Sunday, January 21, 2018

Visionary Developer Benjamin Shawhan and New Plymouth [otd 01/21]

Benjamin P. Shawhan, cofounder of the town of New Plymouth, Idaho, was born January 21, 1862, in Keokuk County, Iowa, about thirty miles southwest of Iowa City.
East Hall, Morgan Park Military Academy. Chicago in Postcards.

He graduated from the Morgan Park Military Academy (a prep school) in Chicago, read law for a year, and then attended Beloit College in Wisconsin.

He then went to Kansas and became a partner with his father in an implement business. After a year of that, he helped found a new bank in Clay County, Kansas, 50-60 miles west of Topeka. He continued in the banking business until about 1889, when he and his new wife moved to New York City.

After three years at a big mortgage bank, Benjamin’s health deteriorated, so they relocated to the Payette, Idaho area. There, he became interested in the prospects for irrigated agriculture. Right away, Shawhan promoted and managed a major irrigation project for the Payette Valley Irrigation Company.

The canal diverted flow from the Payette River at a point above Emmett. Following first along the base of the ridge to the south, the canal eventually clung to the bench, with a height above the river valley increasing from 25-30 feet to over fifty. All told, the main canal twisted through around forty miles of cuts and fills.

The Company then needed to induce settlers to take up land to furnish customers for the water system. To accomplish this, Shawhan teamed up with irrigation advocate William E. Smythe. Smythe had become an exponent of irrigated agriculture after observing, first hand, the devastation caused by a Nebraska drought. He spearheaded the design of a planned town, to be called New Plymouth.
New Plymouth, today. Google Map satellite view.

The town was founded on cooperative principles, with an absolute prohibition of alcohol sales. The layout consisted of a huge horseshoe, with individual farm and home plots as well as commonly-held ground for parks and public buildings.

Colonists completed much of the early construction work during the winter of 1895-96. Besides grading nearly ten miles of streets, they also planted thousands of shade trees. Shawhan provided irrigation water for the plots, and the firm was soon renamed the Co-operative Irrigation Company.

In 1898, Shawhan was selected as the “Idaho Vice President” by the Board of Directors of the “Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition” to be held in Omaha that summer. He was then made an ex-officio member of the Commission appointed by the Idaho Governor (Idaho Statesman, January 28, 1898) to plan an exhibit for the fair.

The History of the fair praised the Idaho contributions: “The fruit display in the Horticultural building was one of the best, while the exhibit of grain, wool and grasses in the Agricultural building attracted much attention.”

In 1909, voters elected Shawhan to the first of two consecutive terms in the Idaho state Senate. During his time there, the state authorized a commission to plan Idaho’s participation in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle [blog, Mar 29], and provided funds for a school for the deaf, dumb and blind in Gooding. It also passed a direct-primary election law to replace party selection conventions.

After retiring from the legislature, Shawhan moved on to other irrigation projects. He also retained much land under cultivation in the Payette River valley. During the 1920s, he took part in several agricultural extension service field trials. Shawhan passed way in September 1937.
References: [B&W], [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
James B. Haynes, History of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898, The Committee on History, Exposition Board, Omaha, Nebraska (1910).
Ronald T. Shawhan, “The Descendants of Daniel Shawhan III,” The History and Genealogy of the Shawhan and Related Families, Volume I, (2000).

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Mining Investor, Attorney, and Boise County Prosecutor Harry Fisher [otd 01/20]

Attorney Fisher. H. T. French photo.
Attorney Harry Leroy Fisher was born January 20, 1873, on a farm in Daviess County, Missouri, 40-60 miles east of St. Joseph’s. He taught school there and also for a time in Ada County after coming to Idaho in 1891. Fisher then spent a year or two prospecting around the Boise Basin. From time to time, he also worked as a farm laborer.

For some years, along with his other jobs, Harry read law in private law offices in Missouri as well as Idaho. Then, in 1894, he enrolled at the Stanford University law school. Two years later, he returned to Idaho and was admitted to the bar.

