Sunday, April 30, 2017

Railroad Touts Plans for Larger Passenger and Freight Terminals in Idaho Falls [otd 04/30]

On April 30, 1909, the Oregon Short Line announced that they would soon begin a substantial upgrade to the railroad facilities in Idaho Falls. This notice followed several years of steadily rising activity at the town.
Train at older Idaho Falls depot, ca. 1905.
Bonneville County Historical Society.

The railroad history of Idaho Falls (then called Eagle Rock) began in 1879, when Utah & Northern Railway tracks arrived in town [blog, Apr 11]. For a time, Eagle Rock was “end of track,” with the usual large, wild tent city. Of course, those throngs moved on with the track-laying. However, new pioneers rode the train into the area and spurred a modest period of growth.

Nor did the freight business over the Eagle Rock toll bridge drop off that much at first. Basically, the wagon freight companies saw no reason to immediately shut down. They simply moved their southern terminus further and further north.

The “tipping point” came more or less when the Utah & Northern established a major station at Dillon in late 1880. After that wagon traffic – and toll revenue – declined sharply.

Fortunately, about then the U&NR decided to build its maintenance and support shops in Eagle Rock. The town’s population rose rapidly after that. With traffic increasing, the railroad also built a rough passenger terminal. However, Eagle Rock suffered a major blow in May, 1886: A huge wind storm wrecked the railroad roundhouse.

By this time, east-west traffic on the Oregon Short Line Railroad had grown substantially. Rather than rebuild in place, the company moved the shops to Pocatello, where they could more easily service both lines. The population of Eagle Rock plummeted immediately.

Long-term, farming and ranching helped soften the blow, and the numbers had almost recovered by 1899. A year later, an independent railway company completed a line north from Idaho Falls to St. Anthony. By then, the OSL had fully absorbed the U&NR. They built a new passenger station, situated near where the spur line tracks met the main OSL rails.

The arrangement puzzled, and annoyed, citizens. The new depot was too far from the old one, which continued to be used for freight … and that made a lot of extra work for patrons as well as railroad personnel. Moreover, the new depot was too small to handle freight business as well as passenger service. In fact, a local newspaper, the Idaho Register, asserted (November 9, 1900) that if a fire broke out in the new structure, “not a person in town would throw a bucket of water on it.”

In any case, crews soon began extending the rails all the way to West Yellowstone, Montana, gateway to Yellowstone Park. Even before the tracks reached “West” in 1909, the Short Line had leased the property; they would later also take over the company. The OSL (rightly) foresaw a major increase in traffic and, as noted above, decided to upgrade several of its Idaho Falls facilities.
Idaho Falls depot, after 1911. Bonneville County Historical Society.

The cornerstone of the project was a new, larger passenger depot. The company also expanded their freight terminal and added trackage to let through traffic bypass the downtown area. They also built a new roundhouse, sized to handle the larger locomotives that were becoming more common.

Although traffic declined after the 1920s, the passenger depot remained in use until 1964. At that point, the company built a new depot at a different location and demolished the old structure. Passenger train service to Idaho Falls ended seven years later.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [Illust-State]
Mary Jane Fritzen, Eagle Rock, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls, Idaho (1991).
Thornton Waite, Union Pacific: Montana Division, Brueggenjohann/Reese and Thornton Waite Publishers, Idaho Falls (1998).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Angry Union Men Blow Up Wardner Mill, Kill One Non-Union Worker [otd 04/29]

On April 29, 1899, a train packed with perhaps a thousand angry union members rumbled along the tracks leading from Burke and Wallace into the Kellogg-Wardner area. They were headed for the concentrator mill of the Bunker Hill & Sullivan (BH&S) Mining Company in Wardner, Idaho.
Wardner mine before bombing, ca 1899.
Washington State Archives.

Near Wallace, they had loaded up with "giant powder" (an early form of dynamite). The act of violence they planned arose from years of labor-management confrontation, which had reached a “critical mass” in the previous few months.

Few “good guys” appeared in this tragic opera. The companies generally extracted substantial returns from their properties, while paying the miners as little as possible for their dangerous and debilitating labor. For years, many refused to recognize the miners’ union as a legitimate bargaining unit. Plus, they routinely placed spies in the union ranks.

The unions countered with informers of their own. Some were men who understood and sympathized with the workers’ plight. More were persuaded by bribes, or compelled by threats and bullying. In fact, some radical union leaders considered violence and intimidation their preferred weapons … strikes were too slow and ineffective. Union thugs routinely taunted, threatened, and – when opportunity arose – beat up replacement workers.

On this crucial day in 1899, the union “army” had targeted the Wardner mill because the BH&S still adamantly refused to recognize the union, and persistently suppressed internal union activity. When the union men reached their destination, explosives experts set the charges while the rest stood ready to quell any resistance. In a brief scuffle, a Bunker employee was fatally wounded.

At one point, a small group of union men had become separated from the main body. These may have been a scouting party, or just some men who had gone off on their own – stories varied. When the bands stumbled into one another in the dark, they exchanged volleys of gunfire before the mistake could be sorted out. One union man in the smaller group died instantly in the hail of bullets

After the blasts, the union force ran the train back to Burke, groups of men dispersing along the way.
Wardner mine after 1899 bombing. Washington State Archives.

Alarmed by the flagrant show of force, Governor Frank Steunenberg called in Federal troops to impose martial law. A substantial number of union men were imprisoned in an open-air stockade, dubbed the "bull pen."

In the proceedings that followed, state authorities removed the county commissioners and sheriff from office for gross dereliction of duty. Evidence showed that they had ample warning that the union was planning a violent, illegal demonstration ... and did nothing about it.

Prosecutors convicted the secretary of the Burke for second degree murder for the killing of the Bunker employee. He was not, apparently, directly involved in the murder. The state based his conviction on the established legal principle that a willing, knowledgeable participant in a crime that leads to murder bears equal responsibility. (The state Supreme Court upheld the decision, but -- the State having made its point -- he was pardoned and released two years later.)

The violence did not end there: In 1905, a union assassin murdered retired Governor Steunenberg with a bomb at his front gate [blog, Dec 30].
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [Hawley], [lllust-North]

Friday, April 28, 2017

Sportsman and Idaho Dentistry Pioneer Edward Maberly [otd 04/28]

Boise dentist Edward H. Maberly was born April 28, 1853 in England. Apparently his father and part of the family lived for a time in Illinois before 1855-1860. However, Edward did not arrive in the U. S. until about 1869. At that point the family lived in Mount Carroll, a northwest Illinois village near the Iowa border. His father, older brother, and Edward engaged in carriage painting and construction. They all moved to Ellsworth, Kansas, in 1878 – missing the earlier wild times when the town was known as the “Wickedest Cattletown in Kansas."

