Friday, December 9, 2016

Wallace and Grangeville Share Railroad Milestone Day(s) [otd 12/09]

On December 9, 1889, standard-gauge tracks of the Washington & Idaho Railroad (W&I RR) Company reached Wallace, Idaho. Wallace is one of several towns that arose from the discovery of placer gold in the Coeur d’Alenes, followed by even greater discoveries of silver and lead. The first cabin was built there in 1884, and soon companies were operating numerous famous lode mines in the area – including the Bunker Hill, and the Sunshine.
Wallace railway depot, now a museum.
Idaho Tourism photo.

In 1886 (or 1887, records conflict somewhat), a “subsidiary” of the Northern Pacific ran a narrow gauge railway into Wallace. Ostensibly a separate company, the builder was soon merged into the NP system. Narrow gauge is much cheaper to build, especially in mountainous country. However, narrow gauge rail cars have substantially less carrying capacity than standard gauge, and their loads must be transferred at the junction with the primary rail lines.

The W&I RR was a “subsidiary” of the rival Union Pacific, and the NP blocked construction every way it could. The Murray Sun newspaper described some of their ploys, which severely hampered the W&I schedule. The paper said, “Several hundred men are tied up at Farmington, and everywhere along the route are small gangs of laborers occupying disputed ground on which they are supposed to work.”

But finally, the obstacles were overcome and Wallace obtained the substantial cost and operational benefits of the standard gauge railroad. Later the construction squabbles became moot, as the NP acquired control of most of the railroad system in the Coeur d’Alenes.

Nineteen years later, also on December 9, the first passenger train arrived in Grangeville, on the Camas Prairie. Once there, it took on customers and headed for Lewiston and Spokane. In a special dispatch to Boise’s Idaho Statesman (December 10, 1908), the reporter said that many people “piled on and took conductor’s cash fare receipts as souvenirs.”

Established in the 1870s, Grangeville had grown to become the largest town on the Prairie, and then the county seat of Idaho County.

As early as 1886, locals had dreamed of what a rail link to the outside world would do for their town and the region. That summer a letter-writer said, “It cannot be stated as a positive fact but as more than probability that” the Oregon Short Line Railroad would build a line north from Weiser. Then, the writer said, “if a practicable route can be found they will cross the Prairie and go down the Clearwater.”

Train leaving Lewiston.
“Archive” photo posted by Lewiston High School.
A year later, locals stated optimistically that the railroad would soon extend tracks onto the Prairie from Lewiston [blog, Oct 21]. The years passed, and hope waxed or waned with each rumor and report.

In 1899, Grangeville’s Idaho County Free Press reported (December 29), “The Northern Pacific surveyors are now camped north of town on the Milt Cambridge place and are running the line with Grangeville as their objective.”

But nothing immediate came of that effort, nor of others during the next few years. Then the rails finally arrived in 1908. Eventually, lines linked many towns on the Camas Prairie, moving grain and other products to markets all over the country.
                                                                                 
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Chief Forester Guy Mains of the Payette/Boise National Forest [otd 12/08]

On December 8, 1878, long-time Idaho forester Guy B. Mains was born in Clark County, Wisconsin, 40-50 miles east of Eau Claire. Guy’s father was a lumberman and he grew up in the midst of a flourishing timber industry. Even so, Guy decided he wanted to teach and eventually attended the Stevens Point Normal School (now University of Wisconsin – Stephens Point).
Barber Mill, 3-4 miles southeast of Boise.
Idaho State University archives.

After four more years of teaching, he “returned to his roots.” He took a timber industry job that carried him from Wisconsin to California. Then, in 1905, Mains went to work for the Barber Lumber Company in Idaho.

In 1907, he joined the U. S. Forest Service. Two years earlier, Congress had given the Service responsibility for the nation’s public forests. Also in 1907, the term “national forest” was applied to what had been called “forest reserves.” The following year, the Service created the Payette National Forest and named Mains its first supervisor.

At the time, the Forest Service operated largely under broad Congressional mandates; a workable regulatory structure developed rather slowly. Fire protection was one “gray area,” complicated by the mix of private forests juxtaposed with the public lands (state and Federal). Ranchers grazing stock on the public lands under Forest Service permits only added to the muddle.

In July 1908, Mains found himself fighting a small fire alongside an agent of a private timber company. Afterwards, the two initiated what became an informal fire-fighting agreement among private, state, and Federal forestry groups.

In 1911, the parties formalized this co-operative approach, which became the Southern Idaho Timber Protective Association (SITPA) in 1919. The Association integrated the fire-protection efforts of the various entities; it became a model for similar organizations in other jurisdictions.

In 1913, Forest Service managers, including Mains, formulated timber management and marking policies for western Ponderosa pine, the most common lumber source in the region. These and similar practices were designed to provide a sustainable timber harvest while protecting the watershed from erosion.
Sheep grazing on National Forest land. USFS photo.

