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Castle on the Snake - Falk Store - Burning of Ice House

Many of these buildings and sites can be found along Idaho's newest scenic byway, the Lower Payette River Byway along Highway 52 from the Snake River bridge in Payette going east  along the edge of Clay Peak past Falk and through Emmett, out past Black Canyon Dam and reservoir, continuing past Sweet and all the way to Horseshoe Bend. PCHS members Ann Curtis and Jewell Dudley were part of a commission with the drive and determination to make Highway 52 a scenic byway.

http://www.usgwarchives.org/copyright.htm http://www.usgwarchives.org/id/idfiles.htm***  File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by:Patty Theurer seymour784@yahoo.com

March 31, 2006, 12:38 am Boise Capital News January 14, 1939

Idaho’s Famed “Castle on the Snake”

--A Story of Fate Boise Capital News Saturday, January 14, 1939 By Vola Mitchell 

Dark and foreboding--a subject for stories of ghosts and deep mysteries and strange goings on—that is Idaho’s famed “Castle on the Snake,” high on a hilltop overlooking the interstate bridge a mile or so east of Ontario, Oregon. “Justly the old ruins of the once proud structure may be called mysterious.  Stark and crazy they stand guard over Ontario’s prosperous vicinity—guard over the bridge and the mighty Snake river and no one passes the point without a curious look to the ruins and a slight sensation of mystery.  One might even see a ghost there on a cold, dark night.” 

By day, the “castle” is a thrilling spot for a hike from Ontario or Payette or Fruitland or surrounding countryside.  Names are scrawled over the decaying plaster walls.  Nearly everyday someone investigates the structure.  But what of its history?  Who dared build a home which might have been a baronal estate for some old-country majesty, on the Idaho shore of the Snake river,  in democratic America? Yes, there is a history behind this building; a history of prosperity and happiness—followed by ruin and the crash of hopes for a dream castle. 

These dreams, this history, opened on the day in 1890 when one M. B. Sherman arrived in Idaho from Des Moines, Iowa.  Of English descent, 30 years of age, Sherman settled on the east (Idaho) side of the Snake River one mile due east of Ontario. With the cooperation of several other early settlers, Sherman set out a fruit orchard which contained mostly prune trees.  Although Payette Valley fruit was later to become a chief source of income for the locality, and vindicate Sherman’s judgment, market activities were so poor at that his venture failed.  When matters were cleared up, only a 40-acre plot adjoining the river was left to Sherman. Next began the unique enterprise for which this remarkable man is still famous.  Over his entire 40 acres, in rows running east and west, he set out raspberry bushes.  As soon as the bushes were well rooted, the ground around the stalks was loosened and each stalk was pressed over toward the north, in which direction it continued to grow.  The maturing berries grew up through the foliage toward the south, receiving the fullest exposure to the sun.

 At that time there was no cut in the river bank where the road now approaches the interstate bridge, so water for irrigation came along the river’s banks from the south. When the berries had matured, a saw mounted on a sled passed over the bushes cutting them off about three inches from the ground.  By the time all the bushes has been cut, the first—having been left in the sun—were thoroughly dried, as were the berries on them.   Next, into the field came a queer-looking contraption; a high-wheeled wagon on which was mounted a grain box.  To the rear of the wagon was attached a blower, powered by a gasoline engine.  The berry bushes were thrashed about the inside of the wagon by hand until the dried berries had been knocked off.  The wagon’s contents were then shoveled into the blower which removed the trash.  The dried berries were then taken to a shed at the field’s edge where they were placed in a machine which agitated them between two canvas sheets in such a way that the dried cores were removed.  Following this, they were ready for the final screening after which they were placed in 100-pound sacks for shipment to Chicago. 

Soon after the berry patch was brought into production Sherman’s wife passed away.  In a short time he married Josie Street.  By these two marriages, Sherman had five children:  three girls--Cozy, Very, and Maureen; and two boy--Robert and Marlow. Since his arrival from Iowa, the Sherman home had been a small, frame house located near the river’s bank.  It was not until the turn of the century that he found the berry business well enough organized to consider the construction of a permanent home. But a man whose mind could conceive such a remarkable business and devise all the complicated and machinery necessary in the operation of it could hardly be expected to content himself with the common, frame dwelling of the time. 

