Monday, July 31, 2017

Gooding College President and Methodist Minister Charles Wesley Tenney [otd 07/31]

Charles Wesley Tenney, LL.D., was born in Vancouver, Washington on July 31, 1873. His father, Horace Dewey Tenney from Vermont, pioneered in Washington by way of California in 1863. Horace became a member of the Sons of the American Revolution through his great-grandfather, Josiah, who served three years with the Third Massachusetts Regiment. Charles graduated from Willamette University, Salem, Oregon, in 1898, with a Bachelor’s degree (Ph.B). He immediately enrolled at the Oregon Law School.

However, during his time at Willamette, Tenney had also been designated a Deacon in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Thus, after a year at the Law School he was called to teach at the Montana Wesleyan College in Helena, Montana. Charles arrived as Professor of Civics and Economics for the fall semester (Helena Independent, September 14, 1899).
Helena, ca 1908. Library of Congress.
After two years, Tenney was placed in full control of the college, although he was not given the top title. Then, in August 1903, Charles was ordained in the ministry, and was thereafter referred to as the President of the College. In 1908, he obtained his Master’s degree from George Washington University, in Washington, D. C.

Tenney remained President of the College until 1913, when he became Rural School Inspector for the state of Montana. He held that position into 1917, and then became Superintendent of Schools at Libby, Montana. During the summer of that year, Charles taught classes on rural school organization and leadership at Syracuse University. He also gave summer institute lectures at two schools in South Dakota (Anaconda Standard, April 16, 1917).

In 1918, Tenney was called to the Presidency of Gooding College, located south of Gooding, Idaho. The Methodist Episcopal Church established the College in 1917. The school had moved from temporary quarters into new buildings at the end of November. Before the church assigned Tenney there in September 1918, the school was apparently headed by a Vice President.

Charles was formally installed as President on March 21, 1919, in a program that included Idaho Governor D. W. Davis [blog April 23] and former governor and future U. S. Senator Frank R. Gooding. The school offered a Bachelor of Arts degree, being particularly strong in the fine arts.

In 1927, Charles received an LL.D. from Helena’s Intermountain Union College, a predecessor to Rocky Mountain College. Dr. Tenney would see Gooding College through a period of growth, followed by its decline. Unfortunately, the Great Depression crippled the College, as it did many other small schools. By the mid-1930s, Charles had come under pressure to add non-academic classes (“manual arts,” presumably) to the curriculum. He resigned as of the end of the 1934-1935 school year (The Oregonian, April 17, 1935).
Gooding College. National Register of Historic Places
Gooding College folded in 1938, and the property was donated to the state of Idaho in 1941. The buildings housed a tuberculosis hospital for over twenty years after 1946. The main structures were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. More recently, part of the property has been converted to a bed and breakfast.

Dr. Tenney worked at the Institute of Religious Studies on the University of Idaho Campus for about a year. He then spent about four years as an “office employee” for a religious correspondence school, working from Portland, Oregon.

Starting in about September 1940, Charles served as a “supply pastor” in and around the city. The following year, he became the regular pastor at Bennett Chapel, a small Methodist church in East Portland. Tenney finally retired from active ministry in late 1943. He passed away in November 1947.
References: [Defen]
“Ailment Fatal to Educator,” The Oregonian, Portland (November 30, 1947).
“Educational News – Idaho,” Journal of Education: New England and National, Volume 89, Boston (January 2, 1919).
"Gooding College," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service (1983).

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Chief Pocatello Signs "Box Elder" Peace Treaty [otd 07/30]

On July 30, 1863, Shoshone Chief Pocatello signed the Treaty of Box Elder. In return for promises of food and other compensation for the game and land preempted by whites, the Chief agreed to cease his attacks on Oregon Trail travelers and southeast Idaho settlers.

Chief Pocatello sculpture*.
[Portneuf] Valley Pride project.
The man whom whites called "Pocatello" was born in 1815-1825 somewhere in the Grouse Creek area of Utah, 35-40 miles south of Oakley, Idaho. He grew up to become a strong-minded, decisive chief.

The tribe migrated seasonally through Idaho and Utah: north to the Snake, east to the Portneuf and Blackfoot rivers, and then south along the Bear River. Sometimes, they wintered near the Great Salt Lake. They encountered no serous difficulties with the mountain men who shared their territory after about 1825.

Osborne Russell, for example, lived with the local Indians during the winter of 1840-1841. They passed the time in conversation in which “The principal topic which was discussed was the political affairs of the Rocky Mountains: The state of governments among the different tribes, the personal characters of the most distinguished warriors Chiefs etc.”

But then the California gold rush brought hordes of travelers through the region. Also, Mormons began to settle there, pushing the Indians off the land. What started the trouble is impossible to say, and matters little: counter-attack followed attack, atrocity matched atrocity.

By around 1860, the chief had a reputation as a "bad" Indian, and whites blamed him for many attacks he had nothing to do with. Then, on January 29, 1863, Volunteer troops under Colonel Patrick Connor slaughtered several hundred Shoshones at the Battle of Bear River (also called the "Bear River Massacre").

Shoshone Leaders. Utah State Historical Society.
Pocatello's band had no involvement in the Battle. Still, the heavy losses shocked every Shoshone and the pressure that followed forced the chief to sign the Box Elder treaty. Five years later, the Bridger Treaty of 1868 pushed the Shoshones onto the Fort Hall Indian Reservation [blog, June 14].

Indifference, and probably some corruption in the Indian Agency, basically nullified the promises made in those treaties. In 1878, all the broken promises, and other grievances, finally sparked the Bannock War [blog, June 8]. Although some Shoshones fought in that conflict, Pocatello took no part. By then, deeply weary and discouraged, the chief had withdrawn from an active leadership role. He died in 1884.

A final word about the name, which lives on as the city in southeast Idaho. It's origin is completely lost in time. We do know it's not Shoshone-Bannock: Neither language has an "L" sound. Pocatello's daughter asserted that the name had no meaning, implying it was just a nonsense term.

Yet white's called him that even before 1860, and neither trappers nor emigrants were much given to overt creativity. We do know newcomers frequently learned tribal and individual names from outsiders first, and often from enemies. That suggests possible word corruptions from Spanish, French, Nez Perce, Paiute, Piegan, or any of the other language-speakers the Shoshones regularly met. We'll probably never know for sure.

* Sculptor JD Adcox
References: Brigham D. Madsen, Chief Pocatello: The "White Plume," University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City (1986).
Brigham D. Madsen, The Northern Shoshoni, The Caxton Printers, CaIdwell, Idaho (1980)..
“The Name Pocatello,” Reference Series No. 37, Idaho State Historical Society (May 1966).
“Pocatello’s [Shoshoni] Band,” Reference Series No. 818, Idaho State Historical Society (184).
Osborne Russell, Aubrey L. Haines (ed.), Journal of a Trapper, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1965).

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Newspaperwoman and Women’s Suffrage Advocate Abigail (Scott) Duniway [otd 07/29]

On July 29, 1852, Oregon Pioneer Abigail Jane Scott wrote in her party's journal, "Three miles brought us to Goose Creek; There is grass enough here for a small party of cattle; The water is not very good, being warm and muddy."
“Emigrants Crossing the Plains,” Henry Bryan Hall engraving.
Library of Congress.

