Wednesday, December 25, 2013

First Christmas Services in the Boise Basin

On December 25, 1863, Roman Catholic Fathers held the first Christmas services in the gold towns of the Boise Basin.

More details on this event have been posted on the blog for Sourdough Publishing. A version of this material also appears in my book, Idaho: Year One – The Territory's First Year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Stock Raisers of Idaho

Truman C. Catlin is one of many ranchers featured in my book about the development of the Idaho stock raising industry:
Before the Spud: Indians, Buckaroos, and Sheepherders in Pioneer Idaho

Of course, as noted by the title, the native inhabitants – with their extensive horse herds – sheep ranchers also played a role in that history. For more information about the book, including a full Table of Contents, visit my related Sourdough Publishing blog.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

First Territorial Legislature Meets

On December 7, 1863, the newly-elected legislators for Idaho Territory met for the first time, in Lewiston. They had a lot to do get the Territorial government up and running.

More details on this event have been posted on the blog for Sourdough Publishing. A version of this material also appears in my book, Idaho: Year One – The Territory's First Year.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Elections Give Idaho Territory a Government

On November 29, 1863, the Golden Age in Lewiston, Idaho Territory, published an "Extra" to inform readers about the latest election returns, which had come in from the east side of the Continental Divide. Combined with the ballots already in hand, these returns would finally give Idaho an elected government.

More details on the item have been posted on the blog for Sourdough Publishing. A version of this material also appears in my book, Idaho: Year One – The Territory's First Year.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sesquicentennial: Newspaper Tries to Educate Readers

On November 23, 1863, the Evening Bulletin in San Francisco reprinted a description of where Idaho’s Boise Basin mining towns were located. The item, originally published in Idaho City, was prompted by the “numerous blunders” a local newspaper editor had read in various letters and reports.

More details on the item have been posted on the blog for Sourdough Publishing. A version of this material also appears in my book, Idaho: Year One – The Territory's First Year.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sesquicentennial: Owyhee Mines

On November 17, 1863, The Oregonian published a report that said the "Owyhee" mines – where Silver City, Idaho, was soon to be – were probably as rich as "advertised" in letters and stories coming from the area.

More details on the report have been posted on the blog for Sourdough Publishing. A version of this item also appears in my book, Idaho: Year One – The Territory's First Year.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sesquicentennial: Legal Furor in California

On November 6, 1863, newspapers in California had much to say about the case of three accused murderers from Idaho Territory. Their lawyer was trying to head off an order to extradite them back to the Territory for trial.

More details on the case have been posted on the blog for Sourdough Publishing. A version of this item also appears in my book, Idaho: Year One – The Territory's First Year

Monday, November 4, 2013

Grangeville Wins County Seat From Mount Idaho [otd 11/04]

On November 4, 1902, voters decisively favored the transfer of the county seat of Idaho County from Mount Idaho to Grangeville. This result culminated a vigorous decade-long campaign to wrest the seat away from the older town.
Historic Grangeville. City of Grangeville.

Pioneer Loyal P. Brown established Mount Idaho as the first town on the Camas Prairie. He started in 1862 from a waystation on the road to the Florence gold fields [blog, Sept 26]. In 1875, his political maneuvering won the county seat for the town.

Grangeville began with the establishment of Charity Grange No. 15, Patrons of Husbandry, in August 1874. When Loyal P. refused to donate a Mount Idaho plot for a Grange Hall, members asked rancher John Crooks if he would help. He agreed, and donated land about three miles to the north. To finance the hall project, Grange members organized a milling company and built a flour mill.

With the mill ready, they began construction of the Grange Hall, completing it in 1876. Grangers immediately developed the area around it, starting with a small general store and some residences. In the summer of 1877, during the Nez Percés War, locals built a stockade around the hall. Fortunately, they suffered no attacks and the few other existing structures were not damaged.

After the war, the nearby presence of Camp Howard helped the local economy, but the Army decommissioned that facility in 1881. Despite rather slow growth, by the middle of the decade Grangeville had become an important supply and commercial center for the ranches and farms that spread across the Camas Prairie. In 1886, the town got its own newspaper, the Idaho County Free Press (which is still publishing today.)

By 1892 it was the largest town in Idaho County. (That was also the year when Grangeville’s first two banks opened.) An undercurrent of sentiment to relocate the county seat burst into an active campaign. Although supporters polled a simple majority in the subsequent election, they failed to garner the necessary two-thirds vote. The setback was perhaps a tribute to L. P. Brown, who was still highly respected. But Brown would pass away in 1896.

Grangeville continued to grow. In 1893, voters there overwhelmingly agreed to issue bonds to build a new, larger schoolhouse. The following year, telephone service to Lewiston was initiated, and new businesses continued to open. Meanwhile, Mount Idaho declined.

In 1898, prospectors discovered new gold lodes in the “Buffalo Hump” area, about 30 miles southeast of Grangeville. The subsequent rush caused a “boom” as the town became a major supply point for the mines. Grangeville added another hotel, set up a volunteer fire department, and even attracted a brewery.
Grain elevator. Univ. of Idaho photo.

The election in 1902 gave Grangeville nearly three-quarters of the votes in their favor for the county seat. Thereafter, Grangeville would grow even more substantially, especially with the arrival of the railroad in 1908. Mount Idaho continued its decline to what is now basically a ghost town.

Today, Grangeville is a regional center for farming and forestry operations – the U.S. Forest Service is a significant presence in the area.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
“Early Idaho County,” Reference Series No. 324, Idaho State Historical Society.
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sesquicentennial Alert: First Territorial Elections

The regular blog for October 31 does double duty. I had already included the first Territorial elections as an important event for my On This Day feature. But it is equally significant that those elections took place in 1863. The item has been slightly revised as I "recycled" it into this year. It also appears in my book, Idaho: Year One – The Territory's First Year. You can learn more about the book at the blog for Sourdough Publishing.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sesquicentennial Silver Excitement

My book Idaho: Year One, The Territory's First Year includes a news item gleaned from  The Oregonian for October 23, 1863. The item has now been displayed on the Sourdough Publishing blog, where you can also find the Table of Contents and other descriptive material about the book.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sesquicentennial Samples Moved to Sourdough Publishing

My book Idaho: Year One, The Territory's First Year includes a news item gleaned from San Francisco Evening Bulletin for October 15, 1863. To make it simpler to access those samples along with the Table of Contents and other descriptive material, those items will be posted on the Sourdough Publishing blog from here on.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bannock (Idaho) City Trader Absconds with Money, Provisions Shipped

On October 8, 1863, The Oregonian reported details on the census of Idaho Territory. (Those details were known and used earlier – after September 21 – by Governor Wallace in Lewiston, to establish legislative and judicial districts.)

