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August 8, 2019

Sanders County Historical Society

40 YEARS AGO • AUGUST 9, 1979


By Lorraine Dufresne

Eighty-three years ago, August 21, Floy and Flauddie, twin girls, were born to D.V. Herriott. Today Floy Herriott Johnston lives in the same house and sleeps in the bedroom where she was born. Dr. Peek and midwife, Mrs. Charles Lux's mother were in attendance.

In 1890, D.V. Herriott came from Missouri to Deer Lodge with his wife, Ara. She remained in that town while he came on to Thompson Falls to become the first school teacher here that there is any record of. His school was a small log building located at the corner of Ferry and Preston Ave. He taught until May 1890. His wages were $75 a month for services rendered including building fires early in the morning to teaching children from 6 to 18. Soon after another $4,000 building was erected for the new school which today is the apartment house on the same corner. Floy's formal education began there with Bessie Coombs as her first teacher. Children were the same then as now when it comes to mischief. She recalls another teacher, Emma Ochsner, in a moment of antagonistic upset, throwing a large bag of peanuts all over the school floor and resting while the students picked them up.

Floy and Flauddie were known at school as the "Heavenly Twins."

The girls spent many hours in their father's store, which he opened May 1890 on the spot where the Forest Service is today (now the Baptist Church). He was also postmaster with the post office located in his store. The late Henry Larson's father told them on one of his stops at the store that he was going to cut off their ears and it was sometime before the girls lost their fear of him and realized he was kidding.

The store burned in 1910. Merchandise saved was sold from the Odd Fellow hall until the new store could be erected. They tried to put out the fire with garden hoses, but the water froze in the hoses as it was a cold night in January.

Fourth of July celebrations almost came to life listening to her tell about them. A pavilion was built on Main Street (then Railroad St.) where dancing was a main event of the long weekend. The buildings were decorated in red, white and blue crepe paper. Horseraces were a great event terminating at the Ward Hotel, children's races and grown up games were enjoyed.

People came from all over the valley. The local merchants provided the fireworks which were spectacular.

The whole town turned out to fight the fire of 1910, which threatened to wipe out the whole town as it had all the towns west. Everything and anything was used that they could lay their hands on. She saw shovels, wet gunny sacks and brooms all wielded by men, women and children. People were loading into boxcars thinking to leave the town, but the cars were going nowhere. The smoke was so thick it obliterated the sun, so her mother's chickens proceeded to go to roost as they were sure day was over. The fire of 1910 never reached the town of Thompson Falls, it helped that the Clark Fork River was a barrier between the town and the fires.

When the new school was built on the grade school campus, it was the only building at the time. Floy attended school there until 1914 when she quit to attend Missoula Business College in Missoula. When she graduated, she came back and was employed by Ray S. Congor, who operated a fire insurance agency and real estate office. Later she was also employed at the Sanders County Independent Ledger, owned by Ray S. Congor and A.W. Thayer. In 1918 she changed jobs to become the Chief Clerk of the draft board during World War I. The office was in the Clerk and Recorder's room so she also did stenographic work for them. This position was filled by her until 1919, when the war ended.

After terminating the draft board job, she took a position as secretary to Bert Hinds, supervisor of the Montana Power Co. She was later employed full time in the Clerk and Recorder's office.

In 1929, she eloped to Sandpoint to be married to Theodore O. "Shorty" Johnston. This they kept secret for 3 months, the reason being, she had bought a new 2-door Chrysler for $1,200 and wanted it all to be paid for before they announced their marriage. When this became reality, the announcement was made, her resignation turned in and a belated camping honeymoon was taken up the West Fork of Thompson River. "Shorty" was a widower with two daughters Theodora and Barbara. Floy raised these girls along with her own son who was born in November, 1929.

In 1930, the family moved to Helena where her husband worked for the Montana Highway Department. This was their home until 1946, when he became ill with cancer. He wanted to return to Mabel McKeel's hospital here in Thompson Falls, as Mabel was Floy's sister. He passed away in December of 1946.

Later Floy returned to her job in the Clerk and Recorder's office where she remained until she retired in 1961.

Sanders County Historical Society

Floy is still in good health and lives comfortably in the family home which has a kitchen, bathroom, extra bedroom and porch added since the original 24' by 24' house. In the curved glass china closet there is pressed glass from her father's store, a ruby glass toothpick holder bearing the name, Thompson Falls and other cut glass pieces from that other era. Also, from the store are hand made clay pots with the saucers to match. These were fired at the kiln that was west of the city by the Rimrock Café. A set of sleigh bells bring back memories as does the dresses and other clothes belonging to her mother and grandmother. An oak bookcase that was her mothers still graces the dining area. The oak table and chairs belonged to Floy's mother-in-law, Mrs. Lizzie Lynch, a pioneer resident of Plains.

Floy has two sisters, Flauddie, who is her twin, of Seattle and Evalina of Pullman, Washington. Her son, Scott lives in St. Charles, Missouri. She has two grandchildren and five great grandchildren.


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