During World War II, Charles Cook, of Irwin, Pennsylvania, came west and obtained work at Hanford, Washington. On a holiday trip with a friend, he fell in love with the little town of Blanchard, Idaho. He decided immediately that this was the place he wanted to live out the rest of his years. After the war, he retired from Hanford and came to Blanchard to live.
It was a friendship between Charlie and my husband Dr. L. S. Adams that began back in Irwin that brought our family to Blanchard. In 1952, we were returning to our home in Seattle, Washington, from a trip to Detroit, where we had purchased a new car. Arriving early in the afternoon in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, my husband said, “Look at the map and see how far we are from Blanchard. I have an old friend there and, if it isn’t too far out of our way, I’d like to stop and see him.” It wasn’t far, but it was, as it is today, barely a dot on the map.
So with our two small, travel-worn children, Randy and Barbara, we headed north toward that dot to find an old acquaintance. We were confident that we could find a motel and that we’d be on our way by the next day. As we rounded the curve overlooking Blanchard Lake, there stood a little log cabin which would eventually become our home. The old log house was an intriguing sight because of its bark-covered log construction. In later years, this cabin would be purchased by our dear friend Charlie and moved from that original location.
The first lady to greet us when we reached Blanchard was Lou “Sonni” Capallan. Charlie lived in a little shake house next door to the Capellan family home on Highway 41 in downtown Blanchard. When Sonni saw a strange car pull into Charlie’s yard, she immediately came over to investigate. She unlocked the house and insisted that we take the children inside and wait. It was about 3:30 p.m. and she told us that Charlie was due home any minute.
Shortly thereafter, Charlie arrived. He was so surprised and delighted to see his old friend and he made us all feel welcome. He assured us that there were no motels for miles around, short of returning to Coeur d’Alene, and he would not hear of it. He insisted that we use his double (questionable) cot-bed, while he took the couch. Randy, our oldest child, sacked out on the floor and Barbara, the baby, slept soundly in her car bed. Such a night I’ll never forget! The cot sagged in the middle, but luckily Charlie’s hospitality and talkative nature exceeded our discomfort. Dr. Adams and Charlie visited into the night, renewing their friendship and reminiscing.
The next morning, Charlie was insistent that we could not leave until we had a tour of Blanchard and the Blanchard Trading Company, a general store. We met Fielden Piorier Sr., the store proprietor, and several other wonderful people who later became dear friends. We were so impressed that we promised to return from Seattle again at our next opportunity.
We did so on many occasions until we bought the bark-covered log cabin from Charlie. He had moved it from the lake and placed it next to his home for use as a chicken coop. However, it was not hard to convince Charlie to abandon those intentions and sell us the building. On one of our weekend visits, I gazed out Charlie’s front window toward the cabin and said, “Charlie if we are going to remain friends, you need to sell us that chicken coop before we wear out our welcome.” Charlie was always glad to see us, but even so, I felt that our presence with two small children—one still in diapers—was a bit much for a confirmed bachelor. It became a standing joke that he sold us the place in self-defense.
In 1954, we had our third child Willis. Our new arrival meant our stays with Charlie were even more crowded. Despite this, we continued our frequent visits from Seattle, later from Moses Lake, Washington, to Charlie’s tiny house until we readied the cabin. The building had been placed on a full basement foundation, but nothing more had been done to make it livable. It had not been used as a dwelling for a number of years. The cabin now stood displaced and in disrepair, with a longing for care and occupancy. Most of the windows were gone and the floor had rotted away. So, with our hearts filled with dreams and with our four bare hands, my husband and I commenced the task of making the cabin a home.
All the old flooring was taken out and replaced. We built a fireplace and put in two small front picture windows, a bathroom, and a modern kitchen. We hired a grader operator to scoop out a driveway and attached a garage at basement level. The addition of a small picture window on the driveway side and an entrance through the garage made it a daylight basement. In less than 60 days, we were sleeping in our weekend cottage and having the time of our lives. The whole community turned out to help us and check on our weekly project.
We found to our delight that many of the townsfolk had lived in the old house that would become our cabin at one time or another. Blanchard’s oldest person, Harry Melder, 87 years old at the time, had a hand in building the cabin at the original lake site. We learned that the house was built around 1908 when the Spirit Valley Ice Company,owned by Hazelwood Company of Spokane, Washington, was operating and prospering at Blanchard Lake. George Conniff, the icehouse manager, and his family were among the earliest residents of the cabin. George later moved to the Newport, Washington, area and built another cabin, which burned down.
Dr. L. S. Adams building a snowman with his daughter Barbara. Big brother Randy is in the doorway. Tragically, George was murdered in 1935 in a robbery at the Newport Creamery. Charlie Olin was later a boss at the icehouse, and he and his family lived in the cabin as well.
Mr. Melder told us that trees for the construction of the house had been cut in the winter while the sap was down so the bark would not peel. The bark, which is still intact today, had already withstood years of use and abuse by the time we bought it. However, after a good, hard brushing with a steel brush on an elec‑tric drill, the logs once again showed the natural luster and beauty of two-tone browns.
Claude Blanchard, the manager of the Blanchard Trading Company and grandson of Joe Blanchard, for whom the town was named, voiced his enthusiasm about our newly-renovated home, “Yes, right over in that corner [of the living room] was my bedroom, where I used to sleep when I was a kid. Of course there was no fireplace then.” Such stories and memories about our new home connected us to the townspeople and to the history. We felt blessed by the opportunity to contribute to the cabin’s warmth by the added touch of a fireplace and by making our own history and fond memories.
Shortly after we moved into the cabin, we put up a sign that read, “A-Way from Worry.” If the walls could speak, perhaps they would tell the stories of those who labored in felling the trees and preparing the logs to build it, the effort it took to move it, and the peacefulness found living there. The Adams family spared the cabin from the fate of a would-be chicken coop and it became all that we had dreamt of: a place of solace—away from worry.