The article then gave news from Bannock City: “Our mercantile community were a little startled a few days ago at the sudden disappearance of a Mr. Hoyt, formerly of Olympia.  He has been a successful trader – his profits in less than two months, have amounted to about $10,000.”

The trader had, the article went on, “managed to buy goods of different parties on credit. He owed one concern between three and four thousand dollars.”

The surprise at his disappearance was not, however, occasioned by the usual fear of foul play: “He had the money with him, but couldn’t well spare it. When last heard of, he was traveling, as fast as possible, towards Salt Lake. A purse of $1,000 was made up by his ‘constituents,’ and an express started after him, to invite him to return.”

Having disposed of that matter, the report went on, “We have positive information, by the Salt Lake Express, that there is any quantity of eggs, butter, bacon, salt and flour on the way here from Salt Lake.”

This item, of course, represented the other side of earlier complaints from Salt Lake about how the gold camps were draining provisions out of Utah. Miners naturally hoped that greater supplies might drive costs down to more reasonable levels.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Idaho History and Historic Preservation Conference

From mid-day September 25 through mid-day September 27, I attended Idaho’s Heritage Conference in Boise. (They invited me to take part in a book fair on the 25th.) It took me awhile to write about the event because I was finishing the newsletter I co-Edit for the Idaho Academy of Science.
Old Idaho Penitentiary.

The Conference was keyed off the Sesquicentennial of the creation of Idaho Territory, with sponsorship by the Idaho State Historical Society, Preservation Idaho, the Idaho Archaeological Society, and several other institutions interested in Idaho history and historic preservation. Many other organizations – public and private – made financial contributions. The book fair and opening took place at the Old Idaho Penitentiary while most of the later sessions were held in the capitol building.

Most of the time, the Conference had three topical tracks running concurrently. Thus, I could not attend all the sessions, nor can I do justice to the overall breadth covered. In fact, I cannot really expound on every session I did attend … so this will be very selective. (As of right now, the Conference program is still posted on the web, if you’re curious.)

A recurring theme in many sessions had to do with reaching out from the traditional museum or classroom environments. My “take-away,” reinforced by my own experience, is that videos – movies or big-screen TV – that visitors watch passively are not often winners.
Idaho Capitol Building

A common thread among most of the successful approaches was some variation of “interactivity.” Unfortunately, this idea flies in the face of the usual “look but don’t touch” philosophy and/or requirement of most normal museum settings. But that is changing as organizations find innovative ways to use interactive maps, artifacts that are in abundant supply, and even “faithful” reproductions.

The issue of reaching younger audiences received considerable attention. As part of her talk, one speaker called up a YouTube presentation entitled “Social Media Video 2013” from the web. It runs just under four minutes, and contains some very interesting information. Two of the key conclusions were:
    “Social media has become the #1 activity on the web.”
    “Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé.”

Referring to e-mail, another speaker from academia claimed, “Students only use it to contact their grandparents, and their profs.” Turns out, they consider e-mail clunky and much too slow -- they prefer texting and tweeting. The need to finds ways to harness digital media and social networks was heavily discussed, but no one offered any good answers on how to do that.

The Heritage Conference essentially ran in parallel with a meeting of the Idaho Archaeological Society. One of the speakers during the Conference wrap-up offered some useful, and important, information in that area. Unlike many states, Idaho law takes a “landowner friendly” approach to artifacts – prehistoric and historic – found on private property: With one exception, which I’ll get to in a moment, artifacts found on private property belong to the property owner.

Some landowners keep such discoveries a secret because they fear that “the authorities” will seize the artifacts and essentially take over the find site. This reportedly does happen in some states, but Idaho law does not allow that. In fact, as I understand it, outsiders who removes artifacts from private land in Idaho – which happens far too often – are subject to the same penalties as if they stole tools or other property.

The one exception involves human remains (bones, usually), and artifacts closely associated with them. These fall in a special category and require expert evaluation. As you might expect, most landowners call local law enforcement, and that is the correct action. However, according to State Archaeologist Dr. Kenneth Reid, “Law enforcement officers sometimes do not realize that they should contact my office … if it is determined not to be a crime scene.”

So, to reduce later complications, landowners need to know what to do about human remains after they call the police or sheriff. That is, someone, either law enforcement or the landowner, needs to involve the State Archaeologist [208-334-3861 ext. 110].

Beyond that, what do you do if you find “ordinary” artifacts? I would contact the nearest college or university and ask for someone in the archaeology or anthropology department. (Many Federal facilities also have access to archaeological expertise, if there’s an office nearby.) They are generally delighted to hear about archaeological sites in their back yard, and will be eager to help.
Professional "Dig."
Idaho Archaeological Society

It is important to keep in mind that professional study is necessary to glean the most knowledge from a find. That includes the site itself, which holds clues as to when certain artifacts were used, what items were used together, and much more. That does take time, so – if at all possible – give researchers enough access, for a long enough period, to make a reasonable study.

Finally: As the artifact owner, you can “have your cake and eat it too.” You can, if you choose, loan the items to the researchers, for return after a specified period of study. You can then formally present them to a museum of your choice, assemble your own display, or pass them along to your kids. Or, you can try to sell them … but do not expect to make a lot of money. Despite the rare “killing,” most such objects do not sell at premium prices.

In the long run, however, I believe such objects should end up in the collection of a museum or other public institution. Far too often, private collections end up in the trash when the holder needs the room (or, to be blunt, dies, and the heirs pitch them).

Overall, the Heritage Conference was very informative, and I hope the organizers decide to make it a regular event. It need not be held annually, but I would think every two or three years would be useful.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

University of Idaho Greets Its First (Under-Qualified) Students [otd 10/3]

On Monday, October 3, 1892, the University of Idaho in Moscow greeted its first prospective students, about 40 of them. That event completed one of the odder paths to the creation of an American university.

The story really began with the creation of Idaho Territory in March 1863. The Federally-appointed Governor, William H. Wallace, made Lewiston the capital, even though the region’s population had already moved south: The 1863 Census showed roughly 1,500 along the Clearwater River and in Lewiston, versus over 15,000 in the Boise Basin camps in the mountains northeast of Boise City.

