Ferry Route-Tim Goodale's Pass, down Middle Brownlee Creek

Ferry Route-Tim Goodale’s Pass, down Middle Brownlee Creek

During the research a question was posed that deserves consideration. Could Goodale have already known about the Brownlee Ferry being built on the Snake River? How would he have imagined that the train was going to get across the river if he did not know about the ferry ahead of time? Fording the Snake River was probably impossible! We do know that scouts were sent out and John Brownlee came to the Cambridge Valley camp to ask them to build the road. And for sure by then the emigrant miners would have known about the ferry crossing. There is good reason to believe that Goodale already knew the ferry would be in place. If so, he knew that they would only need to find the best way to get to the ferry, and also, advised by the packers, some more road-clearing as they had done along Mann Creek. One written statement seems to verify Goodale’s prior knowledge about the ferry. Before Brownlee came back to the Cambridge area camp, Goodale “decided to send men over this [packers’] trail to Brownlee Ferry and look the country over.” 1)W. W. Lloyd and Mrs. Edna A. Melhorn, “Baker County Historical Society,” Oregon Historical Quarterly, V. 49 (1948). p. 306; Hiram T. French, “Discovery of Gold,” Chapter 5, History of Idaho (Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1914), p. 35; Ibid, “Boise County,” p. 133. French quoted the story told by Moses Splawn, before recorded in John Hailey’s History of Idaho.

If he did not know about the ferry was he planning on taking the wagons on north? Surely not, for he informed Dunham Wright and his group that “the way was very mountainous and rough,” 2)W. W. Lloyd and Mrs. Edna A. Melhorn, “Baker County Historical Society,” Oregon Historical Quarterly, V. 49 (1948). p. 306; Hiram T. French, “Discovery of Gold,” Chapter 5, History of Idaho (Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1914), p. 35; Ibid, “Boise County,” p. 133. French quoted the story told by Moses Splawn, before recorded in John Hailey’s History of Idaho. indicating they could not get to Florence with wagons from there. The group tried anyway, and soon had to abandon their wagons! All of this supports the contention that sometime before Goodale had passed through the route and probably already knew John Brownlee.

We look further at the Cambridge to Brownlee part of the Goodale road and its use. After the Goodale wagons improved that trail and traveled NW to cross the Snake River, it has been suggested by some writers that probably few wagons later attempted that route to Oregon. Some relatively recent statements have been made, with little or no records or other primary support, that the route was only a packers’ trail, and wagons could not use that route. Though the road had been built and/or improved by members of the Goodale group, and their wagons got through to the ferry, are we to conclude that other wagons could not pass that way? What does the evidence tell us?

Was the probability of few early wagons through that route influenced mostly by the fact that miners used pack trains and the majority of traffic during the remainder of that first fall was packers, and not because wagons could not pass there? Did few later trail emigrants’ wagons go this route because the Olds Ferry offered an improved route to Oregon by 1863, and because emigrants with wagons that would travel north through Crane Creek were mostly heading for and settling in the Idaho? One reliable evidence about the condition of that road from Cambridge to the Brownlee Ferry is found in the primary document created by W. P. Horton, and dated March 17, 1863. It was presented in part in an earlier section of this paper, “Emigrants: Miners and all Others,” under Endnote 19. This described the road’s early condition 7 months after Goodale passed through and before some improvements were made.

The mileages that Horton recorded along the route where the Goodale group built the road from the Weiser River to the Brownlee Ferry were divided into three sections, 14 mile to East Pine Creek, 10 miles to Brownlee Creek, and the last 3 miles on to the ferry. The road description for the first section was recorded as “the road a good wagon road,” for the second section, a “bad wagon road at present,” and the last, “a good ferry and a good road.” 3)W. P. Horton, “Placerville, Boise Mines,” Washington Statesman (no city) April 4, 1863, p. 3, c. 2. Typed copy obtained from Gary Franklin, Cambridge, January 20, 2003, pp. 1 . He did indicate that at least part of the central 10 miles was a bad road for wagons in 1863, but did not indicate that it could not have been used! Emigrants wanting to go that route had no doubt driven over many other miles of bad road. Until Brownlee’s Ferry may have been discontinued (or was it?) in 1864, emigrants could have followed the entire Goodale route to Oregon. We just don’t have the diaries to verify such travel.

