Thursday, November 30, 2017

Convicted Murderer and Thief Hanged at Idaho Penitentiary [otd 11/30]

On November 30, 1901, authorities hanged convicted murderer Edward Rice. He was the first individual executed at the Idaho Penitentiary as a state institution and only the second in its history. Rice had been convicted of murdering Matthew Mailley, a Wallace cigar and candy store owner, the previous year.
Wallace, ca 1898. Illustrated History.

The evidence was largely circumstantial, in that there were no direct witnesses. A potential customer had found the store door locked at around 9:30 on a Monday morning in October 1900. Finding Mailley’s thriving business closed at that time of day was unusual, to say the least.

The person then walked around and peered in a window, and spotted Mailley’s body lying near the back. A report in the Idaho Statesman (October 5, 1900) said that authorities then forced the door. Mailley had suffered several blows to the head and then his throat had been cut. The article noted that the store owner “had lived in the Coeur d’Alenes about 15 years and had no known enemies.”

Account books showed an $800 shortfall of cash and checks in the store and on the murdered man’s body. Suspicion soon fell on Edward Rice, a casual laborer who had been around town for awhile. Rice had cadged small loans off numerous locals, some of whom had taken to dunning him for repayment whenever they ran into him. Later on the day of the murder, Rice had not only paid off over $100 of those debts, he had “purchased a hat and pair of trousers.”

Investigators also found two bloodstained handkerchiefs at the crime scene, one of which had apparently been used as a gag. Both bore marks assigned by the Wallace laundry to Rice’s belongings. Unable to explain this evidence, Rice’s lawyer tried to raise doubts about the chain of custody on the items.

At his trial, Rice’s lawyer surely did his best to focus attention on those doubts, and the fact that no witness had placed Rice near the scene of the crime. Available accounts do not report what story they advanced to explain his sudden relative affluence. (Throughout this affair, Rice’s activities suggest that he was, in fact, of substandard intelligence.) The attorney’s presentation clearly did not impress the jury: They “found a verdict in thirteen minutes.”

Naturally, the matter did not end there. The scarcity of direct evidence was emphasized in his appeals, which went all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court. One of the other issues the defense raised was that “popular excitement and prejudice” about the case prevented him from getting a fair trial. The High Court conceded that such sentiment certainly justified a request for a change of venue, but no such request was made.
Old Idaho Penitentiary.
Wikimedia Commons, attribution to Peter Wollheim.

Up until 1899, executions had been carried out at the county level. Then the law was changed to require that all such acts be carried out at the State Penitentiary. The only previous execution at the Penitentiary had been under a Federal order, when Idaho was still a Territory.

Early in 1901, even as his appeals proceeded, Rice somehow obtained a knife and ostensibly tried to commit suicide by cutting his own throat … but failed. One last-ditch appeal called for time to examine of his sanity, but that too failed and the execution proceeded. 
References: [Illust-North]
“[Appeal Denied, Rice to Hang],” Idaho Daily Statesman, Boise, Idaho (November 30, 1901). 
"Executions," Idaho State Historical Society monograph.
"State Versus Rice," The Pacific Reporter, Vol. 66, West Publishing Company, St. Paul (1902).

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Reverend Henry Spalding Establishes Presbyterian Mission at Lapwai [otd 11/29]

Henry Harmon Spalding.
National Park Service.
On November 29, 1836, Henry Harmon Spalding established a Presbyterian mission among the Nez Percés Indians. The initial location was on Lapwai Creek about 10 miles east of today's Lewiston. Two years later Spalding moved the mission to a spot on the Clearwater River near the mouth of Lapwai Creek.

Born in New York state, Henry was in his early thirties when he built the mission. After graduation from Western Reserve College (now part of Case Western Reserve University), he entered a seminary in Cincinnati. Spalding left, however, when he was appointed as a missionary to the Nez Percés.

Eliza (Hart) Spalding, born in Connecticut, was three or four years younger than Henry. The family moved to Oneida County, New York, in 1820. Henry and Eliza met through a mutual acquaintance and corresponded for a year or so before they met. Their common interest in missionary work matured the relationship and they married in 1833.

Three years later, Henry and Eliza traveled west with Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa [blog, Aug 12]. On the way, the couples attended the 1836 fur trade rendezvous on the Green River, in Wyoming. There, they caused a sensation because, while they were not the first missionaries to attend a rendezvous, they were the first who brought their wives.

The missionaries continued on to the Columbia River, obtained supplies from Fort Vancouver, and then separated. The Whitmans built a mission near today’s Walla Walla, Washington, while the Spaldings established theirs at Lapwai. It was difficult and costly to supply the Lapwai mission, so the settlement developed slowly.

