Friday, October 23, 2009

Oct 23: John Work in Idaho

On October 23, 1830, John Work, leader of the Snake Brigade of the Hudson’s Bay Company, wrote in his Journal, “The women availed themselves of the hot springs to wash their clothes.” (John Work photo, British Canadian Archives)

Their location was almost certainly near Barney Hot Springs, 40 miles or so up the Little Lost River from Howe, Idaho. During the 1830 campaign, the Brigade had trapped beaver along the Payette River, some on the Boise, and then Big and Little Wood rivers. They then prospected for beaver sign along the Big and Little Lost rivers, which is when they encountered the hot springs.

Irish-born, John’s family name was actually “Wark,” but that changed when he joined the HBC. By the time Bay Company officers appointed him to lead the Brigade, in August 1830, he had been with the firm 16 years. He was fated to be the last head of the Snake Brigade.

By the early 1830’s, well over a decade of heavy trapping had severely depleted beaver colonies in Idaho and the surrounding region. With many American trappers pouring into the watersheds, intense effort won only meager profits. As the campaign continued into 1831, Work led the Brigade south into Nevada and then into southeast Oregon.

Yet with all that effort, as the campaign closed he wrote, “from the height of the water and scarcity of beaver we have very little for the labor and trouble which we experienced.”

Although Work recommended against further trips into Idaho, he was again sent there (and into Montana) in 1831-32. That too garnered very little profit. The last Brigade expedition ventured into northern California, then it was disbanded and Work was transferred to a post in British Columbia.

The cessation of large bands did not end the HBC fur trade in Idaho. They now depended more on trading with the Indians, and with the many American mountain men that had entered the area. In fact, the Company had a near monopoly on the Idaho fur trade during the latter half of the 1830’s.

After that, it didn’t matter because the trade had become a sideline carried on by isolated individuals. (Mountain Man drawing, Frederic Remington, 1889.)

Merrill D. Beal and Merle W. Wells, History of Idaho, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc. New York (1959).

William R. Sampson, “John Work,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

T. C. Elliott, “Journal of John Work, Covering Snake Country Expedition of 1830-31,” Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. XIII (1912) and Vol. XIV (1913).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Projects Progressing

Doing the “On This Day” item, every single day, has been a challenging experience. The difficult days are when (1) I’ve been really busy and (2) the events for a day are a problem.

As to the first, we’re still greeting service people for the condo (enough said), plus I have projects (more in a moment).

Daily events can be a problem in two ways: they’re either not particularly exciting/interesting, they require some “massaging” to have Idaho relevance … or both.

The first problem arises from the fact that I don’t generally post items that have no Idaho connection. After all, there are a bunch of sites out there with a world-wide perspective. Two that I visit are the Today in History page, and a Wikipedia compilation of Daily Events (I just recently added these to my blog form). Each features a full-year calendar where you can pick out a specific date. (You have to scroll down to see the Wikipedia calendar.)

Like most such sites, the events are presented in a “bulleted” fashion, with very little (or no) context or background. The Wikipedia list does provide additional links for some items, or for sub-topics within an item.

The need to find Idaho relevance can be a challenge, but it’s also interesting. October 15th was a good example. The only Idaho-specific event I had for that day was the marriage of a prominent Idaho pioneer. I could have “spun” that, but he will eventually appear under his birthday, so I went looking for something else.

I found the Edison Electric Light Company incorporation item in 1878 on both of the sites referenced above. Then a thought tickled my memory: Wasn’t there something about the first electric light system in Idaho?

As it turned out, there was, but it was in my master database. There, I found that builders installed an electric light system in a smelter near Ketchum … just three years after the Edison incorporation. The Ketchum event was not in my “daily” database because historical accounts gave only the year, not a specific date.

But: Voila! An Idaho connection.

On-going Projects
  Those of you who follow the blog know that I’m working, sometimes off-and-on, on several projects. Of course, I’m still waiting for a response on my stock-raising book proposal.

Anyway, I need to get ahead on entering and checking events for the On This Day database – I’m still finding days where I’d like to have something more interesting Then there’s the next article for the South Fork Revue – that’s largely been “put on the back burner.”

