Saturday, December 31, 2016

Mining Investor, Legislator, and Federal Marshal James Crutcher [otd 12/31]

James Crutcher. Illustrated History.
On December 31, 1835, U. S. Marshal James I. Crutcher was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, east of Louisville. In 1860, James followed the rush to the gold fields of Colorado. After two years there, he tried his luck in Elk City, Idaho. Crutcher spent a few months there, made a quick trip into Oregon, and then returned to settle in the Boise Basin.

Crutcher was deputy sheriff in 1865, during the excitement that followed the shooting of Union man Sumner Pinkham by Confederate sympathizer Ferd Patterson [blog, Jul 23]. Whatever his personal views, Crutcher’s job was to uphold the law, and he stood off a band of Pinkham’s friends who wanted to lynch Patterson.

Impressed, Boise County voters elected him sheriff. At that time, the county jail also served as the Territorial Prison. Crutcher had occasion to comment on the severe deficiencies of that facility: “The ventilation is so defective that during the summer season, the prisoners are necessarily allowed the freedom of the yard during the greater portion of the day, and complain of the oppressiveness of the heat at night.”

After his time as sheriff, he returned to his mining interests, eventually holding investments in “various mines which have yielded him good returns.”

In 1870, James became involved in a nasty split in Democratic Party ranks. A prominent lawyer who had previously served as Delegate to the U. S. Congress led one faction. Crutcher was part of an opposing group. Leaders finally agreed to fill the electoral ticket with an equal number of candidates from the two factions.

Crutcher, the party nominee for county sheriff, was the only man not elected. The disagreement escalated to violence in June 1870, when Crutcher’s brother-in-law shot the lawyer in a gunfight. Western code duello “rules” prevailed and a court released the shooter.

Between then and 1875, James moved his family (he married in 1865) to Silver City and established mine holdings there. Crutcher also remained active in public affairs. He represented Owyhee County in the 1886 Territorial Council, and was among the delegates who gathered in Boise in 1889 to frame a proposed state constitution.
Downtown Boise. [Illust-State]

In 1894, Crutcher was appointed U. S. Marshal for the new state of Idaho. At that time, he moved his family to Boise. He also established his primary business interests in that city.

Over the years, James and his wife, Adelma, had four children, none of whom survived to carry on the family line. When their last daughter died at age twelve, the Daily Capital said (January 3, 1899), “In any form and at any time the angel of death is most unwelcome; but when he enters the home and strikes down the young, the talented, the lovable, … then, indeed, he seems most cruel.”

James passed away in March 1915, in Berkley, California. The announcement of his death (Idaho Statesman, March 8, 1915) said he had been living with his brother after losing his considerable fortune “through his generosity to friends.” The much beloved “Auntie Crutcher” died there in 1926.
References: [Illust-State]
Arthur A. Hart, Basin of Gold: Life in Boise Basin, 1862-1890, Idaho City Historical Foundation (© 1986, Fourth printing 2002).
James H. Hawley, Tenth Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Idaho, Boise (1926).
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).
“Poor Law Legislation,” Reference Series No. 151, Idaho State Historical Society.

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