Moses Splawn of the Grimes Party

Moses Splawn, one of the Grimes party, the hungry miners that found the Goodale Train camped on the Boise River, wrote that they “constructed a raft and crosses over to where the emigrants were camped.” This was surely from the north side of the river to the south, and near the steep banks described by Nellie Slater where they had camped on August 9th. Splawn wrote that as the Grimes mining party came down the Boise River (from the east) some distance prior to their encounter they had seen the Goodale Train approaching the river area in a dust cloud, nearly “two miles long.” At first they thought it was a long line of Indians on horses! And they had also seen another cloud of dust, surely another train, going on down the south side of the Boise River.

Significant to the question about the Goodale Train’s soon crossing the river to the north is that Splawn and his party was surely with that train in its travel on across Idaho, and then eventually went on to Walla Walla. Splawn’s account verified but did not indicate the place of that crossing, and he did not write anything about the drowning of Mr. Curtis! We will later see the probability that Spawn did remain with Goodale all the way, but that Dunham Wright, another witness, may have been separated for a time from Goodale! This would be the only way he could have witnessed the drowning!

The details of the account written for Dunham Wright by Frank Jasper, after Wright’s death in 1942, seemed to indicate that he had witnessed first hand the drowning of Curtis. It was written and quoted in the first person: “I was standing with them [the family] when he went under.”

One of Dunham’s own letters from about 1923 was written to John York to inform him about the old abandoned wagons that his mining party had left behind when they tried to go north from the Weiser River to get to Florence, ID. In that letter he wrote that the Goodale led long train began to divide up, beginning just after they had witnessed the many human bones left from an 1852 massacre. That happened near the intersection of the Goodale Cutoff with the main Oregon Trail, near the lower waters of Ditto Creek, Elmore County. This was where the Goodale Train had come down the mountain from the Danskin Peak area, and there met the main Oregon Trail.

He indicated that when of all the wagons that were then left in the Goodale train, which he was with, came to the Boise River all but 15 wagons went on down the Boise River toward old Fort Boise (but not necessarily in one single train from there). Assumedly, his own group of 15 wagons, Goodale’s train (?), would be going north. Dunham wrote in his letter, 61 years after the fact, without any actual placement, “Here our train divided . . . here we had one man to drown and two wagons to drift into deep water with 4 yokes of oxen to each wagon!” The later more detailed account, written and published by Jasper after Dunham’s death in 1942, blends all into a short passage. This account claimed his actual crossing of the river was only shortly after the drowning of William Curtis!

The 1942 account described Curtis’ drowning after trying to ride a mule across the river-that which Emma Fowler also wrote in 1919. After the recordings of Wright’s verbal stories, Frank Jasper described his attempt in 1942 to find historic sources and documents to verify the Wright stories. Therefore, he may have read the Emma Fowler account published in 1919. Jasper put all the words of the stories he wrote for Dunham in Dunham Wright’s mouth, in the first person, but then admitted that “We have, of necessity, done considerable editing, but it has been our purpose to record the stories as nearly as possible as he would have told them at his best.”

Dunham had gone on to the Florence area from the Weiser valley, and as reported in one place may have later gone to the Boise Basin to mine. But he finally settled in Oregon near where many of the other Goodale travelers had also settled. At his annual birthday parties, which were big events for many years until his last one, Jasper wrote that “from sixty to one hundred people [were] present,” friends from “far and wide.”

Dunham may have, over the years, discussed this travel in 1862 with others from the train and may then have adopted some of their information into his entertaining but sometimes questionably accurate stories! He may have only heard second hand from someone else about Mr. Curtis’ drowning after the Goodale group split from the others, the others then going on down the Boise River to where Curtis drowned! (Jasper wrote that Dunham sometimes “embellished” his stories, and indicated that he always told them as though he had witnessed them all. That is how Frank Jasper wrote them all into One Century of Life, attributed directly to Dunham Wright.)

