The Brigham-Berreman Families in Idaho
Researched and written by Louise Stockard Ells-Hodge

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Curtis Brigham left Michigan in 1854 for California by way of the Isthmus of Panama. It must have been a difficult decision to leave his wife Esther and sons Alfred and Irving behind while he followed his dream of becoming rich in the gold fields.

The gold strike at Sutters Mill had started five years before his arrival in California. He worked hard and did find some gold but before he could turn it into cash it was stolen from him. The roads and trails were dangerous in those times with desperate men waiting to rob or kill for gold.

In spite of his disappointments he hung on to his self-respect. Curtis was a kind, religious, considerate man who became known for the help he gave his friends and nieghbors. He was well known for his "remedies" and soon became known as "Doc".

After two years his wife and two children, Alfred and Irving repeated his earlier trip to join him. The couples third child John was born in Sarahville (Placerville) California in 1857. Two years later Ella Caroline was born in Alameda county, California. By this time he had moved his family out of the gold mining country and back to farmland. When Ella was seven, Edward was born and five years later Burnis. Now they had six children spanning twenty years. In 1875 his wife Esther died after a period of illness and was buried in Alameda county.

Life on the farm had been quite good but the older boys were anxious to "go it alone." In 1875 Alfred C. ,24, Irving Frank 22, and John,18 loaded their wagons, hitched the teams and waved goodby to their father and siblings. They had been told that land in Idaho was available on pre-emption and homestead claims.

Later, John was to secure both a pre-emption and a homestead from the government in the undeloped district in what is now Latah county. He transformed his land into rich fertile fields, orchards and an excellent fish pond. The orchard would later cover 65 acres. He raised all kinds of fruit, grains, vegtables and live stock. He followed the most advanced methods in his farm work. As the years went by he would have one of the finest properties in the state with a nice house and a good barn.

John lived alone until 1893 when he married Nellie Wilson, the daughter of Mr & Mrs William Wilson of Latah county. The couple had two children, John Wilson and Verna Esther.

The family were members of the United Brethern Church. John was a republican and a member of the 15th territorial council, the state convention which framed the constitution of Idaho. He was a member of the first state senate and in 1899 occupied a seat in the upper house of the general assembly. John considered carefully all issues and his mature judgement had a beneficial influence upon the legislature. He later worked unrelentlessly to help with establishing the University at Moscow.

Alfred C. and brother Irving also lived in the Southwick, Linville area of Latah county.

Hearing from his sons that the promise of free land was true, Curtis, now 54 decided to follow his sons to Idaho. Caroline was 15 and her younger brothers were Edward 9 and Burnis 4. She would take the place of the mother they had lost. Ella cooked, did the washing and watched out for her brothers along the way.

The two heavily loaded wagons were pulled by teams of bay work horses. The wagons were followed by a riding pony and a cow tied to the rear. Driving one of the wagons was Ella. She was strong, fearless and a tomboy. She was tanned from work on the farm in the California sun. Her long black hair was in a practical braid that almost reached her belt.

Curtis had learned that there was an Indian uprising of the Klamath tribe just south of Klamath Falls, Oregon. They were planning to pass that way soon. He told the children of the possibility of trouble and pleaded with them to be cautious and quiet. They entered Klamath Falls without event and stopped for Curtis to buy some supplies. He ask the children to remain in the wagon and stay quiet. He lowered the rear flap on the wagon and left to do the shopping.

While he was gone a curious Indian jerked the flap open and poked his head into the dark interior of the wagon. He looked straight into the dark brown eyes of Ella. She was frieghtened but blurted out "Are you a Klamath" The Indian quickly said "no, are you half-breed?" He then dropped the flap and disappeared. With her dark braided hair and her California sun tan she must have looked very much like a young Indian girl. They continued their journey, all getting used to the dust, hard work and riding in the bouncing wagon.

When reaching the Southwick area of Idaho (in what is now Clearwater county ) Curtis found a small log cabin with the barest essentials but it did have a good roof, a fireplace and an outhouse.

The family had been warned of the coming cold winter weather and Ella knew by the beautiful colored fall leaves that the cold weather would be there shortly. They had warm clothes and plenty of home made quilts and she knew they could get by. Her father and brothers began to cut firewood near by and stack it close to the cabin. Alfred, one of the older brothers came to visit and brought several blocks of dry wood containing streaks of reddish pitch. This would help in getting the fire started in the green (unseasoned) wood.

The fireplace was the only means of cooking and this was new to Ella but she was sure she could do it after a little practice. A large heavy pot hung on an iron hook over the fire where she could cook soups and stews but they would want a little more of a variety in their meals. Curtis put a long handle on their large iron frying pan so Ella could cook without burning her hands. Once Ella became aquainted with some of the nieghbors she asked their advise on feeding a family with only a frying pan and a pot over the fire. Their father was a good hunter and they had hardly gotten settled when he brought home a large deer. She wondered how they could preserve the meat before it spoiled, but she soon found out. Next to the house was a small building that looked like another outhouse but inside it smelled of smoke. Her father told her it was a smoke house and with a small vine maple fire, they could dry some of the venison. The smoking would enhance the flavor and preserve the meat.

