Thursday, October 30, 2014

Idaho Pathway to Montana, Critic and Modernist Poet Ezra Pound [otd 10/30]

On October 30, 1864, successful miners founded what they called “Crabtown,” after one of the “Four Georgians” who had discovered gold in Montana’s “Last Chance Gulch.” The town grew rapidly, and residents soon selected the more appealing name of "Helena." This continued growth in Montana played a key role in the development of eastern Idaho: All those thousands of miners needed supplies.
Early freight wagons. Library of Congress.

The best early route left the well-traveled Oregon Trail near Fort Hall and headed north. By 1864, a steady stream of freight wagon trains rumbled across East Idaho.

The rush to Montana began in July 1862, when prospectors found gold on Grasshopper Creek. Then they discovered even better fields in Alder Gulch, where Virginia City sprang into being. When that area grew over-crowded, the “Georgians” sought better prospects, which led them to Last Chance Gulch.

Prospector and freight traffic through East Idaho had surged right after the Grasshopper Creek discoveries. Customers soon backed up at ferries crossing the Snake River. One of those was the "Eagle Rock Ferry," located a few miles upstream from today's Idaho Falls.

Soon, James Madison "Matt" Taylor and some partners bought the ferry, and, in 1865, opened a toll bridge. That span became the center of the first settlement north of the Mormon colonies near the Utah border. Various records called the town "Taylor's Bridge" or "Eagle Rock" until it officially changed to Idaho Falls [blog, Dec 10].

Finally, in the period from about 1878 to 1881, the Utah & Northern Railway laid track across East Idaho and into Montana [blog, Apr 11]. The coming of the railroad immediately spurred settlement up and down the east side of Idaho.

On October 30, 1885, internationally renowned poet Ezra Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho. The family moved to the East when he was a two-year-old infant. Even so, scholars contend that stories he heard about natural resource exploitation – mining, timber, and the land itself – in Idaho and elsewhere colored his life-long views on these issues. (Pound himself supported that contention.)
Ezra Pound.
Poetry Foundation

Ezra received his college education to a Master’s degree level in New York and Pennsylvania. He had a brief stint as a college professor, but his growing “Bohemian” behavior ended that career. He moved to Europe in 1908.

His poetry and articles on literary topics brought considerable fame. Later, he also worked as an editor. By example and through direct advice, Pound exerted a profound influence on the major literary trends during the period between the World Wars.

Having spent years in London and then three in Paris, he moved to Italy in 1924. He lived there for the next 20 years, except for a brief sojourn back in the U.S.

During World War II, Pound made a series of anti-American radio broadcasts. Arrested for treason at the end of the war but judged “mentally unfit for trial,” he spent the years until 1958 in a mental hospital. Still, his literary production continued then, and until about 1960. He died in 1972.

Despite the problems in his later years, Pound is considered a towering figure in the literary landscape of the Twentieth Century.
References: [Brit], [B&W]
Dana Dugan, “Uncovering Ezra Pound’s Roots,” Idaho Mountain Express and Guide, Ketchum, Idaho (March 2, 2007).
Michael P. Malone, Richard B. Roeder, and William L. Lang, Montana: A History of Two Centuries, Revised Edition, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1991).
David A. Moody, Ezra Pound, Poet: The Young Genius 1885–1920, Oxford University Press (2007).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Frontier Lawman, Rancher, and Business Leader Ed Winn [otd 10/29]

Sheriff Ed Winn.
Bonneville County Historical Society.
Frontier marshal, sheriff, and businessman Ed F. Winn was born October 29, 1857, about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Having learned the carpenter’s trade, Winn found work as a young man with the Union Pacific railroad. He then joined Utah & Northern Railway crews as they laid track and built stations north across eastern Idaho.

Ed followed the rails as far as Dillon, Montana. He then returned to Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls) to help with construction of railroad shops there. Probably foreseeing the growth that the shops would bring to the town, Winn quit the railroad and went into the saloon business. His ability to enforce a level of frontier “decorum” in his establishment soon attracted notice. In the early 1880s, authorities appointed him a Deputy Sheriff of Oneida County, which then comprised almost all of Eastern Idaho.