Harry also kept his interest in mining. The Idaho Statesman reported (December 19, 1901) that he had leased a lode mine northeast of Idaho City. The article went on, “Mr. Fisher will drift on the hanging wall of the north ledge and hopes, when he gets opposite the big shot in the south ledge, to strike rich ore.”

Three year before, he had started a practice in Idaho City, the county seat of Boise County. He did well enough there that he was elected Boise County Prosecutor in 1902 and again in 1904. Near the end of his first term, the Idaho World newspaper praised Fisher’s skill and attention to detail. “As a result,” the article said, “there has not been one case dismissed because of irregularities and informalities in the papers.”Along with the Prosecutor's office, Fisher also ran for a position on the Idaho City Board of Trustees. During the election, such was his local renown that he won by a 3-to-1 margin.

Reporting on one sensational murder case he prosecuted, the Idaho World said, “The way he has carried this case all through entitles him to great credit and the hearty congratulations of every good citizen in the county.” His performance was considered even more remarkable because he was pitted against the “experienced and able” James H. Hawley [blog, Jan 17].

In 1907, Fisher moved to Boise, where he would live for the rest of his life. Although he never again held public office, he did occasionally work as a special assistant. For example, the Idaho Statesman reported (October 30, 1913) on an assault trial in which “Robert M. McCraken and Harry L. Fisher, as special prosecutors, represent the state.”

In 1922, Fisher successfully pleaded cases before the Idaho Supreme Court, including one for damage inflicted on his client’s crops by stock that invaded his land from a neighboring sheep company. Fisher won, and the court required the sheep company to pay for the full amount of the farmer’s losses as well as all court costs.
Superior, Montana, ca 1930. Vintage postcard.

Besides his active legal practice, he still invested widely in irrigation and mining ventures. Thus, a Spokane newspaper, the Spokesman Review, reported (Feb 26, 1933) that the Board of Directors “of the Oregon Creek Mining company was reelected at the annual meeting in Boise, Idaho, last Tuesday. Its members are Harry L Fisher … ”

Fisher was the President of the company. Three months later (May 21, 1933), the Spokesman Review headlined, “$700 Gold dug in Six Hours.” This nice return came from a Oregon Creek holding south of Superior, Montana … about forty miles northwest of Missoula and near the Idaho border.  Fisher passed away in March 1940.  
References: [French], [Hawley]
I. W. Hart, ex officio reporter, “John B. Kellar vs Hugh Sproat and The McMillan Sheep Company,” Reports of cases argued and determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho, Vol. 35, Bancroft-Whitney Company, San Francisco (1922).

Friday, January 19, 2018

Teacher, Rancher, and Nez Perce County Commissioner Charles Leeper [otd 01/19]

Charles Leeper.
Illustrated History photo.
Nez Perce County pioneer Charles A. Leeper was born January 19, 1850, in Marion County, Indiana, on the outskirts of Indianapolis. Some time before 1870, the family moved to northwest Missouri, where the father ran a farm and served as a low-level judge. Charles spent some time at the University of Missouri, in Columbia.

Leeper came out to Idaho in 1876. He apparently looked over a number of areas around the Territory. He then settled in Salmon, where he found a job as a schoolteacher. A fast learner of Western ways, Charles also served as a scout during the Indian wars in 1877 and 1878.

With the Indian threat suppressed, gold camps in central Idaho boomed. Among those was Bonanza, located deep in the mountains about 25 miles west and a bit south of Challis. The hamlet had been platted in 1877, but hardly grew until 1879. Leeper followed the rush into the town and taught school there. On the side, he may have also grubstaked prospectors to build up a stake. (Teachers’ salaries were notoriously poor, and sometimes problematic in payment.)

