Shoup—Spotlight City

A Salmon River Haven

By Alice Schenk

Photos courtesy of Alice Schenk

The apples were disappearing quickly from the tree outside the kitchen window at the Shoup store and there was only one way to solve the problem. The bear would have to die. So Dad bought a bear tag and the rest is history. Clever history, at that.

You see, a small orchard and vegetable garden sat on a knoll behind the store. Dad set a ladder in front of the store, which also served as his house. He hung cans on strings, tied the strings in the branches of the apple tree, and then left the kitchen and bedroom windows cracked open during the night. When the cans made noise, he went outside, climbed the ladder to the roof, and soon had a bear rug. And apples.

Another story Dad loved to tell was how he responded when he got bitten by a rattlesnake in the orchard. He hooked his jumper cables to his truck battery and put the other end on the snake bite. Norlyn Pope, a friend who now lives in Shoshone, recalled, “The electric shock was enough to pull the venom out. Don told me that a golden liquid came out where the snake bite was, and other than being sick for a while, he was fine.”

From 1985-1989, my dad, Don Myers, and my stepmom Donna owned and operated the store in Shoup, along the Salmon River in Lemhi County. The townsite’s population was just the two of them, although the store served cabins along the river.

It showcased two fuel pumps with clear glass cylinders on top that allowed customers to see the amount and quality of gas they were getting. They were gravity-flow pumps, because the canyon had no electricity. Donna made and sold homemade bread, brownies, and apple pie.

There was always a gallon jar of pickled eggs sitting on the counter for a buck apiece. They sold tackle, worms, and convenience items.

My dad was the postman. Three times a week, he’d drive about seventeen miles along the steep Salmon River Road to the tiny town of North Fork to get the mail, which he then would deliver up and down the river in his little pickup. There were no newspaper deliveries.

The nearest daily newspaper and large hospital were both in Missoula, Montana, 140 miles north across the steep Bitterroot Mountains. When Dad and Donna lived in Shoup, the area had few if any power lines, the school building at the townsite was closed, there were no churches, and no libraries.

The community’s namesake was George L. Shoup, the last territorial governor and the first state governor of Idaho. The town was established in the 1880s when placer gold and then quartz gold were discovered in what became known as the Mineral Hill District. According to the 1978 book River of No Return by John Carrey and Cort Conley, the district had more than three hundred mining claims by 1890. There were three gold mines, the most productive of which was the Clipper-Bullion Mine.

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View of Shoup from the cemetery on the hill.
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Alice's father, Don Myers, at the Shoup gas pumps.
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Firefighters at Shoup during the Horsefly Fire, 2019.
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Alice's brother Tom Myers at the Gold Hill Mine, 2016.
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The old orchard above the store now holds a satellite dish.
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Shoup ornament. Star Faux Photography.
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The original party-line phone at the store.
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The school in the 1980s.
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Weatherbeaten Shoup sign.
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The store when it was for sale.
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Postcard of the Shoup store.
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View of Shoup store, visible at bottom.
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Originally called Boulder City, Shoup had a population of about two hundred in the 1880s and was visited frequently by traffic along the Salmon River. The town, which grew up around the Gunter Mine buildings, had no road. All supplies were brought by pack train and barge.

In 1937, when the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed road access, sections of the town were either moved or destroyed. The Gunter Mill, which often was closed over the years, was finally shut down in 1938-39. Other Shoup buildings were impacted by the widening of the road in 1969, especially those near the river.

The store, which was built in 1961, was closed around 2016. Six standing buildings remain of a town that reportedly once had more than six hundred inhabitants, served by the normal complement of saloons, and even an art gallery and opera house.

The store had a hand-cranked telephone on the back wall, operated on an antiquated party line system bought from the U.S. Forest Service in 1952 for one dollar. It consisted of a single line strung between miniature telephone poles or riveted into sheer rock cliffs above the river.

The maintenance of this line was difficult, to say the least, and the users themselves had to climb the cliffs and repair lines damaged by lightning, forest fires, avalanches, or rockslides. At times, this responsibility fell on my dad’s shoulders.