The imbalance worsened in 1864, so the legislature moved the capital to Boise City. North Idaho leaders never got over it. For years, people in the Panhandle sought to secede and join Washington (or, sometimes, Montana). That was true even as late as 1887 [blog, Dec 1].

President Lincoln. Library of Congress.
While Idaho Territory muddled along, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act, which gave every state 30 thousand acres of land for each of its Senators and Representatives. Funds obtained from selling these lands were to be used to support at least one college in the state.

The Act required these institutions to focus more on agriculture and engineering than traditional colleges and universities. Morrill Act schools – generally referred to today as “land grant colleges” – were also expected to provide military training.

In the late 1880’s, hopes rose within the Territory that Idaho might soon be granted statehood, with qualification for a college land grant as one benefit. Many complex issues then came into play. The last thing majority-holding politicians in the south wanted was for North Idahoans to raise the secession question again.

To placate those northern constituencies, conferees agreed to designate Moscow as the site for a land grant university. To “seal the deal,” when delegates met in 1889 to frame a constitution for the  new state, they wrote the location into the proposed constitution itself.  Idaho is one of only a handful of states where this is true.

When voters approved the constitution and Idaho became a state (in July 1890), that clause was still there, no longer subject to change by simple legislation. Still, the legislature had to provide startup funds, and these were slow in coming and never generous. Construction did not begin on the site backers purchased until the summer of 1891. The University had only part of a building completed when the doors formally opened.
UI campus, ca 1900. Illustrated History of North Idaho.

As it turned out, tests showed that none of the hopeful enrollees were qualified for college-level work. By the time classes began a week later, President Franklin B. Gault [blog, Sept 23] had hired two new instructors, both females, to strengthen a preparatory curriculum. As historian Keith Petersen wrote, “It was perhaps the only time that the university had as many women as men on the faculty.” Not until 1913 did the University close its prep school.

Financial prospects for the new school were not hopeful, partly because of the “Panic of ‘93” – a major nationwide recession that lasted for about four years. Even so, in June of 1896, the University celebrated its first four graduates to earn college degrees: Two young ladies with, respectively, Bachelors in Philosophy and in Art, and two young men with degrees in Civil Engineering.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-North]
“Census of 1863,” Reference Series No. 129, Idaho State Historical Society.
“Census of 1864,” Reference Series No. 130, Idaho State Historical Society.
Rafe Gibbs, Beacon for Mountain and Plain: Story of the University of Idaho, The Caxton Printers (© The Regents of the University of Idaho, 1962).
Keith C. Petersen, This Crested Hill: An Illustrated History of the University of Idaho, University of Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho (1987).

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fort Boise Founder Pinkney Lugenbeel Assigned to Other Duties

On October 1, 1863, a correspondent for the Evening Bulletin in San Francisco, California sent in a brief report from Portland. It began, “By a late communication addressed to the Executive of this State, from Provost-Marshal Gen. Fry, we are informed that the Brevet-Major Pinkey Lugenbeal [sic] of the regular army has been designated to superintend the execution of the Conscription act in Oregon and Washington Territory.”

Major Pinkney Lugenbeel had, of course, selected a spot for a new Fort Boise on July 4th and immediately began construction. Born in Maryland, Lugenbeel received an appointment to West Point from Ohio and graduated in 1840, when he was 21 years old. Lieutenant Lugenbeel served at posts in Florida, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Texas before the Mexican War in 1846. He was wounded during the war, and brevetted first to captain and then major for “gallantry and meritorious conduct.”
Pinkney Lugenbeel.
U. S. Army Archives.

After that duty, Lugenbeel served at several posts around the country before being assigned to the Pacific Northwest in 1855. By then he had the standard rank of captain. When the Civil War began, he stayed in Washington Territory and Oregon to train Volunteer units.

Toward the end of the War, Brevet Major Lugenbeel was reassigned to a fort near Detroit, Michigan. He then joined a front-line unit and saw action in northern Georgia. After the war, he served in Oklahoma and Arkansas, rising to the rank of Regular Army colonel. He retired in 1882, and passed away four years later.

References: Carolyn Thomas Foreman, “Colonel Pinkney Lugenbeel,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 24, No. 4, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City (1946).
 "Matters in Oregon," Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (October 8, 1863).

Monday, September 30, 2013

Stockman, Banker, Merchant, and Legislator Thomas Stanford [otd 9/30]

Thomas Stanford.
H. T. French photo.

Idaho stockman, developer, and legislator Thomas Charles Stanford was born September 30, 1865, in Logan, Utah. The family moved to Salt Lake City four years later, and by 1880, Thomas was working in a grocery store there. Later, he attended Brigham Young Academy (now University). In about 1884, he sought employment near Albion, Idaho, and then along the Little Wood River.

The year before, his brother Cyrus had taken up a homestead in the Little Wood valley. When Thomas arrived, he too claimed a homestead in the area. Cyrus lived on the property only long enough to “prove up” his claim and then returned to Salt Lake. Thomas stayed in the area, but mostly worked as cowboy, stage driver, and freighter.

Although existing records do not say, it seems likely Thomas watched over the family properties over the next decade. In 1895, he settled down to raising sheep on land near Carey. Cyrus returned four years later, and Thomas married in 1900. As his resources grew, Thomas added cattle, horses, and hogs to his mix of livestock.

After another decade, Stanford owned two properties, both of which were well irrigated. Overall he was, according to H. T. French, “regarded as one of the most successful producers of live stock in Idaho …”

Stanford served in the lower house of the Idaho legislature for a term starting in 1907.

In 1908-1910, he was president of the Idaho Wool Growers’ Association (Idaho Statesman, December 8, 1909). During his term, he organized a meeting of Western wool growers that led to the creation of the National Wool WareHouse and Storage Company. This cooperative firm soon built a substantial warehouse in Chicago. The wool growers’ intent was to deal collectively with buyers to regularize pricing and avoid wide swings in the supply-demand situation.
Sheep On The Move. U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Governor James H. Hawley appointed Stanford to the state Livestock Board in about 1910-1912. According to H. T. French, his reputation was such that “he was urged by many friends all over the state to enter the field as candidate for governor, but declined to take part in this fashion.”

Stanford considered such talk a joke, but partly blamed himself. Unimpressed by the initial array of gubernatorial candidates, supporters told Thomas he was “about as big as some of these others who are running for governor.” In a jovial mood at the time, Stanford had agreed. But, he told the Idaho Statesman (February 16, 1912), “There is nothing to it. I never thought of such a thing.”

Around 1918, Thomas phased out his sheep and horse holdings but kept a sideline in cattle along with, apparently, a considerable hog operation. The remainder of his property he devoted to crop agriculture.

