Thursday, September 18, 2014

William J. McConnell: Vigilante, U.S. Marshal, Merchant, and Governor [otd 9/18]

W. J. McConnell. McConnell,
Early History of Idaho.
On September 18, 1839, William J. McConnell, third governor of the state of Idaho, was born in Commerce, Michigan, about twenty-five miles northwest of Detroit. He moved to California in 1860 and engaged in mining and other work for a couple years. He spent the following year in Oregon, where he taught school and perhaps worked in a store.

McConnell followed the major gold rush into Idaho’s Boise Basin in 1863. Schooled by his experience in California, the young man recognized the opportunity offered by the excellent bottomland along the Payette River. Thus, he did not stay with the scramble of hopeful prospectors. Instead, McConnell and a few other settlers began raising vegetables, which they sold – at fabulous prices – to those same miners.

All was not profits and prosperity, however. The wild new Territory lacked any vestige of effective law enforcement. Shootings, knifings, and robberies were commonplace, and men with gold routinely disappeared on the tracks that linked the various camps.

Finally, when thieves made off with 8-10 horses and mules belonging to McConnell and his neighbors, he and two friends went after the robbers themselves. They returned with the animals a couple weeks later. No one inquired about the fate of the crooks.

William and the Payette Valley settlers then organized a regional Vigilance Committee, modeled on those established in California the decade before. When McConnell later prepared his History of Idaho, he made no apologies for their actions. He simply observed that they had no choice because “no effort was being made by those whose duties it was to enforce the law.”

Reports from the time indicate that the vigilantes did succeed in reining in the criminals, and the Committee disbanded. Popular opinion of their efforts was very positive: McConnell was appointed a Deputy U. S. Marshal, his term starting in 1865. After two years in that duty, he left the state for Oregon and California.

McConnell returned to Idaho in 1878, after the extensive farm lands of Latah County opened up . He established a general store there and became a major factor in the area’s growth.
McConnell General Store, Moscow.
Latah County Historical Society.

When leaders convened a Constitutional Convention to enhance the appeal for statehood, McConnell represented the county in that body. After statehood, he became one of Idaho’s first two U.S. Senators. He served the abbreviated term needed to get the new state into the normal election cycle.

He did not stand for a full senatorial term, but ran instead for Governor … was elected, and then re-elected. McConnell served at a critical time in Idaho history. Much of the new state’s administrative structure was in a state of flux, and the “Panic of '93” – a worldwide depression – blighted the economy. Still, his administration made several vital contributions, perhaps the most important being the vote for women’s suffrage in 1896 [blog, Nov 3].

McConnell remained in public service for the rest of his life, serving the U.S. government in various appointive positions. For part of that time, he was a Regent of the University of Idaho. He passed away in March 1925.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
W. J. McConnell, Early History of Idaho, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1913).
Robert C. Sims, Hope A. Benedict (eds.), Idaho’s governors: Historical Essays on Their Administrations, Boise State University (1992).

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Walgamott Slays Liquored-Up Gunman at Rock Creek Store [otd 9/17]

On September 17, 1877, traveling bank examiner Nathaniel Langford recorded an incident that highlighted the rather casual violence of those frontier days. Oddly enough, the surviving participant in the action chose not to connect himself with the event in the reminiscences he published later in life.
N. P. Langford, ca 1870.
Minnesota Historical Society.

Charles Walgamott came west from Iowa in August 1875, when he was seventeen years old. He joined his sister and brother-in-law Charles Trotter at Rock Creek, Idaho – about 12 miles southeast of today’s Twin Falls. Trotter ran the stage station there.

Charlie stayed in the West because, he said, “I love the mountains, the mountain streams, the western atmosphere, and the hospitable people with their western ways, the smoky odor of Indian-tanned buckskin, so prevalent around the camp fires, mingled with the sage-sweetened air, and the ever-present element of risk even to the preservation of life; and even the frequent solitude has its fascination.”

Early in the winter before Walgamott arrived in Idaho, Trotter had a run-in with a horse thief named William Dowdell (sometimes spelled "Dowdle"). According to a later report in the Idaho Statesman (September 20, 1877), Dowdell had served a one-year prison term for stealing a U. S. Government horse.

Just out of prison for that offense, Dowdell rode into the Rock Creek area on another stolen horse. Trotter recognized the animal and had Dowdell detained. Convicted and sent back to prison, Dowdell vowed revenge.

