Saturday, May 27, 2017

Snake Indians Defeat U. S. Army at Battle of Three Forks [otd 05/27]

The afternoon of May 27, 1866, a force of white infantry and cavalry encountered a band of about 500 “Snake” (Shoshone-Bannock-Paiute) Indians at the Three Forks of the Owyhee River. Major Louis H. Marshall had led the U. S. Army Regular infantry out of Boise Barracks in an attempt to “pacify” the tribes. Indian attacks on outlying ranches and passing stagecoaches had intensified as prospectors and ranchers poured into the Owyhee area.
Three Forks of the Owyhee.
Photo posted on by L. A. Price.

The Army had sent the Regulars west in response to what the newspaper called the “Snake War” [blog, Nov 25]. This generally low-level conflict with tribes in southwest Idaho, Nevada, and southeast Oregon had flickered off and on since 1862. Released from the East by the end of the Civil War, the troops arrived in Boise City in late 1865. Totally unused to Indian warfare, the soldiers had little early success.

From Boise, Major Marshall led his infantry across the Snake River and south to Camp Lyon. This Army outpost straddled the Idaho-Oregon border, 16-18 miles west and a bit north of Silver City. From there, the troops moved south and west into Oregon. Around the 23rd, a troop of Oregon Volunteer cavalry had joined Marshall. They soon discovered fairly fresh Indian sign and followed it south, using trails over the plains high above the Owyhee River.

Marshall and the cavalry commander suspected that the Indians at Three Forks were those who had massacred about fifty Chinese a week earlier. They hurried to attack despite the obstacles and dangers. At Three Forks, the river twists through an 800-foot canyon, where the walls are practically vertical in places.

The soldiers had to clamber over loose rocks and through shifting gravel in their descent along a ravine. Heavily outnumbered (about 85 versus 250-300 warriors), they deployed along the west bank and began exchanging fire across the river. They inflicted a few casualties in four hours of fighting, but even some shots from their mountain howitzer failed to create an opening to advance.

Battle diagram, soldiers entered initially from left.
Overlaid on U.S. Geological Survey relief map.
As the shadows grew long in the canyon, Marshall moved downstream in hopes of outflanking his adversary. However, they lost their cannon trying to ferry it across. In the morning, the Indians ambushed the flanking attempt, killing one soldier. They kept the troops pinned down throughout the day.

Marshall finally realized the futility of trying to attack a superior force in such rugged country. He later wrote that “Ten men can hold a hundred in check and prevent their ascent.”

He ordered a risky night withdrawal. Although they had inflicted more casualties than they took, Marshall’s force had lost its artillery piece and been forced to retreat. Their performance surely did little to inspire fear or respect in their adversary.

Within a week after the battle, Indian raiders struck at three widely scattered spots and ran off over 120 cattle and horses. All told, they made seven or eight attacks in about a month after the debacle.
References: [B&W]
"Battle of Three Forks and the Owyhee Cannon," Reference Series No. 239, Idaho State Historical Society.
Gregory Michno, The Deadliest War in the West: The Snake Conflict, 1864-1868, Caxton Press, Cakiwell, Idaho (2007).
"The Snake War: 1864-1868," Reference Series No. 236, Idaho State Historical Society (1966).

Friday, May 26, 2017

Idaho Territory Reduced in Size to Create Montana [otd 05/26]

On May 26, 1864, the U. S. Congress passed legislation that reduced the previously-massive Idaho Territory by creating Montana Territory and splitting off most of future Wyoming. President Lincoln signed the bill two days later. By this action, they solved one of the major problems with the original structure of Idaho Territory.
Original Idaho Territory.
Adapted from J. H. Hawley with future borders tinted in color.

When Congress created Idaho Territory in 1863 [blog, Mar 4], it encompassed today’s Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. It was, in fact, larger than Texas and Illinois combined. Put another way, the direct distance from Fort Laramie, in the southeast corner of the Territory, to the Territorial capital in Lewiston was almost as much as that from St. Louis, Missouri to Washington, D. C.

Aside from the sheer size, geographical reality made the Territory practically ungovernable. The Continental Divide separated two-thirds of all that area from the capital. Most of it was, of course, largely empty of whites. They were concentrated in the rich gold finds around Bannack and Virginia City. Still, over a third of the Territory’s population lived east of the Divide.

The first Idaho Territorial legislature convened on December 7, 1863. The handful of elected officials from east of the Divide had no particular trouble getting to Lewiston. However, when the legislature adjourned in February 1864, deep snow totally blocked the massive ranges to the east and south of the capital.

