Saturday, Jan 28, 2023

Category: History

Remembering Arbon

Some know me though likely most don’t, but I grew up in Arbon from 1951 through 1973. Our home was on the Knox Canyon Road where the beautiful log home now sits. My grandpa William Allard homesteaded there in 1909. I went to school there and was one of the students that helped put up the A on the hill just north of the school… My teacher Mr. Fackerell, lived in the cottage there. The Lewis’ drove the VW school bus; the blizzards would close our road for weeks (before rotary snow plows) and bury the bunk house. Our phone number was three shorts and along and everything had to go through Gena Newport, one long.

Though I have left the valley I still feel as though I’m home when I crest the mountain from Mink Creek. A few weeks ago my sister Linda and I made our annual trek to Arbon. We visited with Nelda and Dejanet Williams, Steve Purdy and met with new friends we didn’t know we had. We recalled or days riding the bus to Am. Falls with Sherm or Rhea Swim behind the wheel.

I want to thank the residents of the valley for keeping it so much as we have remembered… Beautiful and Friendly. A couple years ago I even got to ring the old school bell I rung back in the 60’s. Thank you Arbon for holding my heart with the care you always have..

Thank you and your people Arbon…..

Dan Nuckols

Winter of 1948-49 Hits Hard In Arbon

Winter of 1948-49 Hits Hard In Arbon

An article that appeared in the 1999 Power County Press by Nelda Williams, added online by Hank Fitch


he winter of 1948-49 began early in November of ‘48 with sub zero temperatures and snow too dry to pack into any facsimile of a sled trail. Arbon ranchers all fed loose hay in those days by team and sled.

For three months, no water dripped from the eves of our little three roomed house. With no ceiling insulation you would ordinarily expect to see icicles hanging from the eves in the winter.

Sod, not long out of the service following World War II, was feeding cattle that winter for the J. N. Arbon family. Toward the last of January, Mr. Arbon had come from his winter home in Pocatello to see how we were getting along. I remember his remark that day, that hopefully the worst part of the winter was over.

Needless to say, we never saw him or anyone else from outside the valley again until Spring.

In early February it warmed up enough to begin to snow. For 17 days the storm never let up. Almost like clockwork, the wind would blow approximately 24 hours from the south, then switch to the west, which resulted in out traitorous west blizzards. Twenty-four hours later it would be back to the south again.

Finally on the 14th day, our mail was flown out from Pocatello and dropped in a field adjacent to the post office. Sod, who had accepted the appointment as rural mail carrier shortly after his discharge from the military, sorted the weeks accumulation of mail and delivered it to his patrons by horseback.

With still no signs of the storm abating, the drifts continued to bury us. Handling the loose hay made it difficult to feed. Using a hay knife, you were compelled to hand saw a small section at a time all the way to the ground. Below the snow line, the hay had to be pitched up on to the snow and then re-pitched on to the hay rack. You couldn’t open up a stack or it would cover over before the next day.

Sod made the decision to try to leave to feed every other day on a South wind. The cattle were some distance from the house and his hope was to get back before the wind shifted. Many times he faced a west blizzard to get home.

The horses constantly broke through the poorly packed sled trail. Sod had shoveled steps in the snow bank for the team to get out of the barn, but to get back in, they simply sat and slid. The double wings of the large barn had already covered over.

With no way to get the cream to town, we quit separating and fed the whole milk to the calves. We eventually had to keep the milk cows and some late fall calves we were feeding in the barn. Fortunately, we did have access to water inside.

Tired of shoveling into the out buildings each day, Sod finally began tunneling into them. We kept a shovel in the house by the door to dig out each morning. We had long since had to remove the storm door which opened outward. The snow finally came up over the roof on the west side of the house.

No way to get provisions, we made due with what we had. We had our milk and eggs and a winter supply of potatoes, flour, and canned goods. We supplemented our fair with an occasional snow shoe rabbit. I did look forward to a fresh green salad, come spring.

It was during the severe cold spell in January, just before the terrible storm period hit, that Sod took off on horseback one morning. He headed South to the food of Bull Canyon to deliver an accumulation of mail for Walt Frederick, who lived on up the canyon. Walt provided a large wooden structure for his mail on the main road as he only cam out of the canyon periodically to pick it up.

The road South into Oneida County was not winter-maintained so an arrangement had had been made through the postal department for periodic delivery to Walt by horseback. Sod left that morning around 10 a.m., leading a pack horse, figuring to spell the horses off in breaking trail. I was not to see him again for over 12 hours.

By dark I was becoming very concerned. No phone, no way to get word out for help, I decided I may as well start the chores while waiting out his return. The temperature was well below zero by 7 p.m. I bundled up our then five-year-old son, Barry, and headed for the barn.

As time wore on, the fear that some accident had befallen my husband continually gnawed at me. It was nearly 10 p.m. before I got around to packing water to the calves. When I turned the self-draining hydrant in the barn on, I watched in horror as water splashed onto my clothes and instantly froze. I knew that a man would never survive the night if he was laying out there somewhere injured and alone.

It wasn’t until that moment that I broke down and cried. Our little son for the first time sensed my fear and concern that something had happened to his dad. He attempted to console me with, “My dad won’t get bucked off Mom, my dad won’t get bucked off!”

Some time later, I was to hear the familiar crunch of horses’ hooves in the frozen snow. I rushed to the barn door in time to meet the pack mare as she shoved her head over the top of the Dutch door. It was an alarming sight, this black mare snow white with frost, her whiskers coated like a flocked Christmas tree.

I opened the door to let her in expecting to see something of Sod, but nothing. For the better part of an hour, I continued to wait. I was by now convinced that something terrible had indeed happened. The other horse perhaps down with a broken leg or worse, and heavens only knew what had become of my husband.

When he did finally appear, he was hazing a work team along ahead of him that belonged to Vadal Swenson. Vadal farmed in the South end of the valley and had moved to Malad for the winter. He had left the team to winter on dumped straw piles which generally serviced, but the horses had been having trouble pawing into the piles. They were hanging to a small area theat they had kept trampled down. They would never have survived the storms that hit later in February. It was their refusal to leave the area and head North away from their home grounds that had cost Sod so much precious time.

From the day after Christmas in 1948 to March 22, 1949, we were snowed in at the Arbon ranch. The main road was finally dozed out in mid-March. Though still a young man, the color bleached out of Sod’s eyebrows that winter.

William Hatch Sr. (Carolynn Lusk’s dad), then our star route mail carrier out of Pocatello, made his daily trip to Arbon on the day the storms hit. He never made it back to Pocatello, but was forced to abandon his jeep at Michaud Flats. When the weather finally broke, with the help of Oliver Pocatello, he began searching for his vehicle. Using a long metal rod, he began prodding in an attempt to locate it under the snow. He proceeded to punch holes in the jeep’s aluminum top before he became aware that he had already located it.

When the storms finally gave us some slack, the Pocatello area proceeded to dig out, but we had a long wait ahead of us yet. Our only winter road maintenance equipment in those days was a road grader (patrol). Most of the ranchers in the valley had a sufficient stock of feed, but hay was airlifted to some who couldn’t get to their stacks.

I’m sure that our neighbors experienced their own difficulties through all of this. We were not the only ones struggling through this historic winter of ‘48-’49.