Friday, September 30, 2016

Merchant, Legislator, and Public Servant Ezra Monson [otd 09/30]

Ezra Monson. Family archives.
Store owner, and Idaho Senator and Representative Ezra Peter Monson was born September 30, 1874 in Richmond, Utah. Richmond is located about thirteen miles north of Logan, and five miles from the Idaho state line. Ezra’s father came to the U. S. from Norway in 1857, after his conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He continued to Utah as a member of one of the “pushcart companies.” He then married another convert, who was from Sweden.

The family moved to Franklin, Idaho, when Ezra was fourteen years old. Franklin was the first white settlement in what became the Territory and then state of Idaho. Of course, for many years, everyone thought the town was in Utah [blog, January 10]. Monson attended college in Logan for a short time, and married his school sweetheart in 1895. Starting in late 1897, Ezra served two years and a few months as an LDS missionary in Alabama and Florida. About a year after his return, he landed a job as Head Bookkeeper for a lumber company with headquarters east of The Dalles, Oregon.

In late 1908, Monson returned to Franklin and opened a large general store. He also took an active part not only in the LDS church there, but also the school system. Almost immediately, he joined the Franklin school board to begin a long period of service on that body. Then, in 1910, he helped organize the “Oneida County School Trustees’ Association.” The goals of the new organization were “to promote the cause of education, raise the standard of our school system and educate the school trustees of the several districts as to the responsibilities and duties.”

However, three years later, the Idaho legislature split Franklin County off from Oneida, with Preston as the county seat. It’s not clear what happened to the Association at that point. Monson kept busy by taking on the position of Secretary to the Idaho Pioneers' Association at Franklin.

Ezra was also very active in the state Republican Party, serving on many different committees over the years. In 1916, he began the first of two terms in the Idaho House of Representatives. Hawley’s History noted that, for the second term, “He did not seek reelection and never left his town during the campaign but the record which he had already made brought him a large vote.”

After his two terms in the House, Monson served a term in the state Senate, where he Chaired the Committee on Finance. He did not run for re-election. However, the Idaho Statesman reported  (Jan 28, Feb 13, 1923), “Ezra P. Monson of Preston will fill the chair in the house of representatives of the Seventeenth state legislature, made vacant by the resignation of Thomas Preston, if the house concurs in the appointment of Mr. Monson by the governor.”
Blackfoot City Hall. [Hawley]
The appointment was approved, and Ezra filled the House seat for that session. The following month, however, President Warren G. Harding appointed Monson to be the Receiver (basically, the Cashier or Treasurer) of the U. S. Land Office in Blackfoot (Idaho Statesman, Boise, February 13, 1923).

Monson moved his family to Blackfoot to handle this position. But two years later, the Federal government combined the offices of Receiver and Register (Clerk, essentially), leaving Ezra without a job. He therefore opened a grocery store in Blackfoot. Then, in 1931, Monson was himself appointed to the combined Register/Receiver position (Idaho Statesman, October 11, 1931). Ezra remained at that position until his retirement.

Upon his retirement, he moved back Utah, and passed away in Logan, on May 17, 1941.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Blue], [Hawley]
“Oneida County Holds School Convention, The Telegram, Salt Lake City, Utah (March 21, 1910).

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Packer, Merchant, Theater Enthusiast, and Boise Mayor James Pinney [otd 9/29]

James Pinney. H. T. French photo.
James A. Pinney – dubbed the “Father of Modern Boise” by historian Hiram T. French – was born September 29, 1835, near Columbus, Ohio. The family later moved to Iowa, and from there James traveled to California. He spent many years in California, returned to Iowa, then prospected around Pike’s Peak in Colorado and the Rogue River in Oregon. He saw some action in the Rogue River Indian War.

In 1862, he led pack trains from Oregon into the lower Salmon River gold fields. The following year, he moved to Idaho City and opened a general store. Pinney also built a theater there. Unfortunately, he had to rebuild his store after one of the fires that swept through the town [blog, May 17] burned him out. In 1872, Pinney moved to Boise City to operate a bookstore he had opened there three years earlier.

The Owyhee Avalanche in Silver City, Idaho told (August 26, 1876) its readers that James Pinney & Co. had forwarded the “latest numbers of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated and Harper’s Weekly. Messrs. P. & Co. are agents for these and many other publications and will fill all orders that may be forwarded [to] them for any of the same from any section of the Territory.”

In 1881, Boise City voters elected Pinney as their mayor and he set out to correct some deficiencies in the town’s infrastructure: The city purchased the main private bridge across the river and did away with its toll schedule. It also designated a new area for the cemetery, today’s Morris Hill Cemetery.

Leading by example, Pinney personally paid for a concrete sidewalk on the block in front of his own home. Others soon followed his lead. During a second term, the mayor directed the construction of Boise’s first sewer system, and grew the town by annexing a half-mile wide area extending to the river itself.

Boise City had made do with various small schools – some subscription, some free. In 1881, the Territorial Legislature created the Boise Independent School District. Under Pinney, the city opened the all-grades “Central School” near downtown. Critics complained that the facility was too large … a waste of tax dollars. A rapidly growing student population soon proved the administration’s far-sighted wisdom.

Pinney declined to run for the next two mayoral terms, but served two more starting in 1889. The mayor again encouraged progressive developments around the city. That included several private facilities – an electric trolley, a Natatorium that used natural geothermal waters, and a fine new bank. Pinney also spearheaded construction of a new City Hall, opened for use in May 1893.
Downtown Boise, ca 1898. [Illust-State]
Pinney did not run again for mayor until 1903, when he lost. He won two years later. During this, his final term, Pinney focused on expanding and upgrading the sewer system, and improving Boise’s streets. Traffic jams due to increased automobile use had already been reported in several cities. The mayor saw that thoroughfares of graded dirt and gravel would soon be unacceptable.

A committed theater fan, Pinney gave Boise City the Columbia (a state-of-the-art, for 1892, opera house) and then the Pinney Theater in 1908. French’s History asserted that The Pinney “would do credit to a city of several times Boise’s population.”

Although James seemed in good health for a man of 78, he took ill and died suddenly in February 1914.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French], [Illust-State]
Sue Paseman, Ann Felton, “Father of Modern Boise: James Alonzo Pinney,” Mayoral Albums – Portraits of Boise Mayors, Boise State University (2004-2009).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Army Pathfinder John C. Fremont at The Cedars on the Snake River [otd 9/28]

John C. Fremont, ca 1861-1865.
Matthew Brady photo, Library of Congress.
On September 28, 1843, an expedition led by Second Lieutenant John C. Frémont reached a point along the Snake River that would later be called “The Cedars.”

