Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mining Investor and Twin Falls Area Developer Harry Hollister [otd 9/2]

Harry Hollister. H. T. French photo.
Central Idaho developer Harry L. Hollister was born September 2, 1859  in Rockton, Illinois, about seventy miles northwest of Chicago. He showed an early talent for banking, real estate investing, and progressive business development.

By 1900, he had substantial holdings in the Chicago area, the Dakotas, and in Michigan. After about 1900, Hollister located his company headquarters in Chicago.

In 1898-1900, Hollister began investing in mining properties in the Wood River area and further north in central Idaho. Soon, he owned interests in possibly a half dozen mines. He claimed regional water rights for hydropower development to support the mining, but engineers calculated that these were inadequate.

During this period, Ira B. Perrine [blog, May 7] appeared in Chicago to promote the Twin Falls Land and Water Company. The company was trying to build Milner Dam to feed a considerable irrigation project. Perrine also had a long-standing interest in promoting hydropower projects.

Within a few months, Hollister and Perrine teamed up on a project to generate electricity at Shoshone Falls [blog, August 15]. They had ambitious plans to provide power to Hollister’s Wood River properties, the town of Shoshone, the hoped-for town of Twin Falls, and even mines in northern Nevada.

Rather than trying to build a diversion dam, they proposed to bore a tunnel through the native rock to deliver water to a generator plant at the river level below the falls. Work began in 1901, but lack of funds and adverse litigation hampered progress.

While Perrine monitored construction and promoted the project regionally, Hollister tapped his contacts in Chicago for additional investors. He also apparently handled much of the legal battle. Owners of the Shoshone Falls Hotel provided the only serious opposition to the power project. They claimed that the water diversion and plant structure would ruin the Falls as a tourist attraction, and therefore cripple their business.

Fortunately, settlers in the surrounding communities backed the hydropower project enthusiastically. Of course, the opponents were willing to be bought out … at what a jury eventually decided was an extravagant price. With the litigation behind them, workers forged ahead. The main obstacle was the bedrock, which turned out to be far harder than expected. Twin Falls received its first power from the plant in August 1907.

Hollister spent much time in Idaho during his years of promotion and construction, but never moved his home here. Still, his part in developing the region is well recognized. In 1914, Hiram T. French wrote, “It is impossible to separate much of the work done by Messrs. Hollister and Perrine in the Twin Falls country.”

Later, reports suggested that Hollister had obtained title to around 2,500 acres of irrigated land by fraudulent means (Idaho Statesman, Boise, March 19, 1918). However, there seems to have been no follow-up, and authorities did not file any charges. In any case, Harry’s contribution to local development is recognized in the naming of the town of Hollister, located about 15 miles south of Twin Falls.
City of Hollister, ca 1912. Twin Falls Public Library.
Around 1910, Hollister’s company had expanded into land development in California, setting up a branch office in Los Angeles.

Some time after about 1921, Harry and his wife moved there to live. By 1930, he was retired. After his wife died sometime in the Thirties, Harry lived with his son-in-law in Beverly Hills. He passed away in September 1944.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Jim Gentry, In the Middle and On the Edge: The Twin Falls Region of Idaho, College of Southern Idaho (2003).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Tarzan Creator, and Idaho Cowboy, Edgar Rice Burroughs [otd 9/1]

Edgar Rice Burroughs,
successful writer.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan and many imaginative worlds, was born September 1, 1875 in Chicago. Edgar tried many jobs, in many places, before taking up the writing career that made him world famous. He spent several of his most impressionable years as a young man in Idaho.

The Idaho connection began in 1891. An influenza epidemic in Chicago led his parents to ship young Edgar off to Idaho. There, brothers George and Harry were partners in a cattle ranch.

The brothers had met Lew Sweetser at Yale University. In 1890, the three founded a cattle company, purchasing – for the sum of one dollar – land from the Sweetser Bros. & Pierce Cattle Company. Lew’s father, Andrew, and his brother were among the earliest stockmen in this part of Idaho, establishing a ranch in 1866.

Idaho had just “graduated” from Territory to State when Edgar came, and was still wild and wooly: Citizens worried about Indian unrest, “colorful” characters – including known killers and bandits – frequented saloons and bunkhouses, revolvers were common apparel and often used … people lived hard, dangerous lives.
ERB, cowboy. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.

ERB [*] loved it all. He rode the wildest broncs, listened to the yarns of the colorful misfits, and punched cattle on the open (but disputed) range.

