From Pioneer Stock: When the Montanans invaded (Part 2)


Colleen Slater, KP News

Lake Stansbury, the first name of Lewis Lake, still exists on some maps. The road to Vaughn was a narrow, rutted dirt track through the woods.

The Kupka family arrived in 1927 from Libby, with three well-laden vehicles. John Sr. had a 1912 Model T, and Merle, 13, drove a 1917 Model T with John beside him. Mrs. Kupka managed four children, including a nursing baby, in a 1925 Chevy.

One of the girls, Beatrice (Tradewell), said she and Elmer sat on top of stuff, while Elvera held the baby, Ruby. They traveled nine days, camping under a canvas over a pole. Merle’s car had to be towed on and off the ferry from Tacoma, and left in a Gig Harbor shop for a few days.

At Lewis Lake, they stayed in their “tent,” got soaked in a downpour, and found shelter in an old building where “you could throw a cat through the cracks,” wrote Merle Kupka. They built a 16-by-18-foot house, lived in it a year and a half.

Melvin Brones, who worked in a store in Havre and wasn’t well, wanted to move his family west while he was still able. He wasn’t about to buy property sight unseen. They first visited in eastern Oregon, and after a look at the Lewis Lake land, decided to head back there.

The Stinson brothers heard at the dance that a family named Brones had come in, but were leaving the next day. After the dance, about 1 a.m., they drove to the cabin where the Brones were staying, and called, “Brones! Come on out!”

Brones wondered who in the world would know him, but came to the door, and the Stinson boys convinced him to go with them the next day to look at some other property. He liked the looks of one piece, paid for it that day, and lived into his 80s at Vaughn.

Sally and Myrtle Nelson knew no English as small children. Sally did not attend school until Myrtle was 6. Then the two went together, sat in the back, and made paper dolls for their first few years of school. Eventually they learned English, much of it taught by playmate Jane Bradley.

The older Bradley sisters were disappointed to find no music or dancing at their new school in Vaughn. They taught their classmates the High School Fight Song by substituting Vaughn for Havre.

John Wolniewicz built a service station by the old Vaughn Post Office near the Civic Center, towed people as needed, provided mechanic services, and did whatever he could for the community. When the garage burned down, the pumps were saved from the fire, the community helped rebuild, and John was back in business.

Many women raised chickens and sold eggs. The men worked for Davidson Brothers Logging Co., Austin’s mill, found other local jobs, or traveled to the Navy yard in Bremerton.

Everyone in the community looked forward to summer Sundays. Mothers made picnic lunches, children and adults swam and played games. “We thought we were in heaven,” Jane Van Slyke recalled.

Times change. Lewis Lake? Today there are many homes and improved roads there around the water and among the trees.

Where? Lake Holiday.