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).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Box Elder Treaty – Sesquicentennial

For this particular date, my regular "On This Day" article does double duty, being also relevant for the Sesquicentennial.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Easterners Learn About General Patrick Connor’s Work in Idaho Territory

On July 27, 1863, many Eastern newspapers – like the Boston Herald – reported on the activities of General Patrick Connor in Idaho Territory. The items all began, “Gen. Connor has transmitted to the Headquarters of the Army an interesting account of his recent expedition.”

Of course, as we have seen earlier in our chronology, people in the West had already heard about the expedition. But now the information was reaching a wider audience. The account continued, “Among its results are useful lessons to the Indians … with a view to the preservation of peace.”

The Battle of Bear River (aka “Bear River Massacre”) had crippled the bands involved, but only served to anger other Shoshone. They had actually stepped up their attacks, so Connor’s troops had maintained a military presence in northern Utah and southeast Idaho. While there had been no further big battles, the constant pressure finally wore the tribes down so they would seek peace.

The reports also described another outcome: “The establishment of a new military post at a point at or near Great Bend, on Bear river, known as the Soda Springs, in the Territory of Idaho.”

The general stationed a considerable force at Camp Connor “for the protection of overland emigration to Oregon, California and the Bannock City Mines.”

The installation did its job and Indian unrest slowly subsided. The post was abandoned after about two years of operation.
General Patrick Connor.
Library of Congress.

The Herald went on, “A new road has been opened north of Soda Springs to Snake river to shorten the route of emigrants from the east via Fort Bridger, not less than 70 miles.”

This was referred to earlier (June 20) as part of a better route to the gold camps on Grasshopper Creek and in Alder Gulch, via the Eagle Rock Ferry.

The news item concluded, “Gen. Connor also laid out a town in which he settled 53 families of 160 souls, comprising the seceding Mormons known as 'Morrisites,' and who fled from Brigham Young’s persecutions.”

References: “From Washington,” Boston Herald, Boston, Massachusetts (July 27, 1863).
Brigham D. Madsen, The Northern Shoshoni, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1980).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Idaho is Rich in gold, but Reduced Water Flow Hampers Mining

The San Francisco Evening Bulletin reprinted several items published in the “up-country” on July 25, 1863. Thus, The Dalles Mountaineer reported that Augustus N. Grenzebach, “a well known citizen of The Dalles,” had recently returned from the Boise Basin. The article said, “His reports are like all other from that locality – rich mines and untold wealth, but a scarcity of the element without which it is impossible to separate the gold from the earth. At Placerville, mining has been measurably interrupted for weeks back on account of the scarcity of water, and the other mining camps begin to suffer from the same great want.”

The article went on, “By the end of July, it is his opinion that mining will be confined exclusively to creek camps, leaving the bars over to another year.” But “beyond question, the Boise diggings are the richest yet discovered, and when ditches are completed, and water introduced, their yield will astonish the world.”

Grenzebach must have been truly impressed by the potential of the Idaho mines. A little more than two years later he appears as the Superintendent of a substantial lode mine. Augustus was sometimes also tasked with personally recruiting investors in San Francisco.

Another traveler in from Idaho City emphasized the weather problem. This man said, “The people in those high latitudes have experienced hotter weather during the present season than has ever before been known on this coast north of the equator. On one occasion the mercury rose to 125 deg. in the shade.”

On other matters, we learn that “Gov. Wallace was busy preparing appointments for the various offices throughout the Territory that require to be filled to carry out the Territorial organization. Instructions had been given to the U. S. Marshal to proceed with the census of the Territory, which it was expected would be completed in about six or eight weeks.”

Reference: “A. N. Grenzeback,” Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho (November 25, 1865).
“Later from the North,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (July 29, 1863).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Governor William Wallace Makes His First Appointment, a Territorial Auditor

As noted before, the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appointed the Governor, Secretary, Chief and Associate Justices, Attorney, and Marshal for Idaho Territory. Section 7 of the Organic Act for the Territory stipulated that the Governor could “appoint all officers not herein otherwise provided for.”

Later, the Governor had to make these appointments “by and with the advice and consent of the legislative Council.” (The Territorial Council is roughly equivalent to the U. S. Senate.) But, to start out, “the governor alone may appoint all said officers.”

