Monday, April 29, 2013

General Connor Plans Fort and Town Near the Soda Springs in Idaho

On April 29, 1863, the Deseret News in Salt Lake City reported, “For some time past rumors have been in circulation that is was the intention of Gen. Connor to establish a new military post at or near Soda Springs, in Idaho Territory, this spring, in order to hold the Indians in check.”

The News had not paid a lot of attention to these stories, but now they said, “We have been informed on good authority … that within ten days two companies – one of infantry and one of cavalry – will be detached from Camp Douglas for the purpose of establishing a new post somewhere in that vicinity.”
Gen. Patrick E. Connor. Library of Congress.

They considered this “a much better arrangement” because the location placed troops much closer to the flow of emigrants on the Oregon Trail. Camp Douglas, the Army’s base a few miles east of Salt Lake, was too far away to be effective.

The News also applauded “another splendid scheme,” which was to establish a colony for “all the scape-graces at and about Camp Douglas.” Most of the so-called “scape-graces” were, in fact, the remnants of the Morrisites, a group that had split off from the LDS church. Their leader, Joseph Morris, had been shot and killed by a Mormon posse the previous summer. It would be, the News opined, “of inestimable benefit” to move these apostates out of Utah.

References: [Hawley]
“Establishment of a New Military Post,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah (April 29, 1863).

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Portland Merchants Try to Divert Gold Prospectors to Their Stores

On April 27, 1863, the Oregonian, in Portland, carried the following advertisement:
Ho! for Boise, John Day and the Powder River Gold Mines!
"Through without detention! The only sure way for miners to reach the new mines, without being detained, is to secure their supplies in Portland! … [We have] 20,000 pounds choice Oregon bacon, 30,000 pounds extra fine flour, 10,000 pounds of assorted beans, 300 pairs of Oregon Gray Blankets, together with a full supply of groceries, boots, shoes and all kinds of mining articles can now be obtained at Harker Bros., No. 123 Front Street, opposite the Upper Wharf, Portland.”

Asa Harker arrived in Portland in the early 1850s and engaged in the dry goods business. In 1857, he and a partner moved into a “new fire-proof brick store” on Front Street. About the same time, Asa opened another store next door, also in a brick structure, with his younger brother James. (Both born in New Jersey, James was then about 24 years old, Asa about 31.) The partner soon retired due to ill health, and the combined store did business as “Harker Brothers.”
Front Street, Portland, 1852. Library of Congress.

Of course, they were hardly the only merchants trying to attract business from the flow of prospectors. A typical issue of the Oregonian (just four pages long) had at least a dozen ads for provisions, tools, rapid transport to the mines, and other goods and services for the eager gold seekers.

References: “Advertisement,” Oregonian, Portland (April 27, 1863).
Joseph Gaston, Portland, Oregon: It’s History and Builders, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago (1911).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Correspondent from Gold Country Writes Back to "the States" (Wisconsin)

On April 25, 1863, the Wisconsin Daily Patriot in Madison, Wisconsin published a letter from an Oregon emigrant to "My dear old friends" back in Wisconsin. The correspondent, Royal A. Pierce, had arrived in the then-thriving mining town of Auburn, Oregon in the fall of 1862.

After discoursing on the geography, climate, and animals of his new home, Pierce wrote, "But the great interest, and the interest to be most sought after in this portion of the world, is the mining interest … Gold has been found here in spots in great abundance."

Many prospectors had rushed into the gold fields, but – in Royal's view – the potential riches should have already drawn even more: "The Indian is the cause of all this delay." Still, he felt that they would soon be subdued.
Gold Cradle. Library of Congress.

Moreover, despite the delay, "Already there are mines discovered, some of which are declared to be very rich. The Boise River mines, around Placerville, and on Moore's Creek, and Granite Creek, are doubtless good, but are too new to enable any one to decide as to their richness."

His advice: "Wait till next year, and then start." He closed with, "This will be a good place for young women, also, as they are in great demand in the matrimonial market."

Pierce helped found Baker City, about eight miles northeast of Auburn. In 1866, he passed the Oregon bar and opened a practice in Baker City.

He moved to Challis, Idaho in 1879, without his wife and children. There, he continued his law practice, and also ran a newspaper for a time.

