Tuesday, February 28, 2017

John R. McBride, U. S. Representative and Chief Justice for Idaho Territory [otd 02/28]

Judge McBride.
Photo from findagrave.com
On February 28, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln – just 45 days before he was shot by John Wilkes Booth – appointed John Rogers McBride as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Idaho Territory. The appointment typified the patronage system of the times, but the result turned out to be a happy exception to the norm.

Although Territorial governance followed the same structure as the Federal system, voters in the Territory had no say over the executive and judicial branches: The President appointed the Governor and a panel of three judges. One of the three was designated as the Chief Justice.

In those early days, appointees to positions in Idaho were almost never residents of the Territory. They usually came from the more settled Midwest, or the East. For many, the transition to the “Wild West” came as a major cultural shock, and quite a few fled after getting one good look. To make matters worst, the salaries were miserably poor.

James H. Hawley, who was elected as state Governor in 1910, lived through that era [blog, Jan 17]. In his History, he observed that the system supplied judges that were "lawyers of only mediocre ability or political henchmen, who received their appointments as a reward for services to the party, rather than for their legal ability."

Emigrant train, ca 1846. Library of Congress.
This could have been similar. A loyal Republican, McBride got the appointment after being defeated in a bid for re-election to Congress. However, unlike many who came later, he knew the West. His family emigrated to Oregon in 1846, when John was thirteen years old. He studied law while also serving as a school superintendent in Yamhill County, and was admitted to the Oregon bar in 1857.

In 1860, Oregon voters elected him to the state Senate. Two years later, he won election to the U. S. House of Representatives, where he was awarded some worthwhile committee assignments. However, his 1864 re-election bid failed, whereupon he received the Idaho Judgeship.

Commenting on this appointment, Hawley wrote: "an able jurist and an honest man, Judge McBride most favorably impressed himself upon the litigation of the territory and ... was beloved by the bar of the state and highly esteemed by all of its people."

McBride soon got down to business, traveling all over the Territory. The Idaho Statesman reported (August 10, 1865) one example: “Judge McBride, after a full hearing and a very thorough investigation, issued a peremptory mandate ordering Slocum to pay over to Dr. Smith, the Territorial Treasurer, about $14,000 … ”

McBride was the only one of the first four Chief Justices appointed to the Territory who served most of the usual term – the others lasted an average of under 11 months. McBride resigned in July 1868 to establish a private law practice in Boise. He was soon called back into public service to supervise the construction of the U. S. Assay Office in Boise City [blog, May 30]. He then served as Superintendent while the Office was being readied for business.

In 1872, McBride moved to Salt Lake City and established the firm of Sutherland & McBride. After eight years in Utah, he relocated his law practice to Spokane. He passed away there in July 1904.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley]
Jonathan Edwards, An Illustrated History of Spokane County, State of Washington, W. H. Lever, San Francisco (1900).
"McBride, John Rogers," Biographical Directory of the U S. Congress, online.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pocatello Brewer and Soft Drinks Bottler Robert Hayes [otd 02/27]

Robert Hayes.
J. H. Hawley photo.
Pocatello businessman Robert J. Hayes was born February 27, 1861 in Oswego, New York. The family moved to Chicago about six years later. Hayes struck out on his own at age sixteen, making his way west by “night herding” – tending draft animals – for a freight outfit. He then landed a job with the Union Pacific Railroad, first in Cheyenne, Wyoming, then in Rawlins.

After three years of that, Hayes returned to night herding, working for a freight line that operated between Helena, Montana, and Fort Benton. For a time, he held a contract to furnish the Northern Pacific with wood. Then, for about six months, he operated a pack train out of Bozeman.

Unable to find steady work, he took odd packing jobs in California and Arizona. Meanwhile, the Utah & Northern Railroad, a UP subsidiary, built a narrow gauge railroad across Eastern Idaho into Montana. To support that operation, the company built yards and a set of shops in Eagle Rock (later Idaho Falls). In 1884, Hayes hired on at the shops.

However, after two years, he moved to Blackfoot to take a position as Deputy Sheriff. During his two-year tenure in Blackfoot, the railroad relocated its shops from Eagle Rock to Pocatello. That change fueled even more explosive growth in that junction town.

Sensing opportunity, Hayes also moved to Pocatello. There, he partnered with N. G. Franklin and went into the business of bottling soda water. Such drinks were growing rapidly in popularity at that time. The firm of Franklin & Hayes got in on the ground floor; there plant was one of the first, if not the first built in southern Idaho.
Franklin & Hayes Brewery, Pocatello, 1907.
Bannock County Historical Society.
They soon developed a full line of soda waters and soft drinks. In time, they also built a brewery and added beer to their product line. The business was not without danger. The Idaho Statesman reported (October 9, 1900) that Franklin had been hit by a soda bottle explosion “and it is feared the sight of his right eye is destroyed.”

The partnership flourished, shipping beverages to many points in Idaho as well as into Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. According to Hawley's History of Idaho, the company "grew to be one of the largest of the kind in the state, with one of the best equipped plants."

Hayes was very active in Republican party politics, being Chairman of the Pocatello Central Committee for a time. He also served on the Bannock County Board of Commissioners and chaired that body for awhile. Despite his prominence within the party, Hayes never ran for any higher political office.
Franklin & Hayes letterhead. eBay memorabilia image.

Although he sometimes hunted and fished, Hayes generally favored less strenuous activities. He enjoyed music and the theater, and was, according Hiram T. French, “very fond of lectures and a good speech.”

Hayes was perhaps plagued by poor health. Although he was only in his early fifties, he retired from active participation in the soda and beer business about 1914. Or, perhaps, he saw the coming of prohibition, which would ruin the most profitable part of their business. The partners had already been fined $500, each, for some violation of the local option liquor laws (Idaho Statesman, April 12, 1913).

Hayes passed away in August 1918.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley]

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Idaho Supreme Court Justice George Stewart [otd 02/26]

Idaho Supreme Court Justice George Harlan Stewart was born February 26, 1858 in Connersville, Indiana, about fifty miles east of Indianapolis. He was something of an intellectual prodigy: George leaped through a “common” education to himself teach at country schools.
Law School at Valparaiso, ca 1880. Valparaiso University Archives.

