|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
A person who could relate stories was a noted and well-accepted person in an early day
community. There were no phonographs, no radios, no TVs and only an occasional reed
organ or fiddle to shorten a long winter evening. A person blessed with a talent for
relating a story, whether it be a fantasy or the truth, was a welcome guest to whatever
accommodations were available.
Identity of such people pass with generations and a very few tales are preserved that
during their time were told and retold for the entertainment of many. One such person
lived in this community over a century ago and was the originator of many outlandish
stories in which he always played a leading part; only during the last quarter century have
they began fading away. So impressive were these tales that any local resident over 80
needs little refreshing to recall this man and his reputation.
Sam Hogue was his name. He was a veteran of the Civil War, owned land and built two
milling operations in Johnson Valley. The last was fairly large and the embankments are
yet visible about 300 feet south of the railroad right-of-way on the creek that bears the
valley name. He circulated petitions that called for formation of the Johnson Valley school
in 1870 and was its first clerk. But he was best known and remembered for the ludicrous
tall tales he left.
One characteristic of his stories always prevailed: the endings always left the participants
in an unusual position or situation which Sam never bothered to solve or explain. Both the
telling was always entertaining and unbelievable.
A good example took place in Hans Willumsonís store one early spring morning. Snow
had fallen and a logger newly returned from a winter in the northern pine woods was
telling of an unusually heavy snowfall the crew had experienced that winter. All were
impressed and when the man had finished Sam, who had listened respectfully, cleared his
throat and those present knew what was coming. Yes, Sam had experienced a heavy snow
and of much greater proportion. While working as timber foreman he was traveling a
dayís journey between two points when a heavy snow came up. He had a cutter and light
team and before long it was necessary to break way for the horses. Night came and they
were barely half way in the dark timber but he was in good physical shape and kept going
until daylight, the snow still swirling down. About mid-afternoon the horses were
completely exhausted and Sam was himself about worn out. He knew his goal was nearby
so he tied the horses to what he thought was a post and proceeded afoot. The snow began
to abate so he found the place very shortly, ate a big meal and sank into a deep sleep. A
chinook wind arose during this sleep which lasted two days. All the snow had melted
when he awakened. The horses were his first concern and imagine his surprise when he
found what he thought was a post was a church steeple and the team was hanging forty
feet above ground. Some snow!
The lion hunt in Johnson Valley, however, was judged by oldtimers to be the ultimate and
best remembered story Sam delivered. The characters and site were local, the legend of
usual fancy and the ending typical.
It seems that Esten Johnson Dahl, the valleyís first settler, had been losing several valuable
head of young stock one of those first years. The Indians living up the valley denied
having any connection with the matter and refused to hunt the varmit after they had seen
the leavings. After finding a fine young animal mutilated one morning, Esten sent word
down the valley to Sam that he must have help and fast. Sam responded.
They determined that a lion had done the damage, that it had come from the brushy area
near the bluff to the west and that quick action was necessary to ward off further loss. So
they loaded Samís civil war gun with a heavy charge and headed westward.
Their search was short. The den was quickly located in one of the deep valleys, but tracks
indicated the beast was out on another forage. They decided to hide nearby and await the
lionís return. A long time went by and as Sam