Sunday, April 23, 2017

Banker, Idaho Governor, and Reclamation Manager D. W. Davis [otd 04/23]

Idaho Governor David William Davis was born April 23, 1873 in Wales. The family moved to the U.S. two years later, and the father found work mining coal in the districts northwest of Des Moines, Iowa. This being before strict child labor laws, David began working in the coal mines there in 1885, when he was twelve years old.
Boy miners were once common. Library of Congress.

After three years he landed a job in the mining company store. Personable and hard-working, Davis showed a talent for the retail business. Around 1894, he was hired as the Manager of a farmers’ co-op store in the town of Rippey, 35-40 miles northwest of Des Moines. Within a few years, he became Cashier of a local bank. (As noted in another blog, back then the Cashier was an important bank officer.)

According to later accounts, David continued to suffer the ill effects of his time in the mines. Around 1899-1900, he finally had to take some time off. Then, around 1905, he moved to Idaho, which reportedly completed his rest cure. In 1907, Davis founded the First National Bank of American Falls. The bank prospered, and, in 1918, Davis was elected President of the Idaho State Bankers Association.

In 1912, Davis was chosen as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and then voters elected him to the state Senate. The 1913 session of the legislature passed some key laws, including the creation of a State Board of Education and a Public Utilities Commission.

In 1916, the party selected Davis as their candidate for Governor against a very popular incumbent, Moses Alexander [blog, Nov 13]. Despite a near-total Democratic sweep – they won a majority in both houses of the legislature and all but a handful of executive-branch posts – Davis lost by only 572 votes out of 127,000 cast.
D. W. Davis.
Library of Congress.

Two years later, Davis polled 60 percent of the vote in a successful run for governor. Supported by majorities in both legislative branches, Governor Davis led the state through sweeping changes in how it did business: rewording laws, restructuring and unifying state administrative offices (a badly needed reform), and addressing crucial needs.

The latter included provisions for veterans' welfare, a pension system for teachers, and an extensive road-building program [blog, Mar 13.] In 1919, the Governor also convened a conference that led to the formation of the Western States Reclamation Association. The Association, composed of fifteen states, sought to advise the Federal government on western irrigation projects. Davis was re-elected in 1920, and continued his program of reform and reorganization.

After leaving office, Davis was appointed Commissioner of the U. S. Reclamation Service, soon to the the Bureau of Reclamation. He served only briefly there before being selected as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior. He later held other positions in the Department before returning to Idaho. He lived to see enormous change in the state of Idaho, passing away in 1959.
                                                                                 
References: [Defen], [Hawley]
“Commissioner of Reclamation Climbs Life’s Ladder,” Reclamation Record, Vol. 14, Nos. 11 and 12, U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, Washington, D.C. (November-December 1923).
"Idaho Governor David William Davis," National Governor's Association.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Watermaster, Irrigation Engineer, and Musician Forrest Sower [otd 04/22]

F. L. Sower. Beal & Wells photo.
Engineer and irrigation expert Forrest Lindsay Sower was born April 22, 1887 in Battle Creek, Michigan. The family soon moved to Idaho, and Forrest graduated from Caldwell High School in 1907. He then attended College of Idaho for a time before transferring to the University of Idaho. He earned a B.A. degree in 1911.

Also a talented musician and composer, Sower pursued that hobby at UI: He played professionally in various bands, and had a number of songs published. Forrest played several wind instruments as well as the organ.

Sower joined the U.S. Reclamation Service right out of school and worked on the early phases of the Boise Project. The Service, today’s Bureau of Reclamation, began its first Boise area irrigation project in 1905. That was the Deer Flat Reservoir, now known as Lake Lowell, about seven miles west of Nampa. The Service then spent several years building or improving canals in the area.

About the time Sower joined the Service, planning had been completed for the next major Project phase, Arrowrock Dam. In 1911, track layers extended a railroad spur running southeast out of Boise so trains could deliver materials and workers for dam construction. Crews completed the dam in 1915. At that time, Arrowrock was the tallest dam in the world and contained some of the most advanced design features known.
Arrowrock Dam, Boise River, ca. 1916. Library of Congress.

Sower worked his way up the promotion ladder over the next few years. The Boise Project added many new dams and canal systems to provide water to the Boise Valley and some of the nearby higher plains. For several years after about 1915, Sower acted as watermaster for the systems in operation around Wilder, 10-12 miles west of Caldwell.

