Thursday, March 5, 2015

Gold Rush Fuels Murray Building Boom [otd 3/5]

The Lewiston Teller for March 5, 1885 published a glowing report from a correspondent in the new town of Murray, Idaho. The observer first noted that people in the entire mining district exuded confidence. At a settlement 3-4 miles west of Murrayville (Murray's original name), the reporter "counted eleven buildings under construction."
Placer mining, Murray area, 1884. Note miners in foreground.
University of Idaho Archives.
Miners were running large placer rigs on streams throughout the area. While the strikes were not spectacular, they provided solid returns and fueled hopes for more.

The Teller correspondent wrote, "Murray is fast building up and assuming the air of a mining metropolis, and property here has a value outside of what is justified by present appearances."

Around 1880, Andrew J. Pritchard and two other prospectors had worked their way up the North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River. They found color on what came to be called Prichard Creek, deep in the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, 5-6 miles from the Montana border.  (It’s not clear when the “t” was dropped, but current maps show the stream with that spelling.)

Pritchard tried to restrict the news to a few favored partners while he continued to look for better prospects. He made a major find in 1882 [blog, Apr 25], but – as usual – the news leaked out.  By 1883 thousands of miners had rushed into the region, especially along Prichard Creek. All the early claims had been staked and filed, so late-comers pushed further up every likely looking stream.

Murray got its start in early 1884 and grew rapidly. At the same time, the population of Pierce City, the original county seat for Shoshone County, had dwindled to perhaps a few dozen souls. A notion to split the county was quickly squelched, but just before Christmas the Territorial government decided to locate a new county seat. The Act called for an election the following summer.

According to one pioneer, perhaps 2,500 people spent that winter in Murray and the nearby mining camps. Other reports suggest that 4 to 5 thousand were scattered throughout the Coeur d'Alenes.
Murray, Idaho, ca 1888.
The Sprag Pole Inn and Museum, Murray.

The Teller correspondent of March 5th went on, "Real estate changes hands daily and business prospects are bright. Two shingle mills are the latest improvements and parties are daily in search of business locations. There are twelve stores where goods of all kinds can be procured, three drug stores, several restaurants and a hotel."

The reports seems to have been accurate. At the election on June 1, 1885, Murray easily won the county seat, garnering 1,075 votes to 457 for Delta. The Illustrated History said, “Add to these two votes cast for Beaver (the former name of Delta), two for Eagle and one for Littlefieid, and we have a total vote in the county of 1,537.”

However, even then the seeds of change had been planted: To the south, prospectors had discovered rich lead-silver veins, and these turned out to represent the true wealth of the Coeur d'Alenes.

While Murray bloomed and then began a slow decline, Wallace and the other silver towns prospered. Thus, in 1898, another election moved the county seat from Murray to Wallace, where it still is.
References: [French], [Illust-North]
"Counties and County Seats," Reference Series No. 10, Idaho State Historical Society (July 1991).

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

President Lincoln Signs Law to Create Idaho Territory [otd 03/04]

On March 4, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill that created Idaho Territory, splitting it off from Washington Territory. The signing culminated a period of intense political wrangling that first heated up after the Yakima Indian War, in late 1858. When Oregon became a state in February 1859, Washington Territory was left basically as a catch-all for the area north of Utah and west of (vaguely) the Rockies.
Gold pan with nuggets amidst black sand.
National Park Service.

The bickering and horse-trading greatly intensified after Captain Elias Pierce’s party discovered gold along the Clearwater River in the fall of 1860 [blog, Oct 2]. Ignoring the boundary of the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, prospectors poured into the region.

Washington Territorial officials quickly created Shoshone County to provide an administrative structure for the Idaho mining districts. The county encompassed the region between near-future Lewiston and the Continental Divide, and south from the Canadian border to some amorphous boundary down towards Utah Territory.

As more prospectors arrived and spread south, the legislature split Shoshone County along the Clearwater River. The area to the south became Nez Perce County, with Lewiston as the seat. And still the eager gold seekers pressed on, making more gold discoveries in the Boise Basin.

By the end of 1862, the population centers for Washington Territory had shifted dramatically … from the Puget Sound area to the gold fields of (future) Idaho and Montana. Alarmed, political leaders in Olympia knew they had to shed all those voters that could challenge their control of the Territorial legislature.

