Cabin Fever
Breaking Ground
Charley Young, Trapper

This story has been compiled from notes provided by Tom Coston, former U.S. Forest Service District Ranger at Seeley Lake and later, Supervisory Forester for the Northern Region headquarters in Missoula, and from a personal interview with Charley Young conducted in 1960-61.

Charley Young was living alone in his ninetieth year but had suffered a broken hip which caused him great difficulty in getting around. At that time he showed signs of being unable to take care of himself. However, his memories of the old days were still very clear. He was “sharp as a tack”.

Mountain ManCharley came West from Pennsylvania by train and stagecoach with his family in 1872. He was four or five years old but during the time of this interview, 1960, he was quite disgusted with himself at not being able to remember having seen any buffalo. He knew they had to have been there. He did remember seeing lots of antelope on the prairie.

The Young family settled at Lincoln Gulch but later moved farther west in the Blackfoot Valley.

“The Indians were still nervous,” Charley said, and he remembered an Indian scare “When I was a kid, some citizens threw up a fort at Lincoln. The Youngs didn't move into it, but most white families at Lincoln did,” he said.
One of Charley’s sisters, Bessie, was the first white child born in the Ovando area.

Charley himself was an outdoorsman all of his life, a rancher, trapper, timber cruiser and surveyor. Young’s Creek and Young’s Mountain in the Bob Marshall Wilderness were named after him. He was also one of the earliest Forest Rangers to be stationed at Neihart in the Little Belt Mountains. He later set up headquarters on Camp Creek in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. He and two other men made up the “force” in the South Fork of the Flathead, as it was known at that time. Young quit the Forest Service job, he said, “on account of too much red tape”.
“We had to come out to Ovando once a month and report, whether we had anything to report or not,” he said.

He remembered his last profitable year as a trapper as 1950, when he would have been about eighty years old. “I was paid $5,000 right here on this porch for beaver that brought $60 per pelt,” he said. He trapped and killed many grizzlies getting as much as $175 each for the hides.

“In those days you could kill an elk on your ranch any time,” he said.
When Charley came to Ovando as a boy there was no post office. “In fact,” he laughed, “Ovando didn't exist.” Mail came to Helmville until a rancher named Ovando Hoyt built a store and post office. Then they named the post office “Ovando”.

“There were only three women in the valley when I first wintered here,” he said. “But they sure as hell have flocked in here since then!”
Charley had proof that there were buffalo in the valley at onetime. He and another man were excavating for a pool at the Ovando fish hatchery when they unearthed five buffalo skulls. He knew of two more that were found later.

Charley and his crew of five men chopped out the original Swan River Road as far as Lion Creek at the time of the struggle between the Copper Kings in Montana (W.A. Clark andMarcus Daly) and the issue of relocating the state capitol. Marcus Daly sent a surveying crew from Avon down Nevada Creek to the Big Blackfoot River and then down the Blackfoot for 30 miles, then through the Woodworth country to the Clearwater Valley. Although at the time he denied that the survey might have been accomplished in an effort to buy some votes for the upcoming election which would determine the location of the new state capitol (Anaconda or Helena), later newspaper editorial comments insisted the survey was indeed connected with Daly’s desire to get people to vote for Anaconda as the capitol.

Charley Young spent many years trapping in the South Fork of the Flathead where he would see no one but a few Indians for six months at a time.
“The Indians never stole anything in the backcountry,” he said. “Not even traps left hanging in the trees.”