It was too good to last, however, and Edgar found himself back in school, the Michigan Military Academy. After graduating in 1895, he worked briefly as an instructor at the Academy, but gave that up for Army service in Arizona. Discharged for health reasons in 1897, he worked again for his brothers in Idaho. He also tried his hand at business, running a stationery store in Pocatello for awhile. Profits were meager to nonexistent, however, so he returned to Chicago in 1899.

After getting married and working for his father for a time, ERB brought his new wife to Idaho in 1903. His brothers had decided that dredging for gold fit their interests better than ranching. ERB worked with them for awhile, but overhead costs eventually doomed that enterprise.

They tried again on the river near Parma. A likable fellow with a hearty sense of humor, Burroughs did manage to “succeed” in politics there: Running for town trustee, he went to voters one-on-one and asked each to please make sure he got at least their one vote. He later wrote that, “enough of them tried to save me from embarrassment to cause my election.”

Still, this mining venture also ended in failure and Edgar and his wife moved back to Chicago. A succession of dead-end jobs followed until, in 1911, ERB sold his first story. Thus emboldened, he plunged deeper into writing. His second sale, Tarzan of the Apes, proved wildly popular and the rest … as they say … is history.

There is little doubt that ERB’s years in Idaho, and the West in general, made a deep impression on the young man. The colorful characters he met became models for the heros, and villains, that filled the action-laced pages of his prodigious string of stories. Although he died in 1950, a huge fan base keeps his name alive and many of his most popular titles are still in print.

[*] Fan web sites and magazines often use this shorthand.

Thanks to Bill Hillman (see comment):
      More ERB Idaho connection.
      ERB Magazine (online).
      Edgar Rice Burroughs site.
References: [Brit]
Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Edgar Rice Burroughs: Official Biography, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
John Taliaferro, Tarzan Forever: the Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan, Scribner, New York(1999).

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ray Hunt: Legendary Trainer of Horses (and Riders) [otd 8/31]

Tribute photo. Richard Beal’s Blog.
Renowned horse trainer Ray Hunt was born August 31, 1929 in Paul, Idaho (about 4 miles north of Burley). A few years later, the family moved to Mountain Home. A child of the Great Depression, he knew the hard, grinding farm labor of that era. But his father also raised work horses. Ray learned to ride and dreamed of becoming a cowboy.

Given a chance to ride the range in Nevada, Ray began to live his dream. Along the way, his interest turned to training horses for all-around range and corral work.

Movies and TV shows notwithstanding, normal training need not require brutally “breaking” the animals. The methods Ray learned – traditional on the ranges of Nevada, southern Idaho, and southeast Oregon – involve a staged approach. The trainer introduces a young horse to successively more coercive tack, and expects more complex behavior. Still, the overall aim was to subdue the subject, and more “strenuous” methods might be applied for particularly recalcitrant stock.

With a growing family of his own, Ray moved to California and began training colts, shoeing horses, and doing “day work” for ranchers who knew he was a top hand. In late 1960 or early 1961, he met Tom Dorrance, whose ability to train “difficult” horses was well known in ranching circles. Dorrance practiced a form of “natural” training that traced back to nineteenth century England. The hit movie The Horse Whisperer featured a simplified-for-Hollywood version of such gentler methods.

Ray started with a special affinity with horses, yet even he took awhile to adapt. He could handle – stay on – a rough horse better than most, but this was different. The rider had to sense, understand, and accept the horse’s needs and desires. Eventually, he evolved a soft approach to, as he put it, “make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy.”

Owners began bringing “impossible” horses to him. Soon he had so much problem-horse business, he couldn’t keep up with his regular work. Also, he found that he could “fix” a horse, but the problems sometimes returned once they were out of his hands. That led him to the conclusion that a lasting answer might require him to fix the riders too – to get them to understand and respect the horse’s point of view.

Around 1971, the volume of work – and the need to train both horse and rider – led Ray into the full-time training clinic business. After that, for almost forty years, Hunt ran clinics, wrote books, and offered videos to show riders and owners how to get the most out of their horses … without overt coercion or punishment.

