Friday, October 24, 2014

Settlers Surge into Bruneau Valley, Stock Thieves Then and Now [otd 10/24]

The October 24, 1868 issue of the Owyhee Avalanche, published in Silver City, Idaho, commented favorably on the prospects for settlement in the Bruneau Valley. They had been informed that “several parties from Boise have lately been locating ranches in Bruneau Valley, and will move over with their families this fall."
Bruneau landscape. Idaho Tourism, Dept. of Commerce.

The article also quoted positive observations printed in the Idaho Statesman, where the reporter claimed the area was “the best portion of Idaho Territory for stock raising and dairy purposes.” That article also said, “The grass grows luxuriantly and there is more timber that will furnish the valley with firewood if it were all settled.”

The newspapers' timing could hardly have been better. On April 15th of the following year, Arthur Pence – a rancher and future state legislator – filed on land near what is still called Pence Hot Springs [blog, Feb 10].

In September, John and Emma Turner arrived. The next spring, they purchased a homestead from one John Baker, who was married to a Paiute Indian woman. Baker, a professional surveyor, moved out of the area, so the Turners claim the honor as the first permanent settlers in the Valley. Other settlers and stockmen soon followed, and by 1875 several substantial cattle ranches had headquarters in the Valley.

Bruneau ranchers suffered through the disastrous 1889-90 winter along with other Idaho areas. From that, they learned the same lessons about proper grazing management, and the Bruneau continues to be an important stock raising region today.

On October 24, 1885, the Idaho Register, Eagle Rock, Idaho Territory, ran an article with the lead, “Horse thief caught at Jackson Hole with 17 head of High and Stout’s horses.”

Actually, reports of the time indicate that this capture might have been the exception rather than the rule. For over a decade, well-organized bands of stock thieves operated out of “the forks,” about twenty miles northeast of Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls). There, at the confluence of two Snake River branches, bandits found perfect cover on innumerable densely-thicketed islands.

As the stock industry grew, so did the depredations of cattle rustlers and horse thieves. In fact, such losses were a substantial factor driving the formation of local, regional, and territorial stockmen’s associations. The gravity of the problem is suggested by an Owyhee Avalanche report (Sept 13, 1890) from Elmore County: “It will probably startle many of our readers to learn that over $20,000 worth of horses have been stolen in this county in the last five months.”
Cattle grazing on unfenced range, BLM photo.

Sometimes – although far less often than Old West legends would have it – captors meted out immediate and final penalties for rustling and horse theft.

Yet the crime continued then, and has never has never really gone away. Google “cattle rustling” and you’ll get hundreds of hits describing instances just in the last two or three years. Enter “cattle rustling Idaho” and a dozen mentions in the past few months turn up [blog, May 24].
                                                                                                                                     
References: [B&W]
Mildretta Adams, Owyhee Cattlemen, Owyhee Publishing Co., Homedale, Idaho (1979).
“Golden Jubilee Edition,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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

Early spillway photo from Idaho Falls Power – History.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sheep Rancher, Investor, and Railroad Developer Robert Noble [otd 10/19]

Englishman Robert Noble was born on October 19, 1844 in Cumberland County, a sparsely-populated region on the border with Scotland. The family moved first to Canada when Robert was ten years old. They continued on to New York State three years later. During the Civil War, Robert volunteered as soon as the Army would accept him.  He served in the quartermaster corps until his discharge in the spring of 1865.

Noble worked on a farm in Illinois until 1870, when he headed West and ended in Idaho. For about a year, Robert tended a Snake River ferry. He then worked for four years at a ranch belonging to Thomas J. Davis [blog, Jan 2] in the Boise Valley. Not well educated, but blessed with considerable native intelligence, Noble used those years to built up a stake. He later said he began running sheep himself in 1874. Robert had his own place along Reynolds Creek a year later.
Noble Ranch, ca 1898. Owyhee Directory.
Just seven years later, a list printed in the Owyhee Avalanche newspaper (August 26, 1882) identified Noble as the leading sheep stockman in all of Owyhee county. His total of 7,500 sheep was more than double that of the number two man.