After several years, he entered Northern Indiana Normal school, in Valparaiso. (In 1900, the school became Valparaiso College, now University.)

George completed their “scientific” course in 1879, at the age of twenty-one, and immediately entered the school’s law department. He graduated in 1881 and was soon admitted to the Indiana bar.

In 1882, Stewart opened a law office in Fowler, Indiana, 15-20 miles northwest of Lafayette. After four or five years there, “on account of failing health,” he moved to a small town in southwest Nebraska. For the next several years, he made a name for himself. Not only did his practice flourish, but he was also elected as county Prosecuting Attorney.

Stewart moved to Idaho in 1890, and immediately involved himself in Republican Party activities. He opened a practice in Boise City with a partner who had over a quarter century of experience with Idaho law. It’s perhaps no surprise that he was elected to the state Senate in 1893. Two years later, he ran for the office of Boise City Mayor, against developer Walter E. Pierce [blog, January 9]. Stewart lost the razor-thin election, 438-436.

George soon partnered with another rising young attorney, William E. Borah. (Borah went on to become a six-time U. S. Senator from Idaho [blog, June 29].) In 1896, the sitting Judge of the Third Judicial District resigned and the governor appointed Stewart to replace him.

When election time came two years later, Democrats and a major faction of Silver Republicans united to nominate a “fusion” candidate to fill the District Judge position. The Prohibitionist Party made no selection, while the Populist candidate withdrew in favor of the Fusion nominee. (One rather wonders what sort of “deal” they cut.) Thus, loyal Republican Stewart faced what appeared to be an insurmountable challenge. Yet, such was Stewart’s reputation, and political skill … he won handily.
Judge Stewart. H. T. French photo.

In 1899, Governor Steunenberg selected Stewart as judge for the trial of union miners involved in bombing the Bunker Hill & Sullivan ore mill. (The judge for the district that included Shoshone County declined to serve.) Despite the high emotions and drama of those trials, George emerged with his reputation as a jurist not just intact, but enhanced.

Thus, running on his very successful district court record, Stewart was elected to the state Supreme Court in 1906. Historian Hiram T. French noted, "In due course he became chief justice during the last two years of his term."

Despite some questions about his health, he was re-elected "by a good majority" in 1912. French wrote his History during the course of that term and said, "His present term bids well to copy fair his past."

That was not to be, however. Stewart suffered a stroke in March of 1914 while he was presiding over the district court in Moscow. He recovered enough to return home but the consensus was that he might never be strong enough to resume his duties. In May, he entered a sanitarium in Portland, where it was hoped their program of fresh air, light exercise and constant nursing care would restore him to full health. Sadly, he suffered two more small attacks during the summer. He died from a final massive stroke on September 25, 1914.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
"Idaho Jurist Dies," The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon (September 26, 1914).
[Stewart newspaper items], Idaho Statesman, Boise (March 27, May 12, July 21, 1914).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Six Miners Killed in Sudden Mining District Fire [otd 02/25]

On Tuesday, February 25, 1902, about three o'clock in the morning, the residents of the connected Standard Boarding and Lodging houses slept quietly. Most of them worked for the Standard Mine, located on Canyon Creek, about five miles northeast of Wallace, Idaho.
Standard Mine, ca. 1910. University of Idaho archives.

Placer miners prospected Canyon Creek for gold in 1884. However, as happened for many Coeur d’Alene strata, they failed to note the valuable lead-silver lodes buried in these ridges. The following spring, four partners explored the area and located the Standard Mine plus over a dozen other claims – collectively referred to as the Standard Group.

The claims proved so promising that the owners built an ore mill the following year. They located their mill closer to Wallace, near the mouth of the Creek. After awhile, rail lines served many claims along the canyon. By the turn of the century, observers considered the Standard Group the most productive properties in all the Coeur d'Alenes.

On this morning in 1902, flames suddenly flared in the wood frame structure of the Boarding and Lodging houses. The fire probably started from the stove in the room where the men’s work clothes hung to dry. However, the destruction was too complete to be certain later.

The fire moved so quickly, there was no time to use the building's fire fighting apparatus. Some men had no warning at all. Even those who awoke in time had to resort to desperate measures … the flames blocked the internal staircase leading to the building exit. About a dozen men, some also with severe burns, were injured leaping from the top floor windows.

Fearing that the fire would spread to the Standard Mine works, firefighters dynamited the home of one William Fletcher. That stopped the flames, but the home was a total loss, along with the residence halls.

Searchers found the bodies of four men – all but one under twenty-five years old – among the ashes and charred timbers.  Newspapers as far away as Boise, Portland, and Seattle reported about the fire. The Portland and Seattle articles provided complete lists of the known dead as well as those of the seriously injured. The Oregonian, in Portland, said, “There is no hope for the recovery of McCallum and Bowhay, and very little for Yarbrough.”
W. J. McConnell, Early History of Idaho.

Indeed, doctors and their hospital assistants were unable to save the first two. Thomas Yarbrough survived despite excruciating burns. Nine men required treatment for lesser injuries suffered in the fire or in jumping to safety. The report in the Idaho Statesman said, “W. C. McConnell, who is named as among those less seriously injured … is a brother of Mrs. W. E. Borah.”

Besides being brother-in-law to future U. S. Senator Borah [blog June 29], William C. McConnell was also the son of former Idaho Governor and U. S. Senator William J. McConnell [blog, Sept 18].

The Illustrated History described the event as "one of the worst disasters of its kind in the history of the Coeur d'Alene."
                                                                                 
Reference: [Illust-North]
Newspapers: “[Deadly Mining District Fire],” Seattle Daily Times, Idaho Statesman, Boise, The Oregonian, Portland (February 25-26, 1902).

Friday, February 24, 2017

Rancher, Attorney, and Idaho Chief Justice Alfred Budge [otd 02/24]

Judge Alfred Budge.
H. T. French photo.
Alfred Budge, Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, was born February 24, 1868 in Providence, Utah, just south of Logan.

Two years later, the family moved to Paris, Idaho, where his father William played a prominent role in the Mormon Church as well as in Idaho politics. William served two terms in the Territorial legislature and, in 1899, was elected to the state Senate.

