Monday, October 31, 2016

Flagrant Voter Fraud in Idaho Territory’s First Elections [otd 10/31]

Governor Wallace. J.H. Hawley photo.
On October 31, 1863, the brand new Territory of Idaho held its first elections. The Territory had been created six months earlier because of all the prospectors who rushed into the region with the discovery of gold [blog, Mar 4].

Less than a week after its creation, President Abraham Lincoln appointed William H. Wallace as the Territory’s first governor.

Born about fifteen miles north of Dayton, Ohio, Wallace took up a law career in Indiana and moved to Iowa in 1837, at the age of twenty-six. He emigrated to Washington Territory in 1853 and became heavily involved in politics there. In 1861, Wallace was elected as Washington’s Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. (Territorial Delegates have no vote on the floor, but can serve on committees and vote on issues at that level.) By then, of course, Pierce had discovered gold in what would become Idaho [blog, Oct 2].

Wallace did not arrive in Idaho until four months after his appointment. Even then, he took his time getting started. But finally, he set the election date. Aside from Montpelier, which everyone thought was part of Utah, Idaho contained the tent city of Lewiston – the Territorial capital – and a host of rough mining camps.
Idaho’s first Capitol, in Lewiston. J. H. Hawley photo.

Historians Beal and Wells commented, “Idaho did not suffer from any lack of candidates for Delegate to Congress in the first territorial election.”

The list of ten or so included William H. Wallace: A return to Washington D.C. clearly appealed far more than presiding over an undeveloped and, truth be told, dangerous Territory.

With his recent experience as a Delegate, plus the visibility as Governor, Wallace soon distanced the field of Republican candidates. He received the nomination at a convention held in Mount Idaho.

During this period, large numbers of refugees and other discouraged Southerners – almost all of them Democrats – had begun to appear in Idaho. (Grant’s capture of Vicksburg in May 1863 convinced many that the Confederate caused was doomed.) Thus, people rather expected that the Democratic nominee, one John M. Cannady, would win handily.

That turned out to be a misread, for whatever reason. Some newcomers were not yet settled enough to participate in the election, and many had arrived too recently. (The Organic Act for the Territory stipulated that a man had to have been a resident when Congress passed the Act.) Wallace won with about 52 percent of the legitimate voters.

However, the election was marred by the infamous “Laramie Fraud.” Somehow the 50-100 eligible voters at Fort Laramie morphed into around 480 … almost all of whom voted for the Republican ticket. This blatant fabrication was angrily rejected by both political parties. Oddly enough, the perpetrator – Federal Marshal Dolphus S. Payne – apparently did it to further a personal agenda; he had no particular interest in helping Wallace.

No one thought Wallace had any involvement, so opponents did not challenge his election. On the other hand, he received no encouragement two years later when he expressed a desire for a second term.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [B&W], [Hawley]
“Laramie Fraud,” Reference Series No. 154, Idaho State Historical Society.
“William Henson Wallace (1811-1879),” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, online.

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
www.poetryfoundation.org

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).

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Frontier Lawman, Rancher, and Business Leader Ed Winn [otd 10/29]

Sheriff Ed Winn.
Bonneville County Historical Society.
Frontier marshal, sheriff, and businessman Ed F. Winn was born October 29, 1857, about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Having learned the carpenter’s trade, Winn found work as a young man with the Union Pacific railroad. He then joined Utah & Northern Railway crews as they laid track and built stations north across eastern Idaho.

Ed followed the rails as far as Dillon, Montana. He then returned to Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls) to help with construction of railroad shops there. Probably foreseeing the growth that the shops would bring to the town, Winn quit the railroad and went into the saloon business. His ability to enforce a level of frontier “decorum” in his establishment soon attracted notice. In the early 1880s, authorities appointed him a Deputy Sheriff of Oneida County, which then comprised almost all of Eastern Idaho.

In short order, he became recognized as a man of “grit” and “chilly nerve.” His effective law enforcement efforts drew the attention of U. S. Marshal Fred T. Dubois, who made him a Deputy Marshal. Whether that appointment continued when Dubois focused on politics after 1886 is unclear, but Winn held his sheriff’s job into at least 1900.

Winn survived a number of shootouts, including several that were fatal to his opponents. In one scrape, a man named Swigart opened fire on Winn without warning, missed, but received two serious wounds in return. Ed told the Blackfoot Register (November 3, 1883) that “if he had had his own gun instead of a strange one, he would have killed Swigart.

Nor was he averse to engaging in hand-to-hand scraps. Describing his impact on the criminal element, the Illustrated History said, “He brought many to trial, many fled the country and in time Oneida county came to be a law-abiding place, and as such was gradually taken possession of by law-abiding people.”

For a number of years, Winn owned a cattle ranch, from which he supplied local butcher shops. Around 1888, he opened a grocery store near the downtown area. At one time Winn owned twenty-two acres of prime real estate, much of which he developed into businesses and homes. In several cases, he managed the design and construction himself.
Early Idaho Falls. Bonneville County Historical Society.

After a disastrous fire in 1885, the town organized a formal fire brigade and appointed Winn as its first Fire Chief. He held that position until 1902, when the fire station was moved and a new chief was appointed.

About a year before that, Ed had been appointed Idaho Falls postmaster, a position he held until 1908. (Rumors apparently suggested there were some irregularities in his management of the office, but nothing came of that.)

Winn and a partner turned up in the legal news in 1913 when records showed that their drug store had no pharmacist registered with the state. They were acquitted, however, because investigation showed that a clerk they had hired lied about being a registered pharmacist.

Winn returned to law enforcement in 1918 when he was elected as a Constable for Idaho Falls. He died in 1935, and his obituary lauded the colorful and effective role he had played in Eastern Idaho history.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-State]
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
William Hathaway, Images of America: Idaho Falls, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC (2006).

Friday, October 28, 2016

Volstead Act (Prohibition) Turmoil in Idaho, Death at Caldron Linn [otd 10/28]

On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the Volstead Act to provide a framework for the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prohibition, as it has always been known, did not ban the consumption of alcoholic beverages, per se. What it did was to ban the manufacture, transport, or delivery of beverages containing more than 0.5% alcohol – except for specific research and development uses.
Illegal brewery busted. National Archives.

