Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Idaho World Newspaper in Boise Basin [otd 9/29]

On September 29, 1863, on a “used” printing press shipped in from Walla Walla, Joseph and Thomas Butler began publishing a weekly newspaper -- the Boise News in Idaho City. The business changed hands the following year and the new owners renamed it the Idaho World. One of their carriers was a youth named James H. Hawley -- who later became a notable lawyer and served as Governor of the state of Idaho.

In 1867, the paper went to a semi-weekly publication schedule, which it continued until 1908, when it returned to a weekly schedule. (For a brief time in 1875, it enjoyed a tri-weekly schedule.) The Idaho World was not the first newspaper published in Idaho; that honor belongs to the Lewiston Golden Age, which began publication in August of 1862. (However, the Age lasted only into 1867.) Thus, the World is the oldest of Idaho’s pioneer newspapers that are still publishing today.

Hiram Taylor French, History of Idaho: A Narrative Account of Its Historical Progress, Its People and Its Principal Interests, Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago and New York (1914).

Newspaper publication information taken from Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers, The Library of Congress (online).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sept 26: Bonneville Camps at Salmon-Lemhi

On September 26, 1832, the trapping expedition of Captain Benjamin L. E. Bonneville arrived at a location where he planned to stay for the winter. They camped on the Salmon River about three miles below the mouth of the Lemhi. (We know the location from its verbal description; Bonneville’s latitude determination placed their position about 50 miles further north than it actually was.)

In any case, a quick appraisal showed that the area had nothing like enough forage for the entire party of over 100 men. Thus, the Captain retained about 20 men at the Salmon-Lemhi spot and split the rest into three parties and sent them off in different directions. The arrival of many Indians of various tribes further strained the area’s resources, so Bonneville’s party had to move twice during the winter.

(The photograph is clearly the Captain, later brevet  Brigadier General, as an older man -- neither the National Archives nor the Library of Congress have any earlier images.)

H. M. Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1986). Originally publication date: 1935.

Washington Irving, Edgeley W. Todd (ed.), The adventures of Captain Bonneville U.S.A., in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West. Digested from his journal. University of Oklahoma Press (1961).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sept 25 : Train Station, HBC Trappers Killed

The Union Pacific Railroad's "finest depot on the line" opened on September 25, 1903, at Nampa. Built at a cost of between $30,000 to $40,000, it served the Union Pacific for twenty years. Today it houses the Canyon County Historical Society Museum.

This item is on the ISHS “Moments in Idaho History” page. I have added the depot/museum picture from the Nampa web site.

On September 25, 1830, the Hudson’s Bay Company Snake Brigade, led by Irishman John Work, had trapper parties scattered along the streams that fed onto the southern Camas Prairie (generally … today’s Hill City and Fairfield).

In his journal, Work wrote, “Fine weather: encamped near the mountains.” That was about 6:30 in the afternoon. About an hour and a half later, a lone trapper ran into camp. According to Work, the man said that as he and three others “were going to their traps on the upper part of the stream in the mountain, they were set upon by a war party of Blackfeet and his three companions [were] killed on the spot, [and] that he barely escaped.”

As it turned out, the party Work sent out found one survivor, hiding in the brush. They had managed to shoot two of the Indians. Besides two trapper deaths (and one scalp), the attackers made off with all the horses, three guns, and the party’s ammunition.

Journals and diaries of the time suggest this was a typical incident: No big “massacres,” just a steady attrition in small attacks, adding to losses due to sickness and accidents. The British-Canadian and American trappers who explored Idaho and the surrounding regions paid a fearful price. (But then, so did the Indians -- shot during the attacks, or felled by the white man’s diseases.)

References: ISHS Moments in Idaho History
 John Work, T. C. Elliott (Ed.), “The Journal of John Work,” Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. X, No. 3 (1909).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Updates and Tourism Thoughts

As I entered my “On This Day” item, it occurred to me (it should have before this) that the title style was a bit cryptic. I decided to include enough key words so the actual subject of the bit was immediately clear. I liked that so much, I went back and edited all the OTD entries.