Goose Creek was an important watering place on the Oregon Trail, located near where Burley is today. Abigail's father, John Tucker Scott, had assigned her primary responsibility for keeping a daily journal of the trip. She was 18 years old.
Their story supports the point that, by and large, poor families did not emigrate to the western Territories. They either had to already own much of the outfit – wagons, draft animals, and other equipment – or purchase it. The cost of provisions for the long journey added to their initial outlay.

The Scott train reached Idaho in mid-July. Her first impressions were mixed: "We encamped near the Bear River and find good grass; The mosquitoes are troublesome in the extreme; passed four graves."

At "The Cedars," future site of Milner Dam, the Snake River constricts into a cleft half as wide and twice as deep as before. Abigail wrote, "The river here runs through a rocky kanyon. The current is remarkably swift and the water tumbles over the rocks with a roaring noise; ... Huge piles of rock rise up in bold array around me with often a cedar nodding at their tops."

Here, the party experienced a tragedy when the men drove their small band of cattle down to the river for a vital drink. The herd bolted across the river and, sadly, a "worthy young man" drowned in the process of recovering them.

In fact, death was a constant companion of the Oregon Trail pioneers. Just after the train left Idaho, Abigail wrote, "There are two graves near our camp, of a recent date; We have seen several graves every day for the past week but I have beene rather negligent, and consequently took no note of them; Some of our folks are yet quite sick."

Abigail Scott Duniway.
Library of Congress.
In Oregon, Abigail taught school briefly before marrying Benjamin C. Duniway in 1853. When an accident restricted Ben to light work, Abigail supported the family in various ways. Mainly she worked as a writer, lecturer, and editor of the New Northwest newspaper, which she started in 1871. She made the paper a vehicle for advocating women's rights.

Duniway lectured all over the Northwest, including many appearances in Idaho. Also, from about 1886 until 1894, Abigail helped run a livestock ranch in Idaho's Pahsimeroi Valley. Although she deferred to Idaho leaders, she always took a proactive approach in her advocacy of women's rights.

She visited Boise two months after the legislature overwhelmingly passed a resolution to put a women's suffrage amendment on the ballot in 1896. In a public lecture, she praised the men who had passed the measure and asked, “Will you, women of Idaho, sit supinely by, and let your proffered opportunity go by default because of your own apathy, or will you help those men, by becoming your own standard bearers … ?”

Her message helped energize support groups to push the amendment all over Idaho. The measure passed easily that fall [blog, Nov 3].

Duniway was less successful in Oregon, where she lived after 1894. That state finally did grant women the right to vote in 1912. Abigail died in 1915, too early to celebrate passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
References: [French]
Ellen Druckenbrod, Abigail Scott Duniway & Idaho's Woman Suffrage Movement, Boise Public Library, Boise, Idaho (2005).
Abigail Scott Duniway, Path Breaking, James, Kerns & Abbott Co., Portland, Oregon (1914).
Abigail Jane Scott, "Journal of a Trip to Oregon," Covered Wagon Women, Vol. 5, Kenneth L. Homes, David C. Duniway (eds.), University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1997).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cowboys Drive Cattle Across Idaho into Wyoming and Nevada [otd 07/28]

On July 28, 1876, cowboy cook William Emsley Jackson wrote in his diary, "Three emigrant teams passed us while in camp – are being rushed right along now. Five herds of cattle between here and Georgetown."
Working chuckwagon.

Georgetown, Idaho is located about 12 miles north of Montpelier, in the southeast corner of the state. Jackson's diary emphasizes the point that, by the mid-1870s, stockmen were driving large cattle bands east across Idaho. The drive for which William Emsley Jackson cooked was one of two herds belonging to G. W. Lang and a Mr. Shadley. They had purchased about four thousand head in Oregon and split them into two more manageable drives.

Idaho had been an importer of live cattle in the early years of the decade, starting with herds from Oregon and California. They also trailed large bands of cheap Texas cattle into the Territory. That continued even as late as 1873.

Yet as early as 1870, a stockman had driven two thousand surplus sheep from Oregon into Montana. In 1874, Oregon drovers trailed hundreds, if not thousands of cattle across Idaho to ranges and markets in Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska. By then, or 1875 at the latest, Idaho stockmen also had surpluses. Newspaper reports show they were driving herds to Winnemucca, Nevada for shipment to California.

The Washington and Oregon herds generally followed one of two routes across Idaho. One roughly back-tracked the southern Oregon Trail along that side of the Snake River. The other route crossed the Snake early, veered south of Boise, and turned east towards Fairfield and south of Arco (neither of which existed then). From there, they continued to the ford that crossed the Snake north of Eagle Rock (today's Idaho Falls).

Jackson joined the drive in May. Unfortunately, he lost the booklet he started with, so his actual day-to-day observations don't resume until the latter part of June. The herd was then 20-25 miles west of today's Twin Falls. On July 8th, the drive reached the Raft River, where they camped.
Cattle on the move, National Park Service.

Six days later, they crossed the Portneuf River. Jackson wrote, "Two emigrant wagons passed us before we got out of camp." He then described the area and concluded, "it is a beautiful country, though I should judge it is too wet and owing to the altitude, too cold for a farming country. I understand this to be the Indian reservation. There are thousands of acres of good hay land in this valley that never saw a sickle."

After passing Georgetown on the 28th, the Lang-Shadley herd went on by Montpelier. Jackson said, "The principal occupation of the people of this region is stock raising."

A later observation confirmed that Idaho cattle were also being trailed east. Out on the Laramie Plain in Wyoming, Jackson wrote, "We pass a herd of about 500 cattle from Marsh Valley, Idaho. Their destination was Laramie."

A few months later, the Idaho Statesman announced (February 24, 1877), that stockman Edward Pinkham was planning a cattle drive from his ranch near the mouth of the Payette River. He intended to "start as early as the grass will permit, and probably drive as far as the Laramie valley."

Late that year, the Statesman (December 11, 1877) noted that, "Mr. Pinkham sold out his band at fair prices." However, Pinkham felt he might have done better had he grazed the herd over the winter so they could regain the weight lost on the drive.
References: William Emsley Jackson, J. Orin Oliphant (ed.), William Emsley Jackson's Diary..., Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, Washington (1984).
David L. Shirk, Martin F. Schimdt (ed.), The Cattle Drives of David Shirk, Champoeg Press, Portland, Oregon (1956).
J. Orin Oliphant, On the Cattle Ranges of the Oregon Country, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1968).

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Methodist Minister Performs First Religious Service in Idaho [otd 07/27]

Nathaniel J. Wyeth, 1840.
Illustration for Harper’s Magazine,
November 1892.
On July 27, 1834, Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth was working at his new Fort Hall site [blog, July 14]. In his Journal he recorded that a Frenchman named "Kanseau" had been killed during a horse race.

Kanseau worked for the Hudson's Bay Company and, Wyeth wrote, "his comrades erected a decent tomb for him. Service for him was performed by the Canadians in the Catholic form, by Mr. Lee in the Protestant form, and by the Indians in their form, as he had Indian family. He at least was well buried."

