Monday, March 31, 2014

Searching For Uncle Paul, Pt. 1

My father had a long-lost uncle that disappeared many years ago, and he, his brothers, and his father decided to try to find him.  They found him in a small town in Idaho.  Here is Part 1 of their story, as told by my father:

When my Uncle Paul came out of the army in 1948, he was disappointed to learn 
that the money he had been sending home to his mother to keep for him and been 
given to his sister by this mother so she and her husband could buy a house.  
So, in anger, he packed up his things (including some pots and pans from his 
mother) and headed out west.
My Uncle Paul was one of seven kids that was part of the Freed family.  My dad, 
Chester, was his only brother.  When Paul left in 1948, no one knew where he was 
going.  As a matter of fact, no one was in touch with him for many, many years.  
My dad was always curious about him obviously, wondering where he was and 
concerned, of course, that something might have happened to him since there was 
so no communication with the family.  In the meantime, both of my dad’s parents 
died and several of his sisters.  Uncle Paul, of course, had no idea they were 

There were eight of us kids born to my dad and mother (Grace).  There was an 
even split of boys and girls.  My brother Jim was the second oldest but the 
oldest brother.  He enjoyed camping with his family and they had a pop-up 
trailer that allowed them to travel and camp in various campgrounds around the 
country.  My brother decided to take a trip to California in 1975 and asked my 
dad to go along with the idea that they could check various places out west that 
might give a clue as to where Uncle Paul might be living.

They finally reached the State of Washington where Jim’s wife, Nancy’s, Aunt 
Dorothy lived.  To that point, they had no luck finding Uncle Paul as they 
traveled west.  They explained to Aunt Dorothy about Uncle Paul and their 
attempts to locate him.  It was at this point that my dad, certainly 
disappointed at not finding any evidence of where Uncle Paul was, decided that 
he’d fly back home alone since the trip in the camper would take another week to 
return to Pennsylvania where they lived at the time.

In late September, 1977, Aunt Dorothy was reading the paper (Tri-City Herald) 
where she found an article about a silver mine in DeLamar, Idaho.  In that 
article, it mentioned that Paul Freed, an elderly recluse, was the only resident 
of DeLamar before the big mine opened.  Curiously, she sent the article to her 
niece Nancy and said “I read this, this afternoon and got to wondering if this 
“Paul Freed” that is mentioned; could he be your uncle that you were looking for 
when you were out here to see us?”  Dorothy.

My brother Jim notified my dad immediately and my dad got in touch with the 
newspaper and asked if they had more information on the recluse Paul Freed.  My 
dad had his brother Paul’s social security number which he provided to the 
newspaper.  They checked it out and found out that the social security number 
matched my Uncle Paul’s except for one number.  That was enough for my dad.  The 
newspaper provided him Uncle Paul’s address, which was Murphy, Idaho.
My dad sent Uncle Paul a letter and Uncle Paul answered with “I knew where you 
were all the time.  If I had wanted to get in touch with you, I could have at 
any time”..meaning, of course, he didn’t want anything to do with the family.  
My dad wrote back and told him about his mother and dad dying and his sisters.  
Uncle Paul’s return letters were brief and short but he seemed to be warming to 
the communication. 

My dad mentioned to Uncle Paul that he’d like to see him.  Uncle Paul said to 
come on out if he wanted to.  Brother Jim, in the meantime, had purchased a 
Winnebago motor home, and after shuffling time schedules, etc. it was decided 
that dad, Jim, our brother Paul (yes, named for Uncle Paul) and I would head out 
to Idaho in the motor home.  Brother Paul and I were living in Maryland and both 
had families so we knew it would be a sacrifice to leave our families for 
several weeks.  But, we knew dad was excited about the prospect of seeing his 
brother so we arranged our schedules accordingly.  Paul and I drove to Uniontown 
to pick up dad, then drove on to Pittsburgh to meet Jim to begin our trip.  Jim 
had already stocked the motor home with food and since my dad was a pretty 
creative cook, we knew he’d be whipping up some specialties.