Dad put a sign above the phone which read, “This is an eighteen-party line—so please, official or necessary calls only.” One family had dropped out, so actually only seventeen households used the line. Donna mentioned to me that you had to be careful of what you said, because you never knew if someone was eavesdropping.

The system was monitored by operators in Salmon who manually connected calls made to and from the canyon phones. By the late 1980s, party lines had been removed from most locales. Idaho was the first state to have private telephone lines available statewide in 1975, although Shoup had one of the last, if not the last, hand-cranked telephone system in the nation.

 It was run by the nonprofit North Fork Telephone Corporation, and my dad served as a director on its board. When it came time to elect new officers, everyone gathered in the old school for a potluck. After dinner, executives announced they had no choice but to close the operator facility in Salmon.

The seventeen families would still be able to call each other, but not anyone else in the world. I found evidence that they tried to reinstate the telephone system in 1989, but then things changed for the better the next year.

In July 1990, about fifty people crowded into the Shoup Store and John Booker, owner of the town’s now-closed Outpost general store and burger grill, made the final call on the nation’s last-known magneto hand-cranked phone system.

A new touch-tone digital system had been installed by the Rural Telephone Company of Glenns Ferry. When the then-president of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, Joe Miller, made the first call on it, the room broke into applause.

Often on a warm evenings Dad, Donna, and family or friends who came to visit would sit out by the gas pumps and watch the few cars raise dust as they passed by. John Hulihan, who lived with his wife Patty at their Gold Hill Mine not far down the road, thought the traffic was going by too fast.

So he let his donkey Daisy wander the road in front of the mine, which forced the traffic to slow down. The donkey was an icon of the community, and John developed his mine into an educational and tourist attraction. He gave mine tours, taught about gold mining, and invited those who stopped by to pan for gold in a sluice he had set up out front.

John also ran a business taking photos of rafters riding the Pine Creek rapids on the river. He passed away October 21, 2022, in Salmon, just three weeks before his ninety-seventh birthday. I last saw him in 2016, when he let me pan for gold in his sluice, after which we walked back into the coolness of the mine.

When I left, he gave me an ore plug from the mine. The plug is near my roses on our farm, and seeing it brings back memories.

When I was in elementary school, we lived in Richfield, where Dad farmed and worked at the Chevron Station with Melvin Pope. After my parents divorced in 1981 and Dad remarried in 1983, Melvin heard that my dad had bought the town of Shoup. He took the family for a visit.

“Don reminded me of [the TV character] MacGyver, because regardless of any difficult situation he found himself in, he would come up with ways of solving the problem,” Melvin’s wife Norlyn said. “We had been out looking for wood and Don saw a dry log across the river.

I don’t remember how he got over there but he had a winch cable hooked to a pickup and pulled that log across the river. Don had a log splitter and we cut the log into eighteen-to twenty-four-inch sections to put under the house. He showed me how to throw the logs just right so they hit on the edge of the building, on the outside basement window well, and the log would fall right into the basement. Don was down there stacking the wood.

“It was a wonderful visit. Everything was homemade. I slept in the front room, where they had a big grandfather clock that chimed on the hour. I thought I’d never get to sleep but thankfully, they turned it off.”

One year, a group of men who worked on dams stayed in the old school. The men told Dad they had sixty large batteries for sale. Dad wanted to buy them but didn’t have a vehicle big enough to transport them, so he borrowed an old bus that had been used to transport sheep. The seats were out and the floor covered in manure, but he figured it would be perfect.

When he parked the bus near the storage building to pick up the batteries, an intake fan pulled the smell into the facility. It got so strong that Dad had to move the bus and load the batteries with a forklift. It was worth the trouble, though, because the batteries allowed Donna and him the luxury of watching TV.

Henry Myers, a distant relative of Dad’s, is buried in a cemetery at the top of a small road up the canyon behind the Shoup store. Henry, who died at age seventy-four in 1913, was a thirty-year pioneer of the area. One time, when my sisters, brother, and our families visited, we hiked up there with Dad and placed a carved wooden headstone.

Decades later, I hiked again to the cemetery with my sister Donna Kieffer, and was reminded of how stunning it is to look down on the Salmon River corridor winding through the mountains.