Yesterday, I had a pleasant, and productive, interaction with Skip Myers -- creator and keeper of the Idaho City Events site. I had asked him if he had newspaper clippings that gave a specific day for a notorious event in Idaho City history: the shooting of ex-Sheriff Sumner Pinkham by southern-sympathizer Ferd Patterson. Turns out, he did … he had lots of stuff besides the answer to my question. The clippings even included photos of the two protagonists. (Being newspaper stock, the pictures aren’t great, but they do the job.) You’ll be hearing more on this topic in the future.

Skip loves Idaho City history, but the future of his town is also of major concern to him. The mines are long gone, so tourism, recreation, and the Boise County offices pretty much define what the area is about. Skip’s web site lists some of those attractions: hiking, fishing, camping, and seeing the historic sights during warm weather; hunting, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and other winter sports when it gets colder.

But with all of that going for it, Idaho City needs more to maintain itself as a thriving community, and the only area that might be ripe for expansion is more tourism and recreation. (I won’t rehash our discussion of this issue.)

So … during a walk to the store I mulled over some ideas. I’m putting them here in the blog because I know other towns have faced many of the same problems. One can never tell where good ideas might come from.

Anyway, during my stroll, two thoughts surfaced.

The first was based on my correspondence with Skip about that notorious (back then) Pinkham-Patterson shootout. It’s not my “cup of tea,” but Wild West shootout re-enactments are a thriving business. I found a ton of links at “The Gunfighter's Favorite Links” to Discussion Forums, quick-draw exhibitions, Gun Stuff, Western Performance, and more. The “Western Performance” sub-head provides a long list of “Wild West Re-enactors & Performers” -- I counted 55 to 60 links. There are groups in the usual places (Texas, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, NOT Idaho, and more) and some big surprises (New Jersey, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Ukraine).

There’s even an organization called the American Frontier Reenactment Guild. Since the Idaho City gunfight had a July 4th connection, I sense a show coming on. (The photo is from the web site of a reenactment group called Gunfighters Incorporated -- I didn’t ask for permission, but somehow I don’t think they’d mind.)

The second notion had to do with the reason Idaho City was founded: Gold! Google “gold panning events” and you get hits from all over the world (even Switzerland -- Who knew?). There are gold panning competitions, panning instruction exhibits, and endless variations.

I even found a “gold panning” hit at the “Official Idaho Vacation and  travel Planning Guide,” but the only hit-within-a-hit was a terse mention of a gold panning contest as a Roadside Attraction. Some of our neighboring states do much better. (The photo is from a “recreational” site in Nevada County, California.)

I grew up in California gold country, basically a century after the gold rush. In the 1950’s, my dad had a small jar half full of dust and nuggets caught in a riffle box along the Yuba River. No one is likely to get rich, but I’ll bet new color has also washed into the streams in the Boise Basin. Obviously, there are permissions and permits to be checked out, but surely there’s a possible opportunity here. Panning party anyone?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Revue Article

I have started work on the next materials for the South Fork Revue. I thought I could get by with two more summary articles, but now I’m not so sure. The next three chapters (around 23 thousand words) cover the period from about 1865 into the early 1880’s. Idaho stock raising grew significantly, pretty much filling up the decent grazing land around the state. That, in turn, exacerbated the friction between cattlemen and sheepmen. During the latter part of this period, Idaho saw substantial cattle drives, some starting within the state and even larger numbers crossing from Oregon and Washington. Also during this time, the Indians made several “last stands,” resulting in the Nez Perce War (1877), the Bannock War (1878), and the Sheepeater War (1879).

Sept 22: Orofino Railroad

On September 22, 1899, workers completed a branch line of the Northern Pacific Railroad into Orofino, Idaho. The railroad was mainly built to serve the mining districts deeper in the mountain, and a railway station opened in November.