He appeared at Rock Creek station on September 17, not long after he got out. Trotter was down with typhoid fever and hadn’t come in that morning. After some quick drinks at the bar, Dowdell wandered outside and began taking pot-shots at passers-by and other targets. He reportedly wounded the local blacksmith so badly people thought the man would die. [Vintage photo of Rock Creek Station.]*

At that time, Walgamott held a clerk’s position at the Rock Creek store. Charlie doesn’t say what he was doing when the shooting started, but he finally went to the front door to see what was going on. When a shot through the door casing just missed him, Walgamott grabbed a pistol kept near the counter and shot Dowdell dead. (Charlie would have been about nineteen at the time.)

Langford rode the stage into Rock Creek that same afternoon. In his diary, he described the drunken “funeral procession” the locals had arranged: “Frequent potations had exhilarated the entire company to such a degree that no attempt was made to preserve regularity of motion or direction.”
They did eventually bury the body. An inquest declared Charlie fully justified in the shooting. In fact, according to Langford, “The entire settlement manifested their approval of Wohlgamuth’s [sic] timely shot.”

Walgamott lived in the Mountain West well into the Twentieth Century and published his Reminiscences of Early Days in 1926. In that, and the very similar Six Decades Back, he described many wild events, including the death of Dowdell. However, for his own reasons, Charles identified the retaliatory shooter as simply “a young man who was in charge at the store.”

* The Idaho State Historical Society holds the copyright on this photo and charges a usage fee. (As a member, I know the organization needs the money, but since my blog generates no income, I am not in a position to pay.)
                                                                                                                                      
References: Jim Gentry, In the Middle and On the Edge, College of Southern Idaho (2003).
N. P. Langford, Vigilante Days and Ways, Montana State University (1957).
Charles S. Walgamott, Six Decades Back, The Caxton Press, Caldwell, Idaho, 1936. Re-released in 1990.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Frank R. Gooding: Idaho Governor, U. S. Senator and Expert Sheep Rancher [otd 9/16]

Idaho Senator and Governor Frank R. Gooding was born September 16, 1859 in England. He was 8 years old when his parents emigrated to the U. S. and settled in Michigan. In 1877 Frank moved to California and then, within a year or two, to Ogden, Utah. There, he worked at the Union Pacific depot before moving to Ketchum, Idaho, in 1881. Frank set up a thriving business to supply firewood and charcoal for the nearby smelter.
Philadelphia smelter, near Ketchum.
Ketchum-Sun Valley Historical Society.
Extension of an Oregon Short Line branch railroad into Ketchum in 1884 fueled a mining boom. However, that faded within four years due to low silver prices. Frank then established a sheep ranch on the plains west of Shoshone. Although his flock suffered some damage in the severe winter of 1889-90, he quickly recovered and would soon be “regarded as the most successful sheep-raiser in the state.”

Years of careful study made Gooding an expert on the subject of sheep and sheep raising such that, as the Illustrated History put it, “His opinions on anything connected with the subject are received as authority.” When a group of sheepmen formed the Idaho Wool Growers’ Association in 1893, Frank became its first President. He would hold that office two more times.

In 1899, voters elected Gooding to the state Senate, where he was selected as President pro temp. He followed that with a successful campaign for Governor, serving from 1905 to 1909. During his terms, he did well with many “motherhood and apple pie” issues: rehabilitation of juvenile criminals, better veteran’s benefits, schools for the handicapped and mental patients, improved general education, and so on.

His stands on timber, land, and irrigation projects were less well-received, at least in part because of conflict of interest concerns. (This in an era when such standards were far looser than they are today.) Still, those issues did not prevent his election to a second term. Another Republican, James H. Brady [blog, June 12], succeeded him.

U. S. Senator Gooding.
Library of Congress.
The incumbent U.S. Senator, Weldon B. Heyburn, yet another Republican, was up for re-election when Gooding left office. Heyburn’s dogged advocacy for Idaho’s economic mainstays – mining and agriculture – assured his popularity, so Gooding made no attempt to move on to that position.

When Heyburn died in October 1912, the legislature elected the still-popular James Brady to fill the rest of the term. Then, in 1914, the 17th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution required direct, popular election of Senators: Brady won that election also.

When Brady too died in office, in January 1918, Gooding ran for the remainder of the term, but lost. When he ran again in 1920 for the full term, he won. Frank fought steadily for high tariffs to protect American products – and not just wool, but across the board. Re-elected in 1926, he died in office in June 1928.