In the early to mid-1880s, Edward left his father’s carriage business. Then, at some point, he met the daughter of a dentist who had a practice in south-central Nebraska. Liking the prospects better than his old trade, he turned to dentistry after marrying Alice in 1889. Within two years, Maberly was serving as a “circuit dentist,” on a route that took him to towns in northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming.
Fully-equipped dental “operatory,” 1900. RitterDental.com

In 1894, Maberly graduated from a dental college located in Kansas City and practiced briefly in Nebraska.  He moved to Boise in 1895. According to the H. T. French History, "Soon after Dr. Maberly opened his offices in Boise, he saw the need of organization among the dentists of the state, and he got into correspondence with the dentists all over the state with the idea of uniting them in some manner, the first dental society in the state being the result of his efforts."

The Idaho State Dental Society – now Association – organized on a temporary basis in 1896. In June 1897, members adopted a Constitution and Bylaws, and established four standing committees. They also selected Maberly to be the first Secretary. After two years in that position, he became President of the organization.

In addition to his practice, Maberly served as Secretary of Idaho's first State Board of Dental Examiners, starting in 1899. The law that created the Board gave practicing dentists three months to register their names and business locations. New dentists had to appear before the Board to have their credentials assessed. In 1904, Maberly served on the Idaho State Conference Committee for the the Fourth International Dental Congress, held in St. Louis, Missouri.
Maberly Elk photo. Recreation magazine, 1898.
An "ardent sportsman," Maberly helped organize a state-wide sportmen's organization. Through that body, he urged the passage of laws for wiser fish and game management. He sent a photograph of elk in the Teton foothills to Recreation magazine, with the statement that the herd numbered "some 1,500" and had just been shooed away from stacks of hay in the valley.

He went on, "We rarely see so large a band of elk now; yet there are enough left to stock a vast territory if properly protected and judiciously hunted."

Maberly served several terms as President of the Intermountain Gun Club. He won many awards at shooting contests in Boise and around the Northwest, remaining competitive well into his sixties. In 1919, Edward and his wife acquired a place in Corvallis, Oregon, two of their children being enrolled in college there. Dr. Maberly closed his practice about a year later, but still spent much time in Boise.

On September 1, 1921, Edward was in Buhl, serving as judge for a field trial of hunting dogs – “work” he loved. The first trial had been completed when, according witnesses, he literally dropped dead of a heart attack.
                                                                                 
References: [Brit], [French]
E. H. Maberly, "Elk in the Teton Foot Hills," Recreation, Vol. VIII. No. 2, G. 0. Shields, Publisher, New York (February 1898).
R. Ottolengui (ed), “Idaho State Dental Society,” Items of Interest: A Monthly Magazine of Dental Art, Science and Literature, Vol. 19, Consolidated Dental Manufacturing Company, New York (1897).
Transactions on the Fourth International Dental Congress, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A. August 29 to September 3, 1904, S. S. White Dental Manufacturing Company, Philadelphia (1905).

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Governor Issues Proclamation to Protect Chinese from Attack [otd 04/27]

Gov. Stevenson. City of Boise photo.
On April 27, 1886, Idaho Territorial Governor Edward A. Stevenson issued a proclamation that said, in part, "The life and property of our citizens, and those of the Chinese as well, who are engaged in our midst in peaceful occupations, are entitled to and must receive the equal protection of the laws of our Territory."

Chinese miners had been active participants in the gold fields from the earliest days. Every region followed much the same pattern: Whites wrote district mining codes that excluded Orientals altogether, and might enforce the rules with violence. Then, unable to find enough cheap white labor, miners changed the rules to allow white owners to hire Chinese workers. Finally, whites began to sell played out (supposedly) claims, or abandon them to the Chinese.

In January 1866, the Territorial legislature passed a law that overrode local codes and allowed Chinese to work in the gold fields … upon payment of a $5 per month fee. With two or three thousand Orientals working in Idaho mines by 1868, this represented a tidy sum for the government. That number ballooned even further after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The 1870 census for Idaho enumerated 4,274 Chinese (28.5 percent) among the Territory's 15 thousand inhabitants.

Yet they were still not really welcome, for various reasons: blind racism, perplexity at their "odd" diet and customs, and their infamous opium dens. There was probably an element of jealousy too. Chinese miners, often in communal groups, could wrest decent profits from claims that whites considered worthless. Few whites wanted to work as incredibly hard as the Orientals, but that was surely counted against them too.
Chinese Workers with White Miner. Personal Collection.

Predictable results followed: a host of discriminatory laws and taxes, calls for their expulsion, and unpunished white offenses against Chinese. Crimes against Orientals sometimes included mass murders that were conveniently blamed on the Indians. Members of various “Anti-Chinese Leagues” met openly to advocate their expulsion from the United States. The Idaho Statesman reported (February 27, 1886) on one such convention, which called for a boycott of businesses that employed Chinese labor.

Some elements within these organizations wanted stronger actions, although leaders said, “We denounce all violence and attempted violence on the person or destruction to the property of the Chinese.”

Stevenson’s proclamation came about partly because, in late 1855, vigilantes lynched five Chinese suspected of murdering a white storekeeper in Pierce. This atrocity even came to the attention of the Emperor of China, and the Chinese ambassador demanded an investigation. (Nothing much came of that, of course.)

With all that publicity, Stevenson had to respond to a tip that plans were afoot to expel the Chinese from Idaho, by force if necessary. His proclamation enjoined such actions "with the assurance that the law will hold those who may engage in such deeds responsible, individually and collectively, for the results of their acts."

The proclamation, and probably some internal squabbling, defused the conspiracy, so there was no outbreak of violence.

Collectively, the Chinese made a substantial, but largely ignored contribution to the growth of Idaho, and not just in terms of mining. However, the pressure against them never let up. The 1900 Census enumerated just 1,467 Chinese in the state (less than 1 percent).
                                                                                 
References: [B&W]
Arif Dirlik, Malcolm Yeung (eds.), Chinese on the American Frontier, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (2003).
Proclamation [forbidding forcible expulsion of the Chinese after the first day of May 1886], Territory of Idaho, Edward A. Stevenson, Governor; April 27, 1886.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Major Lead-Silver Discoveries Spark Rush to Wood River Area [otd 04/26]

On April 26, 1879, Warren P. Callahan filed on a lead-silver claim at the base of the ridge a mile or so west of the present town of Bellevue, Idaho. This filing was a major milestone for what would quickly build into a rush into the Wood River mining districts.
Wood River Valley, looking south. Illustrated History, 1899.

The Boise Basin gold discoveries of 1862 [blog, Oct 7] drew thousands of hopeful miners to southern Idaho. Soon, all the best claims had been staked, so prospectors began to broaden their explorations. Various parties visited the Wood River area in 1863-1865, and a few found enough “color” to do some mining there. However, the finds offered only minor returns, so no one particularly wanted to risk the unfriendly Indian bands that frequented the area.

In 1864, Callahan himself reportedly found the galena lode he would later claim. (From there, he went on into Montana.) Some prospectors knew that galena, a lead sulfide ore, often contains small amounts of silver. An ounce in twenty pounds of galena would be among the highest known silver fractions.

Few in the West, however, knew how to process the ore. Moreover, even a lode rich in galena versus useless stone, and high in silver fraction, required a major investment to pay out, because of the processing cost. In 1864, with gold fever in the air, no one had much interest in looking for silver.