References: An Illustrated History of Baker, Grant, Malheur and Harney Counties, Oregon, Western Historical Publishing Co., Chicago (1902).
Royal A. Pierce, “Patriot Oregon Correspondence,” Wisconsin Daily Patriot, Madison, Wisconsin (April 25, 1863).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Military Expedition into Idaho, Salmon River Gold Mines Flourishing

On April 22, 1863, the Oregonian, in Portland, reported that “a detachment of fifty men, belonging to Capt. Harris’ company of Oregon Cavalry, left Fort Dalles on Tuesday morning for Fort Walla Walla, on their way to the Boise country.”

The item said that the force would acquire what reinforcements it could at Fort Walla Walla. With the Civil War raging in the East, the Army was hard pressed to find units to spare. A few weeks earlier, the Oregonian had described the hostility of the Indians, and how few troops were available. Their advice: “Every one who goes to Boise should go well armed.”

The previous month, an advance guard for a larger expedition had entered the region, intent upon building a fort in the Boise Valley. However, site selection and construction would not even begin for another six week or so.

Also on April 22nd, the Golden Age, in Lewiston, announced that rich new gold fields had been found near Florence and Warren’s Camp. The reports out of Warren’s “were so extravagant,” the newspaper said, that they “did not wish to use them at present.” They would wait for some confirmation.
Early Florence. Idaho State Historical Society.

From Florence, a local claimed that “two thousand men could get constant employment there during the summer.” Moreover, if enough men did show up, “More gold would be taken out this season than was taken out last year.”

References: “From the Upper Columbia,” Oregonian, Portland (April 29, 1863).
Carolyn Thomas Foreman, “Colonel Pinkney Lugenbeel,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 24, No. 4, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City (1946).
“Military Expedition to Boise,” Oregonian, Portland (April 22, 1863).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Borders of Idaho Territory Reported in the West (Finally)

Over a month after Congress created Idaho Territory, and 150 years ago (April 18, 1863) today, the Oregonian, in Portland, finally published a general description of the new entity. Somewhat awkwardly worded, the item said, “The boundaries of the new Territory include all that portion of Washington lying east of Oregon, and all lying east and north of the entire boundary of Oregon. This includes Lewiston, Florence, Oro Fino, Elk City and Boise river.”

The newspaper didn’t bother to describe the eastern boundary of the new Territory. The Organic Act defined that as “the twenty-seventh degree of longitude west of Washington [D.C].” That border, the line between today’s Montana and the Dakotas, ran south all the way to the northern border of Colorado Territory. As described in my blog of March 4th, the resulting "geographic monstrosity" was substantially larger than Texas.
Idaho Territory.
U. S. General Land Office maps combined.
The Oregonian next summarized the structure of the Territorial government: “The bill provides for the usual officers, and a Legislative Assembly consisting of a Council and House of Representatives. The Council will consist of seven members, to serve for two years, and the House of thirteen members, elected annually. Previous to the first election, the Governor is required to have a census of the inhabitants taken, and the representation in the Legislature is to be apportioned as equally as possible.”

The “usual officers” included a governor, judges, an attorney general, and so on … all of whom would be appointed by the President. That difference would lead to future heated disputes between those officials – mostly outsiders – and the locally-elected legislature.

References: [Hawley]
“The Territory of Idaho,” Oregonian, Portland (April 18, 1863).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Guest Blog: Paris, Idaho; Pioneer Families Rich and Budge

A bit over a week ago, a fellow blogger, “Leslie Ann,” offered me the chance to do a guest blog for her site, Ancestors Live Here (it’s included on my “Links” page). As you can tell from her title, her blog leans more toward genealogy and family history. Leslie has done a remarkable amount of work for her blog, and she even has another one called Lost Family Treasures. Amazing.

Anyway, in keeping with her theme, and the fact that she has roots in Paris, Idaho, I prepared an article that has a bit of town history. But most of the material involves two prominent Paris family heads: Charles Coulson Rich (who founded the town) and William Budge (who became President of the LDS Bear Lake Stake). She has the article posted here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Vigilantes Disbanded, Delegate Candidates Abound, Miners Stalled by Deep Snow

Rover, our "sesquicentennial correspondent" whom we heard from on April 7th and 12th, wrote another letter on April 16, 1863. He first noted that the Lewiston “Protective Association” (Vigilance Committee) had met and voted to disband. Members judged that the county government “was now thoroughly organized, and the various offices filled by competent men.”

