Our line of Needhams was started in this country when two brothers who lived near Dublin, Ireland, came over with the British Army during the Revolutionary War. They came over to the American side and served with us to the end of the War.
After the war, they settled at Boston, Massachusetts. Needham height is named for them so I have been told. I do not know their names, nor when they went to New York State. Where my grandfather Gordon Byron Needham was born (in Hartford, CT, not in New York – and moved to Cayuga County, NY while still a smile child) he was born April 5, 1815 and the same year his parents moved to Cayuga County, NY.
He grew to manhood there and on July 6, 1841 he was living in Coldwater, Michigan when he returned to New York to get married to Cordelia Foster. To this marriage were born four sons, two of which died during the Civil War.
Mrs. Needham died April 25th. At the time of her death, they were living in Coldwater, Michigan. He moved to Illinois where he went and married Irene Eldridge, a Frenchwoman, who had come to this country to visit a married sister. She never returned to her homeland, but married my grandfather on September 10, 1860. To this union were born 9 children. (Wrong, there were 18 in all to this 2nd wife and family. Mistakes are made and I’ll correct them as I go along – Frances Needham Holman)
My father, Jackson Downing, was the 2nd in this family (wrong again – 7th and he was a twin, but it must have been one of these died.) He was born October 20, 1854 at Roseville, Warren County, Illinois. In 1855 the family moved to Boone, Iowa where my grandfather lived in that area the rest of his life. He farmed and followed his trade as a millwright. His wife died April 1871.
On March 10, 1872, he married Melvina Hutchins. To this marriage were born 7 children. This family was born and raised after my father left home. When my grandfather called his family together to tell them he was going to marry Mrs. Hutchins, a widow, they told him if he did, they would leave home.
He married her and the boys all left. One of them was only 10 years old and all he had was the clothes on his back and his fiddle. None of them ever lived at home again. And my grandfather died April 27, 1912, age 97 years and 22 days.
Now, I will talk about my father’s life as he told it to me. After he left home at age 18, he went to Kansas where he became a civilian freighter for the army. He remained with the army for 2 years. He carried a scar on his neck from an Indian arrow which was received in a skirmish near the Republican (sic) River in Kansas. His next stop was Kansas to Colorado where he trapped for a time in mountains near Denver, then on to San Francisco and Portland Oregon.
There he spent a part of the winter and then went to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he outfitted for a trapping expedition on the Fraser River, 80 miles from Vancouver. He went up the Fraser with traps and food supplies for the winter. The first job was to build a cabin, lay out the trap line and be ready for winter. No sooner was (sic) the traps set out in early September, just when the first frost came, than the Indians and half breeds followed his trap line and stole the fur animals from the traps.
He could not protest as he was the only white man in the area and there were many Indiana. He decided that there would not be many furs in the camp by spring and the best thing he could do would be to leave before the freeze up. He found the Indian cache of canoes, each turned upside down against a cliff one on top of the other.
On a dark night he launched one of the bigger canoes loaded with his fur traps, rifle and food from the cabin, touched a match to the rest of the canoes and left for Vancouver.
There he remained for the rest of the fur season, trapping in that area. In the spring, he returned to Portland, Oregon and then on to Walla Walla, Washington, where he worked on farms and also drove a six horse stagecoach from Walla Walla to Lewiston, Idaho.
His next move was to Sprague, Washington, where he settled on a homestead and with another man went into partnership in raising cattle. I don’t know what year that was or how long he was there, but a hard winter at about the end of the seventies or early eighties, killed all the cattle. The snow was deep and they did not have hay. All they got out of their investment was some hides that were salvaged from the dead cattle.
His next move was on to Spokane Falls, where he went across the river about where the courthouse is now. He dug through a foot of snow and decided this rocky soil would not raise anything, so he moved on to Sandpoint, Idaho, where he built a rowboat in the spring of 1882, and went around Pend Oreille Lake.
