Friday, September 23, 2016

Lewis & Clark Return to St. Louis, First Train Arrives in Moscow [otd 9/23]

On September 23, 1806, Sergeant John Ordway wrote in his journal, “About 12 oClock we arived in site of St. Louis. Fired three rounds as we approached the Town and landed oppocit the center of the Town, the people gathred on the shore and Huzzared three cheers.”

Portraits of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis.
Independence National Historical Park, National Park Service.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition had been gone from St. Louis just about 28 months. Their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase territory, and beyond, was a monumental achievement, which need no further elaboration here. Still, there are two points worth mentioning, one striking an ironic note.

Just over a month earlier, the captains granted Private John Colter an early discharge from the Army so he could accompany two American hunters who were heading into the Rockies. Before he left the mountains for good in 1810, Colter trapped and explored southern Montana, northern Wyoming, and eastern Idaho. He was the first white man to traverse what later became known first as Pierre’s Hole, and is today the Teton Valley of Idaho [blog, Aug 17].

The irony lay in the presence of the two hunters, Joseph Dickson and Forest Hancock from Illinois: The government venture wouldn’t report officially for another six weeks or so, yet already daring and ambitious Americans were moving to explore the wild new territory. My favorite account of the Expedition is Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (Simon & Shuster, New York, 1996).

Another OTD item appears in Hawley’s History: “In 1883 right of way was obtained for a branch between Moscow, Idaho, and Winona, Washington. Wednesday, September 23, 1885, was a red-letter day in Moscow's calendar, as on that day the first train arrived in that city. Salutes were fired, speeches made, and the celebration closed with a grand ball in the evening, at which several of the officials of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company were present.”

Scattered settlers entered Paradise Valley around 1871. The area grew very slowly at first, but by a concerted effort, locals obtained a post office in 1872. By 1877, the post office had a new name -- Moscow -- and a new location a mile or so away. However, the town was just another small, isolated farm and ranch town until the railroad arrived.

Anticipating the arrival, the Portland Oregonian said (September 23, 1885), “Before dark tonight the track of the Oregon Railway & Navigation extension will have reached Moscow, Idaho.” The item noted that workers had completed the construction a week sooner then expected. It went on, “To-morrow the company will begin bringing wheat out of Moscow, and freight destined for that point will be received as soon as facilities can be provided for handling it, which will be about the last of this week.”

President Gault.
UI Archives.
As expected, the local economy surged. In describing the period before the national “Panic of '93,” the Illustrated History declared, “Moscow reached the high water mark of prosperity. Everybody made money and everyone had money, and the volume of business transacted here was enormous.”

In 1889, the legislature selected Moscow as the site for the land-grant University of Idaho, and facility construction began in 1891 [blog, Oct 3]. The school soon hired President Franklin B. Gault to replace an unpaid head.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
Rafe Gibbs, Beacon for Mountain and Plain: Story of the University of Idaho, The Caxton Printers (© The Regents of the University of Idaho, 1962).
Burton Harris, John Colter: His Years in the Rockies, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1993).
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Gary E. Moulton (Ed.), The Definitive Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (2002).

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