Coming up, I have a meeting in Twin Falls with the Idaho Academy of Science Executive Committee. I am combining that with a visit to Idaho City. We (Skip Myers and I) have an opportunity to talk about the photographic history of Boise County with the Idaho City Historical Foundation. Supposedly there will be time to peruse the Idaho City/Boise County photo archives to see what they have.

The proposal package Arcadia Publishing sent me is fairly complicated, with many questions about book marketing avenues and other elements of our “platform.” Addressing those issues is fairly straightforward. (Photo: Idaho City, Main and Commercial Street, 1894, Idaho State historical Society.) 

The real problem is determining what the book content will be. Their format specifies 180-240 “vintage” photographs -- which probably means we’ll have to start with twice that many to select a set we can build the history around. We’ll see.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oct 18: Insurance Director and the Flu Pandemic

Director Brace. J. H. Hawley photo.
On October 18, 1919, Idaho Governor David W. Davis appointed Captain Howard J. Brace to be Director of the state Department of Insurance. He was the tenth person to hold that office. At that time, he was the youngest state official in Idaho and the youngest insurance commissioner in the U.S.

Brace was a young child when the family moved to Colorado. He started work in the mines near Leadville in his early teens, then came to Idaho in 1911, when he was just 19. He spent five years in the fire insurance business in Idaho Falls before enlisting in the Second Idaho Infantry. For a time, his unit served along the Mexican border. At the start of World War I, Brace applied for and received officer training and entered the U.S. Infantry as a First Lieutenant.

He served in France for seventeen months before May 1919, and was promoted to Captain. He saw action in the defense of Champagne-Marne, the Second battle of the Marne, the St. Michel offensive, and the attacks in the Argonne forest. After his discharge, he returned to Idaho, where he received the state Insurance appointment.

Brace took office during a period when the great Influenza Pandemic was sweeping the world -- and Idaho did not escape its wrath. (Over a half million people died in the U.S., and an estimated 25 million worldwide.) In his 1919-1920 Bienniel Report, Brace wrote, “The years 1918 and 1919 were, in our opinion, the most critical in the history of the life insurance companies of the country.  The institution of life insurance was for a time in actual danger due to the ravages of the influenza-pneumonia epidemic.”

Fortunately, they were able to weather the crisis, he reported: “All of the companies doing business in the state have emerged from those extraordinary conditions and are conducting their business safely and soundly.”

References: [Brit], [Hawley]
“Celebrating 100 Years (1901-2001),” 2001 Annual Report, Idaho Department of Insurance (October 2002).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Comments and Feedback Wanted

Receiving a comment on the “On This Day” post for today made me think about the fact that I’m not seeing very many comments … overall. And no feedback. For example, just this morning I realized I had mislabeled the list of Linked Web Pages, but no one called me on it.

To encourage feedback, I have inserted my e-mail address (hopefully masked against most automated e-mail address grabbers) into my Profile. Feel free.

Some of you who may be unfamiliar with, and put off by, the blog Comment process. It’s really not all that bad, as I’ll show. When you hit the comments  command, you get a box where you can enter your text. If you enter your comment and then click on the Post Comment button, the system will tell you to “Please choose a profile” (note the red text in the example above).

When you click on the “Select Profle” button, a dropdown menu shows some choices. If you already have a Username (and password) among the accounts, you probably don’t need these instructions.

In the second illustration, I have scrolled the list down to “Anonymous” -- which is how your comment will be attributed in the blog. (You can always “sign” your comment inside the text box with your name or some other identifier..) With that selected, you can again hit the “Post Comment” button.

The “Word Verification” screen presents some “swirly” letters that you must type into the box -- “nicshre” in my example. (Generally that’s easy for a person, but automated programs can’t interpret what is actually a graphic image.)

When you type in the letters and click the final “Post Comment” button, a message appears: “Your comment will be visible after approval.” The system will send me an e-mail telling me to “moderate” the comment. I do have the option to reject a comment, but hope that won’t be necessary. (Disagreement can be healthy, as long as it’s expressed in suitable language and doesn’t turn personal.)

Hope this helps.

