Monday, May 8, 2017

Idaho Woolgrower, Businessman, and Legislator Fred W. Gooding [otd 05/08]

Fred Gooding. H. T. French photo.
On May 8, 1856, woolgrower and state legislator Fred W. Gooding was born in Devonshire, England. Fred began work in a factory there at the age of eight, laboring in the morning and attending country school in the afternoon.

The family emigrated to the U.S. in 1867 and settled in Michigan. As a young man, Fred worked on a farm in California before returning to the Midwest. There, he took business classes at what later became Valparaiso University in Indiana.

In 1882, he moved to Ketchum, Idaho. After a year or so in the mines, Gooding opened a wholesale-retail butchering business. With the extension of the railroad to Ketchum in 1884, the area boomed [blog, Apr 26] and Fred’s venture prospered along with it. However, the surge died remarkably soon, done in by falling silver prices and labor troubles. Production from the mines dropped abruptly in 1888.

Thus, that same year, Fred moved to a small settlement near the Toponis Railroad station, about fifteen miles west of Shoshone. There, he took up the sheep business. Gooding started in a big way, acquiring nearly four thousand sheep within a couple years. Unfortunately, an unusually severe winter in 1889-1890 ravaged his herds and left Fred heavily in debt. His good credit gave him time to recover and he soon had a new herd and began paying off what he owed.

In 1895, Fred moved to a new residence in Shoshone, but retained his sheep holdings. By around 1898, he owned well over a thousand acres of land, and sometimes had as many as thirty thousand sheep on his ranch. (Toponis, where Fred started out in sheep, became Gooding in 1907 [blog, Nov 1], named in honor of Fred and three brothers.)

Among other business activities, he established the First National Bank of Shoshone, and later became one of the directors of the First National Bank of Jerome. He and two brothers spearheaded construction of a water system for Shoshone, and an electric light plant.
Western sheep shearing. Library of Congress.

Gooding eventually owned over three thousand acres of private range and irrigated farm land. He became one of the largest wool shippers in the region. A charter member of the Idaho Wool Growers Association, he served two terms as the organization’s president.

In 1921, the state “fast-tracked” emergency legislation to create a new commission to oversee the Idaho sheep industry. At its first meeting, the commission elected Fred as its chairman. The measure addressed the fact that, according to the Twin Falls News (February 21, 1921), “Sheep scabies are prevalent throughout Idaho to the extent that the federal government threatened to quarantine Idaho sheep … ”

In additional to several terms in various county offices, Gooding served on the Shoshone city council and as mayor. He also served two terms in the Idaho legislature, holding the position of president pro temp of the Senate after his election in 1909.

Fred developed a strong interest in improving Idaho’s road system as a way to encourage commerce and settlement. In fact, such was his advocacy and leadership in improving Idaho’s road system, he earned the nickname “Good Roads” Gooding. When the governor created the first Roads Commission, he appointed Gooding as its chairman. Fred Gooding passed away in July 1927.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
James H. Hawley, Eleventh Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Idaho, Boise (1928).
"Site Report - Wood River," Reference Series No. 206, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).

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