Alfred attended preparative academies in Logan and Provo, Utah, before entering the University of Michigan Law School. He earned an LL.B. degree in 1892, and returned to Idaho, where he was admitted to the bar. Just two years later, voters elected Albert to be District Attorney in Bear Lake County. At the end of that term, he was elected county Prosecuting Attorney. About that time, he also served on the Paris city council.

According to the Illustrated History, about two-thirds of the registered voters in Bear Lake County belonged to the Democratic Party at that time. The writers made particular note of the fact that Alfred, like his father, belonged to the Republican Party … yet both received substantial majorities when they ran for local offices.

Until events led him to focus on state-wide concerns, Budge took an active role in business matters in southeast Idaho and northern Utah. Besides a ranch property, he owned shares in a flouring mill, and helped promote and build a hydropower plant to furnish electricity to area communities. He also had interests in the Bear Lake State Bank, serving as Director and Vice President, and another in Cache County, Utah.

Alfred continued in county-level legal offices until 1902, when – in a hard-fought election – he became Judge of Idaho's Fifth Judicial District. Re-elected for a second term, he moved his family to Pocatello in 1911-1913. He held that position until 1914, when the Governor appointed him to the Idaho Supreme Court.
Idaho Capitol Building, ca 1915. J. H. Hawley photo..
At the next election, Budge ran successfully for the Court position and continued to do so – "most of the time without opposition" – for the next thirty years. In 1919, the Judge purchased a home in Boise and moved his family there (Idaho Statesman, March 16, 1919). He lived in Boise the rest of his life.

He acted as Chief Justice for a considerable portion of his time on the Supreme bench. With that long tenure, Budge participated in, and often led, the legal analyses that virtually defined the state's jurisprudence.

In 1929, the Judge was appointed (The Oregonian, November 25, 1929) as the President of the first Idaho Judicial Council, a body created to review and improve judicial procedures and practices in the state. (The Council concept lapsed shortly thereafter in Idaho, and was not revived until 1967.)

Budge was half way through his sixth elected term on the Court when he died in January 1951.

His expertise was recognized outside the court: The University of Michigan awarded him an honorary Master of Arts degree, and the University of Idaho awarded him an honorary Doctor of Law degree. He spent a summer as Visiting Professor at the Northwestern University Law School, and regularly served as a Special Lecturer at the University of Idaho College of Law.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [Defen], [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Chinook Thaw Floods Lower Clearwater and Other Rivers in the Region [otd 02/23]

The Lewiston Teller newspaper reported that on Sunday, February 23, 1879, "a regular Chinook visited us." The report provided no firm numbers, but the notorious Chinook wind can raise air temperatures by as much as 50-60ºF in a matter of hours.
Low ground flooded in Lewiston, ca. 1890.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In the day or so before, warm air had moved in from the coast. West of Lewiston, gushers from thawing in the high ground quickly raised the level of the Snake River. At the same time, the temperate air mass had rotated around south of town. Heavy runoff from those mountains had further swelled the river and, with no where to go to the west, had already caused high water around Lewiston.

The Chinook then flowed over the city and spurred similar melting in the ridges and plateaus to the east. The paper said, "On Monday the Clearwater was full from bank to bank with floating ice."

Creeks all across the area were correspondingly high, many carrying "much debris and small rocks." As a result, the paper said, "Roads were rendered entirely impassable by reason of the road beds being washed out in many places."

To make matters worse, the torrents carried away many smaller bridges. Only the desperate or foolhardy ventured about on horseback. In most areas, stagecoach traffic slowed to a crawl or came to a standstill – the Teller noted that the mails were almost universally late. Ice jams totally halted ferries trying to cross to the north: "The northern mail did not depart until Wednesday noon owing to ice in the Clearwater."
Four-horse stage. Library of Congress.

The Monday stage to Walla Walla tried to make it through, but a swollen creek overturned the vehicle at a crossing ten to fifteen miles out. The driver and a passenger finally struggled from the waters about 150 yards downstream. The lead horses somehow escaped the rigging and scrambled through. Some Indians rescued the other two horses and the coach about a third of a mile down

At Lapwai, the flood undermined the foundations of the saw and grist mill and swept it down the river. Not only did the water swallow up "a considerable quantity of wheat," it caught two men inside. The torrent carried the men downstream "about a mile and a half before they could be rescued, and their ultimate escape from death was almost miraculous."

Water spread into many occupied areas and a major irrigation canal near Lewiston was damaged. Debris filled everything that didn't simply wash away. A log "boom" – a floating barrier to confine a supply of timber – broke and hundreds of logs tumbled downstream, causing further damage.

Stories of impacts in other areas appeared for awhile afterwards. The Oregonian, in Portland, reported (March 8, 1879) heavy damage on that date along the Palouse River, to the north. Besides considerable property loss, a young man had been swept away and drowned. Another man, “with a bravery bordering on recklessness,” jumped into a rowboat and tried to save him, but failed.

As usual with such outbreaks, temperatures quickly fell back to normal and most of the flooding subsided in a few days. Unfortunately, the paper noted, "The whole section was damaged considerably and the loss will amount to many thousands of dollars."
                                                                                 
Reference: [Illust-North]

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Freighter, Rancher, Mine Owner, and State Senator George Rogers [otd 02/22]

George Rogers. Illust-State photo.
Idaho state Senator George Bailey Rogers was born February 22, 1842 in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, 35-40 miles west of Madison.

Dodgeville was a well-known center for lead mining, and young George worked in the mines as well as on his father’s farm. At the age of twenty, he emigrated to California. There, he adapted his mining skills to work in the quartz gold lodes.

After a year or two in California, George tried his hand in the gold fields of British Columbia. Then, in 1865, he returned to the States and prospected in the placer fields of the Boise Basin. Rogers worked hard, but never seems to have done well in the mines. Over the next four or five years, he tried mining in other parts of Idaho, in Montana, Nevada, and back to Montana.

At some point, he had met and become friends with Charles W. Berryman, another young man who grew up in the same Wisconsin lead mine country. Unlike Rogers, Berryman prospered in the Montana mines and returned to Wisconsin “comfortably fixed.” Then, in the spring of 1870, he traveled back to Montana and formed a partnership with Rogers in the freight business. The firm of Berryman & Rogers became one of the largest and best-known freight outfits in eastern Idaho and southern Montana.