Senator Brady, Cottonwood Incorporation [otd 10/17]

On October 17, 1912, U.S. Senator Weldon B. Heyburn died in office. Idaho thus had only one Senator until January 1913, when James H. Brady was elected to fill the unexpired term. Brady’s family moved from his birth state of Pennsylvania to Kansas, where he graduated from Leavenworth Normal college. (Brady photo, Library of Congress.)

After teaching for three years, he went into the real estate business, which brought him to Idaho in 1894, when he was 32 years old. He became strongly interested in opportunities presented by irrigation projects and water power. James Henry Hawley was a political opponent, but nonetheless asserted that Brady, “did more for irrigation and the agricultural development of Idaho than any other man who has ever lived within its borders.”

Twice elected president of the National Irrigation Congress, he later served on that organization's executive committee. He was elected Governor of Idaho in 1908, but lost a 1910 re-election bid to Hawley.

After completing Heyburn’s term, Brady was elected to a full six-year term in 1914. When the U.S. entered World War I, Brady was a member of the Military Affairs Committee. The Senator threw himself into the activities of the committee, although friends and family protested that he was endangering his already-deteriorating health. He died in office on January 13, 1918.

The October 17, 1901 Idaho County Free Press (Grangeville) reported that “A meeting was held at Cottonwood last week to take steps for the incorporation of that village. W. L. Brown, H. H. Nuxoll, A. B. Rooke, S. J. Peterson and S. Goldstone were recommended to the county commissioners as trustees.” (Photo: Cottonwood, 1889. Rootsweb image, no attribution/provenance supplied.)

Cottonwood, located about 13 miles northwest of Grangeville, began in 1862 as a way station on the road from Lewiston to the mining districts south of Mount Idaho (near the future Grangeville). The town grew slowly in its first few years, but it had developed enough to be an important supply point during the Nez Perce War in 1877.

A decade later, the town had become a major focal point for the flourishing cattle and sheep industry in the region. Contemporary accounts describe a huge corral, a notable landmark in the community. There, stockmen could assemble herds for drives out of the state.

Later, particularly after the railroad came in 1908, Cottonwood became a substantial shipping point for grain, a role it has played ever since.

Biographical Directory of the Library of the United States Congress.

M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).

James H. Hawley, History of Idaho : The Gem of the Mountains, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago (1920).

An Illustrated History of North Idaho, Western Historical Publishing Company (1903).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oct 15: Electric Light Bulb – Headed for Idaho

On October 15, 1878, Thomas Edison incorporated the Edison Electric Light Company to provide funding for several development projects, including efforts that produced the first practical electric light bulb within about 15 months. He and his backers planned to recoup their investment through licensing fees and direct sales. (Photo: Edison light bulb, National Museum of American History.)

Along with his light bulb work, Edison developed systems to deliver electricity from a central source to illuminate streets, buildings, and residences. These systems and related components were sold or licensed by an array of companies Edison either founded himself or help found. Later these firms would be consolidated into what came to be the General Electric Company.

Idaho benefitted from Edison’s developments within a few short years. In 1879-80, silver and lead discoveries in the Wood River drainage set off a rush into the area. Ketchum and several other towns sprang up.

Then, in 1881, Eastern investors financed the construction of a smelter near Ketchum. Their “Philadelphia Smelter” was designed with all the latest technology available at the time: including its own electric power plant and distribution system. Thus, the smelter featured the first electric light illumination in the state. Before the decade ended, Hailey – just down the valley from Ketchum – would become the first Idaho town to have an electrical lighting system.

Thomas Parke Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930, The Johns Hopkins University Press (1993).

Idaho State Historical Society Reference Series No. 158 and 362.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oct 14: Idaho Adjutant General Patch

Brigadier General Leroy Vernon Patch, twice Adjutant General for the state of Idaho, was born in Iowa on October 14, 1876.  He received a B.A. degree from the University of Nebraska, where he also played fullback on the football team and received military training. He moved to Payette, Idaho in 1902 and began a very successful career as a stock raiser, fruit farmer, and business executive.

He also took a strong interest in military affairs and in 1916 served with the Second Idaho Regiment along the Mexican border after the raids by Pancho Villa. Then, in 1918, he served with the heavy artillery in France, participating in several major actions, including the Second Battle of the Marne and at Verdun. After the war, he retired from the U. S. Army with the rank of full colonel. (Photo of a young L. V. Patch. Patch genealogy web site.)