East-side officials first rode a stagecoach west to Wallula, where they could board a Columbia River steamboat. (Due to ice and low water, the first Snake River steamer would not reach Lewiston until April.) From there, they could proceed to Portland. They then embarked on a coastal ship to San Francisco, where they caught the regular overland stage to Salt Lake City. From there they split, some continuing to Fort Laramie, the others heading north.
Territorial map, 1866. J. H. Colton & Company.

Congress knew of this “ludicrous arrangement.” Even the Eastern newspapers, such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, remarked (March 4, 1864) on Idaho’s problem: “It will be impossible to establish good government there until the Territory is divided. The seat of government is in the extreme northwest corner of Idaho, from which the eastern part of the Territory is cut off by a mountain range, placing it quite beyond the control of the authorities while stationed so far away.”

Fortunately, Federal officials were already devising a solution. The easy answer would have been to partition the area along the Continental Divide. That would have put the border just east of today’s Butte. However, settlers in the Missoula Valley rejected the notion that their government would still be in Lewiston. (The final Idaho-Montana boundary followed the path we see today.)

By early May, 1864, legislators were deep in discussions of a bill to create this new Territory, to be called “Montana.” One final point held up passage, however. The House Committee proposed wording that restricted voting in the first Territorial elections to white men only. The Senate opposed that provision. Finally, after weeks of argument, they settled on the “color-blind” wording that ended up in the Territory’s Organic Act: “all citizens of the United States and those who have declared their intention to become such … shall be entitled to vote at said first election.”

Of course, Montana didn’t get everything Congress split off. They also put Wyoming (more or less) back in Dakota Territory. Note also that Idaho’s eastern border ran along the 33rd longitude west of Washington. That changed to the 34th in 1868, giving Idaho its present odd shape.
References: [B&W], [Brit], [Hawley]
"The Creation of the Territory of Idaho," Reference Series No. 264, Idaho State Historical Society (March 1969).
Michael P. Malone, Richard B. Roeder, and William L. Lang, Montana: A History of Two Centuries, Revised Edition, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1991).
“Map of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana,” General Atlas, J. H. Colton & Company, New York (1866).

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Boise Veterinarian, Horse Breeder and State Veterinary Surgeon George Noble [otd 05/25]

Dr. George Edward Noble, Idaho’s first State Veterinarian, was born May 25, 1868 in Nashua, Iowa. (Nashua is about 100 miles west and a bit north of Dubuque.) There are conflicting accounts of his early education, but as a youth he apparently completed a business program at Upper Iowa University (in Fayette, a tiny town about sixty miles northwest of Dubuque).
Vet students learn about horses. Kansas State University Archives.

After “nine terms” of teaching school, George began studies at the Chicago Veterinary College and “qualified for practice as a veterinarian” in 1890. The following year he graduated with a Doctor of Veterinary Surgery degree. Dr. Noble opened a practice in his home town and then, after three years there, married and set up in Osage, Iowa.

He moved to Boise in 1902. For several years, Dr. Noble was the only graduate veterinarian in the state of Idaho. That led to his appointment, in 1905, to the first of three terms as official State Veterinary Surgeon.

The doctor had his work cut out for him, right from the start. Some sheep ranchers objected to his decree that they should dip their sheep a second time, in the fall. Noble’s intent was to eradicate sheep scab, which is highly infectious, and can cause severe weight loss or even death. Dissenters, who disliked the extra cost, claimed a second treatment would damage the wool. But they got no relief from the Governor, Frank R. Gooding, a major sheep raiser himself and considered an expert on the business [blog Sept 16].

And the Vet’s vigilance paid off. Five years later, he returned from a statewide inspection and told the Idaho Statesman (November 29, 1910), “I find conditions most favorable. There is little disease and the stock is looking fine.”

Initially, there was some confusion about his position: Dr. Noble had to take the State Auditor all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court to have his salary paid. In creating the office, the legislature did away with the office of State Sheep Inspector. They intended to transfer those duties – and the relevant compensation – to the Veterinary Surgeon. However, the wording left some doubts. Noble finally did get paid.

In the course of his duties, George naturally traveled all over Idaho. By this, he displayed a highly profession presence to the state’s stockmen and “raised the bar” for the delivery of veterinary services. A 1932 biographer noted that “no man is more familiar with the live stock industry here.”