However, in late 1881, Utah & Northern Railway tracks reached Butte, Montana. As early as the spring of 1880, the partners had begun looking for another line of work. They sold out in 1883 and turned to ranching and farming near Blackfoot, Idaho. With considerable land in the area, Berryman & Rogers soon began importing purebred cattle and blooded horses to upgrade their herds. For the next twenty years, the two would also be leaders in the development of the town of Blackfoot.
Blackfoot, Idaho, ca. 1898.  Illust-State photo.
On December 8, 1890, newly-elected Senator George B. Rogers was among the men who convened for the first meeting of the Idaho state legislature. He was one of fourteen Republican versus just four Democrats in the Senate. Among their most important early duties was the election of Idaho’s first two United States Senators. Rogers had only the one term in the state Senate. He did serve two terms as Bingham County Commissioner.

In October 1897, President William McKinley appointed Rogers to be the Receiver for the U. S. Land Office located in Blackfoot. As Receiver, he handled the paperwork to verify that settlers had satisfied the requirements of the Homestead Act so they could receive title to their land.

Then, the Idaho Statesman reported (December 9, 1900) that Rogers had purchased a home in Boise. The item said, “Mr. Rogers intends to move to Boise to reside permanently two years hence.”

Rogers never lost his zest for mining. From Boise he ran several mining companies across southern Idaho. For example, the Idaho Statesman reported (June 25, 1903) that, “George B. Rogers, who is president of the Intermountain Gold Mining company, arrived home yesterday from a visit to the mine owned by his company, east of Pocatello.”

He also invested in real estate and was president of the Canyon Canal Company, based in Emmett. Rogers passed away in September 1926.
                                                                                
References: [B&W], [Hawley], [Illust-State]

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Emma Russell Yearian: Wife, Mother, and “Sheep Queen of Idaho” [otd 02/21]

Emma Russell, “Sheep Queen of Idaho,” was born February 21, 1866 in Leavenworth, Kansas. Her father had been born in Illinois and served in an Illinois regiment in the Civil War. By 1870, the family was back in Illinois, living near Chester, about 35 miles west and a bit north of Carbondale. After completing high school, Emma attended Southern Illinois Normal College (now Southern Illinois University) in Carbondale. She received her teaching certificate in 1883 and immediately came west to Idaho in search of a position.
Emma Yearian.
Lemhi County Historical Society.

She began as a tutor and governess for a family living 5-6 miles north of Salmon. She then spent the next two years teaching at tiny schools in the Lemhi Valley. Having been trained on the piano, she was also in demand to play at country dances around the area. At one of those dances, in 1887, she met Thomas Hodge Yearian, a young cattle rancher who played the fiddle at those dances.

Coincidentally, Thomas was born in DuQuoin, Illinois, a small town about 32 miles east Chester. However, the family moved west the same year Emma was born. They lived near Bannack, Montana (15-20 miles west of Dillon) for awhile before purchasing a ranch 25-30 miles up the Lemhi River from Salmon.

Thomas and Emma married in April 1889. Soon, the couple moved into a log cabin on what came to be called Yearian Creek. Between then and 1902, they had six children, one of whom died as a pre-teen.

About that time, Emma decided to go into the sheep business. Her decision was not a popular one, because the Lemhi and Salmon river valleys had always been viewed as cattle country. Thus, Emma had repeated problems with Idaho’s “Two Mile Limit” law, which prohibited the grazing of sheep anywhere within two miles of a cattle property. In reality, however, she and Thomas were ahead of their time, as more and more stockmen began raising both or switched entirely to sheep.

In any case, the “experiment” was a success. In 1910, the family moved from their old log cabin to a fine six-bedroom stone house, equipped with electric lights and indoor plumbing. Despite bouts of severe weather and down markets for wool and lamb, she persevered. It’s unclear exactly when she acquired the “Sheep Queen of Idaho” sobriquet, but it was well deserved and “stuck.”

She even found time to contributed to the literature of her industry. In 1920, the American Sheep Breeder and Wool Grower journal published Emma’s article about her experience in breeding range sheep. She had wondered if she could somehow avoid bringing in fresh “blooded” rams every year or two. (As a given ram’s progeny spread through a flock, the quality deteriorated due to in-breeding.) The first generation from her trial resulted in “splendid bunch of grade rams.” But the second generation was disastrous. Unfortunately, she wrote, “Instead of reproducing the good qualities of both sire and dam, they seemed to emphasize their poorer ones.”
Sheep Grazing. Library of Congress.

By the 1930s, the sheep operation had spread over 2,500 acres of range, with around 5,000 sheep.

Emma’s forceful personality and staunch Republican feelings led her into politics in 1930. She ran for the Idaho House of Representatives and became the first woman to represent Lemhi County in that body. (Some accounts describe her as the first ever woman Representative in Idaho, but that is not correct. The first three women were elected to the House in 1898 [blog, Oct 4].) Her re-election bid was swamped by the Democratic landslide in the next election cycle.

Emma continued her operation until very late in her life, despite a steady decline in U. S. demand for wool and lamb. She passed away on Christmas Day in 1951.
                                                                                 
References: [Defen]
L. E. Bragg, More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Idaho Women, The Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Connecticut (2001).
Fred Snook (Ed.), Centennial History of Lemhi County, Idaho, Lemhi County History Committee, Salmon, Idaho (1992).
Joseph E. Wing, Sheep Farming in America, The Breeder’s Gazette, Chicago, Illinois (1912)..
Emma R. Yearian, “Developing the Range Ewe,” American Sheep Breeder and Wool Grower, Vol. 40, No. 1, Chicago (January 1920).

Monday, February 20, 2017

Merchant, Mining Investor, Rancher, and Public Servant Alexander McKinlay [otd 02/20]

Pioneer rancher, prospector, and merchant Alexander Duncan McKinlay was born February 20, 1853 in Clayton County, Iowa, 20-40 miles northwest of Dubuque. In 1877, a year after he married in Iowa, he took up land on Idaho's northern Camas Prairie and went into farming.
Three-horse plow.
Library of Congress.