Unfortunately, Prohibition became a prime example of good intentions gone awry – and a classic case of unintended consequences. Illegal sources and channels quickly moved to fill the void created by the almost total elimination of an entire industry. There’s no need to recount the entire story here: rampant corruption and violent gang wars. Even members of “respectable” society became lawbreakers.

Before Prohibition was repealed in 1933, a dramatic case occurred in Idaho. (Idaho was generally spared the worst of the crime and violence that plagued the big cities and more populous states.) In February of 1923, the Idaho Statesman revealed that “the Feds” had indicted several high level Ada County and Boise officials, including the county sheriff and the Boise police chief, for conspiring to produce and sell moonshine whiskey.

Nearly a half dozen other men were charged, including a well-known Boise physician and a local rancher. (Presumably the rancher provided an out-of-the way location for their illegal still.) In the end, six conspirators were found guilty on each of six different counts – the police chief was exonerated. It is impossible to know how many other illegal operations were never caught.

In his journal for October 28, 1811, Wilson Price Hunt wrote, “Our journey was less fortunate on the 28th; for after passing through several rapids, we came to the entrance of a narrow gorge.  Mr. Crook's canoe capsized, one of his companions drowned, and we lost a great deal of merchandise.”
Caldron Linn.

As noted for the October 5th blog, the Hunt party represented the Pacific Fur Company, which was founded by fur trade magnate John Jacob Astor and several British-Canadian partners. Their expedition had entered Idaho just over three week earlier. They then left their horses at Fort Henry, near today’s St. Anthony, and took to the Snake River in dugout canoes.

Despite some problems with earlier rapids and falls, they had escaped serious trouble until the fatality at the dangerous constriction that came to be called Caldron Linn. Located near today's Murtaugh, the Caldron features some of the most dangerous water on the Snake east of Hells Canyon.

They tried to portage around the whitewater, but lost a canoe and more supplies. Hunt sent men downstream to try to find a better place to return to the river. Oddly enough, the scouts apparently did not find Shoshone Falls, which are higher than Niagara Falls [blog, Aug 15] and could have been fatal had they floated into them unawares.

Yet even without that knowledge, the scouts' report convinced Hunt that the canyon was too dangerous to attempt. He wrote, “Its bed is no more than sixty to ninety feet wide, it is full of rapids, and its course is broken by falls ten to forty feet high.  Except at two spots where I went down to get water, the banks are precipitous everywhere.”

The Astorians basically walked out of Idaho and on to the Columbia River.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Brit]
Arthur Hart, “Boise moonshine operation busted in 1923,” Idaho Statesman, October 31, 2006.
Wilson Price Hunt, Hoyt C. Franchère (ed. and translator), Overland diary of Wilson Price Hunt, translated from the original French Nouvelles Annales des Voyages (Paris, 1821), Ashland Oregon Book Society (1973).
Washington Irving, Astoria, or Anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains, G. P. Putnam and Son, New York (1868). Author’s revised edition.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Livestock Brand Laws, Rustling, and Modern Brand Inspection [otd 10/27]

On October 27, 1883, the Owyhee Avalanche said, “In as much as it is currently reported around the county, that there are horse, cattle and other thieves infesting our borders, we would recommend to the various horse and cattle men in this territory as well as the states of Oregon and Nevada, the propriety of having their brands and ear-marks advertised.

"It will aid the owners of horses and cattle in finding their animals, and have a tendency to discourage people from driving horses and cattle away that do not belong to them, for the reason, that the property will be known by all stock men. If the owner should belong to the Idaho Stock Growers' Association the stock would be taken from the thieves, and they prosecuted.”

Barbed triangle, Dan Murphy;
Diamond, Wilkins Company;
Spade, Arthur Pence.
Valley of Tall Grass.
Two years later, stockmen acknowledged the widespread nature of the problem by organizing an association for the entire Territory [blog, Apr 10]. This item appeared in the Shoshone Journal and was reprinted in the Avalanche: “The first annual meeting of the Idaho Cattle Growers’ Association will be held at Shoshone … and members of all associations of stock growers in Idaho are cordially invited to be present. All stockmen desiring to become members are requested to be present or send their names to the secretary, or hand them to any member of the executive committee.

"A record is being made of horse and cattle brands in every district in the territory, and a full and complete brand book will be issued. It is important that every stock grower should file his brand at once with the association.”

Three years after that, the Avalanche reprinted an article from the Cassia County Times: “Now that the rodeos are about at hand we would request every stock man in the county to furnish Mr. F. C. Ramsey, stock inspector for this county, with a list of their marks and brands. Outside parties have had a habit of claiming everything on the range unclaimed by parties present at the rodeo, and if Mr. Ramsey has your marks and brands he will probably save a large number from being driven away.”

As attested by other posts, stock theft – generally cattle or horses – was an on-going concern during Idaho’s pioneer period. As just one example, the Idaho Statesman gleaned (November 1, 1889) information about “Cattle Stealing” from the Idaho County Free Press in Grangeville. The item provided some details and concluded, “Cattle and horse thieves are becoming bold in some sections of our Territory, as reports which reach us would indicate.”

And, as noted before, the problem continues to this day [blog, May 24]. Today, brand inspection is the responsibility of the Idaho State Police, and covers cattle, horses, mules, and asses. Individuals must involve a Brand Inspector whenever stock ownership changes hands, animals are leaving the state, or animals are going to slaughter.

The Idaho Brand Inspector web page says, “Not obtaining a brand inspection when required by the Idaho brand laws is considered an infraction for the first offense and a misdemeanor for the second offense, punishable by a fine not to exceed $300 and or six months in jail.”
                                                                                                                                     
References: Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).
“Cattle Growers’ Association,” Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho (March 28, 1885).
“Stockmen Should Supply Brand Lists,” Owyhee Avalanche,  Silver City, Idaho (June 2, 1888).

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hardware Retailer William Sweet and Boise Baseball [otd 10/26]

William Sweet.
J. H. Hawley photo.

