Home | Features | History | Clark Fork celebrates its 100th year

Clark Fork celebrates its 100th year

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
This 1918 photo from the Lawrence Mine (from the C. Peterson collection now at the Bonner County Museum), shows Helmer Erickson, Joe Reed, three unknown men and Angus Reed. This 1918 photo from the Lawrence Mine (from the C. Peterson collection now at the Bonner County Museum), shows Helmer Erickson, Joe Reed, three unknown men and Angus Reed.

When “Clarks Fork” became an official town in the state of Idaho in May of 1911, it could be argued that it was already past its heyday. Originally settled in the 1880s by men who came to build a railroad, prospect for gold and silver, or cut trees to feed the world’s voracious appetite for wood, prior to incorporation the town had hotels, barber shops, grocery stores, saloons, a skating rink and a volunteer fire department. Carved out of the wilderness and built with the blood, sweat and tears of its earliest settlers, the town had 229 residents by 1900. By 1911, when it officially became a ‘town,’ children born in the shade of Scotchman’s Peak were now old enough to give birth to a second generation of Clark Fork “natives.”

On July 2, Clark Fork will celebrate its centennial. This commemoration, says city councilman Roger Anderson, is a way for the community to come together and celebrate “being a town and being a community... being neighbors.”

Clark Fork Centennial logo

The party, which takes place just two days prior to the town’s traditional Independence Day celebrations, will make for a long weekend of festivities that hearken back to a time when community meant more than just the place where you live.

No one knows now for sure the identity of the first person to put down permanent roots in what would become Clark Fork. Native Americans had long travelled through this area but were not believed to have made any permanent settlement; trappers found bountiful wildlife and the odd prospector or two undoubtedly roamed the mountains looking for a lucky strike. But whites, along with hundreds of Chinese laborers, didn’t really come to the area in force until the early 1880s, when the Northern Pacific Railroad carved its Clark Fork Division out of this portion of the Cabinets.

In the 1880 census for Kootenai County, which at that time included the Clark Fork area, no names were listed as resident in this vicinity. Ida Daugharty Hawkins, however, whose grandparents arrived in the area in the 1880s and is an avid amateur historian, names John Nagel as the area’s first settler. He and his wife, Annie, received a federal patent in 1900, and John was the man who platted most of the land he homesteaded into the residential and business district of today. 

If Nagel wasn’t the very first resident (and he likely was), he was certainly one of the most influential. He was the first postmaster, donated the land where the Methodist Church stands, partnered in the general store and fathered the first child—his daughter, Alice—to be born in Clark Fork.

A 1950 article in the News-Bulletin names Herman (Fitz) Vogel, Sr. of Clark Fork as the longest resident of Bonner County (Nagel had died 15 years earlier.) The Vogels were another family among the original settlers.

Vogels and Nagels were on the 1900 census for the Clarks Fork District. Herman Vogel (from Switzerland) was there with his wife Catherine and working as a “tie-maker” (likely related to the railroad, not fashion). John Nagle (from Germany) and his wife Annie are found around 50 entries later; John is the manager of a sawmill at this time, though he had also worked as a tie-maker in previous years.

Look through that 1900 census, in fact, and you’ll find more names that ring with familiarity; at least, they will if you’ve spent any time around this little community on the east end of Bonner County. 

John White of Mississippi, whose son and grandson would both go on to represent Idaho in the U.S. Congress, was the railroad station agent; William Derr of New York and John Derr of Michigan were both farmers; James Brashear of New York was a bridge builder.

Descendents of these families, and of those who came to this area in the decades since, will all be on hand to help Clark Fork celebrate its 100th birthday.

The centennial committee has established a website (www.clarkfork100.com) and a Facebook page (search for Clark Fork centennial) along with an official logo (designed by Doug Fluckiger and available on a commemorative t-shirt) as plans move into high gear for this day of making merry.

Events kick off at 8 am with a Pancake Breakfast at the Senior Center; at 8:30, a softball tournament, harkening back to the old days of baseball rivalry in these small towns, will begin. Vendors will be set up on the school grounds, and the library is looking into some type of display. Expect live music and a community potluck in the shade of the old Clarks Fork school, a kid’s fishing derby, and the Injector’s Car Club will be on hand for a look at what some of our mid-century settlers were driving.

The Frank Vogel house (the “pink house” as some might know it) has been completely remodeled as a bed and breakfast and will be open for tours.

Frank Vogel House, Clark Fork

Visitors might plan to spend a couple of days, as at 9 am on the fourth, the town’s traditional Independence Day celebration will begin with the firing of rifles at the start of the parade. Games, races and raffles will take place on the school grounds immediately after the parade; don’t forget to stop at the Booster Club’s food booth for an early-morning burger or smokie. At lunch, head down to the ball field for turtle races, watermelon eating contests, chain saw and cross-cut saw events, a beer garden and more. Then top it all off with an incredible fireworks show at dusk.

These two celebrations are not just about fun and games, however; they demonstrate that Clark Fork has never forgotten what it means to be a community. Come join us in celebrating our history.

Subscribe to comments feed Comments (0 posted)

total: | displaying:

Post your comment

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Underline
  • Quote

Please enter the code you see in the image:

  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Author info

Landon Otis

Tagged as:

Homepage, Headlines, Clark Fork, Clarks Fork, centennial, John Nagle, Herman Vogel, John White, William Derr, John Derr, James Brashear, Doug Fluckiger, Roger Anderson, Frank Vogel house

Rate this article