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ETHEL ANN COCHRAN SHINN

By Marion Shinn

A special thanks to Edith (Shinn) Erickson, my sister, for her assistance in writing this biography. Her files contain detailed year by year accounts of important and trivial events in the life of Ethel Shinn and other members of the family.

Ethel Ann Cochran, the second daughter of John and Emma Cochran, was born on the family farm on "lieu land" east of Colfax, Washington near what is now the Palouse Highway. The farm was on land granted to the railroad by the Federal Government to speed the development of the west. The timing of her arrival was inconvenient. In a widely circulated letter sent after celebrating her 80th birthday she wrote: "I remember Mother said I arrived at noon September 26, 1887 on a Monday. The thrashers were there for dinner. Father was quite flustered--was the crop they were thrashing or me the most important? I am here so I either got the needed attention or lived in spite of the commotion."

Ethel started the first grade at Glenwood school. Her sister, Edna, had been held back so both could start together. They worked closely together and were frequently mistaken for twins.

When John Cochran decided to move from the Palouse to Cottonwood all the belongings of the family went in one wagon. Each of the seven children were allowed ONE toy. All the family belongings that would not fit in the wagon were left behind. Edna, Ethel, and Mary were the big girls (ages 14, 12, and 10) and they rode horseback and herded the cattle and horses ahead of the wagon. The family crossed the Clearwater river on the Silcott ferry at what is now 5th and Railroad in Lewiston. The cattle and horses were driven into the water and they swam to the other side.

The family stopped for a time in Cottonwood. They lived in a one room house with a lean-to for the kitchen. John Cochran went to Doumecq and filed a homestead on a piece of land, but conditions were too primitive to move the family at that time. John could make money in Cottonwood. He hired out with his team and wagon to haul freight from Lewiston. The railroad had not been built to the prairie. The wagon road was narrow, rocky, and steep. It went up the old Fountain grade and meandered through the forgotten towns of Forest, Morrowtown, across Icicle Flats, past Keuterville--far south of the present highway. As soon as possible John Cochran moved his family to Whitebird, a trip of about 40 miles. A grade school was operating and the Cochran children enrolled as soon as they arrived. The homestead at Doumecq was only a dozen miles away, but it took half a day to travel up the "cow trail" to the place that would eventually be called HOME. Most of the travel was by horseback. The crude road/trail was steep and narrow. A man traveling down with a wagon usually tied a jackpine on the back to keep it from running over the team.

In her later years Ethel wrote detailed descriptions of the trip from the Palouse country and told of many interesting Doumecq episodes involving the Cochran family. Some of those memoirs were printed as a series in the July 1979, June 1980, and June 1981 editions of the Chronicles.

Edna, the eldest sister, graduated from the eighth grade in Whitebird during the winter term in 1902-03. Immediately after graduating, she took an exam at Grangeville, the county seat, and received a temporary teaching certificate. She was given a contract to teach a four month term in the new Canfield school starting in May 1903. Her students included Ethel and four other siblings.

Ethel graduated from the eighth grade in August 1903. The two girls, Edna and Ethel, went to Lewiston and enrolled in the Lewiston State Normal School in September. Edna was required to attend Normal School to keep her certificate (granted by examination) valid. The money Edna had earned as a teacher was enough to get both of them started in school. Tuition was free for in-state students. They both worked for their Board and Room. Edna took a short course to validate her certificate and returned to teach in a rural classroom. Ethel stayed at Lewiston Normal for a year and received a third grade certificate. (That was the level of the certificate--not the grade she was to teach.)

Her first teaching position was in a country school near Grangeville; the next job was on Joseph plains. After teaching two years in the rural one-classroom schools she returned to Lewiston Normal to upgrade her certificate.

Ethel had saved a little money from her teachers salary and could spend part of her two years in Lewiston in the college dormitories. Morris Hall (girls dorm) and Reid Hall (Boys dorm) were operated as cooperatives and the expenses were pro-rated. When all the rooms were occupied the total expense for each student averaged $9.00 a month. The dorms were crude. There was no inside plumbing and the girls washed at a outside bench with a line of wash basins. The new elaborate Lewis Hall was built while she was there and it was a great improvement. The rooms were heated by individual fireplaces and the group bath and toilet facilities were inside.