Somehow, anyway, Leeper prospered: In 1883, he moved to north Idaho and bought a 320-acre ranch located about five miles southeast of Lewiston. At that time, prospectors were pouring into the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, chasing the gold that had been discovered there in 1882 [blog, March 5]. Locals also talked enthusiastically about the railroad reaching Lewiston … soon. (Their optimism was unwarranted, however.)

Charles combined stock raising and farming, growing grain to fatten his herds of cattle. Eventually, according to the Illustrated History, he would own “more cattle than any other one man in Nez Perces County.”

Leeper also took an active interest in politics. Voters handily elected him to the county commission in 1886. Two years later, Charles seemed to have won election to the Territorial Council. However, at that time, Nez Perce and Latah counties were paired administratively, and Leeper lost the subsequent court battle as to who had won the combined election. He was again elected to the Nez Perce County Commission in 1892, and for a third term in 1900. During his final term, Leeper chaired the Commission.
Cattle Grazing. Library of Congress.

Also in 1900, pioneers organized the Nez Perces County Pioneer Association, open to individuals who had settled in the county during 1877, or before. Charles A. Leeper became a Founding Member, with a note that he had “settled” in the area in 1876. It seems probable that he had invested in property there before returning to Salmon, and Bonanza, to enlarge his personal resources. As noted above, he did not begin living permanently in the county until 1883.

Aside from his political activities, Leeper continued to expand his property holdings, and his herd. Thus, the  Idaho Statesman, in Boise quoted (June 1, 1897) an item from the Lewiston Tribune: “This has been a busy week in Lewiston for cattlemen, and the town has been thronged with the ubiquitous cowboy.” The article mentioned Leeper as one of several stockmen shipping cattle to outside markets via steamboat.

Charles also ran stock on range near the mouth of the Salmon River, perhaps to his regret. The Idaho Statesman reported (July 7, 1902) that he had “lost about 125 head of cattle through the operations of thieves.”

In 1903, when the Illustrated History was published, Charles owned over fifteen hundred acres of land. Sadly, Leeper died some time in the following five years or so.
References: [French], [Illust-North]
George Elmo Shoup, "History of Lemhi County," Salmon Register-Herald (Series, May 8 - October 23, 1940).

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Freighter, Lumber Man, Rancher, and Mining Investor Josiah Hill [otd 01/18]

On January 18, 1844, Coeur d’Alene pioneer Josiah Hill was born in New Brunswick, Canada. Like others in that part of the country, his father was from the state of Maine.
Clipper ship in Cape Horn ice, Currier & Ives print.
Library of Congress.

In about 1864, he traveled around Cape Horn to San Francisco and then to Seattle. He looked for opportunities there, but then returned to California. For three years, Josiah worked in the lumber industry, drove a stagecoach, and had various other odd jobs.

In 1870, Josiah started working his way east, with a variety of stops along the way. He then spent about two years back in New Brunswick, during which time he got married.

Hill returned to the west in 1876. There, he engaged briefly in lumbering. Then, for about three years, he handled the freight stock – horses, mules, and oxen – for a major outfit serving the Comstock Lode mines in Nevada. When those mines began to fade, he and a partner bought the animals and equipment, and hauled freight for the strikes around Bodie, California. On the side, he owned a sawmill to furnish lumber to camps in the area.

He sold those operations in 1881. For the next five years, Josiah had a succession of business dealings in Seattle, Portland, and Spokane. The final years involved a construction project with the Northern Pacific Railroad, with an associated logging operation.

He moved to what became Wardner, Idaho in 1886. Expanding from some lumber contracts in Kellogg, he soon built a sawmill in the region.  The Illustrated History of North Idaho said, “When the town of Wardner consisted of one tent, Mr. Hill was here and has remained here since that time.”

With a base in the town, he operated a local stage line, handled a freight and passenger transfer service, and soon opened a livery stable. By about 1900, his son Roy was a partner in that business. Over time, Josiah also accumulated interests in several mining properties, quite likely as payment for debts.

