Being on the back deck of the lodge early morning with a warm cup of coffee is breathtaking. I can’t help but to enjoy the peace and silence. The morning cup of joe taking in the views of the ranch has been done for decades. Looking through the old records you’ll find lists of names on census reports, deeds, and old homestead documents of people who have lived here before. There’s only a few records of an old man by the name of Amos Vaughn from Iowa. He lived at Red Horse Mountain Ranch in the early 1900’s but only briefly. There’s little history of the man in the records but his story is timeless and it reminds me why the ranch is so important in today’s world.
In the early 1900’s, Harrison, Idaho was a busy little town with the logging operations, supportive businesses, steamships, and it was buzzing with activity. Homesteaders were making their way west. The rail and wagons provided transportation. One such man tried to make his claim and bought 21 acres along the lower east border of the ranch near Blue Lake. Mr. Amos C. Vaughn was not like the rest of the young men trying to build their home and carve out a way for a new family. In fact, when Amos signed for the land I think he was escaping his memories of war and incredible loss.
After his parents moved north to Iowa, Amos was born in 1842 into a growing farm family. His twin sister passed not long after birth. He was given his father’s name. As the Civil War began to heat up, their happy Life on a Missouri Farm dramatically changed. His father, also named Amos, was a “Yankee” in Missouri, whom was harassed and even arrested and jailed for a time.
Sometime after September of 1863 the Vaughns moved to a farm in Cass County, then part of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, where his father worked hauling freight. When the war broke, both Amos and his brother William enlisted in the Civil War. William was captured and spent some time at Andersonville Prison, one of the largest confederate prisons holding over 45,000. William died soon after his release as a result of the poor treatment while in prison. Amos, now 22 years old, was assigned to the 15th Infantry Regiment, Iowa. The men fought until July of 1865 and the regiment had lost over 350 men. Amos saw battles such as Corinth, Kenesaw Mountain, Atlanta, Savanah, and others. The 15th Iowa was said to fight like demons against the savage assaults of the enemy, even repelling seven charges in one day from the enemy. H.T. Reid, Commander of the 15th recounts surrounding their flag in a last stand where 40 men were killed and many more wounded.
After the war, his parents continued operating a family stagecoach stop and hotel in Indiantown, Iowa. Something happened because decades would past before Amos would make contact with his folks again. Both of his parents were strong people. During the War of the Rebellion, Amos’s mother rode her favorite horse, taking a string of other horses with her, into Iowa state to keep Rebel soldiers in Missouri from getting their stock. It appears from records, Amos would not have the opportunity to see them again.
During the next few decades, Amos disappeared into the West. Stories of him buying 500 head of horses in Mexico has surfaced. As the story goes, Amos lost over half of the horses from Indians stampeding the herd but still was able to make a decent profit. About the time of his father’s death, he surfaces again in Columbia, Oregon and married Margaret Cloninger and the couple gives birth to their first daughter, Mary. Amos has another daughter, Effie and a son named Allen. Allen’s records are also sparse, but it appears he enlisted in WWI then again enlisted at the age of 60 for WWII, passing in 1956. Mary’s records are also scarce, but it does appear she had a family in Clatsop until her early death in 1915. By 1908, Amos has lost his wife and daughter Effie. It seems the family went separate directions.
In March of 1909, Amos finds the ranch and offers to homestead 21 acres at the age of 67. Frank Wilbur, Harvey Kelly, Lucas Lawrence, and Peter Delonay all homestead other pieces of the ranch around the same time. That year, John Nederhood who married a local from Harrison would pass away not long after he finishes building their home on the ranch. John’s daughter would be born a month later. When the 1910 Census occurs in town, Amos reports in the midst of these other names. They must have been standing together in line. Back then it must have been the big thing in town. He tells the government he is single and a veteran of the Civil War. He also reports to be a gardener and living on a small farm. The Great fire of 1910 would soon rush through North Idaho. By 1920 Census, Amos reports he is not working. He’s 77 years old and in a few months would pass away to a stomach sickness believed to have been caused by a war injury. He is buried in Boise, Idaho. The story of his death does make it back to his family in Iowa.
I can only imagine the stories Amos could have told about his adventures out west and bringing in a herd of 500 head. I imagine the loss of his wife and daughter. The distance and apparent isolation from his family back home in Iowa. I wonder if his daughter Mary and son Allen ever reconnected. I think of the heroism of being a soldier and the treachery of the Civil War. I can almost see old Amos standing by his wood stove during a heavy winter pouring a cup of coffee. He walks out of his one room log home and sits in an old wood chair on his covered porch with a thick wool jacket. He’s contemplating as he looks out across the ranch valley and feeling a sense of peace and sorrow as he remembers all the people that have gone before him. He’s wondering what happens to this little slice of Heaven years from now. I think if he saw it he may just crack a smile.