Lost River Valley History FB Page Makes Pandemic Connections

Lost River History


A Facebook group page with 1,485 members showcases the Lost River Valley’s vibrant history in central Idaho.

The site has had a surge in use because people are staying at home during the Coronavirus pandemic and posting photos and comments ranging from vintage concert recordings to ranching and mining.

“Posting photos is a way to stay connected with people and a good way to feel positive,” said Charlotte McKelvey, 84, a local history buff and Mackay resident. She and her daughter, Karen Hames, are some of the most frequent contributors to the Lost River Valley History Facebook page.

History in Photos

One of the most popular photos they posted was published in National Geographic magazine. During the annual Copper Basin roundup in 1951, a photographer from the Salt Lake Tribune photographed three silhouetted cowboys astride their horses and watching over a herd of cows.

“They didn’t even know they were being photographed,” McKelvey said.

The cowboys were her husband, Don McKelvey, shortly after he graduated from high school; his father John; and his brother Johnny. It was also published in National Geographic.

“Some friends saw it after it was published and recognized them and mailed us a copy of the paper,” McKelvey said. “You could tell who it was by the way they were sitting on their horses.”

Another popular photo shows a crew of 23 cowboys who rounded up cattle in Copper Basin in 1938. Other photos that received a lot of comments were a stagecoach traveling from Mackay to Challis in the late 1800s, a wagon near Houston hauling kids to school, and the Shay train locomotive, used at the mines above town.

McKelvey is knowledgeable about local history, because her maternal and paternal grandparents came to the valley in the late 1800s as children. Their families worked in ranching or mining. She married her high school sweetheart, Don, and they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary before he died last fall.

“After Don passed in October, we started going through boxes of our family photos,” McKelvey said. “We wanted to share them, thinking others would like them as much as we did. Over the years, people have given me their family photos when they don’t want to keep them, so we’ve posted them, too.”

She has organized hundreds of photos in notebooks.

“The older you get, the more sentimental you get about local history,” Hames said. “People like coming back to their roots.”

Music of the Past

The Facebook page even links readers to music of the past. Mackay alum Dan MacLerran, a technical coordinator for theatrical and musical productions at the College of Southern Idaho, posted a link to a playlist he made from recordings he had of Mackay bands and choirs from 1975 to 1979.

“The quality of the recordings is really good,” Hames said. “My brothers, Jim and Jack, were some of the high school trumpet players on the recordings.”

The site is the brainchild of a former resident, James Logan, who grew up near Mackay and works as a territory sales manager for Google in Salt Lake City.

Rich History

“We have such a rich history in the valley,” said Logan, who started it five years ago after seeing a similar history Facebook page. “When people post photos and comments, they’re passing on history and adding to it. History is all about personal stories and how our lives are often intertwined.”

He recalled the reaction to a photo he posted that his mother took of him at a parade in Mackay in 1983.

“There were others who were near me and recognized themselves and commented,” he said. “A lot of us have family photos in a shoebox or stored somewhere. Share them. You never know how they will spark a memory for someone else.” ISI