In short order, he became recognized as a man of “grit” and “chilly nerve.” His effective law enforcement efforts drew the attention of U. S. Marshal Fred T. Dubois, who made him a Deputy Marshal. Whether that appointment continued when Dubois focused on politics after 1886 is unclear, but Winn held his sheriff’s job into at least 1900.

Winn survived a number of shootouts, including several that were fatal to his opponents. In one scrape, a man named Swigart opened fire on Winn without warning, missed, but received two serious wounds in return. Ed told the Blackfoot Register (November 3, 1883) that “if he had had his own gun instead of a strange one, he would have killed Swigart.

Nor was he averse to engaging in hand-to-hand scraps. Describing his impact on the criminal element, the Illustrated History said, “He brought many to trial, many fled the country and in time Oneida county came to be a law-abiding place, and as such was gradually taken possession of by law-abiding people.”

For a number of years, Winn owned a cattle ranch, from which he supplied local butcher shops. Around 1888, he opened a grocery store near the downtown area. At one time Winn owned twenty-two acres of prime real estate, much of which he developed into businesses and homes. In several cases, he managed the design and construction himself.
Early Idaho Falls. Bonneville County Historical Society.

After a disastrous fire in 1885, the town organized a formal fire brigade and appointed Winn as its first Fire Chief. He held that position until 1902, when the fire station was moved and a new chief was appointed.

About a year before that, Ed had been appointed Idaho Falls postmaster, a position he held until 1908. (Rumors apparently suggested there were some irregularities in his management of the office, but nothing came of that.)

Winn and a partner turned up in the legal news in 1913 when records showed that their drug store had no pharmacist registered with the state. They were acquitted, however, because investigation showed that a clerk they had hired lied about being a registered pharmacist.

Winn returned to law enforcement in 1918 when he was elected as a Constable for Idaho Falls. He died in 1935, and his obituary lauded the colorful and effective role he had played in Eastern Idaho history.
References: [Illust-State]
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
William Hathaway, Images of America: Idaho Falls, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC (2006).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Volstead Act (Prohibition) Turmoil in Idaho, Death at Caldron Linn [otd 10/28]

On October 28, 1919, Congress enacted the Volstead Act to provide a framework for the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prohibition, as it has always been known, did not ban the consumption of alcoholic beverages, per se. What it did was to ban the manufacture, transport, or delivery of beverages containing more than 0.5% alcohol – except for specific research and development uses.
Illegal brewery busted. National Archives.

Unfortunately, Prohibition became a prime example of good intentions gone awry – and a classic case of unintended consequences. Illegal sources and channels quickly moved to fill the void created by the almost total elimination of an entire industry. There’s no need to recount the entire story here: rampant corruption and violent gang wars. Even members of “respectable” society became lawbreakers.

Before Prohibition was repealed in 1933, a dramatic case occurred in Idaho. (Idaho was generally spared the worst of the crime and violence that plagued the big cities and more populous states.) In February of 1923, the Idaho Statesman revealed that “the Feds” had indicted several high level Ada County and Boise officials, including the county sheriff and the Boise police chief, for conspiring to produce and sell moonshine whiskey.

Nearly a half dozen other men were charged, including a well-known Boise physician and a local rancher. (Presumably the rancher provided an out-of-the way location for their illegal still.) In the end, six conspirators were found guilty on each of six different counts – the police chief was exonerated. It is impossible to know how many other illegal operations were never caught.

In his journal for October 28, 1811, Wilson Price Hunt wrote, “Our journey was less fortunate on the 28th; for after passing through several rapids, we came to the entrance of a narrow gorge.  Mr. Crook's canoe capsized, one of his companions drowned, and we lost a great deal of merchandise.”
Caldron Linn.

As noted for the October 5th blog, the Hunt party represented the Pacific Fur Company, which was founded by fur trade magnate John Jacob Astor and several British-Canadian partners. Their expedition had entered Idaho just over three week earlier. They then left their horses at Fort Henry, near today’s St. Anthony, and took to the Snake River in dugout canoes.

Despite some problems with earlier rapids and falls, they had escaped serious trouble until the fatality at the dangerous constriction that came to be called Caldron Linn. Located near today's Murtaugh, the Caldron features some of the most dangerous water on the Snake east of Hells Canyon.

They tried to portage around the whitewater, but lost a canoe and more supplies. Hunt sent men downstream to try to find a better place to return to the river. Oddly enough, the scouts apparently did not find Shoshone Falls, which are higher than Niagara Falls [blog, Aug 15] and could have been fatal had they floated into them unawares.

