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The Adams County Record
Council, Idaho
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April 5, 2012     The Adams County Record
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April 5, 2012
 

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Page 22 A Bostonian accent in the bowels of Hells Canyon was unusual. A woman who dressed like a man, lived in seclusion for thirty-seven years, brought home her year's supply of food and clothing in a wheelbarrow over a rough, narrow foot- path fifteen miles long and you have the ingredients for a first-rate mystery story. The mystery, however, has never been solved and any explanation can only be speculation. These few things were remembered. Wednesday, April 4, 2012 The wheelbarrow woman She arrived in the small Idaho town of Cuprum, several miles from Hells Canyon, on a day so cold that ice-rimed windows remained frozen. She was dressed in men's woolen trousers covered with an out-of-style dark, cloth coat. Around her head and neck she had wrapped a woolen scarf so that only the center of her face was visible. From her knees to the top of heavy, service- able leather shoes she had wound strips of burlap for warmth. She carried a worn, brown cardboard suitcase held together with a strap. She arrived in Cuprum riding the thrice-weekly mail truck. On the drive she sat stoically, did n talk- ing but accepted the offered sandwich from the driver. She thanked him quietly but showed little interest in the drive. At Cuprum she disap- peared. She was not met at the stage stop by anyone. No one remembered seeing her leave. Suddenly she was gone. Later she turned up in Hells Canyon living with "Old" Van Cleve. Her name, someone vaguely remem- bers was Alice Dunbar, but lazy, untidy man of inde- terminate age. He ran a few cattle, had a couple of good saddle horses, hunted and fished more from necessity than sport. No one knew most spoke of her, if any- where he might have met one had occasion to, as "Old Van Cleve's woman 7 Van Cleve lived on a river bar, a widening at a creeks mouth, on the Oregon Side of Snake River, across from the Big Bar Ranch, far below the end of the road. He had lived in the Canyon for years, a rather simple, Alice Dunbar previously, or whether her need caused him to take her in as his companion. But there was no doubt that she carried her share of the load. They had no visitors but careful scrutiny through binoculars from an Idaho vantage point showed her The Adams County Record by Tina Warner handiwork. A garden plot surrounded by a rock wall sprang up the first year. The rock wall indicated hours of backbreaking labor. A few fruit trees sent forth tentative branches later, and soon flourished in the hospitable climate of the canyon. Hearty flowers were in bloom in rockbeds in front of the dugout. A window was put in a front wall. A corral was built of driftwood and rock. Small ditches, hand dug, requir- ing hours of labor, brought water to the garden and later a small hay field. Switch Save D Really, it's that simple. Samsung Admire" Sly S9999 REBATE *2-yr plan required after $50 mail-in rebate *2-yr plan required m Motorola Milestone X2 TM Samsung Profile" $"4 NO II REBATE *2-yr plan required NO CONTRACT SPECIAL HTC Wildfire TM $5999 e- ttte[ wireless SUBJECT TO ALLTEL TERMS & CONDITIONS; see store or alltelwireless.com. See certificate for rebate details. Verizon rate plan information was sourced online as of 319/12. Data plans required for smartphones. $25 non- refundable activation fee end possible $200 early termination fee applies per each line. Prices for limited time and while supplies last. AIItel reserves the right to substitute phones but is not required to do so. Taxes & government charges apply. We charge you a REGULATORY COST RECOVERY CHARGE of up to $2.19/mo to help us defray our cost of compliance with government regulations and offset charges to us; this is neither a tax nor required by government. Restrictions apply to prepaid and business customers. Screen images simulated, All product & service marks referenced are the names, trade names, trademarks & Iogos of their respective owners, Android is a trademark of Google Inc. Use of this trademark is subject to Google Permissions. @2012 AWCC; all rights reserved, 100646 Every fall she trundled the wheelbarrow up the narrow trail, winding over rock bluffs high above the tumbling river rapids, down the few level places. When she arrived at Homestead she made her purchases and returned. Van Cleve had a rowboat. It was clumsily patched and wired together, and he occasionally rowed to the Idaho side, stopped anyone who happened along and got a ride upriver for a few days. On one such trip he became ill, was taken to the Baker Hospital, died and his funeral arrangements were made in a few days. His passing made no apparent difference to the woman who continued with her work, scything hay by hand, raking it into shocks, pitching it to her wheelbarrow and stack- ing it by the corral. She climbed high on the steep hills to drag down firewood before winter. Other than that, driving her few sale- able steers up the river to sell them, and a once a year trip to Homestead, she had almost no human contacts. She became known as the Wheelbarrow Woman and was a fixture in the canyon, and she received no more interest than any other eccentric who chose to live there. One early sprinl morn- ing a rancher notio d that some steers she hat gath- ered to sell were ,till in the corral without f.'ed or water. He rowed acr,ss the River, found her mcon- scious, took her back across the River and to tl" hos- pital. "Alice Dunbar, / age unknown, passed away at the Baker County Hspital, April 29, 1959. Sh had resided in Baker Couaty for the past thirty-seven 'ears... She had no known re atives. Graveside services dll be held at to 10A.M Ms y 1, at the Baker Memorial: No known relatiws. No friends. Few acquain :ances. Thirty-seven years n the most inaccessible r :aches of Hells Canyon. These few facts were all that were known.