Friday, June 30, 2017

Banker, Rancher, and U. S. Senator John Thomas [otd 06/30]

Senator Thomas. Library of Congress.
On June 30, 1928, Idaho Governor H. Clarence Baldridge appointed banker and rancher John W. Thomas to fill the U. S. Senate seat vacated by the death of Frank R. Gooding. The appointment arose partly from the fact that Thomas was considered Gooding's political protégé.

Thomas was born January 4, 1874 in Phillips County, Kansas, 60-70 miles north of Hayes. He attended a Normal school in central Kansas. John then taught for several years and spent five years as a school Superintendent. From 1906 to 1909, he served as Register of the Land Office in Colby, Kansas.

In 1909, Thomas moved to Gooding, Idaho, where he engaged in banking and invested in real estate. At that time, Frank Gooding had just completed two terms as Idaho Governor. (Custom then dictated that the governor should serve only two consecutive terms.) Thomas and Gooding became associated through their common interests in banking, ranching, and politics.

Thomas was mayor of Gooding in 1917-1919, when Gooding lost in his first run for a U. S. Senate seat. Gooding succeeded in 1920 and was reelected in 1926. By then, Thomas was a member of the Republican National Committee. Thus, when Gooding died two years into his term, the Thomas appointment followed naturally.

Concerning the appointment, the Governor was reported (Idaho Statesman, July 1, 1928) to say, “For a number of years Mr. Thomas was closely associated with the late Senator Gooding and seems to be the logical man to carry on the splendid fight Gooding waged for the economic development of Idaho.”

The subsequent special election confirmed his seat for the remainder of the term.

Being Senators from a farm state, both Thomas and William E. Borah [blog, yesterday] voted for the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. The Act had originally been proposed as relief for American farmers. However, by the time it passed, the Act also contained sky-high tariffs on hundreds of non-farm products. Countries all around the world retaliated with higher duties on American products. While Smoot-Hawley did not cause the Great Depression, economists generally agree that the Act made it far worse.

During this term in the Senate, Thomas chaired the Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation. In August 1932, a union representative at the Hoover Dam construction site sent him a letter that began, "We believe that a great injustice is being perpetrated against the workers at Boulder Dam in the general lowering of working and living conditions.”

Hoover Dam, 1942. National Archives.
They asserted that the contractor had set wages below area averages, ignored state safety codes, and charged exorbitant prices for goods and services. It is not clear how John replied, and the issue soon became moot for him. That fall, the Democratic landslide led by Presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt swamped his re-election bid.

Thomas spent the rest of the decade attending to his business and ranching interests. In 1940, Senator Borah died in office and Thomas was appointed to fill that vacancy. Again, he won the special election to confirm the appointment. This time his bid for reelection in 1942 succeeded and he began a full six-year term. Ironically, he did not complete that term, himself dying in office in November 1945.
References: [Hawley]
Boulder Dam Workers, Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, Boulder City, Nevada (2005).
“John Thomas,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, online.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

U. S. Senator William E. Borah, the “Lion of Idaho” [otd 06/29]

W. E. Borah, ca. 1898.
Illustrated History.
Senator William Edgar Borah, celebrated "Lion of Idaho," was born June 29, 1865 in Wayne County, Illinois. Tuberculosis cut short his formal education, so he read law for a Kansas firm and passed the bar there in 1888. During those times, steady railroad promotion fueled considerable growth in Kansas, yet the young lawyer soon headed further West.

With his cash running low, Borah heeded advice heard on the train and settled in Boise City. Even then an excellent orator, and good looking, as early as 1891 Borah ran for public office – Boise City Attorney. He only lost by three votes.

Borah's legal practice flourished, covering many important cases. He served as a Special Prosecutor in the 1907 trial of “Big Bill” Haywood, accused of conspiring to assassinate ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg. Although the state lost the case, it gained national attention for Borah. He carefully and successfully nurtured that notoriety.

As a Silver Republican, his Congressional bids in 1896 and 1903 failed. Then Borah returned to his original Republican roots, and used his new-found celebrity status. In 1907, he won election to the Senate. He would hold that seat for the rest of his life.

In the Senate, his oratorical skills regularly attracted crowded galleries when people heard he was about to speak. Even those who disagreed with him conceded his powerful eloquence and strong convictions, which earned him the "Lion of Idaho" sobriquet.

His forceful persuasion earned him much credit, or blame depending upon a person's views, for keeping the U. S. out of the League of Nations. Borah was often labeled an isolationist because of that stance, yet many of his positions contradict that image. He mostly opposed "entangling alliances" and what he considered impositions upon America's sovereignty.

Borah and wife, ca 1895. Kansas State Historical Society.
In fact, Borah's views often seemed wildly contradictory, even to those in his own party. Although he distrusted "big government," he was generally ready to use Federal power to curb monopolistic trusts. Suspicious of social programs that cast government as what we might call "big brother," he nonetheless helped establish the Department of Labor with better child labor oversight.

News media of the times turned a blind eye to Borah's one consistent failing: his tangled affairs with women. Regional historians now generally concede that he probably left Kansas because he had "gotten a young woman in trouble" and was "asked" to leave. In Boise, contemporaries attested that he almost obsessively frequented the city's "ladies of the evening."

Questions have been raised even about his marriage to Mary McConnell, daughter of Idaho Governor William J. McConnell. Despite Borah’s strong sex drive, the couple never had any children. Rumors, never actively denied, circulated that Borah had gotten Mary pregnant while they were courting, and that a poorly-done abortion left her unable to have children. Yet recently-available letters and diaries confirm that Borah fathered a child by another man's wife.

In 1936, Borah ran a vigorous national campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination. When that failed, he returned to Idaho and was easily re-elected to his Senate seat. He died in office in January 1940.
References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“William Edgar Borah, June 29, 1865 – January 19, 1940,” Reference Series No. 538, Idaho State Historical Society (1971).
Waldo W. Braden, “William E. Borah’s Years in Kansas in the 1880’s,” Kansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 4 (November, 1947).
Stacy A. Cordery, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, From White House Princess to Washington Power Broker, Viking Press, New York (2007).
Douglas O. Linder, “Biographies: William E. Borah,” Famous American Trials: Bill Haywood Trial, University of Missouri-Kansas City, School of Law (2011).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rancher, Mining Investor, and Probate Judge Frank Harris [otd 06/28]

Judge Harris, ca 1898.
Illustrated History.
Judge and state Senator Frank Harris was born June 28, 1854 in Placerville, California, 25-30 miles east of Sacramento. In the 1870s, he read law in two different firms in Eureka, California. Frank moved to Idaho in 1880 and established a home in Weiser.

Harris immediately qualified for the Idaho bar. One of his earliest cases was to draw up the articles of incorporation and bylaws for an irrigation company. Many farmers who had settled along the Weiser River pooled their resources to form this company. They hoped to build a canal system to get water onto their homesteads. Work began in the spring and summer of 1881.

