Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cassia County Attorney and Idaho Chief Justice T. Bailey Lee [otd 8/10]

Thomas Bailey Lee, Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, was born about twenty miles southwest of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on August 10, 1873. He attended law school after graduating from the University of North Carolina but chose not to practice at that time. Instead, he found a position as a prep school Latin teacher in Asheville. In 1898, he took up the practice of law in Butte, Montana.
Burley, ca 1819. J. H. Hawley photo.

In 1905, Lee moved to the new town of Burley [blog, July 19], becoming the first lawyer there. He also secured a position as a Director of the Burley Town Site Company. He spent two years as the City Attorney for Burley, and also served four terms as Prosecuting Attorney for Cassia County.

For six years, T. Bailey served as District Court Judge for the region encompassing Cassia and surrounding areas. Then, in October 1926, Lee was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Idaho Supreme Court. A month later, he won election to continue in that position. At that point, Bailey moved his family to Boise.  He rose to the position of Chief Justice in 1931.

His most recent biography, in Defenbach, makes the point that, “Three of his ancestors were Revolutionary soldiers, two of them with the rank of captain.”

In 1931, Judge Lee’s Congressman wrote a letter to the Bureau of Pensions. A family Bible, now “two hundred and nineteen years old,” had been submitted as verification to allow the widow of Captain John Dickey to continue receiving his Revolutionary War pension. That document now reposed in the National Archives.

Since the relevant pages had been torn out, the Judge wanted the bulk of the Bible back, as a family memento. This request was refused, so Lee wrote a personal note to the Director of the Veteran’s Bureau. Addressed to “My Dear General,” Lee commented, “I am presuming to write you direct upon a purely personal matter, as the only methods I understand are those of a soldier and lawyer. God save me from civilian bureaucrats!”

Lydia Pinkham. Brochure cover, 1901-1904.
Posted on Wikipedia Commons.
T. Bailey had personally seen the Bible, “dumped in an old box.” Someone had filed the torn out pages, “and tossed the wrecked volume into the scrap heap.” As such, he went on, “it’s mere junk … and is about as valuable to Uncle Sam as … an empty bottle of Lydia Pinkham's.”

Again the Administrator refused his request … for the good of all researchers, not just the family, they said. In his letter to Lee’s Congressman, the Administrator said, “To insure added protection to the Bible in question it was securely wrapped and tied in kraft paper, given the file number of the claim from which it was removed, and locked in a cabinet free from dust. It is now reposing in a steel vault.”

So the Judge “lost,” but perhaps he accomplished something more important: He rescued a potentially-valuable historical document from oblivion.

Through 1932, judges campaigned for election to the Idaho Supreme Court as partisan candidates. That year Judge Lee ran on the Republican ticket. Although Bailey did better than most other Republican candidates, he lost his seat during the Democratic landslide behind Roosevelt on the national ticket. He returned to Burley after the end of his term, and finally moved his family back in late summer (Idaho Statesman, Boise, August 23, 1933).

Lee would again serve as a District Judge in 1942-1946. He passed away in March 1948.
References:[Blue],  [Defen], [Hawley]
“Letters Concerning the Family Bible,“ Captain John Dickey Revolutionary War File, U. S. National Archives (1931-1932).
Ben Ysursa, Idaho Blue Book, 2003-2004, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (2003).

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gold Prospectors Found Elk City Deep in the Idaho Mountains [otd 8/6]

On August 6, 1861, a band of miners founded the mining town of Elk City, Idaho, about 35 miles east of the present town of Grangeville. Prospectors had first entered the area in the latter part of May. A large party left the Orofino area earlier in the month. Somewhat less than half penetrated the region, having ignored protests from a Nez Perce Indian chief because they had intruded onto reservation land.
Riffle Box for Placer Mining. Library of Congress.

They found gold near the confluence of the American and Red rivers.  Further prospecting discovered more and more “color.”  By mid-June they had slapped together a log cabin to serve as a recorder's office, in which “Captain” L. B. Monson recorded the first claim on June 14, 1861.

Some men returned to Orofino for supplies and the new rush began, somewhat dampened by worries about the Indians. However, as more and more prospectors struck pay dirt, the rush swelled. That finally led to the founding of Elk City.

By the following summer, the town had four to six stores of various kinds, five saloons, and two decent hotels. Because of its location deep in the mountains, heavy winter snow shut down work on almost every claim. By the fall of 1862, a quickly-established Express company had shipped out over $900 thousand in gold dust (over $50 million at today’s prices).

Gold discoveries in easier country in Montana drew many prospectors away from Elk City the next year. However, the Evening Bulletin in San Francisco reprinted (May 29, 1863) a letter that said, in part, “Six ditches have been dug during the last winter in the vicinity of Elk City, and are now furnishing water to the miners.” As could be expected, “The miners are doing much better than before the ditches were completed.”

