I was the communication chief for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, and part of that job was to serve as photographer of the parks. I had my favorite vantage point in each park where I could catch a sunrise, or the certain shadow of a dune. At Priest Lake the cedar groves were difficult to capture; their enormity and the cathedral-like nature of the forest they formed did not easily fit into an eyepiece.
That day I found a newly downed cedar, roots pointing into the air, still clinging to chunks of earth that had served the tree for at least a century. I walked the trunk toward those roots and looked through them, down to the shallow hole they had left behind and to the grassy area just beyond. There was a familiar formation of rocks, 13 stones in the shape of a cross, placed years before at the foot of a much younger tree.
I knew at once what it was. This was a part of the park known as Shipman Point, named after Nell Shipman, silent movie star who had her own movie studio in these woods. She had likely placed those stones there herself, in memory of Tresore, her great Dane.
Tresore was a movie star himself. He had played a feature role in one of Shipman’s movies, Back to God’s Country, filmed in 1919 in Canada. Shipman adored animals and was an early advocate for their humane treatment in films. She had a menagerie with her at Priest Lake, including Brownie the Bear, Barney the Elk, cougar, deer, sled dogs, and others.
In July, 1923, someone poisoned many of those animals, including Tresore. Shipman always suspected that her landlord, to whom she owed money, had been the culprit. She mourned the loss of her Dane and memorialized him with these words: “Here lies Champion Great Dane Tresore, an artist, a soldier, and a gentleman. Killed July 17 by the cowardly hand of a human cur. He died as he lived, protecting his mistress and her property.”
What Shipman could not have known was that Tresore, in his death, played a huge part in the revival of interest in her movies some 60 years later. A BSU professor named Tom Trusky ran across an essay she had written about the poisoning of Tresore in the Idaho State Historical Society Archives. He decided to find out more about Shipman. That led him down a path on which he discovered and restored every movie she ever made, and oversaw the publication of Shipman’s autobiography. Interest in her work as a pioneer woman in films remains high today because of Tom’s efforts.
Park rangers at Priest Lake, and some locals, knew where Tresore’s grave was long before I stumbled across it, of course. For me, my personal discovery came just a few months after my friend Tom’s death. It was a quirk he would have appreciated. He would have called it “a little treat.”