Almost immediately, he became involved in the Nez Perce War and the other Indian conflicts in 1878 and 1879 ... and acquitted himself well. The Illustrated History of the State of Idaho described him as "a man of the most desperate courage and of the highest order of patriotism."

Probably bolstered by that repute, he was elected an Idaho County Justice of the Peace in 1880. His farm also prospered: In 1882, and again in 1884, he had sufficient capital to finance and lead cattle drives into the northern mining regions.

In 1885, McKinlay decided to pursue opportunities in the Coeur d’Alene gold and silver mines. He and some partners located three tolerable claims, but prospecting was not his main interest. The Illustrated History of North Idaho said, "The earliest pioneer in Wallace, in a business sense, was Alexander D. McKinlay."

He and a partner first started a general merchandise business. Watching the early, explosive growth of the town, they began to focus more on real estate investment. To reduce their merchandising activities, in 1886 they sold off their grocery business. Their largest single real estate holding was the “Holohan-McKinlay Block,” a substantial two-story brick structure. The ground floor housed premium store space, with the second floor devoted to offices, apartments, and storage rooms.
Wallace, ca. 1888. Lewiston Tribune archive.

Soon, they dealt primarily in real estate. They did continue to operate a shop for cigars and other tobacco products. In the 1890s, McKinlay was twice elected a Justice of the Peace in Wallace, and then Probate Court Judge for Shoshone County. He was also twice elected to the Wallace City Council. In 1905, voters elected him to represent the district in the state House of Representatives.

At the end of that term, McKinlay moved to Twin Falls, where extensive irrigation projects had spurred farming and mixed ranching. Alexander invested in real estate and also began raising stock in the area. Voters around his new home elected him for the 1909 term in the House.

Later that year, he was appointed Executive Commissioner for Idaho’s exhibit at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle (Idaho Statesman, April 10, 1909). Despite the limited time to get ready, the Commission’s production was considered a great success [blog, March 29].

During the winter of 1911, McKinlay gathered some of his stock and loaded them on the railroad [blog, Aug 7] for transport to market. He rode in the caboose, since passenger space on a freight train was limited.

The train mounted the Blue Mountains in Oregon on the night of December 14. To assist the freight, a “helper” engine chugged up to the rear. Then, shortly after midnight, the pusher locomotive’s boiler exploded, sending twisted metal slashing through the caboose.

A Pendleton newspaper reported (December 14) that, “A. D. McKinley, a stockman accompanying a shipment to Portland, was instantly killed.”
                                                                                 
References: [Blue], [Illust-North], [Illust-State]

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Poet, Attorney, and Public Servant Herbert Ferguson [otd 02/19]

Herbert Ferguson.
H. T. French photo.
Colonel Herbert Van Allen Ferguson was born February 19, 1852, in Three Mile Bay, New York state, about 65 miles north of Syracuse. After attending a preparatory institute in Rochester, he taught school in New York and in Michigan.

Clearly a talented and impressive young man, at the age of eighteen he served as a high school principal in New York. Ferguson then enrolled at the University of Michigan Law School, graduating with an LL.B degree in 1878.

After four years practicing law in Carthage, New York, Ferguson moved to Denver, Colorado. He practiced law there for five years, and also served a term in the state legislature. He then lived for two years in Leadville. During his time in Colorado, he served with their National Guard unit and attained the rank of Colonel.

After looking briefly at business prospects in Butte, Montana, Ferguson moved on to Salt Lake City. He worked there from 1889 to 1893 before relocating to Pocatello, Idaho. In his History, Hiram T. French tellingly described Ferguson as "interminably vigorous and intensively industrious."

He developed a reputation as “a most formidable opponent” in legal circles, no doubt aided by his impressive skills as a speaker. In fact, it appears he could have earned a living as a public lecturer, having had engagements all over the state.

For seven years, he worked for the Department of the Interior, at least part of the time as a Special Agent for the General Land Office. During his tenure, the Federal government threw so-called “surplus” lands inside the Fort Hall Indian Reservation open to white settlement.
Eager settlers and speculators await signal to enter Reservation, 1902.
Library of Congress.

Stockmen – especially sheep herders, as it happened – saw this as an opportunity to graze their herds on land not specifically claimed by homesteaders. Such range was, however, still part of the Reservation and not “public land” open for general use. Ferguson had to publish notices in regional newspapers to remind white interlopers that grazing there was forbidden.

Early the following year, Ferguson was sent to Vancouver, Washington to investigate fraudulent claims related to timber and quarrying in that area. He submitted his report after three or four months of work, but nothing much seems to have been done.

Ferguson also served as special attorney for the city of Pocatello as well as one term as Bannock County prosecuting attorney. In 1912, he was elected for a term in the Idaho legislature. While there, he served as the Chairman of the State Affairs committee.

Ferguson took an active role in the bar association, attended the Congregational church, and was a member of several fraternal societies.

On top of all that, he wrote and published poetry that was quite well received. His Rhymes of Eld, published in 1912, got generally good reviews. One reviewer deemed the poems “slight,” but considered them “brightly written with a good feeling for rhyme and rhythm.” “Slight” or not, the poems had staying power. In 2010, Kessinger Publishing re-released the book in hardcover and paperback versions … as part of its “Legacy Reprint Series.”

Ferguson passed away in July 1917.
                                                                                 
References: [Blue], [French]
“Deaths: Herbert Van Allen Ferguson,” The Michigan Alumnus, Volume XXIV, The Alumni Association of the University of Michigan Publishers, Ann Arbor (1918).
“Reimbursement to H. V. A. Ferguson,” Statues of the United States of America, Passed at the Second Session of the Fifty-Seventh Congress, Government Printing Office, Washington (1903).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Idaho, Other Territories Can Now Get Land Grants for Colleges [otd 02/18]

Congressman Justin Morrill.
Library of Congress.
On February 18, 1881, Congress passed "an act to grant lands to Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming, for university purposes." These lands could then be sold to provide endowment funds for what we now call "land grant" universities; that is: "colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts."

The original "land grant college" law – the Morrill Act of 1862 – gave acreage "to the several states" based on their numbers of Congressmen: two Senators and a population-based slate of Representatives. Iowa was the first state to accept the terms of the Morrill Act. The legislature selected the existing* Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) to receive the benefits of the Act, so that school is generally considered the first land grant college.