She taught in Nez Perce for a year and made enough money to attend the 1909 Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle. During the two years she taught at the Doumecq school (1909-19l1) some of the students were her younger siblings.

The engagement of Ethel Cochran to Benjamin Ray Shinn was announced in the spring of 1911. Perhaps the courting was obvious to the older members of the family, but it came as a surprise to 10 year old sister Ruth. Fifty years later she recalled that before the announcement she thought Ray was just a good family friend who came to see Father, Mother, Edna, Ethel, Mary, Omie, Inez, Zenna, Robert, Ruth, Sidney, and Fiddle (the dog) with equal regard for all.

On August 30, 1911 Ray Shinn and Ethel Cochran were married. Sister Mary Cochran was the bridesmaid and brother Charlie Shinn was the best man. At the time of their 50th anniversary Inez wrote: "The (rasp)berry patch back of the house stands out clearly in my memory. Was there ever such a patch! I remember Ethel's wedding day had to be juggled around to miss berry picking day." This may have been an exaggeration. The wedding was a major event in the life of the family. None of the other siblings were married at the family home and none of their spouses were long time friends before marrying into the family.

In the Memory Book assembled for Ethel and Ray's 50th anniversary Ruth made the observation: "In today's vernacular, Sid and I thought Ray was the most; He made cute little baskets out of pecan shells and whittled marvelous little things with his pocket knife and made the dandiest willow whistles. He played the mouth harp and sang the funniest little songs. And none of the other little kids had a brother-in-law but us."

After the reception the newly weds loaded their belongings in a top buggy and were off to Ray's homestead. The 160 acre ranch was located about three miles north of the Cochran home. There was a beautiful view of the mountains and canyons leading to Salmon River. The party telephone line was already full so a second system was organized. The barbed wire on the top of the rail fences was insulated and used as the conductor. The Cochran house had two phones, one for each system, and was often the transfer point for messages between people in different telephone systems.

An important day in their life was the birth of their first son, Louis Benjamin on June 4, 1912. Little Louis was called Peter for the first few years. He was the first grandchild and was given a great deal of attention by Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles. Their second child, Edith Eleanor, arrived two years later on April 27, 1914. For a time she was called Polly by her doting Aunts and Grandparents.

On March 11, 1916 disaster stuck the Shinn's. A fire destroyed the new house on the homestead. Among the things saved were the wedding dress, the old Shinn family Bible (dating back to the 1700's) and a quilt pieced by Grandmother Pickard for Ethel many years

before. It is said that Louis yelled, "Oh, oh, our stovepipe is on fire." Edith, age 2, watched the flame and said "Pretty, pretty." An old tool shed was used for a home until other arrangements could be made.

The next year, 1917, the Shinn's bought the Oscar Canfield homestead. Their new home bounded the John Cochran ranch on the south. The property was purchased from C.C. Smith. He was a land speculator and was privately called "10%" Smith. The same year the Cochrans moved to the Horse Heaven Hills near Kennewick,Washington. Robert bought the homestead, but soon traded it to Clark McCoy for a piece of land nearer Rice Creek called the Bicksell Place. Clark and Edna moved with their family to the Cochran homestead.

Maurice was born on April 29, 1918. With the addition of another baby, the amount of house work increased. Ray had to do the washing a few times and he felt there was an easier way. He immediately bought new A.B.C washing machine--a sturdy unit with a wooden tub with agitator on the lid. It was powered by a belt attached to a two cycle gasoline engine. It was the first power driven unit to replace the washboard on Doumecq. It was part of the family until 1930. The engine was moved to barn and performed many more years of useful service.

On March 11, 1921 their fourth child, Marion Luther, arrived on the scene. The older children were in the middle of a whooping cough epidemic, but Marion did not get sick.

The crops were very bad in the early 1920's. The weather was dry and grasshoppers destroyed those that survived. In 1922 C.C. Smith demanded payment. Ray signed over the farm to Smith but immediately rented it from him. Most of the people of the community did not know of the change in ownership.

The year of 1923 was one of trials and tribulations. Edith and Maurice contracted scarlet fever in October. They were the only children in the community to have the disease. The malady was discovered while Edith was at school so there was a vacation for all the other children while the building was fumigated with burning sulfur. Inez came back to Doumecq to help with the scarlet fever, but soon went to help sister Edna. Dr. Foskett had moved Edna to Whitebird to be closer to medical help.