On October 26, 1870, Boise businessman and booster William N. Sweet was born 30-40 miles south of Des Moines, Iowa. He was fatherless at birth, his father having died six months earlier. Later the family moved to Nebraska where his mother proved up a land claim and then remarried.

Starting in his early teens, Sweet thoroughly learned the hardware business. With that as a core, he soon became manager of a general store in Nebraska. However, successive bad crop years and the malaise from the Panic of '93 caused the store to fail. Early in 1895, Sweet sold off the last of his own horses as a stake and headed for the gold fields around Cripple Creek, Colorado.

He did poorly prospecting and soon took a regular job, again handling hardware. His expertise fueled a rapid rise to a managerial position in a company that had stores in several towns, including Boulder and Pueblo. However, after a decade, a series of store consolidations led Sweet to worry about his future with the company.

Sweet moved to Boise in 1907 and landed an assistant manager job at a major hardware concern. After five years, he became co-owner and president of his own firm. The company soon grew to be one of the largest in the state. In 1911-1912, he served as President of the state hardware and implement dealers’ association. That organization then went inactive for a decade, when Sweet again became President of a reorganized association.

Mr. Sweet harbored a strong interest in outdoor sports, raising horses and greyhounds during his years in Nebraska and later in Colorado. In Boise, he participated in various civic improvement programs and became a director of the State Fair. He also helped organize the Western Tri-State Baseball League.

By the time Sweet arrived in Boise, the city had had some form of baseball for almost forty years. Various amateur, and then, after about 1904, professional or semi-pro leagues formed and disbanded. Attempts to build associations beyond the immediate area were all short-lived.
Baseball 1912-13.
Library of Congress.

The Western Tri-State League included teams from Boise, Pendleton, Walla Walla, and other cities in the region. Sweet remained as unpaid president of the league during its two years of existence.

In his History, H. T. French wrote, “Boise is headquarters for one of the best baseball leagues in the Northwest and has fine ball grounds with in a few blocks from the main portion of the city.”

When the Tri-state and another regional league folded, valley enthusiasts organized the “Trolley League,” featuring towns on the electric railway – Boise, Nampa, and Caldwell. Two semi-pro teams represented Boise, one of them sponsored by the Sweet-Teller Hardware Company.

Boise baseball essentially shut down during World War I, and was slow to revive. Finally, Sweet and other Boiseans completed a fairly successful fund drive to revive a semi-pro league (Idaho Statesman, April 22, 1921). But they struggled through the subsequent farm-state depression, and then the Great Depression. Not until 1939 would the city have a permanent minor league connection.

Sweet moved out of Boise, probably after he re-married in 1924 (he had been widowed during the summer of 1918). He lived later in Elmore County, where his wife taught school, and passed away in 1954.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French], [Hawley]
Arthur A. Hart, Boise Baseball: the First 125 years, Historic Idaho Inc. (1994).
“Idaho Association Relaunched,” Hardware Review, Vol. 28, No. 12, Trade Review Company, Chicago (March 1922).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Rancher and Mayor Amasa Rich and the Paris Tabernacle [otd 10/25]

Apostle Rich, ca 1875. LDS Institute photo.
On October 25, 1856, Amasa M. Rich was born in San Bernardino, California. His father, Charles C. Rich, had led the establishment of a Mormon settlement there. An LDS Apostle and very prominent in the church, Charles also helped found the town of Paris, Idaho, in the fall of 1863.

The founding of Paris, the first town established in the Bear Lake area, continued a pattern of northern colonization started at Franklin in the spring of 1860. The process was slowed, however, by on-going Indian unrest. Settlement picked up after the summer of 1863, when officials negotiated the Box Elder Treaty with the Shoshone bands in the region [blog, July 30]

At the time, locals thought they were in Utah, and Apostle Rich even served in the Utah legislature from the Bear Lake district. Not until 1872 did a new boundary survey show that the area actually belonged to Idaho. Three years later, the Idaho legislature split Bear Lake County off from Oneida, and Paris became the county seat.

Amasa graduated from school there and attended Utah State University in Salt Lake. He then returned to the Paris area to take up ranching. After some years working with his own stock, he spent two years as foreman for another rancher, perhaps to broaden his experience.

Amasa also served a two-year mission for the LDS church, canvassing parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. A reporter for The Deseret Weekly interviewed him upon his return and wrote (March 23, 1889) that in northern Alabama “he had some experience with mobs, but was not injured.”
Tabernacle photo: Idaho Tourism, Dept. of Commerce.

The timing meant that Amasa was back for the completion and dedication of the Paris Tabernacle. Work had begun in 1884, before he left Idaho, and construction took more than four years.

The Tabernacle is considered a prime example of the Romanesque Revival architectural style. One of Brigham Young’s sons designed the structure and local red sandstone and timber were used in the construction.

The stone quarry lay 15-20 miles away on the far shore of Bear Lake. Thus, teamsters had to use wagons and ox carts to haul the material out of the rugged hills and then skirt the marshy area at the foot of the Lake. Fortunately, during the winter, the slabs could be sledded across the frozen lake. The settlers themselves did most of the work.

A family of skilled Swiss masons provided specialized help. They had recently immigrated to Utah and moved to Paris to execute the fine stonework. Other skilled craftsmen contributed fine woodworking detail, the pulpit and choir ceiling being considered particularly noteworthy. The Tabernacle was dedicated in September 1889 and has recently been renovated.

Amasa was also active in civic affairs: He served several city council terms and sat on the Paris school board for well over a decade. At various times he held county positions as sheriff, assessor, and deputy game warden. He also served as a delegate to the 1902 state convention of the Democratic Party. When Hiram T. French published Amasa's biography in 1914, Rice was mayor of Paris. He passed away, in Ogden, in February 1919.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French], Hawley], [[Illust-State]
Arthur A. Hart, “Paris Tabernacle,” Reference Series No. 961, Idaho State Historical Society (July 1972).
“Return From the South,” The Desert Weekly, (March 23, 1889).

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).