Yet even without that knowledge, the scouts' report convinced Hunt that the canyon was too dangerous to attempt. He wrote, “Its bed is no more than sixty to ninety feet wide, it is full of rapids, and its course is broken by falls ten to forty feet high.  Except at two spots where I went down to get water, the banks are precipitous everywhere.”

The Astorians basically walked out of Idaho and on to the Columbia River.
References: [Brit]
Arthur Hart, “Boise moonshine operation busted in 1923,” Idaho Statesman, October 31, 2006.
Wilson Price Hunt, Hoyt C. Franchère (ed. and translator), Overland diary of Wilson Price Hunt, translated from the original French Nouvelles Annales des Voyages (Paris, 1821), Ashland Oregon Book Society (1973).
Washington Irving, Astoria, or Anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains, G. P. Putnam and Son, New York (1868). Author’s revised edition.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rustling, Stock Brand Laws, and Modern Brand Inspection [otd 10/27]

On October 27, 1883, the Owyhee Avalanche said, “In as much as it is currently reported around the county, that there are horse, cattle and other thieves infesting our borders, we would recommend to the various horse and cattle men in this territory as well as the states of Oregon and Nevada, the propriety of having their brands and ear-marks advertised.

"It will aid the owners of horses and cattle in finding their animals, and have a tendency to discourage people from driving horses and cattle away that do not belong to them, for the reason, that the property will be known by all stock men. If the owner should belong to the Idaho Stock Growers' Association the stock would be taken from the thieves, and they prosecuted.”

Barbed triangle, Dan Murphy;
Diamond, Wilkins Company;
Spade, Arthur Pence.
Valley of Tall Grass.
Two years later, stockmen acknowledged the widespread nature of the problem by organizing an association for the entire Territory [blog, Apr 10]. This item appeared in the Shoshone Journal and was reprinted in the Avalanche: “The first annual meeting of the Idaho Cattle Growers’ Association will be held at Shoshone … and members of all associations of stock growers in Idaho are cordially invited to be present. All stockmen desiring to become members are requested to be present or send their names to the secretary, or hand them to any member of the executive committee.

"A record is being made of horse and cattle brands in every district in the territory, and a full and complete brand book will be issued. It is important that every stock grower should file his brand at once with the association.”

Three years after that, the Avalanche reprinted an article from the Cassia County Times: “Now that the rodeos are about at hand we would request every stock man in the county to furnish Mr. F. C. Ramsey, stock inspector for this county, with a list of their marks and brands. Outside parties have had a habit of claiming everything on the range unclaimed by parties present at the rodeo, and if Mr. Ramsey has your marks and brands he will probably save a large number from being driven away.”

As attested by other posts, stock theft – generally cattle or horses – was an on-going concern during Idaho’s pioneer period. As just one example, the Idaho Statesman gleaned (November 1, 1889) information about “Cattle Stealing” from the Idaho County Free Press in Grangeville. The item provided some details and concluded, “Cattle and horse thieves are becoming bold in some sections of our Territory, as reports which reach us would indicate.”

And, as noted before, the problem continues to this day [blog, May 24]. Today, brand inspection is the responsibility of the Idaho State Police, and covers cattle, horses, mules, and asses. Individuals must involve a Brand Inspector whenever stock ownership changes hands, animals are leaving the state, or animals are going to slaughter.

The Idaho Brand Inspector web page says, “Not obtaining a brand inspection when required by the Idaho brand laws is considered an infraction for the first offense and a misdemeanor for the second offense, punishable by a fine not to exceed $300 and or six months in jail.”
References: Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).
“Cattle Growers’ Association,” Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho (March 28, 1885).
“Stockmen Should Supply Brand Lists,” Owyhee Avalanche,  Silver City, Idaho (June 2, 1888).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hardware Retailer William Sweet and Boise Baseball [otd 10/26]

William Sweet.
J. H. Hawley photo.

On October 26, 1870, Boise businessman and booster William N. Sweet was born 30-40 miles south of Des Moines, Iowa. He was fatherless at birth, his father having died six months earlier. Later the family moved to Nebraska where his mother proved up a land claim and then remarried.