That improved somewhat when, toward the end of 1838, the missionaries opened a blacksmith shop. During the heat of one summer, Spalding turned the natives to digging ditches for irrigation. Thus, the mission is credited with the first irrigated farming in what would become the state of Idaho. Crops grown included potatoes, another first.
Nez Percé Bible. University of Idaho Special Collections.

Spalding also procured a printing press and began publishing materials in the Nez Percés language, including the Bible.

Unfortunately, Henry had strict Puritanical notions of morality: Polygamy (fornication, to him), liquor, and gambling were all equally sinful. His tactless denunciations angered the Indians, and created friction with other missionaries who took a more gradual approach to converting native ways.

The 1847 massacre – ironically, also on November 29 – at the Whitman mission in Washington caused a suspension of both operations. Spalding was on his way to visit the mission when the killings occurred. Henry escaped death only through the intervention of a Roman Catholic priest … a crowning irony since Spalding was vehemently anti-“Papist.”

The Spaldings moved to Oregon, where they settled for a time. Eliza died in 1851 and Henry remarried two years later. He again served as missionary to the Nez Percés after about 1859, and resumed activities at Lapwai in 1862.

After a sojourn in the East around 1870, Spalding returned in 1871 to build a new school among the Nez Percés. He died in August 1874.
References: [B&W], [Brit], [Illust-North]
Malcom Clark, Eden Seekers: The Settlement of Oregon, 1818-1862, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York (1981).
“Lapwai Mission,” Nez Perce National Historical Park, National Park Service.
“Spalding’s Mission,” Reference Series No. 945, Idaho State Historical Society (January 1993).

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

“Rufus” Reid and Agnes Just Perpetuate Century Ranch Heritage [otd 11/28]

Robert “Rufus” Reid.
Family Archives.*
On November 28, 1906, twenty-year-old Agnes Just married Robert E. “Rufus” Reid in Blackfoot, Idaho. Agnes was the youngest child and only surviving daughter of Nels and Emma Just.

Born in Denmark in 1847, Nels A. Just was ten years old when his family came to the United States. They had already converted to the LDS Church, and aimed to settle in Utah. The Justs traveled as part of one of the so-called “handcart” companies and arrived at Salt Lake in September 1857.

Emma Thompson was born in England in 1850. Also Mormon converts, the family emigrated to the U. S. in 1854. Both the Thompsons and the Justs joined the ill-fated “Morrisite” splinter group and suffered through its eventual dissolution. By the late 1860s, Nels had worked at various jobs, including running freight into Montana.

Emma married a soldier in 1865. After his discharge, the couple moved around as her husband found work. According to Bonneville County historian Barzilla Clark, “During the winter of 1866-67, we find her cooking at the stage station at Taylor’s Bridge.” (Taylor's Bridge eventually became today's Idaho Falls.)

From there, they went to Montana where, unfortunately, her husband abandoned her. After the birth of their son, she returned to live with relatives in the Blackfoot area. Divorced, Emma married Nels in 1870. They settled along the Blackfoot River and began raising livestock. Some of these he sold under contract to the Army at Fort Hall. Nels would also figure prominently in later irrigation efforts.

Besides Fred from her first marriage, the couple raised four sons of their own, and then Agnes. Agnes attended Albion Normal School to qualify for a teaching certificate. On one of her trips home, she met “Zeke” Reid (Robert Ezeckiel went by Bob, Zeke, or Rufus at various times), who then worked for her father.

Agnes taught a few years before marrying Rufus in 1906. After the marriage, they moved in with Nels and Emma at the homestead ranch along the Blackfoot River. Nels died in 1912, while Emma lived until 1923.
Rufus and Agnes in 1907. Family Archives.*

Agnes Just Reid became the mother of five sons. Still, raising them and helping run a farm-ranch operation wasn’t enough. She also became a noted Idaho article writer, columnist, and poetess.

After she became well known, The Deseret News profiled her (October 24, 1948). The writer observed, “Mrs. Reid has a knack of telling common things beautifully. Her poetry is not the modeled lacy petal, flowery poetry which is read simply for its phrasing quality and is forgotten because it lacks depth.” Instead, her “pen is strong and forceful … [and leaves] a wealth of pure gold to ponder until the reader, remembering, makes it part of himself.”

The Reid sons in their turn, acquired various portions of the old homestead.

As part of the state’s Centennial celebration, the Idaho State Historical Society prepared a list of “Idaho Century Farms and Ranches.” The specific criteria state that the farm or ranch must have been “owned and operated in Idaho by the same family for at least 100 years, with 40 acres of the original parcel of land maintained as part of the present holding.”

As of 2004, the list contained nearly one hundred ranches established during the Territorial period, along with 175 farms, many of which also raised livestock. Four of the ranches trace their roots back to the original holding established along the Blackfoot by Nels and Emma Just.

