Monday, September 25, 2017

Attorney General Roy Black, "Lady Bluebeard" Prosecutor [otd 9/25]

Attorney Roy Black.
J. H. Hawley photo
Idaho Attorney General Roy L. Black was born September 25, 1878 in Lagrange County, Indiana, about forty miles east of South Bend. He became a teacher at an early age and continued for a number of years in the county schools near his parent’s home. After some advanced study at Valparaiso University and an institute in Michigan, he entered the University of Michigan Law School.

Roy drove a stagecoach in Yellowstone National Park during one summer while he was at the University. He graduated with an LL.B. in 1907, having served as Associate Editor of the Michigan Law Review during his junior year. Soon after graduation, Black formed a partnership with Nicodemus D. Wernette, a Law School classmate, and they moved to Coeur d'Alene.

Earlier that year, Kootenai County had been drastically reduced in size by the creation of Bonner County. Coeur d'Alene became the county seat of this smaller Kootenai County in 1908.

The firm of Black & Wernette operated successfully for over a decade, even as the partners also found positions in public service. In 1909, Black was elected to a two-year term as City Attorney for Coeur d'Alene. The following year, Wernette was elected Prosecuting Attorney for Kootenai County, and Black was elected to a term in the Idaho House of Representatives. There, leaders made him chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

During his term, Roy sponsored an act known as the “Black Law,” which allowed cities of over 2,500 population to adopt a commission form of government. The Black Law generated a great deal of controversy, especially when advocates applied it to Boise, which operated under a special Charter. Still, in a close election (52-48%), voters did overturn the Charter.

In 1918, the Republican Party nominated Black as their candidate for Attorney General and he won easily. He was also elected for a second term.

The most famous case of Black's period as Attorney General involved the trial of serial killer Lyda Southard, variously known as “Idaho’s Lady Bluebeard,” “Flypaper Lyda,” Lyda Trueblood (her birth name), or any of her numerous married names.
Lyda [Southard etc]. Associated Press.

Lyda’s family had moved to Twin Falls in 1906. There, in 1912, she married Robert Dooley, who died three years later. Forensic evidence eventually showed, with varying degrees of certainty, that he, his brother, a daughter, and three husbands that followed, all died from arsenic poisoning – apparently extracted from many, many sheets of flypaper.

Paul Southard, her husband at the time of the trial, escaped that fate, as did two later spouses. Showing arsenic as the means, life insurance payoffs as the motive, and (sometimes) apple pie as the opportunity, Roy and the team of prosecutors convicted Lyda for the murder of her fourth husband.

In 1923, after his final term as Attorney General, Black moved to Pocatello. There, he became heavily involved in legal issues associated with reclamation and irrigation enterprises. He played a role in the American Falls Dam Project. Besides his thriving law practice, he also served as Chairman of the Pocatello school board in 1929, and was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce.

Roy passed away in August 1970. In honor of his long association with the Pocatello Elks Lodge, the Exalted Ruler conducted his funeral.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Blue], [French], [Hawley]
William C. Anderson, Lady Bluebeard: The True Story of Love and Marriage, Death and Flypaper, Fred Pruett Books (1994).
“Roy L. Black – Longtime Pocatello Attorney Dies,” Idaho State Journal, Pocatello, Idaho (August 16, 1970).
“‘Flypaper Lyda’ and Her Special Apple Pie,” Newsletter, Idaho Legal Historical Society, Boise Idaho (January 2010).

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cattleman Con Shea Drives Texas Longhorns to Owyhee Ranches [otd 9/24]

On September 24, 1870, the Owyhee Avalanche (Silver City, Idaho) published the following item: “From Texas – Con Shea, one of Owyhee's most adventurous and enterprising citizens, just got back from Texas. He and Tom Bugbee left here in March last, since that time they have purchased in Texas, and driven to within one hundred miles of Denver City, some 1300 head of cattle. Bugbee remains with the stock, which will winter on the waters of the Arkansas river. Grass is very short along the route, which accounts for their not coming on this season.”
Longhorns on the move.
International Texas Longhorn Association.

Originally from Canada, Cornelius “Con” Shea arrived in Idaho in the spring of 1864. He worked as a miner and then teamster for awhile, but by 1867 had established himself as a cattleman. The following year, a well-off rancher bankrolled him to go to Texas and bring back a herd of longhorns. (Texas had a “glut” of cattle, and prices were low.)

Con started east, but at Raft River ran into a drive already on its way from Texas. The owners agreed to sell him the herd. Con drove the cattle to range along Sinker and Catherine creeks (southeast of today’s Murphy). These are believed to be the first Texas cattle brought into the “Owyhee Country” of southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon.