Dr. Noble led professional development in Idaho by organizing an association of veterinary surgeons. In 1913, he helped found the Idaho Veterinary Medical Association, and served as its first president. For many years he acted as resident secretary for Idaho for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

George also took an active role in the Boise business community, starting with the founding of the Boise Veterinary Hospital. He became a member of the Boise Commercial Club and invested in real estate in and around the city.
Shires in harness. Snake River Shires photo.

During his time in Iowa, George got interested in breeding and racing fine trotters and pacing horse. He decided to continue that in Idaho and soon bought a ranch in Canyon County. He also began to raise registered Shire horses, with which he won numerous State Fair awards. He also bred registered shorthorn cattle.

Dr. Noble later bought more ranch property. At some point he began running sheep, and also devoted part of his property to raising certified alfalfa seed.

George Edward Noble passed away in January 1963, having almost reached his ninety-fifth birthday.
References: [Defen], [[Hawley]
“Noble, State Veterinary Surgeon vs Bragaw, State Auditor,” Pacific Reporter, Vol. 85, West Publishing Company, St. Paul (1906).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stock Growers Offer Reward to Catch Rustlers and Horse Thieves [otd 05/24]

On May 24, 1889, the Secretary of the Idaho County Stock Growers’ Association posted a notice in the Idaho County Free Press (Grangeville): The Association would pay $100 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of rustlers and horse thieves. The specific wording targeted those who illegally branded or marked the animals.
Branding on the range. Library of Congress.

That reward amounted to about three months pay for a typical cowhand back then, so the stockmen were deadly serious. Horse theft had started hand-in-hand with the discovery of Idaho gold in 1861-62. Cattle herds entered the country within a year or two, and so did rustling.

Ranching in southern Idaho and the Great Basin* offers crucial advantages for stock thieves. First, ranchers must scatter their animals over considerable rangeland because of the rather sparse forage. Ranch headquarters are usually located near the few streams that trickle through the region.

Worse yet, ranching practices of the time almost invited rustlers to help themselves. Early cattlemen basically turned their animals out on the range to fend for themselves. They only saw the whole herd during spring round-up, for castrating young bulls and branding. They might see them again in the fall when they culled out market-ready animals.

The rest of the year, cowboys had little to do except “line-riding” – casually patrolling the vague and generally unfenced boundary of whatever range “the boss” considered his. Thus, barring accidental meetings, rustlers could operate largely undisturbed. By gathering small numbers from several ranches, they could make off with a considerable “take” and leave each rancher unsure that he’d been raided. Finally, because of the rugged terrain, rustlers are seldom far from rough country to hide in.

Rustler struck everywhere. A major incentive for the formation of the Idaho County Stock Growers’ Association, in 1885, was “to prevent the stealing, taking or driving away of horned cattle, sheep or other stock.”

Unfortunately, they and other similar organizations only partially succeeded. Nor has the problem gone away: Ranchers in our region have lost millions of dollars in stock to rustlers over recent years.
Rancher discusses his losses with a deputy sheriff.
Richard Cockle photo, The Oregonian.

Thieves still work many of the same advantages, although the range is now fenced and cattle are gathered for a winter feeding regime. Yet for most of the year, the animals scatter over vast areas and stockmen lack the manpower to patrol extensively. Thieves even foil aircraft surveillance by operating during bad weather.

Riding horses, they steal a couple dozen head and drive them into rough country, eventually loading them onto a stock truck … perhaps fifty miles away. Lawmen know the real problem: “They may end up four states away from us.”

The rustlers obviously have experience handling cattle, and they’ve carefully scouted the country. And they don’t care that their depredations can put a small rancher out of business. Sadly, rustling is probably almost “an inside job.” Law officers and rancher-victims agree: “It’s people who know cows, who know the country.” Or, as one sheriff said, “The people who are the victims of the cattle thefts are going to know [the thieves].”

* Great Basin: Western Utah, a major portion of Nevada, and southeast Oregon.
References: [B&W], [Illust-North]
Jeff Barnard, “Cattle rustling amounts to $1 million loss in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada ” The Associated Press (January 4, 2010).
Richard Cockle, “Modern-day cattle rustlers hit ranches in southeast Oregon,” The Oregonian, Portland (November 23, 2009).
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (Ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell Idaho (1951).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cornerstone Laid for Idaho Soldiers Home in Boise [otd 05/23]

On May 23, 1893, dignitaries gathered in Boise City to lay the cornerstone for the new Idaho Soldiers’ Home. Meant to care for Union Army veterans of the Civil War who were “aged and in want,” the Home was completed the following year.
Union soldiers, ca. 1862. Library of Congress.