So, on July 23, 1863, Governor William Wallace appointed one John M. Bacon to be Territorial Auditor and Comptroller. Little is known about why Bacon was selected.

Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1822, John M. shipped as a hand on a whaler out of New Bedford, Massachusetts when he was seventeen years old. He spend five or six years at sea, visiting Bombay, London, and ports in China before returning to the United States. After a year with a brother in Illinois, he emigrated to Oregon in 1845.

Bacon tried his hand in California with the Forty-Niners, but ill health forced him to give that up. He farmed for awhile near Oregon City, but moved into town in 1856. There, he worked in a store that also served as agents for the Tracy & Company express firm. (We learned about Tracy & Co. earlier, on March 30.)

Gold again lured Bacon into a rush, this time into Idaho in 1862. For whatever reason, he soon turned to running a store in Lewiston, with some stock raising on the side. He was thus there when Wallace arrived and, for unknown reasons, chose him to fill the Auditor’s position.

His “term” lasted only two month, however. Benjamin F. Lamkin replaced him on September 23, well before the legislature met. Bacon was back in Oregon City by 1867. Lamkin was reappointed and confirmed during the legislative session and served as Auditor through 1866.

References: Elwood C. Evans, History of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington, 1889, North Pacific History Company, Portland, Oregon (1889).
John Hailey, History of Idaho, Syms-York Company, Boise, Idaho (1910).
Ben Ysursa, Idaho Blue Book, 2003-2004, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (2003).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wool Grower, Banker, and Public Servant Ralph Hunt [otd 07/20]

R. S. Hunt. Hawley photo.
Rancher, banker, and state legislator Ralph Stephen Hunt was born July 20, 1869 in Weber, Utah. To the age of about 25, he worked as a ranch hand at various locations in Utah.

He moved to southeast Idaho in 1894. There, he herded stock, both cattle and sheep. Over the next five or six years, he worked at ranches across much of southern Idaho.

Then, in 1900, Ralph's parents, Ralph H. and Sarah, moved to the Rexburg area. At that point, the Mormon population in eastern Idaho had grown substantially. Thus, in August 1898, church leaders split Fremont Stake off from Bannock Stake. With headquarters in Rexburg, the new unit stretched from roughly the South Fork of the Snake River north to the Montana border. The Hunt’s were part of the continued growth of the Mormon community and its stake.

Within a year or so, Ralph S. also settled there. Soon he and his older brother John organized a farm and ranch operation. In addition to livestock, the brothers ran what Hawley called "the largest irrigated farm in the district.” Over the next ten to fifteen years, developers like the Hunts put perhaps 150 thousand acres under irrigation in what was to become Madison County.

During that same period, the Hunt brothers expanded their livestock holdings, and made a transition to raising mostly sheep. (Unfortunately, the brother died during the "Spanish" flu epidemic of 1918.) The sheep operation ran "about six thousand ewes" by 1919-1920. Ralph was a member of the Idaho Wool Growers Association and also of the National Wool Growers Association.

Although Ralph spent much of his time on the ranch, he also had interests in Rexburg, to which is parents had retired. He helped organize the Rexburg State Bank and became its second President, a position he held until at least 1922. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Madison County Commission, and served on the Rexburg City Council for five years.
Rexburg parade, ca 1907. Brigham Young University-Idaho Archives.
By around 1915, locals felt the need for a street to connect downtown Rexburg with Ricks Academy (now Brigham Young University-Idaho) [blog, Nov 12]. When the City Council declined to finance a project, the Commercial Club took up the issue. Hunt served on the committee that raised the necessary funds, and the extension was completed in June, 1916.

In 1913-1920, Hunt spent three terms in the state House of Representatives. During his first term, he submitted a bill to create Madison County from the southern portion of Fremont County. Although similar bills proposed during the previous decade had failed, Hunt’s act passed easily. Ralph did not run in 1914, but then served two consecutive terms. He was next elected to the state Senate in 1921. Ralph chaired the state Livestock Committee for a time and sat on several related committees.