* Family archives: Presto Press, Presto Preservation Association. Used with permission.
References: [French]
Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County In The Making, Self-published, Idaho Falls (1941).
Idaho Century Farms and Ranches, Idaho State Historical Society (2004).
Agnes Just Reid, Letters of Long Ago, Fourth Edition, Cedar Creek Press, Boise, Idaho (1997).

Monday, November 27, 2017

Pure Food, Dairy & Oil Commissioner William C. Howie [otd 11/27]

Commissioner Howie.
H. T. French photo.
Attorney William Clarence Howie, Idaho Food, Dairy & Oil Commission President, was born November 27, 1860, in Davis County, Iowa. He graduated from high school in Bloomfield, the county seat, which is located about 15 miles south of Ottumwa. In 1883, William graduated from a Normal School in Bloomfield and moved to Nebraska to teach.

Howie also read at a couple of law offices. The senior partner at his second stay later became a Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court and, later yet, Dean of the Nebraska State Law School. After being admitted to the Nebraska bar, Howie practiced in the state for about eight months.

Howie moved to Idaho in late 1890 and opened a practice in Mountain Home. At that time, Elmore County had been in existence less than two years. Mountain Home became the county seat in February 1891. About that time, the city and county began a growth spurt that lasted over twenty years.

In addition to a thriving legal practice, Howie filled a number of public offices in the area. That included service on the Mountain Home library board as well as the school board. According to the Illustrated History, he “was a prominent factor in the building of the splendid public-school building.”

Howie also held an appointment as U. S. Commissioner for the district around Mountain Home. Beyond the local activities, Howie served on the committee that determined the location of the state industrial school at St. Anthony.

Beginning in 1904, he served as President of the Idaho Food, Dairy, and Oil Commission (Idaho Statesman, December 13, 1903). This latter position involved major responsibilities. Before strong food and drug laws were in place, adulteration of oils – such as those used to make oleomargarine – with cheaper substitutes was a substantial problem all over the country.

Toward the end of Howie’s five-year term, the commissioners recommended that the duties of the commission be reorganized (Idaho Statesman, November 12, 1908). Dairy-related functions belonged under an agricultural board, while food matters should be included in the duties of the state Board of Health. Those changes were indeed made within a couple years.

Howie invested in several regional irrigation projects as well as various Mountain Home businesses, helping to organize the Stockgrowers State Bank.
Grubber patent drawing, Official Gazette.

Practicing in Mountain Home in the early years of the Twentieth Century, Howie’s name is also linked to a crucial pioneer activity. In 1909, he represented the assignee of a deceased inventor who received a U.S. Patent for a “Sage-Brush Grubbing Machine.” Then and for at least a half century after, developers sought better ways to remove sagebrush to prepare land for agriculture.

The following year, in connection with his Land Commissioner position, he found himself on the wrong side in court.  An indictment named him as part of a conspiracy to commit land fraud. However, the evidence soon showed that Howie himself had acted in good faith. Some jurors apparently still wanted to convict the three other men named in the indictment, but all were ultimately pronounced “not guilty.”

During World War I, Howie served as Secretary of the Home Service committee established in Elmore County by the American Red Cross. He died from an attack of influenza in February 1919.
References: [French], [Illust-State]
“978,118 Sage-Brush Grubbing Machine,” Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, Vol. CLXI, December 1910, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. (1911).
Ella G. Caldwell, “The Work of the Elmore County Red Cross,” Elmore County Idaho, Mountain Home (2010).
“Counties and County Seats,” Reference Series No. 10, Idaho State Historical Society (1991).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Idaho State University President Miles Reed [otd 11/26]

President Reed.
Idaho State University photo.
Miles F. Reed, president of the Academy of Idaho, precursor to Idaho State University, was born November 26, 1872 about 20 miles south of Dubuque, Iowa. Reed’s parents moved to Idaho in 1889 and he attended high school at an academy in Grangeville.

After his graduation in 1892, Reed taught in Idaho’s rural schools for a time. From 1891 to 1897, Miles also served in the Idaho National Guard, rising from a Private to the rank of First Lieutenant. He left the regiment when he enrolled at the University of Idaho, and therefore did not see action in the Philippines the following year.

He graduated in 1901 with a Bachelor of Science degree and immediately found a job at the Lewiston State Normal School. After just a year there, he returned to the University to head their Preparatory School and serve as an instructor in education.
Academy of Idaho, ca. 1910. USGenWeb project photo.

In 1902, the state authorized the formation of the Academy of Idaho in Pocatello [blog, Mar 11]. It’s first president – initially called the Principal – was John W. Faris, who had been Superintendent of Pocatello schools for a time. Like most other Idaho colleges, the Academy had to run a prep school for a number of years. Even so, Faris moved aggressively to enhance the college-level curriculum. He also initiated a summer institute for working teachers along with standard summer classes.