The shareholders soon discovered they were severely under-capitalized, and sold out to a new firm. Those initial water rights changed companies several times before a reasonable system of ditches was finally completed. Then the arrival of the Oregon Short Line Railroad "made" Weiser City.

The initial impact of the railroad was largely negative. Harris later wrote, "Weiser took on a sudden change, but not for the better. They were composed of a motly [sic] mob of tinhorn gamblers, pimps, burglars, pickpockets, prostitutes and every variety of mankind that was low and despicable."

Fortunately, the riff-raff left when construction moved on, and Weiser prospered in a more lasting, substantial way. In 1889, the county selected Harris as a delegate to the convention that wrote the constitution for the proposed state of Idaho. In 1892, the Democratic Party convention nominated Frank for Lieutenant Governor, but Republicans swept every state executive branch office. Four years later, he was elected to the state Senate.

Harris was nominated for Lieutenant Governor again in 1904, but lost to the Republican landslide behind the presidential election of Teddy Roosevelt. In 1918, he was nominated to run unopposed on the Democratic ticket for Prosecuting Attorney of Washington County. But Harris then discovered that voters had placed numerous “Nonpartisan League” candidates at the head of the state Democratic ticket.
Downtown Weiser, ca 1908. Vintage Postcard.
The League was a rural/agricultural movement that proposed radical changes in American farm and financial policies. Harris branded (Idaho Statesman, September 10, 1918) the League’s founder a “trouble maker from North Dakota” and angrily rejected the nomination. (Many other traditional Democrats took similar stands.)

In 1922, Frank ran for the state Senate, and won. Ten years later – at the age of 78 – he was elected a Probate Judge.

Harris had a home in Weiser City and also owned a ranch near town. For many years he involved himself with mining interests and handled numerous cases of mining litigation and business. Judge Harris thus knew, better than most, all the ways that ignorant investors could be separated from their money.

In the 1940s, he published a series of articles in the Weiser Signal about the history of Weiser and Washington counties. Naturally, he discussed the prospects for new mineral discoveries. That included glowing reports of "immense deposits" of copper ore laced with fabulous amounts of gold and silver in the Seven Devils region.

Concerning these claims, Frank wrote, "I hesitate to accept at one-hundred percent or even at a greater discount, this report. I am inclined to believe it was made for the consumption of a new crop of eastern suckers."

Judge Harris passed away in April 1944.
References: [Blue], [Defen], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“Frank Harris, "History of Washington County and Adams County," Weiser Signal (1940s).

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mining Investor, Prominent Mason, and Judge Jonas Brown [otd 06/27]

Judge Brown. H. T. French photo.
Early Western pioneer and prominent Idaho lawyer Jonas W. Brown was born June 27, 1825 in Coshocton County, Ohio, 60-70 miles northeast of Columbus.

Around 1842, Jonas moved to Keokuk, Iowa, and found work in a flour mill. After nine years there, Brown joined the flow of gold-seekers headed for California. Over the next decade, he worked as carpenter, miner, county clerk, and deputy sheriff in California and then Washington.

He moved to Florence in 1862, while it was still in Washington Territory. At that time, Florence was the county seat of Idaho County, which then encompassed much of what became southern Idaho. There, he held several positions (at the same time, for awhile): district and probate court clerk, recorder, deputy county auditor, deputy treasurer, and deputy sheriff.

In 1863, when the goldfields around Florence began to play out and those in the Boise Basin grew, Jonas moved to Idaho City. During his public service time to this point, he had studied the law and was finally admitted to the bar, apparently in about 1864. After that, he carried on a considerable private law practice.

Jonas also served for a year or two as a Clerk in the county offices. In 1878, he missed – by just 6 votes – being elected as the Delegate from Idaho Territory to the U. S. Congress. (Delegates have no vote on the floor, but can serve on committees and vote on issues at that level.)

By the early 1880s, the Boise Basin mines had passed their prime. Brown moved his practice to Boise City in 1882. Even so, a correspondent from Quartzburg told the Idaho Statesman (June 22, 1886) that “J. V. R. Witt is at work up the gulch from the Gold Hill mill, where he and Jonas W. Brown of your city, own a good ledge.”

Jonas was quite active in politics, although he never ran again for a national office. In the 1890s, he split with the national Republican Party to follow the Silver Republicans. When the silver issue waned, Jonas returned to his long-term political allegiance. In 1903, Brown was elected to a four-year term as a Probate Judge. His name thus became associated with quite a number of important cases in Boise.
Residence of Jonas W. Brown.
Colored lithograph from History of Idaho Territory, 1884.

Even before moving to Idaho, Brown played an active role in the Masonic fraternity, and also with the Methodist Church.

In Keokuk, Jonas helped collect funds for the first Methodist Church there, and may have contributed his labor as well. He also had a hand in raising the first Methodist Church in Idaho City. In Boise City, Brown made generous donations to the church and served among its lay officers. He also served as Boise’s lay Delegate to the church’s General Conference.

Brown held most of the high positions in the Masonic Order and received many honors during his half-century-plus in that organization. He passed away in September 1916, right after attending the Annual meeting of Idaho Masons held in Twin Falls.
References: [French], [Illust-North], [Illust-State]
History of Idaho Territory: Showing Its Resources and Advantages..., Wallace W. Elliot & Co., 421 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California (1884).
“Report of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence: Idaho,” Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Alabama at the Annual Communication, Brown Printing Company, Montgomery, Alabama (December 6-7, 1916).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sportsman, Conservationist, and Outdoor Writer Ted Trueblood [otd 06/26]

Ted Trueblood, angler.
Trueblood Collection,
Boise State University.
Hunter, angler, conservationist, and writer Cecil Whittaker “Ted" Trueblood was born June 26, 1913 in Boise. He grew up on a farm near Wilder (10-12 miles west of Caldwell).

Ted sold the first of a prodigious number of articles about outdoor activities in 1931, the same year he graduated from high school. The article ran under the pseudonym J. W. Wintring. As the story goes, the magazine editor thought Ted’s real name was itself a pen name, “and not a very good one.”

Trueblood tried the college life for awhile, first at College of Idaho in Caldwell. In the depths of the Great Depression, he dropped out to find work half way through his junior year. In 1935, he attended a semester at the University of Idaho, but then landed a job as a reporter for a Boise newspaper.

After a year there, he moved to Salt Lake City and worked for the Deseret News. Ted also had a go at freelance writing. That proved inadequate for a newly-married man and in 1940 he hired on with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Trueblood actually had an earlier connection with the Department of Fish and Game. In 1938, he joined the campaign to pass a voter Initiative to created a non-political Idaho Fish and Game Commission [blog, June 21]. The measure passed handily, becoming the first successful Idaho citizens’ Initiative .

Ted’s articles earned him a job as Fishing Editor for Field & Stream magazine. For that position, Ted and his wife moved to New York in 1941. That didn’t last long, due to a “company shakeup” that got him fired. Ted spent a year as a photographer in North Carolina, and then the couple moved back to Idaho. In 1944, Ted was rehired by Field & Stream and they returned to New York.

