Thursday, Dec 01, 2022

Valley Tragedies

1911 – In January 1911, one of the worst Arbon tragedies happened. Several families, including the Dell C. Dalton family and the Ezra Taft Andersen families, were visiting another family on a Sunday. They stayed overnight, and all started home on Monday. Reaching a place where a creek was running fast due the the January thaw, the sleigh box in which the two families were riding (containing fourteen adults and children) overturned in the rushing water. Only one father, Mr. Dalton, was able to free himself of the sleigh box as it overturned. In lifting the box off the trapped people underneath, he certainly saved their lives. Mrs. Dalton and Mrs. Andersen were found holding onto some of the children by their feet as the water rushed around them. However, three children were swept downstream. Mr. Dalton’s eight year old son George and two month old baby Dora were swept away, and Ezra Andersen’s six year old son Nicholas was also swept downstream. One can’t imagine the distress of the parents and siblings. The fathers and neighbors searched for the children until dawn on Tuesday, when their little crushed bodies were found several miles downstream. They were all buried in the Pauline Cemetery (a half-mile west of Arbon Elementary). It is believed this accident happened between the roads now titled Newport Lane and Bowen Lane on the Arbon Highway.

1915 – Most of the homesteaders lived quiet lives of relentless hard work. But of the early Summit homesteaders, certainly one of the saddest cases was lovelorn Julian Maes, who murdered his love interest, Mrs. Esther Westcott, in January 1915 by shooting her with his shotgun as she ran for help. By all accounts, Julian was a well-liked valley resident who had been seen often with Esther, until everyone could see she grew cold to him.

She was buried in Pocatello in the Mountain View Cemetery. Julian was buried in the field just west of the Arbon Cemetery. It was customary for the times not to bury someone like Julian in hallowed ground, since he was both a murderer and a suicide. Esther left behind two young children, age five and seven, who had witnessed their mother’s murder. Julian left a suicide note in his cabin, leaving his land and any assets to the Westcott children and naming Jesse Ward as his administrator. Even though Esther’s mother had claimed Esther was a widow on her death certificate, in reality Esther was merely separated from her husband at the time of her death. He was living in Nebraska, and the children were sent back there to him.

1921 – Modern people often associate the “old West” with the 1880s or 90s, but Arbon Valley had its share of Wild West up into the 1920s and beyond. One incident involved a Kentuckian named Charlie Ball who brought with him to Arbon some of his back-woods Southern ways. People liked him, but they also thought him a bit touchy.

On St. Patrick’s Day, 1921, Charlie Ball was about to have a very bad day. At the Pauline Store he got in an argument with another man. When he left the store, he was pretty heated and then had the misfortune to run up against Ed Brandt, a man with whom he’d had previous disagreements. Again, words were exchanged. Ed lost his temper and shot at Mr. Ball, who promptly shot back in self defense. Mr. Ball was a better shot, as his bullet hit Ed’s upper arm, while Ed’s bullet was later found in the frame of Charlie’s buggy. Ed hunkered down in his wagon and high-tailed himself out of fire range. He headed for the Pauline store, sounding the alarm that Charlie Ball had gone crazy with no provocation.

The Pauline store had a telephone, so the sheriff in American Falls was called. The sheriff and his main deputy were elsewhere when the frantic call came in, so the next best man was the probation officer, Charlie Torrance.

By the time Torrance got to Pauline, a group of local men were pretty hot, with itchy trigger fingers just ready to defend their friend Ed. They surrounded Charlie’s cabin and tried to talk him outside. When he finally emerged, armed with a rifle, revolver, and a shotgun, a trigger happy fool shot him in the arm. Of course Ball returned fire. All the men broke and ran while Ball ducked back into his cabin. The siege had begun, with Charlie returning fire with great skill. Mr. Kowallis’ hand was shot and Herb Swim’s leg was broken.

After Deputy Torrance arrived, he again tried to talk Charlie out of the cabin. Charlie asked him if he were “the law” and when Torrance didn’t answer, Charlie let fly with both barrels of his shotgun, hitting the deputy at close range right in the torso. Again Charlie ducked back into his cabin, and all the men scattered.

The three wounded men were loaded into a wagon and rushed to the Pauline Store where they were put into automobiles and taken to the tiny hospital in American Falls to join Ed Brandt, who was missing all the fun. In the meantime, Charlie slipped out of his cabin and headed for the hills.

Just like in the movies, the newly arrived sheriff organized a posse. There were nine men officially, but about fifteen extra volunteers. They scoured the hills all night looking for Charlie. When they couldn’t find him, mob mentality took over and the posse turned their anger over their injured friends on Charlie’s possessions. They burned down his cabin, filled his well up with dirt, sliced his harnesses, and cut open his sacked wheat, scattering the seeds on the ground.

In the meantime, Charlie had ridden up into the Crystal area and went to the Whiting ranch. He was weak from loss of blood. Mr. Whiting took him down Mink Creek to the Pocatello hospital, where his arm was amputated just above the elbow. He was not expected to live.

Charles Torrance was expected to survive, but he died a few days later. Before he died, he said that he was sure Mr. Ball wouldn’t have shot him if he (Torrance) hadn’t been carrying a gun at the time.

Charlie Ball was tried by the courts and found not guilty. The court found that he acted in self-defence from the start, and it was Ed Brandt’s elaborated story alone that resulted in the death of one good man and injury to several others.