Saturday, June 25, 2016

General Edward McConville: Civil War Veteran, Indian Fighter, and Philippines Casualty [otd 06/25]

General McConville.
Illustrated History.
General Edward McConville was born June 25, 1846 in Jefferson County, New York. Histories of the day noted that he came from a "martial family," whose members saw action in the Battle of Hastings in England, and later in the American Civil war. Moreover, a cousin died in the Spanish-American War during “the glorious assault on San Juan hill."

Edward himself enlisted for the Civil War as an under-age private in the 12th New York Regiment of Volunteers. During this first term of service, McConville’s regiment saw action in the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, the Peninsular Campaign, Antietam, and several other famous Army of the Potomac battles. Discharged in May 1863, within two months McConville re-enlisted in the 13th New York Cavalry Regiment. Edward’s new unit performed scouting duty and spent part of its time chasing Mosby’s Raiders in northern Virginia.

McConville re-enlisted yet again in 1866, in the Regular Army, and fought Apache Indians in New Mexico and Arizona. Discharged at Idaho's Fort Lapwai in 1873, he then took up residence in the state. Four years later, he raised a force of Idaho Volunteers for the Nez Percés War. In a fight along the Clearwater River in mid-July, Indians ran off many of their horses and pinned them down on a hill that came to be called “Fort Misery.” Even so, they are credited with getting word to the Army commander about the location of the Nez Percés camp.

The Volunteers soon replaced their horses and performed scout duty through most of August. After the Nez Percés escaped into Montana, McConville marched his men back to Lewiston. Even his fresher horses were worn down and sickness had weakened many of the men.

Although he fought the Nez Percés when he was called, he also tried to aid them later as Superintendent of the reservation school at Lapwai. Reappointed through several Federal administrations, he reportedly earned the respect and admiration of Indians and whites alike.

His program included sporting teams which did compete against white squads (Morning Olympian, Olympia, Washington, June 16, 1897): “Superintendent Ed McConville, of the Lapwai Industrial school, has made arrangements for his Indian boys’ base ball team and athletes to visit Spokane … A schedule of games has been arranged with the Spokane team and the Indian boys will engage with the pale face of that section in a number of athletic contests.”
First Idaho Waiting for Action, Caloocan.
Library of Congress.

When the Federal government called for soldiers to fight the Spanish-American War in 1898, Idaho recruited troops to supplement the state Guard [blog, March 14]. About half the officers and well over half the enlisted men in the First Idaho Infantry came from the Idaho Guard. McConville was appointed a major to lead the Second Battalion of the First Idaho.

Through all those years and bloody Civil War battles, and more years exposed to hit-and-run Indian raids, McConville had received only minor flesh wounds. Sadly, the old soldier was shot and mortally wounded in the regiment's first serious engagement in the Philippines on February 5, 1899. Before he died, he received a promotion to Brevet Brigadier General.

Although, according to Hawley, the 1903 Idaho legislature budgeted funds for a monument to General McConville, there's no evidence that any was ever erected.
                                                                                 
References:  [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Jerome A. Greene, Nez Perce Summer, 1877: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poos Crisis, Montana Historical Society Press, Helena (2000).
Orlan J. Svingen (Ed.), The History of the Idaho National Guard, Idaho National Guard, Boise (1995).

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mountain Man and Western Explorer Jedediah Smith [otd 06/24]

Jed Smith, drawn ca. 1835
by a close family friend.
Family archives.
June 24, 1798 is one of two presumed birth dates* (the other is Jan 6, 1799) of mountain man and Western explorer Jedediah Strong Smith.

Historians do agree that he was born in Bainbridge, New York, an outpost about 25 miles east of Binghamton. The family moved to Erie County, Pennsylvania around 1810. The story is told that a frontier doctor befriended young Jedediah, and provided him an education beyond the norm for that day.

The family moved again in 1817, to Ohio. But the Panic of 1819 (with impacts out to 1822) hit farm states like Ohio particularly hard. It is perhaps significant that Jedediah headed further west around 1821.

In 1822, William Ashley published a St. Louis newspaper notice that said, in part, “The subscriber wishes to engage one hundred young men to ascend the Missouri river to its source, there to be employed for one, two, or three years.”

That was the beginning of what became the Rocky Mountain Fur Company [blog, March 20], which Smith joined. Jedediah quickly rose to a leadership position. In 1824, he led a small band of trappers into southeast Idaho, where they stumbled across a party of “pilaged and destitute” Iroquois Indian trappers. These men worked for the British-Canadian Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). British-Canadian fur companies had had the western slopes of the Rockies to themselves since the War of 1812.

