Thursday, March 26, 2015

Freighter, Stagecoach Driver, and Eagle Developer John Carpenter [otd 03/26]

John R. Carpenter.
J. H. Hawley photo.
Pioneer John R. Carpenter was born March 26, 1846 near Albany, New York. In 1859, John helped his father drive a covered wagon to California while his mother traveled by ship around Cape Horn. After mining and ranching in California and then Oregon for awhile, the family moved to Idaho in the spring of 1863.

John and his father hauled logs and carried freight for several years. On one early trip to procure supplies in Oregon, highwaymen attacked and robbed them. During the altercation, John received a wound in the hand and wrist. He never regained the use of two fingers on that hand.

Life in Idaho City during that period was wild and dangerous. Carpenter later said he had seen as many as four dead bodies on the streets at one time, and sometimes you could hardly move through all the crush of wagons and teams. Demand for goods was so great that nothing of value could be left unattended for fear of thieves.

John worked full-time for his father in farming and ranching for about two years. He then began hauling freight by pack train and wagon, and drove the Idaho City to Boise City stage for awhile. John apparently worked part time at his father’s ranch until 1876, when his father sold out and retired back to the East. Later, John hauled freight from Kelton, Utah to Boise City, and drove stage routes all over southern Idaho

During the Bannock War of 1878, Carpenter served as express messenger and scout for Federal and local troops. Because of his knowledge of the terrain, leaders sometimes sent him out to find and repair breaks in government telegraph lines. On one repair trip, he barely avoided being attacked and killed by Indians.

On another occasion, he carried a message from Boise City to an Army column on the Camas Prairie, far east of Mountain Home. The commander was reportedly “dumbfounded” that he had avoided the numerous hostile Indian bands that then infested the countryside.

After the tribes had been suppressed, John went back to hauling freight and driving stage. For several years, he drove stagecoaches in the Wood River area for stage line tycoon John Hailey. Despite his impaired hand, “Carpenter was known as one of the best stage drivers in the United States.”

In 1895, he homesteaded in the area that became Eagle, about 8-9 miles northwest of Boise City. Eagle Island had been settled over thirty years earlier [blog, Dec 21], but the area had grown very little. Within a few years after John settled there, another major landowner promoted a bridge to the island and the Eagle community began to expand.
Odd Fellows Hall. Eagle Historical Museum.

Carpenter joined forces with the developer, selling fifteen acres as a town site. In 1902, he also donated land for an Odd Fellows Hall. Carpenter continued to encourage development of the town for many years. The biography in Hawley’s History, published in 1920, said, “There is no phase of the state’s development and upbuilding with which he is not familiar.”

John lived in Eagle until his death in March, 1936.
                                                                                 
References: [Hawley]
Laurie Baker, “The City of Eagle: Yesterday and Today,” City of Eagle, Official Website (May, 2007).
John Hailey, History of Idaho, Syms-York Company, Boise, Idaho (1910).

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gutzon Borglum: Sculptor of Gigantic Figures, Including Mount Rushmore [otd 3/25]

Gutzon Borglum, ca. 1925.
Library of Congress.
Gutzon Borglum, who created the Mount Rushmore monument, was born March 25, 1867 in St. Charles, Idaho, near Bear Lake. "The best archival research" indicates that the family moved to Los Angeles in 1884 and Gutzon stayed there when the rest moved on.*

Borglum began his artistic career as a painter, studying first in California. There he met divorcée Lisa Putnam – a well-connected painter – who became his mentor, manager, and eventually his wife (she was eighteen years older than her protégé).

A year after they were married in 1889, the couple moved to Paris. There, Gutzon studied at several prestigious art schools and studios, and branched out into sculpture. Borglum earned praise, and commissions, for both his painting and sculpture, but he soon began to concentrate on the latter. He completed several important commissions in Europe before returning to the U.S. in 1901.

With a base in New York City, Borglum established a major reputation as a sculptor, aided by his outstanding talent and his persistent cultivation of the media – then the big metropolitan newspapers and national magazines. He attained celebrity status when he began producing out-sized works of art, such as the 40-inch-high bust of President Lincoln displayed in the U. S. Capitol building.