Hill also partnered with his brother in a ranch near Kellogg. That holding drew the two of them into some expensive litigation. Mine tailings washed downstream by the Coeur d’Alene River ruined a considerable portion of their property. At the end of September, 1903, they filed suit for damages against the mining company.

As could be expected, the company used every legal tactic their lawyers could devise to delay the process and make the suit go away. The company even went so far as to divest itself of its Idaho property, transferring them to a “foreign corporation.” They also moved the company records out of state, to Spokane, Washington.

Josiah proved to have more staying power than they expected, however: Five years later, the Mining and Scientific Press (October 31, 1908) reported, “The famous tailings suits of Josiah Hill, J. S. Hill, and others against the Standard Mining Co. have been settled out of court.”
Early Kellogg. University of Idaho Digital Collections.
Ironically, Josiah eventually became much more heavily involved in mining activities himself. In 1918, he was the president of the Hill Mining & Milling Company, Kellogg, with interests in the Coeur d’Alenes. Three years later he became Vice President of a mining company with claims on Big Creek, two or three miles southeast of Kellogg.

Hill passed away at Kellogg in September 1923.
References: [Illust-North]
“Elgin and Ogden Company Formed,” Spokane Chronicle (July 18, 1921).
“General Mining News: Idaho,” Mining and Scientific Press, Vol. 97, No. 18, Dewey Publishing Company, San Francisco (October 31, 1908).
Sol. Hasbrouck, “Hill vs Morgan,” Reports of cases argued and determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho, Vol. 9, Bancroft-Whitney Company, San Francisco (1906).
Sidney Norman, Northwest Mines Handbook, Vol. One, Northwest Mining Association, Spokane (1918).
Grant Horace Smith, Joseph V. Tingley, The History of the Comstock Lode, 1850-1997, University of Nevada Press, Reno (1998).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Iconic Lawyer, Boise Mayor, Governor, and Historian James H. Hawley [otd 01/17]

Lawyer Hawley. Illustrated History, 1899.
Lawyer, Governor, Mayor, and Historian James Henry Hawley was born in Dubuque, Iowa, on January 17, 1847. His mother died when James was an infant and he grew up with his maternal uncle. In 1861, the family moved to California, where Hawley learned of the fabulous gold discoveries in Idaho Territory.

The following year, caught up in the excitement, Hawley hurried to Florence. He moved on to the Boise Basin in the spring of 1863. In the Basin, besides work in the gold fields, he also acted as an agent and distributor for the Idaho City newspaper that became the Idaho World.

In 1864, Hawley returned to California, where he studied at the City College of San Francisco and also read law in the city. After a year or so, he went to sea and “knocked around” the Orient for awhile before returning to the Boise Basin in 1868.

James continued his law studies and was also elected to the Territorial Legislature at the age of 23. The following year he was admitted to the Idaho bar. He served in the Territorial Council (equivalent to the state Senate) in 1874, and was elected Boise County commissioner in 1876. According to biographer McClane, Hawley did commence a full time law practice after his marriage in 1875.

Starting in 1878 he served two terms as District Attorney in the second Territorial judicial district. After his second term, he moved to Hailey and practiced law there from 1884 to 1886. In 1885, he was appointed to a four-year term as U.S. District Attorney for the Territory.

Before that term ended, he ran for election as Delegate to the U. S. Congress, but lost to Fred T. Dubois [blog, May 29]. After that, he briefly had a law office in Blackfoot. The Idaho Register reported (March 27, 1891), “James H. Hawley, Esq., of Blackfoot, took in the boom of Idaho Falls Saturday last, and made some small investments.”

That was short-lived, however; by early 1892 Hawley had established his permanent home in Boise

Although he handled legal cases related to mining, and spent over forty years in irrigation law and water-related litigation, Hawley became famous for his work in criminal law. In the early Twentieth Century, it was said that he had acted on one side or the other of “more murder cases than any other member of the bar in the United States."
Hawley, older and more “laid-back.”
McClane, Sagebrush Lawyer.

