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October 17, 2019

50 YEARS AGO • OCTOBER 9, 1969


Water, sewer and street problems drew the attention of the city council at its October session.

Jaycees Dave Simpson and Larry McKenzie asked the council for a use permit or lease on the ground where the Jaycee Center is located. They pointed out that although the council had voted several years ago to donate the land for the building, a legal document had never been provided. They agreed with Mayor Orin P. Kendall that a reversion clause was to be included in any document so that the block of land would revert back to the city in the event the Jaycees disband. The Jaycees did disband and the building is now the Thompson Falls Community Center.

The need for a new site for a city dump was voiced by Councilman Forrest Dobson. He noted that when a new high school is built north of the dump, the city will have to close down the dump at its present location. The Babe Ruth Baseball Field sits atop the old city dump. It was also noted that trustees of School District 2 now could close the metal dump at any time, since it is located on school property. This is now where Thompson Falls High School is located.

The need to repair the road from the cemetery to the dump was discussed. Mayor Kendall said he would seek the cooperation of the county or state road crews and a large grader to tear up the road, so a smoother surface could be obtained. Back in 1969 there were very few paved streets in Thompson Falls, most of them were gravel roads.

A hook-up charge for the sewer system and increasing the charge for water hookups were discussed also. The city for several years has charged $50 for a water hookup. Mayor Kendall notes that most hookups require the services of two city employees for a day each plus the use of city equipment and that $50 is insufficient to cover the costs to the city.


Billy Waters believes the land on which his lumber mill is located once was a campground used by the Indians. He found a berry crusher near the end of his green chain in March 1968. In the last two weeks two hammers were found nearby. An archeologist from the University of Montana at Missoula said the berry crusher is more than 500 years old and is made of Columbia plateau stone. The larger hammer weighs 5 pounds 10 ounces and the smaller one only one ounce less. The crusher weighs 3 pounds 3 ounces. “I suspect our mill site was the location of an old Indian camp,” Watters commented. “It may be have been used by Indians when they fished below the old falls.” Watters noted that the site of his mill is the first level spot downstream from the old falls. The two hammers were found within 100 yards of each other. Watters mill was located approximately ½ mile west of the turn off to the Blue Slide Road and is now a subdivision.

From “Native American Foods: Huckleberries.” The most important berry crop for most of the Plateau people of Washington, Idaho, and Montana was the huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum), a type of blueberry. These berries were collected in August and September for winter consumption. Huckleberries plants are small to medium sized shrubs which are found in the moister mountain areas, particularly in areas with acidic soils and areas which have been burned by forest fires. The Indians of the Plateau traveled to huckleberry sites where they gathered and dried the delicious, sweet berries.

Women usually did the gathering of the huckleberries and could gather one or two basketfuls in a day’s work (about 2-4 liters). Huckleberries were often dried over a slow fire that had been set in a rotten log. This drying created a raisin-like product that could be kept indefinitely. They were also sun dried.  The dried huckleberries were used in the winter. The dried berries were prepared for eating by boiling, either by themselves or with roots.

Huckleberries were also used for medicine. A tea made from the roots and stems of the plant were used for heart trouble, arthritis, and rheumatism.

Huckleberry gathering was also a social event. During gathering time, people from many different bands would come together and often engage in horse racing, singing, dancing, and spiritual ceremonies. Indians carefully managed the huckleberry ecology. Using fire to manage the land, the Indians were master burn ecologists who knew which part of the forest to burn for an abundant return of the huckleberries. Using planned fires, they would establish huckleberry fields.

The importance of huckleberries to the Indian nations of the Plateau region can be seen in the sacred rituals which were traditionally associated with the gathering of this berry. This included a first fruits ceremony in which the first berries collected were blessed and sung over.  


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