Saturday, November 17, 2018

Horses Thieves Trailed, Captured, and Jailed – Escaped, Caught Again [otd 11/17]

On Saturday, November 17, 1883, three different newspapers across Idaho published stories about a trio of captured horse thieves. That timing arose from the more-leisurely newspaper publication schedules back then. The Owyhee Avalanche (Silver City, Idaho) and the Blackfoot Register were both weeklies, issued only on Saturdays. The Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman (Boise) had issues on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Watching the horses. Library of Congress.

The raiders began their depredations the previous month when they stole a considerable band of horses near Fort McDermitt, Nevada. That’s along the Nevada-Oregon border about seventy miles north of Winnemucca. They reportedly left Nevada with about 75 animals. Many of them belonged to a stockman named Jeremiah “Jerry” Hearn. He was originally from Massachusetts and brought his bride, Margaret, to the area in 1881.

Edward F. Mullaney, whose brother had lost horses to the thieves, trailed the bandits as they made their way across the southeast corner of Oregon into Idaho. (We know only a few of the pursuers’ names, probably because the composition of the posse changed along the way.)

In Idaho, the thieves added about 40 horses belonging to stockman Con Shea [blog, Sept 24] to their herd. They then pushed through the mountains to the east, emerging, it is supposed, somewhere south of today’s Murphy. Based on the eventual size of the stolen herd, it’s likely they gathered more horses on the high plains there. The raiders finally crossed the Snake River near the mouth of the Bruneau River.

The crooks next dodged there way east. They would have needed to avoid the new Oregon Short Line tracks, since by this time the railroad was running regular mixed trains over the line. They finally pushed their herd into the Lost River area, some sixty to seventy miles west of Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls). Apparently not concerned about any possible pursuit, the thieves now “laid over four or five days” (Blackfoot Register). While there, they stole 45-50 horses belonging to rancher Edward Hawley.
Robbers’ approximate path (Green line). Overlay on historical map.
Rested up, and still unaware of any posse, the thieves moseyed through East Idaho before turning north into Montana. Along the way, they “picked up” another 15-20 horses. The pursuit closed in near the town of Bannack, about eighteen miles west of Dillon.

Events then turn a bit murky. The three apparently sent someone into Bannack for supplies, but were tipped off that a posse was after them. The crooks quickly abandoned their loot and “lit out.” They were soon caught, however, and jailed in Dillon.

Amusingly, the three “simultaneous” news articles had different snapshots of these events. The Statesman and the Register noted that the crooks were in jail pending extradition paperwork from Idaho and Nevada. The Avalanche, on the other hand, knew that the prisoners had already broken out of jail.

The three were recaptured in December and returned to Nevada for trial. The Reno Evening Gazette reported (March 21, 1884) their convictions, under the names of Lee, Stimson, and Dan Bowden. The latter was a gunman well known in southern Idaho and northern Nevada. Lee, apparently, had been “recently released” from the Idaho Penitentiary. The court sentenced Stimson to four months in the county jail, while the other two received long prison terms.
References: [B&W]
Blackfoot Register; Idaho Statesman, Boise; Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho (November 17, 1883).
“Horse Thieves … ,” Owyhee Avalanche (November 10, and December 22, 1883).
“Horse Thieves,” Idaho Statesman (November 24, 1883).
“Cattle Stealing Gangs,” Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, Nevada (March 21, 1884).

Friday, November 16, 2018

Idaho Falls Dedicates a New City Hall and Fire Station [otd 11/16]

On November 16, 1930, Idaho Falls officials dedicated a new City Hall. It replaced the old city building, which had been in use since before 1911.

Idaho Falls, aka “Eagle Rock,” aka “Taylor’s Bridge,” originated when James Madison “Matt” Taylor and his partners opened a toll bridge at the spot in 1865 [blog, Dec 10]. Settlement was very slow at first. When Matt’s cousin Sam Taylor [blog, Apr 18] arrived in June 1870, he recalled, “There was nothing there then but Matt Taylor’s family and what help they had around, and men that worked for the stage line; no settlers at all.”
Idaho Falls train yard. Bonneville County Historical Society.

The stage station finally experienced a growth spurt after the Utah & Northern Railroad arrived in April 1879: Eagle Rock grew as newcomers settled in the region, especially north along Henry’s Fork. Then, in 1887, the town suffered a significant loss of population when the railroad shops moved to Pocatello. In fact, according to the Illustrated History, “at least sixty other buildings, mostly dwellings, were removed.”

