Visiting the Railroad on Stilts-Grangeville to Cottonwood

Last summer, we picked up our grandkids in Kamiah, then drove up the mountain to Grangeville. Everyone thought were going home to Boise, but I wanted to visit the railroad on stilts.

On previous trips to the area, I became mesmerized by the Camas Valley Railroad. I even spent time on Google, learning all I could about the railroad on stilts. This time around, I wanted to do some exploring and show the kiddies history up close.
The first leg of our trip was a 17-minute drive from Grangeville to Cottonwood. Parallel to US 95-N and to the left side of the highway, one can see the raised berm of the now defunct railway. Every so often, heavy wooden timbers spanning a gully or roadbed hinted at what was to come.
Arriving at Cottonwood, the kids pointed out the Dog Bark Park Bed & Breakfast.Dog Bark Park B&B-Cottonwood, Idaho Needless to say, it’s a B&B, in the shape of a Dog! We’ve never stayed there, but it’s on the bucket list.
We continued the drive through Camas Prairie. Halfway between Cottonwood and the old town of Ferdinand, we passed Frei Lane. From this vantage point, one gets a glimpse of one of the wooden trestles, that span the rolling hillside.
Dog Bark Park Image, Copyright © 2017 by R.H. Vincent. All Rights Reserved.
Wooden Trestle-Attribution Vance Boyer-
Creative Commons License-

Railroad on Stilts-Camas Valley Railroad

What’s better to see, than a railroad on stilts? Nothing! That’s my conclusion, after seeing part of the amazing Camas Prairie Railroad last year.

The nickname “Railroad on Stilts,” refers to a section of the defunct Camas Prairie Railroad of northern Idaho. In one five-mile section, there are more than a dozen wooden trestles. Each one assumes a different height and length, as determined by steep canyon walls.
The Union Pacific and Northern Pacific owned and operated the line. Constructed in 1908, the railway on stilts, operated for 92 years. It transported agriculture and timber from Central Idaho to the Pacific Northwest.
The scenic and spectacular scenery of the railway on stilts spawned interest by Hollywood. In 1975, filming took place, for Charles Bronson’s Breakheart Pass. In 1999, portions of the movie the Wild Wild West were also filmed.
Featured Image Copyright © 2017, By R.H. Vincent. All Rights Reserved.

Alexender Duffes, Grain Merchant

Titus Cummins, founder of Cumminsville and Alex Duffes, formed the Cummins and Duffes Grain Dealers in Burlington, Ontario, aprox. 1877.

As noted in Alexander Duffes-The Early Years, he was born in Utica, N.Y., on 26 March 1837. In 1838, his family moved to the town of Burlington, Nelson Township, County of Halton, Ontario.
Lowville School, Nelson Township, SS. No. 9, Circa 1914. Stone structure replaced log cabin school.
Lowville School, Nelson Township, SS. No. 9, Circa 1914. Stone structure replaced log cabin school.
Nelson Township consisted of many of the small villages in which they lived, like Kilbride. They also lived in Hamilton and Strabane, Ontario. Education took place in small 1-room log cabins, or at buildings on family farms.
At the age of 31, Alexander married Hannah Lucinda Cummins, on 17 December 1868. (Her wedding dress resides in the Canyon County Museum). She was the daughter of Titus Geer Cummins. He founded Cumminsville, Ontario, one of many small villages that comprised Nelson Township.
Alex Duffes Grain & Storehouse, Burlington, Ontario
Alex Duffes Grain & Storehouse, Burlington, Ontario

Titus was a grain merchant. He and Alexander formed a partnership, named “Cummins and Duffes grain dealers”.

The sign on the store read; “A. Duffes”. It also said that they paid “Cash for Grain,” sold “Groceries & Provisions”, “Boots & Shoes”, along with “Crockery & Hardware”.
The store, located on the west side of Brant St., & south of the Grand Trunk Railway, gave easy access to shipping & delivery.
After 11 years of running a successful business, he grew anxious to explore the land of his birth. He sold his goods, and with wife and only child in hand, headed for America.
Next Up: Alex Travels The Great Northwest
Halton Images-Lowville School, SS. No. 9
Burlington Historical Society-Copyright Unknown
Alex Duffes Store and Storehouse, Burlington-1877 Halton Atlas

History, Why Should We Care?

History, my dad used to tell me, is the study of the past. It can also be a series of past events, connected with a person, as in my pioneer family roots. A list of chronological events is another definition.

My dad Jack, was a student of history. He came from a family of Idaho pioneers. He loved the past but didn’t live in it. His reasoning was simple, “You can always learn something from our past.”

In dad’s case, history was about Idaho and his pioneer roots. He told stories passed down from generations, read books and spent endless hours driving across Idaho.

It can also be a series of past events, connected with a person, as in my pioneer family roots. A list of chronological events is another definition.

No matter which definition you prefer, history is a constant in our lives. From the time we are born until the time we pass on, history is never ending.

I get accused all the time of living in the past, but it’s not true. It’s just that I want to know how my ancestors lived, where they lived and what they did. Sometimes lessons of the past, affect our future.

We tell stories to our children, to our friends and to each other. Sometimes we convey a moral lesson, other times it’s more practical. The military uses history, to learn defensive and offensive strategies.

