Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bishop Tuttle Arrives in Boise, Rancher and Businessman Peter Pence [otd 10/12]

Bishop Tuttle.
Utah State Historical Society.
On October 12, 1867, the Right Reverend Daniel S. Tuttle, missionary bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, arrived in Boise. In the Episcopal Church, a missionary bishop is basically like any other bishop except that his stipend is paid by the parent church, rather than through local or regional collections.

At that time, Tuttle acted as bishop over Idaho, Montana, and part of Utah. He had first visited Virginia City, Montana, returned to “base” in Salt Lake City, and then headed north. It was not a happy experience: “I arrived at Boise Saturday afternoon, October 12, with broken neck, bruised head, aching bones, sore throat and disturbed temper.”

Still, he also said, “As the name implies, the river on which this town is situated is wooded with willows and cottonwoods. It is very pleasant to see these green growths.”

During his visit, Tuttle helped the resident missionary establish a parish school. He actually bought a full city block for the the church, “fencing it at a cost of $325.88.” Over his many years in the region, he endured thousands of miles in jolting, dusty stagecoach rides to cover his territory. Not until 1881 did the church assign a separate bishop for Montana.

Possessed of a “commanding presence” leavened by a practical and unassuming demeanor, Bishop Tuttle won the respect and admiration of even the rough element in his territory. During his 19 years in the mountains, he personally visited, held services, recruited local leaders, and generally grew the church at over 50 sites in Idaho alone. When church leaders moved him to Missouri in 1886, he had organized missions in Boise, Silver City, Idaho City, Lewiston, Blackfoot, Bellevue, Hailey, and Ketchum.

On October 12, 1837, Idaho pioneer Peter Pence was born in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, northeast of Pittsburg. As a young man, he worked for a time in Kansas and freighted into Denver. In the early 1860s, spillovers from the unrest in the states further south persuaded Pence to moved west. The wagon train he joined arrived in Oregon in September 1862, about the time the Boise Basin gold rush had really begun to boom.

Rancher Pence. H. T. French photo.
Pence followed the rush to Placerville and then to Idaho City. He prospected there, but made more money whipsawing lumber. Pence returned to packing for a time, then threshed grain in the Boise Valley.

In early 1867, he invested his grain-threshing profits in a band of fifteen hundred cattle. These were then moved to a spread he purchased where Big Willow Creek joins the Payette River, about twenty miles downriver from today’s Emmett. His was the first substantial herd set grazing on those ranges.

Pence helped organize several irrigation systems that drew water from the Payette River. In 1899 the Illustrated History said he was “President of three ditch incorporations.”

Pence later branched out into real estate, banking, and other investments … and was elected to the state legislature in 1901. He played a significant role in the development of the city of Payette and served as the first chairman of the town Board of Trustees, staying on the Board for several terms. (In a common practice for the times, news reports after that began referring to Pence as "The Honorable," as though he were the mayor of Payette.) The ranch he established in 1867 is on today’s list of “Century Ranches” – properties that are still operated by descendants of the original owners.
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Melville Knox Bailey, The Right Reverend Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, Church Missions Publishing Company, Hartford, Connecticut (1923).
Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, Missionary to the Mountain West, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City (1987).


  1. The story of Peter Pence is quite interesting. However, there seems to be some controversy concerning whether he ever did serve as mayor of Payette. Some sources say that Frank Satoris was the first mayor of the city of Payette. There were some earlier mayors who served when it was still a village. A listing of the mayors of Payette does not show Pence's name. (

  2. The "Illustrated History of the State of Idaho," published in 1899, says that Pence was "the first mayor of Payette" and that statement is echoed in Hawley's 1920 "History of Idaho." However, with your alert, I checked "Idaho Statesman" for that period ... and what I find is that Pence was the first chairman of the town Board of Trustees. Thereafter, he was always referred to as "The Honorable" Peter Pence. This was fairly common practice -- to call the chairman a "mayor," even though the town/village/whatever did not actually have a mayoral form of government. After I post this, I will go in and change the wording to be more technically accurate. Thanks!