“Not so fast” politicos in Walla Walla and Lewiston said: Let’s keep the Territory intact, but move the capital to our more central location. Even Vancouver had a dark horse in the running. Located on the preferred wagon road between coastal Washington and the interior, they had hopes of winning the capital as a compromise candidate.

After much maneuvering, the contest became a face-off between Olympia and Lewiston. A complete description of their respective agendas is beyond the scope of this article, but the Olympians got what they wanted. The split placed the border just west of Lewiston. That retained the maximum area for the future growth of Washington's population and economy, but dumped all those current prospector votes.
Combination of three U. S. General Land Office maps,
Territorial period.

Lewiston, of course, also won by being designated capital of the new Idaho Territory. Their triumph would be short-lived, however.

As then defined, the Territory was a "geographic monstrosity" - encompassing all the future states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. That gave it an area substantially larger than Texas ... actually, more than Texas and Illinois combined. Nearly 700 direct miles separated Fort Laramie, on the North Platte River, from the capital at Lewiston. That’s roughly equivalent to the distance from Philadelphia to Chicago, but there were no connecting roads to speak of.

Idaho's structure soon changed drastically: Less than 15 months after its founding, Congress reduced it to its present size plus a chunk of Wyoming west of the Continental Divide. Eight months after that, Territorial legislators moved the capital from Lewiston to Boise.
Reference: [B&W], [Illust-State]
"The Creation of the Territory of Idaho," Reference Series No. 264, Idaho State Historical Society (March 1969).

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Commission Created to Oversee Idaho Capitol Construction [otd 03/03]

On March 3, 1905 Governor Frank Gooding signed an Act to create a "Capitol Building Board." For some years prior to this, state officers and citizens had begun to find the old Territorial capitol building inadequate to the needs of a new and growing state.
Old Territorial/State capitol building, ca 1898.
Illustrated History of the State of Idaho.

Before 1884, the Territorial legislature apparently met in various hotels where they could find enough rooms, and Territorial offices were at scattered locations. That year, legislators reviewed Territorial finances and concluded they could finally build “suitable quarters for the territorial government.” The legislature met in its new capitol building in 1886.

However, after nearly twenty years of use, the old structure was showing its age and simply not big enough. The 1905 board, which met as the Capitol Building Commission about two weeks after the signing, consisted of the Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, and "two competent citizens." One of the citizen representatives selected was former Boise Mayor Walter E. Pierce, a prominent real estate developer. The other was Judge James H. Beatty, of the Federal Court for the District of Idaho.

The Act allowed the board to plan for an expansion of the existing building or to purchase land for a totally new structure. After considering various options, the Commission decided to build a new, larger structure, but basically retain the old location.

The bought the old school next door – it had been built before the Territorial capitol itself – and closed the street between the two to create a larger continuous tract. The Commission then accepted a “Neoclassical” architectural design submitted by J. E. Tourtellotte and Company.
Idaho capitol, ca 1915 – Note the lack of wings. [Hawley]
To control costs, planners selected a design that kept the “standard” capitol dome, but provided a rather minimal base. The immediate impression presented by the 1915 image is that the structure is “all dome” – the stubby side blocks seem dwarfed.

However, even that concept outran the immediately available funds and contractors took six years to complete the structure. Writing in an “editorial” voice, James H. Hawley's History said, "in the summer of 1912 the building was so far completed that Governor Hawley removed his offices from the old building to the new quarters provided for the chief executive."

Even as Hawley moved to his new offices, the Commission awarded Tourtellotte and Hummel the contract to design larger wings for the structure. Again, the state’s resources failed to match its ambitions. Construction of the additions did not start until 1919. They did, however, go much faster than the original project; the capitol had its new wings by the end of 1920.
Capitol with wings, artist’s concept, ca 1913.
City of Boise.

Over its many years of use, the capitol building underwent numerous modifications, sometimes with unfortunate results. A modernization project in the 1960s, while necessary, has since been particularly criticized for its lack of sensitivity to historic preservation.