Indeed, every aspect of our lives is predicated on history.

Image Source:
File:American progress.JPG
Manifest Destiny-The American belief that settlers were destined to expand across North America


After a few posts to get the blog up and running, I decided I should include an Introduction post, to give you information on who I am, why I’m doing this and what you can expect. (Check out the About page for information on me).

Private vs Public

I’m an old dog, (68). At this stage of life, there is nothing I care to hide. In fact, I want to share. Two things I want to share are my Idaho family history and historical sites of interest that we have visited.


Although some information comes from family genealogy, it will not be a genealogy blog. My intent is to recount the history of coming to Idaho, along with stories that I recall, and enhance stories with little seen or unseen photographs.

My second focus is on Idaho historical sites of interest. Since retirement, the wife and I now have to time to explore. Museums, railroads, dams, bridges, Indian Battles, all sorts of things. These will be personal stories of our travels along with my photographs.

Who is the blog for?

This blog is for anyone interested in history, no matter the time nor the place. Young or old it doesn’t matter. All are welcome. Stories, photographs, and links to expand your knowledge. You can leave a comment or contact me directly.

What I hope to accomplish

If this blog is successful, I hope to link to others interested in history, no matter the type or location. I would be happy to link to you, and you could link to me. We could even share stories from time to time.

Welcome to the History of Idaho 😉

Image Source:

Old Barn, Cascade, Idaho
Copyright © 2017, By R.H. Vincent

The Battle of White Bird Canyon, Idaho

In 1877 a small band of Nez Perce sought revenge on settlers for a murder of some of their own in 1875. The settlers, in turn, requested intervention by the military.

The Battle of White Bird Canyon took place below what locals know as White Bird Hill. It’s anything but a hill, though. The summit of the “hill”-(4,425 ft.) is a mountain pass, in north central Idaho. It stands midway between the small community of White Bird and Grangeville, Idaho.

At about the 2,700 ft. mark is small pull-out. Overseeing the canyon’s rim, stands a shelter, for visitors. It contains information on how, why and when the battle took place and shows a map of the area.

White Bird Battefield Close-up
The V shaped gut between the two high slopes is where the Battle took place.

Without binoculars, it’s easy to see the location of the battle. A five-mile long canyon, 1 mile wide.

In 1877 a small band of Nez Perce sought revenge on settlers for a murder of some of their own in 1875. The settlers, in turn, requested intervention by the military.

A garrison of Calvary and volunteers from Fort Lapwai, gave pursuit, lead by General Howard. Knowing this, the main tribe of Nez Perce moved from their meeting place at Camas Prairie to Salmon River country.

Cooler heads of the tribe tried to initiate a truce. Before

Nez Perce Chief Joseph
Nez Perce Chief Joseph

the meeting could take place, a shot rang out from one of the volunteers.  In response, an Army Trumpeter was killed.

Like the Nez Perce, Capt. Perry of the First Calvary had prepositioned some of his men in case things went wrong. Without his trumpeter, he lost communication with other units. Because of this he dismounted and set up a skirmish line.

In the ensuing battle, most of the volunteers grew afraid and deserted their positions. Those that made it to the Calvary on the ridges, retreated in panic.

Thirty-four soldier’s died along with 3 Nez Perce.   Knowing General Howard would pursue them the Nez Perce fled across the Salmon River. It took another four long months before Howard would catch up to them.

*To read more, check out the .pdf of “Forlorn Hope”:  A Study of the Battle of White Bird Canyon Idaho and the Beginning of the Nez Perce Indian War. (This account contains a court inquiry after the battle with the surviving members and gives excellent first-hand accounts).

*Another great .pdf resource comes from the U.S. Army-“Staff Ride Handbook and Atlas Battle of White Bird Canyon 17 June 1877.”


Panoramic View of White Bird Canyon

Alexander Allan Duffes-The Early Years

John Duffes, eldest child, Alexander Allen Duffes, was born in Utica, N.Y. in 1837. They traveled to Canada and stayed with Elizabeth’s brother and sister in Hamilton, Ontario.

After a Cholera epidemic in Hamilton, they moved to Kilbride Cholora Epidemic, Hamilton, Ontario, Canadawhere John Duffes built a home in 1847. They also lived in Strabane.


Of Alexander’s 8 siblings, 2 were born in Hamilton, 3 in Kilbride and 3 in Strabane, Ontario. (3 boys and 6 girls). Early schooling took place in 1-room log cabin structures.

His father learned the trade of plastering and was also an excellent carpenter. He became a contractor and builder by trade and his sons Alexander and James, followed suit.

Strabane (Currently the United Presbyterian Church), Ontario, Canada.
Strabane (Currently the United Presbyterian Church), Ontario, Canada.

The boys were helping their dad plaster the Strabane Presbyterian Church when he collapsed of a stroke. Three or four days later, John Duffes Sr., died and is buried in the cemetery adjacent to the church.


Cholera .jpg, Wikipedia, Public Domain Image
Strabane Presbyterian Church ( Now Strabane United Church) Copyright 2017 by Freelton and Strabane United Churches. Used with permission of Rev. Bill Wheeler