Friday, May 2, 2008

The Barbers of Galena

Express Staff Writer

Marquette Custom Books 272 pgs.

Shortly before she died in 1962, Pearl Eva Barber penned a book called "The Galloping Ghosts of Galena." Forty-six years later, her great-nephew Peter Wyman has published a companion book, "A Ride Through the History of Galena and Bullion," and released them as one oversized book about the history of the region that makes up the Wood River Valley and beyond.

Born to a poor farmer in Nebraska in 1887, 13-year-old Pearl Eva traveled alone by train to Boise to live with a married sister. She immediately went into service in a private home and then at the Sherman House, a boarding house near the state Capitol in Boise, where politicians lived while the Legislature was in session. She met and married Charles Barber at age 17.

In 1917, the couple packed up their meager belongings and headed to the Wood River Valley where mining was in full swung. Pearl became camp cook in the mining town of Bullion, west of Hailey.

In 1923 the Barbers purchased the tiny Galena Store for $500, an outpost that sold staples such as coffee, tobacco and milk. For the next dozen years the Barbers ran the store and maintained a few guest cabins during the summer months only. There was little connection to the outside world but for an old toll road, built in the 1880s, over Galena summit to Sawtooth City (near what is now known as Smiley Creek). And that journey was not for the feint of heart. Wagon drivers routinely tied logs to the backs of their wagons to serve as brakes for the descent from the 8,701-foot summit.

Pearl's story leads into the second part of the book, "A Ride Through the History of Galena and Bullion." Wyman's history lesson of the region includes a variety of regional information.

The personal stories by and about some of Pearl's friends and family are of particular interest. Among the women Wyman writes about are Edith Storey and Rita Hurst, who still lives in Bellevue. When she was young, Hurst drove heavily loaded timber trucks down the unpaved Galena Pass for about nine years, becoming a local legend in the process.

As well, there is a summary of geographical features of the region and the history of mining. Wyman also digs into the myths and stories from the ghost towns where hundreds of people had lived during the mining booms and which now stand vacant and mostly forgotten, such as Bullion, Broadford, Vienna, Rocky Bar and Muldoon.

Wyman's photos and the many historical images complement the stories and memoirs. The book is available at Iconoclast Books in Ketchum, Galena Lodge and the Sun Valley Ketchum Ski & Heritage Museum in Ketchum. The public libraries in Ketchum and Hailey have copies of this book as well as Pearl Barber's original book.

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