However, three years later, Trueblood decided to leave the Eastern rat-race behind. By then his name – which many readers thought was a too-good-to-be-true pseudonym – had drawing power.

For the rest of his days he would live the life he wrote so well about. Your "blogster" is one of many who avidly read his articles in Field & Stream and other outdoors magazines. Nor was he just a fishing guru, he also expertly hunted all kinds of game.
Ted Trueblood, bird hunter.
Trueblood Collection, BSU.

But Trueblood was not just a hunter or angler; he loved nature for its own sake. His writing conveyed that feeling, and sent many into the outdoors for their mental and physical well-being. Moreover, he was a conservationist long before it was “fashionable." He is generally given a significant part of the credit for creation of the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness Area.

Ted belonged to numerous outdoor and conservation groups: Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the Idaho Wildlife Federation, and others. Ted received many, many awards for conservation advocacy and outdoor writing, including several “Outdoorsman of the Year" awards.

Sadly, he contracted bone cancer in his late sixties. After several years of unavailing surgery and chemotherapy, Trueblood died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in September 1982.
References: Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Roger Phillips, “Ted Trueblood: Outdoor writer set the benchmark,” The Idaho Statesman (March 28, 2002).
“Ted Trueblood: Biography,” Ted Trueblood Collection, MSS 89, Boise State University (2000).
“Cecil Whittaker ‘Ted’ Trueblood,” Reference Series No. 1145, Idaho State Historical Society (January 1996).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

General Edward McConville: Civil War Veteran, Indian Fighter, and Philippines Casualty [otd 06/25]

General McConville.
Illustrated History.
General Edward McConville was born June 25, 1846 in Jefferson County, New York. Histories of the day noted that he came from a "martial family," whose members saw action in the Battle of Hastings in England, and later in the American Civil war. Moreover, a cousin died in the Spanish-American War during “the glorious assault on San Juan hill."

Edward himself enlisted for the Civil War as an under-age private in the 12th New York Regiment of Volunteers. During this first term of service, McConville’s regiment saw action in the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, the Peninsular Campaign, Antietam, and several other famous Army of the Potomac battles. Discharged in May 1863, within two months McConville re-enlisted in the 13th New York Cavalry Regiment. Edward’s new unit performed scouting duty and spent part of its time chasing Mosby’s Raiders in northern Virginia.

McConville re-enlisted yet again in 1866, in the Regular Army, and fought Apache Indians in New Mexico and Arizona. Discharged at Idaho's Fort Lapwai in 1873, he then took up residence in the state. Four years later, he raised a force of Idaho Volunteers for the Nez Percés War. In a fight along the Clearwater River in mid-July, Indians ran off many of their horses and pinned them down on a hill that came to be called “Fort Misery.” Even so, they are credited with getting word to the Army commander about the location of the Nez Percés camp.

The Volunteers soon replaced their horses and performed scout duty through most of August. After the Nez Percés escaped into Montana, McConville marched his men back to Lewiston. Even his fresher horses were worn down and sickness had weakened many of the men.

Although he fought the Nez Percés when he was called, he also tried to aid them later as Superintendent of the reservation school at Lapwai. Reappointed through several Federal administrations, he reportedly earned the respect and admiration of Indians and whites alike.

His program included sporting teams which did compete against white squads (Morning Olympian, Olympia, Washington, June 16, 1897): “Superintendent Ed McConville, of the Lapwai Industrial school, has made arrangements for his Indian boys’ base ball team and athletes to visit Spokane … A schedule of games has been arranged with the Spokane team and the Indian boys will engage with the pale face of that section in a number of athletic contests.”
First Idaho Waiting for Action, Caloocan.
Library of Congress.

When the Federal government called for soldiers to fight the Spanish-American War in 1898, Idaho recruited troops to supplement the state Guard [blog, March 14]. About half the officers and well over half the enlisted men in the First Idaho Infantry came from the Idaho Guard. McConville was appointed a major to lead the Second Battalion of the First Idaho.

Through all those years and bloody Civil War battles, and more years exposed to hit-and-run Indian raids, McConville had received only minor flesh wounds. Sadly, the old soldier was shot and mortally wounded in the regiment's first serious engagement in the Philippines on February 5, 1899. Before he died, he received a promotion to Brevet Brigadier General.

Although, according to Hawley, the 1903 Idaho legislature budgeted funds for a monument to General McConville, there's no evidence that any was ever erected.
References:  [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Jerome A. Greene, Nez Perce Summer, 1877: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poos Crisis, Montana Historical Society Press, Helena (2000).
Orlan J. Svingen (Ed.), The History of the Idaho National Guard, Idaho National Guard, Boise (1995).

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mountain Man and Western Explorer Jedediah Smith [otd 06/24]

Jed Smith, drawn ca. 1835
by a close family friend.
Family archives.
June 24, 1798 is one of two presumed birth dates* (the other is Jan 6, 1799) of mountain man and Western explorer Jedediah Strong Smith.

Historians do agree that he was born in Bainbridge, New York, an outpost about 25 miles east of Binghamton. The family moved to Erie County, Pennsylvania around 1810. The story is told that a frontier doctor befriended young Jedediah, and provided him an education beyond the norm for that day.

The family moved again in 1817, to Ohio. But the Panic of 1819 (with impacts out to 1822) hit farm states like Ohio particularly hard. It is perhaps significant that Jedediah headed further west around 1821.

In 1822, William Ashley published a St. Louis newspaper notice that said, in part, “The subscriber wishes to engage one hundred young men to ascend the Missouri river to its source, there to be employed for one, two, or three years.”

That was the beginning of what became the Rocky Mountain Fur Company [blog, March 20], which Smith joined. Jedediah quickly rose to a leadership position. In 1824, he led a small band of trappers into southeast Idaho, where they stumbled across a party of “pilaged and destitute” Iroquois Indian trappers. These men worked for the British-Canadian Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). British-Canadian fur companies had had the western slopes of the Rockies to themselves since the War of 1812.

Smith escorted the hapless Iroquois back to the HBC camp on the Salmon River, near today's Challis or possibly the mouth of the Pahsimeroi River. The Britishers were none too pleased when the Americans showed up, on October 14, 1824. Their leader, Alexander Ross, grumbled about the newcomers “whom I rather take to be spies than trappers.”

Over the next two years, Smith led trapper parties in Idaho and parts of Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. In July 1826, he became part owner of the fur company. Smith and his partners were shrewd enough to realize that going head-to-head with the established HBC might not be their most profitable course. Jedediah therefore led a trapper/explorer party through country then unknown to Americans: across Utah and southern Nevada, and then into Spanish California.

Jedediah Smith’s monumental accomplishments in exploring the West between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast are beyond the scope of this brief item. (He was almost certainly the first American to travel east from Oregon through Idaho since Robert Stuart’s trek in 1813.) Unfortunately, Comanche Indians murdered Smith along the Cimarron River in May 1831.