He steadily grew his flocks, and had around fifty thousand head by the latter part of 1890. The Owyhee Avalanche reported (November 29, 1890) a bizarre slashing attack on “Bob” Noble by a disgruntled herder. The article observed that he was “perhaps the wealthiest stock man in Idaho.” The following spring, the DeLamar Nugget reported ( May 19, 1891) that “Robert Noble, Owyhee County’s big wool man has just sold ten thousand mutton sheep ...”

By the end of the Nineties, Noble had around seventy thousand sheep. For a time, he also had a sideline of horse raising. To upgrade those holdings, he imported a top-grade English shire horse. In the summer of 1905, Noble sold his stock and “some 3000 acres” of ranch property. Noble did not quote prices to the reporter for the Idaho Statesman (June 24, 1905), but probably realized $300 or $400 thousand from the sales. (That’s $8-10 million in today’s dollars).

After the sale, Noble moved his family to Boise City. There, he invested heavily in the Idaho Trust & Savings Bank, reportedly one of the largest financial institutions in the Pacific Northwest. With purchases then and over the next few years, he acquired about seven thousands acres of land in the Boise Valley.
Robert Noble photo: H. T. French.

Noble also provided much of the funding for construction of an interurban electric railroad running from Boise out to Meridian and Nampa. Robert served as manager of the rail company until it was sold into a merged firm in 1911. The following year, Noble was elected President of the IT&S Bank. He held that position until his death in November 1914.

Four years after Robert’s death, the estate settled the title for a parcel of land near the complex intersection a half mile southeast of the capitol building. The executor, Robert’s son Ernest, then deeded the plot to the city for today’s Robert Noble Park.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French],[Hawley], [Illust-State]
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).   

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Newspaper Publisher Ben Read, Lurid Headlines Attract Readers [otd 10/18]

Ben Read. J. H. Hawley photo.
Idaho Falls newspaperman Benjamin Harrison Read was born October 18, 1888 in Palco, located about 25 miles north of Hayes, Kansas. His father, a storekeeper, moved the family to Iowa when Ben was a young man. After high school he attended Grinnell College, graduating in 1910. (Grinnell is about 45 miles east of Des Moines.) After graduation, Ben worked at the Ames Times newspaper.

Within two years, he attained a partnership in the newspaper, which became the Ames Evening Times. He soon assumed management of the paper, which he took from a weekly to a daily in about 1916. Like many newspapers of that day, the company also maintained a lucrative job printing operation.

In 1917, Ben sold the Ames newspaper and moved to Idaho. There, he and his brother Clifford bought a controlling interest in the Idaho Falls Daily Post. The earliest known operators of the Post were brothers Charles and Ernest Sumner in partnership with Henry Gabbe. In 1905, the partners shipped equipment in from Colorado and began publishing the first daily newspaper in Idaho Falls. (Library of Congress records indicate that an Idaho Falls paper of that name began in 1903, but nothing is known of its circulation or management.)

The Post had to compete with two existing weekly newspapers: the Idaho Register and Idaho Falls Times. The presence of a daily did force the Register to go semi-weekly, in 1908. However, it soon became apparent that three newspapers might be too many for the town to support. When the novelty wore off, the Daily Post struggled, going through a succession of owners before the Read’s bought it.

Daily Post offices. Idaho Falls Post Register archives.
Ben and Cliff rejuvenated the paper: They contracted for a dedicated newswire so they could feature the hottest events from around the world, and published full-color Sunday comics. They also packed their pages with sensational stories: notorious (preferably bloody) murders, white slavery, marquee sporting events … whatever would grab attention. On the side, they ran the usual printing operation.

Their competitors merged in 1920 to form the Times-Register, which also went to daily publication. Five years later, the brothers sold the Daily Post to J. Robb Brady, son of former Idaho Governor and U. S. Senator James H. Brady. Ben and Cliff moved to the Los Angeles, California, area. Ben remained in southern California until his death in 1972. Cliff returned to Idaho for a time to run another newspaper.

Robb Brady had originally moved to Idaho to settle the estate of Senator Brady, who died in office from a heart attack. Ironically, a year after purchasing the Post, J. Robb also had a heart attack and died. The manager he hired, E. F. McDermott, arranged a merger with the Times Register, changing the name to the Post-Register. McDermott operated the paper for the next half century. The Post Register is still being published today, six days a week (no issue on Monday).
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley]
Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers, Library of Congress (online).
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–1934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
William Hathaway, Images of America: Idaho Falls, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC (2006).