Thursday, March 15, 2012

Civil War Veteran and Payette River Pioneer John Ireton [otd 03/15]

Stockman and waystation manager John Harvey Ireton was born March 15, 1845 in Clermont County, Ohio, about twenty miles east of Cincinnati. He grew up on the family farm, attaining a common school education. At the age of eighteen, he joined the Ninth Ohio Cavalry, where he soon made sergeant.
General Kilpatrick, ca 1863.
Library of Congress.

During the next two years, the Ninth Ohio marched with General William T. Sherman’s cavalry in Alabama and then on the March to the Sea. His service could not have been easy: Sherman’s cavalry rode under the command of Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick, who earned the derisive nickname “Kill-Cavalry” for the way he used, and misused, his troops. Ireton’s unit mustered out in July 1865.

In 1868, John traveled via ship and the Isthmus of Panama to San Francisco, and by stagecoach to Idaho … ending in Centerville. By then prospectors had claimed most of the promising ground in Boise Basin. Ireton stayed in the Basin for about three seasons, working for wages. However, he also took a winter job at a ranch about ten miles northeast of Emmett.

Ireton finally left the mines to work at a ranch further north in the Squaw Creek Valley. During the several years needed to accumulate a stake for his own place, he met Josephine Warner, half-sister to Edson Marsh.

Marsh was part owner of a well-known ranch and waystation on the main stage and freight road to the Boise Basin. It was also a crossroads on the route leading to the fertile northern valleys. The Payette River station had changed hands several times after being established in 1863.

In May 1878, John Ireton married Josephine and then, or soon after, bought his own stake in the waystation-ranch. Thereafter, people far and wide knew the place as the Mitchell-Marsh-Ireton Ranch.

The partners added acreage and began expanding their cattle and horse operation. Ireton led a long-term program to upgrade both lines of livestock, and this continued when they began a transition to sheep raising. In 1886, Mitchell sold his interest to his partners and retired. The ranch operated under their ownership for another sixteen years, so some records refer to the property as the Marsh-Ireton Ranch.
Mitchell, Marsh & Ireton Ranch. Library of Congress.

Because of its strategic location, the waystation business became the most reliably-profitable part of the operation.

John’s daughter Nellie, born in April 1880, later wrote a history of the Payette River settlements. She recalled that family members sometimes slept on straw pads spread in the sitting room to make space for paying customers.

She also said that “To have fifty for a meal was not uncommon and as many as sixty road horses would often be in the barns and corrals at one time.”

In 1902, they sold the ranch. Ireton moved his family to Boise and invested in real estate. He passed away there in November 1917.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Ruth B. Lyon, The Village That Grew, printed by Lithocraft, Inc, Boise (© Ruth B. Lyon, 1979).
Samuel J. Martin, Kill-Cavalry: The Life of Union General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania (2000).
Nellie Ireton Mills, All Along the River: Territorial and Pioneer Days on the Payette, Payette Radio Ltd., Montreal, Canada (1963).

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