Back in Idaho, he returned to service as Idaho’s Adjutant General. (The AG is considered the de facto commander of a state’s militia/National Guard, appointed by and reporting to the Governor.) He also served a term in in the state legislature, and on the Payette city council and board of education. He died in March 1965.

References: [Hawley]
L. V. Patch obituary, Ontario Argus-Observer, Ontario, Oregon (March 29, 1965).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Oct 11: Stock Thieves

On October 11, 1889, a north Idaho newspaper (the Idaho County Free Press in Grangeville or the Lewiston Morning Tribune) printed a report from the Salmon River area: “Armed with warrants, Frank Wyatt, John Hadorn, Wm. Shuck, Louis Sutton, and Fred Williamson rounded up three cattle thieves in Wallowa County and caught them red-handed with 45 head of beef cattle they had stolen from the Salmon-Snake divide. One of the party confessed to having stolen 44 head earlier in the summer, most of which he sold in Walla Walla.”

As an indication of the severity of this problem, earlier that same year the Idaho County Stock Growers' Association began offering a $100 reward for the arrest and conviction of cattle and horse thieves.

References: M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New Projects

While we waited for, and consulted with the visiting worker-bees mentioned in my “Problems & Frustrations” post [much earlier today], I’ve been writing the next installment of Idaho history for the South Fork Revue, and collecting more events for the “On This Day” database.

Also, as I waited for an answer from a publisher for the Idaho livestock history book (see THE BOOK page on the South Fork Revue), I started thinking about a new project. Then I was approached with an idea by Skip Myers -- I’ve mentioned him here on the blog before, and have a link to his “Idaho City Events” web page.

By an odd coincidence, he had heard about a request from a publisher to do a photographic history of Boise County (and therefore Idaho City). The publisher, Arcadia Publishing, has a series called “Images of America,” and this would be part of that.

No one at the Boise Basin Museum, nor people they knew, felt comfortable with the notion of tackling such a project. As you can tell from his web page, Skip is fascinated by the history of Idaho City and that region. However, the idea of creating an actual book rather flustered him … so he thought of me.

I already had a copy of Arcadia’s Idaho Falls title and found the concept very interesting -- particularly since I’ve done a fair amount of photo/text composition work with The Retort, the good-sized (18-22 pages) quarterly newsletter I co-edit and desktop-publish for the Idaho Academy of Science.

The Idaho Falls book basically has a page of background for each of its 10 chapters, and the rest is many pages of photographs with (usually) very detailed captions. Although Arcadia prefers to work with a local author, Skip and I felt we could team up for this project. Skip would do the local leg-work on the photos and anecdotes and I would organize the material and write the caption “glue” that holds everything together. (Of course, I do plan to visit over there and examine the materials myself, hopefully within the next month.)

I didn’t bring this subject up before because I wasn’t sure how things would go. Now, however, the preliminaries have gone very well, so I have started collecting references specific to that topic. The references I already had in hand have some information, but not as much as I’d like. (I was researching the livestock industry, not mining.)

Offhand, I don’t think we’ll have too much trouble finding the 180-240 photos they typically want for their books. (Finding ones with good quality might be more of a challenge.) At this point there are no guarantees -- we still have to prepare a detailed proposal and have it accepted -- but I feel it’s definitely worth a shot.

(And I’ll post this as soon as I have my link back. It went down again 10-15 minutes ago. MUCH LATER: After being unconnected all day it’s back. Service man says it could be one of my DSL filters has gotten flakey.)

Problems & Frustrations

The past couple weeks have been hectic here at the Revue/Companion. Aside from having our patio deck rebuilt (Ouch$), we’ve also had repair guys tramping through our condo. In fact, I’m waiting right now for a telephone service person. Those who have followed this blog know that we lost our DSL connection back on Sept 20th. That was supposedly a phone-company system problem, and it got fixed. (But only after going through our ISP, the company that buys wire/fiber optic from the local phone company.)