He also maintained his musical interests; the Idaho Statesman reported (January 18, 1920), "A dance will be given in the near future for the benefit of the Wilder band. The band is practicing under the leadership of F. L. Sower."

In 1926, the Bureau of Reclamation transferred substantial assets to the various irrigation Districts for routine operation. Concurrent with that, Sower became assistant engineer and watermaster for the Boise Project Board of Control. That Board oversees and integrates the operations of the various irrigation Districts affiliated with the Project.

In 1934, Sower became Manager of the Nampa-Meridian Irrigation District. Ten years later, he was named Manager of the Boise Project Board of Control. He would hold that position for the rest of his life.

Forrest was a licensed professional engineer in the state of Idaho and a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers. He was also a member of the American Federation of Musicians, being a member of the union Local in Nampa.  He even organized his own dance band and conducted it for a number of years. An active Shriner, he also played in their local band.

Sower passed away in January 1959. His obituary noted that Forrest was “one of the prime movers in the program of covering irrigation ditches as a safeguard against summertime drownings of small children in the area.”
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [Hawley]
Boise Project, U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, Washington, D. C. (2009).
“Obituary: Forrest Sower,” Caldwell News-Tribune (January 16, 1959).
Francis W. Shepardson and James L. Gavin Gavin, Songs of Beta Theta Pi, Kessinger Publishing, Whitefish, Montana (June 30, 2005).

Friday, April 21, 2017

Boise Brewer and Capitalist John Lemp, Early Idaho Millionaire [otd 04/21]

Brewer, investor and eventual millionaire John Lemp was born in a small town about twenty miles north of Frankfurt, Germany, on April 21, 1838. His father died when he was twelve years old and, two years later, young John emigrated to the United States. He then made his way to Louisville, Kentucky, where he worked as a clerk for seven years.

John Lemp.[Illust-State]
In 1859, Lemp joined a band of hopeful prospectors headed for Colorado and the Pike’s Peak gold fields. He was able to locate a claim but met only indifferent success with it. When gold was discovered in what soon became Idaho Territory, he began to consider relocating. That interest rose as news came of many other gold discoveries in the region.

Thus, in 1863, Lemp joined a group whose initial destination was Bannack, then in Idaho Territory but in Montana Territory after May 1864 [blog, May 26]. They must have learned more along the way because, around June, the group split and Lemp stayed with the party headed for the Boise Basin fields.

They reached a spot on the Boise River where, four days earlier, Major Pinkney Lugenbeel had decided to build an Army encampment [blog July 4]. Troopers were busy assembling a corral for their stock, and building a blacksmith shop and other structures. Aside from that, the party saw only a few rude cabins and the tent-store run by Henry Riggs [blog, May 14]. So the party turned east into the mountains and visited Bannock City, today’s Idaho City.

Later, Lemp said little about his time in the mining camps, but he soon returned to the little settlement that sprang up near Fort Boise. There, in 1864, he built a brewery to serve the usual thriving saloon trade. Lemp’s brewery became the basis for a growing range of property and business investments. The structure would remain the core of Lemp's financial empire for over forty years, until it was severely damaged by fire. One of his earliest investments was a large brick warehouse built for lease on Main Street (Idaho Statesman; March 9, 1871).

In 1875, the citizens of Boise elected John for a term as mayor. Besides that, he would serve on the city council for around twenty years. The Idaho Statesman (April 6, 1875) quoted Lemp about mining prospects at South Mountain (a camp about twenty miles south of Silver City). It also reported, “Mr. Lemp will have his brewery started in about three weeks, and make the first beer in South Mountain.”

Downtown Boise, ca 1898 [Illustrated-State]
Lemp continued to invest in development projects. In 1890, he financed construction of the Capitol Hotel. At a prime location in downtown Boise, the hotel had all the most modern features. When the dining room had its formal opening, the Idaho Statesman reported (January 16, 1891), “The favorable anticipations which have been excited were amply fulfilled by the excellent repast … set before the guests last evening.”

Guests for the repast came from all over the state Idaho, from Portland and Spokane, and from as far away as New York City.

