Sunday, March 26, 2017

Freighter, Stagecoach Driver, and Eagle Developer John Carpenter [otd 03/26]

John R. Carpenter.
J. H. Hawley photo.
Pioneer John R. Carpenter was born March 26, 1846 near Albany, New York. In 1859, John helped his father drive a covered wagon to California while his mother traveled by ship around Cape Horn. After mining and ranching in California and then Oregon for awhile, the family moved to Idaho in the spring of 1863.

John and his father hauled logs and carried freight for several years. On one early trip to procure supplies in Oregon, highwaymen attacked and robbed them. During the altercation, John received a wound in the hand and wrist. He never regained the use of two fingers on that hand.

Life in Idaho City during that period was wild and dangerous. Carpenter later said he had seen as many as four dead bodies on the streets at one time, and sometimes you could hardly move through all the crush of wagons and teams. Demand for goods was so great that nothing of value could be left unattended for fear of thieves.

John worked full-time for his father in farming and ranching for about two years. He then began hauling freight by pack train and wagon, and drove the Idaho City to Boise City stage for awhile. John apparently worked part time at his father’s ranch until 1876, when his father sold out and retired back to the East. Later, John hauled freight from Kelton, Utah to Boise City, and drove stage routes all over southern Idaho

During the Bannock War of 1878, Carpenter served as express messenger and scout for Federal and local troops. Because of his knowledge of the terrain, leaders sometimes sent him out to find and repair breaks in government telegraph lines. On one repair trip, he barely avoided being attacked and killed by Indians.

On another occasion, he carried a message from Boise City to an Army column on the Camas Prairie, far east of Mountain Home. The commander was reportedly “dumbfounded” that he had avoided the numerous hostile Indian bands that then infested the countryside.

After the tribes had been suppressed, John went back to hauling freight and driving stage. For several years, he drove stagecoaches in the Wood River area for stage line tycoon John Hailey. Despite his impaired hand, “Carpenter was known as one of the best stage drivers in the United States.”

In 1895, he homesteaded in the area that became Eagle, about 8-9 miles northwest of Boise City. Eagle Island had been settled over thirty years earlier [blog, Dec 21], but the area had grown very little. Within a few years after John settled there, another major landowner promoted a bridge to the island and the Eagle community began to expand.
Odd Fellows Hall. Eagle Historical Museum.

Carpenter joined forces with the developer, selling fifteen acres as a town site. In 1902, he also donated land for an Odd Fellows Hall. Carpenter continued to encourage development of the town for many years. The biography in Hawley’s History, published in 1920, said, “There is no phase of the state’s development and upbuilding with which he is not familiar.”

John lived in Eagle until his death in March, 1936.
References: [Hawley]
Laurie Baker, “The City of Eagle: Yesterday and Today,” City of Eagle, Official Website (May, 2007).
John Hailey, History of Idaho, Syms-York Company, Boise, Idaho (1910).

1 comment:

  1. Well, being his great great great grandson, this is pretty accurate.