Thursday, December 5, 2019

Merchant, Developer, and Industrial Commissioner George Fisher [otd 12/05]

Commissioner Fisher.
J. H. Hawley photo.
George Howard Fisher, Bancroft merchant and first Commissioner of the Idaho Industrial Accident Board, was born December 5, 1872 in Richmond, Utah (5-6 miles south of Franklin, Idaho).

His father, William F. “Billy” Fisher, was one of the first riders hired in 1860 for the Pony Express. Billy was best known for his gallop from Ruby Valley Station (50-60 miles southeast of today’s Elko) in Nevada across three hundred miles of desolate territory to Salt Lake City. His message summoned troops to quell an Indian uprising.

Billy later settled in Utah, where George was born, and then moved to Oxford, Idaho. George completed his early schooling in Utah and then joined a brother in raising purebred racing horses. In 1893, he served a three-year mission in the Hawaiian Islands for the LDS church. While there, he learned the Hawaiian language and visited the leper colony on the island of Molokai.

Back on the Mainland, he taught school for a time and also attended the Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University). In 1898, the Democratic Party offered George the nomination to the Idaho House of Representatives and, according to H. T. French, he “was elected by the largest majority ever polled by a candidate for this office in this district.”

After his return to private life, George went on the road to sell farm and ranch equipment. The regional companies he represented had customers in Utah and all over Eastern Idaho. During his rounds, George saw an opportunity in Bancroft (located on the rail line about 15 miles west of Soda Springs).

He moved there in 1906 and within a year had purchased a general store, which he later ran in partnership with his son-in-law. In time, he would own considerable farmland and other real estate in the area, as well as a “commodious” two-story brick home.

Fisher served as Bishop of the Bancroft Ward starting in 1907. During his tenure, he directed the construction of a meeting hall as well as a church in Bancroft.
Garage, ca 1920. University of Idaho Special Collections.

In 1910, George was elected to one term in the the Idaho Senate. Two years later, he was appointed a delegate to the Democratic Convention at Baltimore. However, a family emergency prevented him from attending the meeting. After that, he returned to his private and church activities

Then the 1917 session of the state legislature passed the state’s first comprehensive Workers’ Compensation Law. Among other provisions, the Law authorized formation of the Idaho Industrial Accident Board.

Democratic Governor Moses Alexander [blog, Nov 13] appointed Fisher to be a member of that Board. That group immediately selected him as Chairman, making him the first Commissioner of what is today the Idaho Industrial Commission.

So well did he perform his duties that, two years later, Republican Governor D. W. Davis [blog, April 23] re-appointed him to the Commission. He held that position until 1923. Fisher took the stand that the Board’s job was to enforce the laws, as passed by the legislature, not “make” them. Still, he was quite willing to advise (lobby) legislators on changes he felt were necessary in the laws.

After his two terms on the Board, Fisher retired from public service to focus on his real estate, mercantile, and farming interests. Some time in the late Thirties, he and his wife went to live in Pocatello. George moved to Salt Lake City in early 1944 and passed away there in December 1946.
References: [French], [Hawley]
“Rigby Resident’s Brother Dies,” Post-Register, Idaho Falls, Idaho (December 21, 1946).
“Timeline of Commissioners,” State of Idaho Industrial Commission, Boise.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Marine Corps Ace and Medal of Honor Winner Pappy Boyington [otd 12/04]

Pappy Boyington. USMC photo.
Ace pilot and Medal of Honor winner Gregory “Pappy” Boyington was born December 4, 1912 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. His mother divorced and remarried while Greg was very young, so he grew up thinking his last name was Hallenbeck. Not until some years later did he discover his birth name.

He grew up in the Idaho Panhandle and developed an early fascination with flying, fueled by “romantic” World War I stories about gallant pilots and their dogfights. His interest was further spurred when a barnstormer took him up for a flight in the fall of 1919.

Greg graduated from high school and then college in Washington state. At the University of Washington, he served on the swim and wrestling teams and, for a time, was middleweight wrestling champion of the Pacific Northwest. He graduated in 1934 with a B.S. degree in aeronautical engineering.