Lemp eventually had extensive real estate holdings in Boise, as well as over five thousand acres of ranch and farm property. He financed considerable development in the city, including the “Lemp Block” and various residential areas. He was one of Idaho's first millionaires, and one of the wealthiest men in the Pacific Northwest upon his death in July 1912.

                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illustrated-State]
Carolyn Thomas Foreman, “Colonel Pinkney Lugenbeel,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 24, No. 4, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City (1946).
“John Lemp: April 21, 1838-July 18, 1912,” Reference Series No. 582, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).

Lewiston Physician and Hospital Founder Edgar White [otd 04/21]

Dr. White. J. H. Hawley photo.
Edgar Lee White, Lewiston physician and hospital operator, was born April 21, 1883 in St. Louis, Missouri. The family moved to Spokane in 1888. For five years starting at age ten, Edgar worked as a newsboy in Spokane. He then entered the carpenter’s trade. After his high school graduation in 1903, he continued in carpentry, while also attending classes at Washington State College (now University).

White next pursued higher education in Missouri and then at the University of Chicago. In June 1909, White received his M.D. degree from Chicago’s Rush Medical College. He followed that with an eighteen-month internship at St. Luke's Hospital in Spokane. While there, Edgar met Catherine Rouse, a Registered Nurse. Dr. White moved to Lewiston in December, 1911, and he and Catherine were married four months later.

In Lewiston, White joined with an established physician to start his practice. However, the senior partner died in late March 1911, so Edgar carried on the practice alone.

Five years later, Dr. White and Catherine contracted for the construction of a new hospital in Lewiston. The two-story brick structure had room for thirty-two beds, plus a full basement. That level held a waiting room, kitchen and dining rooms, small treatment rooms, and various utility areas. The  Idaho Statesman in Boise reported (June 24, 1916) on the new facility with the headline, “New Private Hospital at Lewiston is Real Model,” and said that it was “small but modern in all its equipment.”

Hawley's History noted that the doctor suffered "a great financial strain at the time," but the situation had improved considerably after four years. Dr. White wore many hats during those early years: President, general practitioner, Chief Surgeon, maintenance supervisor, handyman, and whatever else came up.

A frame structure near the main building housed a nurse's school, with quarters. Catherine, as Head Nurse, was in charge of nurse training. She also served as Vice President, handled anesthesia, and "pinch hit" wherever help was needed.

White Hospital, Lewiston, ca 1918. J. H. Hawley photo.
A retired nurse who trained there recalled those years in an interview for the Lewiston Tribune. Students had to be dedicated. Living on site, they first worked a twelve hour day, starting at 7 o’clock in the morning, and followed that with two hours of classwork. They then rose the next morning to do it again – with a half-day off each week.

Edgar spent a year as a military cadet at Washington State, and joined the medical reserve of the Idaho National Guard in 1913. He would remain with the Guard for over twenty years. During World War I, Dr. White served as a surgeon at Camp Lewis in Washington state.

White Hospital operated for over thirty years, during which span the doctor delivered more than 3,000 babies. The Whites finally closed the hospital in 1946, although Edgar maintained a small practice from a basement office. Catherine died in 1955, Dr. White in 1963.

The old hospital was abandoned after serving as a low-rent hotel for awhile. The hulk was finally demolished to make way for a new building in 1970. All that remains of White Hospital are some patient ledgers, currently in the custody of a Lewiston museum.
                                                                                 
Reference: [Defen], [Hawley]
Bob Weatherly, "White Hospital was Big Part of Early Lewiston," Lewiston Tribune (Oct 23, 1992). [Note: Article copy furnished by Tribune Managing Editor Paul Emerson.]

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Educator, Newspaperman, and Rexburg Patriarch Arthur Porter, Jr. [otd 04/20]

Arthur Porter, Jr. as a young man.
Porter family records.
Arthur Porter, Jr. – college professor, businessman, public servant, and religious leader – was born April 20, 1876 in Auckland, New Zealand. Mormon converts, the family moved to Utah in 1885.

Arthur, Jr. grew up there and went on to school at Brigham Young College in Logan. After earning his B.S. degree in 1896, he served as a missionary in Switzerland. While there, he took classes at the University of Geneva.

Even a minimal summary of Porter's multiple careers describes a life of incredible activity and achievement. He first taught in Utah and then in Preston, Idaho. However, in 1902, he began his long association with Rexburg and what is today Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYU-Idaho). At what was then Ricks Academy, he started out teaching mathematics and geography, as well as vocal music.