Faris resigned in 1907. His expansionist approach had led to much criticism from those who saw a strictly limited role for the school. The continuing need for preparatory classes played a role in the selection of Miles Reed to replace Faris. (Also in 1907, Reed received a Master’s degree from Columbia University.)

If the board expected a more modest approach from their new president, they were sorely disappointed. Reed knew from first-hand experience that the state desperately needed more qualified pre-college teachers. In short supply to begin with, the meager salaries paid meant that turn-over was a constant problem.

Thus, Reed expanded the summer institute Faris had begun and took action to further address the critical teacher shortage. In this latter aim, he incurred the enmity of officials at Albion State Normal School. Reed also wanted to make the Academy a full-fledged college, able to offer bachelor’s degrees. That campaign led only to a new name: the Idaho Technical Institute (ITI).

Although supporters had failed in their bid to be designated a “college,” they had escaped the limited expectations implied by the “Academy” label. Students and citizens in Pocatello responded with “the biggest celebration in the history of the city.” (Reported in the Idaho Statesman, March 18, 1915.) There was also a program of speeches, which culminated with the “presentation of a gold watch to President Miles F. Reed in appreciation of the fight he made for the school.”
Reed Gym. ISU photo.

In 1904, while working at the University, Reed served as President of the Idaho State Teachers’ Association. A year after he moved to the Pocatello school, he became Chairman of the Educational Council of Idaho.

Reed died of a heart attack in November 1918. His dream of full college status for the Academy/Institute was not realized until 1947. It received university status in 1963. Today, Reed Gymnasium, a sports pavilion and student recreation center, commemorates his role in the history of ISU.
References: [French]
Diane Olson, Idaho State University: A Centennial Chronicle, Idaho State University, Pocatello (2000).

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tough Talk and Action Versus Snake War Violence [otd 11/25]

Governor Lyon. Library of Congress.
The Owyhee Avalanche newspaper (Silver City, Idaho) for November 25, 1865 reported some “good talk” (their expression) by the Territorial Governor about the on-going Indian unrest.

Paraphrasing Governor Caleb Lyon [blog, Nov 14] the article said, [He] “says he will either fight or feed them, and for this purpose has requested, with all hopes of success, two regiments of cavalry. He says he does not expect to reduce them to a state of peace, except by offering them the terms of peace or death; and if they will not quietly accept the one, the other will be forced upon them.”

Preliminaries to what the newspapers called the “Snake War” had simmered and flared ever since the 1862 gold rush into the Boise Basin. In an attempt to counter the violence, in July 1863 the Army built Fort Boise, which sparked the growth of Boise City [blog, July 4]. That provided some protection along the Oregon Trail, but did little to quell raids on isolated ranches.

The conflict grew worse the following year, which spurred the formation of various ad hoc civilian volunteer companies. A fight in July 1864 resulted in the death of rancher Michael Jordan, a member of the party that originally discovered gold in the area [blog, May 18]. The Idaho Statesman in Boise reported (August 23, 1864) on “the probability of an extensive Indian war.”

In early 1865, the volume of complaints rose even more with the increased traffic along the freight and passenger routes between northern California and the Silver City area. In July, the Army established Camp Lyon, about 17 miles northwest of Silver City. However, commanders assigned too few troops to stop the depredations. Thus, the Idaho Statesman reported (October 12, 1865) that the operator of “The Chico Stage Route” had lost many horse and much of his hay supply to Indian raids. The losses were so bad “that it will be an impossibility for him to run his line of stages this winter.”

Two week later, the Statesman reported that a “Mr. Cox” had been shot and killed by Indians just twenty miles or so from Camp Lyon.

Finally, with the end of the Civil War in the East, the Army was prepared to respond to Governor Lyon’s request. The same November 25th issue of the Avalanche reported, “two Companies of Regulars, lately from the East, have been ordered from Walla Walla to” Camp Lyon. However, even these Regular Army troops did not do that well initially, including a repulse at the Battle of Three Forks (in Oregon) [blog, May 27].
General George Crook, ca 1875.
Library of Congress.

Frustrated at the lack of progress, in late 1866 the Army assigned the job to Lieutenant Colonel George Crook. Crook had gained valuable Indian fighting experience in northern California and the Pacific Northwest before distinguishing himself in the Civil War. He went on to even greater fame as an Indian fighter after leaving Idaho and Oregon.