Smith escorted the hapless Iroquois back to the HBC camp on the Salmon River, near today's Challis or possibly the mouth of the Pahsimeroi River. The Britishers were none too pleased when the Americans showed up, on October 14, 1824. Their leader, Alexander Ross, grumbled about the newcomers “whom I rather take to be spies than trappers.”

Over the next two years, Smith led trapper parties in Idaho and parts of Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. In July 1826, he became part owner of the fur company. Smith and his partners were shrewd enough to realize that going head-to-head with the established HBC might not be their most profitable course. Jedediah therefore led a trapper/explorer party through country then unknown to Americans: across Utah and southern Nevada, and then into Spanish California.

Jedediah Smith’s monumental accomplishments in exploring the West between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast are beyond the scope of this brief item. (He was almost certainly the first American to travel east from Oregon through Idaho since Robert Stuart’s trek in 1813.) Unfortunately, Comanche Indians murdered Smith along the Cimarron River in May 1831.

Thomas Fitzpatrick.
Colorado Historical Society.
It is now generally accepted that his personal descriptions – lost notes, letters, and maps – lived on in the memories, writings, and maps produced by those who followed in his footsteps. For example, Thomas Fitzpatrick was also with Ashley’s enterprise from the first. He became a close co-worker and then employee of Smith.

Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick was, in fact, one of the most famous Mountain Men of the era. He introduced the even more famous Kit Carson to the fur trade and acted as guide for one of John C. Frémont’s major exploratory expeditions.

* The June date is listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
                                                                                
References: [B&W], [Brit]
H. M. Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1986). Originally publication date: 1935.
Alexander Ross, T. C. Elliott (Ed.), “Journal of Alexander Ross, Snake Country Expedition, 1824,” Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. 14 (Dec. 1913).
Stephen W. Sears, “Trail Blazer of the Far West,” American Heritage Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 4 (June 1963).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ricks College (Brigham Young University-Idaho) President Hyrum Manwaring [otd 06/23]

President Manwaring.
BYU-Idaho archives.
Hyrum Manwaring, President of Ricks College (now Brigham Young University - Idaho) was born June 23, 1877, southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1890, the family moved to near Provo, where Hyrum began working as a railroad section hand. He eventually advanced to a foreman’s position. However, he felt the need for more education and attended the preparatory school at Brigham Young University.

In 1899, Manwaring started a three-year mission in Australia. He then mixed personal education and teaching for several years until, in 1911, he received his B.A. degree from Brigham Young University in Provo. After teaching English at Provo for three years, he joined the Ricks College faculty in Rexburg, Idaho, as Head of the English Department.

Manwaring’s very first views of the campus and the town depressed him. He later wrote, “I stood lonely and very depressed and silently shed tears to think I was bringing my dear wife and children to this place.” But then, somehow, “I suddenly seemed to catch the spirit of the pioneers, and to dream of the great potentials that lay before me.”

Next, he met the “vigorous” student body, who “looked energetic and eager to work at any task that was hard and challenging.” In the end, he wrote, “I left Rexburg happy and enthusiastic with the potentials I saw and experienced.”

When Ricks became a junior college in 1923, Manwaring served as Head of the Department of Psychology and Education. That same year he received his Master’s degree from BYU-Provo. He also acted as Summer School Director while then-President Romney attended graduate school, and later taught some of the first night classes provided at Ricks.

In 1929, the Ricks Board of Education offered Manwaring the job of Acting President. At the time, the family had sold their Idaho property and moved to Washington, D. C., where Hyrum planned to attend George Washington University. Manwaring took some time to consider his options before accepting the position. His tenure was soon made permanent.

Over the next decade, Manwaring's faith and natural optimism must have been sorely tried. Budgets had always been tight, and even before he assumed the Presidency rumors abounded that the school would be closed. This being the depths of the Great Depression, the LDS Church found it couldn't give the school away. The state of Idaho said they couldn't afford to run it.

To survive at all, as a church or state institution, Ricks needed full accreditation. With that, earned credits could be transferred wherever a student might want to go. Hyrum pushed hard to upgrade programs, and to convince the accrediting body that they provided a quality education. Finally, despite its uncertain future, the college received the coveted certification in April 1936.

The following year, the school began to receive better funding from Church authorities. Even so, rumors about a possible closure continued to surface whenever finances were particularly tight. Finally, in the spring of 1940, school officials received word that there would be no further attempts to give the school away.
Student Center. BYU-Idaho photo.