Greg served in the Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University and became a full-fledged Marine aviator three years after graduation. He spent several months as a flight instructor before resigning in 1941 to join the American Volunteer Group, the famous “Flying Tigers” who fought in China.

He took the job for the money. By the time he joined the AVG, Greg had already led a troubled life: He was divorced and owed child support and other debts. Also, like many of Native American heritage – he was part Sioux Indian – Greg fought with alcoholism all his life.

After the AVG was disbanded, he returned to duty with the Marines in the South Pacific. That was when he acquired the sobriquets “Gramps” and “Pappy” because he was a decade older than almost everyone he flew with. Before his most famous duty, Boyington served in the South Pacific, but had little success in combat.

Finding himself at loose ends after one assignment, he wrangled permission to assemble his own command, the legendary “Black Sheep Squadron.” His pilots were not, however, the band of misfits and screw-ups depicted in the later television program. They were simply men who had no specific assignments: green replacements just in from the States, members of disbanded units, and so on. The pilots chose their name because of the haphazard way the unit had been formed: the mixed bag of pilots, essentially castoff aircraft and little organized ground support.

As squadron leader, Pappy added impressively to his bag of enemy aircraft. His victory total is somewhat clouded. The official number is 28, but some commentators suggest 22 might be more accurate. (Either toll would be an impressive accomplishment.)
Marine Corsair in the South Pacific. USMC photo.

Beyond that, however, Pappy welded Marine Fighter Squadron 214 (the official designation) into a supremely deadly fighting force. The squadron flew their F4U Corsair fighters from rough island bases and pummeled Japanese aircraft, shipping, and ground installations. During a span of just under three months, the unit recorded 97 confirmed air-to-air victories and awarded Ace status to eight pilots.

Pappy was shot down in January 1944 and spent twenty months in Japanese prisons. For his actions and leadership, Boyington received the Congressional Medal of Honor, a Navy Cross, and several other medals. The original Black Sheep squadron received a Presidential Unit Citation.

Some years later, Boyington wrote his autobiography – Baa Baa Black Sheep – as well as a novel growing loosely from his experiences in China. He also served as a adviser for the highly fictionalized, but exciting television show.

Greg “Pappy” Boyington died in January 1988; he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
References: “Colonel Gregory Boyington, USMCR (Deceased),” Who’s Who in Marine Corps History, United State Marine Corps.
Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Bantam Books, New York (1977).
Guila Ford, Elizabeth Jacox, “Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington - 1912-1988,” Reference Series No. 1133, Idaho State Historical Society (January 1996).
Bruce Gamble, Black Sheep One, The Life of Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, Presidio Press, Novato, California (2000).
Colin D. Heaton, “Black Sheep Leader,” World War II History Magazine, Herndon, Virginia (June 2000).

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

World Renowned Mining Engineer and Innovator Fred Brown [otd 12/03]

World renowned mining engineer Frederick C. Brown was born December 3, 1867 in London, England. Brown continued a long family tradition of accomplishment in highly technical fields – his father was a naval engineer and a grandfather rose to the rank of Admiral in the Royal Navy*. Frederick came to the U. S. in 1883, working first in Dakota Territory. From there, he moved to Leadville, Colorado, where he became known as an outstanding mining engineer.
Poorman mill and tramway, ca 1895. Directory of Owyhee County.

Brown came to Idaho in 1892. He had been tasked to assess copper mining properties in the Seven Devils region, 40-45 miles northwest of McCall. After a brief period as mine superintendent in Mexico, he served as superintendent and general manager of the Poorman Mines near Silver City, Idaho.

In its earliest heyday, the Poorman had been one of the richest properties in the region, but had fallen into disrepute due to mismanagement. Brown served there during a period when, under new management, it began to reclaim its earlier luster.

Brown spent several years after 1897 in New Zealand, where he served as general manager for two gold and silver mines. He also married there, and the couple had two children. Brown soon attained a world-wide reputation as an innovator in the practical business of extracting gold from many kinds of ore bodies. A New Zealand newspaper of the period said, “Few people would dream from his retiring manner and bearing, that Mr. Brown is looked upon today in England and other countries, as one of the leading authorities on ore treatment.”

