Friday, September 2, 2016

Mining Investor and Twin Falls Area Developer Harry Hollister [otd 9/2]

Harry Hollister. H. T. French photo.
Central Idaho developer Harry L. Hollister was born September 2, 1859  in Rockton, Illinois, about seventy miles northwest of Chicago. He showed an early talent for banking, real estate investing, and progressive business development.

By 1900, he had substantial holdings in the Chicago area, the Dakotas, and in Michigan. After about 1900, Hollister located his company headquarters in Chicago.

In 1898-1900, Hollister began investing in mining properties in the Wood River area and further north in central Idaho. Soon, he owned interests in possibly a half dozen mines. He claimed regional water rights for hydropower development to support the mining, but engineers calculated that these were inadequate.

During this period, Ira B. Perrine [blog, May 7] appeared in Chicago to promote the Twin Falls Land and Water Company. The company was trying to build Milner Dam to feed a considerable irrigation project. Perrine also had a long-standing interest in promoting hydropower projects.

Within a few months, Hollister and Perrine teamed up on a project to generate electricity at Shoshone Falls [blog, August 15]. They had ambitious plans to provide power to Hollister’s Wood River properties, the town of Shoshone, the hoped-for town of Twin Falls, and even mines in northern Nevada.

Rather than trying to build a diversion dam, they proposed to bore a tunnel through the native rock to deliver water to a generator plant at the river level below the falls. Work began in 1901, but lack of funds and adverse litigation hampered progress.

While Perrine monitored construction and promoted the project regionally, Hollister tapped his contacts in Chicago for additional investors. He also apparently handled much of the legal battle. Owners of the Shoshone Falls Hotel provided the only serious opposition to the power project. They claimed that the water diversion and plant structure would ruin the Falls as a tourist attraction, and therefore cripple their business.

Fortunately, settlers in the surrounding communities backed the hydropower project enthusiastically. Of course, the opponents were willing to be bought out. A jury eventually decided their initial demand was extravagant and substantially reduced what they received. With the litigation behind them, workers forged ahead. The main obstacle was the bedrock, which turned out to be far harder than expected. Twin Falls received its first power from the plant in August 1907.

Hollister spent much time in Idaho during his years of promotion and construction, but never moved his home here. Still, his part in developing the region is well recognized. In 1914, Hiram T. French wrote, “It is impossible to separate much of the work done by Messrs. Hollister and Perrine in the Twin Falls country.”

Later, reports suggested that Hollister had obtained title to around 2,500 acres of irrigated land by fraudulent means (Idaho Statesman, Boise, March 19, 1918). However, there seems to have been no follow-up, and authorities did not file any charges. In any case, Harry’s contribution to local development is recognized in the naming of the town of Hollister, located about 15 miles south of Twin Falls.
City of Hollister, ca 1912. Twin Falls Public Library.
Around 1910, Hollister’s company had expanded into land development in California, setting up a branch office in Los Angeles.

Some time after about 1921, Harry and his wife moved there to live. By 1930, he was retired. After his wife died sometime in the Thirties, Harry lived with his son-in-law in Beverly Hills. He passed away in September 1944.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French], [Hawley]
Jim Gentry, In the Middle and On the Edge: The Twin Falls Region of Idaho, College of Southern Idaho (2003).

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