Horton added other information that seems to indicate that the road was not so bad, comparatively. He wrote during the spring after Goodale passed, that part of the road up the Burnt River in Oregon was sometimes covered with water when the river was running full. “But if this trail is rendered impassible by high water, there is still another that is said to be far better, and in my opinion a great deal of the travel from the lower country will come that way. I allude to the road by Brownlee’s Ferry, seven miles below the mouth of the Powder river.” He added that “three gentlemen,” who had in 1863, gone by wagons on that route to Walla Walla and returned all the way back to Placerville, had reported directly to him the mileages and the other facts that he recorded about the road. 4)W. P. Horton, “Placerville, Boise Mines,” Washington Statesman (no city) April 4, 1863, p. 3, c. 2. Typed copy obtained from Gary Franklin, Cambridge, January 20, 2003, pp. 2 .

According to the satellite information available today showing most of a trail that follows very closely to that early Brownlee Ferry road, plotted on the old land plats, much of this route could still be mapped and marked. (It was found and traveled in May 2005, and ruts were quite evident.) The present improved road going NW along Pine Creek, running parallel from 1 to 2 miles on the southwest side of the older road, was not built for many years. On the later plats of the 1890s, the Pine Creek road was called “Road to Salubria.”

On some land plats the surveyors identified the older Goodale trail route by inscribing various descriptive names. On several plats, it is simply called the “old trail,” going NNW, and following the entire route marked from plat to plat. On one section of the road it was called, “Trail to Pine Valley [Oregon],” on the next going northerly, a 1901 plat, it was recorded as “From Cambridge to Ruthburg.” Ruthburg was a mining town (Map. p. 4, top left), now called Heath, along the Goodale route on Brownlee Creek-NW corner of T17N, R4W. On the next 1901 plat the road was called, “Road from Cambridge to Brownlee’s Ferry,” and on the last, “Brownlee Creek Trail!” By that time, among the working surveyors, the route must have lost its first identity with Goodale, but one 1876 description of the road did name the top of the grade going over near Brownlee Creek, “Tim Goodall’s [sic] pass” (Map, p. 36, top left). Horton called the area back down at the crossing of the Payette River, “Tim Goodwell’s [sic] crossing.” 5)Willis H. Pettit, Joseph Perrault, and Ernest G. Eagleson, Surveyor Generals, Survey Plats, (BLM). Various plats following NW from the Cambridge area, obtained in July 2004 from the Boise BLM office; Kelly, “Editorial Correspondence: Wm. West’s Ferry, May 23, ’76,” Statesman, June 8, 1876, p. 2, c. 3. Obtained from Larry Jones; Horton, p. 2.

One map, hand-drawn in 1864, and kept by George Woodman, named the Salubria to Brownlee route only the “Brownlee Trail,” 6)James I. Mills, “Map of the Mines of Idaho Oregon” (no location, February 1884), George Woodman’s Office, Clerk for the North [Mining] District of California. Copied by Mills in 1963, and this writer’s copy was obtained from Gary Franklin, Jan. 20, 2003. no doubt because Brownlee still had his ferry up and running then. However, another account as late as 1876, described the route east from the Ferry. “Fifteen miles east over an easy grade, to-wit: over the Tim Goodall [sic] emigrant road they would strike the Weiser valley.” 7)Milton Kelly, Editor, “Editorial Correspondence: Wm. West’s Ferry, May 23, ’76,” Statesman, June 8, 1876, p. 2, c. 3. Obtained from Larry Jones; Horton, p. 2.

The 1864, official George Woodman Map, “Mining Sections of Idaho and Oregon,” printed by A. Gensoul of San Francisco, plotted a trail called “Gordon’s Trail.” It followed nearly the Goodale route from the Payette River to the Powder River in Oregon. Merle Wells, past Idaho State Historian, once enlarged a section of this map, and indicated that the name of “Gordon” should have been that of “Goodale.” 8)Ralph N. Preston, Early Idaho Maps (Portland: Thomas Binford, Pub., 1978), pp. 18-21. Maps signed by LaFayette Carter, Surveyor General. The author, Woodman, mistook the name and misspelled it.