He was looking for a place with good water, timber and trappings. When he came to Cedar Creek, which he names, he knew that was the spot as it had all three. There was plenty of beaver ad on the high ridges there were lots of martens and other fur bearers.
He built a cabin on the beach, and started to clear land for a home, about a quarter of a mile from the beach. As he had land cleared, he planted a garden and set out an orchard.
The cleared land eventually grew to about sixty acres, which was cleared of heavy timber and the orchard grew to near five hundred trees, of many varieties of apples, cherries, pears, plum and all kinds of small fruits and berries.
When he was working his homestead clearing land, (he took on) other jobs including (building) a bigger house. He continued to trap not only in the home area, but on Priest Lake during one winter. Leaving his homestead, he loaded supplies, traps and needed item in his rowboat, and went down the lake and river to where Priest River enters Pend Oreille River. He roped his rowboat up Priest River on the lake where he spent the winter trapping muskrats, mink and beaver – most profitable.
Upon entering Priest Lake, he had a very unique experience. An Englishman was there who told him he was entering Canada and charged him duty on his traps and equipment. He did not know for years that he did not leave the United States. He often said he did not think the Englishman was a crook, but had arrived and set up camp on the wrong lake. He thought he should have been in Canada. It seems this mistake could have been made on account of the few maps and trails at that early time.
Another experience he had was going down Pend Oreille Lake in his rowboat. As he neared the mouth of the Clark Fork River, a storm came up. As it was near dark and the storm became worse, he decided to land and the rain came. He took shelter in a kind of shed. At this time it was very dark. He lit a match, and around him were bones and the remains of dead Indians. He had landed on Memaloose Island, which was the Indian burying ground.
His next adventure into new territory for trapping, was on Gold Creek near Lakeview, where was a partner. Jim Alexander built their cabin at Chloride, about four miles from the present Lakeview. The trap line consisted of seven cabins and in his estimation, covered about sixty miles. They trapped martins, beaver, lynx and fisher’s weasels, in fact any fur bearers. I don’t know just where this line extended, but I do know it followed Crooked Ridge and was in the Hamilton Mountains area and down Cowlitz (sic) Creek, where he built a tipi at the mouth of Cowlitz (sic) Creek, where it enters Trail Creek.
In 1900 Charlie McGee homesteaded near where McGee Station is now located. He thought he was on the creek where my father had built the tipi, and named this Coeur d’Alene River. Tipi Creek, he afterwards found the remains of the tipi, which as I mentioned, was on Cowlitz Creek.
The two men on the trap line traveled about three days apart, and seldom saw one another during the winter. They made their circle around the line so that every trap was visited twice each week. This was my father’s last big trapping expedition, although he continued to trap in the area near home. A person would go up on the ridge between Grassy Peak and find some of the original marking sets about fifteen feet from the ground. They were merely notches in the trees and are nearly grown over. They were put on there in a deep snow during the winter, and that is the reason they are so far up from the ground.
During these years of trapping from the home cabin, several prospectors had arrived in the district and were prospecting the hills for minerals, as gold had been discovered on Pritchard Creek, and thousands of people had come into the area to make their fortunes. All supplies for the miners had to be packed in, most of it came over the hill from Thompson Falls, Montana, to Murray, Idaho. The Northern Pacific Railroad had been built through this area on to Sandpoint. It was completed in 1884.
The Mullan Road was being used now and quite a lot of supplies was (sic) coming in this way on freight wagons from Spokane Falls and being transported up Coeur d’Alene Lake by boat to Kingston on the Coeur d’Alene River. It was soon after this a narrow gauge railroad was built on Wallace to carry these supplies, (and it) put the packers and mule trains took them out of business. My father said the owner of one of the mules took a sack of gold ore from the Murray District, went to Seattle, and by boat to San Francisco, telling that it came from Chloride near Lakeview, Idaho. By this time the lake was being settled by early homesteaders, and there were some steamboats being built, which were soon doing a big business hauling freight and passengers for the new stampede.