During the Association’s tenure, the vigilantes had “hanged three murderers and highwaymen, and exiled 200 thieves and gamblers.” Because of their work, Rover went on, “Not a single crime of any kind has been committed in Lewiston during the past five months.”

Another sign of progress: “In anticipation of the early organization of the new Territory of Idaho, candidates for Delegate to Congress are beginning to feel the public pulse as to their chances for honor and glory.”

Eventually, nearly a dozen candidates would vie for the job. As historians Beal and Wells put it, “Idaho did not suffer from any lack of candidates for delegate to Congress in the first territorial election.”

Rover observed that little mining progress had been made around Florence or Warren’s Diggings: “The snow in that region is three feet deep, and not thawing enough to afford water for mining purposes.”
Idaho Mountain Snow. National Park Service photo.

Also, parties that had tried to get through to the Boise Basin had turned back “owing to the deep snow” in the mountains. In fact, Rover reported, “A number of pack trains and a large number of miners [are] camped at the foot of the mountains.”

References: [B&W]
Rover, “Letter from Lewiston,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (May 5, 1863).

Friday, April 12, 2013

First Steamboats of the Season Arrive in Lewiston

On April 12, 1863, correspondent “Rover” wrote another letter from Lewiston, as he had done on the 7th. A couple days earlier, he had witnessed the arrival of the first steamboats of the season. The newer Kiyuse, the People’s Transportation Company steamer, led its competitor, the Tenino, by a minute or so, although the latter had started out ten hours ahead.

The Tenino belonged to the hated Oregon Steam Navigation Company (OSNC). Rover noted that, “Every one expressed the hope that the People’s Company would be able to successfully compete with that thieving monopoly, the Oregon Steam Navigation Company, who robbed the honest miner of so many of his hard-earned dollars last season.”
(Competition did result in more reasonable rates, but only for a year or so. Then the OSNC bought off People’s Transportation, and regained their monopoly.)
Steamer Tenino. Oregon Historical Society.

The commander of the Kiyuse was Captain Leonard White, one of the most famous steamboat men on the Columbia and Snake rivers. He had actually worked for the OSNC, until they dumped him because they thought he was paid too much. White had, in fact, captained the first steamer to ascend the river to what would become Lewiston.

Correspondent Rover wrote, “Capt. White determined to make his boat the pioneer in the navigation of Snake river above this place.”

With Rover aboard, the Kiyuse chugged up the river to near the mouth of the Salmon River. There, White scouted ahead in a canoe. Rover said the captain “Found a very bad rapid a short distance above the mouth of [the] Salmon, which he thought it prudent not to attempt to go over.”

References: “Capt. Leonard White (1827-1870),” The Oregon Encyclopedia, Portland State University (2008-2013).
“Letter from Lewiston, W. T.,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (April 28, 1863).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hundreds of Miners Arrive in Portland on Steamship Brother Jonathan

“Steamship Brother Jonathan, S. J. De Wolf, commander, arrived at this port from San Francisco on the 11th inst. at five o’clock A. M. She brought dates to the 7th from the East, about three hundred and eighty passengers, and a large quanity [sic] of freight. The passengers are mostly miners, bound for the John Day, Powder river, and Boise mines.” This item from the Oregonian newspaper (April 13, 1863), in Portland, was just one of many such reports documenting the stream of miners who rushed through Portland during this period.

Impatient gold-seekers favored the Brother Jonathan because it was the fastest steamer on the Pacific Coast at that time. Its owners, the California Steam Navigation Company, made huge profits from the vessel, and kept it busy. The Oregonian item also said, "Sails To Day. – The steamer Brother Jonathan sails for San Francisco via Victoria this afternoon at four o’clock."
Steamship Brother Jonathan, ca 1862.

Captain Samuel J. De Wolf was one of the most experienced commanders on the coast. Tragically, two year later, a violent storm drove the steamship onto a reef near Crescent City California. De Wolf and over two hundred passengers went down with the ship.