After sister Edna died during childbirth on November 17, 1923, the Shinn family moved to the Cochran homestead--a few pieces of furniture at a time. Ethel took over as Acting Postmaster. Her mother held the position for 15 years starting about 1903 and Sister Edna took over about 1918. Ethel was officially appointed postmaster March 4, 1924 and continued in that position until 1946 when she and Ray moved to Lewiston. The pay for 4th class postmasters was determined by a formula which slightly exceeded the amount of stamps canceled. When grain and cream were shipped by parcel post the position paid very well. By the late 1920's express replaced parcel post for shipment of heavy goods.

The Shinn household was a center of activity in the community. During the slack seasons many of the men of the community came and waited for the mail on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Some brought cans of cream but others came just to be sociable. Sometimes eight or ten horses would be tied to the hitching rack. The men would sit in a row on the front porch with their legs dangling over the edge. Most of the guys smoked hand rolled Bull Durham cigarettes and let the familiar sack tag hang out of their shirt pocket. The more discriminating smokers carried PA (Prince Albert) or Velvet cans of higher grade tobacco. They all knew NO SMOKING was allowed in the house or post-office and stayed well away from the door,

Ethel operated a little store in the back of the Post Office space for the convenience of the patrons. She sold an assortment of candy, but the most popular was the penny or six for a penny variety. Strike-anywhere matches were always available for sale by the box or carton. Her bulk supply of cloves and allspice did not sell as well as the other staples--there was still half a gallon stored in her kitchen forty years later.

Some of the older men in the community were not well educated, but it was still a male dominated society. They would come to the Post Office to get help with their financial and business problems. Frequently Ethel took time to write letters for the men who could not put together meaningful sentences on the written page.

Ray was the Clerk for the School Board for several terms. In the late l920's some of the voting neighbors were mad at him; they wrote Ethel's name on the ballot and replaced him. She kept the position for years. The school, highway district, and cemetery records all were at the Shinn house for three decades. The County Superintendent sent Ethel the seventh and eighth grade examination tests each spring and the students took the examinations in the Shinn dining room.

The library at the schoolhouse was limited. Ethel negotiated with the Idaho State Library in Boise to provide books for the community. Every three months 50 books were shipped to her free of charge and the old ones were returned by parcel post. She lined the books on the shelf in the back of the post office. Children and adults alike leaned, loitered, and selected books to borrow. They were checked out, just like a regular library.

The house was large with extra bed rooms. In 1924 the Shinn's started boarding the school teacher. Except for two or three years a teacher made her home in the front room for the next twenty years. The first teacher was Mrs. Tibbs, a older lady whose main interest was her mining claims in another part of Idaho.

In April 1925 Ray broke his leg below the knee. He was taking care of cattle in the canyon near Mary and Omie's cabins. The country is steep rough country. After his leg was broken, he eased his newly-broken horse up against a large rock and pulled himself into the saddle. He had pliers in his pocket and was ready to cut the wire fences on the way home. As he approached the first gate he saw the glow of a kerosene lantern in the distance. It was near midnight and Ethel and Louis had come to look for him. Late the next afternoon Dr.Chipman came from Grangeville to set his leg. Ray spent the next eight weeks in bed. By August he was working in harvest with his crutches strapped to the farming equipment.

The new Airline radio, purchased in 1926, was tuned by adjusting the three dials on the front. At first, only one person could hear on the earphone, but soon Ray bought a horn so a roomful of people could listen. The radio required three batteries. The A (a car battery) could be re-charged, but the B, and C's wore out quickly and were expensive. The radio was set up in the front living room and the family only listened on special occasions. Everyone scrubbed their hands and changed out of their dirty overalls before sitting in the parlor with the radio. A special community event in 1928 was listening to the Herbert Hoover/Al Smith Presidential election. Smith was backed by New York's Tammany Hall and campaigned to repeal the Volstead Act (Prohibition of Alcohol). The "drys" gathered at the Shinns, and the "wets" supporting Smith went to the other radio on the other end of Doumecq. The story goes that the "wets" turned off their radio to save their battery as soon as Hoover was declared the probable winner.

