Welcome back as we continue to explore the life of James V. Hawkins in this second part of our mini-series on the Hawkins Family. We rejoin his story at the beginning of his life in Kootenai County, Idaho.
LIFE IN IDAHO
All census records put the birth of their first child James Hawkins in 1909 in California. This is strange that every census from 1910 to 1940 states that he was born in California because according to William’s son, Jimmy, the family never was in California. Was James then born while they were traveling on vacation? There are no other known family ties to California. The only other tie known to California is a set of California Reporters from the 1800’s today sitting in the law office of attorney Robert R. Romero, Jr., which has the name James V. Hawkins on everyone. However, I wouldn’t think that he brought this set of California Reporters back at that time because the set would not have survived the 1910 fire. So we may never know why they were in California, but when they returned they had their first little bundle of joy. A second child would be born on 4 Aug 1910 in St. Joe, Idaho. His name was William Stark Hawkins.
THE GREAT 1910 FIRE
In the 1910 census, the family was recorded as living at 20 Maco St., St Joe, Idaho. James was beginning his life as a general practice attorney, and Ora was a wife and mother. Then tragedy struck in the summer of 1910. The largest fire the Northwest had ever known, and James and Ora would have witnessed the Bitterroot Mountains ablaze. James helped Ora load baby James and the now two-week-old William onto a raft which she tugged and pulled down a dry creek bed, possibly Bond Creek, which was most likely bone dry that year as it was one of the driest years in history until she reached the St. Joe. She stayed in a park along the St. Joe until a steamboat came along and gave her and the boys a ride to Coeur d’Alene, ID.
James left Ora and the boys and went off with the rest of the able-bodied men to fight the fire. Despite the gallant efforts of these men, this fire raged on consuming everything in its path and not stopping. It wasn’t until nature turned on itself and a freak snowstorm in October of that year stopped the fire. When the fire ended James did not know where Ora and the boys were. He went back to St. Joe to find they were gone and no doubt took a moment to take in the devastation of what used to be his home and town before he too boarded a steamboat headed for Coeur d’Alene and never went back.
James, Ora, and their two children would start life over again in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where he would again open another practice as an attorney. In 1920 they are listed as living at 921 Indiana in Coeur d’Alene, but by 1930 they had settled into the home that would be burned into Jimmy’s memory at 1510 Fourth Street.
It wouldn’t be long before life for James and Ora’s would be interrupted again. James was called upon to serve his country in WWI. He registered for his service on 12 September 1918. On his registration, it states that he was a postmaster. It’s unclear how long he had been a postmaster, but it is clear that he changed professions around this time. According to his grandson Jimmy, it was because he didn’t like conflict and did not enjoy being an attorney. Though it’s odd that he is reported to have had a successful career in Nebraska as an attorney according to the book The History of Idaho written by Hiram T. French. It’s very likely that James didn’t have to go to war. He was 44 years old at the time, and he registered just two months before the war ended.
James served in many capacities that allowed him to contribute to his community. He was exalted ruler for the Elks, served as the president of Coeur d’Alene City Chamber of Commerce, president of the Wilson-Marshall club (Democratic Party), and he was captain of Company C of the Idaho National Guard. He believed in service to his community. I’m sure that is why he seemed to enjoy his last career as postmaster. In May 1936 he was appointed Postmaster of Coeur d’Alene and then reappointed again in 1941. He took his job so seriously as a postmaster that he insisted the packages be delivered the day they came in. One time when Jimmy was with him he received a box of baby chicks at the end of the day. He didn’t just secure the baby chicks and make sure they had food and water for the night, no he loaded those baby chicks up and along with his grandson drove to the recipient’s place and delivered them that night. It’s rare to find someone that dedicated anymore. Jimmy has very fond memories of delivery the mail with his grandpa because his grandpa wanted to spend as much time with him as possible.
James Viator Hawkins would die in his home at 1510 Fourth St on 6 June 1940. He is buried in Forest Cemetery in Coeur d’Alene. His military headstone also confirms that he was a soldier.