The Catholic form was surely the ad hoc performance one might expect from a rough band of men who had been away from civilization for years. However, the Reverend Jason Lee would have performed the official Methodist funerary rites, so Lee is credited with conducting the first European religious services held in Idaho.

Lee was born near the tiny village of Stanstead, which now straddles the Canadian border. At the time, the area was part of Vermont, so Lee was born a U. S. citizen. He spent several years as a logger, then felt "the call" and attended Wesleyan Academy, a Methodist prep school.

Then a sequence that was apparently equal parts religious fervor and well-meaning humbug captured the imagination of church leaders. The scheme is too convoluted to give the details here. In sum, zealous churchmen learned of a fruitless meeting between an Indian delegation and William Clark, now essentially Indian Agent for the West. These evangelists transformed the Indians’ confused inquiry into an eloquent, heart-felt plea for religious enlightenment.

As a result, the church felt a need to send missionaries to carry the white man's religion to the "benighted savages" of the Oregon Country. (That designation encompassed all of our Pacific Northwest, plus a goodly chunk of today's British Columbia).

Rev. Jason Lee.
Oregon Historical Society.
To the man tasked with selecting a leader, Lee – sturdy and vigorous from his hard work outdoors – seemed the only possible candidate. But neither Lee nor, apparently, anyone else in the church had the slightest notion of how to organize an expedition into the wilds of the Oregon Country. 

Enter Nathaniel Wyeth, preparing for his second trading venture into the area. His extant letters give no indication as to why he agreed to shepherd the missionary party west, although some imaginative and plausible ideas have been advanced. Wyeth might have simply decided that the presence of American missionaries would encourage emigration from the States. That, in turn, would help him break the British-Canadian monopoly in the Oregon Country.

Wyeth's second venture failed as miserably as the first. However, if he did foresee the Methodist party as an opening wedge, he was indeed correct. Jason Lee turned out to be a better settlement builder than missionary, although he founded quite a number of missions. He proved far more effective at helping to organize a new, American government for what became Oregon Territory.
References: [B&W], [French]
Malcom Clark, Eden Seekers: The Settlement of Oregon, 1818-1862, Houghton Mifflin Company (1981).
Nathaniel J. Wyeth, Don Johnson (ed.), The Journals of Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth's Expeditions to the Oregon Country 1831-1836, Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, Washington (1984).

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reynolds Distributes First Issue of The Idaho Statesman, in Boise [otd 07/26]

Statesman inaugural issue.
On Tuesday, July 26, 1864, the first issue of the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, a small four-column publication, came off the presses in Boise City. The newspaper debuted that day because of some enthusiastic, and practical, advocacy by a team of Boise businessmen.

Statesman founder James S. Reynolds told an 1870 Census taker he had been born in New York State, in 1830. However, the Illustrated History of the State of Idaho had information that he was born in Maine, and had worked “in the lumber camps of the Pine Tree State.” In any case, he later made his way to Oregon by way of California. At The Dalles, he met two brothers, Thomas and Richard Reynolds (who bore no relation to James). These young men owned a printing outfit and knew how to use it.

At that time, the Boise Basin gold fields were booming. The men compared notes and decided that a newspaper in Idaho City could be a money-making venture. So off they went, getting as far as Boise City on July 15, 1864. There, they stopped at the Riggs & Agnew store to ask about the best way to get their heavy load to their destination.

Henry C. Riggs and James D. Agnew, two of the founders of Boise City, grew very excited when they learned what the threesome intended. They quickly gathered a group of fellow businessmen to propose that the Reynolds site their newspaper in their small hamlet on the Boise River. They surely must have also pointed out that Idaho City already had three established newspapers.

Just eleven days later that first issue hit the streets. The publication included generally standard fare: news of the war, Territorial political conventions, many advertisements, and so on. It also contained a slam at the editor of a rival newspaper, the Boise News in Idaho City. The brief item described him as “a large sized brick.”

They had only been able to find a two-room log cabin to house their venture, but made do. James Reynolds served as editor, giving the paper a Republican, abolitionist, and pro-Union bent. Oddly enough, the Reynolds brothers, from Missouri, and many of the paper's backers and readers held Southern sympathies.
Statesman building, 1866. Idaho Statesman archives.

Still, the partners managed to work together and the newspaper became a resounding success. Early subscriptions ran $1 for a week, $3 for a month, or $20 for a year.

About two years after that first issue, the Reynolds brothers sold their share to James and moved back to Missouri. In 1869, Reynolds tried to sell the paper, but the deal fell through. Three years later, he finally found a buyer, former judge Milton Kelly.

Kelly changed the paper to a daily in 1888, which has been its main schedule ever since. A year later, he sold the Statesman to a group led by livestock dealer Calvin Cobb. Cobb operated the paper until his death in 1928. Under his leadership, the newspaper became less and less partisan, but still held its generally-acknowledged position as the "lead" newspaper for the state of Idaho.

The Statesman remained under local ownership until 1963, when it became part of a large newspaper holding company.
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Rocky Barker, “It's the Statesman's 145th anniversary! From Lincoln to Obama, we have been there,” The Idaho Statesman, Boise (July 26, 2009).
“James S. Reynolds, ca. 1830-September 14, 1897,” Reference Series No. 593, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).
Idaho Statesman, Official Web Site.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Long-Time U. S. Senator Frank Church [otd 07/25]

Senator Church. Library of Congress.
U.S. Senator and third-generation Idahoan Frank Forrester Church was born July 25, 1924 in Boise. In 1942, he started school at Stanford University, but left to enlist in the U. S. Army the following year. After the war, despite a bout with cancer, he completed his education, obtaining a law degree from Stanford in 1950.

He opened a Boise law practice, but quickly embarked upon his real goal. He wanted to be a professional politician like his hero, William A. Borah [blog, June 29]. In 1952, Church ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature. Yet he succeeded four years later in a bid for a U. S. Senate seat.

Church would be re-elected to the Senate for three more terms. Thus, this short essay can only touch the highlights of his career. Although only a freshman Senator, he helped shepherd the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into law, and continued to support other civil rights legislation. Appointed to the Special Committee on Aging in 1967, Church became Chairman of that group five years later. He thus actively sponsored and promoted medical, housing, and other programs for the elderly.

He supported the limited early U. S. involvement in Vietnam, but then led the successful fight to end our heavier role in the conflict. Church also gained much notoriety for his aggressive investigation of the Central Intelligence Agency. His committee certainly found much to condemn, and much that needed fixing. However, corrective measures imposed by Congress had many unintended consequences. For example, agents who seek information from knowledgeable locals – "Humlnt" or Human Intelligence – must often deal with unsavory, even reprehensible characters. New Congressional guidelines made such contacts difficult, if not next to impossible.

Many have asked how Church, with his mostly liberal views, spent four terms in the Senate from what is acknowledged to be a conservative state. His help to the elderly was definitely a plus. Also, despite caricatures to the contrary, Idahoans have a tradition of embracing some liberal (so-called) causes. For example, only three states preceded Idaho in granting women the right to vote (almost a quarter century before the Nineteenth Amendment).