This and other huge works led to a commission for what … eventually … became the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial, on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. The project backers initially envisioned “simply” a giant carving of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the granite face of Stone Mountain.

Borglum fell in love with the notion of carving a whole mountain. He proposed a project to honor a host of Confederate heroes: Lee, Jefferson Davis, and something like seventy officers from all the Confederate states. Of course, his concept proved far too costly and leaders cut it back substantially. Some preparative work began in 1916-1917, but not much happened until about 1923.

The following year, publicity about the proposed project attracted the attention of the South Dakota State Historian. The Historian approached Borglum with a rather modest notion of carving The Needles – a forest of granite spires – into giant statues of western heroes. Borglum had a more grandiose idea: Not obscure Westerners most people had never heard of, but true national figures ... and on a colossal scale.

Planning for a national-scale monument began almost immediately. Thus, when major disagreements arose between Borglum and the Stone Mountain backers in 1925, he abandoned that project altogether. (Almost a half century passed before Atlantans dedicated their memorial.)
Mount Rushmore National Monument.
National Park Service.

Rock-work began on Mount Rushmore in 1927. They completed Washington’s head three years later. With the stock market crash and Great Depression, the second head – Jefferson’s – was not unveiled until 1937. Lincoln’s followed a year later, and Roosevelt’s two years after that. The final carving was not completed until October 1941. Borglum himself did not live to see the completion: he died in March of that year.

* It's somewhat unclear when this move actually happened because, like many celebrities, Borglum "tinkered" with his biography over the years.
                                                                                 
References: [Brit]
Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
"Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941)," The American Experience, Public Broadcasting System (1999-2000).

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Battleship Idaho Commissioned, Becoming the Navy’s Fourth USS Idaho [otd 03/24]

On March 24, 1919, battleship BB-42 – the USS Idaho – was commissioned into the Navy under the command of Captain Carl T. Vogelgesang.

BB-42 was actually the fourth Idaho to sail for the U.S. Navy: predecessors included a wooden sloop-of-war, a motor launch, and an earlier battleship, BB-24.
USS Idaho, BB-24, ca 1909. Library of Congress.
Launched in late 1905, BB-24 followed a design that was a compromise between fighting prowess and cost. As a result, a new generation of battleships soon made that USS Idaho obsolete. She was decommissioned and turned over to Greece in 1914.

Battleship BB-42 had been christened not quite two years before commissioning, in June 1917, by the granddaughter of Idaho Governor Moses Alexander [blog, Nov 13], who was also in attendance.

This USS Idaho had the latest design for the time, with a battery of twelve 14-inch guns. She played a significant role in American naval activity. After shakedown and training in the Atlantic, she transferred to Pacific waters. Her early duty was off the coast from California to Alaska, with occasional voyages as far south as Chile.

In 1925, the Idaho performed exercises near Hawaii, and then sailed to Australia and New Zealand before returning to the West Coast.
USS Idaho exiting Pearl Harbor,
DT-2 torpedo plane overhead, Sept 1925.
Naval Historical Center photo.
From then until 1931, the Idaho was based at San Pedro, California, engaging in fleet readiness maneuvers off the coast and in the Caribbean.

The Idaho spent 1931-1934 on the East Coast undergoing an extensive modernization refit. After a stint in Pacific waters, she returned to the Atlantic. She was stationed in Iceland on December 7, 1941. Two days after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Idaho left Iceland to join the Pacific Fleet.

The USS Idaho participated in many of the great World War II Pacific operations, receiving seven battle stars, including: the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

In April 1945, the Idaho steamed toward a special date with history, but was denied. In a desperate, suicidal throw of the dice, the Japanese Imperial command sent their superbattleship Yamato to try to break up or delay the attack on Okinawa. The American commander, Admiral Spruance, countered first with his battleship bombardment group, including the Idaho. However, they were “demoted” to a contingency force, and a carrier air strike sank the Yamato instead.
USS Idaho bombarding Okinawa, April 1945.
Naval Historical Center photo.

