Idaho Free Press from Nampa, Idaho on February 27, 1976 · Page 62
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Idaho Free Press from Nampa, Idaho · Page 62

Nampa, Idaho
Issue Date:
Friday, February 27, 1976
Page 62
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nt luanu i- ree Press, E'riday, February 27,1976--D-14 'Squatter's Rig/its' claimed land in early days in the Owyhees ByOmerSUnford When the first settlers came to Owyhee County, the land had no! been surveyed except for 3 two- mile strip along the Idaho- Oregon border, When a man found a piece of land that suited him, he just squatted on it. This method was called "Squatter's Rights." The term 'squatter' has long been used to indicate (hat one has sellled without a title on new or uncultivated land. It was undoubtedly coined in the first place by just such people as our old timers, who, living close to nature, saw how the wild things staked out their individual piece of range by responding lo one of nature's calls at different places on their piece of range. For example, the buck antelope, the male wolf, the wild stud and even the sage grouse. So wlien man found his piece of ground he said he squatted on it. "Nesler" was another name for a squatter. If the settler wanted to file on this land he could have it surveyed. There were several surveyors in the country, some good and some who were apt to make many mistakes. My father bought Henry Allison's relinquishment on Macks Creek. He used Henry's survey numbers. Dad made final proof on the place, lived there for several years then sold to Charlie Simmons. Charlie sold it to Dr. Noble, a veterinary of Nampa, the same Dr. Noble dfler whom Noble Island in Snake River was named. In 1914, Ward and Harrington, of Caldwell, about to buy the place, had it surveyed and found that the land Dad had proved up on was a mile west and one half mile soulh of the ranch. In such cases the Land Department used a rule or law of intent. If you could prove thai you intended lo file on (he place you were all right. I guess thai was pretty easy lo do after you had lived on il (or 40 years. Some of (he ranchers were filed rn and not patented for years. I know of one that was filed on in 1885 and not patented until 1014. 1! saved a lot of (axes that way if one wanted lo lake the chance of someone Jumping the claim. Barbwire hadn't got here yet, or at least very little of it, so the ranchers used poles, willows, rocks, etc. On Cow Creek the Mclntyrc and Summercamp ranches were fenced with rails. Aboul 150 acres of the Jackson Creek ranch was fenced with willows, also a part of what is now the Knight Ranch, which belonged to Ed Westgate at the lime. My grandfather, Ben Nelson, built the willow fences on both places. The method was to drive stakes about six inches apart cross wise and four feet apart along Ihe fence line, then put willows along between the slakes. There was no wire to lie the slakes together so he used small willow lo lie them together. Mygrandfatherhad no horse so he dragged the willows from the creek by hand. He said he had it easy at Westgate's because he did have a horse there lo drag Ihe willows and slakes out to the fence. There was about a quarter of a mile of this fence on Jackson Creek still standing in 1914. It had been built about 1886 or '87. There were several of these willow fences on Reynolds Creek, one between Ihe Noble and Gifford ranches, part of Ihe Cook ranch (Joe Ncttleton), and the old Dryden place (Dick Gabica). Many of the places were fenced with rails. When barbwire came there were two types, one was a small wire with two flat barbs. This lype was tough and would stretch; if an animal got into it Ihey always got cul. The other kind was heavy wire with four point barbs about an inch long, but it was bridle and if something hit in on the run it would break. We still have fences with both types of wire. We have to watch the antique hunters and once in awhile we miss some fence. In the early days of ranching there was very little lame hay raised. Most ranches raised grain; mostly barley. At first they cut wild rye grass and any wild hay that was available. This was for their winter saddle horse and maybe a learn. On Cow Creek hay was cut on Soldiers' Meadow at the mouth of Jackson Creek, by the soldiers at Camp Lyon. On Reynolds Creek some went to Chipmonk, others lo the Chrisman Meadows on the head of Big Succor; Ihe Wail Meadows on Ihe head of Reynolds, or any place thai the grass was high enough to cut with a scythe. I have heard Jim Bernard lell of getting hay on Ihe Island in Snake River. One day some Indians came to (he river bank and shot al him. He moved over to Ihe olhcrside of the island and went on with his haying. Joe Bobbington told about gelling hay at Chipmonk. At the time the Indians were kind ol mean, not on the warpalh but not above taking a shot at you. Al nighl he would put out his fire, lake his blanket and go out one side of his camp, then circle around to Ihe other side to bed down. One nighl Ihree mounted Indians came by on a high run and almost ran over him but didn't see him. In his book about early Idaho, Dave Shirk told about coming to the country wilh Shea's first cattle drive. Between the time they got here with the cattle and unlil Shea sold to Catlo, Shirk worked for different ranchers, including Silas Skinner on his loll road, and on Reynolds Creek for a man whose name he thought was McCay, His place was 16 miles from Silver City. I think it must have been McCain as he was the first man on what was laler Ihe Dryden Ranch. Shirk told of going over the mountain several miles to cut hay. This was the Chrisnun Meadows, where the Indians had lulled the man working for McCain Ihe year before. Up until 1816 and 1887 they, didn't feed any range stock. That old cow that God made didn't need any help: When the first snow fell in this high country they would head for the Owyhee and Snake Rivers. The Snake River flats were covered with white sage. The experts say Ihe white sage had as much food value as alfalfa. During Hie winter of 1886-87 everything was covered with snow and the water froze unlil the stock couldn't get a drink. My mother, who stayed with the Bernards at the Ferry that winter, said that the next spring Jim dragged better than eighty head of cattle out of the little basin back of Uie house and that hundreds of them drowned in the river. They would go out on the ice trying lo get to water, the ice would break and into the river Ihey went. There was no chance of them ever gelling out. Over on Hooker Creek at the spring round-up the year before they had branded two hundred calves; the next spring they branded two. This was just one rancher's loss. Others could tell the same story about themselves. Even with Ihis heavy loss I here were thousands of callle left in the country. A f t e r t h a i the ranchers began I Continued on D-15) Chores in the winter in the Owyhees were made difficult by howling winds and snow. During the winter of 1886-1887 many cattle starved to death, so ranchers began to grow a lot of hay to feed after cattle were rounded up each fall. Ml ·LONGINES WATCHES ·IGOMPI^ETE JEWELRY WATCH REPAIR BANK CARDS ALWAYS WELCOME! BULLOCK'S JEWELERS 1217-1sl. St. S. Nampa 466-6201 OPEN DAILY 9:30 5 p.m. Ranchers gathered together to help their neighbors with farm veterinary chores. General Farm Storage POTATOES ONIONS Pre-Engineered By. GRAIN -PRUDiN · AIR HANDLING SYSTEMS · GRAIN HANDLING SYSTEMS 205 Evans Street Caldwell Phone 454-8606 Opening New Doors In Construction BillKeys BobRenfro DEPENDABLE SS38BS8 011

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