Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jailbreak and Recapture in Murray [otd 11/17]

On November 17, 1890, the jailer for the Murray, Idaho jail, a man named Ives, brought a carrier loaded with evening meals into the jailhouse. The load was no doubt somewhat awkward since he had rations for all six inmates. Prisoner Nicholas Tully – being held for assault with intent to kill, but considered a “trustee” – offered his help.

Murray, Idaho ca. 1907.
Central Washington University Archives.
When Ives entered the cell block, Tully and another prisoner jumped him. After a brief struggle, they overpowered Ives, then bound and gagged him. In moments, all six prisoners were free. However, it was still light, so they decided to wait for the cover of darkness.

Established in 1884, Murray (Murrayville, initially) was one of the most important Coeur d’Alene mining towns. A special election in June 1885 made it the county seat … and therefore the site of the county jail. The exact construction date is unclear, but a suitable structure was in place by 1888 at the latest.

The prisoners had already taken the jailer’s watch, money, and keys … and locked him in a cell. Now they searched the office, but could find only two revolvers. When darkness fell, they crept out of town. All the escapees were fairly hard cases: Besides attempted killer Tully, they included two who were in for grand larceny, two for highway robbery, and one for murder.

As soon as he thought it was safe, Ives managed to chew through his rope gag. After awhile, a passerby heard his calls and came in to help. The sheriff was away and no one had any spare keys, so the rescuers had to file through some of the cage bars to set him free.

A county commissioner hastily organized a small posse. The pursuers headed out at first light. Two men crossed over a local pass to Delta, about four miles west and slightly south of Murray. There, they found some trace of the escapees: The report does not say what signs they found, but in those days many men were skilled trackers.

They followed the signs south along Beaver Creek for four or five miles, and discovered the fugitives skulking through the fields. They knew the narrowing canyon would soon force the escapees back onto the road, so they hurried ahead. There, the pursuers encountered the Wallace stage driver and another man, and they agreed to help.

The two original posse men hid along the road while their new allies rushed back toward where the first two had seen the runaways. When the six fugitives straggled out of the brush, the pursuers confronted them. In a well-timed move, the stage driver and his helper sprang out behind the six with shotguns. Outgunned, the escapees surrendered without a fight.

Reference: [Hawley], [Illust-North]

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Captain Bonneville Views Curiosities at Soda Springs [otd 11/10]

General Bonneville.
Library of Congress.
On November 10, 1833, a party led by Captain Benjamin L. E. Bonneville [blog, Apr 14] camped near Soda Springs, Idaho. The “digest” of his journals prepared by Washington Irving said, “An area of about half a mile square presents a level surface of white clay or fuller’s earth, perfectly spotless, resembling a great slab of Parian marble, or a sheet of dazzling snow. The effect is strikingly beautiful … The most noted curiosity, however, of this singular region, is the Beer Spring, of which trappers give wonderful accounts.”

The native inhabitants had long known of the springs and the curiosities surrounding them, and they soon became familiar to whites who entered the region. Robert Stuart of the Pacific Fur Company apparently passed through the area in 1812. Oddly enough, however, his journal mentions nothing unusual. In 1818, Donald Mackenzie, of the British-Canadian North West Company, explored the Bear River and passed by the springs.

By the time Bonneville arrived there, the Beer Springs were a well-known landmark and curiosity. Irving wrote, “Captain Bonneville describes it as having the taste of beer. His men drank it with avidity, and in copious draughts. It did not appear to him to possess any medicinal properties, or to produce any peculiar effects.”

Less than a year after Bonneville visited, Trapper Osborne Russell [blog, July 8] commented, “some of which have precisely the taste of soda water when taken up and drank immediately. Others have a sour, sulperous [sic] taste.”

John C. Fremont passed through the area 10 years later. He expressed himself as being “disappointed in the expectations” previous accounts had raised, but still “found it altogether a place of very great interest.” He described the geological basis for the well-known Steamboat Springs and analyzed the deposits left by the spewing water, material he found to be over 90 percent calcium carbonate. He also wrote, “the water has a pungent and disagreeable metallic taste.”

