Friday, January 22, 2021

Large Cattle Drives Ravage Idaho Range and Herds, Railroad Needed [otd 01/22]

On January 22, 1881, the Idaho Statesman described the substantial herds being driven over Idaho rangelands, both from the states to the west and by in-state stockmen. Counts taken on the main trail in Wyoming, and estimates from other routes, suggested that during the previous year perhaps a quarter million head had been driven into Wyoming from further west.
Cattle after they reach Wyoming, 1880s.
Wyoming Tales and Trails, online.
Some of the largest drives originated in eastern Oregon, with others from Washington. The Statesman article, with a follow-up five days later, described the problems this caused for resident stockmen: the drives were stripping bare a wider and wider swath of trail forage, local cattle were swept into the moving herds and lost, or ranchers had to assign riders to identify and recover their own stock.

The Statesman writer said, “The transit of these immense herds across the stock ranges of central Idaho is an evil of the first magnitude to our farmers and small stock growers.” Of course, by this time, ranchers in southern Idaho were also driving cattle east.

Some commentators suggested that stockmen in northern Oregon and in Washington should route their herds across the Idaho Panhandle. They claimed the distance to Cheyenne via the northern route was actually less, when the diversions required to avoid major mountain ranges were taken into account. The forage was also supposed to be better.

Whatever the accuracy of these statements, few drovers followed the suggestion, staying with the route through southern Idaho. Thus, in the Statesman’s opinion, “If the same number of cattle should be driven for two or three years more they will consume all the grass in the Snake river valley.”

A related but growing problem was the tendency of some stockmen to over-graze their own range. The presence of trail herds only aggravated that situation. This kind of competition raised the potential for clashes among cattlemen, even without the increasing presence of sheep bands.

The Statesman concluded, “The only practicable remedy for this, and the only hope of the afflicted is in the advent of the railroad, which will take the cattle at or near the points where they are purchased and collected.”
Laying track in the West. National Archives.

Fortunately, that remedy was not too much longer in coming. Less than three months after the newspaper articles, investors organized the Oregon Short Line Railroad. They planned to run the "shortest possible rail line" to connect Granger, Wyoming, to Huntington, Oregon.

OSL tracks reached the Idaho border during the summer of 1882 and were halfway across the state by the end of the year. Towns like Shoshone, Gooding (then called Toponis Station), and Bliss soon became gathering points for cattle and sheep to be shipped east out of Idaho.

The line had almost made it to the Oregon border by the end of 1884. Stockmen in western Idaho began to plan for shipments on the new line. Herds that might have gone to Winnemucca, or other points in Nevada, could now be shipped locally.

By the end of the following summer, large shipments – including one of seventeen carloads – were headed east. Cattlemen in southwest Idaho, like Con Shea [blog, September 24], now benefitted from competition between the Eastern and Pacific Coast markets.

The coming of the railroad did not, however, totally end long drives within or across the Territory. As late as 1889-1890, some stockmen found it more economical to drive herds deep into Wyoming before consigning them to rail cars.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W]
J. Orin Oliphant, On the Cattle Ranges of the Oregon Country, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1968).

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Visionary Developer Benjamin Shawhan and New Plymouth [otd 01/21]

Benjamin P. Shawhan, cofounder of the town of New Plymouth, Idaho, was born January 21, 1862, in Keokuk County, Iowa, about thirty miles southwest of Iowa City.
East Hall, Morgan Park Military Academy. Chicago in Postcards.

He graduated from the Morgan Park Military Academy (a prep school) in Chicago, read law for a year, and then attended Beloit College in Wisconsin.

He then went to Kansas and became a partner with his father in an implement business. After a year of that, he helped found a new bank in Clay County, Kansas, 50-60 miles west of Topeka. He continued in the banking business until about 1889, when he and his new wife moved to New York City.

After three years at a big mortgage bank, Benjamin’s health deteriorated, so they relocated to the Payette, Idaho area. There, he became interested in the prospects for irrigated agriculture. Right away, Shawhan promoted and managed a major irrigation project for the Payette Valley Irrigation Company.

The canal diverted flow from the Payette River at a point above Emmett. Following first along the base of the ridge to the south, the canal eventually clung to the bench, with a height above the river valley increasing from 25-30 feet to over fifty. All told, the main canal twisted through around forty miles of cuts and fills.

The Company then needed to induce settlers to take up land to furnish customers for the water system. To accomplish this, Shawhan teamed up with irrigation advocate William E. Smythe. Smythe had become an exponent of irrigated agriculture after observing, first hand, the devastation caused by a Nebraska drought. He spearheaded the design of a planned town, to be called New Plymouth.
New Plymouth, today. Google Map satellite view.