As with most colleges and universities, Ricks had to substantially step up recruitment during World War II. Even so, male enrollment for the fall of 1943 showed a dramatic decline.

In 1944, Manwaring made his last commencement address as College President. He continued teaching at Ricks for almost a decade, and then taught part-time until he passed away in 1956. Today, his memory is honored at BYU-Idaho in the Manwaring Student Center.
                                                                                 
References: [Defen]
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks: A History of Ricks College, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).
“Hyrum and Bessie Manwaring,” The Presidents and First Ladies, Brigham Young University – Idaho.
Jerry C. Roundy, Ricks College: A Struggle for Survival, Ricks College Press, Rexburg (1976).

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Irrigation Water Flows into East Idaho's Great Feeder Canal [otd 06/22]

On June 22, 1895, water was diverted from the Snake River into the Great Feeder Canal. The Diversion Dam, located about 20 miles northeast of Idaho Falls, supplied water to one of the most ambitious of the early irrigation projects in Idaho. The main Canal and the many smaller canals it feeds now make up one of the largest irrigation systems in the American West.
Headgates, Great Feeder Canal.

As in the Boise and Payette river valleys, pioneers along the upper Snake River began digging small irrigation ditches almost as soon as they settled there. Thus, the first "active irrigation farming" began in 1868, just three years after Matt Taylor built his toll bridge [blog, December 10]. The farm was located about 15 miles north of the spot called, successively, Taylor's Bridge, Eagle Rock, and (today) Idaho Falls.

Still, the region remained mostly ranch country until the railroad arrived in 1879, when homesteads blossomed. To this point, settlers had mostly tackled side streams of the Snake River itself, or creeks flowing into it. Finally, in 1880, ambitious irrigation companies filed two major water rights. They edged small weirs into the Snake’s current to divert water into multi-user canal systems.

Within a decade a network of canals laced the plains along both forks of the Snake. However, water supplies for these systems depended largely upon the vagaries of the river. It was sometimes a case of too little or too much. Often, small diversion dams washed out during spring high water and had to be rebuilt every season. Conversely, major changes in the river course sometimes left entire canal systems without a source.

One such twist created what locals called the "Dry Bed." The Bed had once been an important river channel but now lay dry most of the year. Thus, in 1895, a score of different canal companies cooperatively formed the Great Feeder Canal Company. Construction began immediately on a substantial diversion dam and ditch segment. They located the dam far enough upriver so the flow would fill the old channel and feed water to numerous component canal systems.

Reported with a full-page spread in the Idaho Falls Times (June 27, 1895), the opening was a well-attended, gala event. There were songs, a prayer, a poetry recital, and – of course – speeches by various dignitaries.

All did not go quite as planned, however. As the third or fourth major speaker began, “Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to – ”
“Boom!!!” the Times reporter wrote. The miner handling the dynamite had jumped the gun on breaching the holding wall, “and with a mighty roar in rushed the foaming stream and 2,000 second feet of water had passed through the headgate before the speaker could utter another word.”
Great Feeder Canal.

As with all such systems, their work had only begun. Continual upkeep and periodic upgrades – supplemental dams, replacement headgates, and more – were and still are required to maintain a good flow to water users. Today, besides its traditional uses, real estate ads tout residential properties that are near or "back up to" the Great Feeder Canal. (Which does not mean a property has any water rights associated with the Canal, but it sounds impressive.)

The Great Feeder, or Dry Bed as it is still identified on many maps, is also host to an odd, but useful annual event. A special fishing season opens on April 1 when the channel is emptied for routine maintenance. Individuals with valid fishing licenses can each "harvest" a half-dozen fish – which would die anyway – using any means short of chemicals, electric shock, or explosives.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [Hawley]
Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County in the Making, self-published, Idaho Falls, Idaho (1941).
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society (1991).
John L. Powell (ed.), “Great Feeder Canal Company Records, 1896-1983,” Manuscript MSSI 31, Brigham Young University-Idaho Special Collections, Rexburg, Idaho (2002).
Steven Pope, “Dry Bed Canal Fishing Begins,” KIDK.com (April 1, 2010).

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sportsman, Animal Advocate, and District Judge Charles F. Koelsch [otd 06/21]

Judge Koelsch. H. T. French photo.
Idaho District Judge Charles F. Koelsch was born June 21, 1872, in Mayfield, Wisconsin, about twenty miles north of Milwaukee. He graduated from high school at the age of fifteen and then studied at Northern Indiana Normal School (now Valparaiso University). Charles taught school several years after that, but also studied law.

