Wednesday, October 26, 2016

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 struggled 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).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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).

Monday, October 24, 2016

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).

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Colonel Edgar Heigho: Railroad Manager, Businessman, and Military Adviser [otd 10/23]

Edgar Heigho. H. T. French photo.
Railroad manager, business investor, and adviser on military affairs Edgar Maurice Heigho was born October 23, 1867 in Essex, England. He came to the U. S. as a young boy. With no formal schooling beyond his pre-teens, he found work as an office boy at the Detroit Free Press. At age 15, Edgar landed a job with a Detroit-based railroad.

For the next five years, he bounced around among several railways, including the Union Pacific. Heigho became Chief Clerk for the Idaho Central Railway in 1887, the year that company completed the first branch line – “The Stub” – into Boise City [blog, Sept 13].

In 1891, Heigho found other employment. He first worked on a survey crew in central Idaho, then as a freight traffic manager for a railroad based in St. Louis. He filled several positions until about 1895, when he began a four-year period ranching in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole.

Heigho then returned to the railroad business, working for the Oregon Short Line. In 1903, he joined the Pacific & Idaho Northern Railway as an auditor. The P&IN started laying track out of Weiser in 1899 and had extended the line ninety miles north three years later.

The company established a “New Meadows” station about two miles west of the existing village of Meadows. New Meadows quickly drew business to itself. Many homes and a number of stores were physically moved to the new location. Soon, only a few scattered dwellings remained in Meadows.

Heigho rose quickly in the P&IN and, in 1909, he became its President and General Manager. For a number of years, people toyed with the notion of pushing the tracks on to Lewiston, but that never happened.
P&IN Railway depot, New Meadows.
Adams County Historical Society.

Besides his railway position, Heigho was President and General Manager of the Central Idaho Telegraph & Telephone Company, and also for the Coeur d'Or Development Company. The development company owned the New Meadows town site and built a substantial depot, a bank, a school, and the Hotel Heigho. Edgar served as Director of the bank in New Meadows as well as one in Weiser.

Heigho also built a fine mansion for himself in New Meadows. He was described as having been associated with “independent military organizations” for a number of years. He also had a connection with the Idaho National Guard, provided advice on military affairs to the Idaho governor, and wrote on military affairs for a national audience. During World War I, he and his wife participated in various “home front” war activities, being especially interested in Belgian relief work.

In 1918, Edgar suffered a stroke that forced him to resign as General Manager of the railroad. According to Hawley’s History, he retained the presidency for several years after that. He passed away in 1926. The Heigho mansion in New Meadows is on the National Register of Historic Places. The restored structure now operates as a bed & breakfast.

The old P&IN Depot was stabilized and re-roofed several years ago so the structure could be renovated. It now has several rooms that can be rented for weddings, business or social meetings, dances, and other activities. A museum space is also under construction.
References: [B&W], French], [Hawley]
“Col. E. M. Heigho Passes Away,” The Payette Independent, Payette, Idaho (September 02, 1926).
National Register of Historic Places: Colonel E. M. Heigho House in New Meadows, Idaho. Listed May 22, 1978.
Sage Community Resources, The Payette River Scenic Byway Corridor Management Plan, Idaho Department of Transportation, Boise (September 2001).

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Idaho Falls Gets Hydropower, William Jennings Bryan Stumps Idaho [otd 10/22]

Early spillway photo from Idaho Falls Power – History.

On October 22, 1900, Idaho Falls Mayor Joseph A. Clark initiated "official" municipal operation of a 125-horsepower hydroelectric plant. A diversion canal from the Snake River supplemented water from Crow Creek to run the plant: The generator basically ran off an irrigation ditch.

About five years earlier, a number of Idaho Falls businesses and residents had begun to express interest in obtaining electrical  power for the city. After all, Pocatello “went electric” early in 1894 [blog, Feb 22]. Why shouldn’t Idaho Falls? Despite the interest, however, voters twice defeated bond elections to finance a plant. Finally, in 1900, a bond measure passed and construction began.