In August, Frémont’s command had explored the area around the Great Salt Lake, and then turned north into Idaho. At various times he sent men, including famous guide Kit Carson, to Fort Hall for provisions.

Frémont first gained a name for himself on successful surveying expeditions between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. That notoriety and his personal charisma allowed him to woo and wed Jessie Benton, daughter of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton. (This despite the stigma of Frémont’s illegitimate birth.)

With Senator Benton’s backing, Frémont led successive survey parties west, including one that reached Wyoming’s South Pass, and then this 1843 trek. In mid-September, they left the Bear River watershed and marched toward the Snake River, camping near American Falls. Then, for September 28th, Frémont wrote, “at evening we found a sheltered camp, where there was an abundance of wood, at some elevated rocky islands covered with cedar, near the commencement of another long cañon of the river.” [My emphasis.]

Sixty years later, Milner Dam would be built near Frémont’s campsite at The Cedars [blog, May 7]. However, the presence of the Snake River canyon was of more immediate concern, because downstream from their camp it was almost impossible to descend to obtain water. Instead, they had to cut across a largely arid, sometimes rocky plain. Frémont wrote, “We encamped about 5 o’clock on Rock Creek – a stream having considerable water, a swift current, and wooded with willow.”

Perhaps a thousand emigrants had crossed Idaho before Frémont’s party explored the area. Few of them had sent letters East, and fewer of those provided any reliable information on the route. In early October, Frémont discovered the difficult Snake River ford that later travelers called the “Three Island Crossing,” near today's Glenns Ferry. Early fall rains had caused the river to rise, and the surveyors had to resort to their inflatable boat to cross.

Four days later, Frémont wrote, “We came suddenly in sight of the broad green line of the valley of the Rivière Boisée (wooded river).”

After noting that the upstream course turned sharply into “lofty mountains,” the party descended to “the bottoms of the river, which is a beautiful rapid stream, with clear mountain water, and, as the name indicates, well wooded with some varieties of timber – among which are handsome cottonwoods.”

Old Fort Boise, E. Weber & Co. Lithograph.
National Archives.
They followed along the river to (old) Fort Boise, where, Frémont said, “We were received with an agreeable hospitality by Mr. Payette, an officer of the Hudson’s Bay Company.”

They again used their boat, and two borrowed canoes, to cross the Snake River, which they found “broad and deep.” The following day they crossed the future Idaho-Oregon border into “very mountainous country.” The party arrived at the first white settlements in late October. Frémont and a few men went on to Fort Vancouver.

Frémont’s published report, with maps, became a vital guide for Oregon Trail pioneers who followed much the same route across Idaho.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Brit]
Brevet Captain J. C. Fremont, Report of the Exploring Expedition to The Rocky Mountains … [1842-1843], Printed by order of the Senate of the United States, Washington D.C. (1845).
Jim Gentry, In the Middle and On the Edge, College of Southern Idaho (2003).
John D. Unruh, Jr, The Plains Across, University of Illinois Press, Urbana (1979).

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Physician, Businessman, and Civic-Improvement Leader Robert Lee Nourse [otd 9/27]

Dr. Nourse. Illustrated History photo.
On September 27, 1864, Boise physician Dr. Robert Lee Nourse was born about 45 miles southwest of Louisville, Kentucky. He came from a distinguished lineage, with ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. Moreover, one of those hung during the hysteria of the Salem witch trials was his many-times-removed grandmother, Rebecca (Towne) Nurse.

He attended a high school academy in his home state and then, at age seventeen, went to work in an Uncle’s hotel in Wisconsin. After several years there, he entered the Rush Medical College in Chicago. Robert completed his medical degree in 1889 and opened a practice at a lake port east of Duluth. He then worked with an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist in Chicago for two years before returning north.

In 1897, Dr. Nourse moved to Hailey, Idaho, where he developed a thriving general practice. Within a year or so, the governor appointed him to the Idaho Board of Medical Examiners, which he served as secretary and treasurer. A member of the State Medical Society, Nourse was the organization’s President in 1905 (Idaho Statesman, October 6, 1905).

During his address to the Society, Nourse roundly criticized a judge who had tried to overturn a Board decision denying a license to one applicant. (The judge had taken it upon himself to “materially raise” the applicants grades.) The judge responded by slapping Nourse with a contempt charge and a $300 fine. In the end,  physicians statewide chipped in to pay the entire amount.

Soon after that, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled (Idaho Statesman, January 21, 1906) that the Board had acted properly, within the powers granted to it by the legislature. (The Court did not address the matter of the contempt charge.)

By the time all this happened, Nourse had left Idaho for an extended course of specialist study, first in New York City and then in Europe.

Upon his returned, he opened a practice in Boise, specializing in eye, ear, nose and throat medicine. Certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology, Dr. Nourse was also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Along with his practice, Dr. Nourse invested in a wide variety of business enterprises. For example, he served as a Director and also acted as Secretary for the Empire Hardware Company. He was associated with the YMCA, YWCA, and the Presbyterian church.

His wife, Marie, became a leader in several civic improvement organizations, including a term as President of the Columbian Club. Some of their causes included improvements at the library, creation of parks, and a campaign against objectionable street signs. She appeared in the 1914-1915 issue of Who’s Who in America (The American Commonwealth Company, New York, 1914).
The source caption for the photograph says the American
driver of the ambulance was killed in November 1916.

The couple's two sons, Robert L., Jr. and Norman C., served with the American Field Service in France during World War I. The AFS provided volunteer ambulance drivers to recover wounded from the front lines – the first time motor vehicles had been used for that purpose. Robert Jr. was burned about the face and eyes by mustard gas and also received the Croix de Guerre.

In 1918, Dr. Nourse helped organize Idaho’s section of the nation-wide Volunteer Medical Service Corps (Idaho Statesman, August 30, 1918). For many years, Dr. Nourse served on the staffs of St. Luke's and St. Alphonsus hospitals in Boise. He passed away in June 1949.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French], [Illustrated-State]
History of the American Field Service in France, Houghton Mifflin company, New York (1920).
"Cite American Officer: French Decorate Lieut. R.L. Nourse, Jr., for Bravery Under Fire," New York Times, (March 3, 1918).

Monday, September 26, 2016

Loyal P. Brown: North Idaho Merchant, Rancher, Developer, and Legislator [otd 9/26]

Loyal P. Brown.
Historical Museum at St. Gertrude,
Cottonwood, Idaho.
North Camas Prairie businessman, rancher, investor, and public servant Loyal P. Brown was born September 26, 1829 in Stratford, New Hampshire, in the northeast corner of the state.

His mercantile experience began when he was 16 years old. After a few years of that, he became a Forty-Niner, traveling the isthmus route to California. He did well in the gold fields, and then with stores he opened in northern California and in Oregon. After a year back East, he returned to Oregon and settled in the Umpqua Valley.

