Goodale Train Divided

The Goodale Train no doubt divided from the Curtis and Slater occupied train near the Boise crossing. But that western-bound train did not necessarily plan to cross there, probably thinking that they would cross at the normal crossing at Caldwell. This they were not allowed to do when they got to that point because of the high water. Then at some vague location downriver from there when Mr. Curtis was the first to try to cross he was drowned.

The consideration mentioned above that by only a remote possibility Dunham Wright may have witnessed the drowning of Mr. Curtis, is found in the following account: Nellie Ireton Mills printed information that the Goodale Train, which would eventually go together into the Salubria area, had been divided for some distance before being reunited! But this idea had also been recorded with the error that the Dunham Wright group who wanted to go to Florence had left the main train near later Emmett, and had with Tim Goodale gone up the Willow Creek-Crane Creek trail to try to get to Florence. We now know that this was not the place that the miners went north, and Goodale did not go with them later either.

Mills had understood that some wagons went with Goodale NW from Boise, and she wrote that a large part of the whole Goodale train, “three hundred wagons,” had gone down the Boise River, and had left the Oregon Trail somewhere downriver from Boise and crossed north near Parma on a “dim road through the sagebrush, that practically bisected the lower Payette Valley, to a crossing of the river at Bluff Station [a later site].” That would have also been a new route from near the area of Parma and north. (See the Map on page 4, main Goodale research paper, route #4.) She had thought that most of the larger train had eventually gone on to the Brownlee Ferry! By other accounts we now know that many went on down and forded the Snake River at Fort Boise! But there may have been a portion of the train that did cross the “dim road through the sagebrush” near the eastern side of the Snake River!

Could Dunham Wright have been in a divided part of the train that went that route, and therefore have witnessed the drowning of Mr. Curtis? It would seem more likely that he would have remained with the Goodale Train since Tim was going to lead those miners as close as he could to the Florence area! But maybe they planned to reunite on the north side of the Payette River. We remember that Tim knew the whole area well, and may have told the other group where to go. (And they could have avoided the steep and dangerous ridge down into the Payette Valley not before used by any wagon!)

Mills did not indicate that she understood anything about the other trains formed from the divided train-the Curtis train that went down the Boise River and crossed the Snake or about all the other wagons that were in various divided trains waiting to cross at Fort Boise. These were the same that Nellie Slater reported and which then followed the Burnt River trail in Oregon. It appears that Mills had thought that most of the larger Goodale led train had actually crossed Idaho all the way to the Brownlee Ferry.

Early in the research for the Goodale North paper it was presumed that all of these supposed 300 wagons had not gone toward or crossed to the Payette River, but instead were all had gone across to Oregon at Fort Boise and on toward Auburn, OR. But Mills called the group she said had crossed to the Payette River closer to the western side of Idaho the “Auburn-bound party.”

The question remains whether at least some wagons of a smaller train (Wright’s 15 wagons) had proceeded down the Boise River, crossed, and then may have driven over to the Payette River on the faint road-another Indian trail-all down river from where the Goodale Train crossed the Payette river! The second group would also have been following a new route across the area near the present U. S. 95! If Wright were with this group of wagons he could have witnessed the drowning of Mr. Curtis! None of Dunham’s accounts yet discovered even hint at this idea of a separate group of wagons, but the lack of some details of information does not eliminated this possibility either. Dunham did not verify either that he remained with Goodale along the whole route. He wrote or told very little about the area between Boise and the first Weiser River crossing.

We remember that Nellie Slater indicated that the train she and Oliver were with, and in which the Curtis family was traveling, was a small train. She did not, nor did Oliver Slater or Emma Curtis indicate that there was a second division of the train again somewhere along the Boise River. But there would have been another division if Wright witnessed the drowning of Curtis and then went on north to meet Goodale. Or did Curtis drown near Boise? So many unanswered questions!

Nellie Ireton maintained that about sixty wagons had followed Goodale, traveled down the first “Freezeout Hill,” and that this train then crossed the Payette River near Emmett and downriver rejoined the train that had come on the “dim road through the sagebrush” somewhere to the west. All of those wagons that were with Goodale surely crossed near Emmett and drove the north side of the river bluff route, which has now been identified, all the way to Little Willow Creek. The other group would have crossed the Payette River-the first time wagons forded in that place below the later Bluff Station-and met Goodale on the south side of the river near the mouth of Little Willow. The information available appears to have them all traveling together northerly toward Mann Creek.

Both the writings of Moses Splawn and Dunham Wright have corrected the error of the place of the departing miners, and we know the Dunham Wright group did not leave the train until the Cambridge area. Nor did Goodale go north with the miners wagons from there, but went with his train all the way to the Brownlee Ferry.

Much coordinated evidence now indicates that the train that came down Freezeout Hill crossed the Payette River neat Emmett, and traveled down the north side of the Payette on the upper bluffs. Splawn and Wright were both with the train by the time it was traveling up through the Lower and Middle Weiser River areas, where they had to work on the road. Splawn, the miner with the Grimes party, did indicate that he had stayed with the Goodale wagons all the way to the Brownlee Ferry and further, then went on through to Walla Walla.

Dunham Wright wrote that “We made a road [going north] to Payette and to Weiser,” and that during that time the whole train was traveling together. He did not indicate exactly where that road was made. Again, in all the accounts there are so many incomplete pieces of information!

Back to: Goodale North Trail

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top