The rural school three-quarters of a mile from the house provided instruction to the eighth grade. Some families considered this enough education and after graduation the children went to work. When Louis graduated from the eighth grade in 1925 a major family decision and financial obligation was made. Ethel and Ray agreed that the children must get more education. For the next fifteen years one or more of the Shinn children were in school away from Doumecq. Louis went to Hover for his freshman year and stayed with his Grandfather. After that both he and Edith went to high school in Grangeville, a distance of 40 miles. Maurice spent the first year in Grangeville, but joined his siblings in a "batch camp" in Lewiston while Edith and Louis were going to Normal School. Marion joined them in Lewiston in 1934. Years later Ethel was asked how she could send 13 and 14 year old children to a "big city" to fend for themselves at school. Her answer, "I had already taught them what was right and wrong!" She did insist that each child write three times a week. Some of the letters were drab and uninteresting, but she received one nearly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the children were adults.

No church building was constructed in the community. Sunday School services were held weekly at the school house and most of the Doumecq people participated. It was a place to go, even if they had not been carried away with the spirit. Occasionally an itinerant Baptist or Methodist preacher would hold formal services and conduct baptisms. In 1926 an evangelical group came and held a revival meeting at the school house. Some of the leaders in the local Sunday school were suddenly "saved" and became "Holy Rollers." Many old friendships were shattered. Their services were quite a side show for the young people who did not join the new religious movement. Church was no longer part of the community, but for Ray and Ethel Sunday was still a special day of rest and contemplation. It was 20 years before they had an opportunity to participate regularly in formal religious services.

The big house on the homestead had plenty of space. Ray's mother, Elizabeth Shinn, moved back to Doumecq in 1926 and became part of the family. She had spent several years working in Canada, but could no longer work and support herself. She stayed with her eldest son until she died about three years later. Social Security, the Townsend Plan, and other plans to care for the elderly were not considered for more than half a decade.

The road to Doumecq was narrow and steep. In places it almost hung over the river. Several parts of the road sloped sharply to the outside and it was hard to hold vehicles in place. In the spring of 1927 Mary, Omie, and Zenna arranged a trip to Doumecq to show off new-baby Paul McCarthy. Sid drove them from Hover in Robert's big Buick automobile. Heavy rains had made the dirt road almost impassable and after much slipping and sliding they were stuck. Ray drove half way to Whitebird with a team and hack to get them.

An advertisement in the Lewiston paper caught Ray's eye in the summer of 1928. The Sells Floto Circus was coming to Lewiston. Dan Tisor, a young working man in the community, had an automobile, so Ray arranged for him to take the family to Lewiston. The day was hot and every tire went flat at least twice during the 140 mile trip. The last few miles into Lewiston were traversed on the rim. The family arrived too late for the excitement. While unloading the circus from the railroad car, one female elephant, Mary, broke loose and raced up the street swinging her trunk. The Mayor (Dr. Braddock) shot her, just after she had broken off a water hydrant in a garage.

In 1929 the Shinn's bought a 1923 Buick touring car. Louis, age 16, drove it home. No one in the family had ever driven an automobile. A month after getting the car Ray decided to drive the Buick to Hover, more than 300 miles. It was the first time he had ever operated any power-driven vehicle but he was determined to learn. It was an experience for everyone. The car did not follow verbal instructions and even with a single road system the maps were confusing. Uncle Bill Cochran held a big family gathering at his home in Finley and many relatives gathered, ate, and talked about keeping in touch. The family visited many friends along the way and marveled at the convenience of motor travel.

Maurice graduated from high school in 1936 and decided to stay home and help on the farm. He worked there until Ray and Ethel moved to Lewiston a decade later. Ray recognized that Maurice was a good worker, but had difficulty giving him authority to make decisions. They expanded the farm by purchasing the old Canfield place where Maurice had been born.

Edna Cochran, Robert's wife, died near Boyd, WA during childbirth in April 1937. Ethel went to the funeral and returned to Doumecq with Delbert, nearly 2, and Eleanor, just 6. The other three children came to Doumecq when school was out in May. Five children in the household changed Ethel and Ray's lives. The Canfield school became very important to them again. No teacher was available in 1942 as part of the shortages of World War II. Ethel taught Delbert and Eleanor at home. By this time the older children had joined their father near Colville.