Territories were not included and, of course, had no U. S. Senators or Representative anyway. The political entities named in the 1881 Act's title were all Territories. This law explicitly extended a form of the "land grant college" provision to those areas. Dakota Territory quickly took advantage of the new law, establishing Dakota Agriculture College (now South Dakota State University). The 1883 Territorial legislature provided funding for the first college building.

In general, however, territorial economies proved too weak to support such institutions, even with the grants. (Like Idaho, for example, Montana waited to attain statehood before establishing its land grant college.) When delegates gathered to write a constitution for the proposed state of Idaho, they took it for granted that a land grant college would follow. In particular, they wrote into that document not only that there would be such a university, but that it would be located in Moscow [blog, Oct 3].
Wheat harvest, ca. 1909. Project Gutenberg image.

The 1890 "Organic Act" that established the state of Idaho specifically noted that the lands granted to the Territory under the 1881 law were "hereby vested in the State of Idaho to the extent of the full quantity of seventy-two sections to the said state." The Act also made additional public land grants for a state Normal school, penitentiary, and various charitable and educational public institutions.

On the other hand, the Act also included the provision that “said Act of February 18, 1881, shall be so amended as to provide that none of said lands shall be sold for less than $10.00 per acre.”

Although contemporary records are largely silent on the point, such a stipulation suggests that speculators had been buying up the ceded acreage at bargain prices. That might explain why prior sales had not generated enough income to establish a college.

But even with that stipulation, stingy additional financing from the state kept the new University of Idaho on a tight budget. Construction of the main campus building began in 1891, but the structure was not completed until 1899.

* The Morrill Act and this 1881 follow-up proved quite effective. Perhaps twenty states or territories applied the land grant designation to existing schools. However, many of those institutions were barely holding on financially or were basically moribund. Their new status saved them from dissolution. About thirty states, like Idaho, founded totally new schools under the Act.
                                                                                 
References: [Brit], [French], Hawley]

Friday, February 17, 2017

Teacher and Newspaper Operator Frances Roberts, and Her Sister Nellie [otd 02/17]

Newspaper owner and publisher Frances Ida Roberts was born February 17, 1860, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her sister Nellie had been born in 1844. Their grandfather and father both ran newspapers, the grandfather in Kentucky and Indiana.
Early printing press.
Library of Congress.

Both girls learned the newspaper business from the ground up. Thus, as a pre-teen, Frances helped set type at her father's print shop. Toward the end of her high school years, she studied piano at a music institute in Missouri.

With that as a side speciality, around 1879 she found work as a school teacher. Between school sessions, she helped at her father's newspaper.

About that same time, Nellie married a newspaperman and thereafter stayed in the business as printer, editor, writer, and every other duty that came along. Over the next few years, the couple ran newspapers in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Tennessee. Then, in 1887, they started a newspaper in Harney County, Oregon.

That same year, Frances moved to a teaching position in Oregon. A year later, her father also resettled there. He founded a newspaper in Harney County to serve Burns and the surrounding region.

In 1889, Frances claimed a homestead near Baker City. The next five years were busy ones: She had to build the required dwelling and cultivate a portion of the tract, and build fences to keep stock out of the crops. Meanwhile, she lived on the tiny stipend earned by teaching at a small country school a mile or so from her place.

In fact, for 15-20 years, Frances taught at schools in eastern Oregon and also across the border in western Idaho. Again– for a change of pace from teaching – Frances worked at her father’s paper, and for others.

Nellie’s husband died in 1900, and the women’s father three years later. Frances went into the newspaper business herself in 1906. Nellie, who was then 62 years old, perhaps did not feel up to running a paper on her own. With Nellie as Associate Editor, they ran a successful newspaper in Oregon for three years, then Frances sold that and invested in a Boise publication.

Roberts held that interest for only a year, probably while she explored investment possibilities in the Boise Valley. She then sold her share of the Boise publication and started the Star Courier newspaper in Star, Idaho. (Star is about fifteen miles west of downtown Boise.)
Star Interurban Depot, ca 1910.
StarIdaho.org photo.

Star was then a "coming town," especially after it became a stop on the Interurban Railway between Boise and Caldwell. Besides serving valley farmers, Star was a junction point for traffic to and from the Payette River settlements north of the Boise Valley.

The weekly Star Courier served Star and the adjacent towns of Eagle and Middleton. After a few years, however, they apparently tired of the business and sold it. Interviewed by the Idaho Statesman (April 27, 1914), Nellie said, “I am 70 years young, and glad to retire in time to put in shape for publication several books.”

Afterwards, they moved to a home near Cove, Oregon (12-14 miles east of LeGrande). Frances died there in March 1929, and Nellie about ten year later.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers, The Library of Congress (online).
"History of Star," City of Star, staridaho.org web site.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sheepmen John Wilson and Daniel Cummings Found Dead [otd 02/16]

On the morning of February 16, 1896, sheepman Edgar "Ted" Severe settled his flock and then set up camp. Twelve days earlier, a looming snow storm had chased him from the campsite, located about 26 miles south of the near-future town of Twin Falls. Ted was worried. His flock was well over into cattle country, west of the informal “deadline” that was supposed to separate sheep from cattle range.
Sheep wagon. Library of Congress.

He had received thinly-veiled threats, but no one had directly confronted him. Several times, he had heard suspicious sounds around his campsite, and crept into the bushes to hide. However, nothing happened, and no one had bothered his flock.

All seemed quiet since his return, but he needed to stay alert. After awhile, he became even more worried about his two friends, John Wilson and Daniel Cummings. He could see their camp on Deep Creek, and some of their sheep. In all the time since he had trailed his flock into position and laid out his campsite, he’d seen no movement around their wagon.

In fact, their setup hadn't changed at all compared to what he remembered from twelve days before. That seemed odd since they would have been equally exposed to the bad weather. Finally, Severe saddled his horse and clip-clopped over to check out the other camp.

