Bob Stuppy is the manager and caretaker of many properties belonging to summer residents around Hayden Lake. He recently treated me to a walking tour of the dike along the lake’s southern tip. There he recounted stories of the land to the west and the water to the east of where we walked. Bob, born in southern Idaho and residing in this area for more than 20 years, fell in love with North Idaho during his travels with his dad to the draft horse shows in Sandpoint. In his more recent years of serving families around the lake, he has heard some of the family stories. With these, he bears witness to the lake’s history.
Looking out over the water to the west of the dike, Bob tells the popular story of how Matt Heyden, from whom the lake takes its name, wanted to change the flow of water from the lake into the aquifer. It’s not clear whether he intended to slow percolation or to speed it up. Regardless, he set dynamite to the bottom of the lake. ‘Ol Man Heyden’s own orchards flooded as a result, and now reside deep under water.
Turning east, we look across the Richards’ family land, which Bob has had under his care for two decades. He passed on to me a copy of the Coeur d’Alene Press article from 2000 announcing the Idaho Supreme Court’s ruling that “30 acres of dry land near the Hayden Lake dike is not public,” and that it does, in fact, belong to the Richards’ estate. The case, held up in court for 16 years, cast into question the ownership of that land. Was it was underwater in 1890, when Idaho became a state, and before the building of the dike? The state wasn’t able to prove that the area had been underwater, and the court records of the case reveal sufficient evidence to support the contrary, so the title to the land remained as it was before.
I enjoyed the history lessons that Bob shared with me. I watched the mist rise in the distance, observed the low-water and autumn colors, and felt my interest surge in learning and telling more of the stories of the lake. Oral histories such as these are made colorful by the story-telling skills of tellers like Stuppy and the handing down from one person to another. Hayden Lake is full of stories waiting for artful tellers. Temperatures are chilling and each day grows darker than the one before. This is a good time for sharing stories around cups of cocoa and kitchen tables. For those who live within the watershed, do you know who lived on your land before you? Do you know how that land was used before your home was built? Can you trace your land’s history back to when Idaho received statehood, or before?
I would love to hear your stories of the past, present, and future from every part of the Watershed. Drop me a line or comment below; we will find a way to share.