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Colonel Edgar Heigho: Railroad Manager, Businessman, and Military Adviser [otd 10/23]

Edgar Heigho. H. T. French photo.
Railroad manager, business investor, and adviser on military affairs Edgar Maurice Heigho was born October 23, 1867 in Essex, England. He came to the U. S. as a young boy. With no formal schooling beyond his pre-teens, he found work as an office boy at the Detroit Free Press. At age 15, Edgar landed a job with a Detroit-based railroad.

For the next five years, he bounced around among several railways, including the Union Pacific. Heigho became Chief Clerk for the Idaho Central Railway in 1887, the year that company completed the first branch line – “The Stub” – into Boise City [blog, Sept 13].

In 1891, Heigho found other employment. He first worked on a survey crew in central Idaho, then as a freight traffic manager for a railroad based in St. Louis. He filled several positions until about 1895, when he began a four-year period ranching in Wyoming’s Jackson Hole.

Heigho then returned to the railroad business, working for the Oregon Short Line. In 1903, he joined the Pacific & Idaho Northern Railway as an auditor. The P&IN started laying track out of Weiser in 1899 and had extended the line ninety miles north three years later.

The company established a “New Meadows” station about two miles west of the existing village of Meadows. New Meadows quickly drew business to itself. Many homes and a number of stores were physically moved to the new location. Soon, only a few scattered dwellings remained in Meadows.

Heigho rose quickly in the P&IN and, in 1909, he became its President and General Manager. For a number of years, people toyed with the notion of pushing the tracks on to Lewiston, but that never happened.
P&IN Railway depot, New Meadows.
Adams County Historical Society.

Besides his railway position, Heigho was President and General Manager of the Central Idaho Telegraph & Telephone Company, and also for the Coeur d'Or Development Company. The development company owned the New Meadows town site and built a substantial depot, a bank, a school, and the Hotel Heigho. Edgar served as Director of the bank in New Meadows as well as one in Weiser.

Heigho also built a fine mansion for himself in New Meadows. He was described as having been associated with “independent military organizations” for a number of years. He also had a connection with the Idaho National Guard, provided advice on military affairs to the Idaho governor, and wrote on military affairs for a national audience. During World War I, he and his wife participated in various “home front” war activities, being especially interested in Belgian relief work.

In 1918, Edgar suffered a stroke that forced him to resign as General Manager of the railroad. According to Hawley’s History, he retained the presidency for several years after that. He passed away in 1926. The Heigho mansion in New Meadows is on the National Register of Historic Places. The restored structure now operates as a bed & breakfast.

The old P&IN Depot was stabilized and re-roofed several years ago so the structure could be renovated. It now has several rooms that can be rented for weddings, business or social meetings, dances, and other activities. A museum space is also under construction.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [B&W], French], [Hawley]
“Col. E. M. Heigho Passes Away,” The Payette Independent, Payette, Idaho (September 02, 1926).
National Register of Historic Places: Colonel E. M. Heigho House in New Meadows, Idaho. Listed May 22, 1978.
Sage Community Resources, The Payette River Scenic Byway Corridor Management Plan, Idaho Department of Transportation, Boise (September 2001).

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Idaho Falls Gets Hydropower, William Jennings Bryan Stumps Idaho [otd 10/22]

Early spillway photo from Idaho Falls Power – History.

On October 22, 1900, Idaho Falls Mayor Joseph A. Clark initiated "official" municipal operation of a 125-horsepower hydroelectric plant. A diversion canal from the Snake River supplemented water from Crow Creek to run the plant: The generator basically ran off an irrigation ditch.

About five years earlier, a number of Idaho Falls businesses and residents had begun to express interest in obtaining electrical  power for the city. After all, Pocatello “went electric” early in 1894 [blog, Feb 22]. Why shouldn’t Idaho Falls? Despite the interest, however, voters twice defeated bond elections to finance a plant. Finally, in 1900, a bond measure passed and construction began.

The generator went into full nighttime operation at the beginning of October. The Idaho Falls Times reported (October 4, 1900), "Over 300 incandescent lights are now in use in the stores and dwellings, and about 200 more are already ordered."

Initially, the only steady load came from the street lights, so the plant operated just during the evening. (Operators started it up a half hour early in the winter and on cloudy days.) Within two years, increased usage by commercial and residential customers led to an expansion of the generating capacity. Although demand continued to rise, a dam-based power plant did not go into operation until 1912.

At its centennial, Idaho Fall’s hydroelectric generators supplied around 40 percent of the city’s electrical needs. Today, with increased demand and limited ability for the City’s system to increase its generator capacity, that fraction has fallen to about 24 percent. Even so, municipal power rates are about 4/5 of the state average.

On October 22, 1902, the Idaho Falls Register (the Post-Register after 1931) noted that nationally famous orator and politician William Jennings Bryan had delivered a speech in town. That morning in Pocatello, Bryan boarded a special train that took him to St. Anthony. He had then spoken at several stations during the return.

He still claimed to see “free silver” – code for the unlimited minting of silver coinage – as a “live issue,” and stumped for Democratic candidates in the Idaho state elections. (To no avail: That year the Republican ticket swept every non-legislative position.)
Candidate Bryan.
Library of Congress.

In earlier years, Idaho voters had been solid Bryan backers, especially in the 1896 Presidential election. His free silver position resonated with Populist Party voters as well as a strong Populist under-current among Democrats. Agrarian voters in particular hoped that putting more money in circulation, in the form of silver coinage, would relieve a severely depressed farm economy.

In Idaho, farmers combined with the large silver mining interests in the Coeur d’Alene region to offer huge support for Bryan. Even more so than nationally, the issue split the Idaho Republican Party: A large “Silver Republican” faction held its own Idaho convention and endorsed the Bryan national ticket. In the end, Bryan electors carried nearly 80% of the 1896 Presidential vote in Idaho.

However, the silver issue had waned in importance by the 1900 election. Bryan was again the Democratic nominee, and he again carried Idaho, but he won with a bare majority (50.8%). Nominated again in 1908, Bryan lost decisively in Idaho.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley]
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, Oxford University Press, New York (1965).
Staff, Idaho Falls Power – History, Idaho Falls Power Company (2000).