The town was founded on cooperative principles, with an absolute prohibition of alcohol sales. The layout consisted of a huge horseshoe, with individual farm and home plots as well as commonly-held ground for parks and public buildings.

Colonists completed much of the early construction work during the winter of 1895-96. Besides grading nearly ten miles of streets, they also planted thousands of shade trees. Shawhan provided irrigation water for the plots, and the firm was soon renamed the Co-operative Irrigation Company.

In 1898, Shawhan was selected as the “Idaho Vice President” by the Board of Directors of the “Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition” to be held in Omaha that summer. He was then made an ex-officio member of the Commission appointed by the Idaho Governor (Idaho Statesman, January 28, 1898) to plan an exhibit for the fair.

The History of the fair praised the Idaho contributions: “The fruit display in the Horticultural building was one of the best, while the exhibit of grain, wool and grasses in the Agricultural building attracted much attention.”

In 1909, voters elected Shawhan to the first of two consecutive terms in the Idaho state Senate. During his time there, the state authorized a commission to plan Idaho’s participation in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle [blog, Mar 29], and provided funds for a school for the deaf, dumb and blind in Gooding. It also passed a direct-primary election law to replace party selection conventions.

After retiring from the legislature, Shawhan moved on to other irrigation projects. He also retained much land under cultivation in the Payette River valley. During the 1920s, he took part in several agricultural extension service field trials. Shawhan passed way in September 1937.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
James B. Haynes, History of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898, The Committee on History, Exposition Board, Omaha, Nebraska (1910).
Ronald T. Shawhan, “The Descendants of Daniel Shawhan III,” The History and Genealogy of the Shawhan and Related Families, Volume I, rootsweb.ancestry.com (2000).

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Idaho Falls Businessman and Booster Frank C. Bowman [otd 01/20]

Idaho Falls businessman and civic leader Frank C. Bowman was born January 20, 1870 in Morgan County, Utah, fifteen to twenty miles southeast of Ogden. Frank started farm work at an early age, but around 1881 the family moved to Salt Lake City.

Two years later, Frank took a job as a “cash boy” at a large dry goods and millinery store. (The cash boy ran money received from a customer by a salesman to the main – often the only – cashier and returned with the proper change.) Starting with that as a base, young Frank advanced in the mercantile world, mostly in Salt Lake but also in Denver and St. Louis.

Then, in 1902, Bowman moved to Idaho Falls to manage the accounting department of the Consolidated Wagon and Machine Company. Created by the merger of two pioneer wagon, machine and implements companies, it became one of the largest of its kind in the Mountain West.
Idaho Falls, ca. 1909. Library of Congress.

Bowman took an immediate interest in his new home town. In 1905, he was elected to the Idaho Falls City Council, where he became known as an advocate for many civic improvements. He would serve on the Council again in 1911.

He resigned his accounting position in the spring of 1907 and became the local agent for a national insurance firm. And his other activities took off. That year, he was probably a founding member of the Chamber of Commerce and definitely a Charter Member of the Idaho Falls Elks lodge, established in early 1908. He was also a member of the Masonic Order, serving as Master of the Idaho Falls Lodge and, in 1911, being elected Grand Master for the state.

In 1910, Bowman founded his own insurance and loan business. But even that wasn’t enough. He had also apparently invested widely in the agricultural sector. Thus, in March of that year, he was identified as Secretary of the Bingham County Wool Growers Association. He was also associated with the “Dry Farming Congress.” Along with that, he was an officer of the Conant Valley Land and Live Stock Company.

In 1911, Bowman helped organize the Bingham County Grazing Corporation. He also acted as Secretary for the Idaho Honey-Producers’ Association and as Secretary-Treasurer of the Idaho Irrigation District. All of that still wasn’t enough, apparently, because he served as Secretary for the Bonneville County Fair Association.

In 1912, Bowman chaired the organizing committee of the Idaho Falls Interurban Electric Railway Company. Along with everything else, Bowman was President of the Chamber of Commerce in 1916-1917. That was enough for awhile, but in late 1917, he chaired the Executive Committee for a Joint Conference of Agricultural, Livestock, and Irrigation Societies, held in Idaho Falls.
Frank Bowman. [French]

Finally, in the spring of 1919, the Idaho Falls newspaper noted that Bowman had sold off his business interests and planned to take a “needed” vacation. He purchased a new business quite soon, but it was several months before he began advertising the South Side Garage, which offered a service station, machine shop, and repair facilities.

Then, in the spring of 1922, Bowman again sold off his Idaho Falls business, and he and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon. There, Frank soon established himself as a manager for automotive-related firms. He apparently tried retirement in the Thirties, but soon went back into management.