On two maps, dated 1867 and 1871, large scale Surveyor General Office maps of Idaho, the Goodale route from Boise all the way to the Brownlee Ferry, by way of the central variant, was shown as a continuous road, but without a name. On the 1867 map there had been a connecting road added to the Olds Ferry site and Snake River crossing there. On the 1867 map this unnamed road, the Jeffrey-Goodale Cutoff, was drawn all the way from “Fort Hall,” and was shown as a continuous road through Boise and on to the NW. It went all the way to the Brownlee crossing, near the Powder River. 9)Ralph N. Preston, Early Idaho Maps (Portland: Thomas Binford, Pub., 1978), pp. 44-45. Maps signed by LaFayette Carter, Surveyor General; Jim McGill phone conversation with Don Shannon, Caldwell, ID, November 15, 2004. Shannon has a copy of the Merle Well’s map with the changed name.

It is significant that in the writing of her Journal, as late as 1904, when Anne Foster crossed the Jeffrey-Goodale Cutoff, a crude map was added to her journal showing the whole Cutoff across Idaho. From the “Gibsons Ferry” near the Fort Hall site on the Snake River, a dotted line was drawn across the route to the meeting of the Oregon Trail at Ditto Creek. However, the dotted line was continued from Boise, through Crane Creek and to Brownlee Ferry, and this line was labeled with Goodale’s name. 10)Anne Jane Biggers Elliot Foster, “Anne Jane’s Journal,” p. 33. Photocopy, ISHS Library, obtained in Summer 2000.

On the Surveyor General Idaho 1867 map, the Olds Ferry route was presented on an equal basis with the Brownlee route, indicated by the drawn dimensions of that road the same quality as that going from Boise, to Crane Creek and to the Brownlee Ferry. When this road was found on both of those dated Surveyor General Maps, this writer wondered why the road would have been added to each if in fact the Brownlee Ferry had been discontinued in 1864! By 1871, the Olds Ferry road was discontinued on the same Idaho map, but the Brownlee Ferry road was still shown to be in existence! For some reason, even by then, it must have continued to be a somewhat important route across Idaho. This Brownlee Ferry road appeared to be a questionable detail because some related evidence had not been published and/or well known before now. Could another ferry have been crossing at the Brownlee site during the late 1860s and early 1870s?

James Huntley wrote in his book, Ferry Boats in Idaho, that a Brownlee area ferry road had been shown on several maps for those same years. Huntley did not find any Idaho ferry permit records of those years, or even a permit for Brownlee’s original ferry if he ever filed for one at all. No ferry application was ever filed for use of the site before 1875. But Brownlee did have his ferry there during 1862-64, and it was speculated that the Brownlee Ferry may have continued to be operated by someone else during some years after Brownlee’s departure in 1864. It was known that Tim Goodale lived in the Brownlee cabin for a couple of years after Brownlee was gone.

Brownlee Ferry

Brownlee Ferry to Brownlee Creek

Milton Kelly filled in some relevant information. He wrote that during the winter of 1863-64, Brownlee’s Ferry “broke loose or was cut adrift,” while he had gone over to the Boise Basin, and was lost down the River. In the spring of 1864, Brownlee built another new and larger ferry boat. He also built a “nice hewed log cabin with a good cellar under it” at the site, and hoped to make this route the main “thoroughfare” from Idaho to Oregon. But he neglected to get some needed improvements done on the road over the pass to the Weiser River, work that was surely required on the “bad wagon road at present” (Horton, p. 36) portion of the route. The stages continued to be sent from Umatilla to Boise and to the Boise Basin across the Olds Ferry instead. The Brownlee Ferry route was 60 miles shorter from Walla Walla to the Boise Basin than along the Burnt River and Olds Ferry route. 11)Kelly, “Editorial Correspondence: Wm. West’s Ferry, May 23, ’76,” Statesman, June 8, 1876, p. 2, c. 3. Obtained from Larry Jones; Horton, p. 2.