The following year, Con and some other cattlemen bought longhorns along the Brazos River in Texas and drove them to Idaho. As noted by the lead newspaper item above, Con repeated the process in 1870. Many of these cattle went, as needed, from the range to meat markets in the Owyhee mining camps. But ranchers like Shea also began to build up their breeding stock.

In 1874, Con moved his herds to grazing land that straddled the Oregon border, about 15 miles northwest of Silver City. He and a brother also ran a meat market in a mining camp that flourished near Silver City from 1871 to about 1876. Con and two of his brothers took part in the Battle of South Mountain during the Bannock War of 1878 [blog, June 8]. For the next twenty years, Shea played a major role in the Owyhee Country cattle business. He left his name on Idaho’s Con Shea Basin and on Sheaville, Oregon.
Con Shea, ca 1898.
Savings Bank of Santa Rosa.

Around 1883, Shea purchased a winter home in Santa Rosa, California. After that, he “commuted” to Idaho and Oregon to oversee his ranch and business properties. Local newspapers usually referred to his town visits with the lead: “Con Shea of Cow Creek ...” (Cow Creek rises about ten miles northwest of Silver City.)

After the Oregon Short Line laid tracks across Idaho, Shea began selling cattle to the Eastern markets. Thus, the Owyhee Avalanche in Silver City, Idaho, reported (July 4, 1885) that Shea had sold a consignment to a company in Chicago. The item said he was about to “turn over 1500 or 2000 head to the agent of the firm at Caldwell.”

Around 1897, Shea disposed of his Idaho and Oregon ranch holdings and moved permanently to Santa Rosa. There, he had invested in land and other real estate, and served as Director of the Savings Bank of Santa Rosa. After the 1906 Bay Area earthquake, a Santa Rosa newspaper lauded the fact that Shea intended to rebuild his commercial properties using reinforced concrete.

Con passed away in May 1926.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-State]
Mildretta Adams, Owyhee Cattlemen, 1878 – 1978, Owyhee Publishing Co., Homedale, Idaho (1979).
Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).
“Savings Bank of Santa Rosa,” Sonoma County Homes and Industries, Reynolds & Proctor Publishing, Santa Rosa, California (1898).
“Solid Block of Concrete: Santa Rosa Will Have Substantial Structure,” Santa Rosa Republican (July 16, 1906).  

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lewis & Clark Return to St. Louis, First Train Arrives in Moscow [otd 9/23]

On September 23, 1806, Sergeant John Ordway wrote in his journal, “About 12 oClock we arived in site of St. Louis. Fired three rounds as we approached the Town and landed oppocit the center of the Town, the people gathred on the shore and Huzzared three cheers.”

Portraits of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis.
Independence National Historical Park, National Park Service.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition had been gone from St. Louis just about 28 months. Their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase territory, and beyond, was a monumental achievement, which need no further elaboration here. Still, there are two points worth mentioning, one striking an ironic note.

Just over a month earlier, the captains granted Private John Colter an early discharge from the Army so he could accompany two American hunters who were heading into the Rockies. Before he left the mountains for good in 1810, Colter trapped and explored southern Montana, northern Wyoming, and eastern Idaho. He was the first white man to traverse what later became known first as Pierre’s Hole, and is today the Teton Valley of Idaho [blog, Aug 17].

The irony lay in the presence of the two hunters, Joseph Dickson and Forest Hancock from Illinois: The government venture wouldn’t report officially for another six weeks or so, yet already daring and ambitious Americans were moving to explore the wild new territory. My favorite account of the Expedition is Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (Simon & Shuster, New York, 1996).

Another OTD item appears in Hawley’s History: “In 1883 right of way was obtained for a branch between Moscow, Idaho, and Winona, Washington. Wednesday, September 23, 1885, was a red-letter day in Moscow's calendar, as on that day the first train arrived in that city. Salutes were fired, speeches made, and the celebration closed with a grand ball in the evening, at which several of the officials of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company were present.”

Scattered settlers entered Paradise Valley around 1871. The area grew very slowly at first, but by a concerted effort, locals obtained a post office in 1872. By 1877, the post office had a new name -- Moscow -- and a new location a mile or so away. However, the town was just another small, isolated farm and ranch town until the railroad arrived.

Anticipating the arrival, the Portland Oregonian said (September 23, 1885), “Before dark tonight the track of the Oregon Railway & Navigation extension will have reached Moscow, Idaho.” The item noted that workers had completed the construction a week sooner then expected. It went on, “To-morrow the company will begin bringing wheat out of Moscow, and freight destined for that point will be received as soon as facilities can be provided for handling it, which will be about the last of this week.”

