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 (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.

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