Frank and his brother Fred (another successful sheep rancher) gave their name to the town and county of Gooding.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Blue], [B&W], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“Frank Robert Gooding,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
Robert C. Sims, Hope A. Benedict (eds.), Idaho’s Governors: Historical Essays on Their Administrations, Boise State University (1992).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Senator and Partners Found D. L. Evans Bank in Albion, Cassia County [otd 9/15]

On Thursday September 15, 1904, State Senator David Lloyd Evans convened a group of leading businessmen in Albion, Idaho. Cassia County needed a bank, and they proposed to start one in what was then the county seat.
D.L. Evans bank clerk, Albion, early 1900s.
D. L. Evans Bank.

When their intention was originally announced, the Albion Times, quoted in the Idaho Register, Idaho Falls (August 12, 1904) said, “This is an institution that is badly needed in Cassia county and no doubt it will do a good business.”

The bank, called the D.L. Evans Bank after the Senator, began in a one-story wood frame building but expanded into a two-story stone structure just three years later.

By the time “D.L.” helped found his namesake bank, he already had a fine record of accomplishment. In 1871, his widowed mother sold the family farm near Brigham City, Utah, where David was born. Her brood of sons and stepsons needed more room for their own places. The family therefore moved to a homestead near Malad City, Idaho. David was sixteen years old.

After study at the University of Deseret (now the University of Utah), D.L. taught school for a number of years. He also helped with the family farm, and continued to do so even as he pursued other interests.

In 1882, he served a term in the Idaho Territorial Legislature, representing Oneida County. Evans probably found that experience stressful because the governor raised the issue of “suppressing polygamy,” a direct threat to D.L.’s Mormon beliefs.

Two years later, D.L. and his brother Lorenzo bought a co-operative store in Malad that became the “Evans Co-op.” The Co-op’s building is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  Eight years later, a group of “prominent businessmen” founded the J. N. Ireland Bank [blog, May 15]. While the other founders besides Ireland are not named in available records, it seems likely that David, and probably his brother, were among them. (Some years later, D.L. would be president of that bank.)

D.L. Evans, ca 1928.
Evans family archives.
In 1899, voters again elected David to the legislature, this time for the state of Idaho. House members then selected him to be Speaker. Four years later, he was elected to the state Senate in a very close election. It was towards the end of his term when he led the establishment of the bank in Albion. He would serve in the Senate again, five years before his death in July 1929.

The Albion bank remained in the same facility for sixty years, finally moving to a new building in 1970. Nine years later, the company opened a branch bank in Burley.

The company’s headquarters are now also in Burley, and they have over two dozen branches and lending offices. These include locations in Pocatello, Twin Falls, Ketchum, Boise, Nampa, and more.

Today, the Evans descendants continue the tradition of family banking: The bank company’s President and Chief Executive Officer are, respectively, grandson and great-grandson of David Lloyd Evans. Moreover, family members – including David L. Evans, IV – hold a substantial number of positions on the current Board of Directors.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Blue], [Hawley]
Lisa Davis Jensen, “History of Winnefred (Gwen) Lloyd Roberts Evans, Daniel L. Roberts, David Rees Evans,” Welsh Mormon History, Dr. Ronald Dennis (ed.).
Our History, D. L. Evans Bank, Burley, Idaho.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ketchum Freighter, Rancher, and Businessman Horace Lewis [otd 9/14]

H. C. Lewis. J. H. Hawley photo.
Freighter, mine owner, and businessman Horace Caleb Lewis was born September 14, 1858 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After graduating from the University of Minnesota he moved to Helena, Montana to work in a hardware store.

A year later, in 1880, his father moved to Ketchum, Idaho to open a store. Horace soon followed, and he and a partner opened a lumber business near the town.

As the Wood River mines boomed, Lewis dealt in mining supplies as well as lumber for a time before operating a small freight outfit. Then, in 1884, the Oregon Short Line railroad extended its tracks into Ketchum, and Horace sensed a major opportunity. He founded the Ketchum Fast Freight Line, which made regular runs to mining camps in Bayhorse, Bonanza, Challis, Clayton, and Custer.

His Line also ran scheduled stagecoaches, but the “crown jewels” of his haulers were the huge freight wagons assembled by his own construction crews. These giant vehicles with enormous wheels (the rear pair stood seven feet tall) carried all kinds of goods – massive machinery, petticoats, whiskey, and more – into the mountains and brought out ore and bullion.

