Summary of the Goodale Train

Though an early resident of the Emmett area, Nellie Ireton Mills, wrote that the Goodale Train crossed the Payette River near Emmett and followed the north side, her information was not documented with her sources. (Her information was incorrect when she had written that Dunham Wright and other miners’ wagons had gone north from Emmett toward Florence, that which they did only when they reached the upper Weiser River valley near Cambridge.) Her information did state that the 1862 Goodale Train crossed and went down the north side of the river, but she thought Goodale had left the train by then and gone with Wright! That was an error! She was born only about 1880, so her information may have come from later stories she had heard. But the writings also indicate evidence of some research.

Before this middle Sand Hollow route was recently rediscovered her assertion of that crossing had been rejected on the basis of not finding evidence of a north route near the river from any source. It is now evident that this center route over the foothills was some used by emigrants during and after 1863, but it also appeared in the accounts that most all the traffic began to follow the south side route. It was improved, well known, and with ferries that soon helped those wagons that wanted to pay the fare to cross. The middle route appeared to be almost abandoned, partly because the newer south route was flatter and improved for stages.

After a careful study of the March 1863 Horton road report, written only eight months later than the Goodale Train, it became apparent that he did verify that the “Tim Goodwell [sic] Crossing” was not down river near the Bluff Station crossing, but at Emmett-from that crossing to Horse Shoe Bend being 16 miles! That mileage is correct even today.

Other sources, some from the 1870s, referred to the central Crane Creek route as the “Goodale Road,” probably because after crossing the river that was the only route being used to get to the Weiser River. It is now evident that many early writers assumed or considered that Goodale had crossed the Payette River at Emmett.

There was found no direct or early information that indicated Goodale went down the south side of the river, and the geography of that route, now much better understood, make it apparent that the middle route would have been much easier.

The summary in thinking about all of this information led this writer to believe that the center route indicated on the map is surely the original route of the Goodale Train, and the other two only later variants. They both seem to have become more used than the original. Much of the center route is now across private land and a short portion across Idaho State land, but the trail still exists in many sections as Class #1 ruts by the MET standards-from Sand Hollow on westerly to the Payette River.

This position was strengthened upon a presentation by this writer at the Gem County Historical Society, January 18, 2005, when several of the old timers of the area reported that the south side of the Payette River had been difficult to negotiate near the river before modern roads were built. The first trail that was built for the stages from Umatilla was near the river. Just like the north side where any road close to the river would have been impossible because of all the river channels, sloughs, and swampy areas, the south side would have contained similar land features.

Even today the ground evidence indicates that the first route along the south side of the river, plotted on the 1867 land plats, would have required some road building and fills before wagons could have traveled on that exact route. A trip along the river on December 25, 2004, confirmed many evidences of this kind of early problem. There were many places where road work had filled and built up the road bed over the wet impassible areas. And the modern road is often found upon the same line as the early plats show the first trail route.

It becomes quite believable that by the time the Umatilla to Boise City Road followed that route, some road work had been done to allow stages and freight wagons to follow what would then become a flatter and shorter route. That was assuredly by 1867, but exactly when improvements allowed this traffic to pass may only be indicated by the earliest diaries from 1864. But, in fact, though some trail diaries from late 1864 gave information that emigrants were following the south side of the river to the Bluff Station crossing, the Harriet Loughary Diary from July-August 1864, gives the following information.

Her wagon train crossed the Payette River near the later Emmett on July 31. On August 1 they began traveling across that route on top of the bluffs above the north side of the Payette River, and she wrote: “We are meeting long lines of pack animals, also large covered wagons called ‘Prairie Schooners’ drawn by six mules or six yoke of oxen to each wagon; all laden with provisions and merchandise from The Dalles, Oregon, going to Boise City and other places.”
(These were probably not the genuine Prairie Schooners, but the large freight wagons that we can find in the records, which also traveled other trails across Idaho in those early days.) She also wrote that they met a full circus train going east to the Boise Basin!

The point is that she described all these wagons on the north side route. Use of that route by all kinds of traffic is well established. Harriet Loughary did place stages on the Cutoff on to the west; stages that she seemed to imply were choosing to follow the southern route! The first south-side road, though improved, may have still been too fragile over wet areas for heavy freight wagons, and therefore even a bit more difficult for emigrants with possessions and all there cattle. Not one diary yet discovered from that earliest year, following along the south side of the river, contains any account of meeting such other traffic as Loughary had met!

The north side route seemed to be important to this kind of travel before the south side was improved and finally took most of that traffic. The undisturbed deep ruts that still exist east of Big Willow Creek, and which were first modernly rediscovered on January 14, 2005, still testify of heavy use of that route for the few years that the present information seems to indicate its use.

The majority of the evidence now points to the north side, bluff route having been the Goodale Train route in 1862. All the information now accumulated easily overrules some claims that Goodale’s travel was along the south side of the river, which also at first had been declared by this researcher and written into the first draft of above original research paper by this writer.

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