A member in good standing of the LDS Church, Ralph apparently took no active part in that organization's governance. Hunt never married, and pass away in April 1929.
References: [Blue], [French], [Hawley]
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some Idaho Mining Areas Doing Well, Territorial Census Commenced

News printed in Lewiston’s Golden Age made its way into The Oregonian for July 18, 1863. The items included good news from the Boise Basin: For the summer, three partners on one claim had “twenty yeast boxes filled with gold.”

The paper continued, “The Elk City mines are paying handsomely. They average all the way from $10 to $100 a day to the hand. There is a great demand for hands at $5 per day.”

They did report difficulties in the Florence area because the largest ditch company wanted to charge twice as much for water as their customers were willing to pay. “The result is the miners have suspended working their claims, and they are engaged in building” their own ditch and flume system.

Still, all this positive news was not good for Lewiston itself: “The Boise hegira has carried off nearly all the old residents of Lewiston, and the place is nearly deserted.”

But they looked to their “hole card” to help. The article went on, “Governor Wallace was handsomely received at Lewiston, and escorted to the Luna house, after which he immediately entered upon the duties of his office.”

Of course, as noted for July 10, there was only so much business Wallace could do. The item said, “Governor Wallace has ordered the U. S. Marshal for Idaho to proceed at once to take the census of the Territory. This will be completed in six weeks to two months, after which judicial districts will be established, and an election ordered for members of the Territorial Legislature.”
Early Fort Laramie. Library of Congress.
The Territorial Marshal, Dolphus S. Payne, would have to hustle to complete the census. The Territory had few roads, huge mountain ranges, and Fort Laramie – then in Idaho – lay almost a thousand trail miles away from Lewiston.

References: [B&W]
“Up Country News,” The Oregonian, Portland (July 18, 1863).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Wild West History Association Roundup: Amazing Idaho History Event, and More

The 2013 Roundup (Annual Conference) of the Wild West History Association came to Idaho last week, continuing into Saturday. With talks at the Riverside Motel in Boise, and a tour of Idaho City, the event was a jewel for those interested in Western history. It was a special treat for someone interested in Idaho history. After the first day of presentations on Thursday, I “felt like I had died and gone to [historical] Heaven.”

Virtually every talk had great material, so I cannot possibly do justice to all of them. Mike Hanley, rancher and author, kicked off the presentations with a talk about Hill Beachy. Beachy, you may recall from my blog of October 11, detected and brought to justice the men who murdered packer Lloyd Magruder in 1863. Mike covered those events, plus more on Beachy’s later career as a stagecoach line operator.

Next, Priscilla Wegars gave a fine talk about Polly Bemis, a Chinese woman who was brought to the United States in 1872. Starting as a concubine (probably), she somehow won her freedom, and ended up marrying pioneer Charles “Charlie” Bemis. Although legend said Charlie won her in a poker game, Polly denied that story and there is no other evidence to support the notion. She lived out her life deep in Idaho’s Salmon River wilderness … respected, loved, and honored by her white neighbors.

During the lively discussion after the talk, an audience member asked a key question: “Of all the scores, if not hundreds, of Chinese women in Idaho during the era, what made Polly different? Why did she become a legend, while the others disappeared from history?”

The question had a complex answer, but they generally boiled down sheer force of character. By all accounts, Polly had a sly, mischievous sense of humor, which was both endearing and funny.

Several talks concerned various connections between Idaho and Butch Cassidy and/or members of “The Wild Bunch.” These went well beyond the (in)famous 1896 bank robbery in Montpelier, Idaho.

Phillip Homan, associate professor at Idaho State University, discussed Kittie Wilkins, “Horse Queen of Idaho.” As noted in one of my blogs, Wilkins was a renowned horse raiser. She was also an attractive and personable woman, who caused a media sensation wherever she went. As expected, Homan – who has researched Kittie extensively – presented a wealth of fascinating information about her. Just one example: Records show that Kittie’s ranch supplied thousands of horses to the British Army for use in the Boer War of 1899-1902. I strongly encouraged Phil to “get busy and write” the book he plans about Wilkins.
Old Idaho Penitentiary. Ada County.