The generator went into full nighttime operation at the beginning of October. The Idaho Falls Times reported (October 4, 1900), "Over 300 incandescent lights are now in use in the stores and dwellings, and about 200 more are already ordered."

Initially, the only steady load came from the street lights, so the plant operated just during the evening. (Operators started it up a half hour early in the winter and on cloudy days.) Within two years, increased usage by commercial and residential customers led to an expansion of the generating capacity. Although demand continued to rise, a dam-based power plant did not go into operation until 1912.

At its centennial, Idaho Fall’s hydroelectric generators supplied around 40 percent of the city’s electrical needs. Today, with increased demand and limited ability for the City’s system to increase its generator capacity, that fraction has fallen to about 24 percent. Even so, municipal power rates are about 4/5 of the state average.

On October 22, 1902, the Idaho Falls Register (the Post-Register after 1931) noted that nationally famous orator and politician William Jennings Bryan had delivered a speech in town. That morning in Pocatello, Bryan boarded a special train that took him to St. Anthony. He had then spoken at several stations during the return.

He still claimed to see “free silver” – code for the unlimited minting of silver coinage – as a “live issue,” and stumped for Democratic candidates in the Idaho state elections. (To no avail: That year the Republican ticket swept every non-legislative position.)
Candidate Bryan.
Library of Congress.

In earlier years, Idaho voters had been solid Bryan backers, especially in the 1896 Presidential election. His free silver position resonated with Populist Party voters as well as a strong Populist under-current among Democrats. Agrarian voters in particular hoped that putting more money in circulation, in the form of silver coinage, would relieve a severely depressed farm economy.

In Idaho, farmers combined with the large silver mining interests in the Coeur d’Alene region to offer huge support for Bryan. Even more so than nationally, the issue split the Idaho Republican Party: A large “Silver Republican” faction held its own Idaho convention and endorsed the Bryan national ticket. In the end, Bryan electors carried nearly 80% of the 1896 Presidential vote in Idaho.

However, the silver issue had waned in importance by the 1900 election. Bryan was again the Democratic nominee, and he again carried Idaho, but he won with a bare majority (50.8%). Nominated again in 1908, Bryan lost decisively in Idaho.
References: [Hawley]
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, Oxford University Press, New York (1965).
Staff, Idaho Falls Power – History, Idaho Falls Power Company (2000).

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cattlemen Chided for Missing Opportunities, Railroad Optimism on Camas Prairie [otd 10/21]

The October 21, 1879 issue of the Idaho Statesman (Boise, then the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman) editorialized about the opportunities being neglected by many Idaho stockmen: “During the present summer several large herds of cattle have been sold in this section of Idaho to Eastern dealers and driven to Cheyenne and other points on the railroad... There is nothing whatever to prevent our cattle raisers from marketing their own stock and pocketing all that can be made in the business … ”
Cattle on the move. National Park Service.
He went on, “Another mistake which stock raisers make in this country is in keeping cattle of marketable age over the winter...  If cattle raisers would adopt the plan of driving and shipping their own stock and disposing each season of all the cattle ready for market they would not only save all that the outside dealer makes by the buying and driving, but they would also save all that is liable to be lost by keeping too many cattle over winter.”

Still, while they might not be maximizing their opportunity (and income), this and other reports made a key point: During the 1870’s, Idaho Territory experienced substantial growth in its stock raising industry. A net importer of cattle in 1870, by 1880 the Territory was exporting 50 to 70 thousand head annually.

Those 1880 numbers were not huge, but they suggested a trend: In the new century, Idaho shipped cattle, and sheep especially, far in excess of what could be expected for its small population. Today, it is ranked in the top ten in livestock sales and dairy products, despite being 39th in population.

On October 21, 1887, the Idaho County Free Press (Grangeville) reported, “The O. R. & N. Co. has filed articles of incorporation for the building of two more railroads from Lewiston to Camas Prairie. One of them is to end here and the other is to go on to Salmon River and up to the mouth of Little Salmon. When all three projected roads are built there won't be room enough for us fellows with big feet to turn around without falling over the rails.”