Thomas Fitzpatrick.
Colorado Historical Society.
It is now generally accepted that his personal descriptions – lost notes, letters, and maps – lived on in the memories, writings, and maps produced by those who followed in his footsteps. For example, Thomas Fitzpatrick was also with Ashley’s enterprise from the first. He became a close co-worker and then employee of Smith.

Thomas “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick was, in fact, one of the most famous Mountain Men of the era. He introduced the even more famous Kit Carson to the fur trade and acted as guide for one of John C. Frémont’s major exploratory expeditions.

* The June date is listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
References: [B&W], [Brit]
H. M. Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1986). Originally publication date: 1935.
Alexander Ross, T. C. Elliott (Ed.), “Journal of Alexander Ross, Snake Country Expedition, 1824,” Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. 14 (Dec. 1913).
Stephen W. Sears, “Trail Blazer of the Far West,” American Heritage Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 4 (June 1963).

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ricks College (Brigham Young University-Idaho) President Hyrum Manwaring [otd 06/23]

President Manwaring.
BYU-Idaho archives.
Hyrum Manwaring, President of Ricks College (now Brigham Young University - Idaho) was born June 23, 1877, southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1890, the family moved to near Provo, where Hyrum began working as a railroad section hand. He eventually advanced to a foreman’s position. However, he felt the need for more education and attended the preparatory school at Brigham Young University.

In 1899, Manwaring started a three-year mission in Australia. He then mixed personal education and teaching for several years until, in 1911, he received his B.A. degree from Brigham Young University in Provo. After teaching English at Provo for three years, he joined the Ricks College faculty in Rexburg, Idaho, as Head of the English Department.

Manwaring’s very first views of the campus and the town depressed him. He later wrote, “I stood lonely and very depressed and silently shed tears to think I was bringing my dear wife and children to this place.” But then, somehow, “I suddenly seemed to catch the spirit of the pioneers, and to dream of the great potentials that lay before me.”

Next, he met the “vigorous” student body, who “looked energetic and eager to work at any task that was hard and challenging.” In the end, he wrote, “I left Rexburg happy and enthusiastic with the potentials I saw and experienced.”

When Ricks became a junior college in 1923, Manwaring served as Head of the Department of Psychology and Education. That same year he received his Master’s degree from BYU-Provo. He also acted as Summer School Director while then-President Romney attended graduate school, and later taught some of the first night classes provided at Ricks.

In 1929, the Ricks Board of Education offered Manwaring the job of Acting President. At the time, the family had sold their Idaho property and moved to Washington, D. C., where Hyrum planned to attend George Washington University. Manwaring took some time to consider his options before accepting the position. His tenure was soon made permanent.

Over the next decade, Manwaring's faith and natural optimism must have been sorely tried. Budgets had always been tight, and even before he assumed the Presidency rumors abounded that the school would be closed. This being the depths of the Great Depression, the LDS Church found it couldn't give the school away. The state of Idaho said they couldn't afford to run it.

To survive at all, as a church or state institution, Ricks needed full accreditation. With that, earned credits could be transferred wherever a student might want to go. Hyrum pushed hard to upgrade programs, and to convince the accrediting body that they provided a quality education. Finally, despite its uncertain future, the college received the coveted certification in April 1936.

The following year, the school began to receive better funding from Church authorities. Even so, rumors about a possible closure continued to surface whenever finances were particularly tight. Finally, in the spring of 1940, school officials received word that there would be no further attempts to give the school away.
Student Center. BYU-Idaho photo.

As with most colleges and universities, Ricks had to substantially step up recruitment during World War II. Even so, male enrollment for the fall of 1943 showed a dramatic decline.

In 1944, Manwaring made his last commencement address as College President. He continued teaching at Ricks for almost a decade, and then taught part-time until he passed away in 1956. Today, his memory is honored at BYU-Idaho in the Manwaring Student Center.
References: [Defen]
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks: A History of Ricks College, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).
“Hyrum and Bessie Manwaring,” The Presidents and First Ladies, Brigham Young University – Idaho.
Jerry C. Roundy, Ricks College: A Struggle for Survival, Ricks College Press, Rexburg (1976).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Irrigation Water Flows into East Idaho's Great Feeder Canal [otd 06/22]

On June 22, 1895, water was diverted from the Snake River into the Great Feeder Canal. The Diversion Dam, located about 20 miles northeast of Idaho Falls, supplied water to one of the most ambitious of the early irrigation projects in Idaho. The main Canal and the many smaller canals it feeds now make up one of the largest irrigation systems in the American West.
Headgates, Great Feeder Canal.

As in the Boise and Payette river valleys, pioneers along the upper Snake River began digging small irrigation ditches almost as soon as they settled there. Thus, the first "active irrigation farming" began in 1868, just three years after Matt Taylor built his toll bridge [blog, December 10]. The farm was located about 15 miles north of the spot called, successively, Taylor's Bridge, Eagle Rock, and (today) Idaho Falls.

Still, the region remained mostly ranch country until the railroad arrived in 1879, when homesteads blossomed. To this point, settlers had mostly tackled side streams of the Snake River itself, or creeks flowing into it. Finally, in 1880, ambitious irrigation companies filed two major water rights. They edged small weirs into the Snake’s current to divert water into multi-user canal systems.

Within a decade a network of canals laced the plains along both forks of the Snake. However, water supplies for these systems depended largely upon the vagaries of the river. It was sometimes a case of too little or too much. Often, small diversion dams washed out during spring high water and had to be rebuilt every season. Conversely, major changes in the river course sometimes left entire canal systems without a source.

One such twist created what locals called the "Dry Bed." The Bed had once been an important river channel but now lay dry most of the year. Thus, in 1895, a score of different canal companies cooperatively formed the Great Feeder Canal Company. Construction began immediately on a substantial diversion dam and ditch segment. They located the dam far enough upriver so the flow would fill the old channel and feed water to numerous component canal systems.

Reported with a full-page spread in the Idaho Falls Times (June 27, 1895), the opening was a well-attended, gala event. There were songs, a prayer, a poetry recital, and – of course – speeches by various dignitaries.

All did not go quite as planned, however. As the third or fourth major speaker began, “Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to – ”
“Boom!!!” the Times reporter wrote. The miner handling the dynamite had jumped the gun on breaching the holding wall, “and with a mighty roar in rushed the foaming stream and 2,000 second feet of water had passed through the headgate before the speaker could utter another word.”
Great Feeder Canal.

As with all such systems, their work had only begun. Continual upkeep and periodic upgrades – supplemental dams, replacement headgates, and more – were and still are required to maintain a good flow to water users. Today, besides its traditional uses, real estate ads tout residential properties that are near or "back up to" the Great Feeder Canal. (Which does not mean a property has any water rights associated with the Canal, but it sounds impressive.)