Idaho, of course, wasn’t even organized when the War started, and provided no Volunteer units for the conflict. However, by the time Idaho became a state, several thousand veterans had settled there. Not too surprisingly, 70 percent of them came from the midwestern states. (Nearly 85 percent came from the Midwest, Pennsylvania, or New York.)

Thus, the Idaho legislature appropriated funds for a soldiers’ home, and designated acreage from Federal land grants to create an operating endowment fund. The Act also authorized the governor to appoint a Board of Trustees. The appropriation stretched further after Ada County citizens donated the money to buy forty acres of land where the home could be sited. Builders completed the structure in November, 1894.

Officials staged a formal opening in May 1895. By then, the legislature had authorized funds for more buildings, including a hospital. Two years later, the state modified the eligibility requirements to include veterans of the Mexican War and National Guard soldiers who were disabled in the line of duty. That provided a “side door” for some who fought for the losing side of what some still called, in 1901, “the war of the rebellion.”

Idaho Soldiers Home, ca. 1914. H. T. French photo.
Fire damaged the main building in October 1900 and took the life of one resident veteran. The structure was rebuilt, reportedly better than ever. Certainly, it was different. The original Home had been built in the style, more or less, of a French chateau, with numerous gables and conical turrets at the front corners. The new design sported an onion-shaped dome that dominated the center front of the building, and the corner turrets had been reshaped. (The results seem rather akin to a Russian-Orthodox church.)

Another fire in October 1917 caused major damage. The state made arrangements to house the residents at Boise Barracks, which then had only minimal use. The aged veterans found their “temporary” quarters comfortable enough, but commented that they never felt like home. Because the country and the state were on a war footing, it took quite a long time for the old home to be rebuilt: It was not reopened until 1920 (Idaho Statesman, May 10, 1920). Perhaps to reduce costs, the repairs did not include the exotic domes and turrets.

As time, and old soldiers, passed, more and more residents of the Home were veterans of the 1898 Spanish-American War, then World War I, and so on. Age also took its toll on the building and finally, in 1966, officials dedicated a new “Boise Veterans Home” a half mile east of the capitol building.
Statuary in Veterans Memorial Park.

Eventually, city workers leveled the structures at the old site and created Veterans Memorial Park. Besides the usual recreational areas, the park contains monuments to war dead in several conflicts, those Missing in Action, and prisoners of war. It also has commemorative plaques for veterans’ groups and various military activities.
References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Nancy DeHamer, "Idaho Soldiers Home," Reference Series No. 713, Idaho State Historical Society (1985).
Rod House, Steve Barrett, and Wilma Jager, Civil War Veterans in Idaho, Idaho State Historical Society (2006).
"News of the States: Tuesday, October 9," Colfax Gazette, Colfax, Washington (October 12, 1900).

Monday, May 22, 2017

Coeur d’Alene and Other Indian Reservations Opened to Homesteading [otd 05/22]

President Taft. Library of Congress.
On May 22, 1909, President William Howard Taft issued a proclamation that opened "unreserved" agricultural, grazing, and timber lands on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation to white settlement under the homestead laws. The order also opened lands on the Flathead Reservation in Montana and the Spokane in Washington.

The Coeur d'Alene Indians (variously, “pointed hearts” or “hearts of awls”) were so named by early French-Canadian fur trappers. Purportedly this referred to their hard-hearted trading practices, but other interpretations have been offered. The tribe had few other contacts with whites until 1842, when Roman Catholic priests established a mission in their homeland.

By missionary accounts, their work among the tribe was very successful. However, gold discoveries in northern Idaho, northeast Washington, and across the border in Canada brought a heavy influx of whites into and across tribal lands. The resulting friction touched off the Yakima War in 1856, with another flare-up two years alter.

The Coeur d'Alene tribe joined in the 1858 attacks against white incursions, ignoring the advice and warnings from Jesuit missionaries. What is sometimes called the Coeur d'Alene War ended with their defeat at the Battle of Four Lakes. Afterwards, the tribe avoided trouble with whites as much as it could. Continuing provocations often made that difficult.

They resisted an attempt in 1867 to force them onto a small reservation in North Idaho. With more pressing concerns elsewhere, the matter was dropped. Then, in 1873, an Indian Office commission "negotiated" a reserve that spread across the lower reaches of Lake Coeur d'Alene and formed a wedge ending 20-25 miles north of Moscow.

The various negotiations left the tribe with about 400 thousand acres, less than a tenth of what they consider their original ancestral holdings. For a time, these borders worked, generally. In 1871, when German emigrant Frederick Post wanted to build a sawmill on the Spokane River, he agreed to purchase the necessary tribal land for what became the town of Post Falls [blog, Dec 30].
Coeur d’Alene Tribal Territory.