On Friday, we visited the Old Idaho Penitentiary and then went on to Idaho City. At the Old Pen, we heard an interesting talk by R. C. “Bob” Sobba about Harry Orchard (real name: Albert Horsely), who assassinated ex-Governor Frank Steunenburg in 1905. Sobba had also given an excellent talk on Thursday about the assassination and conspiracy trial. A retired long-time lawman, Bob gets frustrated when cold-blooded killers like Orchard, and other habitual criminals, somehow become “folk heros” and celebrities.

The tour in Idaho City had a great range of events: Reenactments of the Patterson-Pinkham shootout and two examples of vigilante justice against crooked sheriffs, a stagecoach ride, and a walking tour. (Full disclosure: I helped narrate the walking tour, so I’m not quite a dis-interested judge.)

We had more excellent presentations on Saturday, but I’m well past my preferred length here. So I’ll just repeat that we had a wonderful conference: History buffs who missed it should consider attending the next Roundup, which will be held next summer in Denver (Golden, actually), Colorado.

Idaho County Pioneer Association Holds First Organizational Meeting [otd 07/16]

The first organizational meeting of the Idaho County Pioneer Association was held on Saturday, July 16, 1887. Within a few weeks, the group adopted a constitution, elected officers, and recruited its first members.
L. P. Brown with his wife and daughters, 1882.
Historical Museum at St. Gertrude, Cottonwood, Idaho.

The Association selected Loyal P. Brown as its first President. In 1862, L. P. (as he was often called) decided to move his family from Oregon to the Florence, Idaho, mining district. On the way, he saw opportunity at a road waystation. He and a partner purchased the holding, which became the town of Mount Idaho.

Brown eventually promoted "his" town into the county seat of Idaho County. Besides many businesses in Mount Idaho, Cottonwood, and elsewhere, Brown owned extensive herds of sheep and considerable productive farm land.

The first Association Secretary, Michael H. Truscott, took up mining around Elk City in 1865. Five years later, he went to work as an engineer for L. P.'s lumber and flour mills. Truscott moved to managing one of Brown's hotels in 1882, and was appointed Mount Idaho postmaster in 1886. In 1892, he became manager of the Vollmer & Scott mercantile store.

Jay M. Dorman, the first Association Treasurer, began mining around Elk City in 1862. Moderate success kept him in that area until 1871, when he moved to Mount Idaho. There, he helped build most of structures in the town, including a jail when Mount Idaho became the county seat. Dorman also operated a ranch in the area, where he grew hay and grain for his stock.

The Illustrated History of North Idaho lists the names of 37 men it calls "charter members" while Elsensohn's Pioneer Days says the Association "was organized with twenty-three original members." The difference perhaps reflects men who were not active after that first meeting.

Two original members, John M. Crooks and Aurora Shumway, were the first substantial stock raisers in the region. In 1863, they bought a claim on the Camas Prairie and imported a thousand cattle to stock the original Crooks & Shumway Company ranch. By the time of the Nez Perce War, in 1877, Crooks was considered the "cattle king" of north Idaho.
Historic Grangeville. City of Grangeville.
In 1874, Crooks donated land to build a Grange Hall and for what would become the town of Grangeville. Another Pioneer Association charter member, John H. Robinson, was among the leaders who approached Crooks about a donation. Robinson had staked a claim on Camas Prairie in 1865. He taught in the first school in the area and became the first Secretary of the Grange.

Most of the charter members played a role in the Nez Perce War of 1877. (John T. Riggins, who gave his name to the current town, was persuaded to serve in the home guard rather than the scouts because he had just arrived in Grangeville with a young family.) Many also served in a wide variety of local and state offices.
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Boise Basin Mining Hampered by Lack of Water, but Prospectors Still Coming

A correspondent for the San Francisco Evening Bulletin wrote a letter to the paper from Auburn, Oregon on July 11, 1863. The writer proposed to describe “the state of things in this region, and including an account, in brief, of the prospects of Boise.”

The news was mixed. “There are some men there who are earning good wages working for others, and thousands are there idle, and unable to earn any wages at all.”

The problem was: “Boise is drying up, too, and in many localities the work of mining has ceased for want of water. Some of the large creeks still afford a considerable supply, but no very rich diggings have as yet been found outside of the famous Boise Basin.”