By around 1875, however, silver discoveries in Colorado and Nevada had made shrewd (or lucky) investors fabulously wealthy – the Comstock Lode being perhaps the most famous. People all over the West searched eagerly for the next big strike. However, in Idaho deadly clashes with indigenous Indians [Bannock War, blog, June 8] delayed serious exploration until 1879.

Numerous other filings followed Callahan's and triggered a substantial rush into the region in 1880. The towns of Bellevue and Ketchum soon followed, and then Hailey in 1881. An experienced miner from Silver City toured the area and noted (Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho, February 26, 1881) that the prospects were “exceedingly rich.” He also wrote, “There are about five hundred people in Bellevue at present, and the town contains four saloons, seven stores, five hotels and restaurants, two livery stables, a Postoffice and jail … ”

Main Street, Hailey, 1888.
Hailey Historic Preservation Commission.
For awhile, all the ore had to be shipped out of state. Loads went first by freight wagon to the railroad station at Kelton, Utah. Trains carried it to smelters in Salt Lake, or even as far away as Denver. To offset the substantial expense, investors selected only the richest ores for shipment. One ore body, reportedly the richest ever found in the U. S. up to then, assayed out at “112 ounces of silver to the ton.”

As soon as possible, developers built smelters in Hailey and then Ketchum. Their initial capacities were limited and ore shipments continued until they could be upgraded.

Finally, in May 1883, the Oregon Short Line completed a branch line into Hailey and the production of the mines skyrocketed. The railroad extended its branch into Ketchum in August 1884.

As so often happened, the boom times passed rather quickly. There would be later discoveries, but the Wood River economy soon turned more to stock raising and farming.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [Hawley]
"Site Report - Wood River," Reference Series No. 206, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).
Merle W. Wells, Gold Camps & Silver Cities, 2nd Edition, Bulletin 22, Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Mines and Geology, Moscow, Idaho (1983).
"Idaho Lead-Silver Mining Camps, 1879-1884," Reference Series No. 668, Idaho State Historical Society (1984).

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Prichard Tries to Hide Coeur d'Alene Gold, Sparks Rush Anyway [otd 04/25]

On April 25, 1882, Andrew J. Prichard* discovered an outcropping of rich gold-bearing quartz in the Coeur d'Alene River watershed. Prichard, and others, had unearthed signs of gold in the area before, but this find is credited with setting off the decisive rush into these Idaho mountains.
Coeur d’Alene mining area. University of Idaho Archives.

Rumors of gold in the Coeur d'Alenes had surfaced as early as about 1852. But such stories were common and no one paid much attention.

In 1859, Lieutenant John Mullan saw possible gold bearing strata when he built his military road through the area [blog, Feb 5]. After the discoveries became common knowledge, Mullen wrote a letter to an area newspaper editor in which said that he had observed “wide veins of quartz projecting at numerous points along the line of my road along the Coeur d'Alene, all of which indicated the presence of gold.”

In fact, one of their hunters returned to camp with some coarse gold dust he claimed to have found on the headwaters of the Coeur d’Alene River. The road-builders discounted the claim, figuring he had traded with some travelers from the gold fields in Canada. Mullan also said he “did nothing to encourage” any exploration because he “feared any rich discovery would lead to a general stampede of my men from my expedition.”

That seemed to work. Still, what appeared to be more substantial stories set off a failed rush in 1865. Also, Lewiston developer John Vollmer [blog, Jan 25] reportedly staked some prospectors in 1873 and 1874. They claimed to have discovered a good lode, but could not relocate it the second year.

Prichard entered Idaho from Montana in 1878 and trekked along the Coeur d'Alene River. He found some gold-bearing quartz upstream from today's Kellogg, but lacked the resources to exploit that discovery. Over the next few years, he kept searching the river and its tributaries for other outcroppings and for easier placer gold.

Prichard's April 1882 discovery finally convinced him that the gold fields could support "at least 15,000 to 20,000 men." A confirmed adherent of the Liberal League – a loose affiliation of "free thinkers" – Prichard tried to restrict the news to like-minded believers. In a message to a friend, he described the find and asked him pass it along “to as many Leagues as you can on this coast, and request them to get together and keep this information to themselves.”
Hydraulic placer mining, Eagle Creek, 1884.
University of Idaho Archives.
As usual in such cases, it soon became general knowledge. A relatively small rush in 1883 was swamped by the hordes that arrived the following year. Towns sprang up all over the place, including Eagle City, Murray [blog, Mar 5], Beaver City, Carbon City, Littlefield, Raven City, and Myrtle. Placer miners scrambled onto every promising stretch of river and creek.

Eagle City boomed to over two thousand inhabitants, and the District Court held its first term there in 1884. Yet Murray supplanted the town within five years, and Eagle City barely lasted into the next century. In fact, Murray remains as the only survivor from all those gold towns.

Actually, while many struck it rich in gold, the true wealth of the Coeur d’Alenes turned out to the huge deposits of lead-silver ore that were soon discovered in the region.

* Various references, including newspaper articles of the time, alternate between spelling the name as "Pritchard," versus sometimes without the "t". The "Pritchard" version also appears in some fairly recent history books. However, it seems that the family preference is for the spelling without the "t," and the creek itself is shown as Prichard on U.S. Geological Survey maps.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [lllust-North]
"First recorded Coeur d’Alene gold found in this creek," Spokane Chronicle (May 23, 1936).
"Placer Mining Sites," Reference Series No. 892, Idaho State Historical Society (1987).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Movie, TV, and Stage Actor J.D. Cannon ... "McCloud" Co-Star [otd 04/24]

J.D. Cannon as western detective Harry Briscoe
in Alias Smith & Jones. ABC TV trailer.
Long-time stage, movie, and TV actor John Donovan "J. D." Cannon was born April 24, 1922 in Salmon, Idaho. A child of the Depression, teen-aged “Jack” (as he was then known) worked as a ranch hand, trapper, and outdoor guide.

He graduated from Salmon High School in 1940. Cannon credited his high school English teacher with arranging to get him to New York City and enrolled at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts there. That training was interrupted by service in the U. S. Army in 1942-1945.

After the war, he pursued further theatrical study in New York. Like most young actors, Cannon worked a variety of jobs to support himself: tour guide, restaurant cashier, and whatever else came along. He began his acting career in the Fifties on the stage.

J. D. proved his acting range in a wide variety of roles. These included Petruchio in the comedy The Taming of the Shrew, some serious Shakespearean characters, and – of course – assorted villains, often depraved. All that work helped hone his craft, but he never landed a plum starring role in a major production.

He first appeared on television in 1958, on the Phil Silvers Show, the "Sergeant Bilko" comedy. Cannon played Master Sergeant Sherman (aka "Sherman the Shark"), a poker hustler. Then, in 1960, his serious acting credits landed him the role of U. S. President Andrew Jackson on the program Omnibus, funded by the Ford Foundation. He also had the lead role in two U.S. Steel Hour productions. The following year, he played the lead role in two episodes of the prestigious Play of the Week.