When gold was discovered near Florence, he brought his family to Idaho. In July 1862, they reached the waystation of Mose Milner, near the southeast edge of the Camas Prairie. Sensing opportunity, Brown and a partner purchased what would become Mount Idaho.

Brown, a life-long temperance advocate, disagreed with his partner about building a saloon onto the hotel, so Brown bought him out three years later. The structure then housed a post office, with Brown as postmaster, and a modest store. L. P. also opened a small blacksmith shop. Brown’s holdings grew extensively: many leased lots in Mount Idaho, a grist mill, another store in Elk City, and a substantial ranch. The ranch held “quite a band of cattle” and exported horses into Montana.
Mount Idaho Courthouse, built in the early 1870s. [Hawley]

Brown represented Nez Perce County on the 1874-75 Territorial Council. (He had also held that office in 1866-67.) During that session, he worked a bill through the legislature that redrew county boundaries, resulting in the selection of Mount Idaho as the county seat of Idaho County. That fueled even further growth before the Nez Perce War broke out.

L.P. played a major leadership role in the 1877 War: His dispatches provided the first warning of the outbreak to the Army units at Fort Lapwai. He also supplied materials and supervised construction of a hastily-built stockade at Mount Idaho, and provided shelter for all who had to flee their homesteads.

Brown expanded further after the war. Merchants added new structures in Mount Idaho, and he built a steam sawmill northeast of town. Elsewhere, he bought up much of the town of Cottonwood and encouraged its growth: a post office in 1879, a blacksmith shop, and, in 1880, a store and Brown’s own hotel.

During the early 1880s, Brown broadened his holdings even more to include six or seven thousand head of sheep along with his cattle and horses. Of course, he wasn’t the only stockman. On July 20, 1885, ranchers in Idaho County created the Idaho County Stock Growers' Association. (As elsewhere in the state, one of their main concerns was rustling). The Association elected Brown as its first president.

Settlers continued to arrive in the area and, in July and August of 1887, leaders organized the Idaho County Pioneer Association [blog, July 16]. Again, L. P. Brown was its first president.

Brown even found time to invest in Clearwater mining ventures. However, he sold perhaps his most promising lode mine property to a California firm in early 1894. He passed away in April 1896.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-North]
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Attorney General Roy Black, "Lady Bluebeard" Prosecutor [otd 9/25]

Attorney Roy Black.
J. H. Hawley photo
Idaho Attorney General Roy L. Black was born September 25, 1878 in Lagrange County, Indiana, about forty miles east of South Bend. He became a teacher at an early age and continued for a number of years in the county schools near his parent’s home. After some advanced study at Valparaiso University and an institute in Michigan, he entered the University of Michigan Law School.

Roy drove a stagecoach in Yellowstone National Park during one summer while he was at the University. He graduated with an LL.B. in 1907, having served as Associate Editor of the Michigan Law Review during his junior year. Soon after graduation, Black formed a partnership with Nicodemus D. Wernette, a Law School classmate, and they moved to Coeur d'Alene.

Earlier that year, Kootenai County had been drastically reduced in size by the creation of Bonner County. Coeur d'Alene became the county seat of this smaller Kootenai County in 1908.

The firm of Black & Wernette operated successfully for over a decade, even as the partners also found positions in public service. In 1909, Black was elected to a two-year term as City Attorney for Coeur d'Alene. The following year, Wernette was elected Prosecuting Attorney for Kootenai County, and Black was elected to a term in the Idaho House of Representatives. There, leaders made him chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

During his term, Roy sponsored an act known as the “Black Law,” which allowed cities of over 2,500 population to adopt a commission form of government. The Black Law generated a great deal of controversy, especially when advocates applied it to Boise, which operated under a special Charter. Still, in a close election (52-48%), voters did overturn the Charter.

In 1918, the Republican Party nominated Black as their candidate for Attorney General and he won easily. He was also elected for a second term.

The most famous case of Black's period as Attorney General involved the trial of serial killer Lyda Southard, variously known as “Idaho’s Lady Bluebeard,” “Flypaper Lyda,” Lyda Trueblood (her birth name), or any of her numerous married names.
Lyda [Southard etc]. Associated Press.

Lyda’s family had moved to Twin Falls in 1906. There, in 1912, she married Robert Dooley, who died three years later. Forensic evidence eventually showed, with varying degrees of certainty, that he, his brother, a daughter, and three husbands that followed, all died from arsenic poisoning – apparently extracted from many, many sheets of flypaper.

Paul Southard, her husband at the time of the trial, escaped that fate, as did two later spouses. Showing arsenic as the means, life insurance payoffs as the motive, and (sometimes) apple pie as the opportunity, Roy and the team of prosecutors convicted Lyda for the murder of her fourth husband.

In 1923, after his final term as Attorney General, Black moved to Pocatello. There, he became heavily involved in legal issues associated with reclamation and irrigation enterprises. He played a role in the American Falls Dam Project. Besides his thriving law practice, he also served as Chairman of the Pocatello school board in 1929, and was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce.

Roy passed away in August 1970. In honor of his long association with the Pocatello Elks Lodge, the Exalted Ruler conducted his funeral.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Blue], [French], [Hawley]
William C. Anderson, Lady Bluebeard: The True Story of Love and Marriage, Death and Flypaper, Fred Pruett Books (1994).
“Roy L. Black – Longtime Pocatello Attorney Dies,” Idaho State Journal, Pocatello, Idaho (August 16, 1970).
“‘Flypaper Lyda’ and Her Special Apple Pie,” Newsletter, Idaho Legal Historical Society, Boise Idaho (January 2010).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cattleman Con Shea Drives Texas Longhorns to Owyhee Ranches [otd 9/24]

On September 24, 1870, the Owyhee Avalanche (Silver City, Idaho) published the following item: “From Texas – Con Shea, one of Owyhee's most adventurous and enterprising citizens, just got back from Texas. He and Tom Bugbee left here in March last, since that time they have purchased in Texas, and driven to within one hundred miles of Denver City, some 1300 head of cattle. Bugbee remains with the stock, which will winter on the waters of the Arkansas river. Grass is very short along the route, which accounts for their not coming on this season.”
Longhorns on the move.
International Texas Longhorn Association.

Originally from Canada, Cornelius “Con” Shea arrived in Idaho in the spring of 1864. He worked as a miner and then teamster for awhile, but by 1867 had established himself as a cattleman. The following year, a well-off rancher bankrolled him to go to Texas and bring back a herd of longhorns. (Texas had a “glut” of cattle, and prices were low.)