1938 was an eventful year. Marion graduated from high school in May. Edith married Einer Erickson at Doumecq in June. The wedding was held at the same place her parents married 27 years before. Louis married Rowena Buckles in September at Lewiston. Ray was also excited because a set of twin calves were born to one of his heifers--a first in 30 years of cattle raising experiences.

In 1941 a family reunion was held at the Grover Montague home in Yakima, Washington. It was a grand affair. Omie McCarthy and sons flew out from Alaska. Lowell Kimble and Judy McCoy, the start of the next generation, were noisy and underfoot. John McCoy, the first in the family to join the service, was there in uniform. Travel was not comfortable. Ray rode the whole distance, 300 miles, in the back of a pick-up sitting on a tire. It was agreed that the family was starting to move apart and something must be done to keep people in contact. Bob McCoy was elected to the position of CHIEF of the clan, but there was no discussion of what that title really meant.

John Cochran moved to Colfax from Hover and his main interest was writing books about relatives. He wrote many letters and gave detailed reports to anyone who would listen. Ethel and other siblings worked with him whenever possible to make the narrative understandable. The first book was published by Knapp Publishing Company of Spokane the next year and sold for 50 cents each.

The winter of 1943 was icy and cold. Ray slipped on the ice and broke his leg for the third time. His rheumatism hurt most of the winter. The world was changing and life on Doumecq was very different from earlier years. The small land-owners were selling to their neighbors and moving away. The rural schools were closing because of the shortage of teachers and lack of students. Most of the draft age men of the community were in military units or working in jobs that were declared essential to the war effort. A few young women joined the WACS and others moved to the big cities for higher paying jobs. Everyone did their part to help the war effort.

Consumer goods were in short supply, but in the spring of 1945 Ray's name was at the top of the list and he was able to purchase a new tractor-the first for the Shinn farm. There was no need for a string of work horses and gasoline replaced hay as the power that pulled the plow. A new way of farming was just around the corner.

During the winter of 1945-46 Maurice began to talk about leaving the farm in the spring. He knew that Ethel and Ray should get out of the cold and snow of the Doumecq winters. Ray went to the Clearwater valley to find a place to retire that was warmer but still had plenty of open space. He located 80 acres of land on the south edge of Lewiston Orchards that was for sale. The road to Tammany went along the west edge but there was no water or other utilities on site. It was planted to wheat and Ray purchased it at a moderate price. The 1946 wheat crop paid for half of the farm. The Doumecq farm was rented to a young family for three years.

The move to Lewiston was long, tedious and emotionally painful. The large house on Doumecq held far more furniture than was needed in Lewiston. The attic was filled with dozens of boxes of "things too good to throw away" that had been left over a forty year period by John Cochran, all the unmarried siblings, and the McCoy's. The younger generation went to the attic and threw enough away to keep a bonfire going for three days. Hundreds of letters that had accumulated over the years were stored in huge card board boxes. Several truck loads of furniture, personal goods, and the 15 year old family cat were hauled to Lewiston in September 1946.

There was no house or farm buildings on the Lewiston property so Ray bought a 12 x 16 foot tent and mounted it on a wooden platform. Furniture, including a bed and kitchen stove, was crowded inside and the tent served as living quarters while the new house was being built. He started dealing with local government and utility companies to get a road, water, telephone and electricity to the isolated field.

It was a long and hard winter. Ray dug his own ditch and hooked one-inch pipe onto the irrigation main an eighth of a mile away from the house. The water was untreated and muddy, but it did serve for many purposes. Much of the drinking water was hauled in five gallon cream cans from down-town. Many relatives and new made friends came to help and soon a shell of a house was in place. World War II had just ended and building materials were in short supply. The construction industry was changing from plaster to a new product called sheet-rock and very few people knew how to apply it efficiently. Ray and all the helpers had a lot to learn about construction. Ray and Ethel moved into the unfinished shell as soon as the roof was in place.