Stanford also had business interests in the small town of Carey. He helped organize the local telephone company, and served the firm as Vice President and then President. He also helped form the Carey State Bank and served as President of the town’s Cooperative Store.

Active for many years with the Mormon Church, Stanford served a three-year mission in New Zealand as well as two years in the United States.

Ill health led him to move to Boise in 1945, and he died there in January of the following year.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French], [Hawley]
Don P. Haacke, “Biographical Sketch: Thomas C. Stanford,” The Thomas C. Stanford Papers, MSS 12, Boise State University Special Collections (1976).
John T. Haas, David L. Holder, "Livestock and Wool Cooperatives," Cooperative Information Report 1, Section 14, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Government Printing Office (May 1979).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lack of Water Hampers Mining – Many Owners Want to Leave

Correspondent “Incognito” addressed a long letter from Bannock City to The Oregonian on September 27, 1863. He began, “We, of the Basin, have lately been the recipients of a few fine showers of rain, which have been very acceptable, but the one of last evening and this morning has been far the most agreeable.”

The day had opened with morning thunder and lightning, which became “a real old fashioned storm, for about two hours.” These outbursts were the first real break in the succession of hot days. Incognito went on, “This rain does good in many respects: It settles the dust, purifies the air, and may increase the supply of water, which last is most ardently hoped for.”
Lightning Strike Near Idaho (Bannock) City

The writer only said “may” because not enough rain fell to increase the stream flows all that much. He then remarked on a notorious feature of Idaho’s high country: Days can be quite hot, but “At night one needs all his blankets, and on several occasions, lately, while your correspondent was mining, frost has covered the ground to such an extent that he was forcibly reminded of chill November in Minnesota.”

As for the mines, Incognito said, “Mining is about the same as when I wrote last. An attempt was made on Tuesday, by a certain few, to lay over their claims in this district, to give them a chance to visit the land of the big red apples, but it was a failure.”

A block of owners had claims they could not work, for lack of water. They tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the local mining rules so they could retain their titles without having to be on the ground for the usual one day in seven. Incognito expected that “many of those claims will be left by [the] present holders, as the inducement is not great enough for them to stay by till spring.”

References: “Matters at Boise,” The Oregonian, Portland (October 13, 1863).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Governor Wallace Proclaims Legislative Districts for Idaho Territory

Marshal Dolphus S. Payne finally completed the first census for Idaho Territory around September 21, 1863. He did not count the Mormon towns near Bear Lake, which everyone thought were in Utah, but found over 32 thousand people. Over half of that total were located in Boise County and, at 6,275 people, Bannock City (on Mores Creek) was by far the largest town.

Placerville came next at 3,254, while Lewiston had a population of just 414. Almost all the inhabitants were men: there were just over a thousand women, and fewer than seven hundred children.

By the time the Marshal finished, Idaho Republicans had selected Governor Wallace as their candidate for the Delegate position, as noted for September 16. Democrats had narrowed their field down to Pioneerville merchant John M. Cannady.

With the census results in hand, Wallace laid out, by a proclamation on September 22, the legislative districts for the Territory. The area west of the Continental Divide and north of the Salmon River was designated as the first District. The region south of the Salmon and west of the Divide became the second District. And the area east of the Divide was the third District. This made geographic sense, but the apportionment that followed was bizarre.
Legislative Districts, 1863.
Highlighted on Historical Map.

The Organic Act stipulated that the “apportionment shall be made as nearly equal as practicable among the several counties or districts for the election of the council and representatives, giving to each section of the territory representation in the ratio of its qualified voters as nearly as may be.”

Instead, maintaining his seeming bias for Lewiston and the north, Wallace gave the first District three of the seven allotted Council members, even though it contained less than 10 percent of the voters. The third (eastern) District, which contained about 38 percent of the voters, got just two Council members, as did the second District with its 53 percent.

The same disproportion happened in the House. Although the Organic Act allowed for 13 Representatives, only 11 finally attended the session. Of these, four came from the northern counties, five from the south (over half the qualified voters, remember), and just two from the east side.

The Lewiston Golden Age announced a key part of the proclamation: “Governor Wallace has ordered the Territorial election to be held Saturday the 31st of October. At this election members of the Legislature and a Delegate to Congress are to be elected.”

Note: This is a small sample of the stories available in my latest book, Idaho Year One – The Territory's First Year, released by Sourdough Publishing.

References: [B&W], [Hawley]
“Census of 1863,” Reference Series No. 129, Idaho State Historical Society.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Union (Republican) Party Selects William Wallace as Candidate for Delegate

On September 16, 1863, Union Party members (Republicans) held a convention in Bannock City to select a nominee for Territorial Delegate. Governor William Wallace out-polled the two other candidates combined. So, The Oregonian later reported, “The nomination of Wallace was then made unanimous, and the convention then adjourned with three cheers for the Union and their candidate. There is little room to doubt the election of the Union nominee.”

The paper attributed this to the fact that, “The respectable merchants and traders, with scarce an exception, are fast friends to the Union, and this remark will apply to the miners, and all class of men who expect to live by honest industry.”
W. H. Wallace. [Hawley]

Their informants assured them that only the riff-raff (“loafers, gamblers and idlers”) favored secession and the Democratic Party, and they mostly wouldn’t bother to vote. That, of course, was a gross misrepresentation. Moreover, a temporary Unionist majority would soon be swamped by emigrants who voted Democratic.

References: [B&W]
“The Idaho Delegateship,” The Oregonian, Portland (September 26, 1863).

Friday, September 13, 2013

New Web Home for Sourdough Publishing

To avoid further clutter on this, my main blog, I decided to create a separate blog for the books I have published under the Sourdough Publishing imprint: Here is the link.

As you'll see there, I have just released my latestbook: Idaho: Year One – The Territory's First Year. The "publication" blog includes an overview of the book as well as the Table of Contents. The book is available for purchase at Amazon.com and at a dedicated CreateSpace eStore. (Of course, the "blurb" at the eStore is pretty much the same as the blog text.) I'm not sure how long it will take before the title appears on the Barnes & Noble web site and on other online booksellers.

Those of you who have been following the South Fork Companion have been seeing examples of the sesquicentennial items for some time now. The book covers many more days, and most of the items contain additional material.