Visualize the setting as it was in 1900.  The new home would be built on the highest ground—the very bank of the river.  On three sides—the north, east and south—it would be surrounded by the finest berry vineyard in the territory.  On the fourth side it would over look the Snake, far below and the Ontario Valley with picturesque Malheur Butte in the background.  Certainly, all this called for one thing—a castle—and here was a man with courage and ability to build one.   At that time there was no bridge across the Snake and the only way for Sherman to get to nearby Ontario was to cross on a ferry located about a mile below the site of the present bridge, operated at that time by Susie Morton, now one of the oldest residents of Ontario. Because it was easier to reach the more distant town of Payette, Sherman went there and employed D. H. Snowberger, who came to that town in 1900 and is still a very prominent resident, to make the cement blocks with which the castle was to be constructed.  The duties of H. J. Tharp, now employed at the Moore Hotel in Ontario and at that time employed by Sherman to attend the berries, were changed from berry bush tender to castle builder.  So with the help of other men employed from time to time by Sherman, Snowberger and Tharp constructed the castle.   Door casings, window casings, base boards, stairways and all other parts were made of concrete.  Only the window frames were of wood.  The cement blocks of which the building is constructed were made on the grounds by Snowberger.  The entire interior of the castle was plastered with cement.   As soon as the first tower of the castle was completed the Sherman family moved into it.  Work with the berries so interfered, that it was not until 1906 the castle was completed.  By this time the berry business was at its peak.  Of the 40 acres, 38 were actually in berries, the rest being devoted to roads and the castle.  Each year 10 acres of bushes were pulled up and replaced with new plants.  This left 28 acres in actual production at any one time.  The annual crop was about 20,000 pounds of dried berries, worth approximately 30 cents per pound, f.o.b., Ontario.  As mentioned before these were shipped to Chicago where they were placed in small packages similar to our present raisin packages.   On the label of each package was printed the directions for preparing to serve.  The berries were to be placed in a kettle and an exact amount of boiling water added.  Berries and water were then allowed to steam for an exact period of time.  Both these factors were determined according to the size of the package but in every case, were exactly correct to allow the water content of the berries to be returned to the exact percentage contained in fresh berries.   Old timers state that, when directions were carefully followed the resulting berries were practically the same in appearance and flavor as when fresh. About the time the wooden wagon bridge was built across the Snake just south of the castle, Sherman decided to expand his business and planted berry vineyards at Kimberly and Emmett.  This was in 1910, but before these new vineyard were brought into production, there came to the original bushes around the castle a year of crop failure.   Sherman’s savings, spread thin to finance the new yards, would not stand the depleting overhead of a year’s operation with no income and one of the most unusual business ventures ever attempted in this territory failed.  Mr. and Mrs. Sherman moved to California with those of the children who were not already married.   The property reverted to the bank in Payette and title to it passed to A. E. Nichols of Ironsides, Oregon, on December 5, 1935. Regarding the man who built the castle on the bank of the Snake, old-times around Payette and Ontario are in complete agreement on two scores:  first that he was well educated and possessed one of the keenest minds in the territory; second, no man in the Snake river valley ever worked harder to make a success of his chosen profession.   As to the queer-looking old castle on the high bare bank of the Snake, these same old-timers recall a picturesque 1908 scene of the fine, gray castle surrounded on three sides by a beautiful vineyard of green berry bushes and overlooking on the fourth side the river, far below, and the valley beyond.  They respected Sherman as an intelligent, hardworking citizen and they admired his beautiful home, thinking not the less of either by reason of the fact that financial reverses stopped the man’s prospering business and destroyed his castle.   That is the story of the “Castle on the Snake.” 

