Saturday, February 25, 2017

Six Miners Killed in Sudden Mining District Fire [otd 02/25]

On Tuesday, February 25, 1902, about three o'clock in the morning, the residents of the connected Standard Boarding and Lodging houses slept quietly. Most of them worked for the Standard Mine, located on Canyon Creek, about five miles northeast of Wallace, Idaho.
Standard Mine, ca. 1910. University of Idaho archives.

Placer miners prospected Canyon Creek for gold in 1884. However, as happened for many Coeur d’Alene strata, they failed to note the valuable lead-silver lodes buried in these ridges. The following spring, four partners explored the area and located the Standard Mine plus over a dozen other claims – collectively referred to as the Standard Group.

The claims proved so promising that the owners built an ore mill the following year. They located their mill closer to Wallace, near the mouth of the Creek. After awhile, rail lines served many claims along the canyon. By the turn of the century, observers considered the Standard Group the most productive properties in all the Coeur d'Alenes.

On this morning in 1902, flames suddenly flared in the wood frame structure of the Boarding and Lodging houses. The fire probably started from the stove in the room where the men’s work clothes hung to dry. However, the destruction was too complete to be certain later.

The fire moved so quickly, there was no time to use the building's fire fighting apparatus. Some men had no warning at all. Even those who awoke in time had to resort to desperate measures … the flames blocked the internal staircase leading to the building exit. About a dozen men, some also with severe burns, were injured leaping from the top floor windows.

Fearing that the fire would spread to the Standard Mine works, firefighters dynamited the home of one William Fletcher. That stopped the flames, but the home was a total loss, along with the residence halls.

Searchers found the bodies of four men – all but one under twenty-five years old – among the ashes and charred timbers.  Newspapers as far away as Boise, Portland, and Seattle reported about the fire. The Portland and Seattle articles provided complete lists of the known dead as well as those of the seriously injured. The Oregonian, in Portland, said, “There is no hope for the recovery of McCallum and Bowhay, and very little for Yarbrough.”
W. J. McConnell, Early History of Idaho.

Indeed, doctors and their hospital assistants were unable to save the first two. Thomas Yarbrough survived despite excruciating burns. Nine men required treatment for lesser injuries suffered in the fire or in jumping to safety. The report in the Idaho Statesman said, “W. C. McConnell, who is named as among those less seriously injured … is a brother of Mrs. W. E. Borah.”

Besides being brother-in-law to future U. S. Senator Borah [blog June 29], William C. McConnell was also the son of former Idaho Governor and U. S. Senator William J. McConnell [blog, Sept 18].

The Illustrated History described the event as "one of the worst disasters of its kind in the history of the Coeur d'Alene."
Reference: [Illust-North]
Newspapers: “[Deadly Mining District Fire],” Seattle Daily Times, Idaho Statesman, Boise, The Oregonian, Portland (February 25-26, 1902).

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Attorney, Developer, and Public Servant Albertus Freehafer [otd 02/12]

Attorney and legislator Albertus L. Freehafer was born February 12, 1868, in Mansfield, Ohio, about seventy miles southwest of Cleveland. After high school, he taught for three years, saving as much as he could.
Ohio Northern University, ca 1890.
Vintage postcard, Columbus Metropolitan Library.

With that “nest egg” and what he could earn during the summer, Albertus attended Ohio Northern University, then called Ohio Normal University. He graduated in 1893.

For three years, Freehafer served as a high school Superintendent in Ohio. He then began reading law with a firm in his home town. Albertus married in 1897, and served as a Deputy County Clerk while continuing his law office studies. However, in 1900, the couple and their year-old daughter moved to Scofield, Utah. There, Albertus worked as a school Principal while his wife, Olive, was a teacher.

After two years in Utah, the Freehafers moved to Council, Idaho, where Albertus again had a job as school Principal. Throughout this period, he studied law, and passed the Idaho bar exam in 1905. Albertus then quit his school job and opened a law office in Council. Six years later, his business had increased to the point that he added a partner.

Besides his law practice, Freehafer took up a homestead near Council. He also dealt in real estate and insurance, and was a director of the First Bank of Council. For a time, he provided legal counsel for the bank.

Freehafer served one term in the Idaho House of Representatives, starting in 1907. While there, he was House Leader for the minority Democratic Party. Voters then elected Albertus to two consecutive terms as state Senator from Washington County. Also active in local politics, Albertus served as Chairman of the Council Board of Trustees (roughly equivalent to a mayor’s position), and as City Attorney in 1911-1914.

In 1911, Senator Freehafer introduced legislation to carve Adams County out of Washington County.  Washington County officials fiercely opposed the division. However, the proposed new county held about half the assessed valuation and area of the existing Washington County, and about 44% of the voters (Idaho Statesman, January 28, 1911). The bill passed and Council became the county seat.
Adams County Courthouse, built 1915.
Adams County Historic Preservation Commission.

Freehafer was appointed to the state Public Utilities Commission in 1914. During a second term, he then served as Commission President. One of the more interesting 1918 cases denied a request to have electrical power service extended to a village in southeast Idaho. The refusal was, the Commission decided, “necessary for the conservation of raw material, capital, and labor required for the winning of the war.”

Freehafer served through 1921. He then moved his law practice to Payette, later serving two terms as state Senator for Payette County. In the Thirties, he performed legal work for various Federal agencies, generally related to “New Deal” programs.

He moved back to Council in 1939. There, Albertus was nominated for the state Senate from Adams County, but withdrew for health reasons. He passed away in October 1940. (Freehafer was the maternal grandfather of U. S. Senator from Idaho, James Albertus "Jim" McClure.)
References: [French], [Hawley]
Albertus L. Freehafer (Pres.), Sixth and Seventh Annual Reports of the Public Utilities Commission, State of Idaho, The Caxton Printers, Ltd, Caldwell, Idaho (1920).
"Freehafer, Albertus LeRoy - Obituary," Independent Enterprise, Payette, Idaho (November 1940).