After Bowman’s wife died, in the summer of 1946, he finally retired for good. He then returned to live in Idaho Falls, where his son Earl managed a furniture store. He passed away in November of 1960.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
“[Bowman News],” Times-Register, Idaho Falls; Idaho Statesman, Boise; Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah (April 1901 – November 1960).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–1934,” Post-Register, Idaho Falls, Idaho (September 10, 1934).

Mining Investor, Attorney, and Boise County Prosecutor Harry Fisher [otd 01/20]

Attorney Fisher. H. T. French photo.
Attorney Harry Leroy Fisher was born January 20, 1873, on a farm in Daviess County, Missouri, 40-60 miles east of St. Joseph’s. He taught school there and also for a time in Ada County after coming to Idaho in 1891. Fisher then spent a year or two prospecting around the Boise Basin. From time to time, he also worked as a farm laborer.

For some years, along with his other jobs, Harry read law in private law offices in Missouri as well as Idaho. Then, in 1894, he enrolled at the Stanford University law school. Two years later, he returned to Idaho and was admitted to the bar.

Harry also kept his interest in mining. The Idaho Statesman reported (December 19, 1901) that he had leased a lode mine northeast of Idaho City. The article went on, “Mr. Fisher will drift on the hanging wall of the north ledge and hopes, when he gets opposite the big shot in the south ledge, to strike rich ore.”

Three year before, he had started a practice in Idaho City, the county seat of Boise County. He did well enough there that he was elected Boise County Prosecutor in 1902 and again in 1904. Near the end of his first term, the Idaho World newspaper praised Fisher’s skill and attention to detail. “As a result,” the article said, “there has not been one case dismissed because of irregularities and informalities in the papers.”Along with the Prosecutor's office, Fisher also ran for a position on the Idaho City Board of Trustees. During the election, such was his local renown that he won by a 3-to-1 margin.

Reporting on one sensational murder case he prosecuted, the Idaho World said, “The way he has carried this case all through entitles him to great credit and the hearty congratulations of every good citizen in the county.” His performance was considered even more remarkable because he was pitted against the “experienced and able” James H. Hawley [blog, Jan 17].

In 1907, Fisher moved to Boise, where he would live for the rest of his life. Although he never again held public office, he did occasionally work as a special assistant. For example, the Idaho Statesman reported (October 30, 1913) on an assault trial in which “Robert M. McCraken and Harry L. Fisher, as special prosecutors, represent the state.”

In 1922, Fisher successfully pleaded cases before the Idaho Supreme Court, including one for damage inflicted on his client’s crops by stock that invaded his land from a neighboring sheep company. Fisher won, and the court required the sheep company to pay for the full amount of the farmer’s losses as well as all court costs.
Superior, Montana, ca 1930. Vintage postcard.

Besides his active legal practice, he still invested widely in irrigation projects and mining ventures. Thus, a Spokane newspaper, the Spokesman Review, reported (Feb 26, 1933) that the Board of Directors “of the Oregon Creek Mining company was reelected at the annual meeting in Boise, Idaho, last Tuesday. Its members are Harry L Fisher … ”

Fisher was the President of the company. Three months later (May 21, 1933), the Spokesman Review headlined, “$700 Gold dug in Six Hours.” This nice return came from a Oregon Creek holding south of Superior, Montana … about forty miles northwest of Missoula and near the Idaho border.  Fisher passed away in March 1940.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley]
I. W. Hart, ex officio reporter, “John B. Kellar vs Hugh Sproat and The McMillan Sheep Company,” Reports of cases argued and determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho, Vol. 35, Bancroft-Whitney Company, San Francisco (1922).

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Teacher, Rancher, and Nez Perce County Commissioner Charles Leeper [otd 01/19]

Charles Leeper.
Illustrated History photo.
Nez Perce County pioneer Charles A. Leeper was born January 19, 1850, in Marion County, Indiana, on the outskirts of Indianapolis. Some time before 1870, the family moved to northwest Missouri, where the father ran a farm and served as a low-level judge. Charles spent some time at the University of Missouri, in Columbia.

Leeper came out to Idaho in 1876. He apparently looked over a number of areas around the Territory. He then settled in Salmon, where he found a job as a schoolteacher. A fast learner of Western ways, Charles also served as a scout during the Indian wars in 1877 and 1878.

With the Indian threat suppressed, gold camps in central Idaho boomed. Among those was Bonanza, located deep in the mountains about 25 miles west and a bit south of Challis. The hamlet had been platted in 1877, but hardly grew until 1879. Leeper followed the rush into the town and taught school there. On the side, he may have also grubstaked prospectors to build up a stake. (Teachers’ salaries were notoriously poor, and sometimes problematic in payment.)