Mains also spent much time and study to determine the best practices for stock grazing on Forest Service lands. From anecdotal evidence, he knew that thick stands of sagebrush were not “natural” on the upland slopes and small valleys under his purview. In some 1916 notes, he wrote that prior to white settlement, “there was no sagebrush on the bench or the hills adjoining” the Emmett Valley.

Mains worked hard to collect objective data to verify that over-grazing was the main culprit behind the sagebrush takeover. Within that context, he generally preferred a more conservative approach in setting grazing limits.

Mains also favored common sense measures. The Idaho Statesman published (November 12, 1921) a brief item from the forester: “Mr. Mains says that for the first time in the history of the forests, there will be a scale of prices charged for grazing instead of a flat rate for all lands.” Future grazing fees would be based on the accessibility of the range allotment, with “the highest being for the lands most accessible.”

In 1925, Mains became manager of the Boise National Forest, where he continued to develop and refine policies and procedures to effectively manage the forest. He retired from that position in 1940, and passed away in 1958.
                                                                                 
References: [Hawley]
Dick D’Easum, Sawtooth Tales, The Caxton Printers, Ltd, Caldwell, Idaho (1977).
Sage Community Resources, Payette River Scenic Byway Corridor Management Plan, Idaho Department of Transportation (2001).
Elizabeth M. Smith, History of the Boise National Forest: 1905-1976, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (1983).
Harold K. Steen, The U. S. Forest Service: A History, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1976).

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rhodes Scholar, Eminent Historian, and Pulitzer Prize Winner Lawrence Gipson [otd 12/07]

Historian Gipson.
University of Idaho Archives.
Rhodes Scholar and eminent historian Lawrence Henry Gipson was born December 7, 1880 in Greeley, Colorado. The family moved to Caldwell, Idaho when Lawrence was very young and he later attended Caldwell High School. He left the high school after a year and took preparatory classes for a year at the College of Idaho. Lawrence excelled as a long distance runner at both institutions.

Gipson later recalled his youthful interest in history, but apparently that was not enough to keep him in school. He dropped out and worked at a variety of jobs, including some time in the family’s printing business. Then he enrolled at the University of Idaho and completed a bachelor’s degree there in 1903.

He might then have settled down as a journalist, but his life took a crucial turn. In 1902 and 1903, the Rhodes Trust selected their first Scholars: nine from southern Africa and five from Germany. The following year, they expanded the selection to include candidates from British possessions worldwide, and the United States. Thus, Lawrence Henry Gipson was not just the first Rhodes Scholar from Idaho, he was among the first Scholars from across this country.

He obtained a bachelor’s degree from Oxford University in 1907. Gipson next taught history at the College of Idaho for three years. He received a fellowship for a year of study at Yale University and then became Chair of the History and Political Science department at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana (about 30 miles northwest of Indianapolis). He continued his connection with Yale, however, and received his Ph.D. from that institution in 1918.

In 1924, Lehigh University, in Pennsylvania, asked Gipson to organize their new History Department. He agreed, on the condition that after he had the department established, he would be allowed time to work on a “monumental” scholarly project. He envisioned a comprehensive history of the British Empire Before the American Revolution, spanning roughly the generation before the Declaration of Independence.

He would study, assess, and write for almost another half century. Twelve years passed before the publication of Volume I: Great Britain and Ireland. In this largely stage-setting text, Gipson tried to analyze the general societal factors (economic, political, cultural, etc.) that would “set the tone” for the Empire-building to follow.

Thunder-Clouds Gather in the West,
Pulitzer Prize winner.
After that, he published volume after volume … fifteen in all. Three won important awards: In 1948, Volume 6 won a Columbia University award for outstanding “social science” work. The following year, Volume 7 won the Bancroft Prize, a major award for historical books. Volume 10 garnered a Pulitzer Prize in 1962. Knopf published the final volume just nine months before Gipson’s death in September 1971.

Gipson’s estate provided the core funding for the Lawrence Henry Gipson Institute for Eighteenth-Century Studies, based at Lehigh University. The Institute promotes and funds a broad range of scholarly activities in history and other relevant disciplines.

Sadly, “Gipson was already behind the times when he started his work in earnest,” in the view of modern historian Patrick Griffin. That is, historical scholarship had entered a period that focused on small communities and their day-to-day activities, rather than broad “imperial” forces. Oddly enough, however, he also argues that today the profession again needs “interpretive frameworks that look to reconstruct broad contexts.”

Dr. Griffin sees these as “almost” Gipsonian in scope. He then laments that modern academic and publishing realities make such thoughtful, context-building scholarship difficult: “And the Lawrence Henry Gipsons, unthinkable.” (Which is a shame, if true – and I’m afraid he’s right.)
                                                                                 
References: Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Guila Ford, Elizabeth Jacox, “Lawrence Henry Gipson - 1880-1971,” Reference Series No. 1140, Idaho State Historical Society (January 1996).
“Lawrence Henry Gipson,” Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale Publishing (1983).
Patrick Griffin, “In Retrospect: Lawrence Henry Gipson’s The British Empire before the American Revolution,” Reviews in American History, Vol. 31, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland (2003) pp. 171–183.
The Rhodes Scholarships.
William G. Shade (ed.), Revisioning the British Empire in the Eighteenth Century, Associated University Presses, Inc. (1998).