Ray remained active until near the time of his death in March 2009. By then, he received more requests for clinics than there were hours in a day, and had to turn many down. Conventional recognition came his way – Top Hand Award, Western Horseman of the Year in 2005, etc. – but Hunt’s true legacies are the modern trainers who now practice natural training methods and the many riders he influenced personally.
References: Linda Boston Franke, “Ray Hunt: A Legend in His Own Time,” Ranch & Country Magazine (2009).
“Ray Hunt, 1929-2009,” Western Horseman (January 2005). [Retitled and reprinted after his death in 2009.]
Ray Hunt: Master of Communication.
Ray Hunt, Millie Hunt, Roy Hunt, Think Harmony with Horses, Pioneer Publishing Company (June 1995).

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Idaho Cattle Baron and Nevada Governor John Sparks [otd 8/30]

Idaho-Nevada cattleman and later Nevada Governor John Sparks was born August 30, 1843 in Winston County, Mississippi, 60-80 miles northeast of Jackson. The Sparks family became moderately wealthy by developing raw land into successful farm-ranch operations, selling at a good profit, and then moving on to a new location. In the late 1850s, they established a ranch in Texas. John thus grew to manhood in the early Texas ranch/cowboy culture.
Early cattle drive. Library of Congress.

He reportedly served as a Texas Ranger on patrols against Comanche Indians during the Civil War. After the war, Sparks worked cattle on several big drives. In 1872, he served as trail boss on a drive that delivered a herd to where the Utah-Nevada border meets southern Idaho.

John and his brothers then moved a large herd into Wyoming. A develop-sell-move strategy worked well for awhile, but played out toward the end of the decade as the amount of undeveloped land in Wyoming dwindled. Thus, in 1881, John and his brother Tom brought another herd from Texas into Idaho to stock range near American Falls.

Tom stayed on to run a ranch there for around forty years while John formed a partnership with established cattleman John Tinnin. They put together a spread that straddled the Idaho-Nevada border. By 1886, Sparks-Tinnin range stretched from the Snake River, centered around today’s Twin Falls, south into the mountains of northern Nevada. On perhaps 3,000 square miles of land, they, according to the Albion Times, ran “in the neighborhood of 100,000 head of cattle.”

During the warmer months of the year, most of the stock grazed in Idaho. Then cowboys pushed them south for the cold months of winter. Thus, Sparks lived at one of his Idaho ranch headquarters for the good weather, but built a family home in Nevada, near the main railroad line.

Governor Sparks.
Nevada Historical Society.
Over the next few years, Sparks expanded his acreage and also invested in other holdings. These saved his business when the severe winter of 1889-1890 devastated the company’s herds. In a reorganization that followed, Sparks bought out his original partner – saving Tinnin from having to declare bankruptcy. He then acquired a new partner, long-time cattleman Jasper Harrell. Thereafter, the ranch operated as the Sparks-Harrell company

During the 1890s, the range became more and more crowded. This heightened friction between neighboring outfits, whether cattle or sheep. Then, in 1896, a cowboy shot two sheepherders who had encroached onto what Sparks-Harrell considered its range [blog, February 4 and others].

Although Sparks soon learned who had done the shooting, he remained silent to protect against retaliation by sheepmen. He also paid liberally for the defense of “Diamondfield” Jack Davis, the man falsely accused of the killings. Eventually, Davis was freed, while the actual shooter made a successful self-defense plea (also financed by Sparks-Harrell).

In 1902, Sparks was elected Governor of Nevada. He was re-elected in 1906, but did not complete the second term, passing away in 1908.
References: Byron DeLos Lusk, Golden Cattle Kingdoms of Idaho, Master’s thesis, Utah State University, Logan (1978).
J. Orin Oliphant, On the Cattle Ranges of the Oregon Country, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1968).
“John Sparks,” Sunset Magazine, 1903.
Alexander Toponce, Reminiscences of Alexander Toponce, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (1971).
James A. Young, B. Abbott Sparks, Cattle in the Cold Desert, University of Nevada Press, Reno (2002).

Friday, August 29, 2014

"Uncle" John Hailey: Miner, Stage Line Pioneer, Stockman, Public Servant, and Historian [otd 8/29]

John Hailey. Library of Congress.
John Hailey – Idaho stockman, miner, stage line operator, politician, and historian – was born August 29, 1835 in Smith County, Tennessee, 30-40 miles east of Nashville. The family moved to Missouri in 1848, and John set out on his own from there in 1853. He joined a wagon train to Oregon, where he tried his hand at many tasks and slowly built up a stake.