Even the intelligent and determined Crook found no instant solution to the Indians’ guerrilla tactics in country they knew intimately. Still, 18 months of unrelenting pressure and attrition finally forced the tribes – Bannock, Shoshone, and Northern Paiutes – to accept confinement on reservations. These impositions, by the way, delayed a final reckoning for less than a decade.
References: [B&W]
Gregory Michno, The Deadliest War in the West: The Snake Conflict, 1864-1868, Caxton Press, Caldwell, Idaho (2007).
“The Snake War,” Reference Series No. 236, Idaho State Historical Society.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Fire at State Mental Hospital in Blackfoot, Joe Glidden Patents Barbed Wire [otd 11/24]

Early on November 24, 1889, a fire destroyed the state-run mental hospital located in Blackfoot, Idaho. The sanitarium, as it was then called, housed 47 male and 20 female patients at the time. Early accounts said 7 patients (5 men and 2 women) were missing afterwards, with two bodies found in the ruins. However, Hawley’s later History suggests that no one was killed in the fire.

South Idaho Sanitarium, now Idaho State Hospital South.
J. H. Hawley photo.
Located a half mile or so north of Blackfoot, the asylum had been authorized in 1885 and opened for patients the following year. Before then, mentally ill individuals had been housed in Oregon, under contract with that state. Officials transferred thirty-six patients (26 man and 10 women) when the Blackfoot facility opened.

After the fire, male patients were kept temporarily at the Bingham county courthouse and females at the local Methodist Episcopal Church. The institution was rebuilt at a location a few miles further north.

In 1905, the legislature funded a second state hospital; it was built in Orofino. As views on mental health issues became more sophisticated, the terms “sanitarium” and “asylum” were dropped in favor of a simple “Idaho State Hospital South” and “ … North.”

Today, Idaho is still wrestling with the proper approach, or approaches to treating people with mental health problems. Clearly, sufferers who are a danger to themselves and to others require different methods and facilities from those with lesser problems. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.

Official drawing for Patent No. 157,124.
On November 24, 1874, the Federal government granted a patent to Joseph F. Glidden for an improved form of barbed wire. Over the years, many ideas had been tried but Glidden’s was the first effective design that could be manufactured at reasonable cost.

Homesteaders benefited first from the new product: It provided a way to protect fields from range cattle and sheep. In many jurisdictions, courts would not award damages for losses to stock unless the owner had tried to provide some sort of protection for his (or her) crops. An 1873 Idaho law said, in part, that farm fields “shall be enclosed with a good and lawful fence, sufficient to secure the crops therein from the encroachments of all kinds of domestic animals.”

Possible awards then hinged on the phrase “good and lawful fence.” A split rail fence met the criteria, but the materials were costly and difficult to obtain. In many areas, even wooden posts for stringing a wire fence had to be hauled from miles away. Still, posts and wire were far more affordable than anything available before.

Stockmen also quickly saw the advantages of fencing large expanses of range to keep it for themselves, and they had the capital to buy wire by the train car load. Thus, production of the new form jumped 60-fold a year after the patent was granted. Barbed wire fences brought their own problems, of course. The lore of the Old West is replete with stories of the fence cutters and gun-handy cowboys hired to patrol the wires.
References: [Brit], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Joseph M. McFadden, “Monopoly in Barbed Wire: The Formation of the American Steel and Wire Company,” Business History Review, Vol. LII. No. 4 (Winter, 1978).
J. Orin Oliphant, On the Cattle Ranges of the Oregon Country, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1968).

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Unsuspecting Cowboy Shot and Killed at Fort Hall by Angry Bannock [otd 11/23]

On November 23, 1877, a Bannock Indian, Tambiago by name, shot and killed cattleman Alexander Rhoden at the Fort Hall Indian Agency. Alex was born around 1852 in northeast Missouri, near the Nebraska border. In 1865, the family moved to near Omaha.
Alexander Toponce. Reminiscences.

Later, Rhoden came to Idaho and went to work for cattleman Alexander Toponce [blog, Nov 10]. Toponce, who recalled the spelling as “Rodin,” said the Missourian had been working at the ranch for a number of years before the shooting. The young drover was delivering some of Toponce’s cattle under contract to the Agency.

Accounts suggest that the shooting grew out of the uneasy relationship between whites and Indians at the time. A proclamation by President Andrew Johnson had designated the Fort Hall Reservation in 1867 [blog, June 14]. About a year later, most of the Shoshone and Bannock bands in Idaho finally agreed to resettle there, persuaded by glowing promises from Federal negotiators.

As happened all too commonly, the Agency did not keep its end of the bargain. Most tribesmen hardly noticed the failure to provide seed, instructions on farming, and other craft training. They could easily live without these elements of assimilation anyway. But their very survival depended upon the promised allotments of food and warm clothing.

Unable to live on the skimpy-to-nonexistent supplies provided by the Indian Agent, bands began to roam far and wide outside the reservation. Upset by these excursions, the Agent complained to tribal leaders, which created an atmosphere of frustration and discontent.