In six months, the Chloride had grown to near three thousand people. It had 17 saloons, a bank and other businesses. When the people started coming to the area, my father and others laid out a town and sold lots. His home cabin was retained by him. The influx of people gave the mule trains plenty of work during the short life of Chloride. My father carried the mail from Hope by sail and oars for a year, making trips once a week and during this time he hunted deer to supply meat for the new town. A stamp mill was built at Lakeview. A big hotel was built on the beach, and new boats were built as well as other businesses to the care of the many people at Gold Creek. It was never used, as there was no gold in this area. The mill was dismantled and went for scrap during World War I.
Charles McGee came to the area with the stampede to Chloride. As the town to die (?) after about six months many of the men stayed in the area. Charles McGee and my father became very good friends. Charles had a sister at Dayton, Washington, who was widowed and had three children. She came to Longview to visit Charlie, and during this visit, she met Jackson “Jack” Needham. After a courtship of a few months, they were married at Hope, Idaho, on November 4, 1897, and Zorah Kane McGee Martindale became Mrs. Needham and moved her three children to the homestead at Cedar Creek.
The children were May, who was 12, Anna was 7, and Frank was 5. A site was cleared three quarters of a mile from Needham homestead, and a log schoolhouse was built on public land. The logs were cut in the heavy timber near the site of the building. It was near a good spring – and there was plenty of wood for the cutting. At his time, the Needhams had a five room log house, barn and other out buildings, a good looking orchard, and most of the small fruits as well as twenty hives of bees. There was a horse and two cows as well as chickens, a dog and a cat.
Soon after my father settled on the homestead, a female cat was given to him. It was that cat in that part of the country. It seems that she wanted a husband, so she mated with a bobcat. The kittens looked like the bobcat and had many of its habits. My father kept one of the kittens. It would never walk across the yard or clearing, but it would go around the edge near the woods. It killed a fawn and caught many ruffled grouse and rabbits. As it became older, it went more to the wild and seldom came home. At one time it went to a neighbor homestead and went in his house. He left and went to my father to come after his cat. It became wilder as it grew older and it was finally shot as they were both afraid of its actions.
On September 8, 1898, I, Gordon Alvin Needham, joined the family. In October of that year, to get the year’s supply of groceries, my father rowed his boat to Steamboat Landing, now called Buttonhock Bay, and walked the wagon road to Rathdrum, twenty-two miles away and purchased the supplies, which consisted of eight barrels of flour, which is 32, 49 lbs of sacks, 100 pounds of white sugar, and 100 lbs of brown sugar, 25 lbs of coffee and the many small items that are needed for a home. A team and a wagon was hired to take the load to the lake and then it was transported by rowboat to Cedar Creek. Most of the supplies were stored in a building at the landing, and many trips were made with about 350 lbs in the row boats, were made to Cedar Creek, and then Old Billy was hitched to the go devil, and the supplies were hauled to the house and stored under the stairway. It took about 2 weeks to get the groceries completed.
Just a few weeks later on December 22nd, the house caught fire in the upstairs and was completely destroyed with everything in it, only a few things could be saved, and among them was the sewing machine and a few dishes.
The family moved in with Christian Jones, a bachelor who was our next door neighbor. When the steamboat came in that morning, the Captain was told that Jack had burned out. He told this at every stop on the way down the lake, and stated that he would be back as soon as he could to make his trip to Hope. At one o’clock in the morning, the whistle on the boat was heard. My father and Mr. Jones went to the lake and found that he had made the trip and stopped at all stops on the lake and picked up bedding, clothing, dishes, food and everything needed to start housekeeping again.