Soon – hopefully tomorrow – I'll put my other two books on the Sourdough Publishing blog.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Army Tries to Over-Awe Indians, Potential for Irrigated Agriculture Overlooked

On September 9, 1863, a correspondent sent off a long letter from “Camas Prairie, I. T.” that was later published in The Oregonian and in the San Francisco Evening Bulletin. He wrote, “We left Fort Hall on our homeward trip, on the 27th of August, and arrived here on the 5th of September, all well.”

In this case, the “Camas Prairie” referred to lay west of today’s Bellevue, Idaho, not the one southeast of Lewiston. The letter went on, “The cavalry, under Col. Maury, will leave here on the 11th, for Salmon Falls and the Owyhee, en route for Fort Walla Walla. The infantry, under Maj. Rinearson, will go to Fort Boise and meet us at the Owyhee or on the Malheur.”

Colonel Reuben F. Maury, a West Point graduate, had served in the Mexican War and then retired to Oregon in 1852, when he was 28 years old. In 1861, he was appointed to lead the 1st Oregon Cavalry, a unit of Volunteers tasked with protecting miners and emigrants on the Oregon Trail.

The writer went on, “Our trip, so far as regards chastising the Snakes, has been fruitless. … Our detour via Salmon Falls may result in something advantageous, but the prospects are not flattering. I do not know what Col. Maury’s intentions are, but I think he will demand the Indians who have been robbing and committing murders heretofore, and force those Indians who are stationed at the Falls to give them up.”

Since the Shoshones depended upon fishing at Salmon Falls as a major food source, the Army could have kept them away from the area only by stationing a unit nearby.

The letter next offered  a rather short-sighted judgement: “The country on Boise river is poorly adapted to agricultural pursuits, and in my opinion, when the best lands are cultivated, will not produce enough for the supply of the mining population likely to winter in the valley.”

The writer failed to recognize the potential for irrigated agriculture in the Boise Valley. About a year later, a new newspaper in Boise City, the Idaho Statesman, would advertise a property, “Two and a half miles west of town, containing 160 acres. Has plenty of timber and is mostly covered by a good ditch for irrigation.”
Feeder Irrigation Ditch
Within a couple years, most of the land along the river would be under cultivation, and prices for food in the mining camps began to moderate.

References: [B&W]
Daniel S. Lamont (Director), The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. (1897).
“Later from the North,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (October 12, 1863).
“Ranch for Sale,” Idaho Statesman, Boise (September 15, 1864).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Prediction: Emigration to Western Regions Will Soon Create New States

On September 3, 1863, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado published an overview of what it saw as some key aspects of westward migration. The article said, “The tide of emigration setting westward will soon fill up two or three new States with populations that will ask admission into the Union. Utah began to knock at the door some years ago, and, but for its ‘peculiar institution,’ would no doubt have been admitted ere this. The Territory has more than the usually required number of people to form a State government, which is rapidly increasing.”

The “peculiar institution” was, of course, polygamy, which was then a tenet of Mormonism, the ‪Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints‬. Utah Territory originally stretched from the Continental Divide to the border of California, and between the 37th and 42nd parallels of latitude. A series of cessions reduced the area to near its present size, plus a largely uninhabited strip of eastern Nevada. The population was estimated at perhaps 55 thousand, comparable to the state of Oregon at that time. However, Utah would not achieve statehood until 1896, after the church officially renounced polygamy.

The newspaper went on, “Nevada Territory will take the initiatory step this fall in claiming admission into Uncle Sam’s family circle.” Nevada moved from Territory to Statehood in October 1864.

The News also said, “The young Territory of Colorado also begins to aspire to a State organization, and will probably take advantage of the enabling act in a year or two. Its mining cities and towns are thriving, and the settlements are being extended into new valleys.”

Colorado Territory had been created in February 1861. Although it grew substantially because of its rich mines, the Territory did not achieve statehood until 1876.
Wagon Train in Canyon Country

Finally, the article said, “Washington Territory and young Idaho now divide the attention of Western emigrants, the latter being the latest gold marvel of the continent. It is scarcely a year yet since the first adventurers filled their pockets with the “yellow boys” at Bannack City, and this year the emigrant trains to the mines of Idaho are long and numerous.”

The writer concluded, “What a generation ago was only known as a Great American Desert will ere long form four or five populous and powerful free States of the Republic.

References: [Brit]
“More New States Coming,“ Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Colorado (September 3, 1863).
Allen Kent Powell (ed.), Utah History Encyclopedia, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City (1994).

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Miners Lack Water But Prospectors Still Hopeful, Politicians Meet

August 29, 1863 was a busy news day in the Upper County. The Oregonian of that date reported on the Beaverhead region: “Miners in that district are doing as well as could be expected under the circumstances, water being scarce. A number of prospecting parties are out in every direction, and our informant thinks other diggings will be discovered this fall fully as rich or richer than any yet found.”

In late May, prospectors had discovered placer gold in Alder Gulch, fifty miles to the east of Bannack City. Thousands joined the rush into those fields and founded Nevada City, Virginia city, and several other towns. Plus, those searchers “out in every direction” had also uncovered lode prospects up the canyon from Virginia City. By the fall, observers claimed that the Gulch contained as many as ten thousand men.

Beyond that, the paper said, “A large party was organizing for the purpose of going to Yellowstone river, some 230 miles in a north-easterly direction from Beaver Head, to prospect. … Another party had gone to the head waters of Snake river to prospect.”

The Oregonian also had news from Elk City: “Mr. L. Bacon, Elk City expressman, informs us that the American Ditch Co. are progressing rapidly with their ditch, and will probably have it completed by the close of next month. The mines who have water on their claims continue to take out remuneration pay.”

Meanwhile, also on August 29, a group of Unionist (Republicans) met in Pioneer City “to form a Central Committee to call a Territorial Convention.” The avowed goal of the three men selected was “to nominate a suitable person and an unqualified Union man as a Delegate to Congress.”
Early Pioneer City. Idaho State Historical Society.

The brief report from the meeting closed with, “There being no other special business before the meeting, patriotic speeches were made … [and] enthusiastically applauded.” After that, there were “three cheers given for the success of the national arms; after which the meeting adjourned.”

References: “From The Upper Country,” The Oregonian, Portland (August 29, 1863).
Michael P. Malone, Richard B. Roeder, and William L. Lang, Montana: A History of Two Centuries, Revised Edition, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1991).
“Union Meeting in Idaho Territory,” The Oregonian, Portland (September 12, 1863).

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Buyer Beware" the Best Advice About Investing in Pioneer Mining Stocks

On August 24, 1863, the Editor of the Evening Bulletin in San Francisco published a column entitled “More Disgust from a Youthful Dabbler in Mining Stocks.”