President Gault.
UI Archives.
As expected, the local economy surged. In describing the period before the national “Panic of '93,” the Illustrated History declared, “Moscow reached the high water mark of prosperity. Everybody made money and everyone had money, and the volume of business transacted here was enormous.”

In 1889, the legislature selected Moscow as the site for the land-grant University of Idaho, and facility construction began in 1891 [blog, Oct 3]. The school soon hired President Franklin B. Gault to replace an unpaid head.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
Rafe Gibbs, Beacon for Mountain and Plain: Story of the University of Idaho, The Caxton Printers (© The Regents of the University of Idaho, 1962).
Burton Harris, John Colter: His Years in the Rockies, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1993).
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Gary E. Moulton (Ed.), The Definitive Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (2002).

Friday, September 22, 2017

Opening Day for the Academy of Idaho (Now Idaho State University) Classes [otd 9/22]

On Monday September 22, 1902, the Academy of Idaho – precursor to today’s Idaho State University – celebrated its first opening exercise. Ironically, the people of Pocatello wanted the Academy so badly, it almost didn’t get off the ground.
Pocatello, ca 1895. Bannock County Historical Society.

Pocatello was incorporated in 1889. As a major railroad junction, it grew explosively, topping 4,000 citizens by the 1900 census. After hard lobbying by locals, the governor signed a bill, in March 1901, that authorized the creation of the Academy [blog, Mar 11]. The institution would provide college prep and “industrial” (vo-tech) courses. However, the Act allocated no money to buy land for the school; that was up to the people of Pocatello. The bill set a deadline of May 1st for a site decision.

The subsequent dispute almost killed the Academy before it started. The city split mainly over whether the school should be east or west of the railroad tracks and yards. However, even within those factions, splinter groups formed to push specific sites. The wrangling continued for over six weeks. By April 30, the day before the legal deadline, they had reached an impasse. The Pocatello Tribune reported, “The Board then took a recess and a lot of people went out on the streets and swore.”

Finally, “under the gun,” they settled on what is now the lower part of the ISU campus. Forty students showed up for those first classes in 1902. By the end of the decade, school enrollment would reach nearly 300. In 1906, the Academy’s first Principal, John W. Faris, wrote, “The Academy has demonstrated beyond the question of a doubt that it fills a most important place in the educational system of Idaho.”
Academy, ca. 1914. H. T. French.

School administrators moved aggressively, adding three city blocks to the campus in 1910 and expanding the school’s offerings: night classes for adult education, winter short courses, and summer sessions. Even that early, they had aspirations to attain full four-year status. The only immediate result of their lobbying was a name change – to “Idaho Technical Institute” (ITI) – in 1915.

Recovering from a severe downturn during World War I, the school’s enrollment topped a thousand by 1920. Locals continued to push for four-year status. Finally fed up, the 1927 legislature took drastic action: They made ITI a subordinate division of the University. For the next twenty years, the Pocatello school would be the “Southern Branch of the University of Idaho.”

World War II crushed enrollment again, but afterwards about a thousand veterans attending under the G.I. Bill increased the student body to over 1,800 students. Thus, in 1947, the school became Idaho State College, an independent, four-year institution. Curriculum expansion became a major priority, and the school attained University status in 1963.

Since then the school has grown steadily. That included the addition of a major “College of Health-Related Professions” and a nearby Research and Business Park. The Park began with a large Technology Center that provided space for business start-ups and science-related spin-offs. It now contains a half-dozen substantial facilities, private and public.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley]
Merrill D. Beal, History of Idaho State College, Idaho State College (1952).
Diane Olson, Idaho State University: A Centennial Chronicle, Idaho State University (2000).

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Judge" William Clagett: Mining Investor, Lawyer, and "Silver Tongued" Orator [otd 9/21]

Judge William Horace Clagett was born September 21, 1838 in Prince Georges County, Maryland, which wraps around the east side of Washington, D. C. In 1850, the family moved to Iowa. After high school, William studied at the Albany Law School in New York.

Mark Twain, 1867.
Library of Congress.
In 1861, Clagett moved to Nevada and began a life-long passion for prospecting and mining investments. On one “stampede” to Humboldt County, he was in a party with the later celebrated Samuel Clements (Mark Twain). When Twain’s book Roughing It was published in 1872, it contained the passage, “Young Clagett (now member of Congress from Montana) unharnessed and fed and watered the horses … ”

William also went into Nevada politics, serving in the Territorial and then State House of Representatives. There, he became known as an outstanding speaker, soon earning praise as “the silver tongued orator of the west.”