The Wilson-Cummings sheep had been allowed to scatter, and as Severe rode up to the wagon, he saw that their two dogs were still tied to the wagon wheels. Both animals looked weak and thin; one could barely bark. Inside the wagon, the horrified sheepman found the bodies of Wilson and Cummings. They had been shot and were long dead. [The blog for Feb 4 describes the claimed "self-defense" shooting by Jeff Gray.]

As quickly as he could, Severe found another sheepman to ride to Oakley, where they could pass word to the sheriff in Albion, the county seat. It would have been far easier, and quicker, to go through Rock Creek … but that was cattle country. The sheriff and county coroner didn't arrived until two days later. In the meantime, other sheepmen avoided the camp, except for one who took the dogs to his own site for food and water.

The coroner estimated that the men had been dead for ten days to two weeks. Sheepman Davis Hunter recalled visiting them on the morning of the 4th, which roughly confirmed the estimate. The investigators found plenty of clues: three empty .44 caliber shells, matching slugs, an almost-new corncob pipe, a scrawled note (hardly readable), and some uncooked bread dough.

There was also a bloody handprint on the canvas wall of the wagon. Of course, the sheriff had no knowledge of the barely infant practice of fingerprint identification, so this evidence was useless. Unfortunately, most of the other evidence was mishandled. Only one of the shell casings appeared at the trial, and for a time officials lost track of the note, corncob pipe, and bloodstained clothes.

To be be continued ...
                                                                                 
References: William Pat Rowe, "Diamond-Field Jack" Davis On Trial, thesis: Master of Arts in Education, Idaho State University (1966).
David H. Grover, Diamondfield Jack: A Study in Frontier Justice, University of Nevada Press, Reno (1968).
Edgar Severe, Virginia Estes (Ed.), "The True Story of the Wilson-Cummings Murder," A Pause for Reflection, J. Grant Stevenson, Provo, Utah (© Cassia County Company of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1977).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wife, Sounding Board, and Philanthropist Lillian Bounds Disney [otd 02/15]

Lillian Marie Bounds, wife of the world-renowned entertainment innovator Walt Disney, was born February 15, 1899, in Spalding, Idaho. She grew up on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, where her father was a Federal marshal and a blacksmith.
Lewiston, ca. 1918. J. H. Hawley photo.

Around her, the Indians still wore traditional garb and the pioneer environment dominated. While the old “Wild West” was passing, horses were still far more common than cars. As a teenager, she surely visited the “big city” – Lewiston, with perhaps 6,200 people. At that time, only the downtown area had paved streets; leaders hoped to find money to extend pavement into some residential areas.

In 1920, the family lived in Lewiston. Three years later, Lillian joined her older sister in Los Angeles to look for work. As it happened, a friend of her sister had a job with an outfit called Disney Brothers’ Studio (it would become Walt Disney Productions in 1929). The friend was a “cel inker” – she filled in outlined figures with colored ink – and said the brothers had another opening. The job required a good eye and steady hand, and Lillian was hired. She also did some secretarial work.

The studio, owned by Walt and his brother Roy, was Walt’s third attempt at a company to produce animated cartoons. The first two had “gone bust,” and this new venture had its own financial problems. The story is told that Walt sometimes asked Lillian to delay cashing her $15 weekly paycheck. The Disney brothers themselves were “batching it” in a tiny apartment. Lillian later told an interviewer, “I've always teased Walt that the reason he asked me to marry him so soon after Roy married Edna Francis, a Kansas City girl, was that he needed somebody to fix his meals.”

She married the boss in July 1925; the ceremony took place in Lewiston. According to the official studio history, in 1928 Lillian made a crucial contribution to the iconic Disney story: She talked Walt out of the name "Mortimer" for his new creation, who became "Mickey" Mouse instead.

Walt and Lillian Disney, 1935.
Walt Disney Family Foundation photo.
For over forty years, until Walt's death in 1966, Lillian continued to contribute to the Disney empire. Walt valued her insight and honesty as a behind-the-scenes "sounding board." She claimed to be “the original worry wart” about Walt’s creative notions. She thought no one would “go to see a picture about dwarfs!” “Snow White” was, of course, a huge hit.

After Walt’s death, she directed funds to a worthy enterprise: the California Institute of the Arts. Walt had fostered the merger of two struggling creative organizations into "CalArts," the first degree-granting school for students of the visual and performing arts.

Then, in 1987, she contributed a $50 million "down payment" for the construction of a world-class concert hall in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, numerous obstacles delayed the project. She died in December 1997, six years before construction was completed.

A year before her death, Lillian provided a $100 thousand grant that helped the Nez Perce tribe buy back historic tribal artifacts. She generally avoided publicity, but indications are that numerous other donations were known only to the recipients.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
Lillian Disney as told to Isabella Taves, "I Live With a Genius,” McCalls magazine (February 1953).
“Lillian Disney,” Disney Legends, The Walt Disney Company.
Neal Gabler, Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination, Random House, New York (2006).
Bernard Weinraub, “Walt Disney's Widow, Lillian, Dies at 98,” New York Times (December 18, 1997).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Physician and Drug Store Operator William Anderson [otd 02/14]

Dr. William Hopkins Anderson was born February 14, 1835, in Florence, Pennsylvania, 20-25 miles west of Pittsburgh. He had family roots back to Revolutionary War times and his paternal grandfather participated in the War of 1812. His mother, Dorcas Hopkins, had a distant relationship with the founder of Johns Hopkins University.
Country Doctor. National Archives.

Anderson graduated from a Cincinnati medical school in 1855. He immediately opened a practice in a rural section of Iowa, about seventy miles north of Des Moines. Four years later, he moved to Utah, settling in an area 25-30 miles south of what would soon become Franklin, Idaho. He married in September 1861 and their first child was born about a year later in Wellsville, Utah.

About the time Dr. Anderson arrived in the Cache Valley, Mormon colonists founded Logan. In April of 1860, settlers spread north to establish Franklin. (Of course, as noted elsewhere [blog, Jan 10], they thought they were in Utah.) As a country doctor, Anderson spent nearly forty years treating patients in Utah's Cache and Malad Counties, as well as across the Idaho border in Oneida County.

Dr. Anderson also held the position of Regimental Surgeon for the Cache County unit of the Nauvoo Legion (Utah militia). He served as a Justice of the Peace for over a quarter century, a long period as notary public, and many years as a Trustee on the local school board.
Dr. Anderson. H. T. French photo.

