Every rustic and weathered old farmhouse or homestead has a story. The little shack outside of Grangeville is no exception. It took me two years to figure out the history of this little homestead and it is more interesting than I had hoped for. History became much more interesting to me when I figured out that it isn’t just a list of dates and events, but the story of a real person like you or me. It is his – story. This place is where I’ve taken some of my most loved and award-winning photos, but I had trouble finding any information online about it. The information was easily available the whole time, but I didn’t know where to look.
For years, when I passed by in a hurry to get here or there, something would catch my eye as I sped by (There’s a rhyme for Sharky James. If you haven’t listened to his awesome photography podcast, you should!) Still, I never stopped to take any pics. Until one morning when I woke up before dawn and looked out my window. There was this awesome cloud formation in the perfect spot to light up with color when the sun came up. I just needed somewhere to go with an awesome foreground. That’s when I remembered this rustic old shack out in the field on the other side of town. I hurried and drove out there racing the sun and the result is the featured image for this post. Doesn’t knowing the “history” of that shot make it more interesting?
History of the Hashagen Homestead
Now that I had some great shots I had to figure out how to get permission to use them since I don’t own the place. While researching my family history in Georgia and Alabama, I had stumbled across online maps that show property lines and sometimes include who owns the property. I did a google search Idaho County tax maps and found that Idaho has this also! It doesn’t show who owns the property, but it shows the parcel number. I took that to the Idaho County Courthouse Assessor’s office to find out. Since I can tend to be somewhat introverted, this was the first of many “out of my comfort zone” steps. I lived through it and came away with a name and address of the current owner. I got a print of one of my shot’s to give them and worked up the courage to go knock on their door. When I explained who I was and what I was there for, the friendly lady told me that her son takes care of the property and said I should go talk to him. It became a lot easier for me when I found out that he works at the office where I get my taxes done and I had met him before. Honestly, I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to cold call on people, but the struggle is real. Do any of you have this struggle also or am I a weirdo?
Armed with my prints, I went to talk with him. This meeting was also painless and he liked the picture. We talked about the history of the place and he said that his Dad got the property a really long time ago and he thought the original homesteader was involved in the Nez Perce War. He told me the last name was Ramsdell but he didn’t know the first name. I went home and looked through the local history books that I own and searched the internet for this “Ramsdell”, but didn’t find anything. I thought maybe he meant Randall since there is a Captain Randall in the books. I verified the name, though, the next time I saw him.
Now I found myself stuck, not knowing how to find out more. I tried more searching over the last couple years and even asked the volunteers at the museum. I still didn’t find anything until a couple of weeks ago when I was at the Courthouse again paying for vehicle registration. The idea struck me that the county would have historical records showing the transfers of the deed of this property. I asked where to find this info and the clerk directed me to the Recorder’s office. In the Recorder’s office, I received a quick lesson from the clerk on how to find the right books to look in and I dug in.
State law prevents us from taking pictures of the pages (you can buy copies for $1) but they allowed me to take pics of the room. These big and really old books are very cool!
Here’s what I found:
After learning how the descriptions of properties work I found that I could just move down the column to find transactions on a certain property. There are different types of transactions recorded in addition to the transfer of deeds. For instance, there are mortgages that I think in the late 1800’s were just surety for store loans like we use credit cards today. I think that because there are mortgages from several stores on the books. I was able to find that the current owner’s family acquired the property in 1945 from Old National Bank in Spokane Washington. Old National Bank foreclosed on a loan with Caddie Ramsdell in 1931. Now I was getting somewhere. I continued working back in time. L. C. Ramsdell and his wife C. L. Ramsdell bought it in 1905 from D. L. Wylde and his wife. The Wylde’s had bought it from Allie Baker (formerly Hashagen) in 1903. Then a little farther back was what I was looking for! In 1886 Gerhard W. Hashagen filed a pre-patent on the two parcels that make up this homestead. I had found so much, but much more was to come.
Deeper research on each owner of the homestead
I used several online resources including Ancestry.com, Findagrave.com, and ChroniclingAmerica.gov along with the book Pioneer Days In Idaho County to put together a picture of these people. I really enjoyed searching these facts out since the people who built lives here in the wild west are a big part of what draws me to the old homesteads and ghost towns. This story does not disappoint at all. There are Cowboys and Indians, hard work, success, love, and tragedy. Before any homesteads, the land belonged to the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu). They camped near this homestead in June 1877 as they were headed to the reservation. Things changed when some of the young warriors decided to avenge some mistreatment by some of the white settlers in the Salmon River area. That sparked the Nez Perce War as the army came up to bring them onto the reservation in Lapwai.
