Thursday, December 22, 2016

Idaho History: Gold, Cattle, Sheep and More

With Christmas bills coming due soon, I need to sell some books. So bear with me for a small advertisement. You will have noticed that yesterday’s blog featured Truman C. Catlin. One of the earliest pioneers to raise cattle in Idaho, Catlin is featured in my book Before the Spud: Indians, Buckeroos, and Sheepherders in Pioneer Idaho.

I could have also posted a December 21st item from another of my books, Idaho: Year One – The Territory’s First Year.  That book uses newspapers reports, diaries and letters to describe what was happening in the newly created Idaho Territory. It includes some lead-up to March 4, 1863 – when Abraham Lincoln sign legislation to create the Territory – and continues to the one-year anniversary. An Afterword bridges the span until May 26, 1864, when Congress split Montana Territory from Idaho.

Like my On This Day blog items, Year One uses a day-to-day progression, although it does not try to cover every single day of the year. Thus, on December 21, 1863, the Evening Bulletin in San Francisco, California published a report about the mines in central and southern Idaho Territory. Unlike many another flash in the pan, the Boise Basin mines, he wrote, “show promise of a long-continued yield.” The Boise Basin lies high in the mountains to the east and northeast of Boise City (as it was known then).

On December 23, 1863, The Oregonian in Portland published an opinion piece that advocated the authorization of a Federal mint in their city. Idaho had already produced a lot of gold and it was clear that the region’s output held promise for years to come. A mint in Portland would mitigate the cost and dangers of transporting the treasure to the mint in San Francisco. Portland never did get a mint, of course, but Congress later did authorize an assay office in Boise.

Meanwhile, gold (and later silver) mining in and around the Boise Basin would continue for almost a century. That history is described in another of my books, Boise River Gold Country. Besides the mining story, Boise River shows the growth, and later decline, of the timber industry in the region. Today, the region’s economy largely depends upon tourism and outdoor recreation.

Of course, the discovery of gold in the region led directly to the creation of Idaho Territory. But the presence of all those hungry miners then spurred the formation of a thriving cattle industry. Before the Spud outlines the history of that development, starting with the “first stockmen of Idaho” … the Shoshone and Nez Perc├ęs Indians. But stock-raising exploded after the discovery of gold. And, by around 1910, income from livestock (including dairy) had surpassed that from mining and timber. And that was “before the spud” … potatoes were then only a small faction of the agricultural production in the state.

I encourage you to visit my other blog, Sourdough Publishing, where I have posted more information about my books. That includes the full Table of Contents for each. Or you can jump directly to the CreateSpace web pages for the books:
Boise Basin Gold Country
Idaho: Year One
Before the Spud

The books are also available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.