Soda Springs area in 1871.
Library of Congress, William Henry Jackson photo.
Not quite ten years after that, Oregon Trail pioneer Abigail Jane Scott [blog, July 29] wrote, “A half mile farther we came to the Steamboat Spring.  … it puffed to the highth one and two feet alternately but we are informed that at sun set it puffs to the highth of from six to ten feet. The water is impregnated with soda the same as the others, but it is much warmer than any that we had seen before.”

The Springs enjoyed a heyday as a genteel tourist destination after 1882, when the Oregon Short Line tracks entered the area. That waned in the 1920s. Much of the formation is now inundated by a reservoir, but Steamboat’s geothermal activity can still be seen boiling to the surface: The location is 2-3 miles west of the present town of Soda Springs.
References: [B&W]
H. M. Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1986).
John C. Fremont, Report Of The Exploring Expedition To The Rocky Mountains ..., The Senate Of The United States, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC. (1845).
Osborne Russell, Aubrey L. Haines (ed.), Journal of a Trapper, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1965).
Abigail Jane Scott, “Journal of a Trip to Oregon,” Covered Wagon Women, Vol. V, Kenneth L. Homes, David C. Duniway (eds.), University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1997).
Robert Stuart, Kenneth A. Spaulding (ed.), On The Oregon Trail: Robert Stuart’s Journey of Discovery, University of Oklahoma Press (1953).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: Beyond Bear's Paw, Jerome A. Greene

Jerome A. Greene,  Beyond Bear’s Paw, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (2010).

“The wrenching tale of Chief Joseph and his followers is now legendary, but Bear's Paw is not the entire story,” the publisher’s description says. “In fact, nearly three hundred Nez Percés escaped the U.S. Army and fled into Canada. Beyond Bear's Paw is the first book to explore the fate of these ‘nontreaty’ Indians.”

The climatic battle of the 1877 Nez Percés War occurred at Bear’s Paw, Montana, about 45 miles south of the Canadian border – the "Medicine Line" that would protect them from the U.S. Army. The “nontreaty” bands were those that refused to sign the coercive treaty of 1863, which drastically reduced the official Nez Percés reservation.

If it only described what happened to the escapees, Greene’s book would still be a valuable contribution to the history of the Nez Percés and their relations with Anglo-Americans. Thoroughly researched, this history contains a wealth of information about the topic.

Fortunately for us as readers and students, Greene goes “beyond” Bear’s Paw in the best, broad sense. He does not just tell us what happened after Bear’s Paw, he adds crucial context, before and after. Factors far beyond the local actions and oratory profoundly impacted what happened on the spot. Conversely, the fate of the Nimiipuu influenced how other tribes acted, and reacted.

He opens with a background chapter summarizing what brought the Nez Percés to Bear’s Paw. For a more complete treatment, consult Greene’s: Nez Perce Summer, 1877: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poos Crisis, Montana Historical Society Press, Helena (2000).

It’s important to understand that the Nez Percés War took place about a year after the Custer Massacre at the Little Bighorn. That clearly influenced how the government and the Army reacted to yet another Indian confrontation. After the Custer battle, Army pressure forced many Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indians onto reservations. However, Sitting Bull and a large contingent of Sioux fled across the Medicine Line into Canada.

This alarmed Canadian authorities on two levels. The presence of such a large body of interlopers – 4,000 to 5,000 by most accounts – put a huge additional strain on northern buffalo herds. This caused hardship for the Canadian tribes, which depended on those herds for food, robes, and other essentials.

Also, by international law, the Sioux were “displaced persons” – given refuge, but not allowed to use Canada as a base to launch raids below the border. (Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Sioux. Library of Congress.)

Before the surrender at Bear’s Paw, Nez Percés emissaries traveled north to plead for Sioux help against the Army. Canadian authorities warned the Sioux that they would forfeit their right to asylum if they sent warriors south. When the Nez Percés refugees arrived, authorities had little attention to spare for their plight. They basically evinced “benign neglect,” leaving the Nez Percés to fend for themselves.

The Pacific Northwest bands found some shelter in encampments alongside the Sioux. Unfortunately, a few individuals exploited the situation to practically enslave the newcomers, forcing them to labor excessively for a pittance of food and shelter.

Meanwhile, the Canadians were desperately anxious for an accommodation that would send the Sioux back to the United States. U. S. negotiators countered with a proposal that the Sioux be moved further from the border, to lessen the possibility of sneak attacks. Of course, the Canadians did not have the resources for such an action.