Koelsch moved to Boise City in 1895 and began reading law in the offices of William E. Borah [blog, June 29]. At that time, Borah was gearing up to run for the U. S. House of Representatives. Koelsch was admitted to the Idaho bar in November 1897 and practiced in Borah’s office for about a year. Charles dissociated himself from Borah’s office when voters elected him to be a Probate Judge in the fall of 1898.

Charles served two terms in that capacity. In 1904, he was elected to the position of Prosecuting Attorney for Ada County. During his term as Probate Judge, Koelsch published An Exposition on the Constitution of the State of Idaho, the first text to discuss and analyze provisions of that document.

As Prosecuting Attorney, Koelsch played a peripheral role in the trial of “Big Bill” Haywood, accused of conspiring to assassinate ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg. In 1946, Koelsch wrote “The Haywood Case: A Review” for the Idaho Mining Journal, Boise. It is often cited as an account by an “insider” of events during the trial and the surrounding context.

After his term as Prosecuting Attorney, Koelsch returned to private practice in partnership with Joseph T. Pence. About that same time, Pence was elected to a term as Mayor of Boise [blog, November 9]. Charles himself was elected to a term in the state House of Representatives in 1912. The firm of Pence & Koelsch would handle many important cases for well over a decade.

In August 1929, Idaho Governor H. Clarence Baldridge appointed Koelsch to be Judge of the Third District Court of Ada County. He held that position for over twenty years.

A “great sportsman,” in 1938 Charles and some like-minded citizens proposed a voter Initiative to create a non-political Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Koelsch drafted the Initiative, which passed handily.
Pronghorn antelope. Idaho Fish & Game.

Charles retired from the bench only when forced to do so by a change in the legally-mandated retirement age. That was on January 1, 1951. His son, M. Oliver Koelsch, actually succeeded him in that position. (Eight years later, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed M. Oliver to be a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge.)

Koelsch did not retire from active participation in public affairs, however. Before 1900, Charles had helped form Idaho’s first humane society, to prevent cruelty to animals. That group did not last. However, he was later affiliated with the Idaho Humane Society that is still in operation today. Three years after his retirement, Koelsch signed (Idaho Falls Post Register, August 4, 1954) an animal cruelty complaint “in behalf of the Idaho Humane Society.”

Another of Koelsch's sons, C. Frederick, became an a chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota. Among other honors, C. Frederick won the Award in Pure Chemistry from the American Chemical Society.

Charles F. Koelsch passed away in April 1965.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
Idaho Humane Society: History, Boise.
J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle … , Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York (1997).
Byron Johnson, “Homer Martin - a ‘Poacher’ Extraordinary, ” Wild Idaho News, Boise (Aug 14, 2006).
Charles F. Koelsch: MS 152, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (December 11, 1990).

Monday, June 20, 2016

Boise River Water Flows into the New York Canal [otd 06/20]

On June 20, 1900, a rude diversion structure turned water from the Boise River into the New York Canal. The diversion, though feeble, culminated nearly twenty years of effort to bring irrigation water to the higher benches paralleling the river.
New York Canal construction. Boise State University.
Individuals and small cooperative groups began diverting irrigation water from the Boise River less than a year after the 1862 gold discoveries in the Boise Basin. With limited resources, ditch developers had to be clever and creative. Whenever possible, they led their channels along old creek beds and other natural depressions. According to Beal & Wells, "by the summer of 1864 all the river bottom land in Boise Valley was under irrigation."

As Idaho's population grew and funds became available, developers tackled larger, more ambitious irrigation projects. Around 1882, investors from New York began considering an extensive project along the river.  They had the notion that gold recovered from hydraulic placer sites along the Snake River might pay much of the construction cost. After that, collecting fees for water delivered to new farms on the Boise Bench would almost be “gravy.” (In the end, the placer gold mining notion went nowhere.)

Company Engineer Arthur D. Foote laid out plans for a system that could eventually irrigate an estimated half million acres. Foote then spent thousands of dollars to survey a seventy-five mile main canal and an intricate grid of lateral ditches. With an elaborate map drawn from these surveys, planners could start wooing investors.

Work began on the upper end of the canal in 1884. However, very little got done because a recession in the East dried up capital. The startup firm did just enough work – basically, a handful of men chipping away at the rocks – to maintain their water right through 1886. Competing efforts also lagged, and then collapsed.