This town called Orofino was, in fact, the second to (initially) have the name “Oro Fino” -- Spanish for “fine gold.” An earlier town near Pierce had burned and was not rebuilt. Pioneers established the present town three years after the Nez Perce Indian Reservation was thrown open to white settlement in 1895. However, before they could obtain a local post office, they had to comply with a U.S. Postal Service rule that, at the time, prohibited double-word names. Rather than try to pick a new one, they simply ran the two together -- hence “Orofino.”

During the railroad construction period, Orofino serves as the division headquarters, with a payroll of over a thousand men. The Illustrated History of North Idaho (published in 1903) said, “Never since has Orofino been as populous as it was in 1899.” With the rail line complete, those men moved on, and the population dropped to less than 400. Not until the 1930’s would the town approach the numbers observed in 1899.

Reference: [Illust-North]

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sept 21: Book of Mormon, Chief Joseph

According to the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) , on this day in 1823, the angel Moroni appeared to seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith. (The angel is sometimes specified as a “resurrected being.”) Moroni told Joseph that he had been chosen to restore God’s church as it was meant to be on earth. Four years later, Joseph said, he retrieved a set of golden plates from a hiding place near Palmyra, New York. From these plates Smith transcribed history and teachings about ancient American inhabitants and their prophets. These writings became the Book of Mormon, which guided the formation of the LDS church.

Mormon settlers largely originating in Utah played a significant role in colonizing southeast Idaho, and the Church is still very strong in the region.

This was also the day on which Nez Perce Chief Joseph (“Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt”  or “Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain,” in the native tongue) died, in 1904. Army threats to forcibly move his and other bands to the reservation in Idaho sparked the Nez Perce War, in June 1877. Ultimately, even their attempt to escape into Canada failed. Yet their story is now the stuff of real-life, tragic melodrama.

Part of the legend lies in the words attributed to Chief Joseph when they finally surrendered. The speech stated baldly, “It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death.” The closing is especially eloquent and affecting: “I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

References: [Brit]

Sept 20: L&C Meet Nez Perce

In late September 1805, the Corps of Discovery, led by Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, struggled through the mountainous Idaho wilderness west of Lolo Pass. Finally, Clark forged ahead with a small band, hoping to find game (which they did, if you count one luckless wandering horse). On September 20, Clark’s party marched out of the forest onto “a leavel rich open Plain.” Their careful, friendly approach earned them a welcome into an Indian camp where, Clark said, “Those people treated us well”

As they moved on to another encampment, Clark noted “grt quantities of roots have been geathered and in heaps. Those roots are like onions, sweet when dried, and tolerably good in bread. I eate much & am Sick in the evening.”

Thus did the Expedition meet the Nez Perce for the first time, on Weippe Prairie a bit over 50 miles east of today’s Lewiston, Idaho. The onion-like roots were camas bulbs, a major staple of the Indian’s diet. Lewis and Clark were happy to trade with the natives for provisions, although the change in diet induced intestinal disorders for many of the Corps. including Lewis

Reference: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Gary E. Moulton (Ed.), The Definitive Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (2002).

Gold Rush Article

Edited and revised the gold rush article for the South Fork Revue web site on Sunday (Sept 20). It was ready to go, but I couldn’t upload it: Our Internet link failed. After considerable diagnostic work over the phone with an ISP support person, we decided their end and our end were okay, so the problem must be in the DSL service. After two calls by the ISP rep -- the phone company can’t be bothered with ordinary customer calls -- they admitted they did have a regional (apparently) outage. They said it could be a few hours to a whole day before it was corrected. Oh well.

Well, the DSL link was working again this morning (that is, on Monday Sept 21). Naturally, the phone company never told their benighted customers that there was an outage, and we can expect no rebate for the day without service. Anyway, I was able to post the gold rush article on the Revue web site. Now I’ll need to start work on the next segment -- I figure that and one more after it should complete what I want to do.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sept 19: Astorian Horses Stolen

This being a Saturday, I didn’t accomplish a lot on the computer -- my wife and I are big college football fans.