A sailor on the Idaho wrote, “There was a show of disappointment among the crew that we didn't get our chance at them, but on the other hand, had we met with this force, for sure, some of our ships would have taken a shellacking from the Yamato's 18-inch guns long before we would have come in range.”

She suffered battle damage from a kamikaze off Okinawa, but returned to action after quick repairs in Guam. On September 2, 1945, the Idaho was anchored in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender ceremony. After over a quarter century of service, the battleship was decommissioned in 1946 and then sold for scrap in November 1947.
                                                                                 
References: Dylan J. McDonald (Ed.), The Moses Alexander Collection, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (2002).
James A. Mooney (Ed.), Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Dept. of the Navy (June 1991).
William Schumann, The Big Spud: USS Idaho in World War II, The Merriam Press, Bennington, Vermont (© William Schumann, 2008).

Monday, March 23, 2015

Indian Unrest Forces Mormon Colonists to Abandon Fort Lemhi [otd 03/23]

On March 23, 1858, a force of nearly 150 Utah militiamen arrived at Fort Lemhi, Idaho to escort the Mormon settlers there to safety: Indian hostility had rendered the settlement untenable.
Brigham Young, ca 1850.
Utah State Historical Society.

Three years earlier, church leader Brigham Young had tasked a band of Mormons to establish a mission among Idaho’s indigenous peoples “and there teach the Indians the principles of civilization.”

A month later, the missionaries headed north from the Salt Lake area. They had no specific destination. Their instructions were to locate “anywhere that the tribes would receive them.” In the middle of June, 1855, they arrived in the Lemhi Valley, where the local tribes – Shoshone and Bannock, at first – welcomed them.

Later accounts suggest that the Indians expected something more or less like the minimal impact they had seen elsewhere. These newcomers were relatively inept hunters and fishermen. They would be willing to trade manufactured goods for Indian furs, meat, and dried fish. Small farm plots would provide food for local consumption, with perhaps some left over as a further trade item.

Thus, the Indians readily allowed the men to settle, surely hoping to have access to white trade goods. That was probably why they also recommended a settlement site in an area where the Shoshone, the Bannock, and the Nez Percé gathered during the summer to fish and trade among themselves.

The colonists immediately built a stockade to enclose a couple dozen cabins and, shortly, a blacksmith shop and sawmill. They named their outpost Fort Limhi, after a king appearing in the Book of Mormon. In its altered form, the designation later became associated with the river and its valley.

The colonists began cultivating land for farms as soon as the fort was reasonably complete. Unfortunately, they started too late in the area's short growing season and had to bring extra winter supplies in from Utah. The Mormons soon adapted, and more colonists joined them in 1857.

The Lemhi Shoshone (rightly) saw that growth as a threat to their traditional foraging lands. There had also been a falling out between the Nez Percé and the other two tribes. Those bands saw continued trade between the settlers and the Nez Percé as a hostile act.

Broader influences also played a role, as Idaho tribes clashed more and more with white emigrants on the Oregon Trail. Partly because of Indian unrest, the Hudson Bay Company had abandoned Old Fort Boise in 1854. Two years later, they also abandoned Old Fort Hall [blog, July 14].

Finally, early in 1858, a Shoshone raid drove off most of the colony's cattle and horses. The Indians also killed two Mormons and wounded five others.
Fort Lemhi remains, ca. 1900. Lemhi County Historical Society.

These stinging losses, and the possibility of further attacks, convinced the settlers that the colony could not survive. The militia force arrived in response to messengers sent south shortly after the raid. The party suffered one more casualty during the withdrawal.

Mormon colonists never returned to the Lemhi, but other whites began moving into the valley within four years. Then, in 1866, prospectors discovered gold in the mountains to the north and triggered the rush that established Salmon City as a thriving town.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W]
Judith Austin, “The Salmon River Mission,” Reference Series No. 554, Idaho State Historical Society (August 1976).
George Elmo Shoup, "History of Lemhi County," Salmon Register-Herald (Series, May 8- October 23, 1940).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brewery and Food Products Manager William Stoehr [otd 03/22]

Brewery manager William Stoehr was born March 22, 1880 in Bethalto, Illinois, 25-30 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri. As a youth, William worked as a cooper, his father's trade. However, his real interest was the brewer's craft, so as a teenager he took a job at a large brewery in St. Louis. After five years there, he moved to Chicago to attend the American Brewing Academy, perhaps the top brewmaster’s school in the U.S. at that time.

