Saturday, November 18, 2017

Nez Percés Indian Reservation Opened to White Settlers [otd 11/18]

On November 18, 1895, “surplus” lands on the Nez Percés Indian Reservation were thrown open to claims by white settlers. This action crowned a long campaign to force assimilation upon the Nez Percés and other Indian tribes.
Nez Percés encampment near Lapwai, 1899.
Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

The original 1855 treaty between the U.S. and the Nez Percés essentially confirmed the Indians’ sovereignty over much of their extensive ancestral homeland in the Pacific Northwest. However, that treaty lasted just eight years. Then prospectors found gold in what would become Idaho. Some of the discoveries were clearly inside the Nez Percés reservation, which led to a new treaty that drastically reduced the allotted lands [blog, Jun 9].

Most of the Nez Percés bands rejected the agreement, yet whites officials – with the usual self-serving cynicism – billed it as an all-encompassing document. Continued flagrant violations of both treaties eventually led to the Nez Percés War of 1877 [blog, Jun 17]. After that, all of the various bands of the tribe were forcibly placed on reservations – mostly in Idaho but some in Washington.

Soon, the Nez Percés adapted. The schools filled with Indian children, cultivated plots expanded, and native handicrafts found their way to market. Yet much had not changed, perhaps because the Nez Percés did not put that much emphasis on accumulating material possessions. Indian cowboys grazed growing herds of cattle and bands of horses, making good use of the lush rangeland. Women and youngsters moved across the countryside, gathering camas roots and the other usual bounties from the earth.

Unfortunately, as settlement increased around the reservations, the “empty” lands inside the boundaries became an issue. An item from the Idaho County Free Press (June 18, 1886) captures the prevailing white attitude: “The land is of no use to them for they cannot and will not utilize it. … As long as it is reserved from white occupation it will remain as useless as though located in the desert of Sahara.”

Senator Dawes. Library of Congress.
An unlikely alliance between land-greedy settlers and the national “do-gooder” community found a solution. The  1887 “Dawes” or “Severalty” Act provided that lands on many Indian reservations would no longer be held communally. Instead, individual Indians would own plots patterned after the traditional Euro-American family farm.

Although the law made some provision for grazing, its clear intent was to force tribesmen to become small farmers. Then, the do-gooders were sure, they would assimilate into white society as “stout yeomen of the soil.” White settlers would, of course, make productive use of the acreage left over after these allotments.

Government officials arbitrarily assigned a value to the “excess,” bought it from the tribe, and distributed the proceeds among the individual tribesmen. The land office then made these “purchased” plots available for white homesteaders. Some years passed before the details were ironed out in Idaho, but the resulting transfer finally happened in 1895.

Authorities did nothing to keep claimants out, so most had moved onto the land well before the legal opening. A special correspondent for Boise’s Idaho Statesman (November 19, 1895), writing from Lewiston, was rather disappointed. Yes, he wrote, “there was no lawlessness, no suffering from the snows of winter or the intense heat of midsummer.” But as a result “all the romance which is supposed to attach to occasions of this kind was lost.”
                                                                                                                                      
References: [Illust-North]
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1951).
Francis Haines, The Nez Percés: Tribesmen of the Columbia Plateau, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (1955).
Thomas R. Wessel, “Agriculture, Indians, and American History,” The American Indian: Past and Present, 6th Edition, Roger L. Nichols (Ed.), University of Oklahoma Press (2008).

Friday, November 17, 2017

Horses Thieves Trailed, Captured, and Jailed – Escaped, Caught Again [otd 11/17]

On Saturday, November 17, 1883, three different newspapers across Idaho published stories about a trio of captured horse thieves. That timing arose from the more-leisurely newspaper publication schedules back then. The Owyhee Avalanche (Silver City, Idaho) and the Blackfoot Register were both weeklies, issued only on Saturdays. The Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman (Boise) had issues on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Watching the horses. Library of Congress.

The raiders began their depredations the previous month when they stole a considerable band of horses near Fort McDermitt, Nevada. That’s along the Nevada-Oregon border about seventy miles north of Winnemucca. They reportedly left Nevada with about 75 animals. Many of them belonged to a stockman named Jeremiah “Jerry” Hearn. He was originally from Massachusetts and brought his bride, Margaret, to the area in 1881.

Edward F. Mullaney, whose brother had lost horses to the thieves, trailed the bandits as they made their way across the southeast corner of Oregon into Idaho. (We know only a few of the pursuers’ names, probably because the composition of the posse changed along the way.)

In Idaho, the thieves added about 40 horses belonging to stockman Con Shea [blog, Sept 24] to their herd. They then pushed through the mountains to the east, emerging, it is supposed, somewhere south of today’s Murphy. Based on the eventual size of the stolen herd, it’s likely they gathered more horses on the high plains there. The raiders finally crossed the Snake River near the mouth of the Bruneau River.

The crooks next dodged there way east. They would have needed to avoid the new Oregon Short Line tracks, since by this time the railroad was running regular mixed trains over the line. They finally pushed their herd into the Lost River area, some sixty to seventy miles west of Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls). Apparently not concerned about any possible pursuit, the thieves now “laid over four or five days” (Blackfoot Register). While there, they stole 45-50 horses belonging to rancher Edward Hawley.
Robbers’ approximate path (Green line). Overlay on historical map.
Rested up, and still unaware of any posse, the thieves moseyed through East Idaho before turning north into Montana. Along the way, they “picked up” another 15-20 horses. The pursuit closed in near the town of Bannack, about eighteen miles west of Dillon.

Events then turn a bit murky. The three apparently sent someone into Bannack for supplies, but were tipped off that a posse was after them. The crooks quickly abandoned their loot and “lit out.” They were soon caught, however, and jailed in Dillon.

Amusingly, the three “simultaneous” news articles had different snapshots of these events. The Statesman and the Register noted that the crooks were in jail pending extradition paperwork from Idaho and Nevada. The Avalanche, on the other hand, knew that the prisoners had already broken out of jail.

The three were recaptured in December and returned to Nevada for trial. The Reno Evening Gazette reported (March 21, 1884) their convictions, under the names of Lee, Stimson, and Dan Bowden. The latter was a gunman well known in southern Idaho and northern Nevada. Lee, apparently, had been “recently released” from the Idaho Penitentiary. The court sentenced Stimson to four months in the county jail, while the other two received long prison terms.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W]
Blackfoot Register; Idaho Statesman, Boise; Owyhee Avalanche, Silver City, Idaho (November 17, 1883).
“Horse Thieves … ,” Owyhee Avalanche (November 10, and December 22, 1883).
“Horse Thieves,” Idaho Statesman (November 24, 1883).
“Cattle Stealing Gangs,” Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, Nevada (March 21, 1884).

