My Forty Years Scribblin's
Interviews
Seeley’s Oldest Old-timer

Written in the early 1960s and published in The Missoulian, Mr. Wilber Vaughn's interview was Mildred's first feature story.


In his little log cabin at the head of Owl Creek, lives Wilbur Vaughn, seventy-eight, the oldest old-timer in the Placid-Seeley Lake district.

Born in the Blackfoot Valley July 1, 1886, he attended school at Potomac and Bonner, coming with his parents to settle near Placid Lake when he was about eighteen.

He remembers the first school there, built, he believes, about 1904 "for the Warrens and the Vaughn kids" long before there were other schools at Seeley or in the Swan. The Vaughn kids were his younger brothers and his sister.

"That's a long time to remember," he says, "maybe sixty years."

His father worked for a logger named Bill Boyd, before the Anaconda Company came into the area. And when times were good the few settlers made three or four trips to Missoula each year, returning with wagon loads of supplies, the trip requiring four days. But sometimes life was so hard that even the Indians felt sorry for them.

At this time the Indians still came in bands, to hunt for meat and skins, for their main food and much of their clothing. One Indian lady thoughtfully brought lengths of calico for the busy needle of the white lady with the large family.

They became good friends and according to custom the Vaughn family was given an Indian name.

Later the family moved to Garnet for some years and Vaughn relates many incidents from his six years of hauling the mail and supplies by four horse team and wagon over the tortuous route from Bearmouth to the booming mining town.

It was no grinning matter when a teamster named Jimmy Drivers pulled the tongue out of his wagon, sending the cumbersome conveyance and several tons of dynamite on a tumbling, hair-raising journey to the bottom of China gulch. The wagon was beyond salvage, but it tickles Vaughn now, to remember how the prospectors, delighted at the unexpected windfall, "packed powder all night." Teamsters often had runaways. "And we killed a horse now and then," Vaughn tells, "pulling the hill with a load of freight."

Once he narrowly escaped a holdup when two hijackers stepped out of the bushes expecting to make off with the payroll. But the outcome brings a satisfied grin.

"I got in early that evening," he says, "and they got Swift Chamberlin, instead of me!"

Now the freighting days are only memories and his chief interest lies in trapping and lion hunting. He has spent many a shivering night beside a twig fire under a tree.

"When you get on a cat track you've got to stay with it 'til you get him," Vaughn avows.

He has owned many tracking hounds, but last fall he procured a cross-bred hound and Labrador—which, with three house cats, some horses and a stream of visitors, keeps him from being lonely.

He still has many friends among the Indian people. Occasionally, they come to visit and camp on his homesite. And although the term no longer applies he is still referred to among the "Old Ones" by the Indian name bestowed so long ago—"En-cli-khups," which translates to "Ragged Breaches."