Somehow, anyway, Leeper prospered: In 1883, he moved to north Idaho and bought a 320-acre ranch located about five miles southeast of Lewiston. At that time, prospectors were pouring into the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, chasing the gold that had been discovered there in 1882 [blog, March 5]. Locals also talked enthusiastically about the railroad reaching Lewiston … soon. (Their optimism was unwarranted, however.)

Charles combined stock raising and farming, growing grain to fatten his herds of cattle. Eventually, according to the Illustrated History, he would own “more cattle than any other one man in Nez Perces County.”

Leeper also took an active interest in politics. Voters handily elected him to the county commission in 1886. Two years later, Charles seemed to have won election to the Territorial Council. However, at that time, Nez Perce and Latah counties were paired administratively, and Leeper lost the subsequent court battle as to who had won the combined election. He was again elected to the Nez Perce County Commission in 1892, and for a third term in 1900. During his final term, Leeper chaired the Commission.
Cattle Grazing. Library of Congress.

Also in 1900, pioneers organized the Nez Perces County Pioneer Association, open to individuals who had settled in the county during 1877, or before. Charles A. Leeper became a Founding Member, with a note that he had “settled” in the area in 1876. It seems probable that he had invested in property there before returning to Salmon, and Bonanza, to enlarge his personal resources. As noted above, he did not begin living permanently in the county until 1883.

Aside from his political activities, Leeper continued to expand his property holdings, and his herd. Thus, the  Idaho Statesman, in Boise quoted an item from the Lewiston Tribune: “This has been a busy week in Lewiston for cattlemen, and the town has been thronged with the ubiquitous cowboy.” The article mentioned Leeper as one of several stockmen shipping cattle to outside markets via steamboat.

Charles also ran stock on range near the mouth of the Salmon River, perhaps to his regret. The Idaho Statesman reported that he had “lost about 125 head of cattle through the operations of thieves.”

In 1903, when the Illustrated History was published, Charles owned over fifteen hundred acres of land. Sadly, Leeper died from rheumatic fever in April 1906.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Illust-North]
“[Leeper News Items],” Idaho Statesman, Boise, The Teller, Lewiston, Idaho (June 1897 – April 1906).
George Elmo Shoup, "History of Lemhi County," Salmon Register-Herald (Series, May 8 - October 23, 1940).

Monday, January 18, 2021

Freighter, Lumber Man, Rancher, and Mining Investor Josiah Hill [otd 01/18]

On January 18, 1844, Coeur d’Alene pioneer Josiah Hill was born in New Brunswick, Canada. Like others in that part of the country, his father was from the state of Maine.
Clipper ship in Cape Horn ice, Currier & Ives print.
Library of Congress.

In about 1864, he traveled around Cape Horn to San Francisco and then to Seattle. He looked for opportunities there, but then returned to California. For three years, Josiah worked in the lumber industry, drove a stagecoach, and had various other odd jobs.

In 1870, Josiah started working his way east, with a variety of stops along the way. He then spent about two years back in New Brunswick, during which time he got married.

Hill returned to the west in 1876. There, he engaged briefly in lumbering. Then, for about three years, he handled the freight stock – horses, mules, and oxen – for a major outfit serving the Comstock Lode mines in Nevada. When those mines began to fade, he and a partner bought the animals and equipment, and hauled freight for the strikes around Bodie, California. On the side, he owned a sawmill to furnish lumber to camps in the area.

He sold those operations in 1881. For the next five years, Josiah had a succession of business dealings in Seattle, Portland, and Spokane. The final years involved a construction project with the Northern Pacific Railroad, with an associated logging operation.

He moved to what became Wardner, Idaho in 1886. Expanding from some lumber contracts in Kellogg, he soon built a sawmill in the region.  The Illustrated History of North Idaho, published in 1903, said, “When the town of Wardner consisted of one tent, Mr. Hill was here and has remained here since that time.”

With a base in the town, he operated a local stage line, handled a freight and passenger transfer service, and soon opened a livery stable. By about 1900, his son Roy was a partner in that business. Over time, Josiah also accumulated interests in several mining properties, quite likely as payment for debts.

Hill also partnered with his brother in a ranch near Kellogg. That holding drew the two of them into some expensive litigation. Mine tailings washed downstream by the Coeur d’Alene River ruined a considerable portion of their property. At the end of September, 1903, they filed suit for damages against the mining company.