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Idaho Falls Dedicates a New City Hall and Fire Station [otd 11/16]

On November 16, 1930, Idaho Falls officials dedicated a new City Hall. It replaced the old city building, which had been in use since before 1911.

Idaho Falls, aka “Eagle Rock,” aka “Taylor’s Bridge,” originated when James Madison “Matt” Taylor and his partners opened a toll bridge at the spot in 1865 [blog, Dec 10]. Settlement was very slow at first. When Matt’s cousin Sam Taylor [blog, Apr 18] arrived in June 1870, he recalled, “There was nothing there then but Matt Taylor’s family and what help they had around, and men that worked for the stage line; no settlers at all.”
Idaho Falls train yard. Bonneville County Historical Society.

The stage station finally experienced a growth spurt after the Utah & Northern Railroad arrived in April 1879: Eagle Rock grew as newcomers settled in the region, especially north along Henry’s Fork. Then, in 1887, the town suffered a significant loss of population when the railroad shops moved to Pocatello. Still, continued settlement in the area gave people confidence about the future.

Eagle Rock organized into a village structure in 1889 and selected a board of five trustees. Two years later, the town’s name changed to Idaho Falls. Not until 1895 did the Board formally designate a Chairman. By 1900, the town was large enough to be a “city of the second class,” with a Mayor and council.

Sometime during this period, the Board procured a specific City Hall. This structure, on the southwest corner of Broadway and Capital Avenue, would remain in use until the new City Hall was dedicated. For five or six years after 1911, part of the building also served as the Bonneville County courthouse. The county then erected a new courthouse building, which is still in use today.

Around 1928, “five and dime” retailer S. H. Kress offered a premium price for the property that housed the police and fire stations. With the old City Hall showing its age, the Council saw the offer as a way to finance a replacement. They accepted, and fire and police units became tenants for awhile.

With money in hand, the city began planning a new structure, one that would allow the consolidation of the city offices with the police and fire stations. With additional revenue from the municipal hydro-power plant, the council did not need to call for a bond election. For $9,000, the city purchased a lot that was then owned by the Idaho Falls Elk’s Lodge.

City Hall drawing.
Idaho Falls Historic Preservation Commission.
Construction proceeded in phases after purchase of the property. Although much remained to be done at the time, the city offices moved into the completed fire station structure in August 1929. After that, work proceeded rapidly, leading to the formal dedication noted above.

Over the years, parts of the interior were modernized, and a foyer with skylights was remodeled into additional offices. However, "the lobby retains its distinctive tiles and decorative detail."

City Hall still serves Idaho Falls well today and its façade looks pretty much like it did eighty years ago.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [Illust-State]
Mary Jane Fritzen, Eagle Rock, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society (1991).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–1934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
“Idaho Falls City Building,” Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation (2012).

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Idaho Falls developer and Construction Leader William Keefer [otd 11/15]

William Keefer. J. H. Hawley photo.
Idaho Falls developer and builder William W. Keefer was born November 15, 1852 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, 40-60 miles southwest of Harrisburg. Although he was a carpenter by trade, as a young man he spent two years teaching school.

In about 1873, he found work in the west. He ended up leading a construction crew building bridges and depots for the Utah & Northern Railroad in northern Utah and southeast Idaho

Financial problems slowed and then halted track-laying in southeast Idaho from 1874 into early 1878. Work resumed in March 1878, and the rails marched steadily north. They reached Eagle Rock (today’s Idaho Falls) about a year later [blog, Apr 11]. Then the company began to construct a full inventory of railroad shops and a passenger station in the little town, so Keefer focused on that work.

The completed shops provided locomotive repair and maintenance facilities, and were equipped so the company could build various types of rail cars there. When crews completed the railway structures, Keefer decided to settle in Eagle Rock rather than continue with the railroad.

The town experienced something of a building surge at the time, so Keefer found plenty of work. Along with his construction business, he began investing in prime real estate, with an eye toward development. It helped that the town was platted in 1884.

By the mid-1880s entrepreneurs had formed irrigation companies to build diversion dams and canals for cultivated agriculture. That sparked “Eagle Rock’s Building Boom,” according to the Idaho Register (April 4, 1885). The item noted that Keefer and a partner had just completed one project and had started a “soda water manufactory and sample room.” Later that year, the Register reported (Noember 21, 1885) that Keefer was making many improvements to his brewery: “nearly quadrupling his present capacity for making beer.”

The growth in farming to supplement stock raising helped “cushion the blow” when the railroad company moved its shops to Pocatello in 1887. Although the population suffered a severe drop, the town survived.

Matt Taylor’s original wooden bridge across the Snake River [blog, Dec 10] deteriorated beyond any reasonable repair effort after almost a quarter century of use. Thus, in 1890, commissioners hired Keefer to construct masonry piers for a new steel bridge next to the old one. When no one bid on the structure itself, Keefer went ahead and completed the job. The bridge would serve the city until 1907.

Broadway, looking east, ca 1912. H. T. French photo.
Throughout the Nineties, Eagle Rock/Idaho Falls (the name changed in 1891) kept growing: many churches, two or three banks, a hotel, and more. Keefer by no means handled all these projects, but he apparently had parts of many.

In 1909, Keefer and his twin sons, Fred and Frank, began construction of a dam to impound the Snake right at the town. The dam and a retaining wall diverted a substantial part of the flow to a new hydroelectric power plant. The plant went operational in 1912. Today, the dam and diversion wall are what tourists consider the “falls” of Idaho Falls.

Besides his development work, William Keefer served two years as county coroner, ran for county sheriff at least once, and served two terms on the Idaho Falls city council. He passed away in March 1940.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [Hawley]
Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County in the Making, Self-published, Idaho Falls, Idaho (1941).
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Timothy Regan: Freighter, Mining Expert, and Business Developer [otd 11/14]

Timothy Regan. J. H. Hawley photo.
Wealthy businessman and developer Timothy Regan was born November 14, 1843 near Rochester, New York. The family later moved to Wisconsin, where Timothy grew up and received a public school education. In 1864, he struck out on his own, taking the isthmus route to California.

He found little to his liking there and, in November, ended up in Silver City, Idaho. Almost broke, Timothy immediately found work chopping firewood. He then landed a job in the Poorman Mine, until it closed down in 1866. He went back to chopping wood, worked in Salt Lake City for a time, and then returned to the Silver City area when a new mine opened up in 1868.