Starting with the 1905 school year, Porter was assigned to teach science classes: physics, chemistry, physiology, geology, and botany. Five years later, he added geometry and German to his teaching load. However, after one year of that, he was allowed to teach just German. Before his resignation from the full-time faculty over a decade later, in 1916, he also taught theology.

Off and on for another dozen years he taught there part-time. That included the period when the Academy became Ricks Normal College (in 1918) and then just Ricks College five years later. During this period, the school weathered a storm when the church closed many academies as a cost-cutting measure. Because it offered a wide range of college-level classes, Ricks escaped the axe. Porter was among those who argued for the school’s continuance. He would be heavily involved in the non-teaching affairs of the College for many, many years.

Arthur got his introduction to the newspaper business during his brief sojourn in Preston. He was a partner in running the Preston Standard. Porter sold his interest when he moved his family to Rexburg. Then, in 1908, he purchased a Rexburg newspaper that he would continue to publish for over forty years. Porter also owned farm property and engaged in extensive real estate activities. For a time, one of his companies owned a Rexburg hotel.
Arthur Porter with grandchildren, ca. 1947. Porter family records.

Porter's sense of civic duty led him into public service. Over the next half century he would: lead innumerable county and city committees and associations, serve six years on the Rexburg city council then later six years as mayor, serve two terms in the state House of Representatives, and end with four years as county Superintendent of Schools. He closed his public career only after a failed bid for a state Senate seat in 1954, when he was seventy-eight years old.

As if all that weren't enough, Porter remained very active in the LDS church for most of his life, as: missionary, Sunday school superintendent, stake Counselor, LDS hospital board member, and frequent and long-term committee member or leader.

Arhur Porter, Jr. died at the end of 1967. Rexburg's Porter Park is named in his honor, as well as the Arthur Porter Room (Special Collections) at BYU-Idaho.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
David L. Crowder, Arthur Porter Jr., Community Builder, Man of Vision, Arnold Press, Rexburg, Idaho (© David L. Crowder, 1986).
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks: A History of Ricks College, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).
John Powell (ed), "Arthur Porter, Jr. Papers," Arthur Porter Special Collections, Brigham Young University - Idaho, Rexburg (2003)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Grand Opening for Exotic and Modern Egyptian Theater [otd 04/19]

On April 19, 1927, crowds began to gather outside the brand new Egyptian Theater at least an hour before it was supposed to open, at 7:00 pm. Boise's first movie "palace" had created an expectant buzz in the city.
Egyptian Theater, ca. 1928*. City of Boise.

Of the five other movie houses in town, the Pinney Theater was the largest and fanciest. Former Boise mayor James Pinney [blog, Sept 29], a theater enthusiast, opened the Pinney in late 1908. Designed initially for stage plays, within a decade movie productions predominated.

As the grande damme of downtown venues, the Pinney got preference for the prestigious first-run movies. For example, the theater offered the first exclusive, limited engagement in Boise of The Birth of a Nation (Idaho Statesman, April 10, 1916). This highly controversial, but wildly popular movie by D. W. Griffith is considered historically important as the first true “feature” film.

However, the "Roaring Twenties" were in full swing, and moviegoers craved something modern for a venue. To some, the Pinney seemed stodgy and old-fashioned. The other four theaters in town were smaller and generally conventional in design. Boiseans were ready for the exotic.

Sensing an opportunity, a year earlier three Boise businessmen – Leo J. Falk, Harry K. Fritchman and Charles M. Kahn – incorporated a company to satisfy that desire. Two of them were especially well known to locals. Boise City was just five year old when Nathan Falk, Leo's father, opened a store there. Born in Boise in 1882, Leo ended up directing the extensive family holdings after his father died in 1903.

Fifteen years older than Leo, Fritchman was already a successful businessman when he relocated to Boise. He continued that success in Idaho, and served as Boise Mayor in 1911. Kahn moved to Boise from Portland in 1899 and established a thriving law practice. Prominent in the local Jewish community, Kahn served a term as City Attorney starting in April 1907.
Interior d├ęcor, Egyptian Theater. Theater photo gallery.
The partners contracted with the well-known architectural firm of Tourtellotte & Hummel to design a spectacular venue. At the time, "Egyptian" motifs were all the rage, so the designer offered his interpretation.