Donna recalled a winter she spent at Shoup. “We got up on Christmas day and drove to the Panther Creek Hot Springs to soak,” she said. “There were these little lodges you could sit in to steam, and a huge soaking pool.”

I had never been there, so several years ago I drove with family up the winding, single lane road with its steep drop-off to hike to the springs. The formerly popular site is now nothing more than a couple of small on-again, off-again pools bordered by rocks and cluttered with debris after multiple stream blowouts.

Once when I was on a rafting trip down the Salmon River, I insisted to friends (okay, begged) that we stop when we drove through Shoup. They complied and I got out, ran around town, snapped a few pictures, looked at the orchard behind the store, and glanced into the buildings. I was inundated with memories of a time too quickly gone.

One day in the late 1980s, a man named Garry Pedrow and his wife Peggy left Jerome for a drive up into the mountains. Garry had spent time hunting and fishing near Shoup. Coming back on the road, they stopped at the store.

“Don came out to greet us and Donna had brownies,” Garry later told me. “We visited a while, and I mentioned that if ever he wanted to sell Shoup I was interested. Before we finished visiting, Don invited us to spend the night with them. We’d never met them before now and Peggy looks at me and asks, ‘Do you know these people at all?’”

“I’m a city girl,” said Peggy. “They show us our room and there’s a big bear rug on the bed with a huge head and its mouth wide open. Don rolls up the rug and puts it on the floor. When we turn out the lights for the night, it’s so dark in there that I grabbed hold of Garry’s neck and I told him I’m not letting him go because if I did, I’d never find him again.”

“Two months later, we got a call from Don asking if we were still interested in buying Shoup,” said Garry. “We drove back up there to talk and we cut a deal. Since we still had kids in school, we asked Don to run it for a year. That was in 1987 and we agreed to the purchase in 1988, with the understanding they would run the store and post office until we took over in January 1989.” 

As they walked around the buildings during that visit, Garry pointed to a window and said to Dad, “I can’t believe what some knucklehead did to this window.”

 Dad explained that there had been a big hole in one windowpane and the other pane had a crack through it. The solution had been to turn the window with the crack upside down to cover the hole, which also sealed the crack, and then to glue the two panes together.

“I wasn’t going to town to get another window,” he said.

When Garry and Peggy started selling milkshakes at the Shoup store with the help of a water turbine for refrigeration, they were discouraged by other café owners, who said it would be too much work. But their shakes became popular and most summer days they would sell between fifty to seventy of them at two dollars apiece.

On their biggest single day, when firefighters were camped near Shoup fighting the two-thousand-acre Horsefly Fire above town, the Pedrows sold 242 milkshakes. One gallon of ice cream made seven shakes, and Garry often drove forty miles to Salmon to restock. Grabbing a milkshake from the Shoup Store became legendary for many fishermen, families, and campers along the river.

The Pedrows had a breakfast and lunch menu, and printed postcards of Shoup to sell to customers. Their grandson Chris, who owns a lodge down the river, still sells milkshakes today.

Peggy recalled a family that lived at the Nabob Mine high above Shoup. “Tom Miller needed a wife, so he put an advertisement in the paper and his mail order bride arrived: Billie, age sixteen. They eventually had, I think, five to seven children, and whenever a new baby was born into the family, they would bring the infant to Shoup on the first or second day and get the weight on the post office scales.”

Garry had done the work himself to take down the old telephone line when the new system went up. After removing a one-mile section and running the numbers, he won the bid to remove all forty-five miles. When the telephone company installed the new line, they allowed Garry to use their equipment. At that time, he put up a flagpole that stands to this day.

When Debbie Deaver, a communications specialist from the Forest Service office in Washington, D.C., toured the Salmon National Forest, her group stopped at Shoup for refreshments. Noticing the tattered flag that hung on the flagpole and wanting to send Garry and Peggy a present as a thank you for their hospitality, Debbie arranged for the office of Senator James McClure to send the store a flag that had flown over the Capitol on April 24 of that year.

The day has special significance to Shoup, because the discovery of gold that led to the town’s establishment was made on April 24, 1882.

Dad loved this quiet way of life, and when he sold Shoup, he moved downriver to Pine Creek Ranch, where he served as the manager/caretaker for the old Girl Scout Camp. He and Donna lived there for several years before health reasons forced them to move back to Heyburn.