Church opposed a liberal position that would have been a "third rail" issue in Idaho: gun control. He was also very careful in how he handled agricultural legislation. But perhaps more than anything else, the Senator was a master of "pork barrel" politics. He funneled money to the state far in excess of what its minor population might otherwise warrant.
Wilderness area, Idaho. Bureau of Land Management photo.
Finally, some of his environmental positions resonated with many voters. (Some, however, found them elitist, and complained about the loss of jobs.) The Frank Church/River-of-No-Return Wilderness Area in central Idaho is so named in his honor.

In 1976, Church pursued the Democratic Party nomination for President. Although he won four primaries, he chose to end his candidacy. About that same time, Church helped secure Senate passage of treaties to end U. S. ownership of the Panama Canal. His advocacy of those accords, plus other issues, allowed Congressman Steve Symms to defeat Church’s bid for re-election in 1980. Church died of pancreatic cancer in April 1984.
References: Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Special Collections: The Frank Church Papers, Boise State University (1988)
“Frank Forrester Church,” Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress.
Stephen F. Knott, “Congressional Oversight and the Crippling of the CIA,” History News Network, George Mason University (November 4, 2001).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Railroad Begins Narrow Gauge Track Conversion in Eastern Idaho [otd 07/24]

On Sunday July 24, 1887, multiple crews assembled at intervals along the 262 miles of narrow-gauge track between Pocatello, Idaho and Garrison, Montana. They worked for the Utah & Northern Railroad (U&N RR) Company. This event crowned a lengthy effort to prepare for the moment.
U&N RR train, Beaver Canyon, Idaho, ca 1885.
Idaho Museum of Natural History.

The U&N RR first completed its line across eastern Idaho and into Montana in 1879-1880. The company had made an early decision to run narrow gauge. Narrow gauge railroads are much cheaper to build than standard gauge, especially in mountainous country. Clearly, crews have to move less material to make cuts, fills, and tunnels, and to lay the road bed. Plus, bridges don’t have to be as wide. Less obviously, narrow gauge trains can turn through tighter curves. This allows the tracks to bend around obstacles that would have to be removed for standard gauge.

However, narrow gauge trains carry a smaller payload, and they are (obviously) incompatible with standard gauge systems. Both the Union Pacific and the Oregon Short Line railroads ran standard gauge. Thus, goods moving between the systems had to be bodily transferred from one to the other. Operators had some tricks to improve the process, but it still added time and expense to all their shipments.

The problem became more acute as shipping volume rose. In 1886, the line purchased ten new engines from the Brooks Locomotive Works. These more powerful machines weighed a third more than the U&N's older stock, and over-stressed the lighter narrow gauge rails, particularly on some curves.
Brooks-built steam locomotive, ca. 1890.
Grant County [Oregon] Historical Museum.

To prepare for the conversion to standard gauge, management dispatched crews to widen the roadbed, including all the cuts, fills, and bridges. In some areas, new bed had to be laid to straighten out curves too tight for standard-gauge trains. Workers performed most of these tasks while regular train service continued.

The next step had to be completed in small stages. One team moved along a segment of old line, tearing up the light narrow-gauge rails and short ties. Behind them, another group laid full-length ties and the new, heavier rails. They would fully anchor one rail, while the other got just enough spikes for short-term operation. This had to be completed before the next scheduled train came through.

Next, however, they had to complete the actual switch from narrow to standard width all at once, to avoid a major interruption in service. Hence, on July 24, the U&N gathered enough crews to change the entire line after the last scheduled train passed over the narrow gauge track.

Records indicate that the conversion began at 2:00 o'clock the next morning: pull spikes, move rail over, drive new spikes, then on to the next rail. The whole job was done by the early afternoon of July 25, with no break in service.

As soon as reports reached Pocatello that the first section was done, the Superintendent of the Idaho Division started north with a short special train (Idaho Register, Idaho Falls, July 30, 1887).). The changeover was then celebrated with stops at each station along the way.
References: [B&W]
Merrill D. Beal, Intermountain Railroads: Standard and Narrow Gauge, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho
George Woodman Hilton, American Narrow Gauge Railroads, Stanford University Press (1990).
Alex Hyslop, “Terrifying Tale of a Killer Steam Engine,” Pocatello Tribune (March 20, 1900).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Gambler Patterson Shoots and Kills Ex-Sheriff Pinkham [otd 07/23]

Sumner Pinkham.
Idaho City Historical Foundation.
On Sunday, July 23, 1865, businessman and ex-sheriff Sumner Pinkham took a hired carriage from Idaho City to a resort about two miles west of town. Locals often enjoyed a relaxing dip in the pool fed by the warm springs out back. According to some, Pinkham and a few friends were soon in the bar singing raucous anti-Secesh songs. Yet others would dispute even that apparently simple fact.

A native of Maine, Pinkham had joined the rush to California gold in 1849 and then knocked around the towns there and possibly in Oregon for the next decade. He moved to the Idaho gold camps in 1862. When Idaho became a Territory, Pinkham’s Radical Republican politics – he was an ardent Abolitionist –won him appointment as Boise County’s first sheriff.

However, a massive influx of Southerners had aligned the voter roles to favor Democrats, and the next election turned Pinkham out. Ferdinand “Ferd” Patterson was among those Southerners.

From Tennessee, apparently, he too had tried his hand in California, then in Oregon, and finally in Idaho. Records indicate that by the time Patterson reached Idaho, he had killed at least two men in gun fights, but got off on “self-defense” pleas. Moreover, charged for assault on a disreputable female companion in Oregon, he had simply skipped bail. Although he had done some prospecting, Patterson was primarily a professional gambler.

As the Civil War neared its end, Ferd complained bitterly about the South’s impending defeat. He and Pinkham had already exchanged hot words. Then, with the war over, the ex-sheriff rubbed salt in Southern wounds by staging a 4th of July parade in which pro-Union men marched through the streets, singing patriotic and anti-Secesh songs.

Ferd Patterson.
Idaho City Historical Foundation.
On July 23, Patterson entered the resort bar while Pinkham was paying his bill. At this point, Ferd apparently ignored the ex-sheriff and went on to the warm pools. Then, witnesses concurred, Patterson exited the resort while Pinkham stood outside waiting for a carriage back into Idaho City. Here, witnesses agreed on only two points: Patterson said the word “draw” in some (disputed) context, then taunted Pinkham as an “Abolitionist son-of-a-bitch.”

Who drew first was also in dispute. Patterson certainly shot quicker, before Pinkham got off one inaccurate response and then took a second bullet. Ferd fled to avoid any immediate retaliation, but quickly surrendered when officers caught up with him about fourteen miles away, on the road to Boise.

As usual in such affrays, witnesses gave muddled and contradictory testimony, and friend and foe alike expected an acquittal. After being freed by reason of “self-defense,” Patterson left the region for Walla Walla, fearing he wasn’t safe in Idaho City.

He did not, however, go far enough.  The following February, a man shot Patterson full of holes while he visited a barbershop. Most in the region saw the shooting as vengeance for the Pinkham killing. The shooter claimed that Patterson had threatened him, and the first trial ended in a hung jury.