Still, continued settlement in the area gave people confidence about the future. That confidence proved justified, especially after the construction of several large irrigation systems in the area spurred even more settlement. Eagle Rock organized into a village structure in 1889 and selected a board of five trustees.

Two years later, the town’s name changed to Idaho Falls. Not until 1895 did the Board formally designate a Chairman. By around 1899, the population of Idaho Falls was almost back to the level it had been before the railroad shops moved. Thus, a year later,, the town was large enough to be a “city of the second class,” with a Mayor and council.

Sometime during this period, the Board procured a specific City Hall. This structure, on the southwest corner of Broadway and Capital Avenue, would remain in use until the new City Hall was dedicated. For five or six years after 1911, part of the building also served as the Bonneville County courthouse. The county then erected a new courthouse building, which is still in use today.

Around 1928, “five and dime” retailer S. H. Kress offered a premium price for the property that housed the police and fire stations. With the old City Hall showing its age, the Council saw the offer as a way to finance a replacement. They accepted, and fire and police units became tenants for awhile.

With money in hand, the city began planning a new structure, one that would allow the consolidation of the city offices with the police and fire stations. With additional revenue from the municipal hydro-power plant, the council did not need to call for a bond election. For $9,000, the city purchased a lot that was then owned by the Idaho Falls Elk’s Lodge.

City Hall drawing.
Idaho Falls Historic Preservation Commission.
Construction proceeded in phases after purchase of the property. Although much remained to be done at the time, the city offices moved into the completed fire station structure in August 1929. After that, work proceeded rapidly, leading to the formal dedication noted above.

Over the years, parts of the interior were modernized, and a foyer with skylights was remodeled into additional offices. However, "the lobby retains its distinctive tiles and decorative detail."

City Hall still serves Idaho Falls well today and its façade looks pretty much like it did eighty years ago.
References: [Illust-State]
Mary Jane Fritzen, Eagle Rock, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society (1991).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–1934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
“Idaho Falls City Building,” Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation (2012).

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Idaho Falls developer and Construction Leader William Keefer [otd 11/15]

William Keefer. J. H. Hawley photo.
Idaho Falls developer and builder William W. Keefer was born November 15, 1852 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, 40-60 miles southwest of Harrisburg. Although he was a carpenter by trade, as a young man he spent two years teaching school.

In about 1873, he found work in the west. He ended up leading a construction crew building bridges and depots for the Utah & Northern Railroad in northern Utah and southeast Idaho

Financial problems slowed and then halted track-laying in southeast Idaho from 1874 into early 1878. Work resumed in March 1878, and the rails marched steadily north. They reached Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls) about a year later [blog, Apr 11]. Then the company began to construct a full inventory of railroad shops and a passenger station in the little town, so Keefer focused on that work.

The completed shops provided locomotive repair and maintenance facilities, and were equipped so the company could build various types of rail cars there. When crews completed the railway structures, Keefer decided to settle in Eagle Rock rather than continue with the railroad.

The town experienced something of a building surge at the time, so Keefer found plenty of work. Along with his construction business, he began investing in prime real estate, with an eye toward development. It helped that the town was platted in 1884.

By the mid-1880s entrepreneurs had formed irrigation companies to build diversion dams and canals for cultivated agriculture. That sparked “Eagle Rock’s Building Boom,” according to the Idaho Register (April 4, 1885). The item noted that Keefer and a partner had just completed one project and had started a “soda water manufactory and sample room.” Later that year, the Register reported (Noember 21, 1885) that Keefer was making many improvements to his brewery: “nearly quadrupling his present capacity for making beer.”

The growth in farming to supplement stock raising helped “cushion the blow” when the railroad company moved its shops to Pocatello in 1887. Although the population suffered a severe drop, the town survived.

Matt Taylor’s original wooden bridge across the Snake River [blog, Dec 10] deteriorated beyond any reasonable repair effort after almost a quarter century of use. Thus, in 1890, commissioners hired Keefer to construct masonry piers for a new steel bridge next to the old one. When no one bid on the structure itself, Keefer went ahead and completed the job. The bridge would serve the city until 1907.

Broadway, looking east, ca 1912. H. T. French photo.
Throughout the Nineties, Eagle Rock/Idaho Falls (the name changed in 1891) kept growing: many churches, two or three banks, a hotel, and more. Keefer by no means handled all these projects, but he apparently had parts of many.

