Monday, October 24, 2016

Settlers Surge into Bruneau Valley, Stock Thieves Then and Now [otd 10/24]

The October 24, 1868 issue of the Owyhee Avalanche, published in Silver City, Idaho, commented favorably on the prospects for settlement in the Bruneau Valley. They had been informed that “several parties from Boise have lately been locating ranches in Bruneau Valley, and will move over with their families this fall."
Bruneau landscape. Idaho Tourism, Dept. of Commerce.

The article also quoted positive observations printed in the Idaho Statesman, where the reporter claimed the area was “the best portion of Idaho Territory for stock raising and dairy purposes.” That article also said, “The grass grows luxuriantly and there is more timber that will furnish the valley with firewood if it were all settled.”

The newspapers' timing could hardly have been better. On April 15th of the following year, Arthur Pence – a rancher and future state legislator – filed on land near what is still called Pence Hot Springs [blog, Feb 10].

In September, John and Emma Turner arrived. The next spring, they purchased a homestead from one John Baker, who was married to a Paiute Indian woman. Baker, a professional surveyor, moved out of the area, so the Turners claim the honor as the first permanent settlers in the Valley. Other settlers and stockmen soon followed, and by 1875 several substantial cattle ranches had headquarters in the Valley.

Bruneau ranchers suffered through the disastrous 1889-90 winter along with other Idaho areas. From that, they learned the same lessons about proper grazing management, and the Bruneau continues to be an important stock raising region today.

On October 24, 1885, the Idaho Register, Eagle Rock, Idaho Territory, ran an article with the lead, “Horse thief caught at Jackson Hole with 17 head of High and Stout’s horses.”

Actually, reports of the time indicate that this capture might have been the exception rather than the rule. For over a decade, well-organized bands of stock thieves operated out of “the forks,” about twenty miles northeast of Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls). There, at the confluence of two Snake River branches, bandits found perfect cover on innumerable densely-thicketed islands.

As the stock industry grew, so did the depredations of cattle rustlers and horse thieves. In fact, such losses were a substantial factor driving the formation of local, regional, and territorial stockmen’s associations. The gravity of the problem is suggested by an Owyhee Avalanche report (Sept 13, 1890) from Elmore County: “It will probably startle many of our readers to learn that over $20,000 worth of horses have been stolen in this county in the last five months.”
Cattle grazing on unfenced range, BLM photo.

Sometimes – although far less often than Old West legends would have it – captors meted out immediate and final penalties for rustling and horse theft.

Yet the crime continued then, and has never has never really gone away. Google “cattle rustling” and you’ll get hundreds of hits describing instances just in the last two or three years. Enter “cattle rustling Idaho” and a dozen mentions in the past few months turn up [blog, May 24].
                                                                                                                                     
References: [B&W]
Mildretta Adams, Owyhee Cattlemen, Owyhee Publishing Co., Homedale, Idaho (1979).
“Golden Jubilee Edition,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).

1 comment:

  1. Bruneau Booster Club’s book release party for its new book “Bruneau Then and Now, the History of Bruneau, Idaho 1811 to 2010,” 1-6 p.m. NOV. 14 at the Bruneau American Legion Hall.

    ReplyDelete