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 in 1803 near the tiny village of Stanstead, which now straddles the Canadian border. At the time, the area was considered part of Vermont, so Lee was born a U. S. citizen. Thrown upon his own resources at the age of thirteen, he spent several years as a logger.

Then, in 1826, he attended a revival meeting, had a “conversion experience,” and joined the Methodist church. Some time in the next year or two he felt "the call" to a more active role. For that, he needed more education, so he enrolled at the Wesleyan Academy, a Methodist prep school. After a year there, he taught for awhile, did some lay preaching, and applied for a missionary position in Canada.

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).

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 1861. The Indians agreed to allow mining and the construction of a shipping warehouse – but nothing else – where the Clearwater River entered the Snake. Of course, the full town of Lewiston sprang up immediately. Tribesmen complained, but otherwise did nothing about this violation of the agreement.
Lewiston, 1862. Nez Perce County Historical Society.

 Authorities then 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 convened a meeting at the fort 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).

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).

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).

Friday, July 7, 2017

Silver Mining Town of Kellogg Platted [otd 07/07]

The Illustrated History of North Idaho said, "The original plat of the town of Kellogg was filed with the auditor of Shoshone County July 7, 1893."
Kellogg, Idaho, ca 1907. University of Idaho Digital Collections.
Development of the area began in the late summer of 1885, when prospectors Phil O'Rourke and Noah S. Kellogg discovered what became the Bunker Hill Mine. O'Rourke filed the claim on September 10, and by the end of the month other hopefuls had located several mines along extensions of the same ledges.

Soon, prospectors found what came to be the Sullivan Mine across the canyon. By early November, miners built the first cabins for the town of Wardner, along Milo Creek, a mile or so north of the main lodes. (It was initially called "Kentucky," but the U. S. Post Office nixed that.) Even before that, brothers Robert and Jonathan Ingalls claimed a ranch further north on the more extensive flats along the Coeur d'Alene River.

The settlement they started in early 1886 as "Milo" was renamed Kellogg before the year was out. The town grew rapidly, having a local newspaper within a few months. Two years later, Kellogg had train service.

With more space to expand, Kellogg soon surpassed Wardner and became the headquarters for many mining companies in the area. By the time the town was platted in 1893, the Bunker Hill & Sullivan Mining and Concentrating Company was one of the largest employers in the region.

Although Bunker Hill had escaped the worse of the miners' union unrest in 1892, they were the primary target for a major incident in 1899 [blog, April 29.] Some level of friction between the unions and mine owners would continue for many years, but eventually a more cooperative climate developed.

In 1901, the Company donated "one of the finest brick school houses in the state" to Kellogg. Then, in 1913, the town was incorporated. Three years later, the demand for batteries and bullets for World War I sparked a boom in area lead mining. That did not last, of course, and a recession followed the war. Still, the Idaho Statesman reported (January 14, 1923) that, “All of the mines that were idle in 1921 resumed operation at capacity production … ”

The revival was attributed, in part, to “the marked increase in the price of lead, zinc and copper.” In fact, ups and downs in metal prices drove the town's economy well into the 1970s. But that same decade saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Silver Mountain gondola.
Guide to North Idaho.

People in Kellogg hoped for the best. Even into 1980, high silver prices fueled optimism about the town's economy. The roof fell in the following year: A national recession depressed prices, and major layoffs soon followed. After that, mineral production no longer played a significant employment role for Kellogg. The designation of wide expanses of the valley as a Superfund Site dealt the coup de grâce.

Soon, town leaders began to seek new sources of employment for the area. Although the transition was painful and is not yet complete, Kellogg now features a tourist economy with museums, shops, condominiums, and a nearby ski area – Silver Mountain. Boosters are also striving to expand their role into more of an all-seasons destination.
                                                                                 
References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]
City of Kellogg
Judith Nielsen, “Corporate History: Bunker Hill Mining Company,” Manuscript Group 367, University of Idaho Special Collections (1995).
Julie Whitesel Weston, The Good Times Are All Gone Now, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (2009).