In 1909, Keefer and his twin sons, Fred and Frank, began construction of a dam to impound the Snake right at the town. The dam and a retaining wall diverted a substantial part of the flow to a new hydroelectric power plant. The plant went operational in 1912. Today, the dam and diversion wall are what tourists consider the “falls” of Idaho Falls.

Besides his development work, William Keefer served two years as county coroner, ran for county sheriff at least once, and served two terms on the Idaho Falls city council. He passed away in March 1940.
References: [Hawley]
Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County in the Making, Self-published, Idaho Falls, Idaho (1941).
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Timothy Regan: Freighter, Mining Expert, and Business Developer [otd 11/14]

Timothy Regan. J. H. Hawley photo.
Wealthy businessman and developer Timothy Regan was born November 14, 1843 near Rochester, New York. The family later moved to Wisconsin, where Timothy grew up and received a public school education. In 1864, he struck out on his own, taking the isthmus route to California.

He found little to his liking there and, being nearly broke, walked all the way to a prosperous gold camp about 20 miles southwest of Winnemucca, Nevada. He worked and saved for about six weeks and then joined with a handful of partners to haul supplies to Silver City, Idaho. But they lost all their goods to an Indian raid near the Oregon-Idaho border.

Again almost broke, Regan hoofed it into Silver City, arriving in early November. Timothy immediately found work chopping firewood. He then landed a job in the Poorman Mine, until it closed down in 1866. He went back to chopping wood, worked in Salt Lake City for a time, and then returned to the Silver City area when a new mine opened up in 1868.

Regan soon branched into several enterprises: operating a sawmill, transporting lumber and ore for the mines, and hauling freight in the region. In 1875, he and partner Hosea Eastman purchased the Idaho Hotel, in Silver City. (Regan bought Eastman out two years later.) Also in 1875, a bank failure ruined several mining companies and Regan, as one of their major creditors, acquired many of their properties.

Considered, according to the Illustrated History, “an expert in his judgment of ore,” Regan eventually held some of the most valuable properties in the area. He later sold many of these holdings at a substantial profit. Although he and his wife moved to Boise City in 1889, Timothy retained some of the mining properties as well as at least a share of the hotel. (He apparently sold the hotel interest about ten years later.)

Regan quickly became a force in Boise City development. Three years before the move, Regan had joined with Hosea Eastman and some others to organize the Boise City National Bank. (The building they later commissioned is today on the National Register of Historic Places.) Although he was a major stockholder, Timothy apparently never held an officer’s position with the bank.

Regan did serve for a few years as the President of the Artesian Hot and Cold Water Company, which had opened the Boise Natatorium in 1892. Supplied with hot water from nearby geothermal wells, “the Nat” is still a noted Boise landmark. He was also a major stockholder and officer for the Weiser Land & Improvement Company.

Regan was General Manager and Treasurer of the Overland Company, Ltd., another firm he and Eastman shared. Seeing a need for more office space in downtown Boise, the Company demolished the old Overland Hotel to make room for a new structure.
Overland Building, ca 1915. J. H. Hawley photo.

Largely completed in late 1906, with full occupancy early the following year, the Overland Building would, according to a headline in the Idaho Statesman (November 13, 1905) “be a credit to a city with a population of  100,000.” For many years after, the Overland, later renamed the Eastman Building, was the prestige business address in downtown Boise.

Regan and his brother-in-law, Frank Blackinger [blog, Aug 26] formed a separate partnership, which owned the Capitol Hotel. Regan and Hosea Eastman were, in fact, married to two of Blackinger’s four sisters.

The Regans’ younger son, John, was killed in France during World War I [blog, Feb 6]. Timothy passed away in October 1919.
References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“Boise City National Bank Building,” National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.
Nancy DeHamer, “Hosea Eastman, Timothy Regan, and Frank Blackinger,” Reference Series No. 728, Idaho State Historical Society (1971). 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Jewish Businessman and Idaho Governor Moses Alexander [otd 11/13]

Moses Alexander.
Illustrated History
Idaho Governor Moses Alexander was born on November 13, 1853 in Obrigheim, Germany. In 1867, he emigrated to the U. S., where he lived with a sister in New York for a few months.