During the wait for a new trial, the man walked away from jail. Authorities arrested him a few months later in San Francisco, but he was released before he could be extradited (Idaho Statesman, November 1, 1866). He then disappeared from history.
References: [B&W]
Boise County, Idaho.
Bill Gulick, Outlaws of the Pacific Northwest, Caxton Press, Caldwell Idaho (2000).
Arthur A. Hart, Basin of Gold: Life in Boise Basin, 1862-1890, Idaho City Historical Foundation (© 1986, Fourth printing 2002).
N. P. Langford, Vigilante Days and Ways, Montana State University (1957). Original publication in 1890.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Army Establishes Fort Lapwai on the Nez Percé Indian Reservation [otd 07/22]

According to Idaho State Historical Society records, a troop of Oregon Volunteer cavalry established Camp – later Fort – Lapwai on July 22, 1862. The location selected was near the mission established by Presbyterian minister Henry Harmon Spalding in 1836 [blog, Nov 29]. Although the church abandoned the mission after the Whitman Massacre in 1847, the Nez Percé Indians continued to occupy the site.

When Elias Pierce discovered gold on Orofino Creek, in 1860, prospectors poured into the region. However, the gold fields lay within the boundary of the Nez Percé Indian Reservation established in 1855. The Indians demanded that white authorities expel the invaders, as stipulated in the 1855 treaty.

White officials met at Lapwai with the Nez Percé in August 1861. The results were inconclusive, so authorities stationed a company of dragoons near the meeting place. They claimed the troop was there to protect the Nez Percé, and keep the miners in line. However, the troopers did absolutely nothing to curb trespassers. There’s no question that their real job was to over-awe the more militant factions within the tribe.

Officials decided they needed a more permanent base, so the Army built Camp Lapwai near the old mission. By the fall of 1862, they had stationed two cavalry companies there. That did not solve the problem, and the local Indian Agent used the turmoil to foist a new treaty on the Nez Percé. The 1863 Treaty drastically reduced the size of the reservation and sowed the seeds of future conflict [blog, June 9].

The Army temporarily vacated Fort Lapwai after the Civil War, when authorities disbanded many Volunteer regiments and there was a delay in replacing them with Regulars. By late 1867, the Department had stationed two cavalry companies at the installation. These troops played a key role when lingering 1863 treaty tensions exploded into the Nez Percé War of 1877. Of course, Nez Percé warriors badly beat the Lapwai soldiers who responded first to the outbreak [blog, June 17]. However, the fort then became a vital staging area for additional troops and supplies to fight the war.

In 1878, the Army established Fort Coeur d'Alene at what soon became the town of Coeur d'Alene City [blog, April 16]. This provided a post from which authorities could observe activities at both the Coeur d'Alene and Nez Percé Indian reservations.
Fort Lapwai, ca 1890. National Park Service.
When civilian steamboats appeared on Lake Coeur d’Alene in 1883-1884 [blog, Apr 4], it became clear that Fort Coeur d'Alene was the more effective location. The War Department decommissioned Fort Lapwai in June 1884. The structures basically reverted to tribal use by default.

The History page of the City of Lapwai says, “The Northern Idaho Indian Agency, originally located at Spalding, was relocated to Fort Lapwai in 1904. Fort Lapwai was later converted into a government Indian school and then into a tuberculosis sanatorium with a hospital, boys' and girls' dormitories, and a school.
"Lapwai remains as the seat of government for the Nez Perce Indian Nation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Northern Idaho Indian Agency is also still located in Lapwai."
Reference: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“Fort Lapwai,” Idaho Museum of Natural History Digital Atlas, Idaho State University, Pocatello.
“Idaho Military Posts and Camps,” Reference Series No. 63, Idaho State Historical Society (May 1971).

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ammunition Innovator and Manufacturer Richard, "Dick," Speer [otd 07/21]

Dick Speer.
Beal & Wells photo.
Lewiston industrialist Richard A. "Dick" Speer was born July 21, 1915 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. His father, who started out as a farmer and nurseryman, took up "manufacturing and engineering pursuits" before Richard's birth. Thus, after a year at a teachers' college, Richard landed a job in the engineering department of the Maytag Corporation.

In 1939, he began taking courses at the University of Washington in Seattle while working nights as a tool and die maker for the Boeing Aircraft Company. He would have been exempt from military service as a skilled craftsman, and also as a student. His employers and teachers would have surely discouraged Speer from enlisting for World War II.

In 1947, he moved to Lewiston, Idaho, to work with his brother, Vernon, who had founded the Speer Products Company there. The company manufactured jacketed bullets and sportmen's gun supplies, including devices to aid those who wanted to load their own ammunition. The company also produced handbooks to guide such “reloaders.” Some consider those manuals to be a “Bible” for reloading. They have been revised over the years to reflect greater knowledge of the parameters and technology involved.

Two years later, Richard left to establish his own firm, the Speer Cartridge Company. Histories of the company suggest that Dick already had the idea for a new venture when he left Boeing. At the time, hunters often could only find standard mass-production lines of ammunition. Competition shooters, and other who wanted to load their own, had few reliable sources.

Speer decided he could be that producer. The processes he designed did make high-quality components, but only if the raw materials were up to standard. Too often back then, they were not. So Speer refined his niche, noting that the big manufacturers avoided selling primers to reload dealers – ammunition reloaded by hobbyists cut into their sales.

In a somewhat fortuitous coincidence, the escalation of the Korean War created a demand for military-grade primers just as Speer turned his attention to that line. After the war, the company continued to manufacture primers for both governmental and civilian use.
Modern CCI ammunition.
Cabelas catalog image.

Early on, some confusion developed about the difference between Speer bullets (made by brother Vernon's company) and Speer cartridges. Thus, in 1956, Dick established Cascade Cartridge, Incorporated, or CCI®.

To stay ahead of the competition, Speer pushed innovative designs for all the company's products. As usual for a small company in this day and age, it eventually became a subsidiary of a large manufacturing conglomerate.

In 1968, Speer and his wife “retired” to a place in Virginia near Chesapeake Bay. Less than ten years later, Dick filed for the first of a series of patents for the “Apollo Wizard” tennis ball serving machine. In late 1982, he received the patent for a version that imparted “spin” to the ball. Dick eventually sold the company he established to make the machines. He passed away in May 1994.

Today, CCI still makes products in Lewiston, and new plants have been built elsewhere. They are still considered one of the most innovative companies in the ammunition business.
References: [B&W]
CCI Ammunition.
Ashby Koss, "The Making of Cascade Cartridge Incorporated (CCI): Dick Speer Filling the Industry Gap," Associated Content, Yahoo! Incorporated (January 08, 2008).
Nelda Knemeyer, "Obituary: Richard A. Speer, Ammunition Maker," Daily Press, Newport News, Virginia (May 12, 1994).
Richard A. Speer, “Ball Projecting Device Capable of Providing Spin,” U. S. Patent No. 4,345,578, United States Patent Office, Washington, D. C. (August 24, 1982).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Poor Roads and Blistering Weather Hobble Traffic to the Idaho Gold Camps [otd 07/20]

On July 20, 1863, The Oregonian reported, “Increased facilities are offering daily for transportation to the Boise mines. We are informed that John Slavin & Co. have established a stage line to run from the Dalles to Bannock City.”

Mining around Bannock City, soon to be re-named Idaho City, was then on the upswing compared to placer fields over the ridge along Grimes Creek. Where Grimes had little water, streams around Idaho City still provided a good flow.