 “Dad was a packrat who held onto things because he never knew when he would need something or when it might come in handy,” my sister Donna recalled. “When it came time to move to the scout camp, they had a huge yard sale at the Shoup school.

Donna would put something out front for sale, Dad would see it, decide it was something he didn’t want sold, and he would pick it up, carry it around to the back door, and down into the basement. When it came time to move, there was a lot that needed to be packed up.”

On July 17, 2022, sparks from an unattended campfire burning next to the Salmon River ignited the Moose Fire approximately twelve air miles northwest of Salmon. As it grew to about 130,111 acres, hope hung in the balance that Shoup would not burn.

Luckily, none of the structures in and around Shoup, including the Clipper-Bullion Mine, were damaged by the fire, even though it covered an area more than double the combined size of the Boise and Garden City limits.

A few years back, a sign posted in front of the store said you could buy yourself a town. The store, school, and cabins were for sale, asking price $330,000. By then, the Pedrows had sold the property and a couple of other owners had come and gone, each lasting fewer than three years.

Chuck Mualem then bought it and was the owner for a couple of decades before he put up his “For Sale” sign. But then he took it down, and now wonderful plans are in the mix for Shoup.

On January 8, 2024, Chuck addressed the Lemhi County Commissioners about a land swap he has been working on for many years with the US Forest Service. “In 1993, the Forest Service came up with a plan to get rid of its special use permits on the Salmon Wild and Scenic Corridor, basically from North Fork down to Corn Creek,” he told the commissioners. “They came up with three special use permits. One was Shoup, and two others were for lodges.”

He said the Forest Service had identified private properties that would be acceptable as land swaps, which would enable them to discontinue their special use permits. “In 1999, I purchased the Shoup store and the buildings, and land from John Hulihan that the Forest Service wanted to swap with,” said Chuck.

“On November 8, 1999, I submitted the application for the land swap. My twenty-year lease for the land Shoup sits on was up in December 2019, and I almost gave up. It has taken a long time, and a lot of work and patience, but the wheels are set in motion to proceed with the land swap.”          

Chuck received an ATI (agreement to initiate) and the commissioners said if all goes well, the trade will be completed within two to three years and Shoup will be deeded over as his private property.

“My plan since day one has been to make sure Shoup is preserved,” Chuck told me. “I don’t want to see it burned down or taken out, like many other places in the past. I’ll be working with the State Historic Preservation Office in restoring the townsite, to make sure no new buildings are allowed on the land and ensure that existing buildings are preserved.

“I want to maintain what is there. In the deeds, I’ll also protect future interests so that whoever ends up with Shoup after me will have to abide by all the historical values.”

The eleven acres downriver from Shoup will be evaluated to determine what is needed to make the swap equal in value. The Forest Service and the public would gain more Wild and Scenic Corridor land along with the foot traffic-only Boulder Basin Trail, which currently runs through part of Chuck’s property and into the forest.

Also coming off the main road and going through the Mualem property is the historic Sheepeater Trail. Chuck has given the Forest Service an easement through his property to open the Sheepeater Trail to foot and horse traffic, but no motorized vehicles.

“The local community support, along with help from past and present commissioners, state legislatures, the governor’s office, and the entire Idaho congressional delegation have all been instrumental in making the swap happen,” said Chuck.

He’s trying to get a modified special use permit until the deal is completed, so he can clean up the Shoup buildings. “There is a lot of work to be done and it will require constant contact with the State Historic Preservation Office to make sure everything is done to historical compliance,” he told me.

Nowadays about sixteen full-time residents live within a four-mile radius of Shoup. The Pedrows live there part-time, about four miles away. Once again, hope hangs in the balance for them and others as Chuck attempts to breathe new life into the place. I’m blessed to be a part of that larger community.  

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Alice Schenk

About Alice Schenk

Alice Schenk is an adventurer who lives in Rupert. A lover of hiking, shed hunting, swimming, biking, and running, she has finished six Ironman contests, many marathons, and twice has climbed all nine peaks above twelve thousand feet in Idaho. Alice holds a Master’s degree in health and teaches at the College of Southern Idaho in Burley.

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