The Bannocks generally wandered the most, and therefore earned an extra level of nagging from the Agent. Soon, Bannock leaders began to suspect that the Agent was favoring the Shoshones in his already-sparing allotments.

The existence of this feeling among the Indians was confirmed by an Army officer who inspected the reservation. In his report he wrote, “The Bannocks are regarded by officers of the army and civilians as friendly and peaceable towards the whites. They are, however, very much opposed to their Agent, Mr. Danilson; this opposition I learn is provoked by his discrimination in favor of the Shoshones.”

Of course, the inspector could not stay long enough to verify the Bannocks’ suspicions. But in this tense atmosphere, an unknown white angered the Indians anew: One account said he raped a Bannock girl, but other reports suggest horse theft or some other crime.

Tribesmen had no way to specifically identify the offender, so they knew white authorities would do nothing. A frustrated brave stormed out and shot two teamsters, neither of whom, it is generally agreed, had anything to do with the initial offense. The teamsters eventually recovered from their wounds.
Group of Bannock, 1878. Library of Congress.

After more disputation, the shooter was arrested. As he was brought to, or passed through Fort Hall, Tambiago “snapped” at this one-sided display of justice ... and shot Rhoden. Again, it’s unclear whether Tambiago was the brother or just a good friend of the accused man. Authorities finally caught and arrested Tambiago. Tried and convicted of murder, he was hanged the following year, the first man hanged at the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary.

In his Reminiscences, Toponce remarked, “The Indian who killed Rodin had no grudge against him. He simply wanted to kill a white man and Alex was the first one he saw.”

A week or so after the shooting, Toponce shipped the young man’s body back to Nebraska for burial.
References: George Francis Brimlow, The Bannock War of 1878, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1938).
“Killed By An Indian,” Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah (December 1, 1877).
Alexander Toponce, Reminiscences of Alexander Toponce, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (1971).

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Branch Railroad Arrives in Rexburg, Headed for Yellowstone [otd 11/22]

On November 22, 1899, tracks of the St. Anthony Railroad Company were completed into Rexburg, Idaho. The goal of the Company, which had been incorporated in May, was to extend a rail line from Idaho Falls to St. Anthony. Reporting on the Rexburg arrival, the Fremont County Journal said, “All afternoon the construction train was puffing back and forth through town.”
St. Anthony in 1907.
Vintage postcard displayed at

The tracks reached St. Anthony the following spring. Over the next several years, the railroad built branch lines to communities to the east and west of the main line. By about 1918, Fremont County would have, according to J. H. Hawley, “more than a score of railway stations.” Eventually the company would be acquired by the Oregon Short Line Railroad.

During its period of growth, the Company found itself at odds with the United States government. Construction crews had cut timber for ties and bridges from public lands accessible from their right-of-way.  In this, they cited a Federal statute that allowed a “duly organized” railroad company “the right to take, from the public lands adjacent to the line of said road, material, earth, stone, and timber necessary for the construction of said railroad.”

The closest suitable timberlands were 20 to 25 miles distant. Interpreting the intent of the law liberally, the company obtained the necessary material from those stands. Federal administrators disputed their right in this case and demanded they pay over $20 thousand for timber illegally cut from public lands. A lower court denied the Federal claim, as did a circuit court of appeals. Determined, authorities then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. After much legal nit-picking about the meaning of the word “adjacent,” the High Court reversed the judgement. The railroad company had to pay the charges.
West Yellowstone train depot, ca. 1910. National Park Service.

In 1905, leading investors in the St. Anthony railroad felt the time was ripe to extend the tracks to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park [blog, Mar 1]. The work proceeded slowly, for various reasons, not the least of which was the heavy snowfall encountered in the mountains between Ashton and the town of West Yellowstone. In fact, each season opened with a major effort to clear anywhere from six to thirty feet of snow off the tracks.

The first passenger train reportedly reached the entrance depot in June 1909. The Idaho Falls Times noted (April 20, 1909) that the railroad had already taken heavy bookings in anticipation of that event. They expected that “attendance at the park for 1909 will be more than double last season.”

Rail traffic through Idaho to Yellowstone enjoyed a boom between the World Wars. Thus, in 1925, the Union Pacific (which by then had absorbed the OSL) built a huge tourist dining hall in West Yellowstone. However, that traffic plunged after World War II, and by 1960 the town no longer had passenger service.

Today, trains still operate as far north as Ashton, Idaho, with some branch lines around the region; however, much branch trackage has also been abandoned or ripped up.
Reference: [B&W], Hawley]
“United States vs. St. Anthony Railroad Company, 192 U.S. 524,” Record of U. S. Supreme Court Cases, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. (1904).
“West Yellowstone History,” West Yellowstone Tourism Business Improvement District, West Yellowstone, Montana  (2010).