Still, in a 1970 interview, Cannon said, “It’s only been in the last ten years that I’ve been able to support myself as an actor.”

That was when, in the early Sixties, he began making a steady living with minor roles in hit TV shows. He appeared on such series as The Naked City, Wagon Train, The Untouchables, Rawhide, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Cannon also had roles in The Chrysler Theater and played Texas patriot Sam Houston for an episode of the series Profiles in Courage. He appeared in two made-for-TV movies in 1964 and 1965.

According to the Internet Movie Database, he played a police sergeant in his first standard movie role – An American Dream in 1966. He then had a minor speaking part as a prisoner in Cool Hand Luke, which starred Paul Newman. Despite his formidable acting ability, movie producers almost always typecast Cannon as a "heavy" or, at best, an unsympathetic character. Thus, in 1970 he appeared as a mobster in the minor cult classic, Cotton Comes to Harlem.
McCloud, program publicity photo, NBC.

Cannon did somewhat better with his many roles in made-for-TV movies. One 1974 role emphasized his acting range: that of a man involved in an inter-racial love affair, set in 1918 South Carolina. Although some affiliate stations declined to air the show, it was hailed as "an unusual combination of courage and taste in the welter of the prime-time pulp grind."

Cannon basically made his living for some thirty years as a TV actor, appearing in at least 80 episodes of numerous programs. Probably his best-known portrayal was that of Chief of Detectives Peter Clifford on the long-running series McCloud, which starred Dennis Weaver. His final appearance was a role on Law & Order, in 1991. He died in June 2005.
                                                                                 
References: Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
"J. D. Cannon, 83, Dies; Actor on McCloud," New York Times, June 5, 2005
"J. D. Cannon Filmography," The Internet Movie Database.
Dick Kleiner, “Big Fish From Salmon,” The Springfield Union, Springfield, Massachusetts (August 20, 1970).

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Banker, Idaho Governor, and Reclamation Manager D. W. Davis [otd 04/23]

Idaho Governor David William Davis was born April 23, 1873 in Wales. The family moved to the U.S. two years later, and the father found work mining coal in the districts northwest of Des Moines, Iowa. This being before strict child labor laws, David began working in the coal mines there in 1885, when he was twelve years old.
Boy miners were once common. Library of Congress.

After three years he landed a job in the mining company store. Personable and hard-working, Davis showed a talent for the retail business. Around 1894, he was hired as the Manager of a farmers’ co-op store in the town of Rippey, 35-40 miles northwest of Des Moines. Within a few years, he became Cashier of a local bank. (As noted in another blog, back then the Cashier was an important bank officer.)

According to later accounts, David continued to suffer the ill effects of his time in the mines. Around 1899-1900, he finally had to take some time off. Then, around 1905, he moved to Idaho, which reportedly completed his rest cure. In 1907, Davis founded the First National Bank of American Falls. The bank prospered, and, in 1918, Davis was elected President of the Idaho State Bankers Association.

In 1912, Davis was chosen as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and then voters elected him to the state Senate. The 1913 session of the legislature passed some key laws, including the creation of a State Board of Education and a Public Utilities Commission.

In 1916, the party selected Davis as their candidate for Governor against a very popular incumbent, Moses Alexander [blog, Nov 13]. Despite a near-total Democratic sweep – they won a majority in both houses of the legislature and all but a handful of executive-branch posts – Davis lost by only 572 votes out of 127,000 cast.
D. W. Davis.
Library of Congress.

Two years later, Davis polled 60 percent of the vote in a successful run for governor. Supported by majorities in both legislative branches, Governor Davis led the state through sweeping changes in how it did business: rewording laws, restructuring and unifying state administrative offices (a badly needed reform), and addressing crucial needs.

The latter included provisions for veterans' welfare, a pension system for teachers, and an extensive road-building program [blog, Mar 13.] In 1919, the Governor also convened a conference that led to the formation of the Western States Reclamation Association. The Association, composed of fifteen states, sought to advise the Federal government on western irrigation projects. Davis was re-elected in 1920, and continued his program of reform and reorganization.

After leaving office, Davis was appointed Commissioner of the U. S. Reclamation Service, soon to the the Bureau of Reclamation. He served only briefly there before being selected as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior. He later held other positions in the Department before returning to Idaho. He lived to see enormous change in the state of Idaho, passing away in 1959.
                                                                                 
References: [Defen], [Hawley]
“Commissioner of Reclamation Climbs Life’s Ladder,” Reclamation Record, Vol. 14, Nos. 11 and 12, U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, Washington, D.C. (November-December 1923).
"Idaho Governor David William Davis," National Governor's Association.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Watermaster, Irrigation Engineer, and Musician Forrest Sower [otd 04/22]

F. L. Sower. Beal & Wells photo.
Engineer and irrigation expert Forrest Lindsay Sower was born April 22, 1887 in Battle Creek, Michigan. The family soon moved to Idaho, and Forrest graduated from Caldwell High School in 1907. He then attended College of Idaho for a time before transferring to the University of Idaho. He earned a B.A. degree in 1911.

Also a talented musician and composer, Sower pursued that hobby at UI: He played professionally in various bands, and had a number of songs published. Forrest played several wind instruments as well as the organ.

Sower joined the U.S. Reclamation Service right out of school and worked on the early phases of the Boise Project. The Service, today’s Bureau of Reclamation, began its first Boise area irrigation project in 1905. That was the Deer Flat Reservoir, now known as Lake Lowell, about seven miles west of Nampa. The Service then spent several years building or improving canals in the area.

About the time Sower joined the Service, planning had been completed for the next major Project phase, Arrowrock Dam. In 1911, track layers extended a railroad spur running southeast out of Boise so trains could deliver materials and workers for dam construction. Crews completed the dam in 1915. At that time, Arrowrock was the tallest dam in the world and contained some of the most advanced design features known.
Arrowrock Dam, Boise River, ca. 1916. Library of Congress.

Sower worked his way up the promotion ladder over the next few years. The Boise Project added many new dams and canal systems to provide water to the Boise Valley and some of the nearby higher plains. For several years after about 1915, Sower acted as watermaster for the systems in operation around Wilder, 10-12 miles west of Caldwell.

He also maintained his musical interests; the Idaho Statesman reported (January 18, 1920), "A dance will be given in the near future for the benefit of the Wilder band. The band is practicing under the leadership of F. L. Sower."

In 1926, the Bureau of Reclamation transferred substantial assets to the various irrigation Districts for routine operation. Concurrent with that, Sower became assistant engineer and watermaster for the Boise Project Board of Control. That Board oversees and integrates the operations of the various irrigation Districts affiliated with the Project.

In 1934, Sower became Manager of the Nampa-Meridian Irrigation District. Ten years later, he was named Manager of the Boise Project Board of Control. He would hold that position for the rest of his life.

Forrest was a licensed professional engineer in the state of Idaho and a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers. He was also a member of the American Federation of Musicians, being a member of the union Local in Nampa.  He even organized his own dance band and conducted it for a number of years. An active Shriner, he also played in their local band.