This was quite a feat, considering the state of the “roads.” Some parts of these tracks were little more than two ruts among the rocks and sagebrush, many stretches were barely wide enough for the wagons, and they encountered several acute grades. With five or six big wagons hitched together behind a “jerkline” of perhaps twenty mules, hairpin curves on the necessary switchbacks could be a harrowing challenge.

Even so, reports indicate that the Line had one season where it shipped seven hundred thousand pounds of bullion out to be loaded onto OSL cars. Over time, Lewis also invested in mining properties himself, and founded the First National Bank of Ketchum.

The freight and stagecoach business went into a lull after about 1895, but Lewis revived it during the Thunder Mountain rush of 1900-1907. Thunder Mountain is buried deep in the incredibly rugged Salmon River wilderness, over forty miles east of McCall. The mines never really showed much profit, but Lewis did all right hauling freight and passengers.

Later he took up ranching near Ketchum while continuing his business interests in town and around the region. As the mountain mines played out, there was less and less freight to be hauled. The lumbering trains of giant wagons were discontinued in 1909, two years before Lewis died.

Big Hitch ore wagons. Tourism photo.
As time passed, so did the old wagons … except for a few that sat in storage for a half century. Eventually, some surviving wagons were given to the city of Ketchum, with the proviso that they be paraded through the streets annually as a tribute to area pioneers.

Thus, in 1958, boosters initiated “Wagon Days” in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area. Each Labor Day, the region’s frontier heritage is celebrated with concerts, antique shows, re-enactments, a carnival, readings of cowboy poetry, and other special events.

The highlight of the weekend is the Big Hitch Parade, and the highlight of the parade is the Lewis Ore Wagons: Six giant, century-old vehicles hitched in tandem behind a 20-mule jerkline … 200 feet of authentic Idaho history rumbling through the streets.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley]
Ketchum History and Information, City of Ketchum.
David Sneed, “Idaho Freight Wagons,” Wheels that Won the West Publishing, Flippin, Arizona (2005-2010).
Sun Valley-Ketchum Tourism.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Boise Residents Officially Celebrate the Arrival of Train Service [otd 9/13]

On September 13, 1887, crowds gathered at the rough plank structure that served as the Idaho Central Railway depot. They came to celebrate the recently-completed branch line that connected Boise City to the Oregon Short Line (OSL) station in Nampa.

The tracks had arrived earlier in the month and several loads of passengers and freight had already taken advantage of the new connection. [Click here to see a photo taken on the arrival day.]*

By the time OSL rails reached central Idaho, nearly five years before, residents of Boise City knew that the main line would not pass through their town. The elevation change between the Boise Valley and the plains to the south and southwest was simply too much. Without extensive, and costly cut and fill work, the grade would have been too great for the locomotives of the day. Instead, the tracks ran through Kuna, Caldwell, and on across the state.

Thwarted by topography, Boise leaders sought alternatives. A branch from the closest OSL station, fifteen miles away at Kuna, was rejected because even the best route passed over substantial grades. The longer stretch from Nampa had no such grade, especially if the rails stayed on the bench that lay roughly 60 feet above the river plain.

Incorporated in 1886, the Idaho Central Railway began construction in July 1887. Workers finished laying track in early September and soon the first two-car train chugged into town from Nampa. Locating the tracks and depot on the bench caused no end of trouble. Townspeople had to build more than a mile of road, with two bridges to span legs of the Boise River. Then they had to cut a manageable incline to climb up onto the bench. Rain turned the dirt track into a quagmire.

Almost immediately, the depot drew business away from downtown: some modest shops, several warehouses, and a small hotel. Still, despite its relatively isolated connection, the branch line quickly developed a booming traffic flow. Unwilling to see their town drain away toward the depot, Boise City leaders pushed for a closer line.

Finally, in 1893, construction crews split a new sub-branch off from the spur line three miles west of downtown Boise. From there, they headed about 1.5 miles to the edge of the bench, descended a ramp at the face, and bridged the river. The rails ran along Front Street, within walking distance of downtown.

Front Street Depot, Boise City, ca 1895.
Library of Congress.
The railway company built a fine stone depot at the corner of Tenth and Front streets, and the number of service and switching tracks grew considerably. As could be expected, residential tracts moved elsewhere, to be replaced by hotels, restaurants, and saloons. The area nearest the rail yards became a typically grubby warehouse and factory district.