The Great Feeder, or Dry Bed as it is still identified on many maps, is also host to an odd, but useful annual event. A special fishing season opens on April 1 when the channel is emptied for routine maintenance. Individuals with valid fishing licenses can each "harvest" a half-dozen fish – which would die anyway – using any means short of chemicals, electric shock, or explosives.
References: [B&W], [Hawley]
Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County in the Making, self-published, Idaho Falls, Idaho (1941).
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society (1991).
John L. Powell (ed.), “Great Feeder Canal Company Records, 1896-1983,” Manuscript MSSI 31, Brigham Young University-Idaho Special Collections, Rexburg, Idaho (2002).
Steven Pope, “Dry Bed Canal Fishing Begins,” (April 1, 2010).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sportsman, Animal Advocate, and District Judge Charles F. Koelsch [otd 06/21]

Judge Koelsch. H. T. French photo.
Idaho District Judge Charles F. Koelsch was born June 21, 1872, in Mayfield, Wisconsin, about twenty miles north of Milwaukee. He graduated from high school at the age of fifteen and then studied at Northern Indiana Normal School (now Valparaiso University). Charles taught school several years after that, but also studied law.

Koelsch moved to Boise City in 1895 and began reading law in the offices of William E. Borah [blog, June 29]. At that time, Borah was gearing up to run for the U. S. House of Representatives. Koelsch was admitted to the Idaho bar in November 1897 and practiced in Borah’s office for about a year. Charles dissociated himself from Borah’s office when voters elected him to be a Probate Judge in the fall of 1898.

Charles served two terms in that capacity. In 1904, he was elected to the position of Prosecuting Attorney for Ada County. During his term as Probate Judge, Koelsch published An Exposition on the Constitution of the State of Idaho, the first text to discuss and analyze provisions of that document.

As Prosecuting Attorney, Koelsch played a peripheral role in the trial of “Big Bill” Haywood, accused of conspiring to assassinate ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg. In 1946, Koelsch wrote “The Haywood Case: A Review” for the Idaho Mining Journal, Boise. It is often cited as an account by an “insider” of events during the trial and the surrounding context.

After his term as Prosecuting Attorney, Koelsch returned to private practice in partnership with Joseph T. Pence. About that same time, Pence was elected to a term as Mayor of Boise [blog, November 9]. Charles himself was elected to a term in the state House of Representatives in 1912. The firm of Pence & Koelsch would handle many important cases for well over a decade.

In August 1929, Idaho Governor H. Clarence Baldridge appointed Koelsch to be Judge of the Third District Court of Ada County. He held that position for over twenty years.

A “great sportsman,” in 1938 Charles and some like-minded citizens proposed a voter Initiative to create a non-political Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Koelsch drafted the Initiative, which passed handily.
Pronghorn antelope. Idaho Fish & Game.

Charles retired from the bench only when forced to do so by a change in the legally-mandated retirement age. That was on January 1, 1951. His son, M. Oliver Koelsch, actually succeeded him in that position. (Eight years later, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed M. Oliver to be a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge.)

Koelsch did not retire from active participation in public affairs, however. Before 1900, Charles had helped form Idaho’s first humane society, to prevent cruelty to animals. That group did not last. However, he was later affiliated with the Idaho Humane Society that is still in operation today. Three years after his retirement, Koelsch signed (Idaho Falls Post Register, August 4, 1954) an animal cruelty complaint “in behalf of the Idaho Humane Society.”

Another of Koelsch's sons, C. Frederick, became an a chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota. Among other honors, C. Frederick won the Award in Pure Chemistry from the American Chemical Society.

Charles F. Koelsch passed away in April 1965.
References: [French]
Idaho Humane Society: History, Boise.
J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle … , Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York (1997).
Byron Johnson, “Homer Martin - a ‘Poacher’ Extraordinary, ” Wild Idaho News, Boise (Aug 14, 2006).
Charles F. Koelsch: MS 152, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (December 11, 1990).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Boise River Water Flows into the New York Canal [otd 06/20]

On June 20, 1900, a rude diversion structure turned water from the Boise River into the New York Canal. The diversion, though feeble, culminated nearly twenty years of effort to bring irrigation water to the higher benches paralleling the river.
New York Canal construction. Boise State University.
Individuals and small cooperative groups began diverting irrigation water from the Boise River less than a year after the 1862 gold discoveries in the Boise Basin. With limited resources, ditch developers had to be clever and creative. Whenever possible, they led their channels along old creek beds and other natural depressions. According to Beal & Wells, "by the summer of 1864 all the river bottom land in Boise Valley was under irrigation."

As Idaho's population grew and funds became available, developers tackled larger, more ambitious irrigation projects. Around 1882, investors from New York began considering an extensive project along the river.  They had the notion that gold recovered from hydraulic placer sites along the Snake River might pay much of the construction cost. After that, collecting fees for water delivered to new farms on the Boise Bench would almost be “gravy.” (In the end, the placer gold mining notion went nowhere.)

Company Engineer Arthur D. Foote laid out plans for a system that could eventually irrigate an estimated half million acres. Foote then spent thousands of dollars to survey a seventy-five mile main canal and an intricate grid of lateral ditches. With an elaborate map drawn from these surveys, planners could start wooing investors.

Work began on the upper end of the canal in 1884. However, very little got done because a recession in the East dried up capital. The startup firm did just enough work – basically, a handful of men chipping away at the rocks – to maintain their water right through 1886. Competing efforts also lagged, and then collapsed.

Not until 1890 did serious work again proceed on the canal. A fresh infusion of capital resulted in about 14 miles of partially finished ditch before that money ran out in late 1892. Then the nationwide Panic of '93 caused yet more delay. When money again became available, in 1896-1898, several competing interests fought over who had rights to what. Some of these cases rose all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court.
Boise River Diversion Dam, 1909.
Canal in foreground. National Archives.
In 1899, various interests finally reached an accommodation in what became the new New York Canal Company. At last, in 1900, they got water through their ditch. However, the amount was a mere trickle compared to Foote's grand original concept. Insufficient flow and murky water rights created a snarl of problems.

Finally, water users asked Congress to authorize a larger project to meet their needs. In the end, the U. S. Reclamation Service (later the Bureau of Reclamation) took over the canal and made it part of a larger Payette-Boise Project (Idaho Statesman, September 1, 1905).

The Bureau of Reclamation made two key additions to the project: a permanent Diversion Dam, 7-8 miles upstream from downtown Boise, and a reservoir (now called Lake Lowell) near Nampa. Finally in 1909, substantial amounts of water began flowing through a greatly expanded New York Canal system.
Reference: [B&W], [French]
“The Beginning of the New York Canal,” Reference Series No. 190, Idaho State Historical Society (March 1972).
Arthur Hart, “Idaho History: The New York Canal was an epic achievement,” The Idaho Statesman, March 14, 2010.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Idaho Chief Justice, Businessman, and Educator James F. Ailshie [otd 06/19]

James Franklin Ailshie, Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, was born June 19, 1868 in Greene County, Tennessee, 50-70 miles east of Knoxville. He attended a "noted preparatory school" through his junior year and then moved to Missouri, where he taught school. After a couple years there, he took a Principal’s job in Washington state. Ailshie then attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
Waller Hall, Willamette University, 1880.
Salem Public Library Collections.