Coincidentally, the first large group of refugees arrived while officials were exploring alternatives with Sioux leaders. The Nimiipuu’s stories and bedraggled condition only hardened Sioux resistance to any notion that they should return south.

Having set some of the context, Greene devotes a chapter to the various avenues that allowed an estimated 290 Nez Percés to reach the border. A fair number of them were out foraging when the Army attacked the main body. Some warriors filtered back into camp to join the fight, but other groups – men, women, and children – hid, under miserable conditions.

Later, Indians like the band under Chief White Bird refused to surrender and slipped out of camp. These escapes gave authorities an excuse – as if they needed any – to repudiate the agreement to return the captured bands to the reservation in Idaho.

This arose from a willful refusal to acknowledge the realities of Nez Percés politics. Tribes like the Nez Percés had no “head chief,” except perhaps a figurehead “appointed” by a white Indian Agent. Instead, they made decisions in a “council of equals.” Leadership depended upon an individual’s prestige and force of character.

Indeed, Chief Joseph surrendered, with his magnificently eloquent “I will fight no more forever” oration. However, in doing so, he spoke only for his own band, and any others who agreed with that decision.

As noted above, the fate of the escapees was heavily intertwined with that of the refugee Sioux. As herds in the north declined, Sioux bands, and a few Nez Percés, did begin to hunt below the border. Occasionally, they clashed with settlers or troops.

Greene’s research discovered yet another complicating factor: White traders routinely exaggerated the danger from these incursions. They hoped to induce the Army to build more posts along the border, providing them with lucrative contracts and customers.

More examination of how Eastern newspaper reports impacted events, for good or ill, might have aided our understanding of some of these issues. But perhaps those accounts were so muddled as to preclude any definitive conclusions.

When imminent starvation finally forced the Sioux’s surrender in 1880-1881, a few Nez Percés gave up also. Authorities sent the Nimiipuu to the Oklahoma reservation in Indian Territory, which the bands called “Eeikish Pah” – “the Hot Place.”
Nez Perce encampment along the Clearwater in Idaho, ca. 1898.
By then, a substantial fraction of the refugees had made their way back to the Northwest, or were on their way. They traveled as small groups. Greene concluded that “the largest [my emphasis] body of returnees to travel together back into the United States was a party of twenty-nine people … ” They also took their time. One returnee said, “I was three years getting back to Lapwai. We returned part of the distance each year.”

Greene devotes considerable space to Chief White Bird, who was eventually murdered under bizarre circumstances. The chief’s story, one of the few with decent documentation, provides one example of the trials faced by the relatively small number of refugees who stayed in Canada.

Many of those individuals eventually married into local tribes. Recently, despite a gap of generations, venturesome families have traced some of these intermarriage links and arranged reunions. Green concludes on a hopeful note: “That both groups today have sought and claimed their common heritage is a measure of their strength and unity after so long a time.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

July 2: State Insane Asylum

On July 2, 1886, Idaho Territory opened its first home/hospital for mentally ill individuals – forthrightly called an Insane Asylum. The legislature had authorized funds for the facility and construction began the year before. The location was a plot of donated land about a half mile from Blackfoot.

South Idaho Sanitarium, now Idaho State Hospital South.
Idaho State Historical Society photo.
Before the Idaho Asylum (later called a “sanitarium”) was built, the Territory had contracted with the state of Oregon to care for patients in their Salem facility.

Officials transferred thirty-six patients (26 man and 10 women) from Oregon when the Blackfoot facility opened.

Although the structure was mostly stone or brick (only the third story was wood frame), the Asylum burned down a little over three years after it opened. [See my blog for November 24 for more about the fire.]

References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 21: UI Summer School

On June 21, 1899, the University of Idaho began a summer school session that attracted a fairly substantial enrollment. It was, reportedly, the first summer school in the Pacific Northwest.
Summer school class, July 1899.
University of Idaho Special Collections.

Records show that salaries for the next summer school session, in 1900-01, were budgeted out of federal Morrill Act allocations. This suggests that the summer curriculum focused generally on courses within the “land grant college” umbrella.

Between 1901 and 1912, the University offered no summer school, despite its apparent popularity. This was perhaps because a new President, James A. MacLean, arrived at the school in 1900. MacLean spent much of his tenure alternately fending off legislative attempts to dismember the University while begging them for funds to erect necessary facilities.