Con started east, but at Raft River ran into a drive already on its way from Texas. The owners agreed to sell him the herd. Con drove the cattle to range along Sinker and Catherine creeks (southeast of today’s Murphy). These are believed to be the first Texas cattle brought into the “Owyhee Country” of southwest Idaho and southeast Oregon.

The following year, Con and some other cattlemen bought longhorns along the Brazos River in Texas and drove them to Idaho. As noted by the lead newspaper item above, Con repeated the process in 1870. Many of these cattle went, as needed, from the range to meat markets in the Owyhee mining camps. But ranchers like Shea also began to build up their breeding stock.

In 1874, Con moved his herds to grazing land that straddled the Oregon border, about 15 miles northwest of Silver City. He and a brother also ran a meat market in a mining camp that flourished near Silver City from 1871 to about 1876. Con and two of his brothers took part in the Battle of South Mountain during the Bannock War of 1878 [blog, June 8]. For the next twenty years, Shea played a major role in the Owyhee Country cattle business. He left his name on Idaho’s Con Shea Basin and on Sheaville, Oregon.
Con Shea, ca 1898.
Savings Bank of Santa Rosa.

Around 1883, Shea purchased a winter home in Santa Rosa, California. After that, he “commuted” to Idaho and Oregon to oversee his ranch and business properties. Local newspapers usually referred to his town visits with the lead: “Con Shea of Cow Creek ...” (Cow Creek rises about ten miles northwest of Silver City.)

After the Oregon Short Line laid tracks across Idaho, Shea began selling cattle to the Eastern markets. Thus, the Owyhee Avalanche in Silver City, Idaho, reported (July 4, 1885) that Shea had sold a consignment to a company in Chicago. The item said he was about to “turn over 1500 or 2000 head to the agent of the firm at Caldwell.”

Around 1897, Shea disposed of his Idaho and Oregon ranch holdings and moved permanently to Santa Rosa. There, he had invested in land and other real estate, and served as Director of the Savings Bank of Santa Rosa. After the 1906 Bay Area earthquake, a Santa Rosa newspaper lauded the fact that Shea intended to rebuild his commercial properties using reinforced concrete.

Con passed away in May 1926.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-State]
Mildretta Adams, Owyhee Cattlemen, 1878 – 1978, Owyhee Publishing Co., Homedale, Idaho (1979).
Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).
“Savings Bank of Santa Rosa,” Sonoma County Homes and Industries, Reynolds & Proctor Publishing, Santa Rosa, California (1898).
“Solid Block of Concrete: Santa Rosa Will Have Substantial Structure,” Santa Rosa Republican (July 16, 1906).  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Lewis & Clark Return to St. Louis, First Train Arrives in Moscow [otd 9/23]

On September 23, 1806, Sergeant John Ordway wrote in his journal, “About 12 oClock we arived in site of St. Louis. Fired three rounds as we approached the Town and landed oppocit the center of the Town, the people gathred on the shore and Huzzared three cheers.”

Portraits of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis.
Independence National Historical Park, National Park Service.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition had been gone from St. Louis just about 28 months. Their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase territory, and beyond, was a monumental achievement, which need no further elaboration here. Still, there are two points worth mentioning, one striking an ironic note.

Just over a month earlier, the captains granted Private John Colter an early discharge from the Army so he could accompany two American hunters who were heading into the Rockies. Before he left the mountains for good in 1810, Colter trapped and explored southern Montana, northern Wyoming, and eastern Idaho. He was the first white man to traverse what later became known first as Pierre’s Hole, and is today the Teton Valley of Idaho [blog, Aug 17].

The irony lay in the presence of the two hunters, Joseph Dickson and Forest Hancock from Illinois: The government venture wouldn’t report officially for another six weeks or so, yet already daring and ambitious Americans were moving to explore the wild new territory. My favorite account of the Expedition is Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (Simon & Shuster, New York, 1996).

Another OTD item appears in Hawley’s History: “In 1883 right of way was obtained for a branch between Moscow, Idaho, and Winona, Washington. Wednesday, September 23, 1885, was a red-letter day in Moscow's calendar, as on that day the first train arrived in that city. Salutes were fired, speeches made, and the celebration closed with a grand ball in the evening, at which several of the officials of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company were present.”

Scattered settlers entered Paradise Valley around 1871. The area grew very slowly at first, but by a concerted effort, locals obtained a post office in 1872. By 1877, the post office had a new name -- Moscow -- and a new location a mile or so away. However, the town was just another small, isolated farm and ranch town until the railroad arrived.

Anticipating the arrival, the Portland Oregonian said (September 23, 1885), “Before dark tonight the track of the Oregon Railway & Navigation extension will have reached Moscow, Idaho.” The item noted that workers had completed the construction a week sooner then expected. It went on, “To-morrow the company will begin bringing wheat out of Moscow, and freight destined for that point will be received as soon as facilities can be provided for handling it, which will be about the last of this week.”

President Gault.
UI Archives.
As expected, the local economy surged. In describing the period before the national “Panic of '93,” the Illustrated History declared, “Moscow reached the high water mark of prosperity. Everybody made money and everyone had money, and the volume of business transacted here was enormous.”

In 1889, the legislature selected Moscow as the site for the land-grant University of Idaho, and facility construction began in 1891 [blog, Oct 3]. The school soon hired President Franklin B. Gault to replace an unpaid head.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
Rafe Gibbs, Beacon for Mountain and Plain: Story of the University of Idaho, The Caxton Printers (© The Regents of the University of Idaho, 1962).
Burton Harris, John Colter: His Years in the Rockies, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1993).
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Gary E. Moulton (Ed.), The Definitive Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (2002).

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Opening Day for the Academy of Idaho (Now Idaho State University) Classes [otd 9/22]

On Monday September 22, 1902, the Academy of Idaho – precursor to today’s Idaho State University – celebrated its first opening exercise. Ironically, the people of Pocatello wanted the Academy so badly, it almost didn’t get off the ground.
Pocatello, ca 1895. Bannock County Historical Society.

Pocatello was incorporated in 1889. As a major railroad junction, it grew explosively, topping 4,000 citizens by the 1900 census. After hard lobbying by locals, the governor signed a bill, in March 1901, that authorized the creation of the Academy [blog, Mar 11]. The institution would provide college prep and “industrial” (vo-tech) courses. However, the Act allocated no money to buy land for the school; that was up to the people of Pocatello. The bill set a deadline of May 1st for a site decision.

The subsequent dispute almost killed the Academy before it started. The city split mainly over whether the school should be east or west of the railroad tracks and yards. However, even within those factions, splinter groups formed to push specific sites. The wrangling continued for over six weeks. By April 30, the day before the legal deadline, they had reached an impasse. The Pocatello Tribune reported, “The Board then took a recess and a lot of people went out on the streets and swore.”

