The Markham Family: Laclede – Seneacquoteen Pioneers

Before the white man came to this area there was a place called Seneacquoteen. The beautiful meadows and easy access to the river had from time immemorial, made it a camping place and a place of crossing for the Indians. In fact, the name itself comes from the Kalispell or Pend Oreille language and means "crossing." The early fur traders followed the same trail and in 1864, the first ferry was built to cross the river from Seneacquoteen to what is now Laclede. The gold rushes in Montana and British Columbia brought thousands of miners along the trail on their way to the digs. During this time, a wagon road ran from Walla Walla, Washington as far as the Markham ferry. A pack trail, called the Wild Horse Trail, ran from Laclede, through Sandpoint, to Bonners Ferry, and on to the White Horse mines near Fort Steele, British Columbia.

The first white man to settle in the Laclede - Seneacquoteen area was Lyman Markham. In 1864, he built the first ferry across the Pend Oreille River from Seneacquoteen to Markham which was later renamed Laclede, which was named for a French engineer who worked on the Great Northern Railroad. Lyman Markham built a log cabin in which to live and trade with the Indians.

In 1883, his brother Francis Markham and his wife Elmina joined Lyman. They had seven children, had traveled from Astoria, Oregon by train, and had arrived in Sandpoint on 2 November. Elmina Markham recalled that there were no wagon roads from Sandpoint to Laclede when her family arrived in the area. The family loaded into a leaky rowboat for the 18-mile trip and arrived at the ferry site well after dark. Elmina left us a verbal picture of what their life along the Pend Oreille River was like. She stated that the closest white people to them were in Sandpoint. Her only neighbors were Indians and at first, she had a hard time understanding them but she eventually learned to "talk Indian." She found the local Indians to be friendly and she established a good relationship with the women.

In 1885, Francis Markham purchased the ferry from his brother and the Markham family ran it for many years. Lyman Markham, after selling his ferry, moved to a farm about two miles up river. In that same year, people started coming into the area and in 1901, Andy Christenson built a sawmill in Laclede. Over 100 men were employed at the mill and many others went to work in the logging camps providing logs for the mill. The small community of Laclede began a period of growth to meet the needs of the mill workers and their families. There was a school, houses for the workers, a boarding house for single men, a mercantile store, and a post office. Laclede centered on the Laclede Lumber Company owned by Christenson.

In 1909, a man came upon the scene that would change the little village of Laclede. His name was A.C. White and he had had lumber experience in Michigan. He bought the Laclede mill from Andy Christenson and immediately started to expand the operation. He hired an additional 100 men to build a railroad up Riley Creek. This opened new territory from which to cut the logs needed at the mill.

Laclede grew rapidly and many of the workers built their own homes. The old school building was replaced by a four-room schoolhouse and the religious and social life of Laclede kept pace with the town's growth. Everything went well for thirteen years but disaster struck on August 17, 1922. The A.C. White mill and all its outbuildings burned in just a matter of hours. Along with the mill there was over a square mile of dry and cured lumber that went up in smoke. All the workers could do was watch as stack after stack of the lumber burned.

The residents of Laclede urged White to rebuild in Laclede but he knew that time was of the essence and if he did not get back in operation, he could lose many of his eastern customers. Instead of building in Laclede, he bought the mill that was located in Dover, just 10 miles upstream. One by one, the buildings that had escaped the fire were moved from Laclede to Dover by barge. White's summer home was moved and converted to a church - it still stands today. By late fall of 1923, Laclede was almost a ghost town.

Today Laclede is home to the Idaho Forest Group formerly the Riley Creek Mill. Many people have retired there to enjoy the peace and serenity the area offers.

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