Stoehr received his certificate in 1902, along with a gold medal as top performer in his class. After that, he spent six months at a brewery in Illinois, and then became master brewer at a large plant in Seattle.
Beer by mule, Idaho Brewing & Malting Company
IMB logo on the hogshead.

Then a Spokane company bought the Idaho Brewing Company in Boise. The Idaho Statesman reported (June 20, 1905) that, “William Stoehr of Seattle … has resigned his position there and will have charge of the Boise brewery as manager.”

The facility he was hired to run could trace its roots, as the “City Brewery,” almost to the founding of Boise City. Certainly by September 1864, it was a thriving business. The plant had a succession of short-term owners before Joseph Misseldt, an emigrant from Prussia, acquired it in 1870. Sadly, he fell down a well and drowned in 1878. His widow sold the business to John Brodbeck. When Brodbeck sold it in 1901, the new owners changed the name to the Idaho Brewing Company.

Aside from his manager’s position, Stoehr immersed himself in the business and social life of Boise. One of his several investments led him to a position as Secretary and Treasurer of the Boise Gas Light & Coke Company.

However, prohibition came early to Idaho – in 1916 – thereby making the core product of the IB&M Company illegal. Officers quickly reinvented the business as the Idaho Products Company, making a variety of non-alcoholic beverages. They also set up plants in Meridian and Payette to dry fruits and to pack fruits and vegetables.

After awhile, company developers also devised an effective process to dehydrate potatoes. In fact, the company won a contract to supply dehydrated potatoes to the U. S. Army, but World War I ended before it could be completed. In addition to their own packing and shipping operations, Idaho Products handled sales and shipping for other regional producers. Most of the firm's managers – including the President – worked in Spokane, leaving Stoehr as the highest officer in Boise.

When the U. S. gave up Prohibition as a bad idea, the company jumped back into brewing. The firm's President said (Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 27, 1933), "Bohemian Club Beer will be manufactured at Boise and new equipment will be installed in the old Idaho Brewing and Malting company plant there immediately."

The article went on to note that, “The Boise staff will be headed by William Stoehr, in charge of manufacturing.”

Some records suggest that Stoehr remained with the brewery, in some capacity, until it was bought out in the late 1950's. He passed away a few years after that.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley]
Bob Kay, “Bosworth, Atlantic Brewery,” Correspondence files, Atlantic Brewery Company, Chicago (2008).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

New Idaho Territorial Penitentiary Opens Near Boise [otd 03/21]

On March 21, 1872, the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman reported, “We understand that the Territorial prisoners are to be brought down to-day and placed in the penitentiary, under the charge of the U. S. Marshal.”
Boise County Jail.
Idaho City Historical Foundation.

This move initiated the use of a new Territorial Penitentiary in Boise City, Idaho. Eleven prisoners previously held in the Boise County jail in Idaho City became its first inmates.

When Congress created Idaho Territory in 1863 [blog, March 4], the region had no penitentiary. Thus, Territorial prisoners were housed at county jails in Lewiston and Idaho City. Three years later, officials moved all such prisoners to the Idaho City unit.

Accounts of the time indicate that the jail was, at best, a marginal facility [blog, Dec 31]. Finally, in early 1867, the Idaho Territorial Delegate to the U. S. Congress persuaded that body to appropriate funds for a prison. However, two years passed before the Territorial legislature saw fit to enact a process to certify and use the planned structure. Construction began in the spring of 1870, and was complete about a year later.

Another year passed before officials could plan the transfer of prisoners to the new facility. They had to work out the details of who would have charge of the operation, and who would pay for what. Initially, the serving U. S. Marshal for Idaho Territory acted as prison warden.

Still, as a Federal facility, the new penitentiary housed convicts sent there by both Federal and Territorial courts. This helped spread the fixed costs over a larger population. H. T. French noted that the arrangement provided “a great saving to the territory over its previous outlay for the care of law breakers.”