Sower passed away in January 1959. His obituary noted that Forrest was “one of the prime movers in the program of covering irrigation ditches as a safeguard against summertime drownings of small children in the area.”
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [Hawley]
Boise Project, U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, Washington, D. C. (2009).
“Obituary: Forrest Sower,” Caldwell News-Tribune (January 16, 1959).
Francis W. Shepardson and James L. Gavin Gavin, Songs of Beta Theta Pi, Kessinger Publishing, Whitefish, Montana (June 30, 2005).

Friday, April 21, 2017

Boise Brewer and Capitalist John Lemp, Early Idaho Millionaire [otd 04/21]

Brewer, investor and eventual millionaire John Lemp was born in a small town about twenty miles north of Frankfurt, Germany, on April 21, 1838. His father died when he was twelve years old and, two years later, young John emigrated to the United States. He then made his way to Louisville, Kentucky, where he worked as a clerk for seven years.

John Lemp.[Illust-State]
In 1859, Lemp joined a band of hopeful prospectors headed for Colorado and the Pike’s Peak gold fields. He was able to locate a claim but met only indifferent success with it. When gold was discovered in what soon became Idaho Territory, he began to consider relocating. That interest rose as news came of many other gold discoveries in the region.

Thus, in 1863, Lemp joined a group whose initial destination was Bannack, then in Idaho Territory but in Montana Territory after May 1864 [blog, May 26]. They must have learned more along the way because, around June, the group split and Lemp stayed with the party headed for the Boise Basin fields.

They reached a spot on the Boise River where, four days earlier, Major Pinkney Lugenbeel had decided to build an Army encampment [blog July 4]. Troopers were busy assembling a corral for their stock, and building a blacksmith shop and other structures. Aside from that, the party saw only a few rude cabins and the tent-store run by Henry Riggs [blog, May 14]. So the party turned east into the mountains and visited Bannock City, today’s Idaho City.

Later, Lemp said little about his time in the mining camps, but he soon returned to the little settlement that sprang up near Fort Boise. There, in 1864, he built a brewery to serve the usual thriving saloon trade. Lemp’s brewery became the basis for a growing range of property and business investments. The structure would remain the core of Lemp's financial empire for over forty years, until it was severely damaged by fire. One of his earliest investments was a large brick warehouse built for lease on Main Street (Idaho Statesman; March 9, 1871).

In 1875, the citizens of Boise elected John for a term as mayor. Besides that, he would serve on the city council for around twenty years. The Idaho Statesman (April 6, 1875) quoted Lemp about mining prospects at South Mountain (a camp about twenty miles south of Silver City). It also reported, “Mr. Lemp will have his brewery started in about three weeks, and make the first beer in South Mountain.”

Downtown Boise, ca 1898 [Illustrated-State]
Lemp continued to invest in development projects. In 1890, he financed construction of the Capitol Hotel. At a prime location in downtown Boise, the hotel had all the most modern features. When the dining room had its formal opening, the Idaho Statesman reported (January 16, 1891), “The favorable anticipations which have been excited were amply fulfilled by the excellent repast … set before the guests last evening.”

Guests for the repast came from all over the state Idaho, from Portland and Spokane, and from as far away as New York City.

Lemp eventually had extensive real estate holdings in Boise, as well as over five thousand acres of ranch and farm property. He financed considerable development in the city, including the “Lemp Block” and various residential areas. He was one of Idaho's first millionaires, and one of the wealthiest men in the Pacific Northwest upon his death in July 1912.

                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illustrated-State]
Carolyn Thomas Foreman, “Colonel Pinkney Lugenbeel,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 24, No. 4, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City (1946).
“John Lemp: April 21, 1838-July 18, 1912,” Reference Series No. 582, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).

Lewiston Physician and Hospital Founder Edgar White [otd 04/21]

Dr. White. J. H. Hawley photo.
Edgar Lee White, Lewiston physician and hospital operator, was born April 21, 1883 in St. Louis, Missouri. The family moved to Spokane in 1888. For five years starting at age ten, Edgar worked as a newsboy in Spokane. He then entered the carpenter’s trade. After his high school graduation in 1903, he continued in carpentry, while also attending classes at Washington State College (now University).

White next pursued higher education in Missouri and then at the University of Chicago. In June 1909, White received his M.D. degree from Chicago’s Rush Medical College. He followed that with an eighteen-month internship at St. Luke's Hospital in Spokane. While there, Edgar met Catherine Rouse, a Registered Nurse. Dr. White moved to Lewiston in December, 1911, and he and Catherine were married four months later.

In Lewiston, White joined with an established physician to start his practice. However, the senior partner died in late March 1911, so Edgar carried on the practice alone.

Five years later, Dr. White and Catherine contracted for the construction of a new hospital in Lewiston. The two-story brick structure had room for thirty-two beds, plus a full basement. That level held a waiting room, kitchen and dining rooms, small treatment rooms, and various utility areas. The  Idaho Statesman in Boise reported (June 24, 1916) on the new facility with the headline, “New Private Hospital at Lewiston is Real Model,” and said that it was “small but modern in all its equipment.”

Hawley's History noted that the doctor suffered "a great financial strain at the time," but the situation had improved considerably after four years. Dr. White wore many hats during those early years: President, general practitioner, Chief Surgeon, maintenance supervisor, handyman, and whatever else came up.

A frame structure near the main building housed a nurse's school, with quarters. Catherine, as Head Nurse, was in charge of nurse training. She also served as Vice President, handled anesthesia, and "pinch hit" wherever help was needed.

White Hospital, Lewiston, ca 1918. J. H. Hawley photo.
A retired nurse who trained there recalled those years in an interview for the Lewiston Tribune. Students had to be dedicated. Living on site, they first worked a twelve hour day, starting at 7 o’clock in the morning, and followed that with two hours of classwork. They then rose the next morning to do it again – with a half-day off each week.

Edgar spent a year as a military cadet at Washington State, and joined the medical reserve of the Idaho National Guard in 1913. He would remain with the Guard for over twenty years. During World War I, Dr. White served as a surgeon at Camp Lewis in Washington state.

White Hospital operated for over thirty years, during which span the doctor delivered more than 3,000 babies. The Whites finally closed the hospital in 1946, although Edgar maintained a small practice from a basement office. Catherine died in 1955, Dr. White in 1963.

The old hospital was abandoned after serving as a low-rent hotel for awhile. The hulk was finally demolished to make way for a new building in 1970. All that remains of White Hospital are some patient ledgers, currently in the custody of a Lewiston museum.
                                                                                 
Reference: [Defen], [Hawley]
Bob Weatherly, "White Hospital was Big Part of Early Lewiston," Lewiston Tribune (Oct 23, 1992). [Note: Article copy furnished by Tribune Managing Editor Paul Emerson.]

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Educator, Newspaperman, and Rexburg Patriarch Arthur Porter, Jr. [otd 04/20]

Arthur Porter, Jr. as a young man.
Porter family records.
Arthur Porter, Jr. – college professor, businessman, public servant, and religious leader – was born April 20, 1876 in Auckland, New Zealand. Mormon converts, the family moved to Utah in 1885.