However, the stage line announcement was, at best, premature. Of course, emigrants on the Oregon Trail did get wagons across Idaho and then the Blue Mountains in Oregon. However, the trip took a horrific toll on their draft animals. Even freighters, who knew the road and its dangers, lost stock.
Stagecoach on Steep Grade. U. S. Forest Service photo.

The Oregonian published (August 8, 1863) a letter from the gold country that said, “There is a terrible mortality existing among the teams on the Boise road, and the dead cattle line the road from Burnt river to the Boise basin, so that more than two weeks since I was told by a gentleman returned from there that he was not out of sight of them the whole distance.”

Steep grades and the rutted track were not the worst problem, the correspondent went on: “The alkali dust on the Burnt and Snake rivers is deadly in its effects on the heated and toiling oxen, and sometimes they fall down dead when the yoke is taken off them.”

No transport company could afford to lose stock at those rates. So, for much of 1863, pack trains – horses and mules – carried substantial amounts of supplies to the Idaho mines. But when weather conditions were favorable, teamsters brought freight wagons from depots in Umatilla and Walla Walla. They were very careful, however, to husband the strength of their animals.

As one might expect, the slow pace of these freight trains did not suit eager prospectors. So-called “saddle trains” catered to that impatience. John Hailey, who would play a prominent role in Idaho history [blog,  August 29], is credited with the first saddle train operation, in 1863. Hailey later wrote, “On the 18th day of April, I left Walla Walla with a saddle train of sixteen passengers and four pack animals for Placerville in the Boise Basin. This was the beginning of the saddle train business in the Boise Basin mines.”

Hailey and his partner, William Ish, ran a profitable passenger operation through the summer, although they did have to reduce their fare as competitors appeared. And, he said, “By September, the travel to the Basin was almost over for the season, so we engaged in packing.”
John Hailey. Library of Congress.

Ish & Hailey did not attempt even a partial stagecoach run until spring of the following year. They first ran the stage about fifty miles, from Umatilla to the west side of the Blue Mountains. That early in the season, the road beyond that would not support the stage, so the company’s saddle trains took over. They did build (future) stage stations, which allowed saddle passengers to eat, rest, and change to fresh horses.

They had the stage route from Umatilla to Placerville “ready for passengers about the 1st of June, 1864.” It does not appear the Slavin & Company operation, mentioned above, ever materialized. The Ish-Hailey outfit did  have one competitor on routes over the Blues, but traffic over the next few years remained high enough to support both.
References: John Hailey, History of Idaho, Syms-York Company, Boise, Idaho (1910).
“To the Mines,” The Oregonian, Portland (July 20, 1863).
Oscar O. Winther, The Old Oregon Country: a History of Frontier Trade, Transportation and Travel, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California (1950).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Railroad Town of Burley Incorporated [otd 7/19]

The town of Burley, Idaho, was incorporated on July 19, 1909. The village had grown explosively since being platted four years earlier, and many businesses supported the growing farm population. That included a new Bank of Commerce, founded in the spring of 1909 with former Boise Mayor James H. Hawley as Vice President.
Burley, ca 1918. [Hawley]

The location, near where Goose Creek emptied into the Snake River, was a familiar landmark on the Oregon Trail. Other than the river itself, the creek represented the last reliable water source before Rock Creek. Guidebooks warned emigrants that they faced a hard day's travel over rugged terrain. In a moderately poor year, they might find no water whatsoever.

Goose Creek water and grass also attracted stockmen and settlers. By 1900, the area had a number of homesteads. Then developer Ira Perrine [blog, May 7] spearheaded the construction of Milner Dam and its irrigation system, which spurred the creation of Twin Falls.

In late 1904, the Minidoka and Southwestern Railroad Company began construction of a branch line from Minidoka through Twin Falls to Buhl. The next year Perrine and five partners platted a town near where the tracks crossed the Snake River. They called the town Burley, after David E. Burley, an agent for the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company.

After a relatively slow start, the village developed rapidly. Its first bank, the Burley State Bank, was organized in 1906 and, as noted above, the Bank of Commerce in 1909. Then the First National Bank of Burley opened in 1913. The population stood at about 900 in 1910, but had increased to about 2,000 three years later. Four years after that, it had grown to an estimated 2,500.

French's History of Idaho (1914), emphasized the town's rapid development into a substantial, modern municipality: "The streets are well lighted, the cluster lights being used in the down town section. Burley owns and operates its own electric light, heat and power system and has the benefit of exceptionally low rates. There have just been installed municipal waterworks, which cover the entire town. A trunk sewer has also been constructed."

Six years later when Hawley produced his History, he mentioned those advances and more: "Burley ... has two weekly newspapers, three banks, a good public school system, six churches, an elaborate system of rural telephones, a sugar factory, well-stocked stores of all kinds, good hotels, and more hogs are shipped from this place than any other point on the Oregon Short Line in Idaho."
Train stop on the Minidoka-Buhl line. Twin Falls Public Library.

When the Territorial legislature created Cassia County many years earlier, the only towns of any consequence in the region were Albion and Oakley. For various reasons, Albion got the nod as county seat.

Just a year after Burley incorporated, it had a population two-and-a-half times that of Albion. Still, an attempt in 1912 to move the seat to Burley failed. Determined, folks in the area decided to push for their own (new) county, of which they would be the county seat (Idaho Statesman, November 13, 1912). Although the legislature did carve out six new counties in the next session, Burley’s scheme failed.

By 1918, the town's population was four times that of Albion and a vote moved the county seat to Burley, where it still is. In fact, today Burley is a thriving city of around 10 thousand while Albion contains only a few hundred people. Although the railroad is no longer an economic powerhouse, it still plays an important role in transporting the area's farm products.
References: [B&W], [French], Hawley]
Cassia County History, Cassia County web site.
Kathleen Hedberg, Cassia County, Idaho: The Foundation Years, The Caxton Printers (© Cassia County Commissioners, 2005).

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trappers Clash with Indians at the Battle of Pierre’s Hole [otd 07/18]

On July 18, the great mountain man rendezvous of 1832, at Pierre's Hole, was breaking up. The only Idaho location where the fur companies held their annual conclave, Pierre's Hole is known to us today as the Teton Valley.
Teton Valley – view of the three Tetons from the west.

While they were preparing to hit the trail, one trapper party noticed a column of Indians approaching. The band consisted of 150-200 individuals, including many women and children. Perhaps fifty to sixty qualified as warriors. The Gros Ventre, which these were, were allies of the notoriously hostile Blackfeet tribe. Although the Gros Ventre shared neither lineage nor language with the Blackfeet, Americans almost invariably lumped the two together.

The presence of entire family groups meant this was not a war party, and a chief rode out to parley under signs of peace. Two men, both of whom harbored virulent hatred for "the Blackfeet," went out to meet him. One, a Flathead Indian, had lost many relatives and friends to incessant Blackfeet attacks. A Blackfeet war party had also killed the father of the other intermediary, Métis Antoine Godin.

The two met the chief with all the usual signs of accommodation, and Godin accepted the other's proffered handshake. Then, in what was clearly a pre-planned moved, the Flathead shot the chief dead. One of them then grabbed the chief's bright red blanket and they raced triumphantly back to the trappers' camp.

It's not clear if the Gros Ventres knew how many whites they were up against. There is general agreement that the families began throwing up a crude palisades of soil and deadfall timbers.