Brown published regularly in mining journals in this country and overseas. Among other advances, he developed a new form of manganese steel that found considerable use in a wide range of mining applications. In a report to a conference of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, a speaker credited the alloy with enabling major improvements in equipment durability and consequent reductions in cost. That included a four-fold increase in the expected working life of dredge buckets.
Belshazzar Mine.
University of Idaho archives.

Around 1910, Brown and his family returned to Idaho, where they settled along the river south of Boise. In 1918, new ownership of the Belshazzar Mine in the Boise Basin made Brown the Supervisor of a small crew trying to make the mine a paying proposition.

Originally discovered in 1875, the Belshazzar produced good to excellent returns for over thirty years, but the operation shut down in 1909. Brown’s crew finally tapped into a highly productive vein.  The Idaho Statesman reported (June 6, 1919) that, “A handsome shoot of pay ore, more than 500 feet in length and of good stoping width … has been disclosed.”

For the 1927 season, the Belshazzar was the second largest gold producer in the state. The following year, it was the largest gold producer in Idaho, with some ore “so rich it was shipped directly to the assay office without treatment.” (Available records do not show how long Brown continued as Supervisor.) But the lode did not last and production ceased in late 1931. Some exploratory work has been performed in more recent years.

Brown continued to live near Boise until his death in November 1931. He is buried there in Morris Hill Cemetery.

* For centuries, large ships – warships in particular – represented perhaps the most complex and innovative technology harnessed for mankind’s use. To some extent, they still do.
References: [Brit], [Hawley]
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).
Walter S. McKee, “Manganese-Steel Castings in the Mining Industry,” Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Vol. LIII, published by the Institute, New York (1916).
Victoria Mitchell, “History of the Belshazzar and Mountain Chief Mines, Boise County, Idaho,” Idaho Geological Survey Staff Report 08-3, University of Idaho, Moscow (2008).

Monday, December 2, 2019

Luke May Case Posted

Over on my South Fork Revue blog, I have posted another story about a Luke May case that I could not include in is biography:

If you're interested in historic "true crime," you might want to check it out.

America’s Sherlock Holmes – Innovative Forensic Detective Luke May [otd 12/02]

Detective Luke May.
Family Archives.
On December 2nd, Luke S. May, who became known as America’s preeminent scientific detective, was born near Grand Island, Nebraska. Hawley’s History of Idaho and other references list the year as 1886.

The family, however, gives the year as 1892, with support from the Social Security Death Index, as well as the 1900 U. S. Census. This is highly plausible: By adding six years to his age, the youthful detective-to-be could pose as being in his early twenties – still quite young, but not a mere boy.

The family moved to Salt Lake City when May was very young and there he actively pursued his interest in detective work. After intensive study of the available literature, May opened his own detective agency, which did well. Then, in 1914, he and a partner, J. Clark Sellers – later famous in his own right – founded the Revelare International Secret Service.

A year later they moved the company headquarters to Pocatello, Idaho. The biography in Hawley’s History lists a half dozen specific cases – the Breckenridge murder, Lorenzen lava bed mystery, etc. – with no further explanation. This implies that these cases were so notorious that his readers would know all about them.

That was certainly true of the 1916 robbery and murder of Wilbur Breckenridge of New Sweden, a farming village a few miles west of Idaho Falls. May and sheriff’s officers soon identified the perpetrators, and May thoroughly tracked their movements before and after the crime. One suspect – a young man of about 18 or 19 – was finally captured, and soon confessed. The Idaho Register, in Idaho Falls, reported (July 7, 1916), “The evidence secured is conclusive and the boy under arrest denied the charge until the happenings of the past few months were recited to him almost day to day.”

Revelare developed an international reputation, aided by instruments and techniques developed by May himself. Among other advances, he pioneered the use of tool marks to identify and verify physical evidence. Hawley noted that Luke was “an expert in the use of chemicals” and concluded that “His work indeed stands as the last word in detective service in the northwest.”

During World War I, Sellers enlisted in the Army, which disrupted the firm’s work somewhat. In 1919, they added another partner and moved their headquarters to Seattle. The partners soon left to pursue their own careers, but May’s reputation flourished during the next two decades. Newspaper and magazine articles began referring to him as “America’s Sherlock Holmes.”