In 1892, Hawley provided legal counsel for the Coeur d’Alene miners’ union, but in 1899 he served as special state prosecutor in the actions involving union violence against the mining companies.

Later, he acted as special prosecutor during the cases resulting from the assassination of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg.

He also spent six years defending cowboy-gunman “Diamondfield” Jack Davis against a charge of murdering two sheepmen in 1896. Although another man confessed to the killings, oddities in the Idaho legal system blocked Jack’s release until 1902 [blog, Dec 17].

Hawley was elected Boise mayor in 1902, and Idaho Governor in 1910. He was defeated in a second run for that office and in two runs for the position of U.S. Senator (in 1914 and again in 1918). His four-volume History of Idaho was published in 1920. He passed away in August 1929.
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
John F. McClane, A Sagebrush Lawyer, Pandick Press, Inc., New York (1933).
Edwin H. Peasley, Twelfth Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Idaho, Boise (1930).

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Geologist, Mining Engineer, and State Mine Inspector Robert Bell [otd 01/16]

Inspector Bell. J. H. Hawley photo.
On January 16, 1864, mining engineer Robert N. Bell was born in Yorkshire, England. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1877-1880 and worked first on a farm in Wisconsin. After a year or two there, he moved to Montana and joined a railroad construction crew near Bozeman, Montana. When that was completed, Bell found work in a nearby coal mine.

He moved to Salmon, Idaho in 1884 and began prospecting in the surrounding mountains. Two years later, he and a partner made a valuable find near Shoup, Idaho, 20-25 miles northwest of Salmon. Hawley’s History of Idaho said that, “During this period he completed a course in geology and mineralogy through the International Correspondence School of Scranton, Pennsylvania.”

Bell soon combined his studies with personal observations and began to publish authoritative articles in a wide variety of industry and scientific journals. His knowledge of Central Idaho geology and mineral potential attracted the attention of key mining companies and investors. He spent fifteen years working at various mines and acting as a consultant in the industry.

During that period, the office of State Mine Inspector was elective. He first ran for that position in 1900 and missed election “by less than two hundred votes.” He ran again in 1902 and was handily elected. Voters re-elected him for the next two terms, each time with larger and larger majorities. He decided not to run again in 1908, apparently because he wanted time to develop a fruit ranch he had purchased in the Weiser area.

Bell ran again in 1910 and won by a wide margin. He held the position through 1920. Besides his annual reports as Mine Inspector, Bell authored several monographs on Idaho mining resources and on the state industry. Mine safety was first among the Inspector’s responsibilities, but he was also expected to be a spokesman for the mining industry.
North Idaho Mine. Historic Wallace.

His report for 1917 noted that high metal prices during the first nine months of the year had stimulated the search for new ore bodies. Lead production from the Coeur d’Alene mines did well due to the demands for wartime production (bullets and batteries).

However, lead prices evidently softened toward the end of the year, and a reporter asked Bell to assess that market. Oddly enough, Bell blamed the pullback on the “prohibitive” price – seven to eight times normal – of linseed oil, an essential ingredient of most paints at the time. That had forced many firms to severely cut production. Since paint manufacturers used nearly half of all the lead produced, demand for the metal also fell. Bell asserted that when linseed oil “returns to a rational price,” high demand would resume.

Bell took an active role in national and regional professional organizations, including the Mine Inspectors Association of America, the Idaho Mining Association, the Utah Society of Engineers, and the American Institute of Mining Engineers. He was also a member of the National Geological Society and the Boise Commercial Club.

During his second long stretch as Mine Inspector, Bell moved to Boise and invested in considerable real estate. He chose not to run for re-election in 1920, citing “small remuneration” as his reason. The Idaho Statesman article that announced (July 18, 1920) his decision to retire praised Bell’s work to promote mine safety and better underground working conditions.

