WEST GLACIER – Against all odds, or perhaps because of them, Josephine Doody, the Bootleg Lady of Glacier Park, has not been forgotten.
Neither has her land nor her legacy. And even as the number of Doody’s living acquaintances diminishes, succumbing to old age, illness and dementia, and even as her sagging log cabin fades into the forest understory like an improperly-fixed photograph blanches over time, or as an old bass recedes into deep and murky waters, her legend has continued to grow in Faulknerian proportions.
She is rumored to have killed a man in Colorado while working as a “dance hall” girl and, though it is widely believed that the murder was in self-defense, she was forced onto the lam, outrunning federal agents and settling in the rough-and-tumble, long-defunct Montana mining settlement of McCarthyville on Marias Pass.
She survived opium addiction when Dan Doody, one of Glacier National Park’s first rangers, kidnapped the young woman and brought her to his remote log cabin on the Middle Fork Flathead River to dry out. They came to tolerate one another and eventually married, living off the postage stamp of wild land tucked inside the boundary of what would become Glacier National Park, where she built a still and began running moonshine to the Great Northern trainmen.
“Dan and Josephine trapped fur, hunted grizzlies, deer and elk and chased mountain lions with their Airedale dogs before and after the area became a national park,” writes John Fraley, the author of “Wild River Pioneers: Adventures in the Middle Fork of the Flathead, Great Bear Wilderness and Glacier National Park.”
Josephine developed a thriving bootleg operation on their remote, 160-acre homestead, selling the hooch to the Great Northern trainmen. The train would stop at Doody siding, and each toot of the whistle would mean one gallon of moonshine. Josephine delivered it across the Middle Fork of the Flathead River in a small boat.
Dan Doody worked as a ranger under the park’s first superintendent, William Logan, but was fired in 1916 for excessive poaching of the park’s wildlife. After he died in 1921, Josephine maintained the two-story log cabin as a hunting and fishing lodge at the confluence where Harrison Creek spills into the Middle Fork.
She often clashed with the Park Service, but continued firing her stills on park-poached wood, and became particularly fond of a park ranger named Clyde Fauley Sr., who was the Nyack District ranger.
“I think the period while he was a ranger in Nyack was about 1929 or 1930, and during that time they really became good friends,” said Carlyle Fauley, Clyde’s son.
“She would have been about 78 at that time. She was right on the trail and at that time rangers patrolled constantly, in the winter on snowshoes and in the summer on foot. They didn’t just sit in the pickup and play cop. They patrolled. And her cabin was right at the intersection of the Boundary Trail and the Harrison Lake Trail. And she made sure my dad had pie and coffee every time he stopped. She was a pretty mild-mannered old lady by then, but of course she still had her ideas and opinions.”
Fauley, 87, recalls visiting Josephine at the cabin on Thanksgiving in 1930, and crossing the Middle Fork by bucket and cable with his parents and brother.
“We were over to the old cabin across the river twice as little kids,and one of them was Thanksgiving in the fall of 1930. Of course I was only 5 years old, but I have a pretty good memory,” Fauley said.
“What really fascinated me about her place was she had a lot of cats. We had a dog, but as far as I know I had never been up close to a cat before and they just totally fascinated me. I wanted to take one home. My older brother remembers that she burnt the gravy. But I remember crossing the river, and I remember the cats.”
It wasn’t long after that Thanksgiving that an ailing Josephine Doody moved across the river to live on Deer Lick Creek and the Fauley family moved to Two Medicine, but by then Highway 2 had been built and his family could visit by car.
“My folks still visited her quite often,” he said.
Fauley and his brother, Clyde Jr., continued to visit the Harrison Creek cabin long after Josephine was gone, packing in on horses along the Boundary Trail to Harrison Lake and exploring the densely-forested river corridor.
“What really upsets me is that we made a trip to Harrison Lake in the late ’60s and stopped by the cabin, and at that time the cabin was still in good shape,” he said. “I remember it was a nice day and I took some photos and set my camera down, and when we finished unpacking things and unsaddling the horses I never found the thing. Fraley thinks it was Josephine. He’s convinced of it.”
No one is more enthusiastic about the history of the Doody homestead than John Fraley, who began researching the life of Josephine in 1988 after skiing across the river and discovering the old homestead. He circumnavigated the cabin on the clean-driven, undisturbed snow, and then went inside and walked around upstairs. When he returned to his skis and the beginning of his tracks, just beneath a second-story window of the cabin, he saw the unmistakable tracks of a mountain lion.
“There had been a mountain lion in that homestead when I went inside,“he said. “That was kind of an exciting introduction to it.”