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cattlemen Chided for Missing Opportunities, Railroad Optimism on Camas Prairie [otd 10/21]

The October 21, 1879 issue of the Idaho Statesman (Boise, then the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman) editorialized about the opportunities being neglected by many Idaho stockmen: “During the present summer several large herds of cattle have been sold in this section of Idaho to Eastern dealers and driven to Cheyenne and other points on the railroad... There is nothing whatever to prevent our cattle raisers from marketing their own stock and pocketing all that can be made in the business … ”
Cattle on the move. National Park Service.
He went on, “Another mistake which stock raisers make in this country is in keeping cattle of marketable age over the winter...  If cattle raisers would adopt the plan of driving and shipping their own stock and disposing each season of all the cattle ready for market they would not only save all that the outside dealer makes by the buying and driving, but they would also save all that is liable to be lost by keeping too many cattle over winter.”

Still, while they might not be maximizing their opportunity (and income), this and other reports made a key point: During the 1870’s, Idaho Territory experienced substantial growth in its stock raising industry. A net importer of cattle in 1870, by 1880 the Territory was exporting 50 to 70 thousand head annually.

Those 1880 numbers were not huge, but they suggested a trend: In the new century, Idaho shipped cattle, and sheep especially, far in excess of what could be expected for its small population. Today, it is ranked in the top ten in livestock sales and dairy products, despite being 39th in population.

On October 21, 1887, the Idaho County Free Press (Grangeville) reported, “The O. R. & N. Co. has filed articles of incorporation for the building of two more railroads from Lewiston to Camas Prairie. One of them is to end here and the other is to go on to Salmon River and up to the mouth of Little Salmon. When all three projected roads are built there won't be room enough for us fellows with big feet to turn around without falling over the rails.”

The article refers to the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company, which locals hoped would soon lay tracks into Grangeville. Of course, Lewiston itself had no railroad connection at the time. However, citizens believed that would come soon. After all, OR&N survey teams were busy checking routes along the Clearwater River and its tributaries. Moreover, one team had penetrated deep into the Bitterroots, searching for a usable pass into Montana.
Train leaving Lewiston, 1898.
“Archive” photo posted by Lewiston High School.

Unfortunately, the report was wildly too optimistic. It’s not clear that the OR&N ever laid any track in Idaho, although it may have run trains there many years later. But “hope springs eternal,” and through the early 1890s, people in Lewiston and on the prairie waited expectantly for construction to begin. But the first passenger train did not arrive in Lewiston until September 1898, over a decade after the hopeful Free Press announcement. 

Another decade would pass before rail lines actually surmounted the Camas Prairie, the first train arriving in Grangeville in December 1908. Only then could the area make a substantial transition from stock raising – products that could “walk to market” – to farming.

Today, the Prairie is a major producer of grain and other farm products.

[To learn more about the history of stock raising in Idaho, check out my book, Before the Spud: Indians, Buckaroos, and Sheepherders in Pioneer Idaho.]
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-North]
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).
J. Orin Oliphant, On the Cattle Ranges of the Oregon Country, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1968).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Louisiana Purchase, and Oregon Country Compromise [otd 10/20]


An interesting coincidence happened On This Day.
President Jefferson.
National Archives.

On October 20, 1803, the Senate approved a treaty authorizing the acquisition of Louisiana from France. President Thomas Jefferson had originally sent negotiators to France to ensure American access to foreign markets via New Orleans. They were authorized, if necessary, to purchase New Orleans and a limited periphery around it. Instead, Napoleon’s minister offered all of Louisiana, and the Americans quickly agreed [blog, Oct 1].

For $15 million in direct payments and assumption of debts owed, the Louisiana Purchase practically doubled the area of the United States. Of course, no one knew exactly what we had bought.

The Mississippi River defined the eastern border, but the river’s exact source (in the future state of Minnesota) was unknown. Spain asserted that Louisiana really included only a strip of land along the west bank of the Mississippi north to the general vicinity of St. Louis. The U. S. rejected the “narrow strip” notion, but conceded that further negotiations were needed to determine a specific northern border for Texas. (That issue would not be settled until 1819.)

But for the rest, Americans declared that the Territory followed all the Mississippi tributaries, including the Missouri River, as far as the Continental Divide. That carried the American border to the very edge of the region that came to be called “the Oregon Country” – the area west of the Divide comprising British Columbia and our Pacific Northwest.

Without the Purchase, a vast expanse would have separated the U. S. from the region and might have rendered our claims there largely inconsequential.

Fifteen years later, on October 20, 1818, the U. S. and Great Britain signed a treaty to, among other points, settle one more facet of the Canadian boundary question. This issue had been “hanging fire” ever since the December 1814 Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812.

Various protocols and agreements had established a general border as far west as Lake-of-the-Woods, in today’s Minnesota. (Even that line remained vague and disputed until 1842, when fresh negotiations finally settled the matter.) Further west, American claimed – under the Louisiana Purchase – those areas drained by the Missouri-Mississippi river system. That pushed the border north of today’s Lethbridge, in Alberta, Canada.
Oregon Country map from Wikipedia Commons,
specific creator not identified.

The 1818 treaty fixed the border as it is today: After a jog straight south near the west side of Lake-of-the-Woods, the line extended west along the 49th parallel as far as the crest of the Rocky Mountains. The negotiators were unwilling to go beyond that. Both countries had legitimate claims within the Oregon Country, based on prior exploration and trading ties with the native inhabitants. Russian activities further complicated matters.

The negotiators compromised: For the next ten years, the Oregon County would remain open to commercial exploitation and settlement by both Britishers and Americans. After that, diplomats would, perhaps, revisit the question. With this agreement, a regional trade war became inevitable.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Brit]
Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage, Simon & Shuster, New York (1996).
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, Oxford University Press, New York (1965).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Railroad Developer, Sheep Rancher, and Investor Robert Noble [otd 10/19]

Englishman Robert Noble was born on October 19, 1844 in Cumberland County, a sparsely-populated region on the border with Scotland. The family moved first to Canada when Robert was ten years old. They continued on to New York State three years later. During the Civil War, Robert volunteered as soon as the Army would accept him.  He served in the quartermaster corps until his discharge in the spring of 1865.

