A $500 donation, a promise of volunteer labor and a commitment to future donations has Land of the Yankee Fork State Park Director Joni Hawley especially excited for the upcoming busy summer season at the state park.
The Snake River Chapter No. 1811 of E Clampus Vitus donated $500 toward the ongoing restoration efforts at the historic mining community of Bayhorse, which is part of the state park’s assets. In addition, members of the all-men’s group committed their time and sweat to Hawley for this summer’s Custer Day, the fall Ride the Bayhorse ATV event and ongoing roof work at Bayhorse.
E Clampus Vitus has been in existence since at least the 1800s and was initially a fraternal organization for miners. Members of the group are now dedicated to preserving western and mining history. They dedicate plaques to recognize sites, incidents and people in Western history that might otherwise be overlooked, they explained to Hawley and her staff earlier this month. They have erected plaques at hundreds of sites, including ghost towns, saloons, bordellos and have recognized people from heroes to madmen. The Idaho “clampers” as they like to be called, posted a plaque at the Shoshone Indian Ice Caves in 2017. That plaque “lets people know it’s not just a tourist trap. There’s history. They mined ice there,” member Justin Schoolcraft said. They’ve helped with several projects in Idaho City.
On April 12, seven members of the group visited Challis and presented the $500 to Hawley, explained their group’s efforts and learned more about Custer County’s mining history. Chapter 1811 is the only clamper chapter in Idaho, based in Boise. Most of its members live in the Magic Valley, but they are looking to grow the group and become more active throughout Idaho. Schoolcraft believes a partnership with Land of the Yankee Fork State Park can help the group recruit more members. People must be invited to join.
They developed a particular interest in Bayhorse after some members visited the site and shared its story with the rest of the group. They’re familiar with many Custer County historic sites, including the town of Custer, the Yankee Fork gold dredge and the silver mining operations around Clayton.
“We don’t want to see Bayhorse left behind,” Kaleb Arndt said. “To be able to bring your kids and walk around there is great. Bayhorse has captured that spirit.”
He’s particularly concerned about taking steps to help ensure that children will be able to see and learn about Idaho’s history at such places as Bayhorse.
The group is aware that Bayhorse isn’t “well funded,” Arndt said. So, they chose it for their first Custer County project.
Besides the check, Arndt and the rest of the members who visited Challis committed to bringing the manpower to help Hawley’s team accomplish work this summer and in the future. Besides helping with a few of the big summer events, group members and Hawley discussed the possibility of them fencing off historic cemeteries in the area and perhaps posting explanatory plaques at those cemeteries. They don’t just hang up a plaque and walk off, Arndt said.
“We take care of our plaques, we are proud of them.” So if a plaque is damaged down the road, they repair or replace it to make sure people who drive to the out-of-the-way places can learn the history of those site, he said.
The group also committed to giving an annual $500 donation to Land of the Yankee Fork for the foreseeable future.
Hawley assured the clampers that she and her staff are also dedicated to mining and history, so the partnership should flourish.