He then practiced law, served in political offices, and invested in mining properties in Montana and Dakota Territories, as well as around Denver. In 1871-1873, he served Montana Territory as Delegate to Congress. (Delegates have no vote on the floor, but can serve on committees and vote on issues at that level.) While there, he introduced the bill that would eventually result in the creation of Yellowstone National Park.

In 1873-1874, he held an appointment as a U. S. Special Counsel to investigate possible fraud in the Office of Indian Affairs for Montana. However, he failed to accomplish much in that position. Newspaper reports of the day suggest that backroom politics thwarted his most diligent efforts.

Clagett practiced law in several mountain west towns, including Denver and Deadwood, Dakota Territory, before gold and silver discoveries in the Coeur d’Alene region brought him to Idaho in 1883. According to the Illustrated History of North Idaho, “Mr. Clagett’s cabin was the first one put up in Murray.” [Blog, Murray, March 5.]

When residents of Idaho Territory convened their Constitutional Convention in 1889, delegates selected Clagett as Convention President. After that, newspaper reports from the convention began referring to “Judge” Clagett, an honorary title he carried for the rest of his life. (There is no record that he served any regular judgeship.)

After Idaho achieved statehood, Clagett became involved in a nasty political dispute with regard to the new state’s first Senatorial seats. Voting together (technically a violation of the legally mandated procedure) the state House and Senate elected Fred T. Dubois to a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

Judge Clagett. Library of Congress.
Opponents challenged this process on that and other technical grounds, and a subsequent election designated Clagett to fill the seat. Clagett supported his case in a speech before the entire U. S. Senate. Observers rated his oration as being remarkably eloquent and effective, and the hopeful Senator-elect emerged very confident of success. However, Senators found the technicalities insufficient to unseat Dubois.

Clagett ran again when the other Senatorial seat came up for a vote, but lost. The Illustrated History said, “Friends and foes alike unite in believing he was too uncompromising to succeed in politics.”

After his election disappointments, Clagett moved to Spokane to enjoy its more civilized amenities. (Such a move was common practice for well-off pioneers from the Coeur d’Alene mining districts.) He died there in August 1901.
                                                                                                        
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
“Clagett is Very Hopeful,” The New York Times (May 23, 1891).
“William H. Clagett,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
“Old Friends of the Late Judge Clagett Speak … ,” The Standard, Anaconda, Montana (August 11, 1901).

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Businessman, Public Servant, and Local Sports Legend Wes Deist [otd 9/20]

Wes Deist, 1960. Family photo.
Sportsman and business leader Wesley W. “Wes” Deist was born September 20, 1923, in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. A committed Roman Catholic, after high school Deist entered Gonzaga University. There, he became “a standout back” on their freshman football team. However, the University dropped football after the 1941 season, so Wes transferred to the University of Idaho.

Deist lettered in football for the 1942-1943 season, but at some point he enlisted for World War II. Wes served as a member of the Navy’s Amphibious Raider* force. For that duty, he received special training at Northwestern University and at Notre Dame University.

At Notre Dame, he was identified as a “Marine V-12, of Bonners Ferry, Idaho” … “V-12” being an officer training program for the U. S. Navy and Marines. Asked by the student newspaper to predict when the war would end, Deist said, “Fall of 1944. I don’t believe the countries that we are fighting can keep up their production of war materials to satisfy their needs … ”

Despite his training schedule, Deist found time to get married in Florida, in November 1944. His unit then served in China and India.†

After the War, Wes completed his education and settled down. He moved his family to Idaho Falls in the early Fifties and began teaching people to ski. He taught and coached at Kelly Canyon Ski Resort (22-24 miles northeast of Idaho Falls) from its founding in 1957 until about 2006, when he was over 80 years old.

Wes owned a downtown sporting goods store for a number of years and then “managed eastern Idaho’s largest sports store at the time” on Shoup Avenue. Later he opened an insurance agency, which was still in operation at the time of his death. Through all that, he found time for golf, bird hunting, and other sports activities.

Besides his business duties and various avocations, Wes served three terms on the Idaho Falls City Council. He was instrumental in establishing the city’s Greenbelt along the Snake River, and the spacious Community Park in the southern part of town.

While he was on the Council, Wes was the designated watchdog over an expansion of the Idaho Falls Municipal Airport. He also sparked local interest in an indoor swimming facility, which eventually came into being as the Idaho Falls Aquatic Center – later renamed the Wes Deist Aquatic Center.

Deist passed away in January, 2008.