Thus matters remained for over a quarter century. Finally, in 1925, Boise got its “hearts desire” – a place on the Union Pacific main line, made possible by more powerful locomotives and better construction equipment.

* The Idaho State Historical Society holds the copyright on this photo and charges a usage fee. (As a member, I know the organization needs the money, but since my blog generates no income, I am not in a position to pay.)
                                                                                                                                     
References: [B&W]
Johnny Hester, Reinventing Boise: Changing Influences on Boise’s Growth Pattern … , Boise State University (2009).
Carrie Adell Strahorn, Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage, The Knickerbocker Press, C.P. Putnam & Sons. (1911).
Thorton Waite, “On the Main Line at Last,” The Streamliner, Vol. 11, No. 1, Union Pacific Historical Society, Cheyenne, Wyoming (1997).

Friday, September 12, 2014

Idaho Medical Association Hold Its First Organizational Meeting [otd 9/12]

On Tuesday, September 12, 1893, a number of Idaho physicians arrived in Boise City from all over Idaho. They had assembled to organize a state professional medical association. One historian has commented that “the state was overrun with quacks” at the time. A letter from Dr. Carol Lincoln Sweet to physicians statewide prompted the meeting, which was held at the new City Hall.
Boise City Hall, first occupied in May 1893.
[Illust-State]

A New Yorker with a degree from Albany Medical College, Sweet moved to Boise City in 1890 to set up a practice. The professional situation he found disturbed him greatly. Although there had been some vague talk about the deplorable medical environment, no one had done anything about it. Then, in June 1893, Sweet sent out his letter and received an enthusiastic response.

“A Crusade Against Quacks,” was one of the sub-headlines the Idaho Statesman (August 31, 1893) used to announce the planned organizational meeting. A medical society would “advance the interests of the profession … and … take steps to protect the public against the inroads of quackery.” The article quoted the Pacific Medical Journal, which asserted that Idaho had become  “a dumping ground for the poorly educated and the rejected applicants of other state examining boards.”

The doctors' two-day conclave featured technical presentations and fostered camaraderie among the attendees. Twenty-nine charter members organized the Idaho State Medical Society. For their first president, they elected Moscow physician Dr. William W. Watkins. Watkins graduated from the Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri) medical program in 1872. For eight years, he practiced at a town south of St. Louis before moving into that city. Personal health problems led him to move to Moscow in 1887.

Besides his Medical Society service, Dr. Watkins was a member of the American Medical Association and served on the University of Idaho Board of Regents. He was also president of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce. Sadly, in 1901, an apparently insane man went on a rampage and shot Watkins, a local merchant, and a deputy sheriff before a posse shot and killed the shooter. Watkins died immediately, while the deputy died two days later.
Dr. Watkins. Idaho Statesman, 1901.

Five years of study and lobbying by the Society finally led to passage of an acceptable medical practice regime for the state. However, not until 1949 did the legislature create the Idaho State Board of Medicine, which provided a focal point for licensing and regulating medical practitioners in the state.

Like all professional organizations, the Society – later the Idaho State Medical Association – encourages its members to keep their skills current. Resources include programs of scientific papers at its meetings, seminars and continuing education courses, equipment reviews and recommendations, and more.

In 1967, the organization adopted its current name, Idaho Medical Association. In addition to programs for members, the Association sponsors a range of programs to encourage Idaho students who are interested in the medical professions. That includes a Medical Education Scholarship Trust.

At their 2010 Annual Meeting, the Association highlighted a severe shortage of “primary care” physicians in Idaho. They noted that “Idaho is ranked 49th in the nation for physician-to-population ratio,” and that many physicians are approaching retirement. The Association passed a resolution to “facilitate the development of an Idaho Primary Care Scholars Program.” That program would include mentoring as well as a possible expansion of the scholarship trust.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [B&W], [Illust-State]
“Deaths and Obituaries: William W. Watkins, M. D.,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 37, Chicago (July-December 1901).
Arthur Hart, “Building Delays Frustrate City,” The Idaho Statesman, January 11, 1993.
IMA's History: A Legacy of Leadership, Idaho Medical Association web site.
“Dr. Watkins and Deputy Sheriff Murdered,” Idaho Statesman (August 5-6, 1901)