were with the Goodale Train early on, and their accounts both placed the drowning of Curtis downriver from Boise, somewhere from the Middleton area to the Fort Boise site. (They may have left Goodale’s wagon group near Boise!)

Dunham Wright was also with the Goodale Train, at least most of the way, and his 1942 account, written up and published by Frank Jasper after Wright’s death at age 100, seems to indicate that he personally witnessed the drowning of William Curtis! Therefore, some Goodale researchers maintain that, his wagon train could not have crossed the Boise River until they reached the Parma area, and then went north near the present U. S. 95 route, crossing the Payette River only a few miles upstream from its mouth. Thus he would not have traveled to the area of Freezeout Hill without backtracking easterly for many miles, and so his wagon train probably did not pass near Emmett or down the length of the Payette River for more than 20 miles.

If this is all accurate information then none of the route that has been called part of the Goodale Cutoff from Eagle NW, downhill near Freezeout Hill, and downstream west along the Payette River, is legitimately part of that Cutoff! In the case of the possible crossing of the Boise River near Parma, the train would then have gone almost straight north for about 8 miles, and from there followed near the Snake River NNW, and then north for another 11 miles. It would have crossed the Payette River only a few miles upstream from its mouth. Then, presumably, the route on to the Upper Weiser valley would be the same as indicated in the many other accounts-crossing the Payette River, going further north to the Weiser River, and going through Middle Valley near Midvale.

Did Irving Merrill and Merle Wells incorrectly write, “He [Goodale] took his gold hunters down Payette Valley [from later Emmett] to Snake River,” in the Overland Journal story, in “Goodale’s Cutoff from Boise Valley to Powder River,” in the spring 1996 issue? Is their map incorrect in demonstrating that Goodale’s route from Eagle to Freezeout Hill took them into the Payette Valley by that route? Have writers and learned historians been wrong in their written accounts, dated from 1863 to the present time, in identifying the trail from Emmett to the west-as well as other parts of both the Weiser River route and the Willow Creek-Crane Creek route from the Payette River to the Upper Weiser-using “Goodale” as part of the name applied to these routes?

The earliest account from March 1863, a road condition and mileage report by W. P. Horton, attached Goodale’s name to the crossing of the Payette River near Emmett, putting him in that area. The second part of his road report, in which he designated “Tim Goodwell’s [sic] crossing,” followed the route from the Payette River near Emmett north through Fourmile Creek and Crain Creek, and all the way through the Brownlee Ferry to the Powder River. He had identified this as Goodale’s crossing, which also connected to that Crane Creek variant opened in the fall of 1862. Other’s referred to this as “Tim Goodale’s road,” though it was not the actual original wagon route. Most traffic for many years thereafter to the Upper Weiser valley and returning from the NW across the Brownlee Ferry went through that route. It appears now from the available evidence that the Goodale Train did cross the Payette River and followed the north side river bluffs route, not going down to the ford that was near later Bluff Station, 20 miles downriver.

Historians have believed, with relatively dependable information, that Goodale’s train did cross the Boise River near Boise, and first opened the route to later Emmett and downstream along the Payette River! But this contradictory information about a different route from the Boise River to the Payette River needs to be addressed, and some reasonable explanations considered!

If in fact Tim Goodale did not follow down the Payette River-crossing it instead to the west and much nearer to its termination into the Snake River-then in no way should his name be associated with any of the identified trail routes NW from Boise, near Emmett, and along the Payette near the historic Falk’s Store and Bluff Station. And his name certainly should not be applied through the Crane Creek “variant,” being used from the same fall of 1862 by miners and packers and a bit later by wagons and whole wagon trains-emigrants settling in both the Boise Basin and along the Middle and Upper Weiser River!

The question arises about where W. P. Horton got the idea the following spring that Goodale had anything to do with the Emmett route of the trail, an important trail that soon became the “Umatilla to Boise City Road!” And why did Milton Kelly, the Editor of the Boise Statesman, independently write two different historical articles in 1876, several times giving credit to Tim Goodale for opening the Payette river route and influencing the Crane Creek variant? He also called this route the “Tim Goodale road!”

By the mid-1860’s another road had been opened from Boise to the Upper Payette, to the area of present Montour where the Marsh Stage Station was located. It also connected with the Boise Basin road. The southern part became the “Pearl [ID] Road,” and was in the 1890’s named the “Road to Marsh and Iretons,” on one land plat.

The Ireton family had a ranch where the Marsh Stage Station had been built. Nellie Ireton grew up there, and heard the stories from her early years about Tim Goodale having led his train through the Payette Valley. Nellie Ireton Mills wrote in the 1960’s about Tim Goodale’s Train, supplying much now-verified information, and her writings have been used by many researchers since that time. One problem with her writing was that she did not identify the sources of information in her book! But neither she nor the Ireton family stories would have influenced Horton in 1863 or Kelly in his 1870s, writing in the Statesman! Most early map makers also gave Goodale credit for the Payette River route, and the crossing at Emmett.

The 1864 map of the Mining Sections of Idaho and Oregon, George Woodman, Cartographer, had Goodale’s Trail (misnamed as “Gordon’s Trail” according to Merle Wells) crossing the Boise River at Boise and going NW to the valley of the Payette River, and toward the Weiser River. Both the 1867 and 1871 Surveyor General Maps of Idaho show the same trail route crossing the Boise River at Boise and going NW through the Emmett area. W. W. Lloyd and Edna A. Melhorn, after first-hand hearing Dunham Wright’s account of his travel with the Goodale Train, wrote for the Oregon Historical Quarterly, and they indicated the Goodale Train followed the Payette River.

Having presented the apparent contradictory information, the accounts that seem to indicate the crossing of the Goodale Train somewhere much downriver from the Boise area need to be fully presented and examined. But before that information is discussed some related trail information and known Goodale facts need to be established.

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