History of the Crooked Tree

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I must respond to your article about the Crooked Tree Motel. I was there before it was a motel (one of the few “natives” left here).

My family rented the first cabin built there in June 1947. It was four walls with a roof (no water, nor electricity, nor indoor plumbing) – not finished – but the five of us lived in it until mid-August, when we moved to Essex.

The Crooked Tree at that time of 1947 was owned by Alvin and Margaret Nash, and was a hamburger stand in front of their home, next to Highway 2 on the south edge of Hungry Horse. That hamburger stand was built around a crooked tree, was one of the very first places to eat from during preliminary dam-building days and the Nashes earned their living selling hamburgers (and a good living at that!). They had several little children at the time.

My father, Eldon Coverdell, was a carpenter by trade and was hired that summer of 1947 to build forms for the concrete pours at Hungry Horse Dam. He had bought two galvanized, aluminum (50 gallon) garbage cans with lids and drove across the river to the canyon water pipe in the hillside (now Byrne Park) to fill up and haul our water supply home to Nash’s cabin every night after work. We used a kerosene lamp (after dark) and an outdoor toilet.

My mother, Helen Coverdell, was hired to teach all eight grades in the one-room Essex school beginning in September for the 1947-48 school year. That old school was on the hill above the railroad tracks, but there was a road to the back side of it by way of Dickey Creek. Alvin Nash had a truck and rode in it with my dad to move our belongings to Essex and then took his truck back to Hungry Horse in mid-August of 1947. My mom drove our vehicle. Highway 2 from West Glacier east was under construction (and a scary, slow-go!) at the time. My mom stopped at the top of one of the steep grades, laid her head on the steering wheel and just cried for a few minutes. There were no safeguards on the narrow rough-graded roadway (no flares, flagging or anything else to warn or keep us from going over the edge to the bottom of the canyon) and guardrails were rare even after that road was finished a few years later. All of the younger kids were crying – which added to mom’s shredded nerves. Margaret Nash had sent two of her little kids with their dad, but they, of course, ended up in our car with my sisters, all four crying all the way from Hungry Horse! It took nearly three hours to get to Essex! The Nash kids, no doubt slept all the way back to Hungry Horse with their dad – worn out from crying in our car!

There was no motel, nor swimming pool nor RV park at the Nash’s property in 1947. Their business began with a hamburger stand. Ralph and Inga DeSteunder build nothing there in 1948, or ever. Alvin and Margaret Nash did, possibly beginning with their home, in 1946. I don’t know where Henry Broers is from, when bought from the Nashes in 1986, or who he got his information from (about the Crooked Tree Motel and RV Park). Our family continued to stop at the hamburger stand throughout the four years we traveled from Essex to Kalispell. After we moved down to Columbia Falls (summer of 1951), we were no longer driving past. I’m sure the hamburger stand operated throughout the dam construction (to 1953) at the very least. They added more cabins through the years and became the “Motel” part.

Thanks for your attention. I am into factual history – dates and all!

Norma L. (Coverdell) Burns

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