He lived near Boise until his death in December 1935.
References: [Blue], [French], [Hawley]
Robert N. Bell, “Idaho Mines Produce $50,000,000,” Idaho Statesman, Boise, Idaho (December 31, 1917).
“Lead is Coming Back to Normal,” Spokane Chronicle, Spokane, Washington (January 15, 1918).
“Shoup and Ulysses,” Reference Series No. 386, Idaho State Historical Society (1980).

Monday, January 15, 2018

Wanderer, Painter, and Sculptor Charles Ostner Gets Paid [otd 01/15]

Artist Ostner. J. H. Hawley photo.
On January 15, 1869, the Idaho legislature appropriated $2,500 to reward artist Charles L. Ostner for the equestrian statue of George Washington he had recently presented to the state.

Born in Baden, Germany in 1828, Ostner emigrated to the U.S. around 1848-1850. Stories that pose him as an untutored natural genius are just that … stories. In reality, Charles received an early grounding in art at the University of Heidelberg and made a living as a sculptor, sketch artist, and photographer before coming to Idaho.

He settled first in California and began raising a family around 1852. Family members recalled that the artist had itchy feet, and often settled his wife and children someplace and then traveled extensively. Gold camps and other pioneer settlements held a deep fascination for him, yet there is no solid evidence that he prospected himself during these earlier years.

In 1862, gold excitement in Idaho attracted him to the Territory. By 1864, he had moved his family to the Garden Valley area. There, he had a small ranch and operated a toll bridge over the South Fork of the Payette River.

Historian Arthur Hart noted Ostner’s propensity for taking advantage of attention-grabbing events to sell his art, and the shoe seems to fit. H. T. French’s History presents the “untutored hobbyist” myth and what is almost certainly a fanciful tale about the George Washington statue. This major work supposedly grew out of deep-felt admiration for the “Father of our country.”

The story began with an almost mystical selection of the perfect yellow pine. The carving itself then required four years of winter nights – the only spare time he had – in freezing conditions, the only light provided by home-made tallow candles held in the trembling, crudely-wrapped fingers of his son. This fable even had a nice added touch: Ostner’s only model was the likeness of Washington printed on a postage stamp.
Ostner statue on the capitol grounds,
Ostner’s wife - center - and two daughters at the base.
J. H. Hawley photo.

Charles finished the statue in 1868, then moved his family to Boise and “gave” the bronzed figure to the state. No doubt the inspiring story of this untutored genius, persevering through such terrible trials, got wide circulation. Some proposed a handsome award of $7 thousand, but the young Territory could only afford $2,500.

After that, Ostner used Boise as a home base for his wandering ways. Hawley’s History of Idaho said “Mr. Ostner continued to make Boise his home throughout his remaining days but traveled largely during that period, going on trips to various parts of the world."

One such trip was to Washington, D.C., where he unsuccessfully bid on memorial statues of General John Rawlins and Admiral David Farragut. His name doesn’t surface again until 1881, when he discussed his mining investments near Challis, Idaho.

Finally, a trip to the Nome, Alaska gold rush, when he was over 70 years old, was said to have cured his “wandering heel” and he stayed in Boise after about 1900.

His work included paintings on canvas, drawings, and a wide variety of lithographic masters. “Idaho’s Pioneer Artist,” passed away in 1913.

The statue stood on the capitol grounds until 1934 when it was moved indoors, refurbished, and covered in gold leaf. The figure still has a place in the Idaho capitol building.
References: [French], [Hawley]
“[Bonanza Mine],” Weekly Miner, Butte; Idaho Statesman, Boise (April 6, 1880; October, 29, 1881).]
Arthur Hart, “Idaho History: Charles Ostner was an artist, miner and wanderer,” Idaho Statesman (July 4, 2010).
James H. Hawley, Eleventh Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Idaho, Boise (1928).
“[Statuary],” Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia; National Republican, Washington (December 28, 1872; January 15, 1873).