Finally, “under the gun,” they settled on what is now the lower part of the ISU campus. Forty students showed up for those first classes in 1902. By the end of the decade, school enrollment would reach nearly 300. In 1906, the Academy’s first Principal, John W. Faris, wrote, “The Academy has demonstrated beyond the question of a doubt that it fills a most important place in the educational system of Idaho.”
Academy, ca. 1914. H. T. French.

School administrators moved aggressively, adding three city blocks to the campus in 1910 and expanding the school’s offerings: night classes for adult education, winter short courses, and summer sessions. Even that early, they had aspirations to attain full four-year status. The only immediate result of their lobbying was a name change – to “Idaho Technical Institute” (ITI) – in 1915.

Recovering from a severe downturn during World War I, the school’s enrollment topped a thousand by 1920. Locals continued to push for four-year status. Finally fed up, the 1927 legislature took drastic action: They made ITI a subordinate division of the University. For the next twenty years, the Pocatello school would be the “Southern Branch of the University of Idaho.”

World War II crushed enrollment again, but afterwards about a thousand veterans attending under the G.I. Bill increased the student body to over 1,800 students. Thus, in 1947, the school became Idaho State College, an independent, four-year institution. Curriculum expansion became a major priority, and the school attained University status in 1963.

Since then the school has grown steadily. That included the addition of a major “College of Health-Related Professions” and a nearby Research and Business Park. The Park began with a large Technology Center that provided space for business start-ups and science-related spin-offs. It now contains a half-dozen substantial facilities, private and public.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley]
Merrill D. Beal, History of Idaho State College, Idaho State College (1952).
Diane Olson, Idaho State University: A Centennial Chronicle, Idaho State University (2000).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Judge" William Clagett: Mining Investor, Lawyer, and "Silver Tongued" Orator [otd 9/21]

Judge William Horace Clagett was born September 21, 1838 in Prince Georges County, Maryland, which wraps around the east side of Washington, D. C. In 1850, the family moved to Iowa. After high school, William studied at the Albany Law School in New York.

Mark Twain, 1867.
Library of Congress.
In 1861, Clagett moved to Nevada and began a life-long passion for prospecting and mining investments. On one “stampede” to Humboldt County, he was in a party with the later celebrated Samuel Clements (Mark Twain). When Twain’s book Roughing It was published in 1872, it contained the passage, “Young Clagett (now member of Congress from Montana) unharnessed and fed and watered the horses … ”

William also went into Nevada politics, serving in the Territorial and then State House of Representatives. There, he became known as an outstanding speaker, soon earning praise as “the silver tongued orator of the west.”

He then practiced law, served in political offices, and invested in mining properties in Montana and Dakota Territories, as well as around Denver. In 1871-1873, he served Montana Territory as Delegate to Congress. (Delegates have no vote on the floor, but can serve on committees and vote on issues at that level.) While there, he introduced the bill that would eventually result in the creation of Yellowstone National Park.

In 1873-1874, he held an appointment as a U. S. Special Counsel to investigate possible fraud in the Office of Indian Affairs for Montana. However, he failed to accomplish much in that position. Newspaper reports of the day suggest that backroom politics thwarted his most diligent efforts.

Clagett practiced law in several mountain west towns, including Denver and Deadwood, Dakota Territory, before gold and silver discoveries in the Coeur d’Alene region brought him to Idaho in 1883. According to the Illustrated History of North Idaho, “Mr. Clagett’s cabin was the first one put up in Murray.” [Blog, Murray, March 5.]

When residents of Idaho Territory convened their Constitutional Convention in 1889, delegates selected Clagett as Convention President. After that, newspaper reports from the convention began referring to “Judge” Clagett, an honorary title he carried for the rest of his life. (There is no record that he served any regular judgeship.)

After Idaho achieved statehood, Clagett became involved in a nasty political dispute with regard to the new state’s first Senatorial seats. Voting together (technically a violation of the legally mandated procedure) the state House and Senate elected Fred T. Dubois to a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

Judge Clagett. Library of Congress.
Opponents challenged this process on that and other technical grounds, and a subsequent election designated Clagett to fill the seat. Clagett supported his case in a speech before the entire U. S. Senate. Observers rated his oration as being remarkably eloquent and effective, and the hopeful Senator-elect emerged very confident of success. However, Senators found the technicalities insufficient to unseat Dubois.

Clagett ran again when the other Senatorial seat came up for a vote, but lost. The Illustrated History said, “Friends and foes alike unite in believing he was too uncompromising to succeed in politics.”

After his election disappointments, Clagett moved to Spokane to enjoy its more civilized amenities. (Such a move was common practice for well-off pioneers from the Coeur d’Alene mining districts.) He died there in August 1901.
                                                                                                        
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
“Clagett is Very Hopeful,” The New York Times (May 23, 1891).
“William H. Clagett,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
“Old Friends of the Late Judge Clagett Speak … ,” The Standard, Anaconda, Montana (August 11, 1901).

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Businessman, Public Servant, and Local Sports Legend Wes Deist [otd 9/20]

Wes Deist, 1960. Family photo.
Sportsman and business leader Wesley W. “Wes” Deist was born September 20, 1923, in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. A committed Roman Catholic, after high school Deist entered Gonzaga University. There, he became “a standout back” on their freshman football team. However, the University dropped football after the 1941 season, so Wes transferred to the University of Idaho.

Deist lettered in football for the 1942-1943 season, but at some point he enlisted for World War II. Wes served as a member of the Navy’s Amphibious Raider* force. For that duty, he received special training at Northwestern University and at Notre Dame University.

At Notre Dame, he was identified as a “Marine V-12, of Bonners Ferry, Idaho” … “V-12” being an officer training program for the U. S. Navy and Marines. Asked by the student newspaper to predict when the war would end, Deist said, “Fall of 1944. I don’t believe the countries that we are fighting can keep up their production of war materials to satisfy their needs … ”

Despite his training schedule, Deist found time to get married in Florida, in November 1944. His unit then served in China and India.†

After the War, Wes completed his education and settled down. He moved his family to Idaho Falls in the early Fifties and began teaching people to ski. He taught and coached at Kelly Canyon Ski Resort (22-24 miles northeast of Idaho Falls) from its founding in 1957 until about 2006, when he was over 80 years old.

Wes owned a downtown sporting goods store for a number of years and then “managed eastern Idaho’s largest sports store at the time” on Shoup Avenue. Later he opened an insurance agency, which was still in operation at the time of his death. Through all that, he found time for golf, bird hunting, and other sports activities.

Besides his business duties and various avocations, Wes served three terms on the Idaho Falls City Council. He was instrumental in establishing the city’s Greenbelt along the Snake River, and the spacious Community Park in the southern part of town.