Apparently, this correspondent, sitting in Auburn, has not yet heard of the finds along the South Fork of the Boise River. Still, despite the thousands of prospectors who have already arrived, “The emigration from Denver City is already pouring into Boise, and the roads are described as more than usually dry, and grass as poor. The first arrivals from Colorado are complaining sadly of the road, and their stock comes in jaded and worn down.”
Prospector with Pack Mules. Library of Congress.

The immediate future for these newcomers seemed bleak, he observed. However, it might well also offer “the most favorable opportunity … to procure good diggings there, as the scarcity of water will induce many to sell rich claims at a reasonable figure, and the supply of water will be increased another year by ditches now being constructed.”

The writer felt that prospects for lode mining were bright in the Basin. He then turned to other areas, including “rich regions south of Snake river, on the waters of the Owyhee. Many of them returned disappointed; but a good mining region has been discovered there, and some are already doing well.”

But he also offered a warning: “Boise has become a perfect paradise of ruffianism. Banditti from Pike’s Peak, Washoe, California and Salmon river, are there banded together to rob. Many small robberies have taken place, and it is unsafe to travel from there in this direction. Those who carry treasure go in crowds.”

References: “The Oregon Mines,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (August 13, 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).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

REMINDER: Upcoming Event (Boise): 2013 Roundup, Wild West History Association

History lovers who live relatively near Boise, Idaho have an upcoming event they should consider attending: The 2013 Annual Roundup of the Wild West History Association. For those of you who are not familiar with the organization, go to their web site.

I instantly urge you not to be put off by the organization’s name. Yes, they do tend to lean toward the colorful events (shootouts and battles) and personalities (outlaws and lawmen) of Western history. Of course, such matters did, in fact, often play a pivotal role in that history.

Still, within that context, the history is taken very seriously, as evidenced by the WWHA Journal. The latest issue (which I still need to read) includes an article about Isaac Quincy Dickason, Third Arizona Territorial Marshal. As with most Journal articles, the item includes a long list of endnotes and detailed citations (47 in this one case). You want to publish in the Journal? Do your homework, because the membership may know as much or more than you (think) you do about the subject. (No, I have not yet submitted an article for publication.)

Plus, it’s not all about shootouts, crooks, and lawmen. Just in the last few issues, authors have discussed several fascinating related issues. Some included:
Teddy Roosevelt, ca 1885.
Library of Congress.
• Teddy Roosevelt: How did his Western experience influence his political views and actions?
• "The Cowboy” in history, literature, and film.
• How post-(Civil)-war experiences in the South played out there and in the West
• Frontier actress and Union spy Harriet Pauline Wood Cushman (Cushman being, apparently, a stage name).
• Biography of a key personality in the Teapot dome Scandal.
• And so on.

Neither the WWHA, nor its predecessors – the National Association for Outlaw and Lawmen History, and Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association – has ever before held a meeting within the state of Idaho.  Let’s show them a warm welcome.

To give you an idea of the program, which covers a lot of Idaho history, I’ve included a partial list below (Idaho-connected presenters shown in italics). Some of my blog items have covered similar/related topics, so I have included those links. (That's not [just] to brag, but for background … I’m sure the presenters will provide much more than I could in my short blog items.)
• Hill Beachy, Avenger - Mike Hanley. Hanley is a working cattleman and an expert on the history of the Owyhee Country. [Pursuit of the Magruder killers.]
• Polly Bemis-Chinese American Pioneer - Priscilla Wegers. Dr. Wegers, a University of Idaho graduate, is an expert on Asian-American history. Polly Bemis arrived in Idaho around 1872, probably as an indentured (slave?) concubine, somehow gained her freedom, and then lived out her life in the Territory/state.
• A Man Called Rube (Rube Robbins) - Arthur Hart. Hart is Director Emeritus of the Idaho State Historical Society. Rube Robbins was a famous Indian scout and lawman in Idaho.
• The Dynamiters (The Steunenberg Assassination) - R.C. Sobba. Sobba is a retired Boise Valley lawman. His talk concerns the murder of retired Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg and the subsequent trial. [I have several related blogs, including one about Frank’s brother, Albert.]
• Montpelier Bank Robbery (Butch Cassidy) - Bill Betensen. Betensen’s Facebook page is entitled, “Butch Cassidy, my uncle.” [Bank robbery blog.]
Kittie Wilkins. Idaho State University.
• Queen of Diamonds: Kittie Wilkins, Horse Queen of Idaho, and the Wilkins Horse Company - Phillip Homan. Holman, a professor at Idaho State University, has spent years researching the “Horse Queen of Idaho.” [Blog about Kittie.]
•Wyatt Earp in Idaho (Dan Ferguson) – Casey Tefertiller.
• The Legend and Myth of Diamondfield Jack (Idaho cattle/sheep war) - Max Black. A former Idaho legislator, Black currently lives in Boise. [I have several blogs connected with Diamondfield Jack and the Wilson-Cummings shootings.]