The article refers to the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company, which locals hoped would soon lay tracks into Grangeville. Of course, Lewiston itself had no railroad connection at the time. However, citizens believed that would come soon. After all, OR&N survey teams were busy checking routes along the Clearwater River and its tributaries. Moreover, one team had penetrated deep into the Bitterroots, searching for a usable pass into Montana.
Train leaving Lewiston, 1898.
“Archive” photo posted by Lewiston High School.

Unfortunately, the report was wildly too optimistic. It’s not clear that the OR&N ever laid any track in Idaho, although it may have run trains there many years later. But “hope springs eternal,” and through the early 1890s, people in Lewiston and on the prairie waited expectantly for construction to begin. But the first passenger train did not arrive in Lewiston until September 1898, over a decade after the hopeful Free Press announcement. 

Another decade would pass before rail lines actually surmounted the Camas Prairie, the first train arriving in Grangeville in December 1908. Only then could the area make a substantial transition from stock raising – products that could “walk to market” – to farming.

Today, the Prairie is a major producer of grain and other farm products.

[To learn more about the history of stock raising in Idaho, check out my book, Before the Spud: Indians, Buckaroos, and Sheepherders in Pioneer Idaho.]
References: [Illust-North]
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).
J. Orin Oliphant, On the Cattle Ranges of the Oregon Country, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1968).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Louisiana Purchase, and Oregon Country Compromise [otd 10/20]

An interesting coincidence happened On This Day.
President Jefferson.
National Archives.

On October 20, 1803, the Senate approved a treaty authorizing the acquisition of Louisiana from France. President Thomas Jefferson had originally sent negotiators to France to ensure American access to foreign markets via New Orleans. They were authorized, if necessary, to purchase New Orleans and a limited periphery around it. Instead, Napoleon’s minister offered all of Louisiana, and the Americans quickly agreed [blog, Oct 1].

For $15 million in direct payments and assumption of debts owed, the Louisiana Purchase practically doubled the area of the United States. Of course, no one knew exactly what we had bought.

The Mississippi River defined the eastern border, but the river’s exact source (in the future state of Minnesota) was unknown. Spain asserted that Louisiana really included only a strip of land along the west bank of the Mississippi north to the general vicinity of St. Louis. The U. S. rejected the “narrow strip” notion, but conceded that further negotiations were needed to determine a specific northern border for Texas. (That issue would not be settled until 1819.)

But for the rest, Americans declared that the Territory followed all the Mississippi tributaries, including the Missouri River, as far as the Continental Divide. That carried the American border to the very edge of the region that came to be called “the Oregon Country” – the area west of the Divide comprising British Columbia and our Pacific Northwest.

Without the Purchase, a vast expanse would have separated the U. S. from the region and might have rendered our claims there largely inconsequential.

Fifteen years later, on October 20, 1818, the U. S. and Great Britain signed a treaty to, among other points, settle one more facet of the Canadian boundary question. This issue had been “hanging fire” ever since the December 1814 Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812.

Various protocols and agreements had established a general border as far west as Lake-of-the-Woods, in today’s Minnesota. (Even that line remained vague and disputed until 1842, when fresh negotiations finally settled the matter.) Further west, American claimed – under the Louisiana Purchase – those areas drained by the Missouri-Mississippi river system. That pushed the border north of today’s Lethbridge, in Alberta, Canada.
Oregon Country map from Wikipedia Commons,
specific creator not identified.

The 1818 treaty fixed the border as it is today: After a jog straight south near the west side of Lake-of-the-Woods, the line extended west along the 49th parallel as far as the crest of the Rocky Mountains. The negotiators were unwilling to go beyond that. Both countries had legitimate claims within the Oregon Country, based on prior exploration and trading ties with the native inhabitants. Russian activities further complicated matters.

The negotiators compromised: For the next ten years, the Oregon County would remain open to commercial exploitation and settlement by both Britishers and Americans. After that, diplomats would, perhaps, revisit the question. With this agreement, a regional trade war became inevitable.
References: [Brit]
Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage, Simon & Shuster, New York (1996).
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, Oxford University Press, New York (1965).