James Wardwell (1834-1891)

James Wardwell, 1883

Nellie Ireton Mills. All Along the River/Territorial and Pioneer Days on the Payette. Privately printed for Payette Radio Limited, 1963, p.641

Going to Oregon with the Levi Reed family in 1861 or 1862, was a son-in-law, James Wardwell, and his family. He worked in and around Umatilla several years and was credited with helping to build the first landing on the Columbia River at that point. It was ready for use in February, 1864. Some of the Wardwells' children were born at Umatilla, including a daughter, Elsie, later Mrs. E. K. Hayes of Emmett. Seeking a more pleasant climate, largely because of Mrs. Wardwell's ill health, Jim Wardwell brought his family back to Idaho and filed on 160 acres of land about a mile west of Emmett and built a small frame house near the Basin Trail. Here he moved Mrs. Wardwell and the children in 1874, that they might be near her parents.

Business affairs on the Columbia demanded that Jim Wardwell be away from home much of the time and he asked his neighbor, Douglas Knox, to look after his family. This was a wise provision, because when Mrs. Wardwell suddenly died with her husband away, the Knox family were"standing by" to help the grandmother, Elsie Higgins Reed, and the members of her family meet the emergency. Arranging for the care of his children - two girls and two boys - in pioneer homes, Mr. Wardwell worked steadily ahead to become one of Emmett's most progressive citizens. He was constantly planning for greater improvement. A brother, W.F. Wardwell, commonly known as "Deacon," came from their native Maine to join him, married an Idaho girl, Carrie Rae2, and built a home just south of the present Liberty Theatre.

On March 30, 1881, Peter J. (Jack) Mann had filed on 160 acres of land where the business district of Emmett is now located, and relinquished it that September to James Johnston for $700.00, who soon received title to the land. Included in the transaction was a house belonging to Walker and Bayse, evidently not a very pretentious one - a homesteader's shack, we presume. Mr. Johnston was owner and manager of the first store in Emmett, located west of the present depot. In 1883, James Wardwell purchased Mr. Johnston's 160 acres for $1,000.00, platted the townsite3 and began to sell residence and business lots, reserving lots for the erection of several business houses himself. These included a sash and door factory and a store building with a hall above for public gatherings. In 1884, William (Bill) Oscar Williams, a brother of Mrs. Douglas Knox, opened Emmett's first meat market. The shop stood where the railroad crosses the canal, north of the Emmett garage.

The mill owners, among them Jim Wardwell and Joe Reed4 of Emmett, moved in (to the hills of Garden Valley) by way of Placerville in the fall with ox teams and logging equipment, including river boats, and kept the crews cutting and banking logs all winter to be ready for the spring floods to start the drive down the river. . . Among well-remembered loggers or "river hogs" were Jim Wardwell and his son, Park; Joe, Charley, and Bud Reed; Ed Allan, Ed Stanley, George Boon, who had a way with oxen; William McMaster, Sadie (L. G.) Say, Jim Dempsey, Pete Rooney, Paddy Robison, Billy McFarland and Andrew McPherson.


Newspaper clips

1885, Mill fire  fire  saw mill rebuilt; completed a new store, will be stocked with everything a farmer needs
1886, Odd Fellows Installation, describes Wardwell's building as two floors, 26x80 feet

Wardwell died in 1891:
The Caldwell Tribune, June 6, 18915
Death of James Wardwell
The sad announcement of the death of Jas. Wardwell, the Emmett lumber merchant, at Placerville, Boise county, Friday morning, was telephoned down yesterday afternoon. We have no particulars further than that word was received here Thursday that Mr. Wardwell, who for the past week had been up superintending his annual log drive, was dangerously ill and that medical assistance was ordered to meet him at Emmett yesterday, whither he was being conveyed.

The Idaho semi-weekly World, June 19, 18916
W. F. Wardwell informs the Caldwell Tribune that a few days before Jas. Wardwell's death he was caught in a log jam. He insisted that he was not hurt, however, and went on with his work as though nothing had happened. After death it was discovered that his side was severely bruised and his ribs were broken by the accident. W. F. Wardwell's theory is that he was internally injured, and when inflamtnation set in death was the quick result.

He was survived by his son Park and his daughter Elsie Wardwell Hayes.


1 Internet Archive, retrieved 3-23-23
2 wedding dress at museum
3 plat
4 Joseph L. Reed bio, Reed was a brother to Mrs. Wardwell
5 The Caldwell tribune. June 06, 1891
6 Idaho semi-weekly world. June 19, 1891

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