Thursday, March 9, 2017

Stricker Log Home at Rock Creek Burns Down [otd 03/09]

On March 9, 1900, the Rock Creek home of Herman Stricker and his family burned to the ground. In some ways, this was a blessing as well as a tragedy.
Rock Creek. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Even before white men arrived, travelers in south-central Idaho depended upon the stream that gave Rock Creek Station its name. In August 1812, Robert Stuart provided the first written description of the feature. He called it Precipice Creek because, he wrote, “The banks of this stream, at and some distance above its discharge, are almost 300 feet perpendicular.”

The creek empties into the Snake River. For most of its length to the foothills, it runs through a narrow, steep-sided valley, 50-60 feet deep. Emigrants on the southern route of the Oregon Trail also knew it well. From near today’s Milner Dam [blog, May 7] on the Snake, wagon trains sought an upper stretch of Rock Creek as the nearest reliable water source.

In 1864, Ben Holladay had a stage station built near where the creek exits the higher foothills onto the plain. This “home” station – it provided meals and lodging – soon attracted a trading post. The store, established by James Bascom and John Corder, served stage passengers and bullwhackers piloting big freight outfits that hauled loads to Boise City. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad, stage and freight traffic connected at Kelton, Utah. After 1870-1871, miners and stockman became part of the clientele.

Herman Stricker emigrated to the U.S. from Hanover, Germany, a few years before the Civil War. He then joined the Union army, and saw action at Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and several other major battles. He moved to the Mountain West two years after the War. In 1870, he opened a store in the Snake River Canyon, about eight miles east of today’s Twin Falls.
Herman Stricker. J.H. Hawley photo.
In 1876, Stricker and a partner bought the Bascom-Corder store, plus a stable and log dwelling that had been added to their holdings. A year before Stricker's purchase, Charles Walgamott had come west and gone to work at the stage stop. [See my September 17th blog for an 1877 incident involving Charlie.] In 1879, Charlie's sister Lucy came to stay with her sister and brother-in-law. There, she met Stricker and, three years later, married him. They settled down in the log home to raise a family.

Stricker bought out his partner in 1884. By then, Oregon Short Line Railroad tracks had been completed across southern Idaho. Within months, through stage and freight traffic totally ceased. Fortunately, the expansion of the regional cattle business more than offset that loss. The population more than tripled between 1880 and 1900.
Stricker home, 1901. Friends of Stricker, Inc.
While Lucy surely missed the belongings lost in the fire, she did gain a far better home. Started on the same spot soon after the fire, the wood-frame plank structure was larger, with a nice covered porch. Within a few years, they added a second-floor dormer to the longer wing of the house.

Herman died in 1920, while Lucy lived until 1949. Today the immediate area is administered as a state Historic Site: The Rock Creek Station and Stricker Homesite.
References: [Hawley]
John Bertram, et al, Rock Creek Station and Stricker Homesite: Idaho Historical Site Master Plan, Idaho State Historical Society (2001).
Robert Stuart, Kenneth A. Spaulding (Ed.), On The Oregon Trail: Robert Stuart's Journey of Discovery, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (1953).
Charles Shirley Walgamott, Six Decades Back, The Caxton Printers, Ltd, CaIdwell, Idaho (1936).