By Joanna Bastian
Stretching back in time, to late summer 2011, I walked with Taza Keene near her home on Squaw Creek. She was showing me the remnants of the original town site of Methow — then named for the stream running nearby.
In that brief moment in time, a mossy roof covered a pit house, built below ground level with stone walls, 6 feet wide by 12 feet long. We imagined it served as cold storage for apples and root vegetables. Nearby, a small building leaned sideways, the door askew held on by a bit of rusty hinge. A sign by the door indicated that this building was used for perhaps commerce, but the paint had long ago faded away and any content that would provide meaningful context had been carried away.
As the warm morning sun lit up the weathered boards and rusty hinges with a golden light, it was easy to imagine the optimism and hope that started this town site near several mines where gold, silver, nickel and copper had been discovered.
Not much was left behind of the little town of Squaw Creek. It was only there for a short time during the mining boom before the inhabitants literally picked it up and moved it down to the present site of Methow. In 1892, W.A. Bolinger opened a general store at Squaw Creek. At that time the miner’s camp was home to 300 people. In 1898, W.A. moved his store down to the valley floor, and the townspeople soon followed, moving homes, businesses, and even the log schoolhouse. The original schoolhouse can still be seen, currently concealed in lilac bushes across the highway from the white church in Methow.
I went back to the original town site this last weekend. The decayed wooden beams were gone, consumed by last month’s fierce torridity that took nearly all the homes on Squaw Creek. All that was left of the original Squaw Creek town were indentations of forgotten foundations.
A book of collected newspaper clippings featuring the town of Squaw Creek and the surrounding areas makes for an interesting read on a rainy day. Bob Tonseth put together and published Methow — A Scrapbook, from a collection of articles gathered by early residents Isabel Dunbar and Audrea Mills. One selection is a rhyming letter dated March 12, 1897, and titled, “Squaw Creek Items.” One choice stanza describes life in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business:
“Earl Mills and Ed Tabor are running a drift,
But once a week Earl loses a shift,
The reason for this I will not tell,
For the people of Squaw Creek know it well.”
Another small town hazard is the risk of someone leaving a zucchini in your vehicle if you leave the doors unlocked. If that happens, I would suggest making zucchini fries, which go great with prime rib sandwiches smothered in onions, mushrooms, peppers and provolone cheese. Email me for the recipe at Methowjoanna@gmail.com. In exchange, all I ask in return is a story idea.