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Atlanta pioneers

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Pioneer Woman: Peg Leg Annie

A Rocky Life in Rocky Bar

Article by Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

Photography by courtesy of Idaho State Archives

Originally published in Meridian Lifestyle

Thousands of people moved to Idaho when gold was discovered on the Feather River in 1863. Five year old Felicia Ann, her father Stephen McIntyre, his wife, and his son arrived in Rocky Bar on Independence Day in 1864. Perched on her father’s shoulders, Annie might have seen men taking a break from the mines to observe the Fourth of July with processions, oratory, picnics, contests, games, and fireworks. Born in Van Buren County, Iowa, on September 13, 1858, Annie soon acclimated to the mountain town. 

Rocky Bar is now a ghost town in Elmore County, Idaho but from 1864 to 1882 it served as county seat of Alturas County. It was also the original county seat of Elmore County when it was created in 1889. At its height in the late 19th century Rocky Bar boasted a population of over 2,500. It’s located about 70 miles northeast of Mountain Home.  Rocky Bar was even considered as a possible capital for Idaho Territory. Destroyed by fire in 1892, it was rebuilt and mining continued but the settlement never fully recovered.

Annie’s father Stephen McIntyre eventually became part owner of the Golden Star Mine with his friend James Roberts, but was tragically shot in a street fight in 1872, leaving Annie on her own. She became a child bride at 17, marrying a man sixteen years older than she named Thomas Morrow on August 27, 1876. Before they separated, they had five children: Eliza Anne Morrow, John William Morrow, Harry Morrow, Susan Margaret Morrow, and Ethel Frances Morrow. Thomas Morrow was reportedly a cruel husband, and Annie later filed for divorce. Morrow died in 1906 and is buried in Morris Hill Cemetery Plot: MHILL_4_48_9.

During the gold rush, Annie owned “houses of entertainment” in the “gold-boom” towns of Atlanta and Rocky Bar, Idaho. Annie was an incredible entrepreneur, described as one of Atlanta’s more colorful individuals. Annie was an angel of mercy in the mining camp. She never turned down a hungry man or one without money. Her boarding house was a haven to those who were down on their luck. Annie owned a plethora of businesses, and many mining claims. She often grubstaked miners and took a percentage of their finds.  Despite her success, she also worked as a successful “lady of the night.”  

In May 1896, Annie and a companion, Emma von Losch AKA “Dutch Em,” another “soiled dove,” set out on foot from Atlanta to Rocky Bar. It was a more than eleven mile trip along James Creek Summit pass, a major transportation route that mail packers used.  Atlanta’s difficult location, in a mountain gorge, slowed development of the mines because equipment could not be transported there until a toll road was built.

Bill Tate, a mail carrier, related that he had spotted the two women at the foot of Turner Hill. They brought a Newfoundland dog for company.

“I said ‘Well, where are you going?’ and they said ‘We're going to Rocky Bar.’ I says ‘You better go back, you can't make it.’ And they said ‘We'll make it or die.’ So I says ‘Well, I think you'll die.’"

Tate helped them to the cabin mail carriers used to exchange packs, and advised them to stay there while he got them some skis. Even though the cabin was stocked with food, a bed, and wood, after Tate left, the women fortified themselves with alcohol and continued their journey to Rocky Bar.
 
The pair were caught in a terrible late snowstorm. The blizzard raged on for two days. The women walked together on crusted snow, but at a crawl. After they failed to show up in Rocky Bar when expected, a search party was formed. Annie was found crawling through snow on her hands and knees, incoherent. Annie survived because she cuddled with the Newfoundland which kept her from freezing to death.

 “Dutch Em” was found dead, covered by Annie’s underclothes. Annie’s feet were severely frostbitten and had to be amputated above the ankles, garnering her the nickname “Peg Leg Annie”. Annie was 37 when she lost her way and her feet.

“Peg Leg Annie” lived at Rocky Bar in a cabin, which still stands. One of her many business ventures was selling whiskey. To prevent her customers from walking off with product, hid the bottles along the side of a building by her cabin. She collected payment in advance, then, with a shotgun across her knees, she would direct her customers to the spot where the bottles of booze were hidden.

A memorial plaque erected by the Atlanta Arts Society in July of 2003 at James Creek Summit pass reads, “Dedicated to the gritty resolve and courage of Annie Morrow, AKA ‘Peg Leg Annie’, and her friend ‘Dutch Em.’ In May 1896 they were caught in a late blizzard while walking from Atlanta to Rocky Bar. Losing their direction to the Summit House at this site, Em froze to death and Annie’s feet were later amputated. She died in 1934, but their colorful spirit lives on in our hearts and minds through the stories, myths and truth, still told about these pioneer women.”

A stone marker nearby reads, “Dutch Em Died on Bald Mountain May 16, 1896.”

Dutch Em’s gravesite is in the Atlanta cemetery, located off Main Street, just past two apple trees on the right by a little pullout next to some large boulders.  Though you can’t see the cemetery from the road, if you look behind the boulders and past big piles of brush, there is a small, steep track leading uphill-- evidence there is something of significance up there in the trees. Em’s grave lies outside the cemetery, in a spot set aside for prostitutes and those residents who died of suicide.

If you would like to visit “Peg Leg Annie” at her gravesite, you can find her simple gravestone in the Morris Hill Cemetery, Plot: Section 4-48-8. She died on her birthday in 1934. She impacted Idaho greatly; a restaurant in Boise was even named after her, although it was later sold in 1997. Annie, like many other pioneers of Idaho, was a spirited entrepreneur who led a rocky life.

  • Felicia Ann McIntyre Morrow aka Peg Leg Annie
  • Mines in Atlanta
  • Rocky Bar, elevation 5370
  • George Golden Store 1891 in Rocky Bar
  • Alturas Hotel, Rocky Bar
  • Blacksmith in Rocky Bar
  • Historical plaque in Atlanta
  • Hoffman House, Atlanta, around 1900
  • Atlanta miners
  • Atlanta pioneers