Enrollment for the “restart” session in 1912 topped 200 students. While impressive for the time, it is dwarfed by today’s typical enrollment of 3 to 4 thousand.
References: Harrison C. Dale, Statutes and Decisions Relating to the University of Idaho, University of Idaho Press, Moscow (1944).
“Historical Timeline of the University of Idaho,” Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho.
Rafe Gibbs, Beacon for Mountain and Plain: Story of the University of Idaho, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (© The Regents of the University of Idaho, 1962).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

June 3: Bonneville County Courthouse

On June 3, 1919, voters in Bonneville County passed a bond election to fund a new county courthouse. After the county was formed in February 1911, court was held in an old two-story brick building on Broadway. The summer of the following year, the commissioners bought land about three blocks north for a new courthouse.
Bonneville County Courthouse.

However, nearly seven years passed before residents were willing to fund a new structure. After a survey of courthouses in other towns, the commissioners approved a set of architectural drawings and construction began late in the year.

Officials opened the new courthouse in March of 1921. The spring weather cooperated and thousands of locals showed up to hear speeches and tour the new building. Over the years, the structure grew overcrowded so an annex was added on the south side.

Further expansion in official business led to construction of the City-County Law Enforcement Building, completed in 1978. The following year, the old Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Courthouse interior.
Today, the building’s exterior looks much as it did almost ninety years ago. Interior offices spaces have been remodeled and many upgrades have changed the structure “behind the scenes.” Still, the interior’s public views retain much of the grandeur of that earlier day.
References: [Hawley]
“Bonneville County Courthouse,” National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society (1991).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–1934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cruzen Case Follow-up

“Anonymous” raised a question as to whether or not Alonzo Cruzen (see below) was, or was not guilty of smuggling. The answer, such as it is, seems too complicated to bury among the Comments string … so here goes. (Plaza in San Juan, ca. 1905. Archives of Puerto Rico.)

First, there were no “Freedom of Information” laws back then, so it’s hard to say for sure. According to news reports, the Federal grand jury in San Juan indicted Cruzen at least two times for smuggling and/or receiving smuggled goods.

The Independent (Oct 29, 1903), reported that the first case was in the spring of 1903, with charges “that large quantities of liquors and other goods had been brought to San Juan from St. Thomas in naval vessels.”

Some context: By the spring of 1902 the transition from military to civilian rule for Puerto Rico was complete. Plus, after March 1, 1902, goods could move duty-free from the island to the mainland states (and vice-versa). Thus, contraband that had been successfully smuggled into Puerto Rico was “home free.”

Anyway, the grand jury issued a second set of indictments in October. As had happened the first time, orders from the U.S. District Attorney quashed those charges. The DA claimed the testimony against Cruzen was perjured “and instigated for purposes of spite and revenge.” We don’t have the records to say exactly when the Treasury Department sent a Special Investigator to Puerto Rico.

However, we do know that Cruzen resigned in December 1903. You could argue that he resigned simply because all the controversy made it difficult for him to do his job.

But then it got even more complicated: On Jan 18, 1904, the Senate asked for a copy of the report “by L. Cullom, special agent of the Treasury, with respect to the conduct of A. R. Cruzen.”

Nine days later, Roosevelt said no … stating, as we saw, that such a release would be “incompatible with the public interest.”

Cruzen’s connections seem to have been good enough to land the job in Puerto Rico. However, there’s nothing to suggest that this obscure party-faithful from Nebraska had the political clout implied by the President’s action.

So what gives? I’ll leave that to your imagination … because unsupported speculation would be unfair (and might get me in trouble).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Link Added

Probably not many of you who look in here regularly also check out the Links page (top-line tab). So … I figured I’d insert a heads-up on a new link that I have added there.

The genesis of the addition is interesting because it involves a lucky coincidence. Back on April 9, I reviewed the book The Good Times Are All Gone Now, written by Julie Whitesel Weston. Her book, of course, centers around mining activities in Kellogg, Idaho. (If you didn’t read the review, you really should.)

Coincidentally, a major event took place near Kellogg on May 2 -- and you’ll see the “On This Day” item for it shortly. During my research, I discovered an excellent video about the event. I thought Ms Weston would also be interested, so I sent her an e-mail about it.