By some accounts – and many were recorded – warriors began organizing an attack on the small band that had instigated the treacherous killing. Other witnesses said the Gros Ventres only formed a skirmish line to delay any further attack by the whites.

Soon however, the distinction became moot. More trappers and their Indian allies (Nez Percés and Flatheads) arrived to reinforce the first group and a hot exchange of fire ensued. Captain William L. Sublette tried to organize a general attack on the Gros Ventre's position.

Most held back, so the Captain pushed ahead with a smaller party. They retreated after several men, including Sublette himself, were wounded, and another was killed. Zenas Leonard, one of those who gave an account of the battle, helped carry one wounded man out of danger. This, he said “met my approbation precisely, for I was glad to get out of this unpleasant situation under any pretext.”
Mountain Man. Frederic Remington

Without overall leadership or proper discipline, the trappers and their allies could not mount a tight, organized siege. Someone suggested fires to burn the crude fort. Although Indian allies objected to destroying all the possible loot, the whites began to gather fuel. Then a (false) rumor spread that more Blackfeet were attacking the main trapper encampment. Many trappers rushed off, allowing the Gros Ventre to flee during the night.

Four whites were killed during the battle, along with seven of their allies. They found nine slain warriors inside the fort, along with a couple dozen dead horses, and most of the Gros Ventres baggage. Writer Washington Irving said, "The Blackfeet afterward reported that they had lost twenty-six warriors in this battle."
References: [B&W],
H. M. Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1986).
W. A. Ferris, Leroy R. Hafen (ed), Life in the Rocky Mountains, Old West Publishing Company, Denver (1983).
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).
Zenas Leonard, Milo Milton Quaife (ed.), Narrative of the Adventures of Zenas Leonard, written by himself, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1978).
“Pierre’s Hole Battleground," Reference Series No. 745, Idaho State Historical Society.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fur Trade and Real Estate Multimillionaire John Jacob Astor [otd 07/17]

J. J. Astor. Library of Congress.
John Jacob Astor, who became America’s richest man, was born July 17, 1763 in Waldorf (near Heidelberg, Duchy of Baden, before the creation of Germany). He was born into a lower middle class family: His father was a butcher.

With no prospects at home, Astor left as a teenager. He spent four years in London, where he learned to speak English (with a heavy accent). Then, in 1784, John Jacob emigrated to the new United States.

He learned the fur trade and opened a shop in New York before 1790. Over the next decade, he expanded the fur business and used it to build an international shipping network, dealing also in teas and sandalwood. Then reports from the Lewis and Clark Expedition about the fur riches available in the Rocky Mountains drew his attention.

He created the American Fur Company, with the Pacific Fur Company as a subsidiary. In 1810, the Pacific Fur Company launched a two-pronged thrust. First, Astor’s ship, the Tonquin, carried a team to the mouth of the Columbia River, where they established a base, called Astoria. Second, a party led by Wilson Price Hunt trekked west from St. Louis, Missouri.

The Hunt party became the second group of white American fur trappers to enter Idaho, crossing Teton Pass in October 1811 [blog, Oct 5]. But the War of 1812 against Great Britain ruined Astor’s first western venture.

Astoria became the property of the rival North West Company, and many of his employees went to work for that firm. Even so, first-hand reports from Astor's expeditions spurred a fur trade war that would last over a quarter century.

Although Astor dissolved the Pacific Fur Company, his American Fur Company continued to compete in the west and around the Great Lakes. Astor focused first on the eastern side of the Rockies. However, by 1830, his Company was the most powerful American fur trade competitor throughout the region, including Idaho.

Hard work and determination built Astor’s fortune, but he also had the ability to spot trends and position his enterprises to exploit them. In an 1833 letter, he wrote, “I very much fear beaver will not sell very soon unless very fine. It appears that they make hats of silk in place of beaver.”
New York City, ca 1840. Library of Congress.
The following year, Astor withdrew from the fur trade, and the shipping interests that were so much a part of it. After that, he invested in many industries – railroads, insurance companies, hotels, and more. However, for Astor “the next big thing” was real estate, especially New York City real estate. As the City grew, so did Astor’s net worth.

When he died in 1848, he was by far the wealthiest man in the United States. In fact, when fortunes are compared to the national economy of their day, Astor ranks as the third or fourth richest American ever. By that measure, he is outranked only by John D. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt, with Andrew Carnegie inserted by some analysts. (Bill Gates trails by a couple of spots.)
References: [Brit]
Peter W. Bernstein, Annalyn Swan (eds.), All the Money in the World, Random House, Inc. in collaboration with Forbes magazine (2007).
H. M. Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1986).
Axel Madsen, John Jacob Astor: America's First Multimillionaire, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York (2001).

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Telegraph Line Links Eagle Rock (Idaho Falls) to the Outside World [otd 07/16]

On July 16, 1866, workers completed a new telegraph line from Utah into the stage stop at Taylor’s Bridge. Matt Taylor and has partners had received a franchise for their toll bridge from the Territorial legislature in late 1864 [blog, December 10]. The bridge site, also referred to as Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls), became a major stopping point on the route into Montana.
John Creighton. Omaha Illustrated.

The telegraph crews were supervised by John Creighton, a man with much experience in the business. Born east of Columbus, Ohio, in 1831, he acquired two years of civil engineering education at a small Ohio college. Then at age twenty-three, he went to work for his brother, Edward. By that time, Edward, eleven years older than John, “had become one of the largest builders of telegraph lines in the United States.”

After helping complete a telegraph line from Cleveland to Toledo, John then worked for his brother on other contracts in Ohio and Missouri. The two of them, along with another brother and a cousin, moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1856.

John spent several years there as a clerk. However, in 1861, brother Edward secured a contract to build the eastern leg of the first transcontinental telegraph line. He, in turn, hired John to supervise the actual construction. They began the first stretch west from Omaha in July and completed the link-up with the western leg at Salt Lake City on October 24, 1861.

After wintering in Omaha, John returned west to Wyoming and Utah. During the 1862 season, he tried to haul freight to the newly-discovered gold towns in soon-to-be Idaho Territory. Thwarted by bad weather, he nonetheless made a handsome profit selling out to the Mormons in Salt Lake City.

He and a cousin succeeded in 1863, delivering a substantial load of freight to Virginia City. The cousin returned to Omaha, but John stayed on to run their new store. He remained there long enough to help found the Vigilantes to fight rampant crime in the gold country. Also while he was there, Montana was split off from Idaho and became a territory in its own right.

John returned to Omaha in 1865, and apparently spent some time visiting family in the East. The following spring, The Telegraph newspaper, in Salt Lake City, reported (May 4, 1866) that “preparations [are] being made for the erection of a telegraph line from this city to Virginia [City], Montana.”
Tightening the Wires. Library of Congress.

Edward had the contract and he again tasked John to supervise the construction. As noted above, they reached Eagle Rock in mid-July. The lines crossed the Continental Divide some weeks later and completed the connection to Virginia City on November 2, 1866. Crews extended the line further north the following year, entering Helena on October 14, 1867. As a sign of their appreciation, businessmen in Virginia City presented John with a fine watch, procured from Tiffany’s in New York City.

