Ranger Henry Knight is the answer for Week 462 of Orofino History Trivia a special feature to celebrate the history and heritage of Clearwater Country.
Join in the discovery!
Monday: Fall 1918
Tuesday: A very angry man
Wednesday: A theft
Thursday: Cost a man his job
Friday: He ended up in prison.
Saturday: A whiskey cache
Monday: Workers leaving for the winter
Tuesday: A trapper and packer were involved.
Wednesday: Followed tracks
Thursday: From Pierce
Friday: He was a good woodsman.
Saturday: Was leaving the forest for the winter
Monday: He chased the man down the trail.
Tuesday: This ranger had gone to close up a lookout.
Wednesday: A man of strength and endurance that few could match in a hike over the mountains.
Friday: He stole $50 from the packer.
Saturday: Chamberlain Meadows District
The Clearwater Story: A History of the Clearwater National Forest records a story about a ranger on the Chambelain District that got into a lot of trouble over a whiskey cache.
Most Forest Service personnel had a reputation of being good citizens and able to work together in the greatest harmony even under stressful circumstances. But there were exceptions. One was Ranger Henry Knight. In the fall of 1918 the fire season was over and Forest Service personnel were packing up to leave for the winter. There had been a snow storm that had covered the high country, but it had melted except for along the creeks and in shaded places. Knight was the only Forest Service man left on the district, besides a packer. They were closing buildings for the winter. Clearwater Mining Company had also laid off its crews, but hired a man who worked at Chamberlain Meadows Ranger Station during the summer to stay at their camp to shovel snow off the buildings and etc. He also planned to a little trapping during the winter.
Knight had worked for the Forest Service for several summers and passed the ranger exam the previous year. He had received a probational appointment early in 1918. According to the account, he was a good woodsman and a man of great strength and endurance. Few men could match him in hiking over the mountains. He expected to receive his firm appointment after have what was so far a successful year. However, those who worked with him knew he had a terrible temper and would resort to acts of violence when enraged. Once in a fit of anger, he shot one of his horses.
In 1918, Idaho was a dry state and Montana was wet. Since Knight had a taste for whiskey he decided that as far as liquor laws were concerned, Montana lapped far enough west to take in the ranger station. So, when he took over the station early in the spring, he purchased a small cask of whiskey in Montana. He kept it cached in a grove of trees near the creek a short distance from the cabin. Other people knew it was there, but also knew they better keep their hands off.
Knight had gone off to close up a lookout and stay over night before returning to the station the next morning. The packer was to make his final departure the next morning for Superior, MT, with the packstock, leaving Knight's two horses for him to take out by way of Pierce. The packer left on schedule.
Shortly after he left, the trapper working for the mining company arrived at the station from a different direction. He found no one there. He knew the location of the whisky cache and thought what wonderful addition for his winter supplies if he could someway get it without being suspected of theft and being called account by the owner. The whiskey cache was surrounded by snow, but the trapper noticed a pair of rubber shoes hanging on a nail. He changed to those to get the whiskey and then changed back to his own and left.
When Knight got back and found his whiskey gone he was enraged and with the tracks of the rubber shoes figured he knew just who had taken it and headed out looking for the packer. The packer had taken a longer, easier route because he did not expect any problem. Knight took the shorter route and caught up with him and at gunpoint demanded he unload the whiskey. The packer told him he did not have it, but after a few angry words, Knight gave him three choices: product the whiskey, pay him $50 or die on the spot. The packer paid the $50 and went on his way.
The packer decided to punish Knight and swore out a complaint of armed robbery. Knight was arrested and brought before the judge who eventually sentenced him to six months in jail. Of course, he also lost his position with the Forest Service.
The trapper later admitted what he had done and that it had turned out far more serious than he had anticipated.
Up to that time, Knight had been guilty of some minor infractions, but from that time forward had a life of crime. He was in and out of prison. He finally committed murder in Butte, MT and killed himself when police surrounded him to arrest him.
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Orofino, ID 83544
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