During the subsequent exchange, I happened to mention that I really liked the music that plays in the background while you view her web page. She said it was created by Gavin Morrison, which I’d have known if I’d paid more attention to the credits displayed at the bottom of her home page.

She also said he had his own web page – “Manzanita” – and provided the link. So I visited, and if you like upbeat “easy listening” tunes (as I do) you’re at the right place. So go to my Links page, look under the Writers, Artists, etc. subhead and follow it to my new link. It's really a very attractive web page ... and he has sample tunes.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Looking Forward To: Fur, Fortune and Empire

The future-release book I mentioned in yesterday’s “Blog Modifications” item is called Fur, Fortune and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. The author is Eric Jay Dolin, and the projected release date is this coming July. I have already added Dr. Dolin’s web page to my Links page, but here is the link again: Fur, Fortune and Empire. (Cover art, W.W. Norton.)

As you’ll see there, his previous release was Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America. If his new book does half as well as Leviathan did in the awards category, we truly have something to look forward to. As his site recounts, it was “selected as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007” by several metropolitan newspapers, won two maritime-related history awards, and some others honors.

According to the overview, the book takes a comprehensive look at the American fur trade, starting in the early 1600s and running roughly to the dawn of the Twentieth Century. Dolin is very clear about what the book does not cover: [it] “does not address the American fur trade as it evolved during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, nor does it cover the current highly charged political and ethical debate over animal rights and the propriety or – many would say – the impropriety of wearing fur. ”

Eric followed much the same approach in Leviathan. He provided rigorously-documented detail, spiced with colorful anecdotes and descriptions, but examined the whaling industry in its own pre-Twentieth Century context. For this, he was chastised by some “the glass is half-empty” reviewers. (Most reviewers, by the way, found the book enjoyable and authoritative.)

 The naysayers seemed to feel the book was “incomplete” because he didn’t engage in modern-day finger-wagging about the environmental damage done by the historical industry. How anyone can call a 480-page tome, with 90 illustrations, “incomplete” is a mystery to me. I expect those people will have much the same reaction to Fur Trade in America. This is no lightweight airplane-flight read, by the way: 464 page with (again) 90 illustrations.

There is no doubt that Dr. Dolin could, if he chose to, provide a learned discussion about ecological impacts, the nuances of environmental policy, wildlife and game management, and so on – just check out his biography, and his other publications.

By (my) good fortune, he is scheduled to be at the Museum of the Mountain Man during the 2010 Green River Rendezvous (July 8-11) in Pinedale, Wyoming. (Personal photo.)

The event actually precedes the formal release date, so this will be his first chance to talk about the book. (Eric assures me that the books will be available at that time. However, I'm guessing that a shipment won’t have made it to Pinedale – truly the middle of nowhere – by then.) Anyway, my wife and I are checking our summer schedule to see if we can be there.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blog Modifications

Those of you who follow the blog may have noticed a couple new changes in its structure. These are both extensions of what I described back on April 5th, when I created the top-of-the-page tab that leads to a list of often-used references.

As I promised back then, I also created a “Comment Help” tab. At first, I only provided a link to the blog post where I provided step-by-step instructions for leaving a comment. This latest mod puts the instructions directly on that page, and adds a bit more detail. So now you can get help with just one click.

The other changes involve moving the list of interesting websites and blogs from the left-hand column to a “Links” tab.

I had been thinking about doing this for awhile, and then I received an e-mail about an upcoming book release. I wanted to add the author’s web site to my list, which made that skinny column on the left even longer. Putting the Links on a separate page allows me to include some explanation of what each linked website or blog is about.

Now that left column contains just my Profile, the Categories for blog posts, the Followers display, and the Archive. Can’t get away from the Profile and Archive, but I’d move the Categories list and Followers display if I could figure out how to do that.

I like the Followers feature … just wish I had more of them. In case you’re wondering what that’s all about, it’s basically a way to be informed, automatically, when I add a new post to the blog. A bit like having a Bookmark, but with the added benefit of knowing when there's new material.

I’m researching the new book release and will probably have more about that tomorrow.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Review: Good Times All Gone

The Good Times Are All Gone Now. Author: Julie Whitesel Weston. Publishing: University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. © Julie Whitesel Weston, 2009. [All images from the book.]

