Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nov 19: North Idaho Train Robbery

On this day in 1891, a Thursday, two robbers boarded a Northern Pacific train as it slowed to ascend a long steep curve three miles or so east of Mullan, Idaho. Making their way to the Express car, they forced the messenger, one R. R. Case, to open the safe. Their take included the Hunter Mine payroll , which was to be paid out the next day. (Steam locomotive and cars, ca 1893. Library of Congress photo.)

With $2,800, “and perhaps much more money,” the holdup men fled, apparently with no one, except the Express messenger, the wiser. The Illustrated History said, “The affair was well planned and well executed and the perpetrators of the crime were never apprehended.”

The Hunter Mine, one to two miles northeast of Mullan, was probably the most valuable property of the Gold-Hunter Mining Company. Mullan had been established in 1885, growing from the discovery of the Hunter property as well as others in the area. In the time span before the Illustrated History was published, the Hunter had produced $25-30 millions worth of silver (at today’s prices) and an even greater value of lead.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nov 15: Milner Dam, First White Child in Idaho

On November 15, 1904, construction of Milner Dam on the Snake River was considered basically complete (ISHS Reference Series No. 497). The project had been promoted by Ira B. Perrine, who filed a water right claim at the location four years earlier.

Milner Dam in 1905. Library of Congress.
After some false starts on funding the project, construction began in 1903. In parallel with the dam, construction of the canal system for irrigation continued.

During this period also, the Twin Falls Land & Water Company began selling the land to be watered by the project, including lots in the new town of Twin Falls. The region grew rapidly after water arrived on the land in the spring of 1905. In early 1907, the legislature created Twin Falls County, with the village as its county seat.

On November 15, 1837, Eliza Spalding, wife of the Reverend Henry Harmon Spalding, gave birth to a daughter, also named Eliza. The birth occurred at the Spaldings’ Presbyterian mission at Lapwai, Idaho. The daughter was thus, according to the Hiram T. French wording, “the first white child born within the present borders of Idaho, and of those now living, is the first born in the entire Northwest Territory.”

“Now living” refers to September 1913, when she and another Spalding daughter, Martha, were interviewed in Boise for a pioneer celebration. [Eliza (Spalding) Warren and Martha (Spalding) Wigle, 1913. Photo from H. T. French.]

Hiram Taylor French, History of Idaho: A Narrative Account … , Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago and New York (1914).

Jim Gentry, In the Middle and On the Edge, College of Southern Idaho (2003).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nov 14: Second Territorial Legislature

Hawley: “The second session of the Territorial Legislature was convened at Lewiston on Monday, November 14, 1864, and remained in session until December 23, 1864.”

Earlier in the year (March 17), Congress split Montana Territory off from Idaho, which required some modification in the remaining legislative and council districts. During that process, the Territorial Council was increased from 7 to 11 members and the House of Representatives from 13 to 22.

As noted in the blog for October 31, the first Idaho Governor, William H. Wallace, had run for and been elected Territorial delegate to Congress. To replace him, President Lincoln appointed Caleb Lyon, a New Yorker who became known for much “bombast and fustian” in his public utterances. (Wallace ran again for delegate, but lost.) (Caleb Lyon photo: Library of Congress.)

During the first Territorial legislative session, southern legislators had tried to move the capital to Boise. They cited 1863 census numbers that showed over 16 thousand people in Boise County versus fewer than 2 thousand in Nez Perce and Shoshone counties combined. Northerners beat back that attempt.

The census enumerated after the creation of Montana Territory showed that the imbalance had grown. Thus, on November 23, Henry C. Riggs introduced legislation to move the capital. The bill passed handily, but only after much heated debate. Despite a diversion into the courts, the third session of the legislature met in Boise City, where it’s been every since.

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

Reference Series Nos. 129 and 130
, Idaho State Historical Society.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nov 8: Coeur d’Alene Reservation, Montana Statehood

On November 8, 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant issued an Executive Order that established the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation. The Order set aside around 400 thousand acres for the Indians, but opened nearly four times that amount to white settlement.

Traders for the British-Canadian North West Company made the first significant contact with the Coeur d’Alenes in 1808-1812. Like the Nez Perce further south, they maintained reasonably friendly relations with whites until miners began to intrude onto their lands in the 1850’s.

The tribe became embroiled in the latter phases of the Yakima War, and suffered along with their allies in the final defeat at the Battle of Four Lakes. Subsequent claims took away much of the area the tribe considered their homelands in western Montana, Idaho, and eastern Washington.

After the 1873 Order, edits in the 1890s further reduced the reservation lands. Finally, the tribe managed to adapt, and after much pain, has managed to prosper. The official Coeur d’Alene web site notes “Tribal traditions includes a respect and reverence for natural law, and creates a powerful voice for responsible environmental stewardship.”

Also on November 8, in 1889, Montana was granted statehood, becoming the nation’s 41st. Three days later, Washington became number 42.  Idaho had to wait another 8 months to join them.

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

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Projects Update

Those of you who follow my blog regularly -- and there are a a few -- might have noticed that my “On This Day” postings have been a bit late the past couple of days. Problem is, I grinched my back, somehow, a couple days ago. Coddling that has bummed my concentration, and made it difficult to sleep. Hence, I slept later and ended up posting later.  It’s slowly getting better, so that should improve.

Back on October 22, I commented about the package I received from Arcadia Publishing. Their representative suggested we (I and Skip Myers, a friend/collaborator in Idaho City) put together a proposal for a book about Boise County for their “Images of America” photographic history series.
(See the "Projects Progressing" blog item for Oct 22nd.)

We did have our meeting with the Idaho City Historical Foundation, parent organization for the Boise Basin Museum. While some Foundation members were enthusiastic, they need some idea of what we want from them -- which is access to vintage photos. Trouble is, we don’t know at this point what pictures we need, nor do we know quite what photos they have. The Boise Basin Museum has a good selection on display, but that’s clearly only part of their inventory. (Museum photo, Library of Congress, Duane Garrett photographer.)

So at the moment we’re reviewing the photos we already have, and studying Idaho Gold Country history to figure out what the book should be about. The Idaho State historical Society does have an extensive inventory of vintage photos, many of which relate to gold and silver mining.

There, the cost issue is a problem. Their fees are not at all unreasonable, but they add up fast when you need a couple hundred photos. From the looks of things, the up-front cost would eat up whatever revenue we, as authors, might make on the first several thousand book copies sold. (So far as we know, they do not offer an advance.) As some of you probably know, such “regional history” books sell mostly to a relatively small “niche” market -- moving 3 to 5 thousand copies would be a major challenge.

Anyway, we can’t really decide until we know what photos are available, and what they might cost in procurement and usage fees. More, when we know more.