On This Day
In 1812, a small party led by Robert Stuart awoke on the morning of September 19 at a camp that today would be under the waters of Palisades Reservoir near the Idaho-Wyoming border. Stuart wrote, “We were all up at dawn, and I had just reached the river bank when I heard the Indian yell raised in the vicinity of our camp and the cry, ‘To Arms’.”

Unfortunately, they were unable to save their horses; the band of Crow Indians ran off all of them. Stuart’s party carried dispatches from Pacific Fur Company officials at Astoria, Oregon to be delivered to the company’s senior partner, John Jacob Astor, in New York. Because they had to abandon much of their baggage and walk out of Idaho, they were forced to winter along the North Platte River about 25 miles from Scotts Bluff.

The party did not arrive in St. Louis until the end of April. By then they had learned that the War of 1812 had started between the U. S. and Great Britain. (Ultimately, the War doomed Astor’s fur trade enterprise in the Pacific Northwest.) Stuart’s party was just the second white expedition to cross southern Idaho: Pacific Fur Company parties led west by Wilson Price Hunt the year before were the first.

Remarkably, much of Stuart’s route from near today’s Pocatello west to the Oregon border and beyond proved not that different from what would later be called the Oregon Trail.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Research and References

The article on Idaho gold discoveries and the follow-on period is completed in draft form. As usual, I’ll set it aside to “cool” a day or two before I try to do a final proof and revision. In the meantime, I am collecting more information for my database of “on this day” events.

It might be useful here to describe some key features of my research and writing process. I just counted files for 231 separate articles, monographs, and books (or book sets) in the reference directories on my computer. Most contain multiple pages of text, although some are shorter files that contain only key excerpts from a given reference. On the other hand, several of the major histories are huge – the H. T. French work is 1,320 pages long in 3 volumes, and the J. H. Hawley history comes in 4 volumes that total over 3,400 pages. (A considerable portion of those pages contain see-no-evil biographies of prominent and not-so-prominent citizens.)

A surprising number of the older histories are available in electronic (PDF) format, already scanned by Google or any of several big university libraries. I have downloaded most of those so I can search for information without being online. Of course, some of these files, the Google versions in particular, only allow you to search them online. Still, it’s not that difficult to work from the page numbers in the table of contents or index (if there is one).

When I discover a particularly useful hardcopy reference, I scan all the relevant parts myself – plus some not-so-relevant portions, because you can never be totally sure what might be useful. If the volume doesn’t circulate (true for many rare and special-collections books), I record key excerpts in my laptop computer, or (gasp!) make hand-written notes that I type in later.

In addition to those sources, I have about 150 Reference Series articles from the ISHS, compiled into three big files, as well as about 60 newspaper articles from issues released before about 1910.

Once I have these electronic files, I enter key quotes or summaries into a relational database I have created (using Filmaker® Pro software on a Mac). Data fields show the date, a keyword title, summary text or quotes, a general topic, the geographic region, reference source, and other key features. My current Idaho history database has almost 2 thousand master event records.

By searching in this database, I can quickly assemble a rough outline for a book chapter or article. Then, the reference identifiers allow me to go back to the sources to retrieve the complete blocks of information. (When you do it this way, it’s surprising how much of the content you remember, but it’s always better to check the original.)

This may look like a lot of up-front work, and it is, but it pays off in the long run. For one thing, it lets you compare (or contrast) alternative descriptions of a particular event.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sept 17: U. S. Constitution, Minidoka Dam

The Historical Society included two “Moments in Idaho History” for this day, two of which were already in my database (one with only the year, however).

On This Day
First, on this day in 1904, construction began on Minidoka Dam, northeast of Rupert.

The Society also noted briefly that on September 17, 1787, convention delegates approved the final form of the U. S. Constitution. That document, by the way, did not include a “Bill of Rights.” The delegates supported the principles involved, but felt that such a declaration was not necessary for a system written in the name of “We the people.” The first ten amendments were added after the required number of states ratified the constitution approved at the convention.