Arthur, Jr. grew up there and went on to school at Brigham Young College in Logan. After earning his B.S. degree in 1896, he served as a missionary in Switzerland. While there, he took classes at the University of Geneva.

Even a minimal summary of Porter's multiple careers describes a life of incredible activity and achievement. He first taught in Utah and then in Preston, Idaho. However, in 1902, he began his long association with Rexburg and what is today Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYU-Idaho). At what was then Ricks Academy, he started out teaching mathematics and geography, as well as vocal music.

Starting with the 1905 school year, Porter was assigned to teach science classes: physics, chemistry, physiology, geology, and botany. Five years later, he added geometry and German to his teaching load. However, after one year of that, he was allowed to teach just German. Before his resignation from the full-time faculty over a decade later, in 1916, he also taught theology.

Off and on for another dozen years he taught there part-time. That included the period when the Academy became Ricks Normal College (in 1918) and then just Ricks College five years later. During this period, the school weathered a storm when the church closed many academies as a cost-cutting measure. Because it offered a wide range of college-level classes, Ricks escaped the axe. Porter was among those who argued for the school’s continuance. He would be heavily involved in the non-teaching affairs of the College for many, many years.

Arthur got his introduction to the newspaper business during his brief sojourn in Preston. He was a partner in running the Preston Standard. Porter sold his interest when he moved his family to Rexburg. Then, in 1908, he purchased a Rexburg newspaper that he would continue to publish for over forty years. Porter also owned farm property and engaged in extensive real estate activities. For a time, one of his companies owned a Rexburg hotel.
Arthur Porter with grandchildren, ca. 1947. Porter family records.

Porter's sense of civic duty led him into public service. Over the next half century he would: lead innumerable county and city committees and associations, serve six years on the Rexburg city council then later six years as mayor, serve two terms in the state House of Representatives, and end with four years as county Superintendent of Schools. He closed his public career only after a failed bid for a state Senate seat in 1954, when he was seventy-eight years old.

As if all that weren't enough, Porter remained very active in the LDS church for most of his life, as: missionary, Sunday school superintendent, stake Counselor, LDS hospital board member, and frequent and long-term committee member or leader.

Arhur Porter, Jr. died at the end of 1967. Rexburg's Porter Park is named in his honor, as well as the Arthur Porter Room (Special Collections) at BYU-Idaho.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
David L. Crowder, Arthur Porter Jr., Community Builder, Man of Vision, Arnold Press, Rexburg, Idaho (© David L. Crowder, 1986).
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks: A History of Ricks College, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).
John Powell (ed), "Arthur Porter, Jr. Papers," Arthur Porter Special Collections, Brigham Young University - Idaho, Rexburg (2003)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Grand Opening for Exotic and Modern Egyptian Theater [otd 04/19]

On April 19, 1927, crowds began to gather outside the brand new Egyptian Theater at least an hour before it was supposed to open, at 7:00 pm. Boise's first movie "palace" had created an expectant buzz in the city.
Egyptian Theater, ca. 1928*. City of Boise.

Of the five other movie houses in town, the Pinney Theater was the largest and fanciest. Former Boise mayor James Pinney [blog, Sept 29], a theater enthusiast, opened the Pinney in late 1908. Designed initially for stage plays, within a decade movie productions predominated.

As the grande damme of downtown venues, the Pinney got preference for the prestigious first-run movies. For example, the theater offered the first exclusive, limited engagement in Boise of The Birth of a Nation (Idaho Statesman, April 10, 1916). This highly controversial, but wildly popular movie by D. W. Griffith is considered historically important as the first true “feature” film.

However, the "Roaring Twenties" were in full swing, and moviegoers craved something modern for a venue. To some, the Pinney seemed stodgy and old-fashioned. The other four theaters in town were smaller and generally conventional in design. Boiseans were ready for the exotic.

Sensing an opportunity, a year earlier three Boise businessmen – Leo J. Falk, Harry K. Fritchman and Charles M. Kahn – incorporated a company to satisfy that desire. Two of them were especially well known to locals. Boise City was just five year old when Nathan Falk, Leo's father, opened a store there. Born in Boise in 1882, Leo ended up directing the extensive family holdings after his father died in 1903.

Fifteen years older than Leo, Fritchman was already a successful businessman when he relocated to Boise. He continued that success in Idaho, and served as Boise Mayor in 1911. Kahn moved to Boise from Portland in 1899 and established a thriving law practice. Prominent in the local Jewish community, Kahn served a term as City Attorney starting in April 1907.
Interior décor, Egyptian Theater. Theater photo gallery.
The partners contracted with the well-known architectural firm of Tourtellotte & Hummel to design a spectacular venue. At the time, "Egyptian" motifs were all the rage, so the designer offered his interpretation.

After almost a year of work, the doors finally opened on the 19th of April. Patrons found themselves in a bright lobby, tiled nearer the doors but with lush carpeting further in. Water fountains burbled somewhere. The walls looked like cut stone, with frescos embellished in bright blues, reds and greens.

Warner Bros. publicity poster.
The Egyptian opened with the movie Don Juan, starring the hugely popular John Barrymore. The release gave Boise theatergoers something else new: The first feature film with prerecorded – via the "Vitaphone" – sound effects and music (no dialog).

Today, the Egyptian is the only theater that has survived from that era. It went through several names in its history, before returning to the original. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. At considerable cost, a recent restoration addressed various building code issues while retaining the historic decor.

* The photograph was identified as "undated," but the marquee says: "Monte Blue in Across the Pacific." That silent film was released in 1926, so this showing would have almost certainly been in 1927 or 1928.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
Arthur Hart, "Idaho history: [Boise Movie Theaters]," Idaho Statesman (September 13 and 20, 2009).
"Don Juan," The Internet Movie Database.
"Across the Pacific," The Internet Movie Database.
Sue Paseman, "The Mysterious East Meets the Pragmatic West," Historical Essay, Boise State University (Dec 2004).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rancher, Horse Breeder, and Sheriff Sam F. Taylor [otd 04/18]

Samuel F. "Sam" Taylor was born April 18, 1848 in Kentucky. Like his cousin, James Madison “Matt” Taylor [blog Dec 10], Sam traced his lineage back to Englishman James Taylor, who emigrated to Virginia in 1635. James Taylor’s descendants included two U. S. Presidents: James Madison and Zachary Taylor (second cousins to Sam and Matt). Sam’s family moved to Lafayette County, Missouri when he was a year old.
Making hay, the old way. Library of Congress.

In 1870, Sam finished a college degree in Kentucky and then joined cousin Matt in Eagle Rock (today's Idaho Falls). The town grew up around Matt's toll bridge and Sam helped with a hay contract for the stage line.

In a letter written many years later, Sam said, “There was nothing there then but Matt Taylor’s family and what help they had around, and men that worked for the stage line; … There was no farming done, no tame hay, no stock in the country; lots of good grass and we just had to cut the wild grass wherever it could be found. I had four four-horse teams and ten men; lots of this hay had to be hauled twenty-five miles, and we were all summer until frost filling the contract.”