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Wilson Price Hunt Fur Trade Party Reaches Boise Valley [otd 11/21]

In November 1811, Wilson Price Hunt recorded in his journal, “On the 21st at daybreak we saw ahead of us a river that flowed to the west, its banks lined with cottonwood and willow trees. Some Indians who had pitched camp there had many horses and were far better clothed than those whom we had seen recently."

Hunt’s party thus became the first whites to report seeing the Boise Valley. (A smaller group led by Hunt’s associate Donald Mackenzie had probably seen it earlier, but the details of Mackenzie’s route are uncertain.) As noted before, Hunt’s expedition represented John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company [blog, Oct 5].
Snake River canyon below Caldron Linn. Idaho Tourism.

They had built dugout canoes and attempted to voyage down the Snake River, but lost a canoe and one French-Canadian boatman at Caldron Lynn [blog, Oct 28]. Although the immediate prospect looked grim, Hunt did not give up right away. The next day, he wrote, “For thirty-five miles I went along the banks of the river, which continues to carve a passage northwest through the mountains. Its bed is no more than sixty to ninety feet wide, it is full of rapids, and its course is broken by falls ten to forty feet high. Except at two spots where I went down to get water, the banks are precipitous everywhere.”

So the explorers abandoned their canoes, cached the goods they couldn’t carry, and started walking across Idaho. To make foraging easier, Hunt divided the group into several smaller parties. Hunt’s contingent generally followed the north bank of the Snake, barely avoiding starvation by trading with local Indians for dogs and dried salmon.

Finally, somewhere near today’s Glenns Ferry, tribesmen advised Hunt to leave the river and head more directly north and west. That route indeed proved shorter, but they found no water. Before light rains after two days relieved their thirst somewhat “several Canadians had begun to drink their urine.”
Boise River, fall. Idaho Tourism.

The next day was November  21st, when they reached the Boise River. They traded with several Indian bands for food and a couple of horses. Hunt said, “They told us that farther upstream beaver were plentiful, though in the vicinity of our camp there were very few.”

Hunt’s party spent a few days resting and trying to puzzle out a route based on confusing advice from the Indians. Finally, they headed generally northwest and then, in the vicinity of present-day Weiser, turned north into the mountains. From there, Hunt’s party staggered through some of Idaho’s worst country, where many peaks rise to eight or nine thousand feet. Low on food, they were lashed by snows squalls mixed with rain. Finally, they were forced to turn back, returning to the Weiser area about three weeks after they had left it. Hunt said, “Ice floated on the river and the weather was extremely cold.”

Knowing they didn’t have enough supplies to last through the winter, Hunt’s party finally headed due west to where guides said they could cross the Snake River. It took them most of three days to get across using one crude raft made from horsehide. They marched away from the river on the day before Christmas, only to struggle through more mountains in eastern Oregon.

They finally reached the Columbia just under a month after they left the Snake, and were happy to reach Astoria a few weeks after that. The Astorians had learned a good deal about the beaver country west of the Rockies, but the Pacific Fur Company would not benefit from that knowledge.                                                                                                                                      
References: Wilson Price Hunt, Hoyt C. Franchère (ed. and translator), Overland Diary of Wilson Price Hunt, Ashland Oregon Book Society (1973).
Washington Irving, Astoria, or Anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains, G. P. Putnam and Son, New York (1868). Author’s revised edition.
James P. Ronda, Astoria and Empire, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1990).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Women’s Suffrage Advocates Hold First Idaho Convention [otd 11/20]

On November 20, 1895, supporters held the first women’s suffrage convention in Idaho. In general, the western states had been much more supportive of women’s suffrage than those in the East. Wyoming had written it into the Territorial Constitution in 1869 and carried that over into statehood in 1890. The state of Colorado passed a similar amendment in 1893.
Suffragettes collecting petition signatures.
Library of Congress.

Nationally, however, advocates made little progress. The 1892 Republican party platform paid the notion lip service, but nothing came of that provision. Moreover, the History of Woman Suffrage said, “No Democratic national platform ever has recognized so much as the existence of women … ”

In 1894, canvassers in New York State collected some 600 thousand petition signatures in support of a women’s suffrage amendment: Constitutional delegates rejected the idea by almost a 2-to-1 margin.

That same year, Idaho politicians supported women’s suffrage in their party platforms and on the campaign trail. Thus, the legislature that convened in early 1895 passed a resolution calling for such an amendment … with just 2 dissenting votes out of 70 cast.