After distinguished duty in the Rogue River Indian War of 1855-1856, he took up ranching, raising sheep and horses. Then the Idaho gold discoveries offered a better opportunity. In 1862, Hailey sold his sheep to finance his part of a venture packing supplies from Oregon into the Boise Basin.

He and his partner, William Ish, also ran “saddle trains” into Idaho. A saddle train rented riding horses to people who didn’t want to invest in an animal themselves. They soon became one of the most successful operators in that line of work, and initiated stagecoach service from Umatilla into the Basin in 1864.

He made a considerable success of that enterprise, augmented by a lucrative mail subcontract from Ben Holladay [blog, August 11]. In 1870, Hailey sold the stage line at an impressive profit and started a substantial livestock and meat market business in the Boise City area. However, in the late 1870s, he encountered some financial reverses – these included having to make good on several co-signed obligations.

He recouped much of the loss by returning to the stagecoach business in 1878, but saw that too decline as the railroad marched across Idaho. While the stage line still prospered, in 1879, Hailey claimed land that shortly became a fast-growing mining town. John called the village “Marshall,” but the townspeople soon changed that to honor the founder.

In time, John would own interests in several productive Wood River mining properties. He also returned to the ranching business, raising top-grade cattle and horses.
Wood River Area. [Illust-State]

Hailey had a long-standing interest in politics and public service, but had to be persuaded to accept election as Territorial Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1872. (Delegates have no vote on the floor, but can serve on committees and vote on issues at that level.) Both political parties wanted him to fill the position for the next term but Hailey declined.

In 1880, John served a term on the Territorial Council – equivalent to a state Senate – and was elected president of that body. Four years later, he again served as Idaho Delegate to Congress. In 1899, the governor appointed "Uncle John" to be Warden of the Idaho State Penitentiary.

In 1907, upon the founding of the Idaho State Historical Society, Hailey was made its first Secretary and Librarian [blog, March 12]. At the request of the Legislature, he wrote a history of the state. John did it, he said, to correct “the many misstatements published about Idaho in early days, and particularly concerning the character and conduct of the good people of those days … ”

“Uncle John” Hailey passed away in April 1921.
References: [Illust-State]
“John Hailey (1835-1921),” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
John Hailey, History of Idaho, Syms-York Company, Boise, Idaho (1910).
“John Hailey: August 29, 1835-April 10, 1921,” Reference Series No. 543, Idaho State Historical Society (1971).
John H. Hawley, Eighth Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Idaho, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise Idaho (1922).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Car Customizer Boyd Coddington ... "King of the Hot Rods" [otd 8/28]

Boyd Coddington. Sons of Boyd web site.
Boyd Leon Coddington, the famous car customizer known as the “King of the Hot Rods,” was born August 28, 1944 in Rupert, Idaho. Like many boys in the Fifties, Boyd was mad about cars. Back then, kids who grew up on a farm – Boyd’s father ran a dairy  – learned to do for themselves, not look for a store-bought solution when stuff broke.

Boyd’s first car was a Chevy pickup. He told an interviewer (Los Angeles Times, December 2, 1996) that he traded a shotgun for the vehicle when he was thirteen years old. But he had to trade back because he’d done the deal without his dad’s permission. He later scrounged up some money to get it back. Boyd said, “That truck kind of started everything.”

Trade school study at Idaho State University and in Salt Lake reinforced that early imprinting. Experience made him an auto mechanic, training honed his machinist skills, but natural aptitude turned him into an artist in car customization.

In 1968, Coddington moved to California and landed a machinist’s job at Disneyland. At night, however, he built hot rods. Soon, word-of-mouth spread through the Southern California hot rod subculture: A Boyd Coddington custom job was special, in ways that might be difficult to capture in words, but were instantly recognizable.

A Coddington rod glowed with a clean, polished look, where every factor contributed to the overall effect. Nor was this beauty just “skin deep.” Open the hood, slide underneath, whatever … you found the same near-obsessive attention to detail. A master machinist, Boyd made sure every component fit perfectly. He became famous for a “billet” approach to parts: take a hunk of metal and “carve” it with lathe and milling machine until you had what you needed.

Boyd finally opened his own shop and went full time in the late Seventies. Instantly recognizable with his bushy beard and favorite Hawaiian shirts, he attracted aficionados whenever he appeared at any car-related event.

Eventually, celebrities and wealthy “car nuts” began paying fabulous sums – once over a half million dollars – to have Boyd turn out rods designed specifically for them. Yet Boyd and his crews earned every penny of those large sums – with endless hours of work and rework, striving for automotive and artistic perfection. A number of fine customizers learned the business in Boyd’s shop, and then went on to build their own successful careers.