Not until 1890 did serious work again proceed on the canal. A fresh infusion of capital resulted in about 14 miles of partially finished ditch before that money ran out in late 1892. Then the nationwide Panic of '93 caused yet more delay. When money again became available, in 1896-1898, several competing interests fought over who had rights to what. Some of these cases rose all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court.
Boise River Diversion Dam, 1909.
Canal in foreground. National Archives.
In 1899, various interests finally reached an accommodation in what became the new New York Canal Company. At last, in 1900, they got water through their ditch. However, the amount was a mere trickle compared to Foote's grand original concept. Insufficient flow and murky water rights created a snarl of problems.

Finally, water users asked Congress to authorize a larger project to meet their needs. In the end, the U. S. Reclamation Service (later the Bureau of Reclamation) took over the canal and made it part of a larger Payette-Boise Project (Idaho Statesman, September 1, 1905).

The Bureau of Reclamation made two key additions to the project: a permanent Diversion Dam, 7-8 miles upstream from downtown Boise, and a reservoir (now called Lake Lowell) near Nampa. Finally in 1909, substantial amounts of water began flowing through a greatly expanded New York Canal system.
                                                                                 
Reference: [B&W], [French]
“The Beginning of the New York Canal,” Reference Series No. 190, Idaho State Historical Society (March 1972).
Arthur Hart, “Idaho History: The New York Canal was an epic achievement,” The Idaho Statesman, March 14, 2010.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Idaho Chief Justice, Businessman, and Educator James F. Ailshie [otd 06/19]

James Franklin Ailshie, Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, was born June 19, 1868 in Greene County, Tennessee, 50-70 miles east of Knoxville. He attended a "noted preparatory school" through his junior year and then moved to Missouri, where he taught school. After a couple years there, he took a Principal’s job in Washington state. Ailshie then attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
Waller Hall, Willamette University, 1880.
Salem Public Library Collections.

Ailshie received his B.A. and LL.B. degrees from Willamette in 1891, then moved to Grangeville, Idaho to establish a practice. By that time, the town had substantially outgrown nearby Mount Idaho. In 1892 and again in 1898, Grangeville citizen tried unsuccessfully to capture the county seat designation. (They finally succeeded in 1902.) In addition to his thriving law practice, Ailshie served two terms as a Regent of the University of Idaho, starting in 1893.

Ailshie was elected to the Idaho Supreme Court in 1902 and moved to Boise the following year. Reelected to the Court, he served until his resignation in 1914. During four of his years on the Court, he served as Chief Justice and was, at one time, the youngest Chief Justice on any state Supreme Court.

In 1909, Willamette University honored him with a Doctor of Laws degree. James H. Hawley noted in 1920 that "About two-thirds of the [Idaho] constitution was tested in the court during his service on the bench."

While not on the Court, Ailshie was very active in Republican Party politics. In 1898, delegates to the state convention of the Republican Party elected him as convention president. In 1900, 1916, and 1932, he served as delegate to the Republican National Convention. In 1913, he missed election to the U.S. Senate by just four votes in the legislature.
Justice Ailshie.
University of Idaho Special collections.

Ailshie resigned from the Court in 1914 to run for a U. S. Senate seat under the new direct election mode dictated by the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. He had hoped to resign earlier, but the illness of Justice George Stewart [blog, Feb 26] delayed that. (Stewart died the following September.) After his failed run – which he blamed partly on his inability to campaign – he moved from Boise to Coeur d'Alene and resumed his private practice.

Ailshie was President of the Idaho State Bar Association in 1921-22 and was a long-time member of the their Board of Commissioners. He also served three years on the Executive Committee of the American Bar Association, and over a decade on that organization's General Council.

In the late Twenties and early Thirties, he was a member of the Idaho Law Journal Board of Advisers. During that period, he also served on the state Commission on Uniform State Laws. That Commission advises the legislature on laws that should be revised to be more consistent with the laws in other state.

Besides serving on the University of Idaho Board of Regents, Ailshie taught there at the College of Law, lecturing on "mining law and legal ethics." For a time while practicing law in Coeur d'Alene, he owned a farm-ranch operation near Grangeville. He was also President of the Grangeville Light & Power Company and Director of a bank there.

Ailshie again served on the Supreme Court in 1939-41, and from 1945 until his death in May 1947.
                                                                                 
References: [Defen], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“James Franklin Ailshie: Biographical Sketch,” James Franklin Ailshie Papers 1902-1931, Manuscript Group 9, University of Idaho Special Collections (July 1997).
Ben Ysursa, Idaho Blue Book, 2003-2004, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (2003).