While he was on the Council, Wes was the designated watchdog over an expansion of the Idaho Falls Municipal Airport. He also sparked local interest in an indoor swimming facility, which eventually came into being as the Idaho Falls Aquatic Center – later renamed the Wes Deist Aquatic Center.

Deist passed away in January, 2008.

* Stories about Wes often say he was a Navy SEAL – SEa, Air and Land force. However, those units were not created until much later. Still, Navy SEALs trace their lineage back to a number of Special Operations units formed during the War, including the Amphibious Raiders. Training for amphibious Special Ops members was extraordinarily demanding, and they performed incredibly dangerous missions on hostile beaches.

UDT quartet, WW-II – masks, fins, and guts. U.S. Navy photo.
Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) – “Frogmen” – are perhaps the most famous of these early amphibious Special Ops units. However, Hollywood notwithstanding, scenes showing divers using SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) during WW-II are not accurate – the Navy had no such equipment at that time.

† Known operations of the China-India Raiders involved a survey of the Yangtze River during the spring of 1945. They then reconnoitered the enemy-occupied Chinese coast from Shanghai to near Hong Kong.
                                                                                                                                     
References: J. Robb Brady, “Deist’s Half-Century of Service” The Post Register, Idaho Falls (January 2008).
“Introduction to Naval Special Warfare,” U. S. Navy SEALS, Official Web Site.
“Student Opinion … ,” The Notre Dame Scholastic, Vol. 80, No. 3, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana (December 3, 1943)..
“Vandals Get Gonzaga Star,” Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah (September 24, 1942).
“Wesley Walter Deist - Obituary,” The Post Register, Idaho Falls (January 2008).

Monday, September 19, 2016

Gold Prospector Julius Merrill Reaches Boise City by Wagon Train [otd 9/19]

Julius Merrill. Merrill family archives.
On September 19, 1864, gold-seeker Julius Merrill wrote in his journal, “We hitched up and turned our faces toward Boise City.” They camped about four miles downriver from the city.

Born in Maine, Julius Caesar Merrill turned 24 early on the trip west. He traveled with a rather ad hoc band of gold-seekers: “At Oak Creek I was joined by Charles Carey, Henry and Stephen J. Durbin. We were to furnish and fit out a team in company. Two of them I had seen but once and was little acquainted with the other. They were bound for Idaho and that was deemed sufficient."

Oak Creek is a town about 10 miles south of Milwaukee. From there they boarded a railroad train to St. Joseph, Missouri. That evening their cars tumbled off the poorly-built track. Fortunately, “No one was hurt. We lay there until daylight, which gave us a good opportunity to sleep, which we needed.”

They purchased an outfit in “St. Jo” and left on May 23rd. The wagon train crossed the (future) Idaho border on August 17, just eleven days after the Elizabeth (Lee) Porter party [blog, Sept 3].

Throughout the trip, Merrill’s comments included more specific details than Porter’s. Toward the west end of Camas Prairie (near today’s Fairfield), Porter wrote, “Came about ten miles, another spring run. Looks like rain. Hope it will. Came about eight miles. Lots of people stopping here putting up hay. Gold and silver mines handy. Rolling.”

Merrill said, “The road is splendid but dusty and quite windy. We pass several dry creeks with the willows yet green but could find no water. Splendid feed at noon but no water. At night we camped beside a creek, and I succeeded in shooting two sage hens.
“Here we found some men from California, with sheep which they were fattening and selling occasionally to some emigrants who were so fortunate as to have money enough to purchase. The real market was South Boise, thirty miles distant. There were said to be some hot springs nearby, but I did not have time to visit them.”

“South Boise,” soon to be renamed Rocky Bar, was the latest Boise Basin boom town.
Blacksmith Working on a Horseshoe.
Library of Congress.

The Merrill party broke up within a few days after the 19th. Charles Carey, a master blacksmith, stayed in the city, having learned that his trade was in great demand. In less than three years, he had returned to the Midwest to buy land.

The two Durbin brothers found employment in Idaho City, at first working for wages on a ditch project. The younger man, Stephen, made enough to buy land and settle in Idaho.

Merrill stayed in Boise City long enough to advantageously sell their wagon and stock, then followed the Durbins to Idaho City. His journal gives no details about their work in the mines, but Julius was in Iowa with a stake in gold by mid-1867.

There, he bought some excellent farm land, and settled down to marry and raise a family. Julius lived there until his death in February 1912.
                                                                                                                                     
References: Julius Merrill, Irving R. Merrill (ed.), Bound for Idaho: The 1864 Trail Journal of Julius Merrill, University of Idaho Press, Moscow (1989).
Elizabeth Lee Porter, “Iowa to Oregon, 1864,” Covered Wagon Women, Vol. 5, Kenneth L. Homes, David C. Duniway (eds.), University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1997).
John D. Unruh, Jr, The Plains Across, University of Illinois Press, Urbana (1979).

Sunday, September 18, 2016

William J. McConnell: Vigilante, U.S. Marshal, Merchant, and Governor [otd 9/18]

W. J. McConnell. McConnell,
Early History of Idaho.
On September 18, 1839, William J. McConnell, third governor of the state of Idaho, was born in Commerce, Michigan, about twenty-five miles northwest of Detroit. He moved to California in 1860 and engaged in mining and other work for a couple years. He spent the following year in Oregon, where he taught school and perhaps worked in a store.

McConnell followed the major gold rush into Idaho’s Boise Basin in 1863. Schooled by his experience in California, the young man recognized the opportunity offered by the excellent bottomland along the Payette River. Thus, he did not stay with the scramble of hopeful prospectors. Instead, McConnell and a few other settlers began raising vegetables, which they sold – at fabulous prices – to those same miners.

All was not profits and prosperity, however. The wild new Territory lacked any vestige of effective law enforcement. Shootings, knifings, and robberies were commonplace, and men with gold routinely disappeared on the tracks that linked the various camps.

Finally, when thieves made off with 8-10 horses and mules belonging to McConnell and his neighbors, he and two friends went after the robbers themselves. They returned with the animals a couple weeks later. No one inquired about the fate of the crooks.

William and the Payette Valley settlers then organized a regional Vigilance Committee, modeled on those established in California the decade before. When McConnell later prepared his History of Idaho, he made no apologies for their actions. He simply observed that they had no choice because “no effort was being made by those whose duties it was to enforce the law.”

Reports from the time indicate that the vigilantes did succeed in reining in the criminals, and the Committee disbanded. Popular opinion of their efforts was very positive: McConnell was appointed a Deputy U. S. Marshal, his term starting in 1865. After two years in that duty, he left the state for Oregon and California.