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Attorney, Mining Investor, and Territorial Secretary Robert Sidebotham [otd 12/06]

Robert Sidebotham. H. T. French photo.
Pioneer lawyer and developer Robert A. Sidebotham was born December 6, 1834 along the Ohio River in Pennsylvania (west of Pittsburgh). He gained early exposure to business because his father “was engaged in manufacturing.” He graduated from the law school at Oberlin College and then moved west. There, he worked in California for a time and then taught school in Utah.

Sidebotham joined the rush to Idaho when the gold fields around the town of Rocky Bar opened up in late 1863. Although placer mining drew the early prospectors, the real wealth of the region lay underground. Lode mining requires much greater capital, to pay for tunneling and for milling equipment to handle the ore.

However, Rocky Bar sits in the midst of massive, rugged ranges, far from normal travel routes. Located 45-50 direct miles east of Boise, the “easiest” link to the city follows over one hundred miles of twisty creek and river canyon. Tools, bales of clothing, bags of flour – every ounce of supplies – arrived by pack train. But pack animals simply could not carry the heavy milling machinery needed to exploit the lode mines.

Thus, in January 1864, Sidebotham and two partners obtained a Territorial franchise for the “South Boise Wagon Road.” (“South Boise” was the original name for Rocky Bar.) The agreement required them to bridge many streams as well as the South Fork of the Boise River. Excluding the money spent building bridges, the stretch from the South Fork over the final huge ridge – about one-fifth of the total distance – cost two-fifth (41%) of the total.

Julius Newberg, a partner with much relevant experience, managed the construction. He had hoped to complete the road early in the summer, but bridge building and other obstacles slowed the work considerably.

The first wagons reached Rocky Bar in early October, releasing a happy round of celebration. A correspondent to an Idaho City newspaper wrote, “Long and loud huzzahs rent the air and made the welkin ring. All business was for the time suspended and everybody seemed loud in their praises of the energetic and thorough-going Newberg.”
Rocky Bar, ca 1867. Elmore County Historical Research Team.
Sidebotham was a Republican in a heavily Democratic district, yet voters there elected him to every county office he ran for. They also elected him to terms in the the Territorial Legislature, and the Council (equivalent to a state Senate).

In 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Sidebotham to be Secretary of Idaho Territory, “a position now equivalent to that of Lieutenant Governor.” Robert moved to Boise City to handle his duties, which proved wise: He filled in as Territorial Governor for two years because one appointee departed under a barrage of criticism, and his successor never bothered to show up at all.

In later years, Sidebotham continued his law practice, but also held mining interests in the Wood River districts as well as in Colorado. For many years, he maintained a residence in Cripple Creek, Colorado, to be closer to mine holdings there. His wife, who ran a Boise millinery store during the 1890s, kept the family home in Boise. She and their children were very active in Boise society. Robert was on the train bound from Cripple Creek to Boise when he died in December 1904. He was buried in Boise.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley]
“South Boise Wagon Road,” Reference Series No. 94, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (1964).
Merle W. Wells, Gold Camps & Silver Cities: Nineteenth Century Mining in Central and Southern Idaho, 2nd Edition,  Bulletin 22, Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Mines and Geology, Moscow, Idaho (1983).

Monday, December 5, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fisher served as Bishop of the Bancroft Ward starting in 1907. During his tenure, he directed the construction of a meeting hall as well as a church in Bancroft. He relinquished those duties when he was appointed to the Industrial Accident Board.
Garage, ca 1920. University of Idaho Special Collections.

In 1910, George was elected to one term in the the Idaho Senate. Then the 1917 session of the state legislature passed the state’s first comprehensive Workers’ Compensation Law. Among other provisions, the Law authorized formation of the Idaho Industrial Accident Board.

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

He held that position by reappointment until 1923. Fisher took the stand that the Board’s job was to enforce the laws, as passed by the legislature, not “make” them. Still, he was quite willing to advise (lobby) legislators on changes he felt were necessary in the laws.

After his two terms on the Board, Fisher retired from public service to focus on his real estate, mercantile, and farming interests. Late in life, he moved to Salt Lake City, where he passed away in December 1946.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley]
“Timeline of Commissioners,” State of Idaho Industrial Commission, Boise.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding himself at loose ends after one assignment, he wrangled permission to assemble his own command, the legendary “Black Sheep Squadron.” His pilots were not, however, the band of misfits and screw-ups depicted in the later television program. They were simply men who had no specific assignments: green replacements just in from the States, members of disbanded units, and so on.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 3, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the 1927 season, the Belshazzar was the second largest gold producer in the state. (Available records do not show how long Brown continued as Supervisor.) Production ceased in late 1931, but some exploratory work has been performed in more recent years.

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

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