They quickly became an active part of growing Lewiston Orchards. Ray still had a team of horses and he used them to pull an old stage coach the length of Thain Avenue in a Blossom Festival. Ethel became a charter member and secretary of the National Retired Federal Employees organization and later served as President. Both were very active in the Community Church in leadership roles. Ethel taught Church school for years and Ray sang bass and finally led the Choir.

Their home was the center of activity for young and old alike. Friends gathered there for quilting parties, for Bible study, or just visiting. Einer, Edith and Geneal Erickson lived in Colfax and were in Lewiston nearly every weekend. Marion and family lived less than a mile away and were there several times a week. Both Philip and Donna considered it a second home. The standard fare for the Sunday dinners was fried chicken and the ritual always included going catching one live and butchering it.

In 1953 the Cochran clan met at the Methodist camp in Ocean Park (operated by Erling and Inez Bergan) for their first real scheduled reunion. Bob McCoy had been elected Chief at Yakima in 1942 and was the prime mover in getting the group together. Ethel, with the help of Clan Chief Bob, promoted the dream of an Education Fund to honor her father, John E. Cochran. She "passed the hat" to collect the first donations. Joan Montague was the first Treasurer. The 1956 reunion was held on Lake Coeur d' Alene, and the 1959 was at Manson. In 1961 the Clan met at Lewiston to celebrate Ethel and Ray's 50th wedding anniversary--the first for the clan. There was plenty of room for tents and a couple of extra pit-type toilets were built to take care of the crowd. A trip to Doumecq was an experience--the truck did not operate and some of the people walked part of the distance. Ethel's siblings prepared an impressive document telling of their memories of the 50 years.

In 1962 Lewis Clark Memorial Gardens, the private cemetery across the street, bought 30 acres of their land for $1000 an acre. For the first time in their life Ethel and Ray had money that was not needed to invest in land, cattle, or machinery.

Ray had always said he was a farmer and he would never retire. His dream did not come true. A heart problem slowed him to the point he could no longer farm or take care of the animals. Every week a pick-up load of cattle went to the sale yard. When all the cattle were gone Ray lost his will to live and spent a lot of time looking out the window toward the barn. He did not lose interest in the farm or his family. One evening Ray spent the whole evening giving Marion specific instructions how to proceed to get water rights on a dry acre of the Lewiston property. The next morning, October 17, 1963, he was dead in bed.

Ethel decided she could not stay home and grieve. In the fall of 1964 she and Zenna took a Greyhound bus tour to the east coast to see the country and visit relatives. They stopped in Tennessee at the old family home on the way east. On the return trip they stopped in Texas and made contact with brother Sid, who had been estranged from the family for over two decades.

In 1969 Ethel became involved in the newly organized Alumni Association at Lewis-Clark Normal School, the new name for the school she attended in 1903. She again became interested in providing financial assistance to allow young people to go to college. In 1971 she sent the Alumni Association enough money for a tuition scholarship in the Vocational School. She was especially interested in Vocational Education because her son, Marion, was the Director of that new part of the school.

In mid-November 1972 she sent money, by mail, to the Alumni Director to establish a permanent scholarship fund. Only the interest was to be used for scholarships. The major criteria for selection was NEED. The same morning the Alumni Director opened the envelope with the scholarship money the obituary column in the Lewiston Morning Tribune had an article reporting Ethel Shinn had died suddenly at the age of 85.

About four in the afternoon of November 15, 1972 she called our house and said "I don't feel good." Suddenly the telephone was hung up. It was only half a mile to her house, but by the time we got there she was dead.

Ethel attended three meetings the day before her death. She gave the invocation at two of them. As we sat in her living room during our nightly visit she told about her day, and reminded us it was time to help her buy Christmas presents.

She is buried in Lewis Clark Memorial Garden beside her husband Ray. Their grave site is less than a hundred yards from the home they built and enjoyed during the last golden years of their lives.

It has been over twenty years since my mother, Ethel Cochran Shinn, passed away. Her memory is still alive in some of the people both son Phil and I meet in the day-to-day activities. Every month or two some one will say "I remember your mother (or grandmother)." Almost always that statement is followed by a comment telling how that individual's life was changed by something Ethel had done for them.

Ethel Ann Cochran Shinn September 26, 1887 - November 15, 1972
Reprinted from Cochran Chronicles, Volume 17, Number 1, October 1994

JECFA 1994

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