Monday, June 3, 2013

General Connor, Soda Springs, and Franklin, Idaho

On June 3, 1863, a correspondent for the Evening Bulletin in San Francisco wrote an article after arriving in Salt Lake City. He had traveled with General Patrick Connor’s Army column into Idaho Territory and back. As noted for April 29, Connor had established a military post near Soda Springs, as well as a Morrisite settlement there.

Leaving a company of California Volunteer infantry as garrison, Connor had then marched south along the Bear River. The correspondent said, “Proceeding southward through the valley and over the intervening range of mountains, in two days [we] came to Franklin, the most northerly Mormon settlement of Cache Valley.”

Mormon colonists had established Franklin in April of 1860 led, among others, by Thomas S. Smart. For over a decade, leaders there and Idaho officials thought that Franklin was in Utah Territory. Only after 1872, when locals accepted a formal survey of the line, did everyone agree that the town was in Idaho.

The correspondent said, “The town of Franklin is pleasantly located near the easterly range of mountains – Cub River, a fine large stream, tributary of Bear River, coursing its northern and western boundaries. … In consequence of Indians who have heretofore been very troublesome in this section, this, as indeed all other towns in the valley, is laid out with a view to protection against attack.”
Thomas S. Smart. Pioneers ... Utah.

By that, he meant that 80 or 90 cabins had been arranged to form a large square. These structures were located “within a few steps of each other” so they could serve as a defensive perimeter. He estimated the population to be over five hundred people.

He went on, “It is a peculiarity of this, as of all Utah valleys, that notwithstanding the richness of the soil, irrigation is absolutely essential to the raising of crops.”

In this, the reporter did not overstate the case. Southern Idaho typically receives only 10-12 inches of precipitation, generally less than a third of what a farmer from the Midwest might expect. Thus, except for so-called “dry farming” of specific grains, crop agriculture in southern Idaho is totally dependent upon irrigation. Cattle and sheep raising required substantial grazing land because of the sparse vegetation.

In fact, crop agriculture would not be major factor in the economy until the advent of large-scale water projects.

References: [Illust-State]
Frank Esshom, Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, Utah Pioneers Book Publishing Company, Salt Lake City, Utah (1913).
“Military Movements on the Plains,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco (June 27, 1863.

No comments:

Post a Comment