After almost a year of work, the doors finally opened on the 19th of April. Patrons found themselves in a bright lobby, tiled nearer the doors but with lush carpeting further in. Water fountains burbled somewhere. The walls looked like cut stone, with frescos embellished in bright blues, reds and greens.

Warner Bros. publicity poster.
The Egyptian opened with the movie Don Juan, starring the hugely popular John Barrymore. The release gave Boise theatergoers something else new: The first feature film with prerecorded – via the "Vitaphone" – sound effects and music (no dialog).

Today, the Egyptian is the only theater that has survived from that era. It went through several names in its history, before returning to the original. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. At considerable cost, a recent restoration addressed various building code issues while retaining the historic decor.

* The photograph was identified as "undated," but the marquee says: "Monte Blue in Across the Pacific." That silent film was released in 1926, so this showing would have almost certainly been in 1927 or 1928.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
Arthur Hart, "Idaho history: [Boise Movie Theaters]," Idaho Statesman (September 13 and 20, 2009).
"Don Juan," The Internet Movie Database.
"Across the Pacific," The Internet Movie Database.
Sue Paseman, "The Mysterious East Meets the Pragmatic West," Historical Essay, Boise State University (Dec 2004).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rancher, Horse Breeder, and Sheriff Sam F. Taylor [otd 04/18]

Samuel F. "Sam" Taylor was born April 18, 1848 in Kentucky. Like his cousin, James Madison “Matt” Taylor [blog Dec 10], Sam traced his lineage back to Englishman James Taylor, who emigrated to Virginia in 1635. James Taylor’s descendants included two U. S. Presidents: James Madison and Zachary Taylor (second cousins to Sam and Matt). Sam’s family moved to Lafayette County, Missouri when he was a year old.
Making hay, the old way. Library of Congress.

In 1870, Sam finished a college degree in Kentucky and then joined cousin Matt in Eagle Rock (today's Idaho Falls). The town grew up around Matt's toll bridge and Sam helped with a hay contract for the stage line.

In a letter written many years later, Sam said, “There was nothing there then but Matt Taylor’s family and what help they had around, and men that worked for the stage line; … There was no farming done, no tame hay, no stock in the country; lots of good grass and we just had to cut the wild grass wherever it could be found. I had four four-horse teams and ten men; lots of this hay had to be hauled twenty-five miles, and we were all summer until frost filling the contract.”

After completing the order, Sam and his brother Ike trailed cattle into the area from Missouri, first for Matt's ranch, and then for one of their own. They were among the first to import thoroughbred stock to help upgrade the Territory's herds. According to local historian Barzilla Clark, "These Taylor brothers originated the SI stock brand, the first brand used in this valley, and well known for many years thereafter."

Besides his ranch, Sam also ran a livery stable, partnered in a meat market, and twice served as county sheriff. He was a member of the first school board organized in Eagle Rock, and President of the first county fair in 1887. Right after that, Sam served a term in the last Territorial legislature and was a member of the constitutional convention that led to Idaho statehood.

The livery business moved Sam into breeding top-grade trotting horses. He bred many fine horses and one went on to excel in Eastern races. A New York Times headline for July 27, 1894 read "Ryland T. Surprises the Talent in the Races on the Grand Circuit."
Bay trotter, Currier & Ives image, ca. 1883. Library of Congress.

The article noted that "the talent" – racing aficionados – had never seen that much speed from the bay gelding, which was "bred in Idaho" and carried the "SI" brand. But this time out the horse had "stepped ... the best mile that has been trotted this year and the fastest one even seen at Cleveland."

Later, Sam moved his family to a ranch near Mackay. While he lived there, Custer County voters elected him to a term in the state House of Representatives.

In 1911, Sam moved to Ontario, Oregon (a few miles south of Payette, Idaho), partly for his wife’s health, and to be near their married daughter. Sam returned regularly to Idaho Falls on business for five or six years after that. The change certainly helped his wife’s health, for she lived until 1928. Sam passed away there in 1935.
                                                                                 
References: [Illust-State]
Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County in the Making, Self-published, Idaho Falls, Idaho (1941).
"Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884-1934," Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
"A New Trotting Champion," The New York Times (July 27, 1894).