The writer wishes to thank the following for helping collect the information which now brings to the public a picture of the castles history:  Edward King, Ontario; D. H. Snowberger, Payette; Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Tharp, Ontario; Mrs. Susie Morton, Ontario; Lillian Wilson, county clerk,Payette; LeRoy A. Sterling, assessor, Payette county.   File at: http://files.usgwarchives.org/id/payette/newspapers/idahosfa403gnw.txt This file has been created by a form at http://www.genrecords.org/idfiles/ File size: 9.9 Kb

The museum has very few good photos of the Raspberry Castle despite its being a popular site for visitors.   Anyone having photos of the castle at any phase of its existence is asked to contact the museum or to email digitized copies of those photos to us at either payettemuseum@qwestoffice.net or lucisept61@yahoo.com.


Falk Store Story

Payette-Gem County ID Archives History - Letters .....Falk Store Story ***Copyright.  All rights reserved.http://www.usgwarchives.org/ copyright.htmhttp://www.usgwarchives.org/id/idfiles.htm***  File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by: Patty Theurer seymour784@yahoo.com November 22, 2005, 12:25 am Book Title:  Falk Store StoryBy Horace Arment                  

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Toombs opened the first store in this location.  It was the only store between Boise and Baker City.  In 1870 A. J. McFarland, a relative of Mrs. Toombs, came to work for the merchants.  In a few years Toombs sold out to McFarland who continued to operate the store throughout the pioneer period.  It is McFarland who is generally remembered in connection with Falk Store, although the Falks had not yet entered the picture.  

In 1870 Nathan Falk opened a store in the vicinity and in 1871 a post office was established and took the name Falk Store, and a mail route to Placerville was started.  Gustavis Kholberg was appointed postmaster.  In 1874 James Patton became postmaster, to be succeeded by Charles Leistner, then the manager of Nathan Falk’s store. More commercial enterprises kept locating in the same locality over the years by 1877 there were two stores, a hotel, a saloon, a meat market and a blacksmith shop. About this time the fort was built with a Grange Hall on the second story.  This gradual accumulation of stores and services still kept the collective name of “Falk Store” although it was comprised of several very active stores.   

Ruth B. Lyon has in her book “Valley of Plenty” a vicinity map designating it as “Falk Stores circa 1888 to 1892.”  Some early maps show simply “Falk”.  However, to the old timer, it still remains “Falk Store.” 

Everything that the pioneer family needed was carried in stock or could be ordered by stage from Boise.  Customers came from as far as Malheur River in Oregon, Weiser River, Middle and Indian Valley in Idaho.  Decedents of early settlers who traded at the store were familiar names in modern times:  The Nesbitts, the Bivens’, Peter Pence, Andy Rasmussen, the Applegates, the Stroups and the Al Wilsons.   

In 1877 during the Indian troubles, a fortified building was erected at the store.  My knowledge of the fort was told to me by “Uncle Andy Rasmussen” who helped build it.  The defensive part of the fortification was built of parallel rows of 12” boards set on end and about 18 “ apart.  The space between was filled with river gravel to stop a rifle bullet.  Portholes were cut shoulder high at intervals with contracting sides outward, giving the defenders a wide arc of rifle fire while protecting themselves.  “So we could shoot dis vay and dat vay,” said Uncle Andy, demonstrating a half circle with his hands.  The fortification extended in a rectangle about 8ft. high and above was constructed a Grange Hall.  The fort this covered (served) a dual purpose.  According to Mrs. Annie Kennedy Hill, it was also used as a public school. 

Of all the pioneers of that time the only one I knew personally was Andrew Rasmussen.  He was born in Denmark in 1849 and came to the United States at the age of 19.  He worked in the mines in Boise Basin for a short time and then came to the lower Payette region.  He took up a homestead about a half mile north of where the store was later located.  He took an active part in the “Vigilantes” movement along the Payette River and helped chase out the rustlers and horse thieves from that part of the country.  He was a scout in 1877-78 during the Nez Perce and Bannock-Paiute Wars and intermittent raids.   