Regan soon branched into several enterprises: operating a sawmill, transporting lumber and ore for the mines, and hauling freight in the region. In 1875, he and partner Hosea Eastman purchased the Idaho Hotel, in Silver City. (Regan bought Eastman out two years later.) Also in 1875, a bank failure ruined several mining companies and Regan, as one of their major creditors, acquired many of their properties.

Considered, according to the Illustrated History, “an expert in his judgment of ore,” Regan eventually held some of the most valuable properties in the area. He later sold many of these holdings at a substantial profit. Although he and his wife moved to Boise City in 1889, Timothy retained some of the mining properties as well as at least a share of the hotel. (He apparently sold the hotel interest about ten years later.)

Regan quickly became a force in Boise City development. Three years before the move, Regan had joined with Hosea Eastman and some others to organize the Boise City National Bank. (The building they later commissioned is today on the National Register of Historic Places.) Although he was a major stockholder, Timothy apparently never held an officer’s position with the bank.

Regan did serve for many years as the President of the Artesian Hot and Cold Water Company, which opened the Boise Natatorium in 1892. Supplied with hot water from nearby geothermal wells, “the Nat” is still a noted Boise landmark. He was also a major stockholder and officer for the Weiser Land & Improvement Company.

Regan was General Manager and Treasurer of the Overland Company, Ltd., another firm he and Eastman shared. Seeing a need for more office space in downtown Boise, the Company demolished the old Overland Hotel to make room for a new structure.
Overland Building, ca 1915. J. H. Hawley photo.

Largely completed in late 1906, with full occupancy early the following year, the Overland Building would, according to a headline in the Idaho Statesman (November 13, 1905) “be a credit to a city with a population of  100,000.” For many years after, the Overland, later renamed the Eastman Building, was the prestige business address in downtown Boise.

Regan and his brother-in-law, Frank Blackinger [blog, Aug 26] formed a separate partnership, which owned the Capitol Hotel. Regan and Hosea Eastman were, in fact, married to two of Blackinger’s four sisters.

The Regans’ younger son, John, was killed in France during World War I [blog, Feb 6]. Timothy passed away in October 1919.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“Boise City National Bank Building,” National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.
Nancy DeHamer, “Hosea Eastman, Timothy Regan, and Frank Blackinger,” Reference Series No. 728, Idaho State Historical Society (1971). 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Jewish Businessman and Idaho Governor Moses Alexander [otd 11/13]

Moses Alexander.
Illustrated History
photo.
Idaho Governor Moses Alexander was born on November 13, 1853 in Obrigheim, Germany. In 1867, he emigrated to the U. S., where he lived with a sister in New York for a few months.

Moses then moved on to work with a cousin in Chillicothe, Missouri. He proved to have a talent for retail merchandizing, which he put to good use … advancing from clerk to partner at the age of twenty.

In 1891, Alexander moved to Idaho and opened a men’s clothing store in downtown Boise City. His operation prospered and, over the years that followed, Moses established a chain of stores across southern Idaho and in Oregon.

Within a few years he was a recognized leader in the community, having promoted and brought to completion the construction of the first Jewish synagogue in Boise. A rabbi from Salt Lake City officiated at the opening, and the Idaho Statesman reported (August 31, 1896) on “the very impressive ceremony of dedication of the temple Beth Israel.” Fittingly, they also held a bar Mitzvah ceremony for Moses’ son Nathan.

Despite his extensive business operations, Moses took time for public service. In Chillicothe, he had served on the City Council and twice as Mayor. He continued that interest in Boise. He was elected Mayor in 1897, chose to skip a term, and was elected again in 1901. Alexander was an active Mayor. The switch from a volunteer to professional fire department [blog, Jan 28] was made “on his watch,” and he led other civic improvements.

He ran for Idaho governor in 1908 but the nomination process was hotly contested and highly divisive for Idaho Democrats. The Republican nominee won. Health problems that dogged him later in life led him to decline a nomination for the next election.

He felt ready to go in 1914, easily won the Democratic Party nomination, and then out-polled an opponent plagued by scandal in the Republican Party. Moses thus became the first governor of any U. S. state who was also a practicing Jew*. He was reelected in 1916.

A strong temperance supporter, Alexander helped push through a state-level Prohibition law even before the entire country went officially “dry.” Idaho quickly experienced a clear foretaste of the unintended, bad consequences of Prohibition [blog, Oct 28], yet the governor never wavered in his position.

World War I (the “Great War”) provided the other favored cause during Alexander’s time as Governor. Despite – or perhaps because of – his German birth, Moses fervently supported the American war effort. Long before Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, anti-semitism was a powerful political force in Germany. No one has found evidence that this influenced Alexander’s attitude, but it can’t be ruled out.
Alexander’s Boise store, ca. 1925. Library of Congress.

Hampered by health issues, Alexander failed in another run for Governor in 1922. He died in January 1932.

Considerable archival material about Alexander’s career and family background is cataloged in The Moses Alexander Collection at the Idaho State Historical Society.

* Records show that Washington M. Barlett, whose mother was Jewish, served as Governor of California for nine months before his death in September 1887. Bartlett was not active in any religion while in California, and his funeral service was held at the Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco (San Francisco Bulletin, San Francisco, California, September 13, 1887).
                                                                                                                                       
References: [Brit], [Illust-State], [Hawley]
"Washington Bartlett," The Governors' Gallery, The California State Library.
Dylan J. McDonald (Ed.), The Moses Alexander Collection, Idaho State Historical Society (2002).

Sunday, November 12, 2017

BYU-Idaho Predecessor, Bannock Stake Academy, Has Building Dedicated [otd 11/12]

On November 12, 1888, Mormon pioneers dedicated the school building for the Bannock Stake Academy in Rexburg, Idaho. With this small start, the Academy can justly lay claim to being the first organization in the state that eventually grew into an institution of higher learning. Not the first actual college, however; at least three Idaho schools taught college-level classes before them.
Principal Spori. BYU-I Archives.

The Stake selected Jacob Spori, a highly educated Swiss emigrant, as the first Principal. He and two other instructors ran the Academy initially as an elementary school.

Rexburg had been established by members of the LDS Church, led by Thomas E. Ricks, in January 1883. The town grew quickly, achieving a population of over 800 in early 1884 and burgeoning to over 1,400 by the end of that year. The Bannock Academy was among a host of local schools created by the Mormon church to teach standard academic subjects along with LDS religious doctrine.

