Valley County, IDGenWeb Project
December 7 (FP*) - The death of Simeon Willey, 80, at his cattle ranch on the South Fork of Salmon river on Sunday, November 26, removed another interesting patriarch from the Salmon river wilderness country.
He went to Warren in the early 80's from New York state. At that time mining activity in Warrens camp was at a boom stage. Mr. Willey and his young family packed their worldly possessions on horses and said goodbye to Warren and civilization and crossed Warren summit into the South Fork canyon. They penetrated the rugged canyon country nearly fifty miles, following along the South Fork until they came to a spot where the canyon floor widened and on this spot they set their stakes. Young Willey and his youthful wife built a cabin and settled down to conquer the wilderness and raise a family.
While Simeon took to adventures in mining camp, his brother, Norman B. Willey, turned to adventure in the political life of the territory. Both were intelligent, educated men. Norman was elected lieutenant governor and when Governor George L. Shoup resigned to accept a seat in the United States Senate in 1890, the lieutenant governor took his place.
For many years the Willey's nearest neighbors were the "Dead Shot" Reeds who has squatted on the South Fork 20 miles above. Occasionally during the year members of the two families would meet on the trail; it is said that neither family encouraged visitors.
The Willey family packed farm machinery on horseback from McCall, mowing machines, rakes, haystacker. An original small bunch of cattle was developed into a band of several hundred head. Abundance of range land and wild hay on the bar make the cattle venture a profitable one.
The elder daughter assisted her father with cattle on the range for many years. Two sons later helped. One of the boys was drafted during the World War and was killed. Except for an occasional prospector and hunters in the fall, the sparsely settled South Fork canyon was dominated by the Willey and Reed families.
Lou Thompson, at his place on the South Fork below, related his experience in taking the young Willey boy to McCall at the age of about 14 where the youth saw for the first time a train, automobile, stores, motion pictures - in fact, he got his first glimpse of civilization. The children had been taught at home by their mother.
"Old Sim" as he was known to people along the river, in Warren and McCall, was a genuine pioneer. His reasons for seeking the seclusion of Salmon river wilderness was never known.
Extracted from Cheryl Helmer's Warren Times/A collection of news about Warren, Idaho. Henington Publishing Company, Wolfe City, TX., 1988.
* Idaho County Free Press, Grangeville.
He is buried on the ranch he homesteaded, next to his son Ray who died in 1918. (See Private Cemeteries).
His daughter Pearl Hitchcock's obiturary gives additional family history.
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