By Joanna Bastian
Just about everyone in the Methow Valley might be living on a piece of history. On Libby Creek, Wendy and Bill Snook live in a red cabin, next to a pair of quiet ponds and a bubbling creek. Being the curious type, Wendy searched out the story of their homestead through interviews and article research, including the archives of the Methow Valley News.
Their cabin was originally built in 1906 by Martin Bockhop, a German immigrant. Twelve years earlier, Bockhop emigrated from Germany to San Francisco. In 1898 he joined the Klondike gold rush and spent nearly a decade mining in Alaska before moving to the Methow Valley.
Bockhop built a one-room cabin along Smith Creek in the Libby Creek area. His neighbors were the Smith family. Wendy spoke with Deke Smith before he passed away about his German neighbor. Deke remembered Bockhop well. Deke called his friendly neighbor “Wooden Foot,” for his slight limp, and teased him for his German accent.
Later in life, Bockhop moved to Carlton and lived his last four years on the main street. He grew beautiful shrubs and flowers and even tried his hand at developing a black tulip variety. Martin passed away in 1938.
For a time, Deke used Bockhop’s cabin as a way station when he herded cattle. Bill Snook bought the place in the 1980s and brought the cabin into the 20th century with indoor plumbing, electricity and modern upgrades.
Today, the kitchen overlooks a warm living room with vaulted ceilings and a view of the wide porch overlooking Smith Creek and a pair of ponds.
When reading up on Deke Smith, I found another interview with him by Ron Strickland, recounted in his book, River Pigs and Cayuses: Oral Histories from the Pacific Northwest. The book can be found at the Twisp library. The introduction is picturesque: Deke standing in the doorway of his home on Smith Canyon, overlooking the mountains. Deke talked about the dwindling population of the Methow Indians, the salmon, the game and, then, the homesteaders as they lost their homes during the Depression. In Deke’s lifetime, even the language was lost. As a boy, Deke learned to speak Chinook, the region’s trade language. No one used it anymore.
He talked about the summer encampment on Libby Creek, when Methow Indians caught salmon from the creek, hunted deer, and gathered roots and berries. When winter came, the Methows would move down valley closer to the confluence of the Methow and Columbia rivers. “No Indian ever stayed here in winter. They were smarter than that. You’d never see an Indian shoveling snow,” Deke said.
Deke recalled the winter parties that the settlers threw to pass the long winter’s nights. Everyone, from babies to grandparents, would gather at a neighbor’s house and dance and feast. Hard cider and fiddlers made the long winter nights enjoyable.
On one such night, some “hooligans” decided to have some fun. Sneaking into a roomful of sleeping babies, they switched all the baby blankets. Later that night, when the temperatures were well below zero, the mothers gathered up their babies without waking them, identifying their bundles by the blankets. When the babies awoke later that morning, everyone had to drive long distances to trade babies. Perhaps this is why “babysitters” were soon invented.