We headed out the Pennsylvania turnpike into Ohio and on to Chicago.  We did 
stop in Chicago to enjoy a good dinner.  Of course, as we left Chicago, we got 
lost and ended up going out of our way to get back on track.  Paul was driving 
at the time and we harassed him for getting us lost.

My trip was marred some because of a tooth ache.  It actually started hurting 
before we left but got gradually worse and we traveled.  But, it was tolerable 
although it did interfere with my sleeping.

We made another stop in Michigan and went to the Henry Ford Museum which was 
very entertaining and fun.  We also stopped at the Corn Palace in Nebraska and 
an “all you can eat” restaurant.  We had trouble getting dad to leave because he 
didn’t want to leave all that good food behind. Lol

After two days of traveling, we pulled into Murphy, Idaho – population 23 and 
2600 miles.  Since Murphy was a county seat, it did have a court house and a gas 
station type store.  Across the street was a landing strip that was used by 
small planes.  As you looked around the town of Murphy, there were a number of 
small homes and several shacks.  We went to the gas station store and asked 
about Uncle Paul.  They told us he was probably up at the silver mine if he 
wasn’t at his residence.  We walked down to Uncle Paul’s shack and sure enough, 
he wasn’t there.  As we peeked into some of the windows, my dad did recognize 
some of the pots and pans Uncle Paul had taken with him back in 1948.
We went back to the gas station store and talked with them.  They told us that 
Uncle Paul’s place in DeLamar was about 30 miles from Murphy.  They told us 
about a dirt road that we could take out of Murphy.  We thanked them and began 
our trip.  We went about 2 miles in the motor home on the rocky road and 
realized that this wasn’t going to work out.  The motor home was taking too much 
of a beating on the bumpy road.  We returned to the gas station store and 
learned that our cousin had flown to Boise and rented and car and was down at 
Uncle Paul’s place there in Murphy.  His name was Kenny and he was the son of my 
dad’s sister, Viola.  He, like us, was curious about seeing Uncle Paul and he 
knew we were traveling there so he timed his trip to meet us as well.  

The store clerk at the gas station told us that the only way to get to Uncle 
Paul’s place in DeLamar was to take the long way around by driving to Oregon and 
going in that way.  It was about 80 miles compared to the 30 miles on the dirt 
road.  Kenny volunteered his car so we all piled in and off we went.  Even 
though we had pretty good road most of the way, we still had to travel about 10 
miles on dirt road to reach DeLamar.

We weren’t entirely sure which “shack” in DeLamar was Uncle Paul’s place but we 
drove slowly and spotted the shack with an elderly gentlemen sitting on a chair 
on the front porch.  The five of  us got out of the car and my dad walked up to 
his brother Paul.  He put out his hand and said “I’m Chester Freed”. Uncle Paul 
acknowledged his hand shake and said “I’m Paul Freed” shaking his brother's 
hand. Meanwhile, I had my super 8 movie camera rolling although I was sure how 
Uncle Paul was going to respond to us.   After it looked like Uncle Paul was 
“okay” with our being there, we walked up to him and introduced ourselves and 
got a big handshake.  It was, needless-to-say, quite the experience.  After 
chatting for a little while, Uncle Paul asked if we wanted to drive up and see 
his silver mine.  So dad climbed in the cab of Uncle’s Paul pick-up truck and we 
guys climbed in the bed of the truck along with Uncle Paul’s German Sheppard dog 
Jake.  Now Jake was an interesting story as well.  Uncle Paul told us that he 
liked to ride in the bed of the truck and stand on his back feet and lean over 
the driver’s side part of the bed and try to bite car antennas as they came by 
in the opposite direction.  Jake would also bite at tree limbs as they rode 
through the mountains and several times Uncle Paul had to stop his truck and go 
back and get Jake who would be hanging from a branch by his teeth.

As we journeyed down the narrow dirt road on the way to Uncle Paul’s silver 
mine, we were hanging on for dear life as Uncle Paul was traveling rather fast – 
at least we thought so – given the mountainous terrain that was on either side 
of the road.  We suddenly had second thoughts about maybe he did want to  “bump 
us off” after all by throwing us out of the bed of the truck on a sharp curve.  
But, we arrived safe and sound at the mine after being amused at Jake as he 
snapped at various trees along the way.

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