For a really “good read” about the Constitutional Convention, get your hands on Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen, (Little, Brown and Company, © Catherine Drinker Bowen, 1966). [The book was re-issued in 1986, and that version is still in print.] Part of the “Miracle” was that they could function at all -- during a Philadelphia summer before air conditioning. A passage from mid-June makes the point: “Members went out into the afternoon, walking wearily through streets to lodgings that afforded little relief. … on days like this, if a breeze stirred it was from the southwest, a breath from the furnace. The city sweltered and the delegates endured.”

From here on, I will not include the Historical Society “Moments” unless I have something to add to the item.

References: Idaho State Historical Society, “Moments in Idaho History” web site.
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, Oxford University Press (1965).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sept 16: Alturas Stock, Mexican Independence

On September 16, 1888, a roving reporter for the Idaho Statesman (in Boise) wrote, “Your correspondent has taken the time and trouble to procure the names of owners of sheep, horses and cattle running on the ranges of western Alturas” County. That area would generally encompasses today’s Elmore County, east and north of Mountain Home. (Starting the following year, the legislature began splitting new counties away from Alturas, and that name disappeared entirely in 1895.)

The article enumerated 47 thousand cattle, 35 thousand sheep, and 8 thousand horses. In the 1890 Census, Elmore County contained far less than 10% of the stock in all of Idaho. The reporter considered his numbers “more reliable” that those of the county assessor, because, he said, “We have been told by gentlemen who have busied themselves on the range that there were bands that had not been assessed for years.”

Working from these values, we may extrapolate that Idaho stockmen were running 600 or 700 thousand cattle and a like number of sheep in 1888, which generally agrees with other estimates of the time. Owyhee County alone had over 100 thousand assessed cattle by 1889. Of course, all this was before the severe die-back during the disastrous winter of 1889-90, when many herds were virtually wiped out.

September 16 is considered Mexican Independence Day. On that morning in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, parish priest of a village about 130 miles northeast of coastal Mazatlan, issued a proclamation that called for racial equality, land redistribution, and an end to Spanish domination. That set off an armed revolution, but Hidalgo was eventually captured and executed, as was his “successor,” José María Morelos y Pavón, another parish priest.

Revolutionary republicans hung on desperately through the remainder of the decade. Then, the strongly conservative “propertied” classes in Mexico decided Spain had taken a too-liberal turn after the expulsion of Napoleonic forces and reinstatement of a legitimate Spanish monarch. In 1820, they began their own independence movement, hoping to protect New Spain from the new, liberal doctrines. They made common cause with the republicans, at first secretly and then openly. Finally, in August, 1821, they achieved independence, although perhaps not in a form that would have pleased Padre Hidalgo. As the Encyclopedia Britannica essayists said, “In one of the ironies of history, a conservative Mexico had gained independence from a temporarily liberal Spain.”

The connection with Idaho is two-fold. First, until the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the area roughly south of the Idaho-Oregon border and west of the Rockies was Mexican territory. Thus, American and British-Canadian fur trappers and later settlers (mostly Mormons) were technically trespassing on Mexican land -- not that anyone paid much attention. Second, when that region became U.S. territory, pioneer traffic through Idaho increased -- and then exploded when gold was discovered in California.

Added Feature: On This Day

We own the electronic version of the Encyclopedia Britannica and receive daily “On This Day” e-mails from them. A few days back, I started thinking about that feature. Seems like it would be cool to do something along those lines here, but with an Idaho emphasis.

Turns out, the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS), of which I am a member, has such a feature, but with a weekly basis. They call it “Moments in Idaho History” -- it also includes items from national history. They posted their list with 2003 week dates -- but, of course, the events for a given historic day don’t change. I do see two problems. First, other events happened on those same month-day combinations, but none have been added to the list. Also, most of the items are little more than “bullets” -- one-liners with no real context. I think there’s still a place to supplement what they’re doing. I’ll label my contributions “On This Day” (why try to be cute?).