Catalogs and reviews bill this book as a “memoir of place,” which is certainly accurate. Still, in the end, it’s the people in a place that really make it memorable. (You may recall the buildings or landscaping where you worked before. But what you remember most, for good or ill, are your former co-workers, and bosses.)

We do read passages about rusty junk, tumble-down structures, polluted ponds and streams, and heaps of toxic waste. Only shrubs grew on the mountainsides. The timber was cut for lumber or scorched by forest fires, and never grew back. Constant (but largely ignored) swirls of acrid smoke and pollution blighted the growth of new trees.

I started the book with a misconception. The publicist’s e-mail asked if I’d like to review a new release from the UO Press. From the brief description, I expected a history of the Kellogg, Idaho, mining area. Since what I “do” is Idaho history, that sounded great to me.

When the copy arrived, I plunged right in, expecting a “normal” history approach. I missed that phrase about “memoir of place.” Thus, the mix of anecdote and commentary was somewhat off-putting. Despite that, the stories drew me in. Stories about people, sometimes told in their own interviewed words.

They resonated with me for two special reasons. First, the author and I graduated from high school the same year. Perhaps more importantly, we both grew up in small towns. (Actually, I spent those years in the country, or in towns even smaller than Kellogg.)

However, you don’t need to be older or a small-towner or a country boy/girl to get something from these narratives. For, in the final analysis, these are tales of human courage and endurance. But the funny thing is: they, by and large, did not view themselves as courageous or enduring. They were not “coping” with brutally dangerous working conditions or a degraded, harmful environment.

No, this was simply life – some good mixed with some bad – and they were just living it. I myself knew many individuals like them.

Do not think, however, that these people did not feel the pain. They did, as anyone would. Still, while some might not even know the word “stoicism,” they displayed it. Nor were they blind to the occasional hard times. They “muddled through” as best they could, and were later proud of having “made it.”

To a considerable extent, they coped through a sense of community. Everything in their lives, directly or indirectly revolved around the mine. That common bond helped them support each other through hard times and grief.

Back then, “No one locked their doors.” Like Weston, I clearly recall my mother sticking her head inside a front door and calling, “Yoo-hoo. Anybody home?”

Along with many fascinating stories, we learn of Julie growing up. You sense a certain wonder from her present self at what her younger self accepted as “normal.” Children only avoided the most poisonous soil and water; they swam in and played on the rest. And only outsiders reacted to the acidic smog. Her father, a physician, treated a steady flow of injured miners. She only knew that all those cases kept him late at the hospital.

Consider that hospital. Almost universally, commentators frame the term “company town” in a pejorative sense. “Sixteen tons and deeper in debt,” goes the song lyric. In that view, the company store in the company town turned men into wage slaves.

That is not how the folks in Kellogg saw it. “Uncle Bunker” provided the hospital, and also built a new high school gym. It bought uniforms and instruments for the band, awarded numerous scholarships, and distributed other perks.

Cynics will say, “They just wanted to keep those poor deluded employees happy, so they’d work harder.” Perhaps. But, for many reasons, most would have stayed and worked hard even without those extra benefits.

In any case, we also learn much about Julie’s tangled view of her father. A god to the townspeople, “Doc” was subject to angry, hurtful flare-ups at home. Still, she longed for his approval. It’s not clear that she ever really got it. He supported her education, but she describes their later relationship as “an uneasy peace.” His approval was, I infer, grudging at best.

We can all relate to her high school years: a town mad about the local sports teams, seeking peer group approval, boys, trying to build a unique “personhood,” and all that. One story was rather sad, but telling. She studied hard and excelled in the school’s band ensemble. That should have been worth some praise from her music-loving father, a skilled musician himself. Yet she gave that up to join the drill team. Her point: “Excellence and intelligence didn’t matter. I wanted to be pretty.”

Weston’s narrative opens, and then ends, with scenes from after the mines have closed. Toppling the giant smelter stacks becomes a symbol of the final end of Kellogg’s old-style “good times.” Of course, the mines had long been closed by then and the town had nearly died. When she visited for the demolition, the town’s rebirth as a destination resort had finally begun to “take.”

