My Forty Years Scribblin's
Historical Accounts
Tragedy Came to Evaro

This piece was written in 1997, and published in the Winter 1998 issue of the Charity Peak Outlook. Mildred's father, John Palmer, lived a long life in Evaro.


Some of Montana's early residents were homesteaders, some were lumberjacks. John Palmer, my father, could claim title to both. When barely grown he left his home in Pennsylvania to follow the logging camps when the cream of America's timber was mowed down from the north woods of Maine to the west coast. By 1906 he had discovered western Montana and filed on a homestead near Evaro.

Having satisfied the initial requirements, mainly by building a snug log cabin, he married miss Edna Johnson, daughter of an Evaro rancher, and settled down to a different way of life. They had what most young couples started with, a roof over their heads, mostly homemade furnishings, a slivery board floor scarred from hob nailed boots, and running water—take two buckets and "run to O'Keefe Creek!"

Two babies were born to them. The young wife came out of the woods to a house beside the road at Evaro proper, which was more accessible to the doctor who arrived by horse and buggy, to see that I came into the world on schedule.

A penny postcard showing Mildred about one year old.A year and a half later a second baby was born in Missoula and the girl-mother died, leaving the young lumberjack with two babies whom he didn't know how to handle. Stella Johnson, his young sister-in-law, took me under her wing. She was too young to cope with both of us so the tiny one was given into the care of a railroad family for a couple of months until the railroad man was transferred and someone else had to be found to care for her. The grandmother of Edna was proficient in the care of babies, having raised a large family of her own along with several other people's children. Her message was "Bring her up here."

The young father hitched his horse to the buggy, bundled up his baby and drove fifteen miles in the predawn darkness to catch the Bitterroot special to Charlos Heights, eight miles above Hamilton, in early March!

How bleak and empty that cabin must have been, but he "proved up" on his claim and never remarried. He put down roots in the little community and served for a number of years on the school board while working at the various area lumber camps. In 1912 he built a new cabin, a little shorter walk to the store and to the post office to get his mail. At some time in those early years his bachelor brother, Fred, came to occupy the new cabin with him.

Johnny Palmer knew the animals that shared the mountain homestead with him, where the best huckleberries grew, and anyone caught breaking the bushes was apt to get a reprimand! His favorite by-word?—the old lumberjacks' expression—Holey Old Mackinaw!

The presumption that the old time woodsmen were a hard drinking, hard fighting lot was at best only half true. My father was a well spoken, well mannered, peaceable man. He grew old among the friends and cronies he'd known most of his life, and although he has been gone for almost forty years, there are still people who refer to the old place as Johnny Palmer's meadows.