In the Thirties, he started to write “true crime” articles for a popular detective magazine. He also published a popularized book of case files, as well as two texts on scientific detection.

Evidence object from Luke May Papers.
University of Washington Special Collections.
May felt strongly about the need to apply logic and science to criminal investigation. He thus took every avenue to educate law enforcement officials and ordinary people. He helped found crime laboratories for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Chicago police department, and elsewhere.

During World War II, Naval Reserve officer Lt. Commander Luke May was called to active duty and then promoted to Commander shortly before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (Seattle Daily Times, November 14, 1941). He never discussed what he had done while he was on active duty. However, his service records show that he mostly trained intelligence officers, showing them how to turn field observations into useful information.

After the war, May found himself something of a victim of his own success. Many public law enforcement bodies started their own crime labs, leading to fewer calls for Luke's independent service. Luke passed away in July 1965, after a long battle with leukemia.

“America’s Sherlock Holmes” either directly, or through years of education, helped revolutionize criminal investigation, improving most of the techniques that are still in use today.
Reference: [Hawley]
J. Beck, “Luke May of Seattle – ‘America's Sherlock Holmes’,” Journal of Forensic Sciences, Vol. 37, No. 1, American Academy of Forensic Sciences (1992) pp 349-355.
Darrell Klasey, “J. Clark Sellers,” The California Identification Digest, Vol. 10, No. 1, California State Division, International Association for Identification, Oakland (2010).
“Luke Silvester May,” Military Personnel Records, National Archives and Records Administration, St. Louis , Missouri (2003).
Mindi Reid, “May, Luke (1892-1965),” Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History,

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Wholesale Grocery Pioneer and Pocatello Developer Joseph Young [otd 12/01]

Joseph Young. J. H. Hawley photo.
Western grocery wholesaler Joseph Taylor Young was born December 1, 1880 on a ranch near Logan, Utah. Three years later the family moved to Rexburg, Idaho, where he grew up and went to school. As a teenager, he attended Ricks Academy [blog, Nov 12]. He then went to work for the St. Anthony Lumber Company, which was then supplying ties, timber and planks to the Oregon Short Line Railroad.

Young’s lumber company experience landed him a job as a supply clerk with the OSL. As such, he procured the materials needed to upgrade depots and right-of-way fencing in eastern Idaho. He then rose to a position as railway freight agent in Dillon, Montana. From 1904 to 1909, he worked at a wholesale fruit and produce company in Ogden and attained a General Manager’s position. During this period, he also married, fathered a child, and was widowed (in 1908).

In January 1909, Young sold his Utah interests and moved to Pocatello. At some point, he had forged ties with investors in Wichita, Kansas. The group founded the Idaho Wholesale Grocery Company, with its headquarters in Pocatello. For business reasons, the company President remained in Kansas while the Vice President, his brother, lived in Idaho. Joseph acted as company Secretary and General Manager.

According to Hawley’s History, the firm “was the first Idaho corporation to engage in the wholesale distribution of food products in southern Idaho.” Within a decade, they had branch facilities in Idaho Falls, Twin Falls and Burley.

Young also had many other Idaho investments and positions. Among these was his job as President of the first confectionery company to serve the wholesale candy trade in southern Idaho. He was also a Director of the Idaho Loan & Investment Company. The latter enterprise specialized in residential home building in and around Pocatello. Young helped organize the Idaho Fire Insurance Company, and became its first President. He was also secretary of the Idaho Portland Cement Company, which was then building facilities near the city.

A year after he arrived in the city, Young was elected President of the Pocatello Commercial Club. An enthusiastic promoter, Joseph used his Presidency to boost the town’s economy any way he could. Interviewed for a regional magazine, Young crowed, “We will be the largest city in the state in five years.”
Early Pocatello. Pocatello Downtown Historic District.

Certainly the potential existed: The town had grown from around 500 people in 1892 to around 10 thousand by 1910, and to about 15 thousand for the next census.

At one point, Young tried to promote a Quaker Oats company plant for the city. Under his leadership, locals were able to offer a tract of valuable land near the railroad yards to "sweeten the pot." With this offer, the city seemed assured of getting the plant.