Ailshie received his B.A. and LL.B. degrees from Willamette in 1891, then moved to Grangeville, Idaho to establish a practice. By that time, the town had substantially outgrown nearby Mount Idaho. In 1892 and again in 1898, Grangeville citizen tried unsuccessfully to capture the county seat designation. (They finally succeeded in 1902.) In addition to his thriving law practice, Ailshie served two terms as a Regent of the University of Idaho, starting in 1893.

Ailshie was elected to the Idaho Supreme Court in 1902 and moved to Boise the following year. Reelected to the Court, he served until his resignation in 1914. During four of his years on the Court, he served as Chief Justice and was, at one time, the youngest Chief Justice on any state Supreme Court.

In 1909, Willamette University honored him with a Doctor of Laws degree. James H. Hawley noted in 1920 that "About two-thirds of the [Idaho] constitution was tested in the court during his service on the bench."

While not on the Court, Ailshie was very active in Republican Party politics. In 1898, delegates to the state convention of the Republican Party elected him as convention president. In 1900, 1916, and 1932, he served as delegate to the Republican National Convention. In 1913, he missed election to the U.S. Senate by just four votes in the legislature.
Justice Ailshie.
University of Idaho Special collections.

Ailshie resigned from the Court in 1914 to run for a U. S. Senate seat under the new direct election mode dictated by the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. He had hoped to resign earlier, but the illness of Justice George Stewart [blog, Feb 26] delayed that. (Stewart died the following September.) After his failed run – which he blamed partly on his inability to campaign – he moved from Boise to Coeur d'Alene and resumed his private practice.

Ailshie was President of the Idaho State Bar Association in 1921-22 and was a long-time member of the their Board of Commissioners. He also served three years on the Executive Committee of the American Bar Association, and over a decade on that organization's General Council.

In the late Twenties and early Thirties, he was a member of the Idaho Law Journal Board of Advisers. During that period, he also served on the state Commission on Uniform State Laws. That Commission advises the legislature on laws that should be revised to be more consistent with the laws in other state.

Besides serving on the University of Idaho Board of Regents, Ailshie taught there at the College of Law, lecturing on "mining law and legal ethics." For a time while practicing law in Coeur d'Alene, he owned a farm-ranch operation near Grangeville. He was also President of the Grangeville Light & Power Company and Director of a bank there.

Ailshie again served on the Supreme Court in 1939-41, and from 1945 until his death in May 1947.
References: [Defen], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“James Franklin Ailshie: Biographical Sketch,” James Franklin Ailshie Papers 1902-1931, Manuscript Group 9, University of Idaho Special Collections (July 1997).
Ben Ysursa, Idaho Blue Book, 2003-2004, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (2003).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Idaho National Guard Mobilized for Mexican Border Duty [otd 06/18]

On June 18, 1916, state authorities mobilized the Idaho National Guard for duty on the Mexican border. The Governor had received instructions from the Secretary of War under the National Defense Act, passed by Congress two weeks earlier.
Pancho Villa, ca 1914.
Library of Congress.

Since about 1910, Mexico had been wracked by fighting between various revolutionary factions. In 1914, a coalition headed by Venustiano Carranza gained the upper hand. Because Carranza promised a constitutional government, eventually, the United States recognized him as President of Mexico in 1915.

However, Carranza’s refusal or inability to propose deep social reforms caused a split with more reformed-minded revolutionaries such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa.

As a revolutionary ally of Carranza, Villa’s success and charisma attracted support from the United States, including guns and ammunition. That ended after his split with Carranza. Angered, Villa turned against his erstwhile allies. In early 1916, Villa’s troops killed seventeen Americans working for a mining company in Mexico.

In March, Villa raided the border town of Columbus, New Mexico, about 70 miles west of El Paso, Texas. The garrison reportedly inflicted heavy casualties (60-80 killed) on the revolutionaries. However, 18 Americans – soldiers, militia, and civilians – were killed and many structures burned.

Newspapers all over the country clamored for action against Villa. Less than three months later, Congress passed the National Defense Act. At the time, the Army was badly undermanned to handle all its commitments, so they needed reinforcements from the Guard. Authorization to call up these units had one major string attached: Guard soldiers were not to operate on foreign territory.

The Spanish-American War of 1898 had established the position that the government could nationalize Guard units for a declared war. Because the Villa campaign was not part of a declared war, the troops could only "defend the border."

That turned out to be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” stance for the government. Some units resented being hauled across the country to watch over a stretch of barren desert. This hardly fit the traditional scenario where militiamen were called out to protect their home state from imminent invasion. But other Guard units wanted to march into Mexico and fight.
National Guard troops bivouacked in Nogales. National Archives.
Mobilized units of the Idaho National Guard arrived in Nogales, Arizona in mid-July, joining regiments from many other states. That freed Pershing’s troops to pursue Villa's units deep into Mexico.

For several months, the Idaho regiment drilled and conducted patrols across the rugged border country. They were mustered out of Federal service in late January 1917. (Some Guard units did see live action and had soldiers killed or wounded.)

A fundamental flaw in the militia/national guard concept appeared even that early: What do we do with the demobilized soldiers? A sergeant wrote to the Idaho Statesman (January 2, 1917), “All of us were working or going to school before we left, while now our positions are filled … ”

Business groups made some sincere, but spotty attempts to alleviate their plight. Yet even today there are few good answers to the problem. For the 1917 soldiers, the issue went away a few months later: Guard units were recalled for duty in World War I. Thus, the border duty became a “dress rehearsal.” It toughened the men to field duty and provided officers and men experience in coordinating the regiment's actions as full units.
References: [Brit], [Hawley]
Cornelius James Brosnan, History of the State of Idaho, Charles Scribner’s sons, New York (1918).
Jerry M. Cooper, The Rise of the National Guard: The Evolution of the American Militia, 1865-1920, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (2002).
Richard W. Stewart (ed.), American Military History, Vol 1, Center of Military History, U.S. Army, Washiongton, D.C. (2004).

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Early Nez Percés: Image versus reality

After the Nez Percés treaty of 1855, mentioned in my blog item of about a week ago, white Indian Agents made every effort to downplay the warrior traditions of the tribe. By selling that image they could validate their decision to make what they considered big “concessions” in “giving” the Nez Percés such a “generous” amount of land. After all, they said, “The tribe has always been a friend to the white man,” so they deserve special consideration.

The Agents tried equally hard to sell that notion to the Nez Percés themselves, hoping to counter the glamorous image of those tribesmen who followed the old fighting traditions. Only then could they hope to impose “assimilation” on the bands.

After the 1863 treaty, the Indian Agency stepped up its efforts to sell that image. It was a source of great frustration that they had little success within the bands, although they did fine with whites who wanted to believe that the Nez Percés were becoming peaceful, non-threatening agrarians.

I address this issue in my book, Before the Spud: Indians, Buckaroos, and Sheepherders in Pioneer Idaho.

Here are a couple of excerpts: “… historical records contradict the pacific image [of the Nez Percés]. Recall that when Captain William Clark first met the Nez Percés in September 1805, the ‘great chief’ of that band was off raiding enemies.”