Noble worked on a farm in Illinois until 1870, when he headed West and ended in Idaho. For about a year, Robert tended a Snake River ferry. He then worked for four years at a ranch belonging to Thomas J. Davis [blog, Jan 2] in the Boise Valley. Not well educated, but blessed with considerable native intelligence, Noble used those years to built up a stake. He later said he began running sheep himself in 1874. Robert had his own place along Reynolds Creek a year later.
Noble Ranch, ca 1898. Owyhee Directory.
Just seven years later, a list printed in the Owyhee Avalanche newspaper (August 26, 1882) identified Noble as the leading sheep stockman in all of Owyhee county. His total of 7,500 sheep was more than double that of the number two man.

He steadily grew his flocks, and had around fifty thousand head by the latter part of 1890. The Owyhee Avalanche reported (November 29, 1890) a bizarre slashing attack on “Bob” Noble by a disgruntled herder. The article observed that he was “perhaps the wealthiest stock man in Idaho.” The following spring, the DeLamar Nugget reported ( May 19, 1891) that “Robert Noble, Owyhee County’s big wool man has just sold ten thousand mutton sheep ...”

By the end of the Nineties, Noble had around seventy thousand sheep. For a time, he also had a sideline of horse raising. To upgrade those holdings, he imported a top-grade English shire horse. In the summer of 1905, Noble sold his stock and “some 3000 acres” of ranch property. Noble did not quote prices to the reporter for the Idaho Statesman (June 24, 1905), but probably realized $300 or $400 thousand from the sales. (That’s $8-10 million in today’s dollars).

After the sale, Noble moved his family to Boise City. There, he invested heavily in the Idaho Trust & Savings Bank, reportedly one of the largest financial institutions in the Pacific Northwest. With purchases then and over the next few years, he acquired about seven thousands acres of land in the Boise Valley.
Robert Noble photo: H. T. French.

Noble also provided much of the funding for construction of an interurban electric railroad running from Boise out to Meridian and Nampa. Robert served as manager of the rail company until it was sold into a merged firm in 1911. The following year, Noble was elected President of the IT&S Bank. He held that position until his death in November 1914.

Four years after Robert’s death, the estate settled the title for a parcel of land near the complex intersection a half mile southeast of the capitol building. The executor, Robert’s son Ernest, then deeded the plot to the city for today’s Robert Noble Park.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French],[Hawley], [Illust-State]
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).   

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Newspaper Publisher Ben Read, Lurid Headlines Attract Readers [otd 10/18]

Ben Read. J. H. Hawley photo.
Idaho Falls newspaperman Benjamin Harrison Read was born October 18, 1888 in Palco, located about 25 miles north of Hayes, Kansas. His father, a storekeeper, moved the family to Iowa when Ben was a young man. After high school he attended Grinnell College, graduating in 1910. (Grinnell is about 45 miles east of Des Moines.) After graduation, Ben worked at the Ames Times newspaper.

Within two years, he attained a partnership in the newspaper, which became the Ames Evening Times. He soon assumed management of the paper, which he took from a weekly to a daily in about 1916. Like many newspapers of that day, the company also maintained a lucrative job printing operation.

In 1917, Ben sold the Ames newspaper and moved to Idaho. There, he and his brother Clifford bought a controlling interest in the Idaho Falls Daily Post. The earliest known operators of the Post were brothers Charles and Ernest Sumner in partnership with Henry Gabbe. In 1905, the partners shipped equipment in from Colorado and began publishing the first daily newspaper in Idaho Falls. (Library of Congress records indicate that an Idaho Falls paper of that name began in 1903, but nothing is known of its circulation or management.)

The Post had to compete with two existing weekly newspapers: the Idaho Register and Idaho Falls Times. The presence of a daily did force the Register to go semi-weekly, in 1908. However, it soon became apparent that three newspapers might be too many for the town to support. When the novelty wore off, the Daily Post struggled, going through a succession of owners before the Read’s bought it.

Daily Post offices. Idaho Falls Post Register archives.
Ben and Cliff rejuvenated the paper: They contracted for a dedicated newswire so they could feature the hottest events from around the world, and published full-color Sunday comics. They also packed their pages with sensational stories: notorious (preferably bloody) murders, white slavery, marquee sporting events … whatever would grab attention. On the side, they ran the usual printing operation.

Their competitors merged in 1920 to form the Times-Register, which also went to daily publication. In 1922-1923, Ben served a couple months as private secretary to newly-elected Idaho Governor Charles C. Moore (Idaho Statesman, December 24, 1922). In 1925, the brothers sold the Daily Post to J. Robb Brady, son of former Idaho Governor and U. S. Senator James H. Brady. Ben and Cliff moved to the Los Angeles, California, area. Ben remained in southern California until his death in 1972. Cliff returned to Idaho for a time to run another newspaper.

Robb Brady had originally moved to Idaho to settle the estate of Senator Brady, who died in office from a heart attack. Ironically, a year after purchasing the Post, J. Robb also had a heart attack and died. The manager he hired, E. F. McDermott, arranged a merger with the Times Register, changing the name to the Post-Register. McDermott operated the paper for the next half century. The Post Register is still being published today, six days a week (no issue on Monday).
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Hawley]
Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers, Library of Congress (online).
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–1934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
William Hathaway, Images of America: Idaho Falls, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC (2006).

Monday, October 17, 2016

Supermarket Innovator and Self-Made Millionaire Joe Albertson [otd 10/17]

Joe Albertson, 1985. Albertson’s, Inc.
Supermarket innovator Joseph A. “Joe” Albertson was born October 17, 1906 near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The family moved to a homestead west of Caldwell when Joe was three years old. After graduating from Caldwell High School, Joe began classes at the College of Idaho, a small private school in Caldwell [blog, Oct 7].

While he attended college, Albertson got a job as a clerk at a Safeway store. Meanwhile, in chemistry class, he met a pert, pretty native Idahoan, Kathryn McCurry, from Boise. At the time, students called the College “Dr. Boone’s marriage mill,” affectionately referring to the school’s founder and first President, William Judson Boone [blog, November 5].

Joe and Kathryn only added to the legacy. On New Years Day 1930, the Reverend Boone wrote in his diary, “Marry Katheryn [sic] McCurry to Joseph A. Albertson. 52 present, very fine and very pretty.”