Brownlee missed this money-making opportunity, and that may have been one reason he decided he could make more money mining. Kelly wrote that there was one report that Brownlee may have then “sunk his ferry in the River” in the winter of 1864-65. This seems like a somewhat foolish if not impossible thing to do to that new wooden ferry, built that same year. And Tim Goodale did move in and live on Brownlee’s place for a few years. It seemed possible that the same ferry was still offered for use by the dweller in Brownlee’s cabin, or by someone else. Why else would the revised maps, according to both Huntley’s publication and the Surveyor General Maps, still indicate the ferry route if no crossing was possible? The lack of discovery of supportive information brought some questions, but does did eliminate the possibility.

Late during the research on the Goodale North, in June 2005, a definitive statement that seemed quite supportive was found in an internet search. It makes sense that Goodale would have move to and lived at the site to operate the Ferry.

Goodale took over the Brownlee’s Ferry when its owner decided to go into the mining in Boise Basin. Goodale’s western extension of his cutoff was completed just in time to accommodate a major gold rush that began late in 1862 from Oregon to Boise basin, so it was used mostly by miners going that way. But those who joined Goodale in opening it could look back on an interesting and unusual experience that few Oregon Trail emigrants could match in their westward journey. 12)ISHS, “Midvale Hill: Goodale’s Route, Boise to Brownlee, in 1862,” Ref. Series, # 1075 (1995), p. 2. Found during a Google search, “Freezeout Hill,” June 7, 2005, by James McGill.

Gerald Tucker wrote, “This road was used for years, with cut-offs and improvements, and Brownlee Ferry [and other ferries following his] continued in operation for a long time.” We now know that after Goodale’s time of living there, Ike Powell built a cabin about 1867 to replace Brownlee’s cabin. The “hewed log cabin” had burned. Powell “kept a skiff [?] on the river to ferry people over.” He never filed for a ferry permit either! By 1875, he sold out to William West and O. Gaylord. 13)Gerald J. Tucker, The Story of Hells Canyon, (Unknown: 1977), p. 24. Copied pages received by James McGill on Feb. 2, 2005, from Norma Dart, Middleton, ID; Kelly, “Wm. West.” It appears from all of this related information that there could have been a way to cross the River constantly, from 1862 on for many years.

By 1875, West and Gaylord were operating another Ferry on the site, with an “eight year franchise,”-according to the Ada County Commissioner’s Records. With this Ferry a new road was built to the Weiser mines, and from the mines to Salubria. West soon bought out Gaylord’s interests, and then established a mine of his own up the old “emigrant road,” near Goodale’s Pass. There he built a cabin that began the town of Ruthburg. 14)“Ruthburg” was part of the name of the road on one 1901 land plat, on the old trail road from Cambridge-noted on page 37, paragraph under Willis H. Pettit, Joseph Perrault, and Ernest G. Eagleson, Surveyor Generals, Survey Plats, (BLM). Various plats following NW from the Cambridge area, obtained in July 2004 from the Boise BLM office.

Tucker wrote that the Pine Valley, OR, Post office was established in 1878, and then mail began to cross the ferry that was at the site, to and from Salubria, ID. He also verified that according to the 1882 Union County, OR, Court Proceedings, a license was issued to Robert Browning for a ferry at the site, and he was still calling his ferry the “Brownlee Ferry!” He had purchased the connecting toll road in Idaho from Ed Wilkinson. 15)James L. Huntley, Ferry Boats in Idaho (Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1979), pp. 206-207; Kelly.

It would be difficult to distinguish all phases of this continuous crossing of the Snake River during the years from the time of the first crossings, which John Brownlee and Goodale’s Train made possible in 1862! The early Goodale influence on the route is undeniable. Emigrants were found to be traveling into the Middle Weiser River valleys, with primary sources and journals indicating some trains even into the 1880s. It is not impossible that some emigrants who first went to Oregon and California (see the information in the section, “Emigrants on the Goodale North: Diaries and Records,” p. 16) and then came back to these areas, may have used the upper Idaho Brownlee-Goodale route! Other emigrants coming from the east could also have passed through and gone on to Oregon by this crossing, though little information has been recorded in the present available records. It had become a well known trail over the years, and surely more used than previously thought possible from the information that had been discovered earlier.