“Right into the Seventies [1870s], tribesmen regularly fought east of the Rockies. There, they joined Crow Indians against the latter’s traditional enemies, the Sioux and Cheyenne. Men like White Bird and [Chief] Joseph’s younger brother Ollokot earned impressive warrior reputations.”

To reach their Crow allies in eastern Montana and northern Wyoming, bands of Nez Percés had to cross territory nominally claimed by the Blackfoot coalition. Tribes in the coalition had a notably fierce – and well-deserved – reputation as fighters. Yet it is recorded that they were generally careful to avoid Nez Percés bands unless they had a distinct advantage in numbers and/or weaponry.

Nez Percés Drub U. S. Army at Battle of White Bird Canyon [otd 06/17]

On June 17, 1877, a column consisting of U. S. Cavalry and a few civilian volunteers engaged Nez Percés warriors in the Battle of White Bird Canyon. This was the opening clash of the Nez Percés War, which ultimately forced a large part of the tribe off their ancestral homeland.
Chief Joseph, ca. 1895.
Illustrated History of North Idaho

The reservation treaty of 1863 divided the Nez Percés into "treaty" and "non-treaty" factions [blog, June 9]. By the mid-1870's, many land-hungry whites had settled on areas held by non-treaty bands. They demanded that authorities force the Indians to move onto the small reservation in Idaho.

Chief Joseph of the Wallowa bands eloquently argued that the original 1855 treaty was still in force for those bands that had refused to sign the later document. That being the case, the authorities were obligated to remove the intruders. An Army staffer who studied the legal situation agreed, declaring that the newer provisions were "null and void" for the non-treaty bands.

Few whites wanted to hear that, so they declared that a majority had signed the 1863 and it was therefore binding on all. As noted in the earlier blog, that claim was at best specious, if not completely dishonest. Nez Percés leadership was not a democracy. Although family ties and a common language linked the bands, each was autonomous and their chiefs formed a council of equals.

The situation exploded when the Army ignored all that and moved ahead with plans to forcibly relocate the bands. By the time the troops and volunteers led by Captain David Perry began descending into White Bird Canyon, warriors had killed 8 to 10 civilians and burned many outlying buildings.
Captain David Perry.
Nez Perce National Historical Park

John McDermott's book Forlorn Hope, posted at a National Park Service web site, provides a detailed description of the action. After the first contact, Perry tried to arrange a battle line. Meanwhile, the small band of volunteers charged on horseback around the left. Effective counter-fire repelled their attack, so they gathered on a knoll to anchor the left flank.

At a crucial turn, a shot killed one of Perry’s buglers and the other lost his bugle. Then a ferocious Nez Percés counter-attack sent the volunteers fleeing from the field. With no bugler, Perry could not wheel his troops to meet the sudden assault from his exposed flank. His line collapsed into a confused retreat. Perhaps only some desperate stands by small, isolated groups saved the cavalry from total annihilation.

Once north of White Bird Hill, the cavalrymen made a fighting retreat across the prairie. Nez Percés warriors finally broke off the action when a column of armed civilians rode out to help the retreating force. The survivors reached Grangeville between 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning.

The Indians scored a decisive victory, despite being heavily outnumbered (60-70 warriors versus over 100 whites) and fighting with inferior weapons. The Army suffered thirty-four dead (to none for the Indians), and were driven headlong from the battlefield.

In the end, of course, the outnumbered and outgunned Indians were forced to flee Idaho. The tribe's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to escape into Canada is now legendary.
References: [Illust-North]
“Battle of White Bird,” Reference Series No. 440, Idaho State Historical Society (June 1967).
Jerome A. Greene, Nez Perce Summer, 1877: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poos Crisis, Montana Historical Society Press: Helena (2000).
John Dishon McDermott, Forlorn Hope: The Nez Perce Victory at White Bird Canyon, Caxton Press, Caldwell, Idaho (2003).

Friday, June 16, 2017

Distinguished Federal Judge and Legal Educator Ray McNichols [otd 06/16]

Judge McNichols.
Photo courtesy of
University of Idaho College of Law.
Federal District Judge Raymond C. McNichols was born June 16, 1914 in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The family moved to Lewiston at some point, and Ray later graduated from the University of Idaho. During and after World War II, he served as an aviator in the U.S. Navy.

After leaving the service, McNichols attended the University of Idaho College of Law, graduating with his LL.B degree in 1950. He then opened a law practice with a partner in Orofino.

In 1954, Ray “threw his hat in the ring” for the Democratic nomination to run for Idaho’s U. S. Senate seat. He later withdrew (Idaho Falls Post-Register, May 30, 1954) from the race so as not to “dilute” the Democratic vote. (The Republican won the seat anyway.)

In 1960, McNichols served as Vice Chairman of the Idaho delegation to the Democratic Presidential Convention (Idaho Falls Post-Register, March 14, 1960). That convention selected John F. Kennedy as the party nominee. Several months after Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson appointed McNichols as a Federal Judge for the District of Idaho. During 17 years of full-time judicial service, McNichols presided over some 2,000 cases, achieving "legendary" status on the Federal bench.

In late 1976, a three-judge panel that included McNichols declared one provision of the original Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to be unconstitutional. They ruled (Idaho State Journal, Pocatello, January 2, 1977) that a clause authorizing inspections of a business site without a search warrant violated the Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The U. S. Supreme Court later affirmed that decision. Thus, except in cases involving “closely regulated” industries, an OSHA inspector must obtain the owner’s consent or have a judge issue a search warrant.

During that same period, McNichols presided over a case brought by computer disk maker CalComp against International Business Machines (IBM). CalComp was a so-called “plug-compatible manufacturer” (PCM), which built computer peripherals for IBM personal computers. CalComp insisted that IBM had engaged in illegal monopolistic behavior, causing great harm to their company. The suit was filed in late 1973 and three years of discovery followed.

The actual trial began in mid-November 1976 and CalComp’s presentation ran into February. As soon as they finished, IBM countered with a motion for a directed verdict against CalComp, supporting it with a substantial legal brief. Judge McNichols weighed the evidence and then ruled in their favor, taking the case out of the hands of the jury. CalComp appealed, but a three-judge panel affirmed McNichols’ decision.

In 1981, McNichols chose "Senior" judicial status. After that he handled cases only part-time, but remained active in legal affairs for the rest of his life. In 1984, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America presented McNichols with the Outstanding Federal Trial Judge Award.

University of Idaho Law Library.
In addition to his legal activities, Judge McNichols taught classes for a time at the University of Idaho College of Law. After his death from a heart attack in December 1985, numerous prominent leaders – former governors, senators, and legal professionals – offered tributes to McNichols' judicial skills, wit, and "gentlemanliness."

He is honored at the University by the "Judge Ray C. McNichols Memorial Fund" and the "Raymond C. McNichols Moot Court Competition."

