Idaho County Free Press - Thursday, December 30, 1915


Attempt To Ford River and Saddle Animals Carry Them Into Deep Water - Bodies Not Found

(Special Salmon River Correspondent)   The Salmon river country which seems to have become notorious, both for the number and fatality of its accidents in recent months, seems to have reached a climax Sunday afternoon in the drowning of two well known young men.

     The accident, which was one of the saddest ever known here was intensified somewhat, both by the comparative youth of the young men, and also by the fact that the bodies have not been recovered.

     The ford where the tragedy took place, is considered the safest crossing point along the entire Salmon river, and is used almost daily by the Gill brothers, and at any time in the year except perhaps June or July.  The Cain boys had crossed at this same fording place perhaps hundreds of times without a mishap.  James Cain has been an employee of the Gill brothers ranch for several months, while Charley, (or Boscoe) as he was better known worked on the ranch of Hal Brown some miles up the Salmon River.

     Exact details of the drowning are lacking as we go to press, owing to the fact that there was but one eye witness to the affair, and telephone communication between White Bird and John Day has been interrupted for more than a week.  It appears, however, that Johnny Johnson, in company with the Cain brothers left White Bird Sunday afternoon and started for Gill brother's ranch.  It was late when the boys reached the fording place, and the trio led by Johnson, reined their horses out into the stream and headed for the opposite bank.  The river at this point, while perhaps more than 100 wide, and about belly deep to a horse, notwithstanding, followed by a high falls below, where the water is swift and deep.  Johnson, it seems succeeded in making the west side of the river without difficulty, and immediately turned his horse around to watch the progress of the other boys.  James Cain, who was riding a mule, had reached the most dangerous part of the channel, and all seemed to be going well, when the animal suddenly became obstreperous and bolted for the eddy.  The horse ridden by "Boscoe" immediately followed suit, and in an instant both riders, horses and all were floundering and struggling in the current.  At the juncture Johnson dashed back into the stream to render what ever assistance he could; but before aid could be given, the swirling eddy had engulfed the victims and all disappeared entirely from view with the exception of the horse ridden by "Boscoe."  This animal swam out to shore, climbed to solid footing, shook the water from its body and seemed to be none the worse for the experience.

     Johnson made a heroic effort to save the boys and only after he had been dumped off into the freezing waters and saw his horse swimming away from him did he give up, clutching his horse by the main and being carried to the bank by the struggling animal.

     Neither one of the boys was seen after they sank in the icy water, both were dressed in heavy garments, and each wore a pair of cumbersome chaps.  It is supposed that the weight of the boys clothing held them beneath the water, and has also prevented the bodies from coming to the top.  It is believed here by many that the bodies will never be recovered.  Searching parties have lined both sides of the river every day since the accident occurred, in the hope of finding some trace of the bodies, but have met with little encouragement.

     Citizens of White Bird and surrounding country have raised a fund of fifty dollars to be spent for dynamite which will be used in an effort to bring the bodies to the surface.  Twenty-five men of the river section are keeping constantly at the work and it is hoped their efforts will result in the locating of the bodies of the unfortunate young men.

     Charley Cain, the oldest boy was 30 years of age, while Jim was about 23.  Their mother lives on the Camas Prairie near Grangeville, and a sister, Mrs. Clark Gill lives on Salmon River.  The boys were well liked in this part of the country.

Transcribed by Penny Casey from original microfilm

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