With this speculation and the completion of much writing about the Goodale North, all routes from Boise to the Brownlee Ferry, we leave for the reader a better picture of the emigrant travel across Idaho after 1862. And much of that travel followed Tim Goodale.

Back to: Goodale North Trail

References   [ + ]

1, 2.W. W. Lloyd and Mrs. Edna A. Melhorn, “Baker County Historical Society,” Oregon Historical Quarterly, V. 49 (1948). p. 306; Hiram T. French, “Discovery of Gold,” Chapter 5, History of Idaho (Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1914), p. 35; Ibid, “Boise County,” p. 133. French quoted the story told by Moses Splawn, before recorded in John Hailey’s History of Idaho.
3.W. P. Horton, “Placerville, Boise Mines,” Washington Statesman (no city) April 4, 1863, p. 3, c. 2. Typed copy obtained from Gary Franklin, Cambridge, January 20, 2003, pp. 1 .
4.W. P. Horton, “Placerville, Boise Mines,” Washington Statesman (no city) April 4, 1863, p. 3, c. 2. Typed copy obtained from Gary Franklin, Cambridge, January 20, 2003, pp. 2 .
5.Willis H. Pettit, Joseph Perrault, and Ernest G. Eagleson, Surveyor Generals, Survey Plats, (BLM). Various plats following NW from the Cambridge area, obtained in July 2004 from the Boise BLM office; Kelly, “Editorial Correspondence: Wm. West’s Ferry, May 23, ’76,” Statesman, June 8, 1876, p. 2, c. 3. Obtained from Larry Jones; Horton, p. 2.
6.James I. Mills, “Map of the Mines of Idaho Oregon” (no location, February 1884), George Woodman’s Office, Clerk for the North [Mining] District of California. Copied by Mills in 1963, and this writer’s copy was obtained from Gary Franklin, Jan. 20, 2003.
7.Milton Kelly, Editor, “Editorial Correspondence: Wm. West’s Ferry, May 23, ’76,” Statesman, June 8, 1876, p. 2, c. 3. Obtained from Larry Jones; Horton, p. 2.
8.Ralph N. Preston, Early Idaho Maps (Portland: Thomas Binford, Pub., 1978), pp. 18-21. Maps signed by LaFayette Carter, Surveyor General.
9.Ralph N. Preston, Early Idaho Maps (Portland: Thomas Binford, Pub., 1978), pp. 44-45. Maps signed by LaFayette Carter, Surveyor General; Jim McGill phone conversation with Don Shannon, Caldwell, ID, November 15, 2004. Shannon has a copy of the Merle Well’s map with the changed name.
10.Anne Jane Biggers Elliot Foster, “Anne Jane’s Journal,” p. 33. Photocopy, ISHS Library, obtained in Summer 2000.
11.Kelly, “Editorial Correspondence: Wm. West’s Ferry, May 23, ’76,” Statesman, June 8, 1876, p. 2, c. 3. Obtained from Larry Jones; Horton, p. 2.
12.ISHS, “Midvale Hill: Goodale’s Route, Boise to Brownlee, in 1862,” Ref. Series, # 1075 (1995), p. 2. Found during a Google search, “Freezeout Hill,” June 7, 2005, by James McGill.
13.Gerald J. Tucker, The Story of Hells Canyon, (Unknown: 1977), p. 24. Copied pages received by James McGill on Feb. 2, 2005, from Norma Dart, Middleton, ID; Kelly, “Wm. West.”
14.“Ruthburg” was part of the name of the road on one 1901 land plat, on the old trail road from Cambridge-noted on page 37, paragraph under Willis H. Pettit, Joseph Perrault, and Ernest G. Eagleson, Surveyor Generals, Survey Plats, (BLM). Various plats following NW from the Cambridge area, obtained in July 2004 from the Boise BLM office.
15.James L. Huntley, Ferry Boats in Idaho (Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1979), pp. 206-207; Kelly.