McConnell returned to Idaho in 1878, after the extensive farm lands of Latah County opened up . He established a general store there and became a major factor in the area’s growth.
McConnell General Store, Moscow.
Latah County Historical Society.

When leaders convened a Constitutional Convention to enhance the appeal for statehood, McConnell represented the county in that body. After statehood, he became one of Idaho’s first two U.S. Senators. He served the abbreviated term needed to get the new state into the normal election cycle.

He did not stand for a full senatorial term, but ran instead for Governor … was elected, and then re-elected. McConnell served at a critical time in Idaho history. Much of the new state’s administrative structure was in a state of flux, and the “Panic of '93” – a worldwide depression – blighted the economy. Still, his administration made several vital contributions, perhaps the most important being the vote for women’s suffrage in 1896 [blog, Nov 3].

McConnell remained in public service for the rest of his life, serving the U.S. government in various appointive positions. For part of that time, he was a Regent of the University of Idaho. He passed away in March 1925.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
W. J. McConnell, Early History of Idaho, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1913).
Robert C. Sims, Hope A. Benedict (eds.), Idaho’s governors: Historical Essays on Their Administrations, Boise State University (1992).

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Walgamott Slays Liquored-Up Gunman at Rock Creek Store [otd 9/17]

On September 17, 1877, traveling bank examiner Nathaniel Langford recorded an incident that highlighted the rather casual violence of those frontier days. Oddly enough, the surviving participant in the action chose not to connect himself with the event in the reminiscences he published later in life.
N. P. Langford, ca 1870.
Minnesota Historical Society.

Charles Walgamott came west from Iowa in August 1875, when he was seventeen years old. He joined his sister and brother-in-law Charles Trotter at Rock Creek, Idaho – about 12 miles southeast of today’s Twin Falls. Trotter ran the stage station there.

Charlie stayed in the West because, he said, “I love the mountains, the mountain streams, the western atmosphere, and the hospitable people with their western ways, the smoky odor of Indian-tanned buckskin, so prevalent around the camp fires, mingled with the sage-sweetened air, and the ever-present element of risk even to the preservation of life; and even the frequent solitude has its fascination.”

Early in the winter before Walgamott arrived in Idaho, Trotter had a run-in with a horse thief named William Dowdell (sometimes spelled "Dowdle"). According to a later report in the Idaho Statesman (September 20, 1877), Dowdell had served a one-year prison term for stealing a U. S. Government horse.

Just out of prison for that offense, Dowdell rode into the Rock Creek area on another stolen horse. Trotter recognized the animal and had Dowdell detained. Convicted and sent back to prison, Dowdell vowed revenge.

He appeared at Rock Creek station on September 17, not long after he got out. Trotter was down with typhoid fever and hadn’t come in that morning. After some quick drinks at the bar, Dowdell wandered outside and began taking pot-shots at passers-by and other targets. He reportedly wounded the local blacksmith so badly people thought the man would die. [Vintage photo of Rock Creek Station.]*

At that time, Walgamott held a clerk’s position at the Rock Creek store. Charlie doesn’t say what he was doing when the shooting started, but he finally went to the front door to see what was going on. When a shot through the door casing just missed him, Walgamott grabbed a pistol kept near the counter and shot Dowdell dead. (Charlie would have been about nineteen at the time.)

Langford rode the stage into Rock Creek that same afternoon. In his diary, he described the drunken “funeral procession” the locals had arranged: “Frequent potations had exhilarated the entire company to such a degree that no attempt was made to preserve regularity of motion or direction.”
They did eventually bury the body. An inquest declared Charlie fully justified in the shooting. In fact, according to Langford, “The entire settlement manifested their approval of Wohlgamuth’s [sic] timely shot.”

Walgamott lived in the Mountain West well into the Twentieth Century and published his Reminiscences of Early Days in 1926. In that, and the very similar Six Decades Back, he described many wild events, including the death of Dowdell. However, for his own reasons, Charles identified the retaliatory shooter as simply “a young man who was in charge at the store.”

* The Idaho State Historical Society holds the copyright on this photo and charges a usage fee. (As a member, I know the organization needs the money, but since my blog generates no income, I am not in a position to pay.)
                                                                                                                                      
References: Jim Gentry, In the Middle and On the Edge, College of Southern Idaho (2003).
N. P. Langford, Vigilante Days and Ways, Montana State University (1957).
Charles S. Walgamott, Six Decades Back, The Caxton Press, Caldwell, Idaho, 1936. Re-released in 1990.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Governor, U. S. Senator, and Wool-grower Frank Gooding [otd 9/16]

Idaho Senator and Governor Frank R. Gooding was born September 16, 1859 in England. He was 8 years old when his parents emigrated to the U. S. and settled in Michigan. In 1877 Frank moved to California and then, within a year or two, to Ogden, Utah. There, he worked at the Union Pacific depot before moving to Ketchum, Idaho, in 1881. Frank set up a thriving business to supply firewood and charcoal for the nearby smelter.
Philadelphia smelter, near Ketchum.
Ketchum-Sun Valley Historical Society.
Extension of an Oregon Short Line branch railroad into Ketchum in 1884 fueled a mining boom. However, that faded within four years due to low silver prices. Frank then established a sheep ranch on the plains west of Shoshone. Although his flock suffered some damage in the severe winter of 1889-90, he quickly recovered and would soon be “regarded as the most successful sheep-raiser in the state.”

Years of careful study made Gooding an expert on the subject of sheep and sheep raising such that, as the Illustrated History put it, “His opinions on anything connected with the subject are received as authority.” When a group of sheepmen formed the Idaho Wool Growers’ Association in 1893, Frank became its first President. He would hold that office two more times.

In 1899, voters elected Gooding to the state Senate, where he was selected as President pro temp. He followed that with a successful campaign for Governor, serving from 1905 to 1909. During his terms, he did well with many “motherhood and apple pie” issues: rehabilitation of juvenile criminals, better veteran’s benefits, schools for the handicapped and mental patients, improved general education, and so on.

His stands on timber, land, and irrigation projects were less well-received, at least in part because of conflict of interest concerns. (This in an era when such standards were far looser than they are today.) Still, those issues did not prevent his election to a second term. Another Republican, James H. Brady [blog, June 12], succeeded him.

U. S. Senator Gooding.
Library of Congress.
The incumbent U.S. Senator, Weldon B. Heyburn, yet another Republican, was up for re-election when Gooding left office. Heyburn’s dogged advocacy for Idaho’s economic mainstays – mining and agriculture – assured his popularity, so Gooding made no attempt to move on to that position.

When Heyburn died in October 1912, the legislature elected the still-popular James Brady to fill the rest of the term. Then, in 1914, the 17th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution required direct, popular election of Senators: Brady won that election also.

