Sunday, October 30, 2016

Idaho Pathway to Montana, Critic and Modernist Poet Ezra Pound [otd 10/30]

On October 30, 1864, successful miners founded what they called “Crabtown,” after one of the “Four Georgians” who had discovered gold in Montana’s “Last Chance Gulch.” The town grew rapidly, and residents soon selected the more appealing name of "Helena." This continued growth in Montana played a key role in the development of eastern Idaho: All those thousands of miners needed supplies.
Early freight wagons. Library of Congress.

The best early route left the well-traveled Oregon Trail near Fort Hall and headed north. By 1864, a steady stream of freight wagon trains rumbled across East Idaho.

The rush to Montana began in July 1862, when prospectors found gold on Grasshopper Creek. Then they discovered even better fields in Alder Gulch, where Virginia City sprang into being. When that area grew over-crowded, the “Georgians” sought better prospects, which led them to Last Chance Gulch.

Prospector and freight traffic through East Idaho had surged right after the Grasshopper Creek discoveries. Customers soon backed up at ferries crossing the Snake River. One of those was the "Eagle Rock Ferry," located a few miles upstream from today's Idaho Falls.

Soon, James Madison "Matt" Taylor and some partners bought the ferry, and, in 1865, opened a toll bridge. That span became the center of the first settlement north of the Mormon colonies near the Utah border. Various records called the town "Taylor's Bridge" or "Eagle Rock" until it officially changed to Idaho Falls [blog, Dec 10].

Finally, in the period from about 1878 to 1881, the Utah & Northern Railway laid track across East Idaho and into Montana [blog, Apr 11]. The coming of the railroad immediately spurred settlement up and down the east side of Idaho.

On October 30, 1885, internationally renowned poet Ezra Pound was born in Hailey, Idaho. The family moved to the East when he was a two-year-old infant. Even so, scholars contend that stories he heard about natural resource exploitation – mining, timber, and the land itself – in Idaho and elsewhere colored his life-long views on these issues. (Pound himself supported that contention.)
Ezra Pound.
Poetry Foundation

Ezra received his college education to a Master’s degree level in New York and Pennsylvania. He had a brief stint as a college professor, but his growing “Bohemian” behavior ended that career. He moved to Europe in 1908.

His poetry and articles on literary topics brought considerable fame. Later, he also worked as an editor. By example and through direct advice, Pound exerted a profound influence on the major literary trends during the period between the World Wars.

Having spent years in London and then three in Paris, he moved to Italy in 1924. He lived there for the next 20 years, except for a brief sojourn back in the U.S.

During World War II, Pound made a series of anti-American radio broadcasts. Arrested for treason at the end of the war but judged “mentally unfit for trial,” he spent the years until 1958 in a mental hospital. Still, his literary production continued then, and until about 1960. He died in 1972.

Despite the problems in his later years, Pound is considered a towering figure in the literary landscape of the Twentieth Century.
References: [Brit], [B&W]
Dana Dugan, “Uncovering Ezra Pound’s Roots,” Idaho Mountain Express and Guide, Ketchum, Idaho (March 2, 2007).
Michael P. Malone, Richard B. Roeder, and William L. Lang, Montana: A History of Two Centuries, Revised Edition, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1991).
David A. Moody, Ezra Pound, Poet: The Young Genius 1885–1920, Oxford University Press (2007).

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