He began, “A short time ago I wrote you an account of my personal experience in mining stock. I now propose to relate the experience of some of my friends.”

The Bulletin Editor went on, “I met a friend who for more than a year has been dabbling in mining stocks. … At first, as is usual among brokers, he attempted to sell me different kinds of stocks, averring that there was a fortune in each of them; but I had already been burned and could not be induced to touch the stuff.”

No less a personage than Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, would offer similar hard-won, and valuable advice about the perils of investing in mining stock. He spent 1861 through 1863 among miners and speculators in Nevada, including hard labor at the Comstock Lode. That gave young Sam a first-hand look at the scams and dodges pulled by conniving wildcatters.
Sam Clemens aka Mark Twain.
Library of Congress

He slammed the perpetrators of one swindle, calling them “leather-headed thieves.” Their venture was not actually a going concern. With his characteristic humor, Clemens noted that they had promised to organize the company “at some indefinite period in the future – probably in time for the resurrection.”

The Bulletin Editor’s comparable skepticism changed the tune of his broker friend: “Seeing that it was hopeless to saddle me with any of his prettily printed certificates, he became quite gracious and confidential. It appeared that in his whole year’s work he had come out just even. He had run a good many risks and occasionally missed making a ‘handsome thing’.”

After reciting two more examples, the Editor said, “There is only one class of people, in my opinion, who can make money at this hocus-pocus business, and they are the brokers.”

Clemens, in a small way, learned to make money in carefully selected investments. Some were based on tips revealed in hard drinking bouts with the wildcatters. Thus, he usually had a “foot or two” of various claims. Somewhat tongue in cheek, in 1863 he told the folks back home, “I shall sell out one of these days, when I catch a susceptible emigrant.”

References: Peter Krass, ‪Ignorance, Confidence, and Filthy Rich Friends‬: ‪The Business Adventures of Mark Twain‬, John Wiley & Sons, New York (2007).
“More Disgust from a Youthful Dabbler in Mining Stocks,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (August 24, 1864).

Monday, August 19, 2013

War News: Bombardment at Charleston Essentially Closes Port to Blockade Runners

Pacific Coast newspapers had much to say about the course of the Civil War, based on dispatches sent on October 19, 1863. In The Oregonian, a report said, “The Weehawken and the Patapsco are in position to keep Wagner and Gregg quiet. … Gen. Gilmore [sic] announces that the work thus far has been entirely satisfactory, and that Sumter has been damaged greatly.”

“Wagner” and “Gregg” refer to Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg, built at the entrance to the harbor for Charleston, South Carolina. Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore commanded the Army forces besieging Wagner, with support from a considerable fleet under Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren. These two smaller fortifications were meant to relieve pressure on Fort Sumter, located inside the harbor.

Over a month of ferocious bombardment had badly crippled all three bastions. On the 19th, “Gregg was entirely silenced.” But Union artillery, naval and shore-based, sent their heaviest volleys against Fort Sumter itself. A dispatch the day before said, “The parapets are crushed and ragged and the north-west wall is gapped and cracked down almost to the waters’ edge.”
General Quincy Gillmore. Library of Congress.

Just four days later, the barrage would reduce Sumter to rubble and force the Confederate commander to remove most of its guns. Wagner would hold out for another couple weeks before it too had to be abandoned. The loss would end Charleston’s role as a port for blockade runners.

That served to further increase the importance of Wilmington, North Carolina, already a vital link to the outside. The San Francisco Evening Bulletin for August 19 printed a report showing just how important.

An observer claimed that “within the past four days 17 large steamers have arrived at that port, having run the blockade, loaded with stores for the rebel army, among which are 96,000 English rifles, 16,000 army blankets, 130,000 ready-made uniforms, 23,000 cases of shoes, 11 locomotives, 6 rifled cannon of heavy calibre, 5 cargoes of railroad iron, and skillful men accompanying them.”

Very impressive … but analysis shows that the blockade reduced the South’s seaborne trade to less than a third of normal. As a result, the Confederacy suffered ruinous inflation, crucial shortages in the army, and a general lack of everything on the “home front.”

References: James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, Oxford University Press, USA, New York (1988).
“By Overland Telegraph: News from Charleston,” The Oregonian, Portland (August 29, 1863).
“The Eastern News: Supplies of Munitions,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco (August 19, 1863).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Road to Idaho Planned, Gold in the Palouse?

On August 15, 1863, The Oregonian published a brief item about the Boise Road Company. It said, “The following gentlemen were elected directors at the meeting held at the Dalles on Wednesday, for the purpose of organizing the company: Wm. C. Laughlin, J. R. Robbins, D. M. French, O. S. Savage, Chas. Miller, N. H. Gates and W. Nix.”

A bit over a week earlier, backers of the Boise Road Company had canvassed people in The Dalles and had collected $4,500 in just “a few minutes.” At that point, they had about $7,500 in subscriptions for the new route. The Oregonian item went on, “The capital stock is $20,000, and the work will be commenced immediately.”

Notwithstanding that intended quick start, construction of the new road took almost a full year. By then, the business was called the Canyon City and Boise Road Company. Advertisements in the Oregon papers, as well as the new Idaho Statesman, in Boise, trumpeted that the road had good access to grass, firewood, and water: “Eight miles being the greatest distance without water.”
Road Construction With Horses & Hand Tools. National Archives

The ad said the road “follows John Day river to the summit; thence across to the head of Willow creek; thence down Willow creek to Snake river.” At a stated distance of 176 miles from The Dalles, the route passed through Canyon City, a gold town of some note. In fact, for about two hundred miles running west from the Idaho border, the route roughly follows modern U.S. Highway 26.

Also on August 15, the Lewiston Golden Age headlined a “New Mining Region … where it is said some rich gold discoveries have been made lately.”

They described the location as on “the South Fork of the Palouse, … about 75 miles in a northeasterly direction from Lewiston.” In fact, the item said, “Parties who have been over the country represent it as the most favorable looking gold country in the Territory.”

As often happened, these “parties” grossly over-stated the potential. A little gold was indeed found in the Hoodoo Gulch area along the South Fork, but the placers quickly played out.

References: [Brit]
“New Mining Region,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (August 28, 1863).
“The Boise Road Company,” The Oregonian, Portland (August 15, 1863).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pony Express Service Connects Salt Lake City with Bannock City

The Oregonian for August 11, 1863 reported that “Messrs. Davis, Patterson & Co. … are now engaged in carrying a weekly pony express between Salt Lake and Bannock City.”