As I asserted above, “place” is really about people. This book chronicles the stories of those who lived in Kellogg during its mid-century prosperity as a mining town. It also suggests how life there shaped Julie Whitesel Weston’s character and expectations. By the final scenes, however, most of the people she knew were gone. New hotels and condos dwarfed most vestiges of its mining history. She ended on a hopeful note, but also admitted, “Kellogg was no longer my town.”

Monday, April 5, 2010

Reference Repetition

Those of you who have followed the "On This Day" feature of my blog for awhile have no doubt noticed that some basic references appear again and again -- Hiram T. French and James H. Hawley, for example.

To reduce the repetition of those citations, I have included them on a separate page, which you can access by clicking on the "References" tab at the top of the blog page -- right next to the "Home" designation, below the "South Fork Companion" header. Detailed citations will still be provided for references that are specific to a particular item.

Over the next week or so, I plan to go back and edit my previous posts and make this change in their references also (I hope it only takes that long).

 This is a very nice feature provided by, by the way.  I may re-do my linked "Comments" instructions using the same approach.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mar 19: Gem County Created

Idaho Governor Moses Alexander signed an Act that created Gem County on March 19, 1915. This legislation defined another small, oddly-structured county for the state. It also ended a political journey that created a convoluted nightmare for historians – especially genealogists. (Gem County in Idaho. Redrawn from USGS map.)

By the time the area had any white settlers (mid-1863), future Gem County had already been part of two counties: Idaho and then Boise, in Washington Territory. In the new Idaho Territory, the area was generally split between those two. That changed in February 1864, when county lines were redrawn to enclose the area entirely within Boise County.

That lasted 15 years, then parts of the future Gem would be encompassed by, successively, Ada, then Washington, then Canyon County. The last change, approved in 1892, left the northern stub still within Washington County. The southern part in Canyon County included the settlement of Emmett.

Finally, Gem County was created from the northeastern portion of Canyon, a western strip of Boise County, and (basically) the Ola Valley from Washington County. Emmett became the county seat. (Emmett, ca. 1922. Gem County Chamber of Commerce.)

The historical records for the trading post, then town, at Emmett become fascinating. Prospectors passing through in 1862 would say Idaho County in their diaries. Settlers who had children in 1864 would put Boise County in the family Bible. A year later, they’d have to record the location as Ada County. If those children stayed close, they’d get married and have children in Canyon County. The children’s children would be born, and the grandparents would pass away, in Gem County.

References: [Hawley]

Ruth B. Lyon, The Village That Grew, printed by Lithocraft, Inc, Boise (Copyright Ruth B. Lyon, 1979).

“Counties and County Seats,” Reference Series No. 10, Idaho State Historical Society (1991).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mar 18: Gooding College

On March 18, 1983, the Gooding College Campus, in Gooding, Idaho, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Its areas of historical significance include architecture, engineering, social history, education, and educational-related housing. (Main College building. Get Inn photo,

Gooding College was established by the Methodist Church and received its first students in September 1917. For most of its existence, the College President was Charles Wesley Tenney.

The school offered an excellent Bachelor of Arts degree and several of its alumni went on to fine careers in the arts and education. Charles D. Tenney, the president's son, graduated from the College, earned a Ph.D. at the University of Oregon, and had a distinguished half-century career at Southern Illinois University.

With the growth of other colleges around the state, the school began losing enrollment and finally shut down in 1938. Three years later, the property passed to the state of Idaho, which converted the buildings to the Tuberculosis Hospital in 1946.

That facility operated for over twenty years; however, the Campus function was listed as “Vacant/Not in Use” when it was placed on the Historic list in 1983. Today, the “Get Inn” company is renovating the main building as a bed & breakfast, and hotel. (Get Inn grounds.)

References: [Hawley]

“Educational News – Idaho,” Journal of Education: New England and National, Volume 89, Boston (1919).

“Gooding College Campus,” National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.

“Charles D. Tenney, the Man Behind the Words,” CornerStone, The Newsletter of Morris Library, Southern Illinois University,  Carbondale (Winter 2008).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Headline Hunting

Posting the “On This Day” item for today reinforced a notion I’ve had about that feature: Something truly important may happen every day somewhere in the world, but maybe not so much where you live. Thus, I had no “blockbuster” events for today, while my daily Encyclopedia Britannica message noted that the siege of the Alamo began on this day in 1836, and U.S. soldiers planted our flag on Mount Suribachi (Iwo Jima) in 1945.

