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Ione Adair and the 1910 Fires

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

Born Ione Adair, Pinky was ten when her parents left Kansas for the frontier in search of a new life.  They settled in Moscow, Idaho where the community welcomed Dr. Adair and his clan. [The Adairs were the second family to live in McConnell Mansion.] The family took in boarders and enjoyed an active social life, including summers spent on a family homestead where Pinky was one of the first girls to ride “stride saddle.”

In 1910 Pinky decided to establish a homestead of her own. This was a daunting course of action, but one Pinky pursued unwaveringly. She taught school to make money both to claim the land and build a cabin. The journey into the timber by stage, train and packhorse (who fell off a snowy trail) getting supplies, staking a claim and building her home presented every imaginable obstacle. But Pinky and her fellow female homesteaders (The Maidens of 49 Meadows) established their own small colony.

But the Big Burn of 1910 had changed it all, for the homesteaders and what would become the New West.

Pinky could be seen through the smoke by her fiery hair and .38 revolver she always strapped to her waist.  As the blaze encroached, she was approached to cook for some of the thousands of recruits enlisted to fight the fire. It was a grueling assignment, but she persisted, making the most of sparse supplies (though later in life she had trouble even looking at a potato). No one in her family knew her fate, and after weeks feared for the worst. By August 20th, the fire was so bad their encampment erupted in anarchy.  Finally, Pinky snatched her blanket and headed for the nearby river with, among others, five dozen prisoners from Missoula. Alone, Pinky crawled out of the river and declared she wouldn’t die in the creek.  They declared HER crazy and she scoffed she had no intention of dying there and would WALK to Avery, some thirty miles away.

–From Annie Fujii, great-niece of Ione Adair.

Following is a transcript of the journal entries pictured above, chronicling two days of Ione Adair’s experience as a camp cook during the 1910 fires.

Journal transcript:

Aug.  3.   Wednesday.  How time does fly. We have but little time. we took time to wash and bath our feet this P.M. Such dirty greasy clothes you never saw in all your life. My eyes are nearly put out. I slept last night for the first time in a week. I could not sleep Tues night because the horses were right behind our beds and stampeded three or four times trying to get to the trail. Aug. 4,  All went well till five thirty. Nine extras came in for supper. There was some pretty tall hustling to make a dinner for eight do for nineteen. The cooks waited. Mc Peak brought the packs in also the mail. got a letter from Evon[?] & Cad also a note from Papa. More horses for[?] nightmare only twelve head at our bid last evening.

Come visit the Centennial Annex for more information on Ione Adair and her family.

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