When Brady too died in office, in January 1918, Gooding ran for the remainder of the term, but lost. When he ran again in 1920 for the full term, he won. Frank fought steadily for high tariffs to protect American products – and not just wool, but across the board. Re-elected in 1926, he died in office in June 1928.

Frank and his brother Fred (another successful sheep rancher) gave their name to the town and county of Gooding.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Blue], [B&W], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“Frank Robert Gooding,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
Robert C. Sims, Hope A. Benedict (eds.), Idaho’s Governors: Historical Essays on Their Administrations, Boise State University (1992).

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Senator and Partners Found D. L. Evans Bank in Albion, Cassia County [otd 9/15]

On Thursday September 15, 1904, State Senator David Lloyd Evans convened a group of leading businessmen in Albion, Idaho. Cassia County needed a bank, and they proposed to start one in what was then the county seat.
D.L. Evans bank clerk, Albion, early 1900s.
D. L. Evans Bank.

When their intention was originally announced, the Albion Times, quoted in the Idaho Register, Idaho Falls (August 12, 1904) said, “This is an institution that is badly needed in Cassia county and no doubt it will do a good business.”

The bank, called the D.L. Evans Bank after the Senator, began in a one-story wood frame building but expanded into a two-story stone structure just three years later.

By the time “D.L.” helped found his namesake bank, he already had a fine record of accomplishment. In 1871, his widowed mother sold the family farm near Brigham City, Utah, where David was born. Her brood of sons and stepsons needed more room for their own places. The family therefore moved to a homestead near Malad City, Idaho. David was sixteen years old.

After study at the University of Deseret (now the University of Utah), D.L. taught school for a number of years. He also helped with the family farm, and continued to do so even as he pursued other interests.

In 1882, he served a term in the Idaho Territorial Legislature, representing Oneida County. Evans probably found that experience stressful because the governor raised the issue of “suppressing polygamy,” a direct threat to D.L.’s Mormon beliefs.

Two years later, D.L. and his brother Lorenzo bought a co-operative store in Malad that became the “Evans Co-op.” The Co-op’s building is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  Eight years later, a group of “prominent businessmen” founded the J. N. Ireland Bank [blog, May 15]. While the other founders besides Ireland are not named in available records, it seems likely that David, and probably his brother, were among them. (Some years later, D.L. would be president of that bank.)

D.L. Evans, ca 1928.
Evans family archives.
In 1899, voters again elected David to the legislature, this time for the state of Idaho. House members then selected him to be Speaker. Four years later, he was elected to the state Senate in a very close election. It was towards the end of his term when he led the establishment of the bank in Albion. He would serve in the Senate again, five years before his death in July 1929.

The Albion bank remained in the same facility for sixty years, finally moving to a new building in 1970. Nine years later, the company opened a branch bank in Burley.

The company’s headquarters are now also in Burley, and they have over two dozen branches and lending offices. These include locations in Pocatello, Twin Falls, Ketchum, Boise, Nampa, and more.

Today, the Evans descendants continue the tradition of family banking: The bank company’s President and Chief Executive Officer are, respectively, grandson and great-grandson of David Lloyd Evans. Moreover, family members – including David L. Evans, IV – hold a substantial number of positions on the current Board of Directors.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Blue], [Hawley]
Lisa Davis Jensen, “History of Winnefred (Gwen) Lloyd Roberts Evans, Daniel L. Roberts, David Rees Evans,” Welsh Mormon History, Dr. Ronald Dennis (ed.).
Our History, D. L. Evans Bank, Burley, Idaho.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ketchum Freighter, Rancher, and Businessman Horace Lewis [otd 9/14]

H. C. Lewis. J. H. Hawley photo.
Freighter, mine owner, and businessman Horace Caleb Lewis was born September 14, 1858 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After graduating from the University of Minnesota he moved to Helena, Montana to work in a hardware store.

A year later, in 1880, his father moved to Ketchum, Idaho to open a store. Horace soon followed, and he and a partner opened a lumber business near the town.

As the Wood River mines boomed, Lewis dealt in mining supplies as well as lumber for a time before operating a small freight outfit. Then, in 1884, the Oregon Short Line railroad extended its tracks into Ketchum, and Horace sensed a major opportunity. He founded the Ketchum Fast Freight Line, which made regular runs to mining camps in Bayhorse, Bonanza, Challis, Clayton, and Custer.

His Line also ran scheduled stagecoaches, but the “crown jewels” of his haulers were the huge freight wagons assembled by his own construction crews. These giant vehicles with enormous wheels (the rear pair stood seven feet tall) carried all kinds of goods – massive machinery, petticoats, whiskey, and more – into the mountains and brought out ore and bullion.

This was quite a feat, considering the state of the “roads.” Some parts of these tracks were little more than two ruts among the rocks and sagebrush, many stretches were barely wide enough for the wagons, and they encountered several acute grades. With five or six big wagons hitched together behind a “jerkline” of perhaps twenty mules, hairpin curves on the necessary switchbacks could be a harrowing challenge.

Even so, reports indicate that the Line had one season where it shipped seven hundred thousand pounds of bullion out to be loaded onto OSL cars. Over time, Lewis also invested in mining properties himself, and founded the First National Bank of Ketchum.

The freight and stagecoach business went into a lull after about 1895, but Lewis revived it during the Thunder Mountain rush of 1900-1907. Thunder Mountain is buried deep in the incredibly rugged Salmon River wilderness, over forty miles east of McCall. The mines never really showed much profit, but Lewis did all right hauling freight and passengers.

Later he took up ranching near Ketchum while continuing his business interests in town and around the region. As the mountain mines played out, there was less and less freight to be hauled. The lumbering trains of giant wagons were discontinued in 1909, two years before Lewis died.

Big Hitch ore wagons. Tourism photo.
As time passed, so did the old wagons … except for a few that sat in storage for a half century. Eventually, some surviving wagons were given to the city of Ketchum, with the proviso that they be paraded through the streets annually as a tribute to area pioneers.

Thus, in 1958, boosters initiated “Wagon Days” in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area. Each Labor Day, the region’s frontier heritage is celebrated with concerts, antique shows, re-enactments, a carnival, readings of cowboy poetry, and other special events.

The highlight of the weekend is the Big Hitch Parade, and the highlight of the parade is the Lewis Ore Wagons: Six giant, century-old vehicles hitched in tandem behind a 20-mule jerkline … 200 feet of authentic Idaho history rumbling through the streets.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley]
Ketchum History and Information, City of Ketchum.
David Sneed, “Idaho Freight Wagons,” Wheels that Won the West Publishing, Flippin, Arizona (2005-2010).
Sun Valley-Ketchum Tourism.