After completing the order, Sam and his brother Ike trailed cattle into the area from Missouri, first for Matt's ranch, and then for one of their own. They were among the first to import thoroughbred stock to help upgrade the Territory's herds. According to local historian Barzilla Clark, "These Taylor brothers originated the SI stock brand, the first brand used in this valley, and well known for many years thereafter."

Besides his ranch, Sam also ran a livery stable, partnered in a meat market, and twice served as county sheriff. He was a member of the first school board organized in Eagle Rock, and President of the first county fair in 1887. Right after that, Sam served a term in the last Territorial legislature and was a member of the constitutional convention that led to Idaho statehood.

The livery business moved Sam into breeding top-grade trotting horses. He bred many fine horses and one went on to excel in Eastern races. A New York Times headline for July 27, 1894 read "Ryland T. Surprises the Talent in the Races on the Grand Circuit."
Bay trotter, Currier & Ives image, ca. 1883. Library of Congress.

The article noted that "the talent" – racing aficionados – had never seen that much speed from the bay gelding, which was "bred in Idaho" and carried the "SI" brand. But this time out the horse had "stepped ... the best mile that has been trotted this year and the fastest one even seen at Cleveland."

Later, Sam moved his family to a ranch near Mackay. While he lived there, Custer County voters elected him to a term in the state House of Representatives.

In 1911, Sam moved to Ontario, Oregon (a few miles south of Payette, Idaho), partly for his wife’s health, and to be near their married daughter. Sam returned regularly to Idaho Falls on business for five or six years after that. The change certainly helped his wife’s health, for she lived until 1928. Sam passed away there in 1935.
                                                                                 
References: [Illust-State]
Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County in the Making, Self-published, Idaho Falls, Idaho (1941).
"Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884-1934," Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
"A New Trotting Champion," The New York Times (July 27, 1894).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Nampa Incorporates and Forms City Government [otd 04/17]

On April 17, 1891, the village of Nampa, Idaho was officially incorporated and proceeded to form a municipal government. The town – there's no consensus on the origin of the name – owes its existence to the Oregon Short Line Railroad, which ran its tracks through the area in late 1883. Because a direct line into Boise City involved severe grades, the OSL stayed west of that city, following Indian Creek.
Steam locomotive at water tower.
State of California photo.

The railroad established a small transfer station at Kuna, where the tracks crossed the main road between Boise and Silver City. However, those early steam locomotives had an insatiable thirst for water: They had to refill roughly every ten miles. Thus, the spot that became Nampa was marked only by a watering station at first.

Nine miles beyond that station, developers had laid out the town of Caldwell. The skulduggery involved in that site choice is beyond the scope of this item. However, the crux of the matter was construction of a branch line from that town into Boise City. That seemed to be a real possibility by the end of 1884. However, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the OSL – actually, the Union Pacific – suddenly “pulled the plug” on that project in the spring of 1885.

Enter Alexander Duffes, a businessman born in Utica, New York, who had prospered in Canada. In 1884-1885, he decided to sell off his mercantile business and travel in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Upon his return, in Portland, he ran into James McGee, a Caldwell real estate man.

Duffes had retained his real estate holdings and was apparently ripe for possible land investments. McGee advised him to check out the area around the watering station between Caldwell and Kuna. Duffes did so, and found the potential encouraging. He continued east, but soon returned with his wife and son, and claimed a homestead (160 acres) at the site.

In early 1886, Duffes and McGee formed the Nampa Land and Improvement Company. At the same time, the Union Pacific resurrected the Boise City spur line project, this time using a shorter route from Nampa. Crews completed construction of the branch to Boise City in September 1887 [blog, Sept 13].
Nampa, ca. 1918. J. H. Hawley image.

A simple wood-frame structure provided a way station for passengers at the new stop. Several years later, the railroad funded a considerable expansion of the depot (Idaho Statesman, February 28 and August 19, 1892).

Incorporation of the town in 1891 roughly coincided with the completion of an extensive irrigation system for the surrounding farm land.

That fueled steady growth ... to about 800 people in 1900, when the train station serviced ten passenger trains every day. Three years later, Nampa received a fine new railway station. News reports noted (Idaho Falls Times, August 14, 1903) that “It is said to be one of handsomest on the line.” Today, that structure houses the Canyon County Historical Museum.

Nampa still remains an important railway shipping point for the extensive agricultural production in the area. The city has grown to around 75 thousand residents.
                                                                                 
References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Canyon County Historical Society, "Our Town,” City of Nampa web site.
“Idaho Central Railroad,” Reference Series No. 216, Idaho State Historical Society.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Congress Authorizes Fort Sherman Construction in North Idaho [otd 04/16]

Gen. William T. Sherman, ca. 1865.
Library of Congress.
On April 16, 1878, the U.S. Congress authorized the construction of a fort on Lake Coeur d'Alene at what would eventually become the city of that name. The action had been recommended by General William Tescumseh Sherman.

The General had traveled through the area the year before, not long after the end of the Nez Percé War. Sherman sought answers to why the Army had had so much trouble with the Nez Percé and other Indian uprisings (the Custer disaster was only a year in the past). More importantly, he wanted to head off any re-occurrence.

Assessing the region, the General decided that a fort on Lake Coeur d'Alene would allow troops to keep an eye on the tribes in the Idaho Panhandle. From there, they could also reinforce units watching the Yakimas in Washington and the Nez Percé along the Clearwater River. Sherman’s experience during the Civil War no doubt alerted him to the advantages of having the lake and the Spokane River close at hand to move troops more quickly.

The installation began life as Camp Coeur d'Alene, a few months after Congress provided the funding. Within about a year, the post was fully manned, and the name changed to Fort Coeur d'Alene. That same year, the Army contracted for the construction of the first steamboat to operate on the Lake [blog, Apr 4]. The steamer primarily hauled feed for the Fort’s animals, but could also carry troops if needed.

As often happened, a town – Coeur d'Alene City – soon grew up near the Fort. The combination of the Fort, and the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the region, fueled considerable growth in the area.

The fort’s garrison was called out during the Bannock War of 1878, but nothing came of that. The Fort experienced a bit of excitement in 1887, shortly after a new commander took over from Colonel Frank Wheaton. Wheaton, in collusion with his quartermaster and his adjutant, had resorted to “unconventional” means to run the fort: Among a host of transgressions, they had allowed civilians – for a fee – to use the Army steamer to transport goods.

A court of inquiry concluded (The Evening Star, Washington, D.C., July 2, 1887) that “while the actions of the accused may have had their origin in a zealous desire to create a military post for which no adequate appropriation had been made, the methods and processes were deplorable … ”

Yet, in the end, the administration did not pursue the matter. Nor did the incident seem to hurt Wheaton’s career – he became a Brigadier General in 1892, and a Major General five years after that.
Fort Sherman, ca. 1895. Museum of North Idaho.