This venture was probably a follow-on to the one described in the Deseret News for July 8. That earlier express, which took about two weeks to cover the distance, had been operated by “D. C. Patterson & Co.”

People tend to think of The Pony Express as only the romantic fast mail that ran between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California, in 1860-1861. But that venture lasted just eighteen months before the telegraph made it obsolete … and the operators lost money.

In reality, express mail businesses sprang up in many parts of the West not served by telegraphs lines. One of the early ones into Idaho started in Brigham City, Utah, crossed the border south of today’s Burley, and followed a route to Rock Creek. From there, riders galloped to the Three Islands Crossing of the Snake, and then headed for Boise City or directly to various mining camps.
Pony Express Passing Telegraph Builders. Library of Congress.

Yet, despite the romance, the riders were not superhuman, and good horses were costly. Thus, although operators charged all the traffic would bear, they seldom came out ahead in the long run. But newcomers kept trying.

The Oregonian
article explained the continued attraction: “They brought to the Boise mines the news of the capture of Vicksburg and the battle at Gettysburg seven days earlier than it reached there from Portland.”

Of course, even with a war on, the news seldom included such dramatic and important events. Thus, one may infer that, once the novelty wore off, express services failed to generate enough traffic to turn a profit.

Still, Davis, Patterson & Co. were hopeful. The article concluded, “They propose to continue to bring in the Atlantic news (which is telegraphed to Salt Lake) in five to seven days less time than it can be obtained from below.” (In this context, “below” meant telegraph stations in Sacramento and San Francisco.)

References: [B&W], [Brit]
“Pony Express,” The Oregonian, Portland (August 11, 1863).

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boise Basin Has Thousands of Claims, but Water Short for Mining

On August 6, 1863, The Oregonian published a letter from a correspondent in Bannock City, in the Boise Basin. By his observation, Bannock City (the future Idaho City) had grown to be by far the largest of the gold towns in the Basin.

He also had another measure of business in the Basin. He wrote, “There are over 2,500 claims recorded in the Bannock City District, most of which cannot now be worked on account of the scarcity of water. Both Moore’s [sic] and Elk creeks, which unite in this city, are falling, not furnishing as much water by one-third as three weeks ago.”

Since lode mining was not yet an important factor in the area, this severe drop in flow continued to throw men out of work. The writer went on, “In the Centreville District over 2,000 claims have been recorded; and nearly or quite the same number in the Fort Hog’em or Pioneer District.”

Finally, the reporter wrote, “In the Placerville District over 4,500 claims are recorded; making a total of over 11,000 mining claims taken up and recorded – for the most part months ago.”

The writer also observed that the Basin had additional paying ground that had not been claimed and formally recorded. He concluded, “Perhaps 15,000 claims would not be too high a figure at which to estimate the mining region of Boise already located.”

Another handle on Basin activity was, he said, “the number of pack animals and freight wagons constantly employed bringing in freight.”
Freight Team in Rough Country. Library of Congress.

The trip from Umatilla to Bannock city had taken thirteen days. The correspondent wrote, “We met or passed on an average not less than ten pack trains per day, many of which consisted of from 50 to 100 animals; none of less than 15 to 20.”

He had also counted sixty to seventy heavily-loaded freight wagons on the road headed toward the Basin. His counts lead to the conclusion that during that one snapshot in time, perhaps 250 tons of supplies were headed toward the mines.

References: “Election at Boise,” The Oregonian, Portland (August 6, 1863).
Merle W. Wells, Gold Camps & Silver Cities: Nineteenth Century Mining in Central and Southern Idaho, 2nd Edition,  Bulletin 22, Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Mines and Geology, Moscow, Idaho (1983).

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Large Amounts of Gold Dust Waiting for Shipment

On August 3, 1863, The Oregonian reported, “Our merchants are constantly receiving letters from their correspondents at Boise and at other trading points in the mines, full of complaints because of the impossibility of safely sending out the immense amounts of dust now accumulated.”

Unfortunately, dangers lurked along every trail. The newspaper said, “On account of the enormous expense of maintaining Expresses of sufficient strength to be prepared to resist the possible attacks of highwaymen and Indians, none now transport treasure, except in very small sums, and parties coming out are always unwilling to bring or have in charge any more than belongs to them.”

One miner braved the trails by himself and managed to slip through. From him, The Oregonian heard that, “If he had taken all that he was begged to bring, he should have had over a million dollars worth, and from others we get similar statements.”

The inability to get the gold out placed miners and merchants in an awkward position. To maintain their good credit, they were “very anxious to place in the hands of their creditors, who of course are equally – perhaps a little more – anxious to receive it.”
Box with Gold Nuggets and Dust

And, as the article went on, “Such a condition of things of course greatly obstructs business, and is a serious detriment to the mining districts, as well as to the merchants in this city, at the Dalles and in San Francisco, to all of whom it is a matter of serious consequence that transportation of treasure should be possible, safe and regular.”

Reference: “Millions of Gold Waiting Transportation,” The Oregonian, Portland (August 3, 1863).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lesson (Re)Learned: Always Cross-Check Your References

Today you get two “On This Day” (OTD) items for the price of one. As those of you who follow the blog regularly know, I have been making small revisions to articles posted during a previous year for a given day. (I have also added some totally new events, but – as you can imagine – it's not like I have a lot of choices for some dates.)

So, in addition to my Sesquicentennial blog/book writing, I have been looking over previous OTD items to get material ready for re-posting. And today, I checked the item for August 11 – “First Scheduled Stagecoach Arrives in Boise City.”

To expand on that item, I went to the newspaper archives stored by GenealogyBank.com. (I believe I’ve mentioned them before. They require a paid subscription, but it really is a bargain for what you get.) I did a search for articles in the Idaho newspapers that mention “stage” in the date range between June 1, 1864 and October 1, 1864. I set the date early because I thought I might find an item that announced that Boise City would have stage service “soon.”

Imagine my surprise when an item in the Idaho Statesman for August 2 said that the Overland Stage had arrived the day before. Now, the August 11 date came from James H. Hawley’s History of Idaho (1920), which has generally been pretty reliable. I found the same date in this reference: J. V. Frederick, Ben Holladay, the Stagecoach King, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1989).

But I found more newspaper references to the arrival of Overland Stage coaches in Boise on August 6 and August 9 … clearly something was out of whack. So I went to another of my old histories – the Illustrated History of the State of Idaho (1899). And, what-da-ya-know, it gives the date as August 1. Mystery solved. Whoever compiled material for that part of Hawley’s History, mis-read the date (easy to do), and J. V. Frederick probably went along with it.