Moses then moved on to work with a cousin in Chillicothe, Missouri. He proved to have a talent for retail merchandizing, which he put to good use … advancing from clerk to partner at the age of twenty.

In 1891, Alexander moved to Idaho and opened a men’s clothing store in downtown Boise City. His operation prospered and, over the years that followed, Moses established a chain of stores across southern Idaho and in Oregon.

Within a few years he was a recognized leader in the community, having promoted and brought to completion the construction of the first Jewish synagogue in Boise. A rabbi from Salt Lake City officiated at the opening, and the Idaho Statesman reported (August 31, 1896) on “the very impressive ceremony of dedication of the temple Beth Israel.” Fittingly, they also held a bar Mitzvah ceremony for Moses’ son Nathan.

Despite his extensive business operations, Moses took time for public service. In Chillicothe, he had served on the City Council and twice as Mayor. He continued that interest in Boise. He was elected Mayor in 1897, chose to skip a term, and was elected again in 1901. Alexander was an active Mayor. The switch from a volunteer to professional fire department [blog, Jan 28] was made “on his watch,” and he led other civic improvements.

He ran for Idaho governor in 1908 but the nomination process was hotly contested and highly divisive for Idaho Democrats. The Republican nominee won. Health problems that dogged him later in life led him to decline a nomination for the next election.

He felt ready to go in 1914, easily won the Democratic Party nomination, and then out-polled an opponent plagued by scandal in the Republican Party. Moses thus became the first governor of any U. S. state who was also a practicing Jew*. He was reelected in 1916.

A strong temperance supporter, Alexander helped push through a state-level Prohibition law even before the entire country went officially “dry.” Idaho quickly experienced a clear foretaste of the unintended, bad consequences of Prohibition [blog, Oct 28], yet the governor never wavered in his position.

World War I (the “Great War”) provided the other favored cause during Alexander’s time as Governor. Despite – or perhaps because of – his German birth, Moses fervently supported the American war effort. Long before Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, anti-semitism was a powerful political force in Germany. No one has found evidence that this influenced Alexander’s attitude, but it can’t be ruled out.
Alexander’s Boise store, ca. 1925. Library of Congress.

Hampered by health issues, Alexander failed in another run for Governor in 1922. He died in January 1932.

Considerable archival material about Alexander’s career and family background is cataloged in The Moses Alexander Collection at the Idaho State Historical Society.

* Records show that Washington M. Barlett, whose mother was Jewish, served as Governor of California for nine months before his death in September 1887. Bartlett was not active in any religion while in California, and his funeral service was held at the Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco (San Francisco Bulletin, San Francisco, California, September 13, 1887).
References: [Brit], [Illust-State], [Hawley]
"Washington Bartlett," The Governors' Gallery, The California State Library.
Dylan J. McDonald (Ed.), The Moses Alexander Collection, Idaho State Historical Society (2002).

Monday, November 12, 2018

BYU-Idaho Predecessor, Bannock Stake Academy, Has Building Dedicated [otd 11/12]

On November 12, 1888, Mormon pioneers dedicated the school building for the Bannock Stake Academy in Rexburg, Idaho. With this small start, the Academy can justly lay claim to being the first organization in the state that eventually grew into an institution of higher learning. Not the first actual college, however; at least three Idaho schools taught college-level classes before them.
Principal Spori. BYU-I Archives.

The Stake selected Jacob Spori, a highly educated Swiss emigrant, as the first Principal. He and two other instructors ran the Academy initially as an elementary school.

Rexburg had been established by members of the LDS Church, led by Thomas E. Ricks, in January 1883. The town grew quickly, achieving a population of over 800 in early 1884 and burgeoning to over 1,400 by the end of that year. The Bannock Academy was among a host of local schools created by the Mormon church to teach standard academic subjects along with LDS religious doctrine.

Donations from members paid for desks and remodeling the log structure that served as a Ward meeting house. From the dedication onward, tight finances plagued the school. Funding was so scant that Spori covered its first-year debts, and the salaries of the other teachers, out of his own pocket. He resigned after three years for the sake of his family.

The Academy’s survival remained in doubt all through the Nineties under the two succeeding Principals: At one point, the entire staff served without pay for a half year, accepting foodstuffs in lieu of tuition so they could at least eat. A new Principal who came on board in 1899 began to phase out the lower grades, turning the institution into a high school.
Main building, ca. 1905. BYU-I Archives.