In moot court competitions, students prepare legal briefs and argue hypothetical appeals cases, often before real judges. This is training for appellate arguments, which involve arguing specific points of law after a trial verdict has been made. Unlike a trial, there is no presentation of testimony or other evidence and decisions are made by judges, rather than a jury.
References: Bruce H. Bruemmer, Kevin D. Corbitt, “Historical Note,” California Computer Products, Inc., and Century Data Systems, Inc., vs. International Business Machines Corporation Records, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota (December 1996).
“District Judge Ray C. McNichols,” U.S. Courts, District of Idaho.
“Idaho Federal Judge Ray McNichols Dies,” Spokane Chronicle (Dec 26, 1985).
Robert L. Knox, “New Developments in the Law on Monopoly: The Impact of the IBM West Coast Cases,” Vol. 14, Golden Gate University Law Review, San Francisco, California (1984).
“Raymond Clyne McNichols,” Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, Federal Judicial Center.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Oregon Treaty of 1846 Largely Settles U. S.-Canadian Border [otd 06/15]

President Polk. Library of Congress.
On June 15, 1846, the United States and Great Britain reached an agreement that settled almost all the remaining disputes about the border between the U. S. and Canada. This treaty, arranged under President James K. Polk, meant that the future states of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and some of Montana were indeed part of the United States.

The U. S.-Canadian boundary had been established as far west as the Continental Divide by the "joint occupancy" treaty of 1818 [blog, October 20]. That had left the area west of the Divide between latitude 42º N and 54º 40' N "in limbo." People commonly referred to that region as the “Oregon Country,” and some in the U. S. wanted all of it. (Note that "we" usually say "Americans" in cases like this ... but citizens of Canada are also "Americans," so I've tried to be very specific.)

Russian claims to the area complicated matters until they reached accommodations with the other two countries in 1824-1825. The Russians finally abandoned Fort Ross in northern California (Spanish-claimed territory) in 1841.

In the U. S., the issue boiled over during the 1844 presidential elections. The Democratic Party platform took an aggressive expansionist stance. Platform provisions demanded the annexation of Texas and laid claim to the entire Oregon Country. Their candidate, James K. Polk, eagerly ran on that platform. The Whigs equivocated and their candidate, Henry Clay, could not seem to make up his mind.

Southern expansionists supported the Texas annexation, partly because that would add another slave state to the Union. Northerners wanted the Oregon Country because it was seen as our “due” and would add several non-slave states. Claims and counter-claims muddled the Oregon issue in the minds of voters, whereas the Texas situation was clear-cut.
Disputed Pacific Northwest region.
Slightly modified Oregon Country map from Wikipedia Commons,
original creator not specifically identified.
Polk won the election by a close margin in the popular vote: less than 40 thousand out of over 2.6 million cast. Outgoing President John Tyler, a Whig, moved quickly to "steal his thunder." With Tyler’s urging, Congress passed a joint resolution to annex Texas. Texans then voted for a matching Ordinance of Annexation. Thus, statehood for Texas became a non-issue for the new administration.

With Texas relegated to "old news," rhetoric on the Oregon Question heated up. The inflammatory slogan, "Fifty-four Forty or Fight," espoused the position that the U. S. should demand the maximum concession on the Canadian border dispute.

However, as Texas statehood moved toward reality, it became clear that war with Mexico would almost certainly result. At the time, chaos gripped Mexican leadership, with the ministerial “lineup” changing almost monthly. The only constant, it seemed, was popular anger over the loss of Texas. Officials who made concessions to the U. S. would be driven from office. So, barring some major change in Polk’s position, Mexican leaders almost had to go to war … even though many knew Mexico would probably lose.

At the same time, American representatives in London warned that annoyed British officials were now considering preparations for war. Polk and his colleagues realized they were in no position to fight two foreign wars, especially when one of the opponents was the greatest power on Earth.

Thus, “cooler heads prevailed” and the new treaty ended the dispute with Great Britain just over a month after Congress declared war on Mexico.
References: [Brit]
Walter T. K. Nugent, Habits of Empire: A History of American Expansion, Alfred A. Knopf, New York (2008).
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, Oxford University Press (1965).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

President Andrew Johnson Authorizes Fort Hall Indian Reservation [otd 06/14]

President Johnson, 1870-1880.
Library of Congress.
On June 14, 1867, President Andrew Johnson approved an executive order devised by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The order defined a reservation bounded generally by the Portneuf, Snake, and Blackfoot rivers, and by regional divides to the south and east.

There was a slight "catch" involved, however. The Shoshone and Bannock bands for whom the reservation was created had not yet said they would stay there. Various accords signed in 1863, including the “Box Elder Treaty” [blog, July 30], had been peace agreements, not reservation assignments.

Those treaties were largely meant to allow safe passage for white travelers through regions where the Shoshones commonly roamed. In return, government agents would give the bands provisions and other goods. The agreements outlined where the terms generally applied, but did not constraint the bands to remain within those (vague) boundaries.

This loose approach soon became untenable, largely due to white settlement. Many hunter-gatherer societies live “on the edge” of hunger. That was certainly true in the arid country occupied by the Sho-Bans (a modern term). White settlers naturally occupied the most productive lands first. Thus, they depleted natural food sources out of all proportion to their small initial numbers.

By 1865-1867, many bands had become dependent upon the government allotments just to avoid starvation. Officials decided the only workable answer was to move the tribes onto reservations. There, they could be taught to become self-sufficient farmers. Just over a year after Johnson’s executive order, the tribes acquiesced to the "Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868," in which they agreed to occupy the reservation.

In return, the government made many promises. A reservation physician would provide medical service. Also, craftsmen (carpenter, blacksmith, etc.) would be available to teach these skills to the Indians. Tribesmen who made "good faith" efforts to cultivate the land would receive, for up to four years, an allotment of seed and necessary farm implements.
Fort Hall Reservation Indians, ca. 1875. Library of Congress.

A number of buildings would be erected at government expense, and each Indian would receive an annual allotment of warm clothing, or the materials to make those garments. Other clauses promised an allowance that might be used for food, presumably to carry them through the period until they could raise their own.

As a concession to get the Indians to agree, the Bridger Treaty reserved the southern Camas Prairie for their use. Sadly, the Sho-Ban suffered through years of broken promises: inadequate food and clothing, no seed or training, and so on. All that, plus white violation of the Camas Prairie provision, would set off the Bannock War of 1878 [blog, June 8].

Moreover, by the end of the century, “re-negoiations” drastically reduced the size of the reservation, from an original 1.8 million acres to around 540 thousand. Finally, in 1936 and 1937, the tribes created a governing constitution and bylaws, and organized themselves into a Federally-chartered corporation.

It has taken far too long, but at least today the Sho-Ban control their own destiny. They experience the same economic ups and downs as their non-Indian neighbors, but by and large they can provide reasonable services and opportunities for their people.
References: [Hawley]
Charles Joseph Kappler (ed.), Indian affairs: Laws and Treaties, Volume I, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. (1903).
Brigham D. Madsen, The Northern Shoshoni, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1980).
Shoshone Bannock Tribes web site.