Reference: Alfred L. Lomax, Brother Jonathan: Pioneer Steamship of the Pacific Coast, University of Oregon (1959).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Roving Reporter: Travel Costs High and Winter Impedes the Gold Rush

On April 7, 1863, Correspondent “Rover,” wrote a long letter from Lewiston after arriving there from Portland, Oregon. First, he complained about the cost: “Total expense from Portland to Lewiston, $65.50.” He had good reason to squawk, since that was over a month’s pay for a skilled working man.

Yet in their rush, gold seekers spent as little time as possible in Portland. There, Rover said, “The merchants have large stocks of goods on hand, for which they have no customers.” On the other hand, he wrote, “At the Dalles we found business quite brisk, and a large number of miners fitting out for the different mining camps.”

Still, Lewiston was “the dullest of all dull places.” That was primarily because “No mining is yet being done at Florence, Warren’s diggings, Elk City, or Oro Fino. No pack trains can get into these places at present. Parties go in and come out on snow shoes.”

Supplies were not going to the Boise Basin either, “owing to deep snow on the mountains.” People still wondered about that region – discouraging as well as glowing letters had made their way out.
Lewiston, ca 1863. Nez Perce County Historical Society.

Earlier reports from the East gave the 46th parallel as the northern border of  the new territory. That placed it coincident with the northern border of Oregon (east of the Columbia River) and nearly thirty miles south of Lewiston. Because of that, Rover also said, “The people here are in doubt as to whether they are in Idaho or Washington. No definite news as to boundaries has yet been received from Washington.”

References: [Illust-State]
“Letter from Lewiston, W. T.,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (April 21, 1863).

Thursday, April 4, 2013

T. F. McElroy, Territorial Revenue Collector, arrives in Lewiston

On April 4, 1863 (150 years ago today), according to a correspondent to the San Francisco Evening Bulletin, “The U. S. Revenue Collector for this region, T. F. McElroy, arrived here on Saturday, and entered upon his duties of taking “notes” – legal tender notes – in exchange for licenses … ”

At this point, the new Idaho Territory had no government, so Washington Territory retained responsibility for collecting license fees from merchants, saloon keepers, professional offices (doctors and lawyers), and other businesses.

Born in Pennsylvania, in 1825, Thorton F. McElroy emigrated to Oregon in 1849. He relocated to what became Washington Territory in late 1852. In a letter to his mother dated July 19, 1863, from Olympia, he noted that he had just recently returned from Lewiston, and that he had been “absent from home near three months.” McElroy later served a term as Mayor of Olympia.

References: “Letter from Lewiston,“ Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (April 21, 1863).
Olympia Mayor – Thornton Fleming McElroy, City of Olympia, Washington (2010).

Monday, April 1, 2013

Confederate Newspaper Publicizes Gold in Idaho

In the spring of 1863, Chattanooga, Tennessee was Confederate territory. But Union forces were pushing south through the state.  The  Chattanooga Daily Rebel newspaper published the following: “Wednesday Morning, April 1, 1863. The war is about to [see] the interposition of an agent mightier than crown or sword. This agent is Gold. … Not from England or France, but from the Far West … ”

The paper described a place “hereafter to be known as Idaho, pronounced Ida’ho. The Yankee Congress at its last session passed an act for the purpose of organizing a territorial government for [the region].”
It went on, “A few years ago no white man resided within its wide limits. … [But that has changed because] Idaho is found to be a land of gold!”

The Daily Rebel had a suggestion: “Let the soldiers of [the Union Army] give up the poor pay, rations and reward of their vile crusade against the South, throw aside their muskets, shoulder their pick-axes, and start at once for the Gold fields of Idaho.”

Thus, 150 years ago today, the story of Idaho had reached across the battle lines to a city whose citizens knew it was only a matter of time before they came under siege. Perhaps they could be spared if enemy soldiers would mine Gold instead of making war.

Meanwhile, early arrivers in the Boise Basin were already finding fabulous amount of the metal, and “large numbers [of miners] are leaving Lewiston daily … for the Boise mines.”

Reference: 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).
This being the Idaho Territorial Sesquicentennial (created March 4, 1863), I thought some shorter 150-year “On This Day” items would be of interest. (I’ll try to post one or two a week, although that may prove difficult.)