Fortunately, a recent substantial renovation and face-lift corrected some of those earlier “sins.” To preserve the outside appearance, designers gained new space by adding wings underground. The structure re-opened to the public in January 2010.
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Restoration – Preserving the People’s House, Idaho Capitol Commission, Boise.
"Idaho State Capital," Reference Series No. 133, Idaho State Historical Society (December 1964).
"Moments in Idaho History," Idaho State Historical Society web site.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hatch Act of 1887 Authorizes Agricultural Experiment Stations [otd 03/02]

On March 2, 1887, the U. S. Congress approved the Hatch Act of 1887. The Act authorized grants to support agricultural experiment stations in the states. In most cases, such stations would be set up and administered by the "land grant" colleges spurred by the Morrill Act of 1862.
Agricultural experiment plots. Library of Congress.
In Idaho, leaders established an on-campus experiment station at the University of Idaho (UI) even before classes began – although several years passed before they had land for experimental plots. Professors in the new Agricultural Department offered to answer questions from farmers and ranchers across the state. People could even send in samples of insect pests from their fields, and University experts would try to recommend ways to combat the infestations.

However, an early attempt to form "substations" – and thereby qualify for more Hatch grants – failed miserably in the 1890s. Apparently, the University simply didn’t know enough about how to staff the stations with experts suited to local needs.

In 1898, they replaced that effort with a program of traveling institutes, which proved extremely useful, and popular. In little more than a decade, the team of experts and their demonstration paraphernalia required a train of six rail cars to transport them around the state.

The program benefited the presenters as well as the attendees: Traveling faculty observed first-hand those areas and agricultural products that needed more help than they could provide.

After awhile, the university made the extension service a separate adminstrative unit. Before this, the UI President not only ran the University, he was head of the College of Agriculture, which also operated the experiment station. The President recommended (Idaho Statesman, December 28, 1902) that, “the two departments should be divorced and the presidency of the university and agricultural college should not be coupled with the responsibility for the work of the agricultural station.”

With that change, and what they learned from the institute program, the University reactivated the substation system in 1906. The first of the new stations, near Caldwell, soon settled into long-term studies of irrigation techniques and tests of crop varieties suitable to Idaho’s climate and soil.

Administrators remained flexible, however; in 1914 H. T. French described a station near Gooding that no longer existed when Hawley published his History in 1920.
Potato cellar, Aberdeen Experiment Station, 1932. UI archives.

Guided by experience and changing conditions, administrators developed a policy whereby each station was designed to address specific regional farm and ranch issues. Thus, the Sandpoint Station, established in 1912, focused on crops that would grow well in the cooler, wetter climate of North Idaho. That same year, the Aberdeen Station began testing potatoes, grains, forage crops, and other plants suitable for irrigated or dry farming in that area.

The Stations also tied into truly international efforts. Hawley noted that “United States Consuls and special agents” of the U. S. Department of Agriculture had been instructed to search the world for plant varieties suited to Idaho’s high altitude and arid climate. He wrote that, “Farming is being reduced to a science and crop failures will soon become a thing of the past.”

Today, the University of Idaho maintains twelve research and extension centers spotted across the state, along with the main campus Center. Their work encompasses all areas related to farming and ranching: water use, soil conservation, animal and plant breeding, pest and disease control, animal care, and even food safety and innovation.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Keith C. Petersen, The Crested Hill: An Illustrated History of the University of Idaho, University of Idaho Press, Moscow (1987).
University of Idaho Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station Home.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

President Ulysses S. Grant Creates Yellowstone National Park [otd 03/01]

Geyser cone, Fire Hole Basin, 1871.
W. H. Jackson photo, Library of Congress.
On March 1, 1872, President U. S. Grant signed the bill that authorized creation of Yellowstone National Park.

As far back as 1825, American fur trappers had become familiar with the geothermal wonders of this area. It has been established, however, that "Colter's Hell" – first reported by Mountain Man John Colter – was east of the future Park.

In August of 1836, Mountain Man Osborne Russell [blog, Dec 20] trapped many streams feeding into Yellowstone Lake and the river. His Journal records a graphic impression of the geothermal features: “We fell into a broken tract of country which seemed to be all on fire at some distance below the surface.”