John returned to Omaha, married (in June 1868), and made the city his headquarters for far-flung business and investment activities. Over the years, John, Edward, and their wives donated substantial sums for the creation and growth of Creighton College, now University.

The telegraph built by the Creightons in 1866 remained the main communication link across Eastern Idaho for over a decade. Besides Eagle Rock, the system had Idaho stations at Malad and Ross’ Fork (new Fort Hall). Then the railroad, which reached Eagle Rock in June 1879, built its own telegraph system and supplanted the old line.
References:  [Illust-State].
Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County in the Making, Self-published, Idaho Falls, Idaho (1941).
P. A. Mullens, Creighton. Biographical Sketches, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska (1901).
Omaha Illustrated: A History of the Pioneer Period and the Omaha of Today, D. C. Dunbar & Co., Publishers, Omaha, Nebraska (1888).
“Site Report – Henry’s Fork (1808),” Reference Series No. 240, Idaho State Historical Society (1983).

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Naturalist John Kirk Townsend Describes Fort Hall Area [otd 07/15]

Naturalist Townsend.
Oregon Historical Society.
On July 15, 1834, naturalist John Kirk Townsend described the site selected by Nathaniel Wyeth for the Fort Hall trading post [yesterday's blog].

Townsend wrote, "This is a fine large plain on the south side of the Portneuf, with an abundance of excellent grass and rich soil. The opposite side of the river is thickly covered with large timber of the cottonwood and willow, with a dense undergrowth of the same, intermixed with serviceberry and currant bushes."

The Philadelphia-born Townsend was one of two naturalists who accompanied Wyeth's second trip west of the Rockies. He had been invited along by Thomas Nuttall, a well-known naturalist who had resigned a position at Harvard University to join the expedition. The much younger Townsend – he was 25, Nuttall 48 – had a growing reputation as an ornithologist. The year before, he had collected a previously-unknown species, which was later called the Townsend's Bunting.

The primitive conditions of the march made sample preservation difficult. Even so, Townsend recorded many detailed observations, not just of birds but also other natural history features. About a week before the party reached the Fort Hall site, he recorded his first observations about Idaho birds.

Camped near Beer (Soda) Springs [blog, July 8], he wrote, "in a thicket of common red cedars, near our camp, I found, and procured several specimens of two beautiful and rare birds which I had never before seen – the Lewis woodpecker and Clark's crow, (Picus torquatus and Corvus columbianus.)"
Audubon Society image,

Townsend left Fort Hall with Wyeth's party early in August. He wrote, “We crossed the main Snake or Shoshone river, at a point about three miles from the fort. It is here as wide as the Missouri at Independence, but, beyond comparison, clearer and more beautiful.”

His Narrative records many natural history features observed as they marched west across Idaho. On August 19, after a “hard days travel," they descended into the Boise Valley and camped along the river, which he described as "a beautiful stream."

He also wrote, "it is literally crowded with salmon, which are springing from the water almost constantly. Our mouths are watering most abundantly for some of them."

He recorded nothing about birds until they reached the Columbia River in Oregon. There, Townsend commented, “The mallard duck, the widgeon, and the green-winged teal are tolerably abundant in the little estuaries of the river. Our men have killed several, but they are poor, and not good."

The descriptions that Townsend, and Nuttall, made of southern Idaho flora and fauna were the first recorded by trained observers. Based at Fort Vancouver, the ornithologist traveled extensively in Oregon and southern Washington, collecting numerous bird specimens.

He took ship in 1836 and returned to Philadelphia by way of Hawaii and Cape Horn. To defray costs, Townsend sold over ninety specimens to John J. Audubon. In fact, Townsend collected over one-seventh of the species shown in Audubon's famous Birds of America book. Townsend died in 1851, apparently poisoned by an arsenic-based specimen preservative he had concocted.
References: John Kirk Townsend, Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River (1839), reprinted, Reuben Gold Thwaites (ed)., in Early Western Travels, Vol. VIII, Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland (1905).
“John Kirk Townsend (1809-1851),” The Oregon History Project, Oregon Historical Society (2002).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fur Trader Nathaniel Wyeth Selects Old Fort Hall Site [otd 07/14]

On July 14, 1834, Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth wrote in his journal: "Went down the river about 3 miles and found a location for a fort."

This event occurred on Wyeth's second fur trading and trapping expedition west of the Rockies, discussed in my blogs for January 29 and December 20. After his customer at the rendezvous reneged on their contract, he took his unsold supplies on into Idaho.

Explaining this move to his long-suffering backers, Wyeth wrote, "I shall proceed about 150 miles west of this and establish a fort in order to make sale of the goods which remain on my hands."

Old Fort Hall, interior. Library of Congress.
He selected a spot on the sandy plain a few miles from what was then the confluence of the Portneuf and Snake Rivers. They built the original structure from the abundant cottonwoods. Each log was sunk about 30 inches into the ground and stood 15 feet above the surface. The finished fort consisted of a roughly 80-foot square with 8-foot square bastions at two diagonal corners.

A few weeks after they began the fort, trapper Osborne Russell [blog, Dec 20] said that “the ‘Stars and Stripes’ were unfurled to the breeze at Sunrise in the center of a savage and uncivilized country over an American trading Post.”

Wyeth wrote, "Having done as much as was requisite for safety to the Fort and drank a bale of liquor and named it Fort Hall in honor of the oldest partner of our concern, we left it."

Initial prospects for the Fort seemed promising. However, costs for resupply proved too high for Wyeth's venture to make a profit. He finally sold the site to the rival Hudson's Bay Company, which took over operation during the summer of 1838.

Business with religious missionary parties grew in importance after that. Then, more and more wagon trains full of settlers passed through after the first small party in 1841. That flow soon became the major source of income for Fort Hall. The fur trade dwindled to a minor sideline.

The discovery of gold in California boosted traffic to vastly greater levels, peaking at around 60 thousand in 1852 alone. Most of them – 80-90 percent – went to California, but substantial numbers also ended up in Oregon. Amusing today, but deadly serious then, early “boosters” for the two destinations fought a propaganda war near the Fort. Each offered glowing accounts, and sometimes promised inducements, to persuade trains to come their way.
Wagons on the Oregon Trail. Utah State Historical Society.

At first, the native inhabitants, mostly Shoshone and Bannock tribes, actually welcomed travelers. That changed, however, as they saw the emigrants taking more and more game and cutting a wider swath through the forage grasses along the Trail. As the decade passed, friction between Indians and emigrants escalated.

The increased danger of attack made operations at Fort Hall more and more costly. Finally, changes in the Trail route reduced emigrant traffic. The HBC abandoned (Old) Fort Hall in 1856.

Fourteen years later, the U.S. Army built a new Fort Hall, but it was located about 25 miles away from the old site.
References: [B&W]
“Fort Hall,” Reference Series No. 121, Idaho State Historical Society (January 1968).
Osborne Russell, Aubrey L. Haines (ed.), Journal of a Trapper, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1965).
John D. Unruh, Jr, The Plains Across, University of Illinois Press, Urbana (1979).
Nathaniel J. Wyeth, Don Johnson (ed.), The Journals of Captain Nathaniel J. Wyeth's Expeditions to the Oregon Country 1831-1836, Ye Galleon Press, Fairfield, Washington (1984).