Donations from members paid for desks and remodeling the log structure that served as a Ward meeting house. From the dedication onward, tight finances plagued the school. Funding was so scant that Spori covered its first-year debts, and the salaries of the other teachers, out of his own pocket. He resigned after three years for the sake of his family.

The Academy’s survival remained in doubt all through the Nineties under the two succeeding Principals: At one point, the entire staff served without pay for a half year, accepting foodstuffs in lieu of tuition so they could at least eat. A new Principal who came on board in 1899 began to phase out the lower grades, turning the institution into a high school.
Main building, ca. 1905. BYU-I Archives.

To accommodate the expanded curriculum, the Stake first purchased a building in Rexburg, and then arranged for the construction of a more suitable structure on land south of downtown. Workers put the finishing touches on the structure in time for the start of the 1903-04 school year. By then, the Church called the school the “Ricks Academy,” in honor of Thomas E. Ricks, who had died in September 1901.

Later, it became first Ricks Normal College and then just Ricks College. The institution barely survived crisis after crisis. In the early Thirties, the church tried to give the school to the state of Idaho as another junior college. Protesting any added drain on the state’s education budget, legislators spurned the offer.

World War II created yet another crisis. The draft and vital war work severely depleted the pool of potential male students. On top of that, several faculty members were called up. In May 1945, Ricks awarded degrees to its first, and only, all-girl graduating class.

However, after the war, returning veterans quickly changed the class mix and, in fact, caused a major housing crunch. From 1948 to 1957, the school transitioned into a four-year curriculum and then back to two-year status.

For a few years after that, it appeared the school would be moved to Idaho Falls. That crisis passed also, and in June 2000 it gained an assured 4-year status, now operating as Brigham Young University-Idaho. Today, BYU-Idaho is thriving. They have recently completed (mostly) a major new building program.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [Hawley]
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks: A History of Ricks College, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).
Jerry C. Roundy, Ricks College: A Struggle for Survival, Ricks College Press, Rexburg (1976).

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cornerstone Laid for Roman Catholic Cathedral in Boise [otd 11/11]

On Sunday, November 11, 1906, officials laid the cornerstone for a new Roman Catholic cathedral in Boise, to be known as the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

Catholics had gotten off to an early start in Boise City. Two priests – Fathers Toussaint Mesplie and A. Z. Poulin – arrived in the region about the time the Army established Fort Boise in 1863.

During their first years, they held services in private homes or available public buildings. Catholics built their first Idaho churches in the mining towns of the Boise Basin. Their initial attempt in Boise City burned to the ground only weeks after it was completed in 1870-71. Services then returned to private dwellings, or sometimes the chapel at the Fort.

As placer mining dwindled in the Boise Basin, so did parishioner contributions. By around the end of 1875, administrative control had reverted to the Archbishop of Oregon. That arrangement lasted ten years, while a handful of dedicated priests struggled to maintain a Catholic presence in Idaho.
St. John’s Cathedral, ca. 1895. Illustrated History.

Finally, in 1885, Bishop Alphonse Joseph Glorieux was appointed to run the diocese. At the time, the Boise City church was little more than a “shanty,” with four small attached rooms. The bishop quickly had a separate multi-room residence built, followed by an enlargement and upgrade of the church itself.  In 1889, he added a hall for meetings and classes. By 1895, Glorieux had further expanded and refurbished the church, making the first St. John’s Cathedral something they could point to with pride.

However, as the city and the Roman Catholic congregation grew, Bishop Glorieux decided they needed a more drastic solution. Businesses had begun to hem them in, limiting their ability to expand. Fortunately, all that development also inflated the value of the church real estate. They were able to sell “at a good figure,” and purchased a full block further from downtown.

When the time came to design a new cathedral, church leaders turned to the firm of Tourtellotte & Hummel, who had also designed the Idaho state capitol. The architectural committee chose a Romanesque style, characterized by a symmetrical layout with large, square towers that convey a sense of mass, round arches, and simple, geometric façade work. The description by the diocese notes that its Romanesque style used “the German cathedral of Mainz as a model.”

The cornerstone ceremony included a special program of music, with full orchestra and a forty-member choir. The Idaho Statesman reported (November 11, 1906) that the church hierarchy would be represented by “the largest gathering of bishops at a similar occasion ever held in the northwest.”
Cathedral, ca 1918. J. H. Hawley photo.

To avoid heavy debt, Bishop Glorieux had the builders proceed in phases as funds became available. Thus, services began in the basement once the walls and roof were completed in 1912. The bishop himself did not live to view the finished structure; he died in August 1917.

As the structure neared completion in 1920, “some the most impressive features” were installed: numerous stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ and other religious motifs. The completed cathedral was dedicated on Easter Sunday 1921. The final form did not, however, include a pair of conical towers flanking the front entrance, as called for in the original concept. (These would have more than doubled the height of the building.)

Today, the structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Idaho.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [Hawley]. [Illust-State]
“Cathedral History,” Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Boise.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Alexander Toponce: Freighter, Stockman, Stage Line Operator ... and More [otd 11/10]

Alexander Toponce, energetic immigrant entrepreneur, was born November 10, 1839 in Belfort, France … about thirty miles west of Basel, Switzerland. The family came to the U. S. in June 1846. As a younger son, Alex labored hard on the farm but received no education and had no prospects of any kind. He spurned the family farm at age ten, and headed west at fifteen. Alex recalled, “I found lots of French people in St. Louis.”

For almost a decade, Toponce “whacked bulls” for a freight line, rode express mail, drove a stagecoach, and prospected for gold in Colorado.
Freight Wagon. Reminiscences.
In 1863, Alex sold what little he owned to finance a freight venture. He joined a band of like-minded men (and one woman) for a trip to the Montana gold fields. Alex said, “I had the honor of being elected captain of the train.”

Except for various short trips out of the area, Toponce spent the rest of his life in Idaho, southern Montana, and northern Utah.

Alex did much better prospecting in Montana than he had in Colorado and used the proceeds to go into the freight business full time. Over the next twenty-odd years, his freight line grew to be “one of the largest … in the Northwest.” But that was not enough for him. In 1867, Toponce transacted his first big cattle deal, using the animals to haul freight into Montana and then selling them to local meat markets and stockmen.

He also had contracts to supply meat to the construction crews building the transcontinental railroad. Alex said that on the last day of track-laying he “threw a shovel full of dirt on the ties just to tell about it afterward.” He could not recall what the dignitaries said at the Golden Spike Ceremony, but, he wrote, “I do remember that there was a great abundance of champagne.”

