Goodale's Northern Cutoff

Goodale’s Contributions to Idaho

Goodale's Northern Cutoff
Goodale’s Northern Cutoff

The northern Goodale Cutoff differs from the Jeffrey-Goodale Cutoff in that Goodale did not need to share the credit with another man! Some white men had no doubt before traveled the routes north without wagons. Miners and others followed Goodale’s lead to soon open the central variant route. The total route of that central variant (Maps, pp. 4 & 13) went north of the later Emmett, near and across Haw Creek, crossed Willow Creek, went over the Fourmile grade, down South Crane Creek, up near Hog Creek, NW near Dixie Creek to the Weiser River, and met the Goodale Train road, built by those men to the Brownlee Ferry. The emigrant-built road from Cambridge Valley to the Brownlee Ferry, and over the Oregon side of the Snake River on the emigrant “zig-zag” road to the Powder River mines, made possible travel from both directions.

Goodale should be given credit for opening that part of his original travel route from Boise to the Emmett valley, down the Payette River, and north to the Weiser River (Maps, Pp. 28, 30, 31). That early section of his first wagon-traveled road was soon used extensively by emigrants who went on and crossed the Snake River at the Olds Ferry, beginning in 1863, near Farewell Bend, OR. Though the section of Goodale’s travel route from the Weiser River to Middle Valley and on to the later Cambridge area seemed to be little used for several years, one account of a single emigrant wagon, discussed later, was found. That wagon evidently drove over Midvale Hill, on a road that was described as extremely rocky and rough, severely beating up the wagon and tiring animals and people!

Some of the original Goodale Train route is now cultivated private land, and there the ruts have long ago disappeared, but there are also miles of little disturbed ruts across BLM, Forest Service, and private land, so prominent that they can be followed on satellite photos! A ground search in June 2005, found several sections of these ruts still deeply marking the route, especially from Cambridge to Brownlee. Most of the central variant through the Crane Creek area and on to Cambridge is still visible, exactly where the old land plats, many from 1867-1870, indicated the trail existed then.

It should be of great interest and pleasure for genuine rut-nuts and trail enthusiasts that so many miles of original ruts of many trail routes still exist across the undisturbed areas of Idaho. The Goodale North, a term which will often be used in this paper to identify both the original trail route and the early variant north from Emmett, is no exception. Though some of the old trails are now in use by modern vehicles, and all of the ruts are not genuine to the impressions left by hundreds of wagons, along much of those routes the old wagon ruts can still be found in  places, paralleling the somewhat improved roads.

These miles of ruts need to be identified, mapped, and marked so the history can be shared with the public, and as well as the trail’s preservation as much as possible. The Jeffrey-Goodale route has before been well identified and marked. The most western part of the Goodale Cutoff, across Oregon from the Snake River to its meeting of the Oregon Trail near Baker, is also well mapped and identified, if not also marked.

The Goodale North story must be published to complete the account about Goodale’s part in opening the west, his part in granting access to the mines in Idaho, and his Train’s effect upon travel that brought other emigrants to settle many central Idaho towns. The Goodale influenced trail north from Boise needs to be documented in case H. R. 54, 2005, the Pioneer National Historic Trails Study Act, now before Congress, is enacted. This would provide for feasibility studies to determine if all the Goodale Cutoff, among other historical trails, is suitable for inclusion in the National Trail System.

In considering the Jeffrey-Goodale Cutoff, and also those routes north of Boise, which must be identified only as Goodale’s Cutoff, requires a bit of a paradigm shift in our thinking. The trail-use model by which we have been conditioned to document the Oregon Trail system needs to be reconsidered in looking at Idaho’s trails, especially after1862.

Some men in Goodale’s Train discussed their mining destination in Idaho, near Florence, with Goodale, and therefore agreed to follow him. And it appears that some also had an agreement with him to get their wagons on to the Snake River and Oregon, to be able to get to the Powder River mines. Goodale accomplished that also. This “miners” train was therefore a somewhat different train than had previously come west across Idaho. This fact is being established here to enable the reader to consider the main, original reason for the whole of Goodale’s leadership for this train, as well as the motivation for many of those people who later followed his routes. Thus we begin here to consider the Goodale routes on north of Boise as both mining and settlement routes, routes of other various emigrant trains and wagons during the next several years.

To accomplish the study and obtain the maximum support for the goals of this mapping and marking project, it will be necessary to amend one of the long-held concepts of trail enthusiasts. Concerning the California Trail, there is little doubt that students of history accept the influence upon travel by miners going to the gold discoveries in California and Nevada, and that a large proportion of the emigrants were men with mining interests! This is probably more strongly applicable to the early establishing of that Trail. It is here stated that all of the Jeffrey-Goodale Cutoff, with all the variants, as well as the Goodale North roads were primarily mining trails during their opening and during the later use, routes heavily traveled by miner’s wagons! But none of these trails were limited only to miners. A ‘California Trail’ kind of thinking will work well on the Goodale Cutoff!

In beginning the research for this history, the writer ran into some questioning objections about the importance of the Goodale North. Some objections seemed to almost disqualify miners as emigrants! We will try to amend some prior prevalent concepts, that to be true emigrants on the Oregon Trail system and/or all its variants and cutoffs, families 1) had to be farmers, and that they 2) had to go on to Oregon or at least to the northwest beyond Idaho. Oh yes, it has also been maintained that they 3) should have been traveling west or NW to be designated as an emigrant, surely not back easterly along the trails!

The information in this paper will give ample evidence that the Jeffrey-Goodale Cutoff, with that one important mining purpose from Tim Goodale’s time on, did not end at Ditto Creek in Elmore County! And the continuation of Goodale’s Train as well as those following him later across the northern routes in Idaho, and some on across Oregon to near Baker, was just as purposeful and legitimate as all other emigrants-substantially mining related. Much of the yearly travel on all of his routes, after Goodale’s day, was promoted by mining related motivations.

Another truth is relevant here too, that just because a host of journals were not kept by Goodale routes’ travelers, or at least have not yet been discovered, the importance of travel on those routes cannot be questioned in the light of all the facts that will become evident. Ideally, every traveler would have left a journal and an accurate map of the exact route of the Goodale Train, as well as others that eventually took the north-south variant along the central route. But lacking this, one must seek and find all information possible, make some interpretations, use some trail reasoning, and try to arrive at the most accurate results possible. This will be the approach, with an open mind and willingness to accept and consider all discovered information, as well as the thinking and reasoning of all others who will choose to assist in this effort.

If Tim Goodale’s contributions to Idaho and the Northwest are significant, and of substantial consequence, as related to emigrant trail days and even later travel, then we will strive to award all the credit that is due to him. With this evidence, we will also lead and lobby for attaching his name, in the most appropriate way, to all the routes that resulted directly from his trail travel and influence. This will be in harmony with those efforts and decisions made years ago by the authorities of Idaho history in documenting, mapping, and publishing the information on the first part of the Cutoff, with three other designated Goodale variants near the early part of the Cutoff in eastern/central Idaho!

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