My Forty Years Scribblin's
Personal Memories
Few Dull Moments At Evaro

This was written in 1998 and published in the Summer 1998 issue of the Charity Peak Outlook. TheI.W.W. was the International Workers of the World.

The small community at the head of the canyon once known as Coriaca's Defile was called Camas Prairie before the turn of the century. It then became Blanchard, for the man who operated the post office, and was changed about 1907, according to some penny post cards written to my mother, and stamped Evaro, over the Blanchard post mark. The name has a romantic beginning having been bestowed by a railroad surveyor whose fiancee had died. Her name, Eva Rowe, was shortened and the surveyor was allowed to re-name the community Evaro. Homesteaders, ranchers, logging, and the Northern Pacific railroad kept the town alive for over a hundred years. The little stream that cuts through a corner of the village was once called Sam Brunell Creek, for a rancher whose land it divided, then became O'Keefe Creek for the self styled "Baron" O'Keefe who held water rights to the steam and had large land holdings near the foot of the (now) Evaro hill. Ninety years ago the business district consisted of two tiny log cabins and a frame house (unpainted). Set back from the frame house stood another, a two story frame house, painted white with green trim, the more pretentious home of the W.L. Johnsons, who settled at Evaro before 1900. Some years later another building was erected in line with the log cabins where a store and post office were in business. Four logging camps in the vicinity kept a stream of lumberjacks traveling on "shanks pony" with their worldly belongings on their backs, helped to keep the store and post office in operation.

Before the "low line" went into operation the railroad used a lot of helper engines to power the freight trains over Evaro hill. A turn table was situated across the tracks and Mr. Johnson was the hostler, who turned the engines and took them a quarter of a mile to the water tower and coal dock to ready them for the return trip to Missoula. Mrs. Johnson boarded the train crews while they waited for their return runs. The Johnson ranch was also a stopping place for horse and buggy travelers on their way up on the Flathead.

The Johnson ranch was also a boarding house for the teachers who came to instill some "book learnin'" in the small-fry of the few Evaro families.

Bordering on the Flathead reservation residents living near the road were accustomed to seeing caravans of Indians, fifteen or twenty buggies and wagons and a number of horse back riders pass by on their annual trek to camp and dig bitterroots on the flats near Missoula. Bands of Gypsies with their buggies and wagons also made annual visits to plague the inhabitants and pilfer whatever they could get.

Folks looked forward to a visit from "Frenchy, the peddler," whose buggy was heaped full of all sorts or interesting things—anything from a paper of pins, a bolt of calico, scissors, combs—and especially the news. Frenchy could entertain with the happenings around the country side for miles around while his round stomach shook with laughter at his own jokes. At the infrequent event of an automobile chugging past our gate we kids would run as fast as we could to wave and yell as they went by.

After the railroad, Kelly's Stage was probably the earliest commercial travel through Evaro. The stage was a Model T Ford with the top down making a run from Missoula to some point up on the reservation in the morning and back in the afternoon. In the spring the canyon walls echoed the tinkle of bells, the barking of dogs, and the bleating of big bands of sheep being herded up the road and through Evaro on their way to summer pastures.

A lifelong memory for the earliest residents was the "thirty or so" wagons and mule teams of the black soldiers from Fort Missoula on bivouac who brought along their band instruments and camped in the Evaro school yard. Everyone in the vicinity came out to hear the evening concert.

There were no dull moments. When folks felt the need of entertainment there were dances at the school house or in someone's living room. Women dragged their long skirts, and two or three petticoats, through the snow, and children too small to walk were bundled up and hauled in a box on a hand sled.

Came World War I. Long troop trains labored up the hill and past our house near the head of the canyon. We kids ran out to wave and the soldiers leaned out the open windows and whistled and yelled in a frenzy until the train was out of sight. Food rationing was something new to us. We didn't go hungry but supplies were scarce and very expensive and we ate some pretty un-tasty stuff because we didn't know how to use it. The war brought tension—guards on the trestles—forest fires, some of which were thought to be set by members of the I.W.W. At one time my aunt and we two older kids grabbed wet gunny sacks from the water barrels and ran to flail at the flames seen creeping across our hayfield. We managed to keep them away from the buildings.

Evaro weathered the 1918 Flu. There was suffering and tragedy but not as rampant as in the more congested areas. Prohibition brought plenty of excitement! I remember when one car made a quick turn at the crossing and took off down the railroad track in a desperate effort to elude the "revenooers." The wheels bounced bumpity-bang over the ties but we didn't hear any shooting so I think the rum runners came out ahead.

From that time on the automobile has kept the place lively. The population has increased but I don't remember when life was dull—at Evaro.