In 1871, Toponce acquired a cattle herd that had been trailed from Texas as far as Denver. Alex completed the drive to land he had leased on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. His ranch supplied the reservation, the gold camps, and any other market where Toponce could make a buck. At various times, he owned cattle in Utah and Nevada, and even drove some into California. He sold the Fort Hall outfit in 1879.
Alexander Toponce. Reminiscences.

Along with his freight line and cattle, Toponce built roads, ran a stagecoach company, and invested in mining properties from near Bellevue to north of Challis. He eased out of the wagon freight business in 1883-1886 as the completion of railroads across Idaho made long hauls unprofitable.

Alex himself did not ease back, however. At various times, he owned a piece of a canal company and grist mill in Utah, and a charcoal kiln in Wyoming. Seeing empty grazing land in Wyoming, he ran a considerable sheep outfit there. In 1892, the railroad shipped “twelve double-decked cars” full of sheep for him.

He also found time to serve a term as mayor of Corinne, supply ties to the railway company, own a butcher shop, and more. In 1914, he sold the rights to a hydropower site he stilled owned in Idaho. He finally began to slow down a few years later, and took the time to prepared his Reminiscences. His wife arranged publication after his death in May 1923.
                                                                                                                                      
References: “Construction: Pacific States,” Electrical World, Vol. LXIV, McGraw Publishing Company, Inc., New York (July 4 to December 26, 1914).
“Railroad Transfer of Sheep,” The Standard, Ogden, Utah (Nov 11, 1892).
Dan L. Thrapp (ed.), Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1991).
Alexander Toponce, Reminiscences of Alexander Toponce, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (1971).

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Boise Mayor, Attorney, and Earthquake Witness Joseph Pence [otd 11/09]

Mayor Pence. CityofBoise.com
On November 9, 1869, Boise Mayor Joseph Thomas Pence was born in Ottuma, Iowa. He graduated from Parsons College (Fairfield, Iowa) in 1892. Pence then taught at another small Iowa college, serving four years as Chair of its Department of Classical Languages.

After studying law for a year at Georgetown University, he transferred to Drake University Law School. He received his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1900.

Pence moved to Boise immediately after graduation and opened a practice there. His experience in educational matters was soon recognized: The governor appointed Joseph as one of the Trustees of the Albion State Normal School. He held that position for over a decade. Throughout that period, his reputation grew, both as a public-spirited citizen and as an intelligent, hardworking, and resourceful attorney.

At one point, he got his name in the newspapers for an usual reason. The Idaho Statesman reported (November 12, 1905) that a slight earthquake had hit Boise the day before. The quake struck in the afternoon, and ground-level pedestrians hardly noticed it. The motion did, however, startle people working on the higher floors of the downtown buildings. Attorney Pence felt his desk lurch and watched a hanging overcoat swing back and forth. The newspaper report went on, “ A sectional bookcase full of books was noticed by him to sway fully three or four inches, as did also a hanging electric light globe.”

Pence took an active interest in politics, working diligently for the Democratic Party. Still, only once could supporters persuade him to run for office himself: Boise voters handily elected him as Mayor in 1909. His administration completed or initiated “many excellent public improvements,” including substantial developments at Julia Davis Park.
Boise, ca. 1918. J. H. Hawley photo.

However, during his term he found himself the lead defendant – along with the city council – in a suit brought by a firm that applied for a liquor license. Judging them to be “not suitable” proprietors of such a business, the council had denied the license. In the end, the suit went all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court, which upheld the council’s position.

Reports from the period indicate that his performance pleased most Boiseans, who might well have elected him for another term. Possibly the liquor store litigation reinforced his reluctance to pursue public office; he never ran again. He did stay active in the Democratic Party, serving as a Delegate to the 1916 National Convention that nominated Woodrow Wilson for the U. S. Presidency.

During World War I, Pence held several positions on the Idaho Council of Defense, a “home front” support organization. The Council helped sell war bonds, addressed critical manpower shortages, and advanced “other matters calculated to bring the war to a successful conclusion.”

A few years after the war, the Salt Lake Telegram announced (May 26, 1922) that Pence had formed a partnership with a Salt Lake lawyer. They opened an office in the three-year-old Clift Building in Salt Lake City. (The Clift Building is now on the National Register of Historic Places.) Pence lived in Utah until his death in 1941.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [French], [Hawley]
I. W. Hart (ex officio reporter), “Darby et. al. vs Pence, Mayor, et. al.,” Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho, Bancroft-Whitney Company, San Francisco (1910).

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

University of Idaho Language Professor and Dean Jay Eldridge [otd 11/8]

Dean Eldridge.
University of Idaho Archives.
University of Idaho Dean of the Faculty Jay Glover Eldridge was born November 8, 1875, in Janesville, Wisconsin (about 60 miles southwest of Milwaukee).

After much moving around the country, the family ended up in New York state where the young man received his early education. He then graduated with highest honors from Yale University in 1896. (He received a Ph.D. from the school ten years later.)

He then studied modern languages at Yale while also serving as a German instructor. After receiving his Master’s degree in 1899, he spent several months in Germany. That trip surely sparked his production of a textbook version of Die Braut von Messina (The Bride of Messina), a famous play – a tragedy – written by German philosopher Friedrich Schiller. Eldridge’s text remained in academic use for over thirty years.

In 1901, he accepted a position as Professor and Chairman of the Modern Languages Department at the University of Idaho. Two years later, he was appointed Dean of the Faculty, the first Dean created at the institution.

Starting in 1905 and continuing for around fifteen years, Eldridge performed the duties normally assigned to a college Registrar. Early on the morning of March 30, 1906, Jay and his family – they lived just off campus – awoke to a great stir. To his horror, he learned that flames were attacking the school’s Administration Building.

Administration Building on fire. University of Idaho Archives.
Eldridge raced to the building, where his office lay on the first floor, but high above a half-buried basement. Finding a ladder, he scrambled up and in. A cherished bookcase took second place to the student records stored in the desk’s file drawers: Those went out the window to safety. Some were reportedly “scorched,” but they remain in University storage to this day.

During World War I, Eldridge served in France with the Young Men’s Christian Association, providing support services for soldiers, sailors, and airman. At the time, military organizations had almost no programs or facilities for off-duty personnel: no R&R (rest and recreation) centers, no PX (post exchange) stores, no canteens, no traveling entertainment. Beginning formally during the Civil War and extending beyond WW-I, the YMCA provided these and other related services.