Their wedding came just two months after the stock market crash of October 1929 … not the best time to start married life. Both were soon forced to drop out of college, although they retained their belief in the importance of education and their soft spot for their alma mater.

Hard-working and personable, Joe rose steadily through the ranks at Safeway. He eventually held a district manager position with responsibility for over a dozen stores. However, after over a decade in the business, Albertson had his own ideas about how to organize and run a grocery store.
First store, Boise. Albertson’s, Inc.

By then, the young couple had managed to save about $5 thousand in working capital. With that, $7,500 borrowed from Kathryn’s aunt, and two partners, Albertson went into business for himself. The first Albertson’s Food Center opened in July 1939, at Sixteenth and State streets in Boise.

Joe put his own stamp on food-service trends that had begun at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

Before that time, city people bought food from rather small stores that specialized in one part of the menu: produce, meat, and so on. These shops did tend to cluster together, but had separate owner-operators. Then, over the next 20-30 years, corporate-owned chain stores began to replace the independent operators, although the layouts remained relatively small.

By the 1930s, chains were a dominant factor in the food business, and some had begun to offer a wider range of food products.  (A full treatment of this transition is beyond the scope of this article.) Joe’s first layout was much larger  than most competing stores of the time. He didn’t bring everything under one roof right away, but the store had a bakery, made its own ice cream, and featured vending machines for popcorn and nuts. Customers received great variety, bargain prices, and [in Joe’s words] “all the tender, loving care we can give.”

Less than a year later, the partners opened a second store in Nampa. A third followed in November 1940. After World War II, the partnership was dissolved and Albertson's Incorporated was formed. The rest, as they say, is history. They took the company public in 1959 – investors and mutual funds soon made the stock a favorite in their portfolios.

Albertson began easing out of a major management role in about 1976, although he continued as Chairman of the Executive Committee. When he died in January of 1993, the company operated over 560 stores in seventeen states, and annual sales topped the $10 billion mark. After that, the company went through a succession of corporate splits, buy-outs, mergers, and so on … but it still has a presence in Boise.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Brit]
Albertson’s Inc. – Company History.
“Kathryn Albertson,” Quest, College of Idaho alumni magazine (Summer 2002).    
Louie W. Attebury, The College of Idaho, 1891-1991: A Centennial History, © College of Idaho, Caldwell (1991).
Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Merle Wells, Arthur A. Hart, Idaho: Gem of the Mountains, Windsor Publications, Inc., Northridge, California (1985).

Sunday, October 16, 2016

George Collister: Boise Physician, Spotted Fever Researcher, and Developer [otd 10/16]

Dr. Collister. H. T. French photo.
Boise physician and developer George Collister, M.D., was born October 16, 1856 in Willoughby, Ohio, just northeast of Cleveland. He graduated from high school there, and attended The Ohio State University. The youngest of eight children, George paid much of the cost of his higher education himself. He attended a medical college in Cleveland and received his M.D. degree in 1880.

Dr. Collister practiced in Ohio for a year. Then, in 1881, his sister Julia recommended that he move to the "coming" town of Boise City. By then Idahoans knew the Oregon Short Line would soon run tracks across the state, but only the most knowledgeable realized that the line would bypass Boise. (Rails would not arrive in Boise until 1887 [blog, Sept 13].)

Collister soon developed a large and prosperous practice. His dedication to his profession was such that historian Hiram French said (1914), “During all the years since beginning practice in Boise, he has had but three months of actual vacation time.”

Besides his private practice, Dr. Collister at various times acted as official Physician for Ada County, Boise City, and the State Penitentiary. For a while he served on the Idaho State Board of Medical Examiners. Collister belonged to the the Idaho State Medical Society, serving a term as its President. He was a member of the Ada County Medical Society as well as the American Medical Association.

Dr. Collister, along with Dr. Warren Springer [blog, Mar 30] and others, contributed data to the first detailed and systematic assessment of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

George also found time to expand into farming, ranching, and general real estate development. To complement winter pasture in the Boise Valley, he owned five thousand acres of summer range in Boise County, running several hundred head of prime cattle.
Fruit Orchard Along Interurban Railway.
Library of Congress.

George, and sister Julia, also had extensive real estate holdings around what came to be called Collister Station on the interurban railway. This station, located about three miles from downtown, was built in the 1890s and made it easy for the doctor to commute to his office in the City.

Dr. Collister had thousands of fruit trees planted on part of his acreage, including some of the first peach orchards in the Valley. Over the years, he and his wife added a greenhouse (which supplied flowers to a shop in the Boise Hotel) and a feedlot.

In 1912, the family moved into a modest (twenty rooms) mansion near Collister Station. When bids were requested for construction, the Idaho Statesman said (March 19,1911), “The palatial home to be constructed for Mr. and Mrs. George Collister … will be one of the best designed and most complete homes ever built in Boise.”

The request included plans for “a large porch with Corinthian columns,” The kitchen would be “fitted up in the most modern and complete manner, having a dumb waiter into the basement and cold storage room, built-in refrigerator, etc.” The full basement would have “a large and well appointed billiard room … and a large den and summer sitting and dining room.”

Although George and his wife had no children themselves, they did have an adoptive daughter: The mother, George’s patient, died of childbed fever a few days after the birth and the couple adopted the baby.

Dr. Collister passed away in October 1935. Today, the area is a subdivision of Boise. The doctor’s name is preserved as Collister Drive, Collister Elementary School, and the Collister Neighborhood Association.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French], [Hawley]
Collister Neighborhood Association, Collister Neighborhood Plan, Boise City Council (September 2007).
James F. Hammarsten, “The contributions of Idaho physicians to knowledge of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, Vol. 94 (1983) p. 27–43.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rogerson Stockman, Banker, and Businessman Louis Harrell [otd 10/15]

Louis Harrell. J. H. Hawley photo.
Idaho stock raiser and businessman Louis Harrell was born October 15, 1853 in Forsyth County, Georgia, about forty miles north of Atlanta. Of course, the Civil War badly ravaged that area, so right after the war Louis sought better prospects in the West. He was just thirteen years old. Louis eventually landed in Denver, and spent several years in Colorado gold and silver camps.