Ella Caroline soon became acclimated to her new life in a new community. Even though she longed for a kitchen cook stove and a good way to cover the cabins dirt floor, she knew she could do her share of the work and keep everyone fed, happy and busy.

Curtis had different worries like clearing the land and preparing a garden spot. The property had a good well and the water was cold and clear. He had rigged a chicken house for the few they had brought. The barn held their five horses and a cow.

Ella soon learned to make farmers cheese(cottage cheese) and how to take care of the milk and delicious cream and to make butter. She hung curtains and when the weather became cold she hung quilts over the windows to keep out the cold and it was quite dark inside even in the daylight.

Ella told her two young brothers it was their job to tend the fire and keep the lamps burning. The lamps needed to be filled with kerosene (also called coal oil) every day. The lamp wicks had to be trimmed and the glass chimneys had to be cleaned.

Curtis wanted his children to be educated and to continue their religious beliefs. They met neighbors and they helped with advise about living in the Idaho wilderness.

Two years went by and the family settled in. John, the youngest of the brothers that had arrived in Idaho ahead of the rest of the family had learned the qualifications for teaching school and encouraged Ella Caroline to become a teacher. With his help, she was finally ready to take the teachers test. The problem with that was the test had to be taken many miles down river at Lewiston. It would take her several hours to ride there but she wouldn't let that stop her. She mounted her pony and when she arrived she easily passed the oral test and now was a teacher.

Her first class had students that were older and larger then herself but she had grown up with older brothers and knew she had the resolve to prove that she was in charge and in reading, writing and arithmetic she could surly hold her own.

Her first earnings went to buy things most important to her, lumber for the floor in the cabin, glass windows and a kitchen wood cook stove.

She was a women of means and she was changing from a teenage girl to a responsible woman. Perhaps she was more conscious of her appearance standing in front of her class but suddenly her appearance was different. Her hair was better styled, her clothes were more stylish.

A new preacher came to town. He had earned his title as a preacher in the United Brethern in Christ church. Ella thought he was handsome and was anxious to be courted. His name was James Watson Berreman and after a time, on bended knee, James asked for her hand in marriage. He was 38 and she was 26. They were married April 7,1886 and moved into a home of their own.

By 1898 James and Ella had five children. The Berremans lived near Southwick, (Southwick is about 30 miles east of Moscow )They started out in a log cabin. There George and Hattie were born. The family moved to the barn (about a mile from the cabin) while the house was being built. Dora did not wait for the house to be built but was born in the barn. The four youngest Jim, Frank, Joel and Ella were born in the house.

The family raised stock, grain and garden produce. Everyone in the family had a job to do.

Other thriving communities in the area were Kendrick, Lenville, Comwall, Juliaetta, Brickaville and Cameron. These towns among others were trading centers in their glory days. A blacksmith shop, livery barn and stagecoach stop were some of the essential services offered and there might be a saloon, barber shop and carpenter or wagon shop as well. All the towns mentioned above except Kendrick (once called Latah City), Juliaetta and Southwick are now part of fifteen ghost towns previously in Latah county.

If the family wanted to travel to Moscow, Lewiston or Troy it was quite a trip. The roads were double rut dust or in rainey season, mud up to the hubs and sometimes were only passible by walking and an overnight stay. They rarely left their own communities unless the weather was good and then only to near by communities.

As time went by and better roads and the railroad came some of the settlements faded away because the railroad passed them by.

James Berreman was consumed about the education of his children as they grew older and decided to sell out and move. He sold his farm near Southwick and moved to the John M Williams place west of Southwick. There on March 2,1904, a public sale was held. The family took their remaining belongings, boarded the train and moved to Philomath, Oregon.

Information for the article came from a family book "Let us re-aquaint ourselves with Grandmother Berreman." Written by Clyde Rogers, the grandson of Ella Caroline Brigham Berreman, and The History of North Idaho, published by Western publishing Co. in 1903.

I'd like to thank Mr and Mrs Rogers for the use of the family photo's and all the help they gave me in getting the information.

I'd also like to thank my daughter Tina Ells Fuller and her sons Steve and Heath for taking time out of their busy schedules at work and college to "run down" information on ghost towns and cemeteries in Latah and Clearwater counties for me.

Anyone knowing the names of anyone in the "Cornwall, Idaho" school photo's can contact me at I'm also looking for copies of photo's from any of the other ghost towns in Latah or Clearwater counties.

Curtis Brigham was born in 1821 and died in 1888. He and other family members are buried at Overacker Cemetery. To reach the cemetery you take the Juliaetta road northeast from Genessee for approximately 6 miles, watching for Jones Rd on your right. Drive east on Jones Rd about . 10 mi., the cemetery will be on your right in a grove of trees.

Other Brighams buried there are:

Brigham, Alfred Curtis 2-3-1956, only date, Idaho Pvt S.A.C. Univer of Idaho

Brigham, Betsy Caroline, born 11 -1949, died 9-10-1973 - beloved Daughter

Brigham,Brunis B, born 4-23-1909, died 7-9-1988

Brigham,Curtis, born 1821, died 1888

Brigham, Brigham, Donna Rose, born 4-25-1920, died (no date) s/w Burnis B

Brigham, Ella G, born 10-26-1893

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