* Stories about Wes often say he was a Navy SEAL – SEa, Air and Land force. However, those units were not created until much later. Still, Navy SEALs trace their lineage back to a number of Special Operations units formed during the War, including the Amphibious Raiders. Training for amphibious Special Ops members was extraordinarily demanding, and they performed incredibly dangerous missions on hostile beaches.

UDT quartet, WW-II – masks, fins, and guts. U.S. Navy photo.
Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) – “Frogmen” – are perhaps the most famous of these early amphibious Special Ops units. However, Hollywood notwithstanding, scenes showing divers using SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) during WW-II are not accurate – the Navy had no such equipment at that time.

† Known operations of the China-India Raiders involved a survey of the Yangtze River during the spring of 1945. They then reconnoitered the enemy-occupied Chinese coast from Shanghai to near Hong Kong.
                                                                                                                                     
References: J. Robb Brady, “Deist’s Half-Century of Service” The Post Register, Idaho Falls (January 2008).
“Introduction to Naval Special Warfare,” U. S. Navy SEALS, Official Web Site.
“Student Opinion … ,” The Notre Dame Scholastic, Vol. 80, No. 3, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana (December 3, 1943)..
“Vandals Get Gonzaga Star,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah (September 24, 1942).
“Wesley Walter Deist - Obituary,” The Post Register, Idaho Falls (January 2008).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gold Prospector Julius Merrill Reaches Boise City by Wagon Train [otd 9/19]

Julius Merrill. Merrill family archives.
On September 19, 1864, gold-seeker Julius Merrill wrote in his journal, “We hitched up and turned our faces toward Boise City.” They camped about four miles downriver from the city.

Born in Maine, Julius Caesar Merrill turned 24 early on the trip west. He traveled with a rather ad hoc band of gold-seekers: “At Oak Creek I was joined by Charles Carey, Henry and Stephen J. Durbin. We were to furnish and fit out a team in company. Two of them I had seen but once and was little acquainted with the other. They were bound for Idaho and that was deemed sufficient."

Oak Creek is a town about 10 miles south of Milwaukee. From there they boarded a railroad train to St. Joseph, Missouri. That evening their cars tumbled off the poorly-built track. Fortunately, “No one was hurt. We lay there until daylight, which gave us a good opportunity to sleep, which we needed.”

They purchased an outfit in “St. Jo” and left on May 23rd. The wagon train crossed the (future) Idaho border on August 17, just eleven days after the Elizabeth (Lee) Porter party [blog, Sept 3].

Throughout the trip, Merrill’s comments included more specific details than Porter’s. Toward the west end of Camas Prairie (near today’s Fairfield), Porter wrote, “Came about ten miles, another spring run. Looks like rain. Hope it will. Came about eight miles. Lots of people stopping here putting up hay. Gold and silver mines handy. Rolling.”

Merrill said, “The road is splendid but dusty and quite windy. We pass several dry creeks with the willows yet green but could find no water. Splendid feed at noon but no water. At night we camped beside a creek, and I succeeded in shooting two sage hens.
“Here we found some men from California, with sheep which they were fattening and selling occasionally to some emigrants who were so fortunate as to have money enough to purchase. The real market was South Boise, thirty miles distant. There were said to be some hot springs nearby, but I did not have time to visit them.”

“South Boise,” soon to be renamed Rocky Bar, was the latest Boise Basin boom town.
Blacksmith Working on a Horseshoe.
Library of Congress.

The Merrill party broke up within a few days after the 19th. Charles Carey, a master blacksmith, stayed in the city, having learned that his trade was in great demand. In less than three years, he had returned to the Midwest to buy land.

The two Durbin brothers found employment in Idaho City, at first working for wages on a ditch project. The younger man, Stephen, made enough to buy land and settle in Idaho.

Merrill stayed in Boise City long enough to advantageously sell their wagon and stock, then followed the Durbins to Idaho City. His journal gives no details about their work in the mines, but Julius was in Iowa with a stake in gold by mid-1867.

There, he bought some excellent farm land, and settled down to marry and raise a family. Julius lived there until his death in February 1912.
                                                                                                                                     
References: Julius Merrill, Irving R. Merrill (ed.), Bound for Idaho: The 1864 Trail Journal of Julius Merrill, University of Idaho Press, Moscow (1989).
Elizabeth Lee Porter, “Iowa to Oregon, 1864,” Covered Wagon Women, Vol. 5, Kenneth L. Homes, David C. Duniway (eds.), University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1997).
John D. Unruh, Jr, The Plains Across, University of Illinois Press, Urbana (1979).