Gerhard W. Hashagen:
I found a lot of info on Gerhard (sometimes called “George”) in an obituary on findagrave. He was born in 1845 in Germany and emigrated when he was a child. He came to the Camas Prairie in the 1860’s. Many Germans settled in this area. He drove supplies into the mining areas by horse and wagon before homesteading this farm. In 1877 he shows up as a citizen volunteer to defend against the Nez Perce. The only part of the war that I can find mention of him was when the angry warriors were attacking settlers on the prairie and had attacked the Norton party as they tried to flee from Cottonwood to safety at the fort in Mount Idaho. He was among the riders who went out and rescued them. The Norton party was Benjamin Norton, his wife, small son Hill, and his wife’s sister Lynn Bowers. There were also John Chamberlin, his wife, his two children, a man by the name of Joseph Moore, and a wounded Lew Day. By midnight, they had made it 14 of the 20 miles and thought they were safe but the Indians found them and started circling their wagon and shooting. The horses were all killed and Hill Norton and Lynn Bowers managed to sneak off into the darkness and found help from Mount Idaho. Gerhard was among the rescuers. Mr. Norton, Mr. Chamberlin, and his seven-year-old boy were killed. The little girl had part of her tongue cut off and Mrs. Norton was shot through the hips but survived. Lew Day and Joe Moore both died a few days later. No matter which side you’re on, war is horrible. There ended up being many women and children of the Nez Perce killed and injured also.
In an interview with Dan W. Greenburg from the Lewiston Morning Tribune on December 18, 1938, Hill Norton said the following. “I was in the wagon, crouched behind a leather trunk when the attack was suddenly made. The Indians kept circling our wagon and firing at the party. My father shouted to me and my aunt Lynn to leave the wagon and attempt to get to Mount Idaho. Both of us crawled away under cover of darkness. Father was riding his horse and was killed. Mother was shot through both hips and had managed to crawl down between two horses that were hitched to our wagon, both horses having been killed. There she lay while those in the wagon kept the Indians at a distance with their own rifle fire.”
Gerhard filed the pre-patent on it in 1886 and a newspaper article in 1889 says he drove 300 head of hogs to Genesee. That must have been interesting. I was surprised to learn from another article that he actually was a witness on the decree of the homestead of the Von Berge’s (my other favorite old homestead on the prairie that I blogged about here.) He married Allie Eller and they filed their homestead patent in 1890. The same year he opened meat markets in Grangeville and Mount Idaho with a partner by the name of Smith. He quickly sold his interest to F. B. King and Sons. Here is the picture of the Hashagen’s from his obituary.
There’s mention of him in the newspapers being involved with the grange hall and even being a witness in a murder trial. The two had four children of which two survived, Cora Francis Hashagen Divine 1888-1974 and Carrie Myrtle Hashagen Day 1891-1936.
In 1898 Gerhard and Allie moved into Grangeville and rented the farm out. He bought A livery stable (I haven’t figured out which livery stable yet) and operated that until 1900 when he was killed in an accident while driving his wagon home from Stites on a Saturday night. It was dark and one of his wheels hit a rut causing the wagon to lurch and throw him off. He broke his neck and died in the road. The horses stood there all night long until someone found them the next morning. Allie married Jerry Baker the next year (I think Jerry may have been the town constable and maybe a marshall.) She sold the homestead in 1903 to D. L. Wylde. In the 1910 census, Allie Baker is shown as a widow again living with her two daughters and her stepson in a house that appears to have been on the block where the church I go to sits now. She died in 1914 after being quite ill for a couple of weeks. I actually found that the newspaper accidentally reported her death a week early and then corrected it the next week when she actually died. Ouch.
D. L. Wylde
Mr. Wylde appears to be a businessman and farmer who came from South Dakota in 1902 and bought a lot of properties. There is a Wylde Addition in the Grangeville property descriptions. He sold the Hashagen homestead to L. C. Ramsdell and his wife C. L. Ramsdell in 1905. There was a lot of land speculation going on because of the Camas Prairie Railroad coming into Grangeville which was completed in 1908.
Leonard and Caddie Ramsdell
Leonard worked in a pharmacy in Spokane and Caddie took care of the ranch in Grangeville. They had moved to the area from South Dakota also. I don’t know if the house was built by the Hashagen’s or the Ramsdell’s. Here are a couple of inside shots.
I wasn’t able to find any pictures of the Ramsdell’s. The listings that are on ancestry.com for Leonard have a picture from a postcard but I am not sure if it’s him or just a postcard he sent. The newspapers mention the two going back and forth visiting each other and at one time Caddie went to Spokane to stay for the year and rented the ranch out. In 1919 Leonard died of tuberculosis in a special hospital for it in Hot Springs South Dakota. Caddie lost the farm to foreclosure in 1931 and moved down to the Twin Falls area where she died in 1961. I didn’t find any mention of children from the couple. In Caddie’s obituary, it listed a nephew only as her surviving relative. I believe that the bank owned it until 1945 when the current owners family acquired it. I don’t know if anyone has lived in the house since 1931 but it looks like it’s been empty for a very long time. I wonder how long it will continue to stand up to the heavy snows and hard blowing winds of the prairie. To see more of my photography at the Hashagen homestead click here for the full gallery.
One last shot:
This is my daughter in a dress made by her older sister. We took it at the homestead because it seemed to fit. The painting effect done with Jixipix Impresso.
Please comment if you know anything I missed or share it on social media to help me grow if you liked this post. Did I inspire any of you to do some research on your favorite place?