So restricting my “On This Day” feature to events that are relevant to Idaho does limit my choices.

A few times – fortunately, very few – I’ve had to use events that required some fancy footwork to make the Idaho connection. However, lack of “excitement” for an event is much more common. Thus, on October 10, 1833, Captain Benjamin L. E. Bonneville camped near Soda Springs, Idaho. Not very exciting. However, the visit did produce one of the first, if not the first written description of the geothermal features that became a famous landmark on the Oregon Trail – commented upon and described by scores of later travelers.

Conversely, some events are exciting, but not particularly important to anyone besides the direct participants. Today’s blog about flooding in the Clearwater area is just one example.

If you’ve followed the blog for awhile, you’ve probably noticed that the most common events are birthdays. Given a choice, I try to highlight individuals who played a reasonably significant role in Idaho history: governors, legislators, judges, lawmen, and so on. If the choice is between a run-of-the-mill legislator and an engineer – a bridge, dam, or canal system designer – I generally go with the engineer. I also bias my selections towards women, given that choice … because so few of their contributions made it into the historical record.

Some of the individuals highlighted were not particularly famous people, and we might not consider their accomplishments important “in the grand scheme of things.” That’s all right: They too helped build the state and deserve to have their contributions remembered.

By the way: I don’t include people who are still alive; after all, they still have time to accomplish something else worth noting.

The feature does take a fair amount of work, but it’s worth it. I already have a list of project ideas – for articles and maybe a book or two – that’s longer than I’ll ever have time for.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jan 30: Hecla President James McCarthy

On January 30, 1867, James F. McCarthy, President of the Hecla Mining Company, was born in St. Clair, Pennsylvania. He worked as a clerk in his home state, then moved to New York. There, while working at the New York Metallurgical Works, he took night classes at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

He then worked, starting as an assayer, for various mining companies in Honduras. He moved up the ladder fairly quickly, first to mill superintendent and then to a position as assistant manager for the Mammoth Mining Company, which brought him to Wallace, Idaho.
Hecla Mine in 1909. University of Idaho photo.
During his time in Honduras, investors incorporated the Hecla Mining Company in the state of Idaho.

It’s not entirely clear when McCarthy joined the company as “a hard-working engineer,” but he took charge of the company’s daily operations in 1903. Then, in November, in a rather informal way, he was acknowledged to be manager of the company.

In 1911, Hecla’s board appointed McCarthy company President to go along with his General Manager position. The corporate history notes that “It was the first time that one of the major shareholders did not hold the post of President.”

In addition to his Hecla presidency, McCarthy held offices in some other corporations, and was a Regent of the University of Idaho from 1903 to 1907.  He led Hecla through the recovery process when a disastrous fire in 1923 ravaged their plant in Burke. He continued as President until his death in 1940.

Hecla is one of the few pioneer mining company that is still in operation. It has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange for over 40 years.

References: [Hawley]
Corporate History, Hecla Mining Company (1991).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jan 11: Idaho Territorial Stock Growers’ Association

In 1886, the Idaho Avalanche (later the Owyhee Avalanche) reported that stockmen had “met in Shoshone on the 11th inst. and proceeded to organize the Idaho Territorial stock association, and adopt a constitution and by-laws.” (Historic brands from Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho, 1950: Barbed triangle, Dan Murphy; Diamond, Wilkins Co.; Spade, Arthur Pence.)

In attendance were presidents and members of county and regional stock associations from all over the Territory.  Salmon River stockman George L. Shoup, who would later serve as Idaho Governor and U.S. Senator, was among the luminaries present. The article said, “The association was organized under the name of ‘Idaho Territorial Stock Growers' Association,’ about sixty five of the heaviest stock raisers having been admitted to membership.”

Branding a calf.
Idaho Yesterdays, Vol. 15, No. 4, Winter 1972.
Two of the stockmen’s major concerns were rustling and the importation of diseased cattle into the Territory. They would push for regulations to require health inspections and provide penalties for those who imported diseased cattle. Their efforts also sparked laws that provided compensation to those whose stock had to be destroyed to prevent the spread of infection.

The Association urged cattlemen to register their brands and other identifying marks to hamper rustlers who tried to market stolen cattle.

References: [B&W]
The Idaho Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho Territory (January 23, 1886).