Their work was not without risk: “Y” volunteers suffered nearly 300 casualties, including 8 killed, and received an impressive collection of American, French, and British medals and awards.

Dr. Eldridge resumed his position at the University after the war. In addition to his teaching and administrative duties, he found time to play an active role in many social and religious activities. Himself selected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society as a junior at Yale, Dean Eldridge helped secure a Society Chapter at the University of idaho, in 1923. He later served as Chapter President.

An accomplished and experienced singer, Dr. Eldridge acted as President of the Moscow Choral Society in 1930-1931. He also held leadership roles in the regional Presbyterian Church organization, and rose to be Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge in Idaho. He served various roles in the Masons until poor health curtained his activities in 1955. He passed away in August 1962.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [Defen], [Hawley]
Captain Ralph Blanchard, “The History of the YMCA in World War I,” Relevance, The Quarterly Journal of the Great War Society, Stanford, California (Spring 1997).
Rafe Gibbs, Beacon for Mountain and Plain: Story of the University of Idaho, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (© The Regents of the University of Idaho, 1962).
“Idaho: 1955,” Proceedings of the Grand Lodge, Vol XXXVI. Part IV (1956).

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Medical Pioneer and Tuberculosis Researcher Edwin Guyon [otd 11/07]

On November 7, 1853, physician and medical pioneer Edwin F. Guyon was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. By one account, his father was among the nearly 13 thousand yellow fever deaths (ten percent of the population) in New Orleans during the period 1853-1855. In 1855, his mother relocated the family to California, where she remarried.

They soon moved to Oregon and, when Edwin was about twelve, his stepfather went into cattle ranching. As a young man, Guyon became a successful small rancher himself, but also nurtured a desire to become a physician. After schooling at Walla Walla College (now University), he attended the University of Cincinnati. He attained his M.D. there in 1891, spent a year in post-doctoral studies, and then started practicing in Pendleton, Oregon.
Montpelier, ca. 1910. Personal Collection.

In 1896, he moved to Montpelier, Idaho and opened a practice there. Four years later, he took a position with a coal company in Wyoming, where he stayed until 1903. During the period from 1897 through 1903, he also served as a surgeon for the Oregon Short Line Railroad. He then returned to Montpelier.

Aside from his practice, Guyon served as chairman of the Montpelier city council in 1910-1911, and also became involved in statewide medical matters. He served on the state Board of Medical Examiners and authored the Idaho law that prohibited "illegal" (presumably, unlicensed) medical practice. He co-authored a similar law in Oregon.

One of Dr. Guyon’s primary interests was the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis. At that time, the disease was “the leading cause of death for all age groups” in the United States. The most common treatment was isolation in a sanitarium, where the patients exercised mildly in the fresh air, rested, and were fed a balanced, nutritious diet.

President Taft. Library of Congress.
In 1912, Dr. Guyon was selected as one of just five Idaho representatives at the International Congress on Hygiene and Demography. That meeting was then the preeminent research conference in the area of public health: The New York Times noted that the Congress was meeting “on American soil for the first time in the three-quarters of a century of its existence.” U. S. President William Howard Taft, serving as honorary chairman, delivered the opening address.

As part of its lead, The Times noted that one Dr. Peyton Rous of New York’s Rockefeller Institute had discovered a cancerous agent that “rapidly transmitted the growth of malignant tumors in chickens.” This was one of the earliest reports on the research that won Dr. Rous the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1966.

Guyon served on several national and international physicians’ committees while continuing his practice in Montpelier. His own medical research accomplishments, while more modest, earned him, in historian French’s words, a “state-wide, even national, reputation for his interest and his labors in the direction of checking and stamping out tuberculosis.”

In 1920, the Montpelier school district began requiring physical exams for children entering school that year. Dr. Guyon chaired the committee of physicians who had volunteered to do the exams. Guyon continued to practice in Montpelier until the early Thirties, when he moved to Pocatello. He passed away there in January of 1934.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [French], [Illustrated-State]
Albert Hassell (ed.), Transactions of the Fifteenth International Congress on Hygiene and Demography (September 23-28, 1912).
“Reveal New Means of Fighting Disease,” The New York Times (September 24, 1912).
“Yellow Fever Deaths in New Orleans, 1817-1905,” New Orleans Public Library (online).

Monday, November 6, 2017

Elections: U. S. President Abraham Lincoln and Lewiston Mayor Ankeny [otd 11/06]

President Lincoln.
National Archives, Matthew Brady.
On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. In March 1863, while leading the nation through the Civil War, Lincoln signed legislation that created Idaho Territory.

Lincoln profoundly impacted the new Territory throughout his time in office. A week after the Territory was created, he appointed William Wallace as the first governor.

Lincoln also appointed a Territorial Secretary, three justices for a Territorial court system, and a U. S. Marshal. The Marshal, Dolphus S. Payne, would be condemned as the perpetrator of the infamous “Laramie Fraud” in the Territory’s first elections later that year [blog, Oct 31].

Almost a year passed before he finally appointed the Territorial Attorney. (Territorial residents voted for a legislature – Representatives and Councilors – but the Federal government controlled everything else.)

When Wallace resigned to become Idaho’s elected Delegate to the U. S. Congress, Lincoln appointed New York politician Caleb Lyon as governor. Intelligent, well-educated, but rather bombastic in speech and manner, Lyon received more derision than respect during his stay in Idaho. Worse by far, however, was simply his status as a Republican appointee. He was thus bound to clash with a legislature dominated by Democrats, many of whom were Southern sympathizers.

Lincoln again impacted Idaho history when, in 1864, he signed legislation that split off Montana Territory [blog, May 26] and gave Idaho something like its present boundaries. Finally, less than two months before his assassination, Lincoln made his last significant Idaho appointment: He selected John McBride as Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court [blog, Feb 28].
Levi Ankeny. Library of Congress.

On November 6, 1871, voters elected Levi Ankeny mayor of Lewiston. This had two interesting consequences. First, under his administration an important “loose end” was tied up with regard to the Lewiston town site.

According to the Illustrated History of North Idaho, “the government had granted the city a tract of land one square mile in extent at the junction of the Clearwater and Snake rivers, but the land office had as yet failed to act in granting a patent and the matter was held in abeyance.”

That, of course, meant that title to every tract of land within the city could be disputed. Ankeny followed through to insure that the grant was properly executed, “though not without litigation.”