They have no item for this day, by the way -- but I have two, one from Idaho and one (loosely) related to Idaho.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leesburg Gold

Another story I had to abbreviate for the article was about the gold finds in the Leesburg region of Idaho. Leesburg is now a Ghost Town, with nothing left but a few worn pioneer structures. Photo: Leesburg Idaho School.

However, in its heyday Leesburg had some of Idaho’s richest gold fields. The town is high in the mountains, ten miles or so west and a bit north of Salmon, Idaho. To get there, you must surmount the ridge that rises some 4,600 feet above Salmon, and then drop 1,800 feet into the Leesburg basin. In pioneer times, pack trains couldn’t even get in during the winter. (They probably still can’t, assuming you tried.)

The “History of Lemhi county,” by  George Elmo Shoup in a series of columns in the Salmon Register-Herald, May 8 – October 23, 1940, had this to say about Leesburg: “The extreme richness ... produced $1000.00 to the wheelbarrow load of gravel on bedrock.” Moreover, “Much coarse gold was found and nuggets of $5.00 to $50.00 were common.”
Not especially impressed? At today’s gold prices, that would be $200 to $2000 per nugget … and they were “common.” Estimates of the gold value taken out of the Leesburg area range from $350 million to $1.6 billion (today's prices).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Magruder -- 1863

The gold-rush article for the South Fork Revue is coming along. However, one of the stories I had to trim concerns the infamous Magruder murders of 1863. Lloyd Magruder, a Marylander who had done poorly in California, prospered in idaho, owning a store and a pack train. Late in the summer of 1863, the packer carried supplies to the Montana gold fields, crossing the Bitterroot Mountains via Nez Percés Pass. On the return trip, four “helpful” conspirators accompanied the train back to Idaho. On the night of October 11, one of the conspirators split Magruder’s skull with an ax, from behind, and then they murdered four other innocents.
Later captured, the four were tried and convicted of the killings and three of them became the first legal hangings in what was then Idaho Territory. (The fourth turned state’s evidence to escape the noose.) A more extensive “suite101.com” article about the murders can be found at The Murder of Lloyd Magruder.

Also, the book The Magruder Murders: Coping with Violence on the Idaho Frontier by Julia Conway Welch (Falcon Press Publishing, Helena, Montana, © Julia Conway Welch, 1991) provides an in-depth look at the murders, the trial, and the event’s aftermath.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Got side-tracked by a couple other projects. One of my mailing list sources sent me a new meeting item to be added to the Clearinghouse of the Idaho Academy of Science (KEEPING BUSY page of the Revue). While I was at it, I ran through my organizational bookmarks to see if there were any other new events that needed to be added. All that took awhile.

Also, some years back, I compiled a booklet on how to run a multi-track conference/colloquium. It includes tips from various books on organizing such meetings, plus ideas I’ve gained from experience. The experience includes being on the organizing committees for at least 10 to 15 conferences of one kind or another (several times I was general chair). Eventually, I recast the document with specific terminology for the Annual Symposium of the IAS. Still, I believe the advice is useful for many kinds of conferences.

Here’s an example that fits many situations:
Do not underestimate the number of people required to effectively run an event like the Annual Meeting. Your core organizational committee will need competent assistance for facilities and event management, technical paper review, publishing, and other matters. Paid services can provide some of this – if you can afford it – but someone has to make sure the jobs get done. They will also need clerical help, and ‘go-fers’ to pick up supplies and deliver packages.
“The preliminary needs are impressive enough, but they peak for the actual event: registration personnel, guides and go-fers, moderators for the technical sessions, A/V operators, student paper judges, and so on. (Retirees generally make responsible and effective Registration helpers. You might give them complimentary registrations for their help).”