Starting in his early teens, Sweet thoroughly learned the hardware business. With that as a core, he soon became manager of a general store in Nebraska. However, successive bad crop years and the malaise from the Panic of '93 caused the store to fail. Early in 1895, Sweet sold off the last of his own horses as a stake and headed for the gold fields around Cripple Creek, Colorado.

He did poorly prospecting and soon took a regular job, again handling hardware. His expertise fueled a rapid rise to a managerial position in a company that had stores in several towns, including Boulder and Pueblo. However, after a decade, a series of store consolidations led Sweet to worry about his future with the company.

Sweet moved to Boise in 1907 and landed an assistant manager job at a major hardware concern. After five years, he became co-owner and president of his own firm. The company soon grew to be one of the largest in the state. In 1911-1912, he served as President of the state hardware and implement dealers’ association. That organization then went inactive for a decade, when Sweet again became President of a reorganized association.

Mr. Sweet harbored a strong interest in outdoor sports, raising horses and greyhounds during his years in Nebraska and later in Colorado. In Boise, he participated in various civic improvement programs and became a director of the State Fair. He also helped organize the Western Tri-State Baseball League.

By the time Sweet arrived in Boise, the city had had some form of baseball for almost forty years. Various amateur, and then, after about 1904, professional or semi-pro leagues formed and disbanded. Attempts to build associations beyond the immediate area were all short-lived.
Baseball 1912-13.
Library of Congress.

The Western Tri-State League included teams from Boise, Pendleton, Walla Walla, and other cities in the region. Sweet remained as unpaid president of the league during its two years of existence.

In his History, H. T. French wrote, “Boise is headquarters for one of the best baseball leagues in the Northwest and has fine ball grounds with in a few blocks from the main portion of the city.”

When the Tri-state and another regional league folded, valley enthusiasts organized the “Trolley League,” featuring towns on the electric railway – Boise, Nampa, and Caldwell. Two semi-pro teams represented Boise, one of them sponsored by the Sweet-Teller Hardware Company.

Boise baseball essentially shut down during World War I, and was slow to revive. Finally, Sweet and other Boiseans completed a fairly successful fund drive to revive a semi-pro league (Idaho Statesman, April 22, 1921). But they struggle through the subsequent farm-state depression, and then the Great Depression. Not until 1939 would the city have a permanent minor league connection.

Sweet moved out of Boise, probably after he re-married in 1924 (he had been widowed during the summer of 1918). He lived later in Elmore County, where his wife taught school, and passed away in 1954.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Arthur A. Hart, Boise Baseball: the First 125 years, Historic Idaho Inc. (1994).
“Idaho Association Relaunched,” Hardware Review, Vol. 28, No. 12, Trade Review Company, Chicago (March 1922).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rancher and Mayor Amasa Rich and the Paris Tabernacle [otd 10/25]

Apostle Rich, ca 1875. LDS Institute photo.
On October 25, 1856, Amasa M. Rich was born in San Bernardino, California. His father, Charles C. Rich, had led the establishment of a Mormon settlement there. An LDS Apostle and very prominent in the church, Charles also helped found the town of Paris, Idaho, in the fall of 1863.

The founding of Paris, the first town established in the Bear Lake area, continued a pattern of northern colonization started at Franklin in the spring of 1860. The process was slowed, however, by on-going Indian unrest. Settlement picked up after the summer of 1863, when officials negotiated the Box Elder Treaty with the Shoshone bands in the region [blog, July 30]

At the time, locals thought they were in Utah, and Apostle Rich even served in the Utah legislature from the Bear Lake district. Not until 1872 did a new boundary survey show that the area actually belonged to Idaho. Three years later, the Idaho legislature split Bear Lake County off from Oneida, and Paris became the county seat.

Amasa graduated from school there and attended Utah State University in Salt Lake. He then returned to the Paris area to take up ranching. After some years working with his own stock, he spent two years as foreman for another rancher, perhaps to broaden his experience.

Amasa also served a two-year mission for the LDS church, canvassing parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. A reporter for The Deseret Weekly interviewed him upon his return and wrote (March 23, 1889) that in northern Alabama “he had some experience with mobs, but was not injured.”
Tabernacle photo: Idaho Tourism, Dept. of Commerce.

The timing meant that Amasa was back for the completion and dedication of the Paris Tabernacle. Work had begun in 1884, before he left Idaho, and construction took more than four years.