To cross one stretch, they followed an elk trail, where “Our horses sounded like travelling on a plank platform covering an imense [sic] cavity in the earth whilst the hot water and steam were spouting and hissing around us in all directions.”

One horse’s hind hoof broke through and released a jet of steam, but they otherwise crossed safely. Russell said, “The whole place was covered with a crust of Limestone of a dazzling whiteness formed by the overflowing of the boiling water.”

In 1871, Dr. Ferdinand Hayden made an extensive survey of the region. He urged William H. Clagett, Delegate to Congress from Montana Territory, to find a way to preserve the area’s wonders for future generations. Clagett, later President of Idaho’s Constitutional Convention, introduced legislation to establish Yellowstone National Park – generally considered the first national park in the world.
Stagecoach and hot springs in Yellowstone.
Photo credited at to Milwaukee Public Museum.
Creation of the Park had an immediate impact in eastern Idaho. Within a year, a wagon road led into the western portions of the designated park area. Soon, excursion parties began shuttling into the Park, entering from Idaho or from central Montana to the north. (Of course, the final Indian wars of 1877 and 1878 rather dampened enthusiasm.)

After 1880, railroad companies began major advertising campaigns to lure tourists to the Park. Easterners could take the Northern Pacific into Montana, or ride a Union Pacific branch line to Eagle Rock (today's Idaho Falls) or the Market Lake station a few miles further north. From there, they would stage into what became the town of West Yellowstone, Montana. Excursion coaches then took them through the Park.

UP Yellowstone Route tourist decal, ca. 1930.
Early in the Twentieth Century, the railroad extended its tracks first to Ashton, Idaho and then, in 1909, all the way to West Yellowstone. The Union Pacific, parent company for the branch line, advertised its Park excursions all over the country. The Trenton, New Jersey, Evening Times carried (May 25, 1910) a typical blurb: “A vacation outing you will never forget. Yellowstone National Park is the wonder region of America. … direct to Yellowstone Station, at the very edge of the park … ”

As automobiles grew in popularity, rail traffic declined and the lines were eventually discontinued.

Today, a substantial portion of tourists traveling the Interstates through Idaho, and stopping at our motels, list Yellowstone National Park as their destination.
References: [B&W], [Brit], [Hawley]
Rae Ellen Moore, Just West of Yellowstone, Great Blue Graphics, Laclede, Idaho (© 1987, Rae Ellen Moore).
Osborne Russell, Aubrey L. Haines (Ed.), Journal of a Trapper, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1965).
West Yellowstone History, West Yellowstone Tourism Business Improvement District (2010).

Saturday, February 28, 2015

John R. McBride, U. S. Representative and Chief Justice for Idaho Territory [otd 02/28]

Judge McBride.
Photo from
On February 28, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln – just 45 days before he was shot by John Wilkes Booth – appointed John Rogers McBride as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Idaho Territory. The appointment typified the patronage system of the times, but the result turned out to be a happy exception to the norm.

Although Territorial governance followed the same structure as the Federal system, voters in the Territory had no say over the executive and judicial branches: The President appointed the Governor and a panel of three judges. One of the three was designated as the Chief Justice.

In those early days, appointees to positions in Idaho were almost never residents of the Territory. They usually came from the more settled Midwest, or the East. For many, the transition to the “Wild West” came as a major cultural shock, and quite a few fled after getting one good look. To make matters worst, the salaries were miserably poor.

James H. Hawley, who was elected as state Governor in 1910, lived through that era [blog, Jan 17]. In his History, he observed that the system supplied judges that were "lawyers of only mediocre ability or political henchmen, who received their appointments as a reward for services to the party, rather than for their legal ability."

Emigrant train, ca 1846. Library of Congress.
This could have been similar. A loyal Republican, McBride got the appointment after being defeated in a bid for re-election to Congress. However, unlike many who came later, he knew the West. His family emigrated to Oregon in 1846, when John was thirteen years old. He studied law while also serving as a school superintendent in Yamhill County, and was admitted to the Oregon bar in 1857.

In 1860, Oregon voters elected him to the state Senate. Two years later, he won election to the U. S. House of Representatives, where he was awarded some worthwhile committee assignments. However, his 1864 re-election bid failed, whereupon he received the Idaho Judgeship.

