By Jerry Lee Fleming

9-1_JosephKirkwoodI am Jerry Lee Fleming, oldest child of Donald Elmo and Betty [Mowery] Fleming. My great-great-grandparents were Joseph Isaiah and Sarah [Cooper] Kirkwood. Joseph Isaiah Kirkwood was the son of Joseph and Louisiana Kirkwood. He was married twice before moving to Colfax, Washington, where he married his cousin once removed, Sarah Margaret Cooper-Russell on February 4, 1879. My Grandfather Archie Fleming was a grandson of Joseph and Sarah. He told me many stories about Joseph and his family. I wish I had paid more attention to these stories but as a young man many passed right on through. Because some were told to me many times I did soak them up. Mel Moss, Elly Newbell and Frank Stiles have also relayed some other information.

The area where my Great-great-grandfather homesteaded is in the Southwestern part of Stevens County in the state of Washington and was settled for several reasons. There was farming in the valley that was later called Prince Valley. Another reason was that soldiers from nearby Fort Spokane (20 miles away) decided to stay in the area when mustering out of the service instead of returning to their hometowns. Probably the most prominent reason was towards the end of the 18th century silver, copper and magnetite (used to harden steel) were discovered in the mountains around Prince Valley. With the manpower needed to mine in those days, many small towns, such as Deer Trail, Cedarville, and Turk, sprung up in the mining area. From Deer Trail to Turk was only 2 to 3 miles with Cedarville in the middle.

Deer Trail was the biggest because of the mill for processing the ore. Deer Trail supported a hotel, stores, tavern, post office, cookhouse, bunkhouse, and other specialties that miners needed. Since Joseph was a blacksmith, with the multitude of mines in the area, it was like turning a child loose in a candy store.

Joseph and Sarah had two children, Grace and Fred, both born in Colfax. From Colfax they moved to Davenport, Washington. When they moved from Davenport they first settled in Cedarville. About 1895, they moved a half-mile down the road to the area that would become, but now abandoned, the town of Turk, Washington.

Grace was nicknamed “Grams” and Fred “Hardrock”, with Fred being the most colorful of the group. [More of Fred’s (Hardrock) antics later.]

9-2_FrederickKirkwoodOne of the things that my grandfather Archie told me about his grandfather (Joseph) was his love of animals which is obvious when you see pictures of Joseph and Sarah — there is nearly always a dog or cat in the picture. I guess it runs in the family because we all love animals.

Sarah (Cooper) Kirkwood died in 1922 due mainly to stomach cancer and is buried at Greenwood Cemetery near Hunters, Washington. Joseph continued to live in Turk till he got sick in 1936 and his daughter Grace and grandson Archie moved him to Benton City, Washington. He died there in 1946.

Frank Stiles, mentioned earlier, was born at Turk in 1916 and was Joseph’s neighbor and knew him quite well. In 1928, Frank Stiles broke a blade on his pocketknife. Attesting to Joseph’s skill as a blacksmith, Frank says that Joseph learned the knife’s condition and told Frank to bring the knife to him for repair. As it goes Frank said that Joseph fixed his knife and it worked ‘good’ for years.

I wish I could tell you more about Joseph or Sarah, but for some reason the conversations always seemed to end up about Fred (Hardrock) Kirkwood; the most colorful member of the family.

Fred was born in Colfax County and moved around with his father and mother until they settled in at Turk. Fred was a slender man and many would attest to the fact that he could out walk almost anything. When working in the mines the other men would take a wagon and horse or Model A to work. Fred would walk over the mountain and would always be waiting for them.

Hardrock would walk to Davenport, Washington (a town about 40 miles east) to catch the stage (bus). There is one story that while going to catch a stage a man in a wagon stopped and asked if he would want a ride. Hardrock’s reply was, “No thanks. I’m in a hurry.”

Fred would walk through Coyote Canyon and across the Spokane Indian Reservation. He had an Indian friend that would row him across the Spokane River (not taking the bridge) then through Sand Flats to Davenport. They say that Fred very seldom took the road unless it got in his way.

Hardrock seemed to pay attention to business working with the mining companies until about the middle age, when he acquired a taste for the demon rum. Now, Fred would work hard for months on end before he would fall off the wagon, but when he did he would try to make up for time lost. No one really knows why Fred took up drinking; maybe it was because it was against the law.

Fred was married once, but it was short lived. It must have happened during one of his thirsty moments. He had been known to take off for days on end when he was drinking. Anyway, from what I heard, she ran him off with a shotgun. That was Fred’s only try at marriage.

Fred (Hardrock) spent most of his time working for the different mining companies in the area and he must have been a valuable worker because he would go on the extended libations and be welcomed back when he returned.

10-1_FlemingsDuring the Depression, times were tough and many would do anything to make a buck or get a drink. My grandfather Archie told me that he was walking past a saloon in Spokane when he thought he heard a familiar voice, so grandfather looked in and there was Hardrock, all duded up in a suit, vest, and gold watch chain. He was standing at the bar looking very distinguished. Fred was telling the crowd around him that he was a mining engineer and was hiring men to work a mine in South America. With Fred’s background in mining he could talk the talk and with the hard times the men were eager to be hired. What was the motive? The motive was free drinks. The men were buying Fred drinks to try and get hired. Fred was no dummy.

As I have said earlier, I wished that I would have paid more attention to the stories told to me, but I did soak up some of the information and hope that all who read this enjoy the material.

Footnote: In the second paragraph above Jerry states that Joseph was married twice before moving to Colfax. I believe the basis of this statement was the postings on Joseph’s family page in the Rachel Cooper Matheny archive.

Postings on the page list those two wives as 1. Madge Farr & 2. Bonnie Wallace. Also listed were 3 children in addition to Grace and Fred; Madge had a son named Robert; Bonnie had a daughter named Jean and a son named Thomas. Robert was listed as dying in October 1978 at 100 years of age

Following the 2007 reunion a Post-it note was found on the family page of Joseph Isaiah Kirkwood in the Rachel Cooper Matheny archive book. The note read, “Madge wasn’t 100 years when she died. I will get the data for you by next reunion.”

At this time the author of that note has not come forward with the promised data. My research indicates that the two wives and three children that are credited to Joseph Isaiah Kirkwood should have been listed as belonging to Joseph Edward Kirkwood, the son of Thomas Tillman Kirkwood. –Mel Moss

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.