When Fraley relayed the experience to his wife’s pioneering great aunt Doris Huffine, she told him all about Josephine Doody, the Bootleg Lady of Glacier Park, with whom Huffine had become well-acquainted as the owner of the Stanton Creek Lodge.
“She had gotten to know Josephine really well when she was in her 80s, and when I told her about the mountain lion she said it was the spirit of Josephine calling on me to tell her story. So I researched her life for 20 years until the book’s publication, and I’m still learning new things.”
Fraley traced her roots to Macon County, Ga., and interviewed dozens of sources who have since died. She had lied about her age to nearly everyone, and Fraley finally found what he believes to be her birth certificate.
“She left Georgia for Colorado where she lost her man and was basically forced into becoming a dance hall girl,” Fraley said. “She had no means of support and it was a rough and rowdy place, and like a lot of prostitutes she ran into trouble and had to go on the lam. Dan Doody’s homestead was essentially a hideout cabin.”
Fraley’s research led him to Josephine’s death certificate, which had been signed by a physician named Albert Bassett, who used to fish and hunt on the Doody property.
“My dad was a doctor and Mr. Doody used to take people fishing at his Nyack place, and he invited my mom, dad, brother and me for a weekend,” says Bassett’s daughter, Sylvia Murphy, 96, of Lakeside. “I was 4 or 5 years old so I remember very little.”
Through Bassett’s death certificate, Fraley learned that Josephine had died in January 1936 of pneumonia. According to his sources, including the Fauley family, she had been living with a man named Charlie Holland at her home on Deer Lick Creek. When she became ill, Holland put her on a train to Kalispell against her will.
Once in the hospital, she never regained consciousness and died there.
Holland never attended the funeral. Few people did. The friends who did pay their respects noticed that Josephine’s signature gold-nugget earrings were missing, and had stretched her earlobes into the shape of a banana. People say Charlie Holland took the jewelry.
Finally, Fraley went to the Conrad Cemetery in Kalispell and visited the plot where Josephine was supposed to have been buried, right beside Dan Doody.
A gravestone marked the burial site of the former ranger, but there was no memorial for Josephine.
“It all just kind of added up and it festered in my mind that she had been wronged over and over,” Fraley said. “I was chasing all these ghosts and old-timers’ stories and I knew I wanted to write a book, but I was amazed that there was no tombstone.”
Certain that she was buried on the plot beside her husband, Fraley worked with the Conrad cemetery and gravestone-maker Pete Darling and had a proper memorial made.
“In April 2009 we let everyone know we were going to do it and we sort of conducted a new funeral,” Fraley said.
“Clyde and Carlyle Fauley came with both of their wives and some other history buffs were there and they laid the headstone. We shared some memories and stories, and we just felt like there was some closure. Because she really had some wrongs done to her.”
The tombstone reads: “Josephine Doody, October 16, 1853, January 16, 1936, The Bootleg Lady of Glacier Park.”
By the time Josephine died in 1936, long gone were the days when she ferried moonshine across the river to the trainmen.
Once, a group of revenuers forced a park ranger who knew Josephine to bear down on her whiskey-running, and they confiscated 18 1/2 gallons of the hooch.
While they were there, they found a pile of deer hides that had turned green.
“She claimed not to know anything about it, but she lived in the wilderness and she lived off the wilderness,” Fraley said. “She lived free.”
Charlie Holland lost the Doody Homestead to a gambling debt and the property has passed from owner to owner through the years, with the park service buying up bits and pieces along the way.
Still, until earlier this month 120-acres remained unincorporated, making the property the second-largest private inholding left in Glacier National Park.
On July 10, the Trust for Public Lands announced a $900,000 purchase of the property from the Robert Lundgren and Gail Richery family trusts, which in turn donated 25 percent back to the organization.
In turn, the Trust For Public Lands sold the Doody homestead to the National Park Service for an equal amount. The money came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the federal government’s primary source for protecting land, which is funded by royalties paid by energy companies in exchange for oil and gas extraction from federal offshore leases.
Prior to the transaction, about 500 acres of private property remained inside the park.
Through the purchase, Fraley says he hopes both the land and the legend are preserved in the region’s cultural and natural history.
“My hope is that they leave it as it is rather than try to make it more accessible or restore the cabin,” he said. “It has always been hard to get there. It’s still hard to get there, and that is the way it should be. To find a special place like this, you’ve got to do some exploring.”
Glacier National Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright assured those concerned about the fate of the property that it will be “left alone.”
But as the languishing cabin disappears into the rich thicket of the wild and scenic Middle Fork Flathead River, the legend of Josephine Doody lives on.
And keeps getting richer.
Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at (406) 730-1067 or by email at email@example.com.