One recorded Wright account was about some man who did not want the Indian guide, supposedly Tim Goodale, to lead him across the river, and tried to take his own wagon across. This may have occurred during the actual crossing of the Goodale train because the account indicates that other wagons ahead of him were successful in crossing. His wagon began to spin around in the river and scared the man. The wagon finally stopped and was pulled from the river, but a barrel of dried apples in his wagon got wet, and they swelled to become “a wagon bed full of dried apples,” according to Wright!

In spite of all of these accounts, there is still good reason to believe that the Goodale Train crossing of the Boise River was near Boise.

All the Dunham Wright information has been blended without completely and clearly identifying where and when everything happened. Dunham’s Boise area account, written down by Jasper in 1942, begins: “On our way to the mines we arrived at Boise City where we had to cross the Boise River. Here a man by the name of Curtis had an unfortunate adventure.” (There was no Boise City then! That was the reason the Grimes party had to go on to Walla Walla for supplies!)

Both of Wrights’ accounts, and the beginning of Emma Fowler’s account, make it sound like Curtis drowned at a place near where Boise would be built. She wrote, “When we came to the Boise river we forded it [and] my father, William Curtis, drowned in it while crossing it on a mule’s back.” It has also been considered that Fowler may have meant in the later part of her same sentence that her father drowned near an earlier ranch that John Ross had obtained in the Boise area. And this could have happened at the location of that first ranch. However, the two Slater accounts do place the drowning much to the west along the lower Boise River!

John Ross came to the Boise area at the otherwise verified date of 1863, the same date given by Fowler in her account, and lived somewhere along the Boise River near the Boise site until 1867. Then he moved to the Parma area, Canyon County. He did not file for a homestead at his Boise location. But he did not file near Parma either for many years after he moved there. He surely would not have been working toward completing his Parma homestead from 1867 and until 1900 when it was completed! The filing usually does not precede the Patent by more than about 7-8 years on the average, never 33 years!

The Dunham Wright story is evidently all run together, possibly some stories having been added to or adopted after his hearing the accounts of others later than the actual events. Frank Jasper then recorded it all with inaccuracies. (One bit of information recorded in his book contradicts itself when Wright got to the Salubria valley. It not only indicated that Wright went with the other miners from there north toward Florence, but also indicated that he was involved in building the road to the Brownlee Ferry, crossing on the Ferry, and building the road up the Oregon side! The writer/editor of that information did not understand the situation well enough to know that both such actions were virtually impossible, separated by many miles in distance!)

Did Wright actually cross the Payette River with Goodale near Emmett? There may be one other possibility, but this seems to be only a remotely possible scenario. This will be addressed below.

There remains all the prior evidence of history that Goodale did cross near Boise, and that he did go from there NW to the area of later Emmett. Nellie Ireton Mills account does carry some weight of evidence because it agrees with much earlier information, especially Horton’s 1863 report. It all appears to be basically accurate, though some parts are now known to have resulted from a misunderstanding about all the facts concerning the places of the divisions of the train.

There was an Oregon Trail crossing near what is now the Eighth Street Bridge on the Boise River in Boise, established before the Goodale Train came in 1862. That would have been near the place that Nellie Slater, who went on down the Boise River, did indicate, “We have now left the train we have traveled with all the way,” and eight miles from their first approach to the river. Wagons could have crossed there and still decide to go to Fort Boise. They could then go down the north side of the Boise River, west on the route that is now Chinden Blvd. Another route to the west one mile north of this north side trail, now Hill Road going west from Boise, is where earlier historians have establish that the Goodale Train left the Boise area, then turned from west to NW near the present Eagle, ID.

Wagon trains that wanted to go down the Boise River to Fort Boise, traveling much of the distance on the south side of the river, did not plan to and did not have to cross near Boise! They usually took the south side of the river all the way over the Canyon Hill plateau at Caldwell. They would then cross near the old iron bridge on the Boise River at Caldwell, near the later Highway 30 crossing. If Goodale did cross at Boise the other trains that were going west to Fort Hall may have planned to cross at Canyon Hill, but then could not get across the river there.

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