Also, in 1864 and 1865, determined gold-seekers built mores ditches, and flumes, to begin large-scale hydraulic mining. Thus, the value of metal extracted from the region actually increased. A sawmill built to supply lumber for these flumes did a booming business.

Miners continued to obtain reasonable returns from claims in the region for more than a decade. Then, after 1880, many claims were leased to Chinese miners. Like most of the older mining towns, Elk City’s prosperity rose and fell with the output from the gold fields in the region.

The economy received a “bump” when prospectors discovered gold in the “Buffalo Hump,” region, about 20 miles to the southwest. By the summer of 1899, about five thousand prospectors had poured into that area. Although Grangeville became the major supply point for “the Hump,” Elk City also won a share of the stagecoach and freight traffic. However, significant work at Buffalo Hump ran its course by about 1910.
Elk City at sunset. Elk City tourism.

For a time in the twentieth century, Elk City operated as a center for logging activity. However, that faltered when the U.S. Forest Service imposed more restrictions on timber harvesting in the area.

Today, Elk City survives as a recreation and tourism center, a “gateway” to the Nez Perce National Forest. The Elk City web site offers hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, and ATV riding during the summer, with skiing and snowmobiling in the winter.
References: [B&W], [Illust-North]
“Buffalo Hump Stage Lines,” Reference Series No. 794, Idaho State Historical Society (1985 ).
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Second Idaho Regiment Brought into Federal Service for World War I [otd 8/5]

On August 5, 1917, the War Department drafted the Second Idaho Regiment (National Guard) into the U.S. Army for duty in World War I, part of perhaps 300,000 guardsmen taken into Federal service at that time.

A year earlier, the government had directed the state to mobilize the Second Idaho to patrol the Mexican border [blog, June 18]. Under that call-up, the troops could not be sent outside the country. The troops had been demobilized when that duty was over.
Idaho Guard troops headed for training camp.
Library of Congress.

In response to a telegram from  Washington on March 25, the Governor mobilized the Second Idaho, and its companies gathered at Boise Barracks. With a declaration of war close at hand, the Secretary of War wanted Guard units called to duty: “This duty to consist for the time being of protecting traffic, [the] means of communication and the transfer of mails within the state. (Idaho Statesman, Boise, March 26, 1917).

Then, in May 1917, Congress authorized the President to begin inducting Guard units into national military service. Nationalized troops could be sent outside the country. The Idaho regiment was not up to its authorized wartime strength, so officials instituted a vigorous recruiting campaign. By the time the draft order arrived on the 5th, the unit actually exceeded the required enrollment.

The regiment consisted of three battalions. The First Battalion was from northern Idaho: Coeur d'Alene, Grangeville, Lewiston, and Sandpoint. The Second came from Boise, Buhl, Twin Falls, and Idaho Falls. The Third represented Caldwell, Nampa, Payette, and Weiser.

About seven weeks after the draft, the regiment traveled to Camp Greene, near Charlotte, North Carolina. There, commanders parceled the Idaho battalions out to various units of the Army’s 41st Division. Then, when the 41st arrived in France, the high command made it a “replacement” division, so individual units were further distributed. These breakups make it somewhat difficult to track exactly where the Idaho companies fought during the war.

Of course, not every Idahoan who saw World War I action enlisted in the Second Idaho. According to Hawley, the Second Idaho enrolled 5,060 men, while another 12 thousand Idahoans served in Regular Army units, the Navy, or the Marines.

One unit history indicates that an Idaho company provided support to the U. S. Marines in their famous Battle of Belleau Wood, in June 1918. However, the first major action for Idaho soldiers was in the Second Battle of the Marne, in late July.  There, Idaho troops suffered their first significant casualties, including the death of Lieutenant John Regan [blog, Feb 6].

In mid-September, Idahoans participated in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. American forces caught the Germans in a staged withdrawal and turned it into a hurried retreat. Reportedly, the advance stopped mainly because the American troops outran their artillery and material support.

American soldiers attack at Meuse-Argonne. U. S. Army.
Idahoans next fought in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, in which American and French divisions captured the vital railroad hub at Sedan. The battle began in late September and ended only with the Armistice on November 11. This was by far the bloodiest battle experienced by American troops in the War.

An incomplete casualty list for the Great War, published in 1920, gives the names of 348 Idahoans who were lost to battle deaths, sickness, or accidents. Unfortunately, there may be as many as one hundred names missing from that list.
References: [Hawley]
W. M. Haulsee, F. G. Howe, A. C. Doyle, Soldiers of the Great War, Vol III, Soldiers Record Publishing Association, Washington, D. C. (1920).
Mark A. Shields (ed.), The History of the 116th Engineers, Training Section, U. S. Army (1918).
Richard A. Rinaldi, The US Army in World War I – Orders of Battle, Tiger Lily Publications, Takoma Park, Maryland (2004).