The Tabernacle is considered a prime example of the Romanesque Revival architectural style. One of Brigham Young’s sons designed the structure and local red sandstone and timber were used in the construction.

The stone quarry lay 15-20 miles away on the far shore of Bear Lake. Thus, teamsters had to use wagons and ox carts to haul the material out of the rugged hills and then skirt the marshy area at the foot of the Lake. Fortunately, during the winter, the slabs could be sledded across the frozen lake. The settlers themselves did most of the work.

A family of skilled Swiss masons provided specialized help. They had recently immigrated to Utah and moved to Paris to execute the fine stonework. Other skilled craftsmen contributed fine woodworking detail, the pulpit and choir ceiling being considered particularly noteworthy. The Tabernacle was dedicated in September 1889 and has recently been renovated.

Amasa was also active in civic affairs: He served several city council terms and sat on the Paris school board for well over a decade. At various times he held county positions as sheriff, assessor, and deputy game warden. He also served as a delegate to the 1902 state convention of the Democratic Party. When Hiram T. French published Amasa's biography in 1914, Rice was mayor of Paris. He passed away, in Ogden, in February 1919.
References: [French], Hawley], [[Illust-State]
Arthur A. Hart, “Paris Tabernacle,” Reference Series No. 961, Idaho State Historical Society (July 1972).
“Return From the South,” The Desert Weekly, (March 23, 1889).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Settlers Surge into Bruneau Valley, Stock Thieves Then and Now [otd 10/24]

The October 24, 1868 issue of the Owyhee Avalanche, published in Silver City, Idaho, commented favorably on the prospects for settlement in the Bruneau Valley. They had been informed that “several parties from Boise have lately been locating ranches in Bruneau Valley, and will move over with their families this fall."
Bruneau landscape. Idaho Tourism, Dept. of Commerce.

The article also quoted positive observations printed in the Idaho Statesman, where the reporter claimed the area was “the best portion of Idaho Territory for stock raising and dairy purposes.” That article also said, “The grass grows luxuriantly and there is more timber that will furnish the valley with firewood if it were all settled.”

The newspapers' timing could hardly have been better. On April 15th of the following year, Arthur Pence – a rancher and future state legislator – filed on land near what is still called Pence Hot Springs [blog, Feb 10].

In September, John and Emma Turner arrived. The next spring, they purchased a homestead from one John Baker, who was married to a Paiute Indian woman. Baker, a professional surveyor, moved out of the area, so the Turners claim the honor as the first permanent settlers in the Valley. Other settlers and stockmen soon followed, and by 1875 several substantial cattle ranches had headquarters in the Valley.

Bruneau ranchers suffered through the disastrous 1889-90 winter along with other Idaho areas. From that, they learned the same lessons about proper grazing management, and the Bruneau continues to be an important stock raising region today.

On October 24, 1885, the Idaho Register, Eagle Rock, Idaho Territory, ran an article with the lead, “Horse thief caught at Jackson Hole with 17 head of High and Stout’s horses.”

Actually, reports of the time indicate that this capture might have been the exception rather than the rule. For over a decade, well-organized bands of stock thieves operated out of “the forks,” about twenty miles northeast of Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls). There, at the confluence of two Snake River branches, bandits found perfect cover on innumerable densely-thicketed islands.

As the stock industry grew, so did the depredations of cattle rustlers and horse thieves. In fact, such losses were a substantial factor driving the formation of local, regional, and territorial stockmen’s associations. The gravity of the problem is suggested by an Owyhee Avalanche report (Sept 13, 1890) from Elmore County: “It will probably startle many of our readers to learn that over $20,000 worth of horses have been stolen in this county in the last five months.”
Cattle grazing on unfenced range, BLM photo.

Sometimes – although far less often than Old West legends would have it – captors meted out immediate and final penalties for rustling and horse theft.

Yet the crime continued then, and has never has never really gone away. Google “cattle rustling” and you’ll get hundreds of hits describing instances just in the last two or three years. Enter “cattle rustling Idaho” and a dozen mentions in the past few months turn up [blog, May 24].
References: [B&W]
Mildretta Adams, Owyhee Cattlemen, Owyhee Publishing Co., Homedale, Idaho (1979).
“Golden Jubilee Edition,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).