Saloons were arguably the preferred venues for sociability, drinking, gambling, and other amusements for many – though not all – North Siders. Yet, local entertainments took other forms as well. As a single man, for example, young Ed may have taken himself on occasion to the “dance palace” at Littlefield (perhaps then still named Butte City), one-and-a-half or two miles east of Murray at the confluence of Butte and Prichard Creeks. “Due to the scarcity of ladies at this early period,” recalled Ruth Aulbach Sellers,
it was necessary to rotate the dancers. The ladies were grouped at one end of the hall. The gentlemen were lined up, and each given the privilege of one whirl around the room with his or someone else’s inspiration. (Sellers, recalling of her father’s, Adam Aulbach’s, description, in Brainard and Chapman, 1990, p. 12)
In Murray, another memorable diversion depended upon the cooperation of a dog named Curly. Stoll (1932, p. 22) described the animal as “a great brute of a dog, Newfoundland predominant in his mixture of breed and responsible for his black shag of fur…” According to Stoll’s account, summer Sunday afternoons would not infrequently find miners expectantly lined up along Main Street. Wagers would be placed, and Curly, his tail affixed with a noisy tin can rattling with pebbles, would race from one end of the street to the other. His dash was accompanied by encouraging “cheering and shouting and firing pistols.” A stopwatch would record Curly’s elapsed time and the miner whose guess came closest would win the pot of pooled bets.* When Curly wasn’t racing, incidentally, he apparently enjoyed exceptional liberty and universal access across Murray. He “went everywhere,” wrote Stoll (Ibid.) and
…was a privileged visitor in every cabin, in every office, in every saloon – a vagabond universally beloved. Curly, I can truly say, was a joint possession of the miners and the gods.
Itinerant entertainments from time to time passed through Murray too. Stoll (1932, pp. 35-39) tells the tale of one such entertainment that came to a sorrowful ending. Giuseppe was “a portly Neopolitan, accompanied by a lumbering black bear and a uniformed monkey,” wrote Stoll (p. 35). The three, on “one beautiful evening,” “…came marching down Main Street to a point beneath a tall tamarack standing sentry over a rude attempt at a city square” (Ibid.). The Italian’s act saw him playing “a great golden harp” and the bear, named Josephina, engaging in what Stoll described as “a slow ludicrous dance.” When the time came, the uniformed monkey, whose name was Napoleon – or “Napoleon” as Stoll rendered Giuseppe’s pronunciation – would cruise the crowd for donations of small change or gold dust in his tin cup. After many repetitions of the dance, and with the crowd swelling with miners coming to town from “their sluice boxes,” Giuseppe now instructed Josephina to “Climba da tree!” The bear obliged but her new arboreal location triggered the rapt attentions of local camp dogs — including, reported Stoll, Curly’s as well — now yapping and snarling at the tree’s base. Josephina tried to come down but then thought better of it and re-ascended. “Suddenly,” described Stoll (p. 37),
From the mountain slope near Pritchard [sic] a shot rang out, followed by two others in quick succession. Josephina crumpled, clung twitching to the swaying trunk, then crashed from bough to bough to land heavy and limp at our feet.
Giuseppe knelt over his dead bear, helpless, and then reacted in angry fury against the crowd. A miner who had passed a hat offered what Stoll estimated at seventy-five dollars in contributions from the gathering – a considerable sum. But Giuseppe in his outrage scattered the “coins and bills in the dust.” A disheartened Giuseppe and his monkey “marched away through the dusk,” but the townsmen, Stoll tells us, found a practical resolution for the tragedy. “We had not had fresh meat in many days,” wrote Stoll (p. 38). “That night we barbecued a bear.”
We do not know whether Ed Pulaski stayed in Murray as late as the Christmas holiday in 1884. If he did, then he may have attended a collective community feast at the Louisville Hotel’s dining room. Heavy snow had cut Murray off from its packer-delivered supplies of Christmas dinner provisions and kept men marooned in town who would otherwise have traveled to Spokane Falls or elsewhere to celebrate the holiday. Meat for the feast, according to Stoll’s account, was luckily provided by a hunting party that had encountered a herd of blacktail deer. Stoll (p. 39), one of Murray’s corps of attorneys, described the group at the celebratory gathering as
…a mingling of lawyers, court attaches, and guests – mining men, mining engineers, business men, and among them Aulbaugh [sic], of the Morning Sun, and Culver his bitter enemy, of the Evening Record.
The banquet ran from eight o’clock in the evening until three o’clock the following morning.
Robert Wayne Smith’s (1932) book’s lightly annotated bibliography described William T. Stoll’s book – full title, Silver Strike: The True Story of Silver Mining in the Coeur d’Alenes, as told by William T. Stoll to W.H. Whicker – as “An amusing, but recklessly inaccurate volume of reminiscences.” Maybe so. But it is a great read, and deserves the heartiest of recommendations. Historian Katherine G. Aiken wrote a useful “Introduction” to a new edition of Stoll’s Silver Strike published in 1991. Therein she conceded that the book was not free of factual errors. “However,” she also noted, Stoll succeeded “…in conveying the tremendous excitement and sense of adventure that were so evident in the mining camps – and that alone would make his book worthwhile.”
* Was perhaps Curly’s timed event the historical precursor of today’s tradition of the Lead Creek Derby in the Silver Valley, with its wagers on the time required for a ball to float down the South Fork from the Last Chance Bridge in Mullan to the Sixth Street Bridge in Wallace?
Katherine G. Aiken, “Idaho Yesterdays Introduction,” pp. ix-xix, in Stoll (1991/1932).
Wendell Brainard (author) and Ray Chapman (editor), Golden History Tales: From Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Mining District, n.p.: no publisher given, .
Robert Wayne Smith, History of Placer and Quartz Gold Mining in the Coeur d’Alene District (M.A. Thesis, American History, University of Idaho), Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1932.
William T. Stoll, Silver Strike: The True Story of Silver Mining in the Coeur d’Alenes, as told by William T. Stoll to W.H. Whicker, University of Idaho Press, 1991 (originally published by Little, Brown, and Company, 1932).