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McClure Ranch almost 100 years old


Don McClure stands outside the family homestead where his grandfather settled nearly 100 years ago. - Jacob Wagner photo

In 1918, William McClure and his son, Robert, hitched their horses to their wagon and headed from the Spokane area to the Colville Indian Reservation to establish a homestead claim to 480 acres.

McClures have lived north of Nespelem for generations now as loggers, farmers, cowboys, and homesteaders.

The original homestead is still standing, and over 100 relatives from as far away as Colorado gathered on the family property June 24 to celebrate a little early the 100-year anniversary of the homestead's establishment.

For the first 14 years there was no road to the homestead, located deep in the mountains south of Moses Mountain, 3,500 feet above sea level, and everything, including a plow, had to be taken in on a pack horse.

Only a couple of acres near the homestead were workable as farmland, and were used to grow hay for horses, which was harvested with a scythe, says Don McClure, now 89, on a recent drive there. The homestead was mostly lived in during the summers as the winters could see up to four feet of snow.

In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built a road to the homestead and had a camp in the area.

Robert McClure's son, Don, was born in 1928 and has lived in the area all of his life in other houses and cabins, occasionally staying in the homestead.

"Can you imagine living in a homestead way up here?" McClure asks on the 30-minute modern-day drive from his house up into the mountains to the homestead.

McClure explains a lot about life in the earlier days. His father logged with horses for income. They also milked cows and sold milk, cream, and butter. McClure says that he had been milking cows since he was 6 years old.

His father would make ice cream with a big machine, several gallons at a time.

"We'd use about a whole bottle of vanilla," McClure recalls. "I think the neighbors must have smelled it, because it only seemed to last just a few days."

The McClures would save gigantic amounts of ice in a building that would keep the whole year long.

"We had chickens and pigs and all of that," McClure says. "My dad would cure bacon with salt and we could keep it in a crock for a time. You had to wash all the salt off before you could eat it."

The McClures had electricity installed around 1940, before WWII. McClure says they'd have had to wait until the war was over to install it if they hadn't done it before.

William McClure named a nearby creek North Star Creek, and so the area is sometimes called North Star. The North Star Fire in 2015, the largest in state history, affected many hillsides of the McClure property and they lost a lot of timber, but the homestead survived.

The McClure family homestead in an old photo that serves as the illustration on the cover of Don McClure's book "The Homesteader's Son".

"This is all fireweed," McClure says, referring to the blue and purple flowers that color the countryside amidst burned trees. "They call it that because it grows after a fire."

McClure started dating his wife, Gerry, in September of 1947, and they married two years later.

"I've lived in a number of shacks, so it wasn't a big deal to live in another one," Gerry McClure says about moving into another cabin on the McClure property after they got together. "We are really blessed to live here."

The McClures live in a modern house now, with a nice collection of antique lanterns swinging on the porch, and family nearby.

A book written by Don McClure, titled "The Homesteader's Son," is available at the Grand Coulee library and details the early days of Nespelem, homestead life, and more.

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