To accommodate the expanded curriculum, the Stake first purchased a building in Rexburg, and then arranged for the construction of a more suitable structure on land south of downtown. Workers put the finishing touches on the structure in time for the start of the 1903-04 school year. By then, the Church called the school the “Ricks Academy,” in honor of Thomas E. Ricks, who had died in September 1901.

Later, it became first Ricks Normal College and then just Ricks College. The institution barely survived crisis after crisis. In the early Thirties, the church tried to give the school to the state of Idaho as another junior college. Protesting any added drain on the state’s education budget, legislators spurned the offer.

World War II created yet another crisis. The draft and vital war work severely depleted the pool of potential male students. On top of that, several faculty members were called up. In May 1945, Ricks awarded degrees to its first, and only, all-girl graduating class.

However, after the war, returning veterans quickly changed the class mix and, in fact, caused a major housing crunch. From 1948 to 1957, the school transitioned into a four-year curriculum and then back to two-year status.

For a few years after that, it appeared the school would be moved to Idaho Falls. That crisis passed also, and in June 2000 it gained an assured 4-year status, now operating as Brigham Young University-Idaho. Today, BYU-Idaho is thriving. They have recently completed (mostly) a major new building program.
References: [Hawley]
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks: A History of Ricks College, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).
Jerry C. Roundy, Ricks College: A Struggle for Survival, Ricks College Press, Rexburg (1976).

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Cornerstone Laid for Roman Catholic Cathedral in Boise [otd 11/11]

On Sunday, November 11, 1906, officials laid the cornerstone for a new Roman Catholic cathedral in Boise, to be known as the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

Catholics had gotten off to an early start in Boise City. Two priests – Fathers Toussaint Mesplie and A. Z. Poulin – arrived in the region about the time the Army established Fort Boise in 1863.

During their first years, they held services in private homes or available public buildings. Catholics built their first Idaho churches in the mining towns of the Boise Basin. Their initial attempt in Boise City burned to the ground only weeks after it was completed in 1870-71. Services then returned to private dwellings, or sometimes the chapel at the Fort.

As placer mining dwindled in the Boise Basin, so did parishioner contributions. By around the end of 1875, administrative control had reverted to the Archbishop of Oregon. That arrangement lasted ten years, while a handful of dedicated priests struggled to maintain a Catholic presence in Idaho.
St. John’s Cathedral, ca. 1895. Illustrated History.

Finally, in 1885, Bishop Alphonse Joseph Glorieux was appointed to run the diocese. At the time, the Boise City church was little more than a “shanty,” with four small attached rooms. The bishop quickly had a separate multi-room residence built, followed by an enlargement and upgrade of the church itself.  In 1889, he added a hall for meetings and classes. By 1895, Glorieux had further expanded and refurbished the church, making the first St. John’s Cathedral something they could point to with pride.

However, as the city and the Roman Catholic congregation grew, Bishop Glorieux decided they needed a more drastic solution. Businesses had begun to hem them in, limiting their ability to expand. Fortunately, all that development also inflated the value of the church real estate. They were able to sell “at a good figure,” and purchased a full block further from downtown.

When the time came to design a new cathedral, church leaders turned to the firm of Tourtellotte & Hummel, who had also designed the Idaho state capitol. The architectural committee chose a Romanesque style, characterized by a symmetrical layout with large, square towers that convey a sense of mass, round arches, and simple, geometric façade work. The description by the diocese notes that its Romanesque style used “the German cathedral of Mainz as a model.”

The cornerstone ceremony included a special program of music, with full orchestra and a forty-member choir. The Idaho Statesman reported (November 11, 1906) that the church hierarchy would be represented by “the largest gathering of bishops at a similar occasion ever held in the northwest.”
Cathedral, ca 1918. J. H. Hawley photo.

To avoid heavy debt, Bishop Glorieux had the builders proceed in phases as funds became available. Thus, services began in the basement once the walls and roof were completed in 1912. The bishop himself did not live to view the finished structure; he died in August 1917.

As the structure neared completion in 1920, “some the most impressive features” were installed: numerous stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ and other religious motifs. The completed cathedral was dedicated on Easter Sunday 1921. The final form did not, however, include a pair of conical towers flanking the front entrance, as called for in the original concept. (These would have more than doubled the height of the building.)

Today, the structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Idaho.
References: [Hawley]. [Illust-State]
“Cathedral History,” Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Boise.