Commenting on this appointment, Hawley wrote: "an able jurist and an honest man, Judge McBride most favorably impressed himself upon the litigation of the territory and ... was beloved by the bar of the state and highly esteemed by all of its people."

McBride soon got down to business, traveling all over the Territory. The Idaho Statesman reported (August 10, 1865) one example: “Judge McBride, after a full hearing and a very thorough investigation, issued a peremptory mandate ordering Slocum to pay over to Dr. Smith, the Territorial Treasurer, about $14,000 … ”

McBride was the only one of the first four Chief Justices appointed to the Territory who served most of the usual term – the others lasted an average of under 11 months. McBride resigned in July 1868 to establish a private law practice in Boise. He was soon called back into public service to supervise the construction of the U. S. Assay Office in Boise City [blog, May 30]. He then served as Superintendent while the Office was being readied for business.

In 1872, McBride moved to Salt Lake City and established the firm of Sutherland & McBride. After eight years in Utah, he relocated his law practice to Spokane. He passed away there in July 1904.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Jonathan Edwards, An Illustrated History of Spokane County, State of Washington, W. H. Lever, San Francisco (1900).
"McBride, John Rogers," Biographical Directory of the U S. Congress, online.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pocatello Brewer and Soft Drinks Bottler Robert Hayes [otd 02/27]

Robert Hayes.
J. H. Hawley photo.
Pocatello businessman Robert J. Hayes was born February 27, 1861 in Oswego, New York. The family moved to Chicago about six years later. Hayes struck out on his own at age sixteen, making his way west by “night herding” – tending draft animals – for a freight outfit. He then landed a job with the Union Pacific Railroad, first in Cheyenne, Wyoming, then in Rawlins.

After three years of that, Hayes returned to night herding, working for a freight line that operated between Helena, Montana, and Fort Benton. For a time, he held a contract to furnish the Northern Pacific with wood. Then, for about six months, he operated a pack train out of Bozeman.

Unable to find steady work, he took odd packing jobs in California and Arizona. Meanwhile, the Utah & Northern Railroad, a UP subsidiary, built a narrow gauge railroad across Eastern Idaho into Montana. To support that operation, the company built yards and a set of shops in Eagle Rock (later Idaho Falls). In 1884, Hayes hired on at the shops.

However, after two years, he moved to Blackfoot to take a position as Deputy Sheriff. During his two-year tenure in Blackfoot, the railroad relocated its shops from Eagle Rock to Pocatello. That change fueled even more explosive growth in that junction town.

Sensing opportunity, Hayes also moved to Pocatello. There, he partnered with N. G. Franklin and went into the business of bottling soda water. Such drinks were growing rapidly in popularity at that time. The firm of Franklin & Hayes got in on the ground floor; there plant was one of the first, if not the first built in southern Idaho.
Franklin & Hayes Brewery, Pocatello, 1907.
Bannock County Historical Society.
They soon developed a full line of soda waters and soft drinks. In time, they also built a brewery and added beer to their product line. The business was not without danger. The Idaho Statesman reported (October 9, 1900) that Franklin had been hit by a soda bottle explosion “and it is feared the sight of his right eye is destroyed.”

The partnership flourished, shipping beverages to many points in Idaho as well as into Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. According to Hawley's History of Idaho, the company "grew to be one of the largest of the kind in the state, with one of the best equipped plants."

Hayes was very active in Republican party politics, being Chairman of the Pocatello Central Committee for a time. He also served on the Bannock County Board of Commissioners and chaired that body for awhile. Despite his prominence within the party, Hayes never ran for any higher political office.
Franklin & Hayes letterhead. eBay memorabilia image.

Although he sometimes hunted and fished, Hayes generally favored less strenuous activities. He enjoyed music and the theater, and was, according Hiram T. French, “very fond of lectures and a good speech.”

Hayes was perhaps plagued by poor health. Although he was only in his early fifties, he retired from active participation in the soda and beer business about 1914. Or, perhaps, he saw the coming of prohibition, which would ruin the most profitable part of their business. The partners had already been fined $500, each, for some violation of the local option liquor laws (Idaho Statesman, April 12, 1913).

Hayes passed away in August 1918.
References: [French], [Hawley]