Ankeny was a long-time pioneer in the area. In 1862, Captain Ankeny and some partners operated a steamboat, The Spray, on the Snake. Their steamer, with a purposely shallow draft, could navigate the Clearwater during its late-season low water. The partners sold out at nearly a 100% profit after a year. Later, Ankeny owned a Lewiston general store and ran cattle on land southeast of town.

The second result from the mayoral election was to give Ankeny a taste of success in politics. He later moved to the state of Washington and took up banking. Then, from 1903 to 1909, he represented that state in the U.S. Senate, serving on several important committees. He died in March 1921.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [B&W], [Brit], [Hawley], [Illust-North]
“Levi Ankeny,” Biographical Directory of the United State Congress (online)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Reverend William Judson Boone and the College of Idaho [otd 11/05]

Boone statue on College of Idaho campus.
William Judson Boone, D.D., first and long-time president of the College of Idaho, was born November 5, 1860, in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, 15-20 miles southwest of Pittsburg.

After high school, he studied at the College of Wooster (Ohio), from which he received A.B. and M.A. degrees. Study at the Western Theological Seminary (Pittsburgh) further prepared him for the ministry (they awarded him a D.D. degree in 1903).

In 1887, Boone took up the Presbyterian ministry in Caldwell, Idaho. Three years later, the Wood River Presbytery founded the private College of Idaho there. Classes began in October 1891 [blog, Oct 7]. Two years later, Boone left his church ministry to assume the presidency of the College, a position he held for the rest of his life.

Initially, Boone taught Latin, Greek, and the natural sciences. In 1902, he was finally able to hire someone else to teach languages. By around 1910, the college could afford professors for all the natural sciences.

However, Dr. Boone’s special expertise, and love, was botany … and he never gave that up. To enrich his teaching, he led students on numerous field expeditions. In the process, he essentially “wrote the book” on the flora of southwest Idaho. His personal garden included a wide variety of plants, including flowers – the “President Boone” rose is named for him.

Dr. Boone passed away in July, 1936. However, his enthusiasm for natural science put a special stamp on the school he founded and led for so long: A liberal arts college with a strong conviction that a fully-educated person must know something about science and its processes.

The school still takes that mission, with its special flavor, very seriously. The core curricula for most smaller liberal arts colleges require just one “hard science” class. Moreover, a substantial minority allows students to fill that requirement with a watered-down, “science survey” class.  (A few schools allow students to avoid the subjects altogether.)

College of Idaho requires 7 credit-hours of science, generally meaning that one of the two classes must include a lab. Oddly enough, the College also requires two courses in the “Fine Arts” – music, painting, dance, drama, etc. Most liberal arts schools require only one for their non-majors.
Activities Center, College of Idaho.

Without apology, the school sees itself as “uncompromisingly Christian,” but welcomes all denominations and leads by strictly voluntary example. Given its small size and community environment, many young people meet their spouses there. Students affectionately referred to the school as “Dr. Boone’s marriage mill.”

As usual for most private liberal arts colleges, College of Idaho has always struggled with finances, yet they have survived. Like any college, success is measured by the achievements of its graduates – and those are outstanding. For Example, H. Corwin Hinshaw, a 1923 graduate, later earned a Ph.D. from UC-Berkeley and pioneered the use of streptomycin to treat tuberculosis.

Today, many graduates have jobs before they leave school and most (98%) are employed within six months after graduation. Moreover, their scholars enjoy a 75% acceptance rate for postgraduate work at many fine institutions.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [French], [Hawley]
Louie W. Attebery, The College of Idaho, 1891-1991: A Centennial History. © The College of Idaho, Caldwell (1991).
Herbert Harry Hayman, That Man Boone: Frontiersman of Idaho, College of Idaho, Caldwell (1948).

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Boise Mayor, Merchant, and Prominent Mason Charles Himrod [otd 11/04]

Mayor Himrod. H. T. French.
Boise merchant and Mayor Charles Himrod was born November 4, 1842, in Burdett, New York, about 55 miles southwest of Syracuse. After completing basic country schooling, he became clerk in a general merchandise store. After eight years of that, he traveled in 1864 with a government-organized emigrant party on the Oregon Trail. The train reached Boise City at the end of September.

Charles decided to settle in the new town and found a job in the dry-goods and general merchandise store owned by Cyrus Jacobs. Jacobs had moved first to Oregon around 1852. After prospectors discovered gold in the Boise Basin, Jacobs headed there with a pack train. Instead of going on, however, he set up a tent store near Fort Boise and helped found Boise City nearby.

By August 1864, he had built a home – the first one made of brick – and was advertising his new permanent store in the Idaho Statesman. Jacobs must have been pleased to find an experienced clerk and bookkeeper in Himrod to help run the store. Himrod remained with that firm for around twelve years, before spending two or three years with another mercantile operation.

He did try to branch out in 1872, serving as business manager and Secretary for a new newspaper called the Idaho Standard (Idaho Statesman, May 2, 1872). That venture soon failed, however.

During the same period, Himrod also served in a number of public offices. He was Mayor of Boise City from 1869 through 1872, part of the time with a concurrent position as Ada County Treasurer (1870-1871). In 1872, “Charley” also served a term in the House of Representatives for Idaho Territory. He was very active in the state Democratic Party structure.

For a few years after about 1878, Himrod ran his own general store. He also returned to public office as the Mayor of Boise City in 1879, and had another stint as Ada County Treasurer.

Then, in 1882, he teamed up with Thomas J. Davis [blog, January 2] to open a dry goods and grocery store, styled “Davis & Himrod.” Like Cyrus Jacobs, Tom Davis was one of the original founders of Boise City. By this time, he owned extensive fruit orchards in the Boise Valley. The initial advertisement in the Idaho Statesman (July 6, 1882) said, “We deal extensively in dried and canned fruits, of our own raising, and better than any of the California or Oregon fruits.”
Main Street, Boise, ca 1912. H. T. French.

Davis & Himrod remained in business through most of the decade. In 1885 and again in 1889, Charley served terms as Treasurer for Idaho Territory. The partnership was dissolved “by mutual consent” after seven years (Idaho Statesman, March 28, 1889), but Himrod continue in the dry good business for another two years or so.

He then liquidated his stock to focus on a new electric trolley project. Later, he acted as an independent business agent, and also went into banking.

During the first decade of the new century, he served four years as a Commissioner for Ada County. Himrod also served for many years as a Director for the Boise School District.