Still, conventional wisdom held that “popular indifference” would doom the measure – opponents would be sure to vote while the rest of the electorate wouldn’t bother. Determined to change that, advocates convened that first convention in Boise, meeting at the home of the President of the Boise Equal Suffrage Club.
Suffrage leaders, including Susan B. Anthony -- seated right of center, in spectacles --
meeting with Utah organizers. Utah State Historical Society photo.
In addition to the usual slate of officers and an advisory board, the women designated county presidents from all across the state. The women then laid out a campaign to insure passage of the amendment. They even received a telegram with advice from Miss Susan B. Anthony: “With hope of carrying amendment, educate rank and file of voters through political party papers and meetings; women speakers cannot reach them.”

To bolster their campaign, supporters held a second, much more heavily attended convention in July 1896. Outsiders also came to lend their support, including Abigail Scott Duniway. Abigial Jane Scott had crossed Idaho in 1852, when she was eighteen years old, as an Oregon Trail emigrant [blog, July 29]. She had since become a nationally-known advocate for women’s rights.

The Idaho Statesman observed (July 5, 1896), “The equal suffrage convention held here last week was a pronounced success, and the result will be beneficial in the campaign that will soon be upon us.”

Hiram T. French related an episode that illustrates the women’s determination. Organizers sent the announcement for a planned local event to their usual contact in a small North Idaho mining town. However, that person had moved, so when two speakers arrived to make the presentation, nothing had been arranged. Undeterred by the slip-up, the women hurriedly found a hall and then hired boys to assemble two huge woodpiles near the primary mine facilities. Lit just in time for the shift end, the roaring bonfires attracted “a large audience” to the talks.

As described elsewhere [blog, Nov 3], the measure passed handily.
References: [Brit], [French], [Hawley]
Susan B. Anthony, Ida H. Harper (eds.), The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol IV: 1883-1900, The Hollenbeck Press, Indianapolis (© Susan B. Anthony, 1902).

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Boise Attorney, Businessman, and Education Leader Oliver Haga [otd 11/19]

Attorney Haga. H. T. French photo.
Boise lawyer and education advocate Oliver O. Haga was born November 19, 1872 in Luverne, Minnesota (in the extreme southwestern corner, 25-30 miles east of Sioux Falls, South Dakota).

At the age of twenty, he had a job as school Principal in Wisconsin. In 1894, he graduated from Indiana’s Valparaiso University. (He later received a master’s degree from the school.)

After graduation, he moved to Idaho as the school Principal in Salmon City. He spent two years there, two years in a similar position at Glenns Ferry, and became Principal of Boise High School in 1898. His tenure followed a period of dramatic growth in the Boise student population. In 1894 and then again two years later, Boise City had added new facilities to its system.

For many years, Haga had filled his spare time reading law in local attorneys' offices. During the summers, he traveled East to study in various law schools. Thus, concurrent with his move to Boise, he qualified for the Idaho bar. In time he would earn the right to argue cases in the Supreme courts of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Indiana, as well as Federal courts in those states … and the U. S. Supreme Court.

In 1901, Oliver resigned from the Boise school to go into the law full time. He joined Judge James H. Richards, a former Boise mayor, in the firm of Richards & Haga. In little more than a decade, Richards & Haga developed a client list that included the Idaho branches of some of the largest financial and investment companies in the United States. Haga himself became a nationally-known authority on irrigation and water law, a hugely important specialty in the arid Western states.

In early 1926, Haga was appointed as one of two Idaho members of the Advisory Commission for the The SesquiCentennial International Exposition. The Exposition, a world’s fair held in Philadelphia, commemorated the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It opened at the end of May, was officially dedicated on July 4th, and ran through November.

Haga developed extensive business and property holdings in the Boise Valley, across southern Idaho, and even into Montana. As a sideline, he became a “gentleman farmer” and rancher in the Boise Valley, where he bred registered shorthorn cattle.
BJC Administration Building, ca 1955.
Albertsons Library Digital Collections.

Haga never lost his interest in education. He had a long tenure on the Boise school board, including several years as board president, and also served on the Board of Trustees of the Idaho Industrial Training School. The Training School was a rehabilitation center for juvenile offenders.

From 1934 through 1939, Haga responded to an educational crisis in his adopted home town: the preservation of the fledgling Boise Junior College. The detailed story is beyond the scope of this blog. To summarize: Oliver not only Chaired the Board of Directors that managed the school, but he also shepherded a “junior college bill” through the legislature. That law, signed in February 1939, provided for more reliable school funding.

Haga passed away in 1943. Eight years later, the BJC Administration Building was designated the Oliver O. Haga Hall, although, the Boise State archives note, it was “rarely called by that name.”
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Erastus Long Austin, Odell Hauser, The Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition, Reprint Edition, Arno Press, Inc., New York (1976).
Eugene B. Chaffee, Boise College, An Idea Grows, Printing by Syms-York Company, Boise (© Eugene B. Chaffee 1970).