The following day, the workshop was cleaned out, and partitions made from from burlap gunny sacks. The Needhams moved in and lived there more than a year. My father started cutting timber for the new house. It was built with logs standing on end and all hewed with a broad axe. There are more than 6 hundred pieces in the 9 room house. The original house was 6 rooms and the three bedrooms were added later and were made of sawed lumber. The living room is 18 x 20 with a big bay window, which mother filled with flowers. They were often moved out and a 3 piece orchestra moved in. We really had good dances there at one time. At one of them we had 100 people. They came by steamboat from many points on the lake as well as many of the homesteaders who were our neighbors. In the wintertime, most of them carrying shoes (dress), came on foot wearing their heavy socks, arctics, and carrying the shoes so they could change into for the dancing. These dances lasted all night and one of them to 7:40 in the morning.
We always had a good lunch at midnight and then the fun really began, lots of dancing. Everyone brought their youngsters with them and really had a good time. Some of them were still dancing when my father and I had to change to work clothes and feed the livestock and milk the cows. That was one job I had to do twice a day – even when we were milking only one or two cows, I had to milk one of them. I had begged to milk when I was 7 years old. My father was drying up one cow, so it was good job for a beginner. He wanted her to go dry as she was not a good producer of milk and wanted to butcher her. That was my mistake as I had to milk twice a day as long as I was at home. If I stayed overnight with one of the neighbor boys, I had to get home in the morning in time to help with the milking.
There was always plenty of work to do, garden to plant, hoe and weed, fruit trees to prune and spray then to pick fruit and gather vegetables when ready in the fall. Between times we could always clear and prepare land for cultivation. The homestead was all timber and it took lots of hard work to prepare it for farming. All told we had sixty acres under cultivation.
My sister, Nina Alice, was born June 15 1900. Frances Irene arrived March 29, 1902, and Bertha Zorah, the last one, on December 29, 1907. All the babies were breast fed and when they were old enough to eat, they ate from the table with the rest of us. Mother had quite a bit of trouble with her teeth, so in the fall of 1902, she went to Spokane to have them pulled. She had to take Frances because she was still nursing. I don’t know why she took me because I was just 4 years old. Our trip to Steamboat Landing was in a small steamboat which we called The Pig on account of her shrill whistle. I remember that the water glass on the boiler broke and but my mother’s hand. I was quite concerned about that. The trip from the boat landing was by horse drawn stage to Athol where I saw my first train and had my first rain ride to Spokane. On the trip I saw the first mule I had ever seen and many other things that were new to a little boy from the back woods.
Our wait in Athol, for the train, was a couple hours at the “Batters,” who ran a motel and were friends of my family. During this wait my mother missed me and when she found me I was sitting in the pig pen with an old sow and several little pigs. I was holding one of the pigs. A sow is usually pretty mean when she has young ones, but this one did not bother me. I guess she thought I was one of her litter.
Mother went to the dentist and 16 teeth pulled in one appointment and the next day had the rest of them pulled. At that time they were not freezing before pulling teeth – I don’t know how she could stand it.
In about 1905 my father purchased a small steamboat. That was a poor man’s boat as all you had to buy was oil and grease the motor. It used water for steam and wood could be had anywhere along the beach. We had many good trips with this, picnics, dances and then haul cargo to go do our shopping. In 1906 the “Northern” – the biggest boat on the lake was built and made regular trips for passengers and freight. It was 120 feet long with a 30 feet beam and was a double decker. Soon after the “Western” was built. One deck and not quite as big. One boat left for Bayview in the morning and made the trip to Sandpoint and made one trip and and back in a day, and the other left Sandpoint at the same time and made the roundtrip to Bayview and back.
As we had a dock at Cedar Creek Landing, which they wanted to use, we had free transportation on any of their trips. At about this time the “Edith May” made a roundtrip from Hope to Bayview with mail and when their contract expired, the “Elsie” had the contract.
In 1808 my uncle Charlie McGee took me to his homestead on Tipi Creek for a two week vacation. He and one other man were the only ones living in there. It was a wonderful two weeks, as he had dogs and horses and the fishing was the best I had ever seen. You could put the skillet on the stove and then go catch the fish before the grease would burn. We saw deer and bears, and it was really wild and beautiful.