Boyd and his creations earned an incredible range of awards: “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” (7 times – an unprecedented feat, and he once won it back-to-back), the Daimler-Chrysler Design Excellence Award (twice), voted “Man of the Year” by Hot Rod Magazine in 1988, inducted into the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame, and on and on.
Coddington-modified car. Sons of Boyd.

Starting in 2004, Boyd received yet another peculiarly modern stamp of approval – he hosted the reality show American Hot Rod. During the program, the shop crew built custom cars within certain specified parameters and time limits. The pressure on the set – the actual shop – was real, and intense. Coddington routinely pushed his people into working long, exhausting days, and nights, to meet his standards of artistic perfection.

A long-time diabetic, Boyd died in February 2008 from complications after surgery.                                                                                                                                      
References: The Boyd Coddington Story, Boyd Coddington web site.
Dennis Hevesi, “Boyd Coddington, 63, King of Hot Rods, Dies,” The New York Times (March 1, 2008).
Dan Lienert, “The Hot Rod King,” Forbes Magazine (June 1, 2004).
“Our Father: Boyd Coddington,” Sons of Bob.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Helpmate, Education Advocate, and Philanthropist Kathryn Albertson [otd 8/27]

Kathryn (McCurry) Albertson was born August 27, 1908 in Boise, Idaho. After high school, she matriculated at the College of Idaho, a private, liberal arts institution in Caldwell. Kathryn never said publicly why she chose the small, struggling college, but being close to home probably had a lot to do with it. (At the time, southwest Idaho had no public four-year college.)

In any case, she did choose tiny College of Idaho. There, in chemistry class, Kathryn met a hard-working young man named Joseph A. Albertson [blog, Oct 17]. Joe had a job as a clerk at a Safeway store. At the time, students called the College “Dr. Boone’s marriage mill,” affectionately referring to the school’s founder and first President, William Judson Boone [blog, Nov 5].

Joe and Kathryn only added to the legacy. On New Years Day 1930, the Reverend Boone wrote in his diary, “Marry Katheryn [sic] McCurry to Joseph A. Albertson. 52 present, very fine and very pretty.”

While Kathryn ran their home, Joe’s hard work and knack for the business brought steady advancement at Safeway stores. Eventually, he supervised over a dozen outlets. But, as with all innovators, Albertson had his own ideas on how to run a better store. By 1939, Joe and Kathryn were ready to pursue his dream.

In July, Joe and two business partners opened the first Albertson’s Store on Boise’s State Street. The company had opened three stores by the end of 1940.

Known as a very private person, Kathryn nonetheless involved herself enough with the stores to earn the affectionate nickname “Mrs. A” from employees. The grocery store, and then supermarket, and then “super-store” company grew steadily. They took the company public in 1959 – investors and mutual funds soon made the stock a favorite in their portfolios.

The couple showed their philanthropic bent early, enthusiastically promoting war bonds and scrap drives during World War II. Contributions large and small flowed to a wide variety of civic projects and institutions, including the College of Idaho. In 1966, they created the J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation to manage their extensive charitable activities.

In 1991, the College of Idaho officially changed its name to Albertson College of Idaho to honor years of generous donations from Joe and Kathryn. College administrator also wanted to emphasize for other potential donors that they are not part of the state’s public school system. Joe passed away two years later.
Water feature, Kathryn Albertson Park. City of Boise photo.

Kathryn, if anything, increased the foundation’s good works after Joe’s death. She also carried on his vision for Albertson Corporation, and in 1998 company leaders recognized her as the first Director Emeritus, a lifetime position on the Board of Directors. She passed away in April 2002.

Their memories carry on through the Foundation, and Kathryn’s through Kathryn Albertson Park, in downtown Boise. In 2007, their alma mater returned to just The College of Idaho name. Since Joe and Kathryn had resisted the first change, one trusts that they would approve.
References: “Kathryn Albertson,” Quest magazine, College of Idaho (Summer 2002).
Louie W. Attebury, The College of Idaho, 1891-1991: A Centennial History, © College of Idaho, Caldwell (1991).
Biography: Kathryn Albertson, J. A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation
Merle Wells, Arthur A. Hart, Idaho: Gem of the Mountains, Windsor Publications, Inc., Northridge, California (1985).