There were signal fires burning on all the high hills on both sides of the valley.  The whole countryside was alarmed when young Jimmie Ballentyne’s horse came home from the hills above Squaw Butte with Jimmie desperately wounded, tied to the saddle horn with his checkered jacket.  He was afraid he would faint and fall off but he knew his horse would head for home.  The settlers along the Malheur; the Stroups, the Emmisons, and settlers along the lower Weiser River fled to the fortification at the Falk Store.  The usual procedure was routine-1-turn the cattle and hogs loose, 2-hide the most valuable and movable pieces of furniture in the sagebrush and 3-high-tail it to the fort with all the women and kids.  Nothing remains of the old Falk Store.  The old stage stop and hotel, after 1927, burned to the ground.  The old school house was also consumed by fire a number of years later.   

Additional Comments:Transcribed by Patty Theurer File at: http://files.usgwarchives.org/id/payette/history/letters/falkstor11gms.txt This file has been created by a form at http://www.genrecords.org/idfiles/ File size: 4.8 Kb

Remnants from Falk Store are on display at the Payette County Museum.  The Gem County Museum in Emmett also has information and photos of Falk Store, though old county maps show that it was definitely located within what is now Payette County.


Payette County ID Archives News.....Big Ice House Goes Up In Flames May 6, 1904***Copyright.  All rights reserved.http://www.usgwarchives.org/copyright.htm http://www.usgwarchives.org/id/idfiles.htm***  File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by:Patty Theurer seymour784@yahoo.com

February 13, 2006, 1:49 am Payette Independent May 6, 1904Payette IndependentPayette, IdahoFriday, May 6, 1904 BIG ICE HOUSE GOES UP IN FLAMES ARMOUR’S PLANT IN WASHOE DESTROYED BY FIRE, ENTAILING THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS LOSS. 

Spark From Passing Engine Does the Mischief—About 1800 Tons of Ice Left Exposed to Mercy of the Elements—Company Will Build New Plant of Double Capacity of Old one and Fruit Men’s Interests Will be Protected. 

The big ice house of Armour & Company in Washoe, two miles south of Payette, was totally destroyed by fire Thursday night of last week, caused by a spark from the engine of the belated passenger train, No. 11, shortly after 9 o’clock.  The fire was not discovered until it was under such headway that nothing could be done with the meager means at hand to check it and the building was soon in ashes.  It contained 2400 tons of ice, only about 25 per cent of which was melted by the heat, the remainder being left exposed to the weather where it is now at the disposal of whoever can make use of it as the company has decided to make no effort to save it. 

The estimated value of the plant was $12,500, of which $4,000 was covered by insurance.   Immediately after the fire the local manager, H. B. Orcutt, notified the Portland manager of the loss and asked for instructions.  He was informed that it would be unfeasible to attempt to save the ice that was left but was instructed to at once make figures on a new plant, to be double the capacity of the one burned and to cost in the neighborhood of $20,000.  It is to be completed in time for next seasons ice crop.  The site will probably be on the north side of the mill pond, about 100 feet east of the main line, instead of the old site, which is much nearer, thus obviating the danger from sparks from passing engines.   

Mr. Orcutt was also informed that the company would to the best of its ability look out for the interests of the fruit men of this section, who have depended on the ice house for icing cars and at times when markets were slow, for cold storage purposes, and who have anticipated serious inconvenience by reason of the burning of the plant.  It is thought that the cars for this section will be iced at North Platte coming west for fruit next season and re-iced at Pocatello going east.   Since it was ascertained that Armour & Company would not attempt to save the ice left from the fire, several Payette firms and individuals have availed themselves of the opportunity to again fill their ice houses to the brim after the natural shrinkage since the time of harvesting last winter’s crop.   

 File at: http://files.usgwarchives.org/id/payette/newspapers/bigiceho248gnw.txt This file has been created by a form at http://www.genrecords.org/idfiles/ File size: 3.2 Kb

Additional photos of the ice house in Payette and New Plymouth and the ice harvesting process can be viewed at the museum. 

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All text and photos not otherwise attributed are provided by museum volunteer and web designer Lucinda Sutherland of Payette, Idaho.  E-mail your comments to Sutherland at lucisept61@yahoo.com .