When he took me to Lakeview to send me home on the boat, he put me on the Edith May. I did not have any money, but a dime, and he did not give me any more. The fare was 25 cents. He told me that if they asked for my fare to say “I have only a dime, and if you take away every cent a man has, you are a damn hog.” That was just what I told the captain. He told me to jump overboard. Believe me, I was glad to get to Cedar Creek and get off that boat!
I started school the fall I was 6 years old. At that time we had only three months of school, and the next year 4 months, and a couple years later there was enough money to have 6 months, and when I was in the eighth grade we had 8 months of schooling. Teachers had to do their own janitor work. When I was 10 the teacher paid me a dollar a month to go at 8 o’clock in the morning, build the fire, carry the wood, get a bucket of water from the spring and sweep the floor. When I got to the eighth grade, the teacher paid me $3 a month to do the job. While going to school I had a trap line along the creek and once in awhile, I would catch a mink and a few weasels.
We also trapped coyotes. In the spring when the bears came out of hibernation, we would trap them, too. Sometimes we would get six or 8 of them, as they were quite plentiful.
In 1917 I trapped alone then caught 5 bears. My father also trapped cougar in the winter. One time he caught two near our house. He came back and got us so we could see a live cougar in the traps. The lake fishing was very good and a person could get all the trout he wanted in a very short time, as well as whitefish. Mother used to salt the whitefish in a keg to preserve them for future use. My father always made corned beef when we butchered and sometimes we had venison along with the beef. We had plenty of fat from the bears mixed with fat from beef made good shortening. We had from things we raised on the homestead and only things we had to get from the store would be flour, coffee, and such as that. It was hard work but a very enjoyable life and we did have our school programs, parties, dances, and visiting with neighbors.
As the settlements of homesteads grew, we had a post office and as many as 22 children in the one-room school. We had Sunday School and a preacher came once a month for preaching. By the time I was old enough to enter school, there were quite a number of new families on the homesteads in the neighborhood. Among them Ed Gross at Whiskey Rock, Frank Gross on Canyon Creek, Billy Elder and Jimmy Smith, Carl Anderson, Carl Jordan, Earl and Carl Evans, Christian Stutes on Tumbledown Creek. These were all bachelors filing on homesteads to sell timber. After title was obtained, all those were logged and then the property went back to the country for taxes. The homesteaders with families were Marion Kritz, Jim Yorks, Ed Mills, Joe Charles, Clarence Hilliman, Kit Needham (my uncle), Bert Brown and Sam Nighs. I do not know very much about my mother’s family. Her father was Isaiah McGee, her mother Sarah Alice McGee born January 25, 1864. Charles McGee February 19, 1887. Lily McGee and Isaiah McGee. Lily died at age 14 and Isaiah, a small child and the father the same time. I believe all were born near Alton, Illinois. My grandmother married Jesse Bertlett, a widow she lived in Chillicothe, Missouri until his death. She then came to our home and made her home with us. Mother married James Wesley Martindale when she was 19 and after his death, came west to Dayton, Washington to make her home with her brother Charles McGee, and married my father. Mother died November 2, 1941, Uncle Charles November 1934, my father on May 29, 1922. They are all buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery at Athol, Idaho, as well as Frank, my half brother; Nina, my sister; and my grandmother.
After grade school, I went to Sandpoint to high school for my freshman year. The next two years I attended school in Athol, where my mother rented a house and took my three sisters and myself for the winter. In June 1917, I enlisted in the army in Spokane and went overseas in December. I spent Christmas Day on board ship in 1917. I returned home in April 1919, and went to work for Rose Lake Lumber Company in Coeur d’Alene. I renewed my friendship with Goldie Dyer, whom I had gone with in 1917 at Athol, and had corresponded with her while in service. We were married on December 30, 1919, at Colfax, Washington. She passed away on March 17, 1968 at Mesa, Arizona. I think this covers the highlights of three generations of “Needhams.” You know the fourth generation. This is being recorded on January 3, 1972.