Lesson: Even when you think you have a reliable source, always double-check the material when you can.

First Scheduled Stagecoach Arrives in Boise City [otd 08/01]

On August 1, 1864, the first scheduled stagecoach arrived in Boise City. The coach was, in a manner of speaking, about a month late: Indian unrest and other problems had delayed construction of the necessary way stations. The Idaho Statesman (August 2, 1864) reported that, “The Overland Stage will leave this city to-morrow morning at eight o’clock, carrying passengers and mails.”

The item said that the line had “good comfortable coaches, and good stock” and assured readers that “their time through from Salt Lake is proof enough of that.”

Ben Holladay’s Overland Stage Company operated the coach, which was contracted to connect Salt Lake City with The Dalles, Oregon.
Boise City stage, 1864-1870. Idaho State Historical Society.

Kentuckian Benjamin “Ben” Holladay’s family moved to Missouri when he was very young. As a teenager, he began learning the freight business in Weston, about twenty miles northwest of Kansas City. Ben’s big break came when he served as an Army supply contractor during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Then his company benefited greatly from the surge in Western traffic after the 1849 gold discovery in California.

By the start of the Civil War, Holladay had built a substantial freight business, including a subsidiary that ran steamboats in California. In 1862, he bought out the Overland Mail Express, which owed him money. This provided the core for the Overland Stage Company, as Ben upgraded and expanded the operation.

Holladay also knew his way around the halls of Congress, which garnered him favorable treatment on mail contracts all over the West. These contracts provided a guaranteed source of revenue, even if the passenger and freight business lagged. Within a few years, Holladay’s company had annual government contracts worth well over $1 million.

Other firms established the first stage service between Salt Lake City and the Montana gold fields in about 1862. Holladay began competing on that route the following year. With his mail contract as a base, Ben soon captured the bulk of that traffic. In 1864, Holladay went after a mail contract to add Oregon to his West Coast destinations. With the aid of an Oregon Congressman, he succeeded.

Boise City became a vital hub for traffic serving all the major gold fields in central and southwest Idaho. Major routes provided service into the Boise Basin (Idaho City), and into the Owyhee goldfields (Silver City).
Holladay stagecoach station. Library of Congress.

Travelers could connect from Boise City to Portland via a steamboat at The Dalles. From Portland they could continue by ship to San Francisco or any port in the world. Thus, Boise’s Overland Hotel, where the stage stopped, was one of the best-known accommodations in the Pacific Northwest.

With his political and business connections, Holladay saw the “handwriting on the wall” – Congressional support made it virtually certain that the transcontinental railroad would be completed. Not interested in small-time “feeder line” traffic, he sold his stage line interests to Wells, Fargo & Company in 1866.

If anything, the arrival of the railroad strengthened Boise’s position as a business and transportation hub. By 1886, rail connections linked the city to any desired destination in North America. But for at least a quarter century after that, most travelers from outside Boise reached or departed the train station via stagecoach.
                                                                                 
References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“Ben Holladay’s Overland Stage Line in Idaho,” Reference Series No. 1002, Idaho State Historical Society (January 1993).
J. V. Frederick, Ben Holladay, the Stagecoach King, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1989).

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rancher, Banker, and Idaho Legislator Victor LaValle [otd 07/31]

Victor LaValle. J. H. Hawley photo.
Rancher and legislator Victor LaValle was born July 31, 1874 in Chickasaw County, Iowa, 30-50 miles north of Waterloo. His father died when he was just 14, so he had to take a man's role in the family. Still, he devised a program of self-education and went on to receive a degree from the Iowa State Normal School, now University of Northern Iowa.

He spent four years as Head of the Mathematics Department at a Normal college located in the county seat of Chickasaw County. Victor's health failed, however, and his doctor recommended he move to a better climate. Thus, in 1904 he relocated to Idaho's southern Camas Prairie. There, he found a teaching job at one of the little schools scattered around the Prairie.

A few years later, when he recovered his health, Victor partnered with one Albert B. Brinegar to form the Brinegar & LaValle Cattle Company. During this period, the Oregon Short Line Railroad ran a spur line west across the Prairie, terminating fourteen miles west of Fairfield at Hill City. The Cattle Company was very successful. In 1917, they purchased a two thousand acre ranch located seven miles from Fairfield. As shippers and jobbers, they handled significant consignments from Nevada, Montana, Oregon, and even Texas.

Seeing the future in improved stock, they actively engaged in raising and expanding their herd of purebred Hereford cattle. However, having built their holding to a peak, they sold the ranch in 1920. According to Hawley, the sale "constituted the largest real estate deal in Camas county up to that date."
Hereford bulls, ca 1910. Denver Public Library Collection.

About that time, Victor took an interest in Idaho politics, being elected to the state House of Representative in 1919. LaValle sponsored a bill to re-allocate a narrow strip of land in western Blaine County over to Camas County. Residents there had complained because two high ridges blocked their access to the county seat in Hailey. Victor’s bill did not make it out of committee.

In the House, LaValle became a members of the Education and Private Corporations committees, and chaired the Committee on Forests and Forestry.

LaValle also served on the Livestock Committee. He sponsored an Act “relating to the driving of live stock from their usual range.” That presumably referred to the rustlers’ trick of hazing a band into a seldom-frequented spot on a rancher’s range. If the animals are discovered: Well, they haven’t really been rustled, have they? If not, the crooks pick an opportune time to drive the cattle out of the area.

Victor sponsored another bill that dealt with the tracking of stray animals. He also conferred with legislators in the Senate on a revision of the State Brand Book. LaValle would himself serve a term in the Senate after 1925.

Along with his political activities, Victor had banking and other business interests in Camas County. Periodically, he traveled back to Iowa, where he still owned the family homestead (his mother died in 1910). He also had bank holdings there and in Nebraska.

LaValle moved to Hagerman, Idaho, before 1942 and was reportedly still living there in 1955.
                                                                                 
References: [Hawley]
“Idaho Purebreed Livestock Directory: Hereford Cattle,” Extension Bulletin No. 38, University of Idaho Extension Division, Boise (February 1920).
“The Name Pocatello,” Reference Series No. 37, Idaho State Historical Society (May 1966).
“John L. Robinson Came to Camas Prairie in 1905,” Camas County Courier, Fairfield, Idaho (September 1955).
Ben Ysursa, Idaho Blue Book, 2003-2004, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (2003).