However, when a railroad wanted to run tracks through the reservation in 1888, Congress granted the required right of way without bothering to negotiate with the tribe. (The Act said the company had to pay for the right of way, but left it to the Secretary of the Interior to decide how much.) The discovery of vast silver lodes in the Coeur d'Alene Mountains brought new white pressure into the area. Towns grew at Kellogg, Wallace, Wardner, and other locations.

The tribe lost more land in 1892 and 1894, leaving less than 350 thousand acres. Then Taft's proclamation of 1909 allowed whites to settle on lands not specifically allotted to individual tribal members.

The Idaho Statesman in Boise reported (June 15, 1909), “At this time there is a great deal of interest all over the country in the opening of … the Coeur d’Alene Indian reservation in the state of Idaho … The Coeur d’Alene contains some valuable timber. There are some quarter sections which are reputed to be worth as much as $20,000. There is also some agricultural land upon this reservation which is very valuable, being located in the rich wheat belt of the north.”

When the first drawing was held on August 9, around 105,000 applications had been submitted for the three thousand homesteads available on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe does still retain sovereign rights within the reservation boundaries – police power, tribal courts, business regulatory oversight, and so on.
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
Charles J. Kappler, Indians Affairs: Law and Treaties, Vol. 1, Government Printing Office, Washington (1903).
"Sovereignty," Coeur d’Alene Tribe, official web site.
William Howard Taft, "Proclamation 874 – Opening Lands in the Flathead, Coeur d'Alene, and Spokane Indian Reservations," National Archives (May 22, 1909).

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Richard Z. Johnson: Developer, Legislator, and Territorial Attorney General [otd 05/21]

R. Z. Johnson. Illustrated History.
Richard Z. Johnson, who served in the Idaho Territorial Council and as Attorney General, was born May 21, 1837 in Akron, Ohio. Johnson had ancestors on both sides who fought in the American Revolution. The family had moved from Vermont to Akron three or four years before Richard was born.

He received a law degree from Yale in 1859, then practiced for five years in Minnesota. While there, he served two terms as City Attorney in Winona, about 25 miles northwest of LaCrosse.

Then, after a brief stay in Nevada, he moved to Owyhee County, Idaho. For several years there, he ran a Ruby City law office in partnership with one William H. Davenport. Ruby City, located less than a mile north of Silver City, was then the county seat. Johnson probably switched to Silver City when it became the county seat in January 1867. Within a few years, the partnership was dissolved and Johnson ran a solo practice.

He spent over a decade based in Silver City, but handled cases in Ada County as well as Owyhee. However, a financial crisis in 1875 crippled large-scale mining operations around Silver City. The growth of cattle raising in the region could not offset the decline in the mines.

Finally, in November 1878, Johnson purchased a home in Boise City and moved there permanently. In Boise, his “remarkable powers of concentration” and commanding intelligence earned him a part in most of the important litigation argued in that district. He was also renowned for his skills as an orator in pleading cases.

For a time, Johnson was a member of the Boise City Council and won election to the Territorial Council – equivalent to the state Senate – in 1880. Beginning in 1885, he served on the commission formed to revise and regularize the Territory’s legal code. Then, in 1887, he was selected for the first of two terms as the Attorney General.

Deeply interested in education, he promoted passage of a law creating an independent school district for Boise, and served fifteen years on the Board of Education. Johnson was also one of the first Regents of the University of Idaho and served for several years on its Board of Trustees. Upon his retirement from that position, the University awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Aside from his extensive law practice and political activity, for awhile Johnson owned a horse ranch along the Payette River. However, he sold that off in early 1880. The Idaho Statesman observed (March 11, 1880) that Johnson had “too extensive a law practice to give his attention to raising horses.”
Johnson & Johnson law office. Illustrated History.

Johnson also invested in Boise real estate. That included construction of a large brick office building where he and his son practiced as the firm of Johnson & Johnson. Professionally, he served for a time as president of the Idaho State Bar Association. Up to the time of his passing, he owned the largest law library in the state.

Johnson retired from active practice in 1910 and moved to Germany. He died there in September 1913 and is buried in Lindau, where his wife was born.
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“Richard Z. Johnson: May 21 1837-September 10, 1913,” Reference Series No. 581, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).
“One of Idaho’s First Citizens Dies Abroad,” The Idaho Statesman (October 6, 1913).