Eden Valley is a large open valley that runs parallel to the north shore of the Columbia River, south and east of Grays River and just inland.
Originally the valley prickled with a forest so thick you had to move sideways to squeeze between the trees. These giants encircled small meadows and large beaver ponds frequented by trappers. But with the incoming pioneers the landscape rapidly changed. Ponds were drained, trees were felled, and the valley became an open farming community where hay, potatoes, fruit and vegetables were raised along with beef and milk cows.
Today, farmers, retirees, fishermen, and those who like the sweet smell of country air (and don’t mind the too-frequent bear) live in Eden.
The first pioneer residents of Eden Valley were the brothers Jacob and Matt Lambly and their families. The place was then called Crooked Creek and Jacob Lambly cut the thick trees at the creek’s edge to build the first landing there. From the landing he floated out fresh-cut logs to sell and harbored the first small boats that ferried in the supplies needed for the community.
Early activities might have included trapping, chasing bears out of hollow trees and bear hunting (bear or whale oil was used to grease the Bergman calk boots worn for heavy logging work).
Jacob’s small logging operation grew into a full-sized logging camp under the direction of Alex Durrah. The trees in those days were some of the largest to be found and cutting them down was an awe-inspiring business. It could only be done during the winter and spring, as the rains and snowmelt was needed to flood the creek with enough water to float the giant logs into the Columbia River. Logging remained big business for a long time, and Crooked Creek was often filled with logs. For a boat navigating the creek during the logging season, it was an exercise in caution as the huge logs could easily crush you.
The work of the logger was hard work and dangerous as well. And the “monthly insult” of meager pay aside, no logger could work without his ‘snoose’ (a snuf-like chewing tobacco) and good food. The logging camp cook started at 4:35 am and breakfast included bacon, eggs, boiled potatoes, oatmeal, sourdough pancakes, and coffee.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1870 and the mail came from anywhere it could be gotten, starting with Knappton, then Deep River, then Oneida, then Brookfield. The trip to Brookfield and back took a whole day on foot and the roads were not more than muddy cart tracks most of the time. Another schoolhouse was built in 1897, and the surnames of students attending in 1901 include Juntilla, Wirkkala, Hanson, Sotka, Kessel, Durrah, Ingalls, Utterberg, Smalley, Hill, Olson, Kiviniitty, and Stackley.
True “Civilization” came to Crooked Creek in the form of the first Post Office and store in 1902. The first postmaster was Karl Utterberg, and it was he who named the valley Eden. The Post Office and supplies were fed by a few small boats and these were the primary freight and passenger service along the creek until 1941 when the roads were improved enough for regular car and truck traffic. A miracle called electricity came to the valley a few years later.
Even without electricity, however, the families of Eden Valley still had a lot of fun. There were about 30 families living there in 1933 and for fun and entertainment, they formed a band. When the chores were done you could find the community gathered together at the schoolhouse, where the Sotkas, Durrahs, Baxters, Osbornes, Olmsteads, Olsons, and Metsalas made their own orchestra featuring violin, harmonica, piano, flute, accordion, guitar, saxophone, clarinet, trombone and vocals.
The Post Office continued in Eden Valley until 1931, the last postmasters were Jennie Buskala from 1916-1919 (who married Helge Saari) and Martha Sotka Worrell.
Crazy thing you probably didn’t know:
Goats are good babysitters. Jennie Baskala married Helge Saari and they bought a dairy farm just west of Eden in Altoona c. 1922. The couple had two beautiful daughters and needed a little help keeping the adventurous pair from wandering too close to the river. To assist in this, they purchased a goat, putting it out to pasture near the water. While keeping down the grass, the goat kept an eye on their young daughters and would not let them get too far toward the river.
And finally, because it was so much fun looking through the Library of Congress archives for pictures of goats, I had to post a couple of the best ones below just for fun.
Information in this article from the files at the Appelo Archives. Special thanks Karen Bertoch. Photos by Jon Fairhurst, and from the Library of Congress. For more on Eden Valley and the Grays River area also see the Grays River Grange Website.