Almost from his arrival in Idaho, Charley took an active part in the Masonic Lodge. For many years he served as Grand Secretary for the state Lodge, and was elected Grand Master in 1879. Starting in 1889, Himrod held the position of Grand Treasurer for the Idaho Lodge for over a quarter century. When Charley died in January 1920, the Lodge played a major role in his memorial and burial service.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [French], [Hawley]
Charles Himrod Papers, MS 512, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (1985).
“Cyrus Jacobs: December 22 or 23, 1831 – June 28, 1900,” Reference Series No. 580, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).

Friday, November 3, 2017

Idaho Supreme Court Justice Sullivan … and Women's Suffrage [otd 11/03]

Justice Sullivan. Illustrated History.
The state of Idaho’s first Chief Justice, Isaac Newton Sullivan, was born on November 3, 1848, in Iowa, midway between Waterloo and Dubuque. After high school he studied at a college in Michigan and then in a judge's law office in Iowa. He was admitted to the bar of Iowa in 1879 and moved to Hailey, Idaho two years later.

Besides his law practice, Sullivan invested in a number of valuable mining claims as well as farm and ranch land around Hailey. His success in law and business led to his election in 1890 to one of the three positions on the Supreme Court of the just-created state of Idaho. The new state’s constitution called for the justices to serve staggered six-year terms, one being up for re-election every two years.

As a startup mechanism, they “cast lots” to determine who would serve a full term, who four years, and who only two. Sullivan “drew the short straw” for the shortest term. However, by another constitutional provision, the justice with the shortest time remaining on his term was designated as the Chief Justice – so Sullivan ascended to that office. (The number of justices would later increase to 5, and the Chief Justice is now selected by majority vote of the justices.)

After his short two-year term, Sullivan was immediately re-elected to the Court. Even his switch from traditional Republican to Silver Republican for the 1898 election did not hinder yet another re-election.

Naturally, those early Justices made many important decisions and set many legal precedents for the State. Few decisions were more historic than one rendered in December 1896. During that year’s election, a women’s suffrage amendment had passed handily, with almost a two-to-one margin. However, many balloters had ignored the amendment measure, so the “for” votes (12,126) were not a majority of the total votes cast (29,697). Thus, the election board disallowed its passage.

In the subsequent court challenge, the Supreme Court ruled that the board had erred in its ruling. Sullivan, who was not then Chief Justice, joined in the unanimous decision that sustained the amendment’s passage.
Susan B. Anthony, abt 1890-1910.
Library of Congress.

That judgement became a highlight of the 1897 national women’s suffrage convention in Des Moines, Iowa. Susan B. Anthony first declared that courts nationwide had always “put the narrowest possible construction” on the election laws, and most would have surely supported the Board's annulment.

Then she went on, “The Judges of Idaho did themselves the honor to make a decision in direct opposition to judicial precedent and prejudice. The Idaho victory is a great credit not only to the majority of men who voted for the amendment, but to the three Judges who made this broad and just decision.”

Sullivan served over a quarter century on the Idaho Supreme Court, He retired in 1916, at the age of 68, after losing his re-election bid (Idaho Statesman, December 31, 1916). Sullivan divided his time between law practices in Hailey and Boise for awhile, but moved permanently to Boise around 1919 or 1920. He remained in that city until his death in January 1938.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [Hawley], [illust-State]
Susan B. Anthony, Ida H. Harper (eds.), The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol IV: 1883-1900, The Hollenbeck Press, Indianapolis (© Susan B. Anthony, 1902).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Wallace Creates New Fire Brigade After Destructive Downtown Fire [otd 11/02]

On November 2, 1890, the citizens of Wallace, Idaho convened a public meeting and created a new fire brigade to replace their old fire department. By organizing Wallace Hose Company No. 1, the town hoped to improve their fire protection.
Lead-silver mill at Wallace. H. T. French photo.

The first cabins had been built in Wallace just six years earlier, after prospectors discovered placer gold in the area. Major finds of lode silver followed and the town mushroomed. Within a few years, rail lines connected Wallace to the outside world [blog, Dec 9]. As usual, almost everything in the town was built with locally-cut lumber – weathered and dry, or fresh and full of pitch.

In late July 1890, a fire began in the Central Hotel, on Sixth Street south of the railroad depot. Strong, hot winds fanned the flames, driving them south and east up the canyon. The fire department tried to contain the damage, but they ran out of water in about ten minutes. Blowing out fire breaks with “Giant powder” (an early form of dynamite) failed to stop the conflagration.

Except for one structure, the blaze consumed everything in the blocks between Fifth Street (to the west) and Sixth. Most of the buildings to the east and southeast of Sixth also went up in flames. The fires stopped only when they reached the ridges to the south and east.

Wallace considered itself fortunate to have only one fatality: A drunk who had passed out in one of the saloons was burned to death. Thirteen saloons, three restaurants, and a liquor wholesaler went up in flames. The fires also destroyed six hotels, a bank, a theater, and four vacant buildings (one of them new).

Other losses included nearly thirty stores and shops (four barbers, two butchers, several dry goods firms, a druggist, a blacksmith, and more), eighteen office structures (many doctors and lawyers, and the newspaper), three livery stables, several warehouses, an ice house, and a saw mill. A meeting hall, the telephone exchange, and the post office were also burned out.

So much aid poured in from the nearby towns that officials turned down, with thanks, an offer of help from Spokane. The Murray Sun reported (July 30, 1890) that town leaders soon passed ordinances requiring that new construction use non-flammable materials in certain key areas. The item also asserted that, "The work of rebuilding will be on a larger scale than before."

Wallace suffered another serious fire in November, 1898, when flames totally destroyed a hotel and the saloon next to it, and badly damaged a second hotel. Still, efforts of the revamped fire brigade at least prevented further damage, aided by the fact that many owners had replaced wood frame structures with brick.

Wallace after the 1910 fire. Library of Congress.
Ironically, an even worse disaster hit Wallace from outside in 1910: Sometimes called “The Big Burn,” a massive forest fire swept over the town and again caused heavy damage [blog, Aug 20].

Continuing production from the rich silver mines allowed the city to rebuild.

The real decline of Wallace came with the depletion of the mines. Today, the town has less than a third of the population it had at the time of the Big Burn. Many of the “new” 1890 brick structures form the heart of the town’s current tourist district.
                                                                                                                                      
References: [French], [Illust-North]
John Galvin, “The Big Burn: Idaho and Montana, August 1910,” Popular Mechanics (July 31, 2007).
History of Wallace, Wallace Chamber of Commerce.