The Idaho Statesman, in Boise, quoted (August 18, 1910) a visiting Pocatello business leader: “There is now hardly any question but that Pocatello will secure the Quaker Oats factory, as the townspeople have offered the concern a site valued at $20,000 and negotiations are practically closed.”

That turned out to be overly optimistic, however. The factory went elsewhere, or was perhaps not built at all.

Young’s involvement with the wholesale grocery business expanded in the 1920s, eventually leading to a position as President of the Western States Wholesale Grocery Company. Despite his enthusiasm for Pocatello, he eventually moved to California to be closer to those large markets. He passed away there in January 1953.
References: [French], [Hawley]
“Central Eureka Mine Dispute,” Daily Evening Tribune, Oakland, California (April 18, 1940).
The Western Monthly, “See America First” League, Salt Lake City (December 1909).

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Boise Banker, Developer, and Geothermal Promoter Christopher W. Moore [otd 11/30]

Boise banker and businessman Christopher Wilkinson Moore was born in Toronto, Canada, on November 30, 1835. His parents, both immigrants from Ireland, tried to make a go of it farming near Toronto and then moved to a place about 35 miles southwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That too proved inadequate, so in 1852 the family emigrated to Oregon and claimed a farm about seven miles south of Salem. 
Christopher Moore. [Illust-State]

Moore got his start in business dealing in livestock, and then running freight into Washington Territory and Canada. After gold was discovered in what became Idaho, he and a partner, Benjamin M. DuRell, freighted into the Clearwater gold country.

They ventured into the Boise Valley in 1863, expecting to sell their merchandise and return to the coast. However, they saw the commercial potential of Boise City, located on the Oregon Trail and midway between the gold camps of the Boise Basin and the Owyhee mines.

By the spring of 1865, the partners had outlets in Boise City, Ruby City and Silver City. They soon went beyond merchandise sales. In Boise, they began doing gold assays and acting as an informal bank, making loans and holding gold in a big safe.

Then, in 1867, Moore, DuRell, and three other investors founded the First National Bank of Idaho. (One of the other investors was Territorial Governor David W. Ballard.) DuRell was selected as president, Moore as cashier. It was the first nationally-chartered bank in Idaho, and only the second west of the Mississippi. The firm prospered, and played a significant role in the development of southwestern Idaho. DuRell sold his shares and left the bank after five years. Various reorganizations followed, and Moore became president in January 1889. He would hold that position for the rest of his life.

Moore continued to invest outside his bank job, acquiring considerable farm and ranch property, as well as mine holdings in the Silver City area. Also, in 1870, he and another group of investors incorporated the “Idaho Telegraph Company.” It’s unclear how well that venture fared and it may have been absorbed when the Western Union Telegraph Company ran their own lines through the Territory.

Around 1890, Moore acquired an interest in a company formed to deliver water to customers in Boise. The details of the competition that followed are beyond the scope of this blog. However, in May 1891, the Idaho Statesman reported “a consolidation … between the two great water companies.” The new firm was called the Artesian Hot and Cold Water Company and Moore was the company president.

Their immediate plan was for a grand hotel and health spa supplied with hot water from nearby geothermal wells. The “Natatorium” they built is still a noted Boise landmark. But they also hoped to supply hot water to other businesses, and to homes. That proved to be a “hard sell,” even though the company offered very attractive prices.
C. W. Moore Mansion. [Illust-State]

So Moore had a hot water line extended to his mansion on Warms Springs Avenue. The geothermal heating system that went into operation in February 1892 is believed to be the first such residential unit installed in this country.

Christopher W. Moore passed away in September 1916, but the geothermal network that he and his partners pioneered is still in use today.

The bank he helped found proved to be equally lasting, although its corporate descendant now operates as part of a large bank holding company. First National itself endured a two-month suspension of operations early in the Great Depression, but bounced back stronger than ever.
References: [Illust-State], [French]
“Boise Natural Hot Water Heating System,” Reference Series No. 500, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (1977).
Eloise H. Anderson, Frontier Bankers, The Caxton Printers, Ltd., Caldwell, Idaho (1981).
“[Christopher Moore News],” Idaho World, Idaho City, Idaho Statesman, Boise, Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho (March 1865 – September 1916).