As could be expected, the company used every legal tactic their lawyers could devise to delay the process and make the suit go away. The company even went so far as to divest itself of its Idaho property, transferring them to a “foreign corporation.” They also moved the company records out of state, to Spokane, Washington.

Josiah proved to have more staying power than they expected, however: Five years later, the Mining and Scientific Press (October 31, 1908) reported, “The famous tailings suits of Josiah Hill, J. S. Hill, and others against the Standard Mining Co. have been settled out of court.”
Early Kellogg. University of Idaho Digital Collections.
Ironically, Josiah eventually became much more heavily involved in mining activities himself. In 1918, he was the president of the Hill Mining & Milling Company, Kellogg, with interests in the Coeur d’Alenes. Three years later he became Vice President of a mining company with claims on Big Creek, two or three miles southeast of Kellogg.

Hill passed away at Kellogg in September 1923.
                                                                                 
References: [Illust-North]
“Elgin and Ogden Company Formed,” Spokane Chronicle (July 18, 1921).
“General Mining News: Idaho,” Mining and Scientific Press, Vol. 97, No. 18, Dewey Publishing Company, San Francisco (October 31, 1908).
Sol. Hasbrouck, “Hill vs Morgan,” Reports of cases argued and determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho, Vol. 9, Bancroft-Whitney Company, San Francisco (1906).
Sidney Norman, Northwest Mines Handbook, Vol. One, Northwest Mining Association, Spokane (1918).
Grant Horace Smith, Joseph V. Tingley, The History of the Comstock Lode, 1850-1997, University of Nevada Press, Reno (1998).

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Iconic Lawyer, Boise Mayor, Governor, and Historian James H. Hawley [otd 01/17]

Lawyer Hawley. Illustrated History, 1899.
Lawyer, Governor, Mayor, and Historian James Henry Hawley was born in Dubuque, Iowa, on January 17, 1847. His mother died when James was an infant and he grew up with his maternal uncle. In 1861, the family moved to California, where Hawley learned of the fabulous gold discoveries in Idaho Territory.

The following year, caught up in the excitement, Hawley hurried to Florence. He moved on to the Boise Basin in the spring of 1863. In the Basin, besides work in the gold fields, he also acted as an agent and distributor for the Idaho City newspaper that became the Idaho World.

In 1864, Hawley returned to California, where he studied at the City College of San Francisco and also read law in the city. After a year or so, he went to sea and “knocked around” the Orient for awhile before returning to the Boise Basin in 1868.

James continued his law studies and was also elected to the Territorial Legislature at the age of 23. The following year he was admitted to the Idaho bar. He served in the Territorial Council (equivalent to the state Senate) in 1874, and was elected Boise County commissioner in 1876. According to biographer McClane, Hawley did commence a full time law practice after his marriage in 1875.

Starting in 1878 he served two terms as District Attorney in the second Territorial judicial district. After his second term, he moved to Hailey and practiced law there from 1884 to 1886. In 1885, he was appointed to a four-year term as U.S. District Attorney for the Territory.

Before that term ended, he ran for election as Delegate to the U. S. Congress, but lost to Fred T. Dubois [blog, May 29]. After that, he briefly had a law office in Blackfoot. The Idaho Register reported (March 27, 1891), “James H. Hawley, Esq., of Blackfoot, took in the boom of Idaho Falls Saturday last, and made some small investments.”

That was short-lived, however; by early 1892 Hawley had established his permanent home in Boise

Although he handled legal cases related to mining, and spent over forty years in irrigation law and water-related litigation, Hawley became famous for his work in criminal law. In the early Twentieth Century, it was said that he had acted on one side or the other of “more murder cases than any other member of the bar in the United States."
Hawley, older and more “laid-back.”
McClane, Sagebrush Lawyer.

In 1892, Hawley provided legal counsel for the Coeur d’Alene miners’ union, but in 1899 he served as special state prosecutor in the actions involving union violence against the mining companies.

Later, he acted as special prosecutor during the cases resulting from the assassination of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg.

He also spent six years defending cowboy-gunman “Diamondfield” Jack Davis against a charge of murdering two sheepmen in 1896. Although another man confessed to the killings, oddities in the Idaho legal system blocked Jack’s release until 1902 [blog, Dec 17].

Hawley was elected Boise mayor in 1902, and Idaho Governor in 1910. He was defeated in a second run for that office and in two runs for the position of U.S. Senator (in 1914 and again in 1918). His four-volume History of Idaho was published in 1920. He passed away in August 1929.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
John F. McClane, A Sagebrush Lawyer, Pandick Press, Inc., New York (1933).
Edwin H. Peasley, Twelfth Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Idaho, Boise (1930).