The program is not all about Idaho, so you may want to go to the WWHA web site for more details.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pony Express Links Boise Basin, Glowing Reports from the Mines

On July 8, 1863, the Deseret News in Salt Lake City published an article about Idaho Territory. An express rider, one H. McFarlane, had completed the first regular pony express run between Bannock City, in the Boise Basin, to Salt Lake. The paper said that he had been “about fourteen days in making the first trip.  It is intended however to make regular weekly trips as soon as this new pony institution shall be fully established, which the proprietors intend extending east to Fort Bridger.”

The News went on, “Mr. McFarlane tells some big, not to say fabulous stories, concerning the productiveness of the Boise gold mines, which are situated on the south side of the Boise river, about forty miles above its confluence with the Snake river, and are represented to be about forty miles in extent, divided into seven or more mining districts.”

Estimates suggested that the region contained eight to ten thousand people. The article said, “Among the towns or cities that have sprung up are Placerville, Centerville, Hoggam City and Bannock City, in each of which from seventy-five to one hundred and fifty houses have been built.”

“Hoggam City,” usually rendered as “Hog'em,” was founded in October 1862. Latecomers to the Basin had assigned that derisive name because they felt that earlier arrivals had “hogged” all the best claims. The town soon attained the more respectable name of “Pioneer City” or Pioneerville.
Pioneer City. Idaho State Historical Society

The article noted that prices for provisions were very high. However, “Mr. McFarlane stated unequivocally that four men had taken out one hundred and forty-four ounces of gold in ten hours in one claim, and others were nearly as productive.  He also asserted that it was no uncommon thing for claims to yield four ounces per day to each miner, who worked ten hours.”

In closing, the News said that McFarlane “came by Jeffrey’s route, in the north side of Snake river, and crossed at Meeks & Gibsons’ ferry,  The pony express, as we understand, will be established on that route.”

The ferry, near the mouth of the Blackfoot River, was the competitor to the Eagle Rock Ferry described for June 20. The “Jeffrey’s” trail ran northwest from there and looped north of what we today call the Craters of the Moon.

References: “Goodale’s Cutoff North of Timmerman Hill,” Reference Series No. 1071, Idaho State Historical Society (April 1995).
“A New Pony Express,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah (July 8, 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).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Site Selected for a New Fort Boise

For this particular date, my regular "On This Day" article does double duty, being also relevant for the Sesquicentennial.

Monday, July 1, 2013

New Rush After Prospectors Find Gold in Idaho Panhandle

On July 1, 1863, the Golden Age, in Lewiston, reported that prospectors had discovered gold far to the north, near the border with Canada. The newspaper said, “Gold has been known to exist on the Koot-te-nay [sic] river and on what is called Tobacco Plains for two or three years, through the tribe of Indians of that name, who reside in that vicinity.”

French Canadian trappers who worked that area in 1852 had supposedly seen signs of gold in that area. However, no one paid much attention, probably because the men lacked mining experience.
Lake Pend Oreille. Kootenai County.

The Age went on, “Recently, certain parties have been prospecting through that part of the Territory, and have fully satisfied themselves of their existence and richness.”

Eventually, explorers would find placer gold at points all the way into Canada. In the short term, the news drew newcomers into the general area on the Coeur d’Alene and Pend Oreille rivers, along with the Kootenai and its tributaries. Soon, packers established a regular route that ran north, passing near today’s Rathdrum and west of Lake Pend Oreille.

References: [Illust North]
Article reprinted as “Discovery of New Gold Mines In The North,” Illustrated New Age, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (August 15, 1863).