Anyway, I had a request along those lines, so I did a quickie revision and sent it out (as a PDF document) to our current IAS President, the Symposium Director, and some others.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Some Article Text

Just to prove that I really am working on an article for the Revue, I’ll quote the opening here:
“The decade of the 1860’s began quietly in Idaho (then part of Washington Territory). Pioneer traffic on the trails to Oregon and California maintained what would be an average year: about 1,500 to Oregon and 9,000 to California. (Of course, not all the California-bound traffic passed through Idaho.) The Utter Massacre, in September, and the Civil War still lay in the future.”
At this point in the text, many rich gold and silver fields have been discovered, Idaho is now a Territory (and separate from Washington and Montana), farmers are exploiting the irrigable lands in the Boise Valley, and stockmen are pushing herds onto most of the promising rangelands across the state.

The need for brevity really slows down the production -- there’s so much I must leave out or super-summarize to stay within my target word limit.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Research Never Ends

So far, I’m only managing every other day, but I suppose that’s okay as a start. When you have a book-size project -- and a strong desire to tie up loose ends -- the research phase never ends. Last month during revision, a point nagged me about historical events in Idaho City, so I checked it out. During the course of that research, I contacted a fellow history buff, Skip Myers, who has a neat web site with a lot of Idaho City history on it. Check it out at Idaho City Events.

I learned much more than I needed to know for the nagging point, so I used it for the “A County Seat Story- Idaho City” article posted on the FEATURES page of the Revue. I’m thinking I’ll probably put future articles of that sort here on the blog.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to Web Writing

The Retort is out, so I can spend more time on the Revue article. It is meant to cover the period from the discovery of gold in 1860 on into the early 1870’s. That spans three book chapters, with nearly 20 thousand words, so boiling it down to maybe 2,000 is no simple task. Capsule summary: The rush into the goldfields quickly drew stockmen and farmers into the area to supply the mines, created a new Territory (Idaho) in 1863, and fueled further growth in the region.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Just Getting Started

Well, here goes. I designed the South Fork Companion as a complement to my conventional web site, South Fork Revue (follow the link at “Places to Go …” [Later EDIT: "Linked Web Sites"]).

The Revue is mostly about Idaho history (slanted toward the period before about 1910), with sidesteps into other topics I am working on, or just find of interest. Of course, it makes no sense to only focus on Idaho events without explaining where they fit into the context of Western and United States history. As noted on the Revue, the history articles are based on the tremendous body of reference material I have collected over the past few years. [Note to self: Add page listing some of those references.]

THE BOOK (about 100 thousand words) I have written and am currently revising mainly deals with the development of the Idaho stock raising industry before about 1910. I started this blog after I sent my proposal package off to a publisher. In my cover letter for the package I wrote: “Say ‘Idaho’ to most people, even Idahoans, and they think ‘potato.’ Fair enough, considering decades of relentless marketing. What many do not think of are ‘cowboys’ and ‘cattle.’ Yet Idaho was, and is, as much a cowboy state as its more-recognized cattle-state neighbors in the Intermountain West.”

As early as 1910, Idaho ranked 6th in U. S. wool production and 32nd in livestock (cattle and dairy product sales), despite being only 44th in population. Today, Idaho still ranks low in population (39th) but is a significant livestock-products supplier. To quote a book paragraph pertaining to 2008: “Livestock sales and dairy product shipments were valued at over $3.1 billion, placing Idaho in the top ten among all states. Although the state is also in the top ten for U. S. wool production, the total income from that commodity is quite small. (The U.S. now produces less than 1 percent of the world’s wool.)”

With one exception, at present, the Revue contains relatively “static” historical articles, along with background on me and my wife, Caroline. During the summer, I added a FEATURES page to the site which was meant to “include something of timely and/or peripheral interest (historical facts, rants about sports, travel items, etc.).”

Extensive reading finally convinced me that a blog would be a much better approach to highlight the kinds of items slated for the FEATURES page, whether they were history topics or other items of interest. However, my immediate priorities among many projects (see KEEPING BUSY at the Revue) are to (1) finish The Retort, the newsletter I co-edit and desktop-publish for the Idaho Academy of Science and (2) write the next article for the Revue. (When I get bored with those, I generally go back and tweak a book chapter.)

With all that going on, I do not expect to put a lot into the blog right away. Hopefully, however, I can create enough new content to keep it interesting.