The post name changed to Fort Sherman in 1887. The only real "action" the troops saw was during the 1892 disputes in the mining districts. Then, the soldiers were sent to establish martial law in Wardner and the other mining towns.

The final deployment from the Fort was in 1898, when the garrison joined the buildup for the Spanish-American War. For a variety of reasons, the Army abandoned the facility in 1901. When the government auctioned off the land in 1905, a small portion was set aside for a park and cemetery. Today, the area is part the Museum of North Idaho & Fort Sherman.
                                                                                 
Reference: [French], [Illust-North]
Larry R. Jones, "Fort Sherman," Reference Series No. 355, Idaho State Historical Society (1969).
Ezra J. Warner, Generals In Blue - Lives of the Union Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge (1964).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fur Trade Leader Donald Mackenzie Navigates Hells Canyon [otd 04/15]

Donald MacKenzie, ca. 1840s.
Chautauqua County Historical Society,
Westfield, New York.
On April 15, 1819, fur trade leader Donald Mackenzie reported his "successful" ascent of the Snake River through what is today called Hells Canyon: "The passage by water is now proved to be safe and practicable for loaded boats, without one single carrying place or portage; therefore, the doubtful question is set at rest forever. Yet from the force of the current and the frequency of rapids, it may still be advisable, and perhaps preferable, to continue the land transport."

Born in 1783 near Inverness, Scotland, Mackenzie emigrated to Canada in 1800. Shortly after that, Donald hired on as a clerk for the North West Company (NWC), a British-Canadian fur dealer. He had thus amassed considerable experience in the fur trade when John Jacob Astor [blog, Jul 17] recruited him as a Pacific Fur Company (PFC) partner in 1810.

The following year, Mackenzie crossed into Idaho for the first time, as a member of the Wilson Price Hunt party [blog, Oct 5]. Then that group split up. Donald led a small band that trekked from south-central Idaho, through the Boise Valley, and then north into Nez Percé country on the lower Salmon River.

Unfortunately, the War of 1812 ruined Astor's venture. Mackenzie was one of three British-Canadian partners who engineered the bargain-price sale of the PFC base at Astoria to the NWC. By exaggerating the threat posed by a British warship (which did not arrive for months after the transfer), they squelched any thought of moving the base further inland.

After dissolution of the PFC, Mackenzie had to find a new position. Astor at first blamed his losses on one of the other British-Canadian partners, so Mackenzie stayed on with him briefly. However, the two had a falling out when Astor learned more about Mackenzie's role in the sell-out. Since two of his brothers worked for the NWC, the Scot accepted a position with that firm.

Starting in 1816, the Company placed him in charge of the "Snake Brigade," a band of trappers and support personnel that worked the Snake River watershed. Although managers doubted that the venture would make much money, if any, Mackenzie soon proved the potential of the region. Profits for his 1817-1818 campaign were particularly fine. Thus, by the time of his 1819 foray, Mackenzie had already led two highly successful expeditions into the area.
Hells Canyon. U.S. Forest Service photo.

His goal in trying Hells Canyon was to avoid the arduous climb over Oregon's Blue Mountains. Still, Mackenzie admitted, "There are two places with bold cut rocks on either side of the river, where the great body of water is compressed within a narrow compass, which may render those parts doubtful during the floods."

"Doubtful" indeed! Today, Hells Canyon is considered a world class whitewater destination for kayakers and rafters. It includes at least two Class V (just short of lethal) rapids during high water. The mind boggles at the thought of traversing the canyon in clunky dugout canoes. And, as a matter of record, the fur companies never tried to ship supplies or pelts through the canyon.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W]
James P. Ronda, Astoria and Empire, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1990).
Alexander Ross, Kenneth A. Spaulding (ed.), The Fur Hunters of the Far West, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (1956).
John English (ed.), "Donald McKenzie," Dictionary of Canadian Biography, University of Toronto (2000).

Friday, April 14, 2017

Army Leader and Western Explorer Benjamin Bonneville [otd 04/14]

U.S. Army General Benjamin Louis Eulalie de Bonneville was born to bourgeoisie parents on April 14, 1796, near Paris, France. His father, perhaps sensing how the political winds were blowing, sent the family to the U.S. in 1803. (Napoleon would crown himself Emperor of France in 1804). He joined them some years later.
West Point, early print, bef. 1835. Library of Congress.

A precocious student, Benjamin graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when he was nineteen years old. Bonneville's career, and reputation, underwent a series of ups and downs, too convoluted to describe here in full. He served at duty stations that ranged from the Northeast to posts in Arkansas and Oklahoma territories, and the new state of Missouri.

When Bonneville arrived in Missouri, the Western fur trade seemed to be in full swing. Moreover, the “Oregon Country” – the Pacific Northwest, including British Columbia – had attracted the interest of religious missionaries as well as curious settlers. Bonneville, now a captain, came to share their enthusiasm.

He persuaded the Army to grant him a leave of absence to pursue a fur trade venture that would allow him to explore the region. His superiors saw this as a “win-win” situation: Bonneville could study the “joint occupancy” lands of the Oregon County, and it would cost the government nothing (not even a captain’s salary).

Bonneville then found private investors to finance his fur trade venture. Unfounded rumors of a “secret mission” have surfaced occasionally, but there is no doubt that Bonneville took his role as trader seriously. He spent three years, from the spring of 1832 to the spring of 1835, running a fur trade business while collecting information about the Oregon Country.

Along the way, he and his trappers and traders covered most of (future) Idaho south of the Salmon River. Thus, in the fall and winter of 1832, his main body camped in the Lemhi Valley near where that river flows into the Salmon. Two years later, after returning from Oregon, Bonneville’s party wintered along the upper reach of the Bear River in southeast Idaho.

Unfortunately, while the captain was an outstanding leader, he was no businessman; the venture lost money. Still, Washington Irving's account of his "adventures," based on Bonneville's personal journals, made his reputation as a western explorer.

However, because his request for an extension had gone astray in the Army files, he appeared to have severely overstayed his leave. Not only that, his formal reports, with maps, also disappeared. He had been struck from the Army roles and there was some doubt that he would regain his commission.

Benjamin Bonneville.
Library of Congress.
He was reinstated, finally, in 1836. Bonneville served in the Mexican War (1846-1848), and later saw duty at Fort Vancouver, back in Oregon Country. He began a brief retirement in 1861. However, experienced officers being in short supply, Bonneville was soon recalled to Civil War duty and rose to the rank of Brevet Brigadier General. He retired again in 1866 and died twelve years later.

With no visible evidence beyond the Irving account, some historians dismissed the notion that he had made major contributions as an explorer. Then, finally, researchers found Bonneville's documentation. His real achievements are, probably, somewhere between the breathless impression created by Irving and the dismissive attitude of the doubters.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [Brit]
H. M. Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1986).
Washington Irving, Edgeley W. Todd (ed.), The Adventures of Captain Bonneville U.S.A., in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West. Digested from his journal. University of Oklahoma Press (1961).
Edith Haroldsen Lovell, Benjamin Bonneville: Soldier of the American Frontier, Horizon Publishers, Bountiful, Utah (1992).