In 1885, the Territorial legislature created a separate Prison Commission. This three-member Commission watched over the budget and operation of the prison, and eventually had authority to investigate complaints about conditions at the facility. A year later, the prison received a donation of books to start a library. The library also subscribed to current newspapers and magazines, and made them available to the inmates.

In 1890, the Federal government turned the penitentiary over to the newly-admitted state of Idaho. According to Hawley’s History, “On August 1, 1890, there were seventy-five prisoners in the penitentiary, six of whom were United States prisoners.”
Idaho State Penitentiary, ca. 1918. J. H. Hawley photo.
Over a period of years, the Penitentiary grounds and facilities were expanded and officials implemented numerous upgrades.

One major improvement was the construction of a massive outer wall. Prisoners who had been taught stone masonry actually cut sandstone from quarries east of the prison, then they and the other prisoners assembled the wall. The Idaho Statesman noted (July 12, 1894) that “The convicts at the penitentiary will have a holiday today in honor of the completion of the new stone wall.”

The state operated the facility until 1973, when all the prisoners were transferred to a modern new prison about ten miles south of Boise. That same year, the "Old Pen" was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the site is open to the public under the management of the Idaho State Historical Society.
                                                                                 
Reference]: [French], [Hawley]
"Old Idaho Penitentiary," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.
Rachel S Johnstone, Inmates of the Idaho Penitentiary 1864-1947, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (2008).

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rocky Mountain Fur Company Advertises for "Enterprising Young Men" [otd 03/20]

William H. Ashley.
Legends of America.
Missouri Republican, St. Louis, March 20, 1822: "To enterprising young men. 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 … "

Signed by William H. Ashley, the job posting marked the first public presence of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company (RMFC).

At the time, independent American trappers and small fur companies were focused on exploiting the Missouri River watershed, east of the Continental Divide. Ashley and his partner, Andrew Henry, had more ambitious plans.

Pennsylvanian Andrew Henry first entered the fur trade in 1808, when he was about thirty-three years old. He led an attempt to establish a Missouri Fur Company (MFC) post at Three Forks, in Montana. When Indian attacks ended that venture disastrously, he moved to Idaho and built Fort Henry, near today's Ashton.

A hard winter soon crippled that effort. The MFC struggled along for a number of years, but the War of 1812 drew Henry's interest for the duration. After his military service, until he joined up with Ashley, Henry focused on mining activities around St. Louis.

William Ashley had moved to St. Louis from Virginia in 1808, when he was about thirty years old. Prior to 1822, he engaged in real estate development, banking, and mining. He too served in the Missouri militia, rising from a captaincy during the War of 1812 to the rank of General in 1822. Along with all that, Ashley engaged in politics, being elected in 1820 as the first Lieutenant-Governor of the new state of Missouri.

Although their announcement drew enough men to their new company, the RMFC got off to a shaky start: The Arikara Indians of South Dakota inflicted heavy losses on their Missouri River expedition. After that, the company avoided that area and dispatched trains of pack horses to the Rocky Mountains on a more direct overland route.

RMFC trappers crossed the Continental Divide into the Green River area via South Pass in 1824. Two parties continued into Idaho – one, led by legendary Mountain Man Jedediah Smith, camped on the Portneuf River in the fall. In October, along the Salmon River, Smith's group met the "Snake Brigade," the large fur-trapping operation of the British-Canadian Hudson's Bay Company [blog, Oct 6].
Mountain Man. Frederic Remington drawing.

The RMFC would vigorously compete with the HBC, and with other American rivals, for the next decade. In the process, the Company would introduce a long line of famous Mountain Men into the trade: the Sublette brothers, David Jackson, Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick, freed slave Jim Beckwourth, Jim Bridger, and many others.

New management led those activities, however: In 1824, Andrew Henry retired from the trade and returned to his mining interests. He died in 1832.

Ashley sold the company two years later and, wealthy from the fur trade, renewed his political ambitions. He served several terms as a U. S. Congressman from Missouri. He died in 1838.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W]
H. M. Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1986).