Around 1870, Jasper Harrell, an older cousin, bought a ranch near Elko, Nevada. Jasper had followed the gold rush to California in 1850 and stayed to become a prosperous cattleman, grain producer, and real estate investor. However, cultivated agriculture was now replacing large-scale cattle operations in California. Jasper hired Louis as part of the crew driving a herd of Texas cattle to his new ranch.

Louis apparently remained in the area as a cowboy working at various ranches, including the Jasper Harrell operation. By the early 1870s, Jasper had “claimed” considerable summer range in south-central Idaho and ran cattle on several satellite ranches there.

In the spring of 1880, Louis moved to Cassia County (which then included today’s Twin Falls County) to work full time for the Harrell operation. Then, with major transactions in 1881 and 1883, Jasper sold his holdings to the Sparks-Tinnin outfit (cattlemen John Sparks and John Tinnin). Louis stayed with the ranch, and then, after Tinnin sold his share to Jasper’s son A. J. (Andrew), continued with the Sparks-Harrell operation.

Louis was among those who saw “Diamondfield” Jack Davis on February 4, 1896 … the day when sheepmen John Wilson and Daniel Cummings were shot [blog, Feb 4]. During the time he was not observed by witnesses, Davis would have had to ride all-out to the exact scene of the shooting – and even that might not have been enough. Yet Louis later told his sons that Jack’s horse showed no signs of hard riding – which other witnesses confirmed at the trial. (A jury of sheepman and farmers convicted Jack anyway.)
Cattle brought to water. Library of Congress.

In 1897, Louis started his own small ranch operation not far from today’s Rogerson. An incident the year before might well have played a role in his decision.

According to one of his sons, Louis had been roping wild horses when his riata – woven leather rope – snapped. The backlash flailed his eyes, almost blinding him. It took him over two days, on horseback and then by train to Ogden, to reach medical help. They could save only one of his eyes. He might then have decided it was time to settle down as a ranch manager rather than continue as a working cowboy.

Over the years, Louis expanded his ranch operation. Then, after the Oregon Short Line ran a railroad line south from Twin Falls in 1909, he invested in the town of Rogerson. That included a position as Vice President of the Bank of Rogerson. He also owned stock in a bank in Kimberly.

Louis remained active on the ranch until late in life. He listed his occupation as stock rancher, not “retired,” even as late as the 1930 U. S. Census, when he was 76. He finally retired in the Thirties and passed away in early 1946.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [French], [Hawley]
Charles S. Walgamott, Six Decades Back, The Caxton Press, Caldwell, Idaho (1936).
James A. Young, B. Abbott Sparks, Cattle in the Cold Desert, University of Nevada Press, Reno (2002).

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cattleman David Shirk Owns Longhorns Driven from Texas [otd 10/14]

“The next day, October 14th, 1871, after all were mounted, we proceeded to divide the cattle,” rancher David L. Shirk said in his memoir.
Ridin' drag. Library of Congress.

Shirk was one of two junior partners with prominent Idaho cattleman George T. Miller. The three of them had purchased 1,500 longhorns in Bell County, Texas and driven them into Idaho.

Born in Indiana in 1844, David Shirk grew up on farms there and later in Illinois. Shortly after the end of the Civil War, he headed west, drawing wages for driving a freight wagon to Denver. From there, he traveled to Silver City, Idaho, arriving in August 1866. He started off well, but then almost died from “mountain fever.” That left him in debt for his care.

Determined to be debt-free, Shirk labored steadily for a farm-ranch operation, and was fortunate … and astute … enough to do well with some small cattle investments. Fifteen months later he found himself ahead by $1,150 – a considerable sum at a time when cow hands made $30 a month.

He spent another year herding cattle for a Silver City butcher. Then the butcher tasked him to drive a flock of sheep south to the gold camps in Nevada. Despite his limited experience, the latter drive was very successful. But Shirk commented, “After getting through with that drive, I could hear a sheep bleat for five years.”

By early 1871, Shirk had accumulated the capital to combine with Miller and the other partner. They bought horses and other equipment in Texas, and then bargained for cattle. The drive finally headed north in mid-April. Their trek was fairly typical: That is, months of punishing work and constant danger – from rustlers, Indian raiders, and the elements.

About a week out of Fort Worth, a severe nighttime storm stampeded the herd and Shirk rode off an embankment into a swollen stream. He struggled onto the dubious safety of a scant island. Still, he said, “All that saved me was the cessation of the storm, otherwise I should not now be relating the venture.”
David Shirk.
University of Oregon Library.
 
The herd-split noted above took place on the rugged plains south of Bruneau, Idaho. Shirk drove his band to a grazing area on the Snake River about five miles north of today’s Murphy. He eventually sold the animals for a net return of over $2,000. Considering that outcome, Shirk observed, “When one considers the risk, dangers of the drive, and the risk of losing every dollar you had in the world, not to mention life itself, the profits were not unreasonable.”

He made another successful drive from Texas in 1873. The Owyhee Avalanche in Silver City, Idaho reported (September 27, 1873) the arrival: “Two drovers, named Dill and Shirk, each with about 1,900 head of cattle, have arrived from Texas, and will hibernate in the northwestern portions of our county … Dill is at present at Salmon Falls, and Shirk has reached Bruneau valley.”

A few weeks after his arrival, Shirk made a deal for his cattle at a nice profit. Within a couple years, Shirk had established his own ranch in Oregon, having concluded that the Owyhee region in Idaho lacked room for the operation he wanted.

Ready to ease off in 1896, he bought a winter home in Berkeley, California. The family eventually moved there permanently. Shirk died there in 1928.
                                                                                                                                     
References: Mike Hanley, with Ellis Lucia, Owyhee Trails: The West's Forgotten Corner, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1973).
Byron DeLos Lusk, Golden Cattle Kingdoms of Idaho, Master’s thesis, Utah State University, Logan (1978).
David L. Shirk, Martin F. Schimdt (ed.), The Cattle Drives of David Shirk, Champoeg Press, Portland, Oregon (1956).