Unfortunately, for the last day or so, the DSL line has been dropping out at random times. To understand the lack of reliability, picture me twisting my neck every so often to check the DSL and Internet lights on the modem box -- right now, they’re okay, a half hour ago … no luck. I posted today’s “On This Day” -- and later added a photo -- while I had a link. But, given recent history, who knows when it’ll go down again?

I started with the phone company, since it was their problem the last time. No go: The service lady said all their equipment was just dandy (?). Here we go again. Hardware and software on our end seemed okay -- the DSL modem itself has been working fine and is maybe 18 months old, practically new. So far as I can tell, the network software hasn’t changed (no “upgrades”) recently.

After much back-and-forth, “they” (whoever “they” are) decided there might be something wrong with the actual phone wires in our place. Not out of the question, I suppose: Terminals can get corroded, etc. after 20-odd years of use. Of course, the voice phone part seems fine, but that range of bandwidth may be more “forgiving” than the region that carries the DSL signal. Oh well, enough of that.

My next post -- depending upon when I finish writing it today and when I can enter it onto the blog -- will focus on opportunities.

Oct 8: First Ada County Fair

The Idaho Statesman for October 8, 1872 announced the “First Annual Fair” of the Ada County Agricultural Society, which was to be held in Boise City.

The Live Stock Department of the Fair had Divisions for horses and mules, cattle, sheep, hogs, and chickens. Top awards were offered for “Best full blood Bull,” “Best full-blooded Buck Sheep,” “Best Boar,” and “Best trio of Brahma Fowls.” Another Department had awards for “Products of the Soil” – grains, grass seed, potatoes, onions, fruits, flowers, etc. The Fair’s third Department covered “Domestic Manufacture and Home” – butter, breads, pickles, quilting, needlework, mineral samples, oil painting, blacksmith work, boot and shoe work, and more.
(Early county fair, Library of Congress photo.)

Today, this fair’s successor, the Western Idaho Fair sponsored by Ada County, has a huge number of events and ag-product classifications, and draws something like a quarter-million attendees.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oct 2: Texas "battle," Idaho Falls fire

On October 2, 1835, a militia force from the region around the town of Gonzales, Texas (50-60 miles east of San Antonio) attacked a contingent of about 100 Mexican dragoons in what came to be called the “Lexington of Texas.” The immediate cause for the confrontation was a demand that the locals return a cannon that had been loaned to them as protection against attacks by Comanche Indians. (Accounts vary, but they all agree that the gun was little more than a showy noisemaker.)

 The broader issue was the increasingly dictatorial policies of Mexican President Antonio L√≥pez de Santa Anna. This alienated American colonists as well as native Mexicans – colonists and natives alike expressed loyalty to the liberal Mexican Constitution of 1824. The settlers refused to return the cannon. Partly through fear that the Mexicans were expecting reinforcements, the militia attacked. In the ensuring minor skirmish, one Mexican soldier was killed and two settlers were slightly injured.
Although the “Battle of Gonzales” was of no consequence militarily, news of the clash basically triggered the Texas Revolution, which led to creation of the independent Republic of Texas in 1836. Then, annexation of Texas as the 28th U.S. state in December 1845 led to war with Mexico.

(“Come and take it” referred, of course, to the Gonzales cannon, but the flag illustrated here was almost certainly created after the battle.)

I discussed the two-fold connection between Mexican affairs and Idaho in my post of September 16: 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. Second, when that region became U.S. territory, pioneer traffic through Idaho increased -- and then exploded when gold was discovered in California.

On October 2, 1903, the Idaho Falls Register (later the Time-Register and then today’s Post-Register) reported that the town had suffered a major fire in which most of a row of old frame buildings had been destroyed. This was hardly surprising, since much of the older parts of town consisted mostly of flimsy wood frame buildings and shacks, and old wooden boardwalks.

Of course, it could have been worse. Although Idaho Falls had had a fire department since 1885, it was not particularly well equipped and the town’s water system was generally inadequate. An even worse fire the following year burned more of the business district.

Encyclopedia Britannica from Encyclopedia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite (2008).

William C. Davis, Lone Star Rising: the Revolutionary Birth of the Republic of Texas, Texas A&M University Press (2006).

Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).