Although Dr. Anderson lived in a sparsely populated and rather isolated locale, his contemporaries often remarked on how carefully and thoroughly he kept up with the latest advances in medical techniques.

In 1897, he moved to Soda Springs, Idaho. Located on the Oregon Short Line railroad, the town was already known as a major shipping point for sheep and cattle. Within a few years, Soda Springs would ship more wool than any other railway station in Idaho.

Dr. Anderson bought an existing mercantile establishment and expanded it to include what was reported to be the first drug store in the town. The doctor remained fully active in his profession for about a decade before advancing age led him to suspend his general practice. He did remain available for consultations and emergencies.

The Idaho Falls Times reprinted (August 3, 1909) an item from the Soda Springs Chieftain about one such emergency. The little daughter of the local sheep association manager had suffered an attack of ptomaine poisoning. The town’s “practicing physician” was absent, so the manager asked the railroad for a speed run to bring a doctor from Montpelier. However, old Doc Anderson stepped in and “the child was practically out of danger before the train arrived.”

Ironically, the Soda Springs item highlighted the “Record Run” of the special train as much as it did the effective medical intervention. The engine, a passenger car, and caboose had “covered the thirty-one miles between Montpelier and this city in thirty minutes.”

Anderson also continued an active role with the drug store trade. In fact, in 1912, the Idaho State Pharmaceutical Association – an organization pledged "to promote better conditions in retail drugstores” – elected him to be their Vice President. He passed away in December 1914.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley]
"Obituary: Dr. William Anderson," Soda Springs Chieftain (Dec 24, 1914).
Progressive Men of Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Fremont and Oneida Counties, Idaho, A. W. Bowen & Co., Chicago (1904).
“Wellsville, Utah,” Utah History Encyclopedia, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake (1994).

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mining and Irrigation Developer, and Boise Founder John A. O’Farrell [otd 02/13]

John O'Farrell. H. T. French photo.
World traveler and Boise pioneer John Andrew O'Farrell was born February 13, 1823, in Ulster, Ireland. He went to sea after two years in a naval school: The round trip from London to Calcutta and back made O'Farrell a seasoned sailor at 16. He then became a crew member on an East India Company ship that sailed to Syndey, Australia, and widespread points in between.

O’Farrell remained in England for a year or so, qualifying as a shipyard worker. He then signed on with a ship that landed him in the United States in January 1843. Here, he worked in a shipyard for a time. During the Mexican War, Andrew served successively on a stores ship and then a mail packet.

After the annexation of California and the discovery of gold at Sutter's mill, he tried his hand at placer mining. When California was admitted to the Union in September 1850, all male residents over 21 years old – including O'Farrell – were granted U.S. citizenship.

O'Farrell returned to sea for a round trip voyage to New Zealand and Australia, with stops in Honolulu. After more mining, he worked ships between the Caribbean and England.
HMS Agamemnon. Magazine lithograph, 1857.

The Crimean War began in 1853, and O’Farrell shipped on the HMS Agamemnon, the first screw-powered British battleship. In November 1854, O'Farrell received a “Crimean Medal” for meritorious service in the siege of Sevastopol, where he was wounded.

He returned to the U.S. after the war and, in 1860, was among the early prospectors who discovered gold in the Pike's Peak area of Colorado. However, in late 1861, O’Farrell went East to Kentucky and got married. Two years later, he chose to put down roots in the Boise Valley.

Major Pinkney Lugenbeel’s troops were already in the Valley when O’Farrell arrived there in June. By coincidence or design, Andrew located his cabin within a quarter mile or so of where the Major finally sited (the new) Fort Boise. The log cabin O'Farrell built in what soon became Boise City is considered the first family home in the area. For many years, area Roman Catholics used his home as a place to hold services.
O'Farrell Cabin. City of Boise.

With his wife and growing family settled, O'Farrell promoted the development of the city and of the Boise Valley. Andrew eventually owned considerable Valley farm land as well as town real estate. Later, he helped fund and promote irrigation canals in the area. One of those projects included the New York Canal [blog June 20], of which he was one of the original promoters.

Yet he found time to travel extensively to oversee mining investments all over the west, from Washington and Montana south to Arizona and New Mexico.

O’Farrell’s wife of almost forty years, Mary Ann, died in May 1900. Together, they had raised four children of their own (three others died in infancy), plus seven adopted orphans. John survived his wife by a bit over five months.

Boise still has an Ofarrell Street. The original cabin, although relocated by a couple hundred feet, has been restored and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Illust-State]
"O'Farrell Cabin," CityofBoise.org web site.
Carolyn Thomas Foreman, “Colonel Pinkney Lugenbeel,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 24, No. 4, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City (1946).

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Attorney, Developer, and Public Servant Albertus Freehafer [otd 02/12]

Attorney and legislator Albertus L. Freehafer was born February 12, 1868, in Mansfield, Ohio, about seventy miles southwest of Cleveland. After high school, he taught for three years, saving as much as he could.
Ohio Northern University, ca 1890.
Vintage postcard, Columbus Metropolitan Library.

With that “nest egg” and what he could earn during the summer, Albertus attended Ohio Northern University, then called Ohio Normal University. He graduated in 1893.

For three years, Freehafer served as a high school Superintendent in Ohio. He then began reading law with a firm in his home town. Albertus married in 1897, and served as a Deputy County Clerk while continuing his law office studies. However, in 1900, the couple and their year-old daughter moved to Scofield, Utah. There, Albertus worked as a school Principal while his wife, Olive, was a teacher.

After two years in Utah, the Freehafers moved to Council, Idaho, where Albertus again had a job as school Principal. Throughout this period, he studied law, and passed the Idaho bar exam in 1905. Albertus then quit his school job and opened a law office in Council. Six years later, his business had increased to the point that he added a partner.

Besides his law practice, Freehafer took up a homestead near Council. He also dealt in real estate and insurance, and was a director of the First Bank of Council. For a time, he provided legal counsel for the bank.

Freehafer served one term in the Idaho House of Representatives, starting in 1907. While there, he was House Leader for the minority Democratic Party. Voters then elected Albertus to two consecutive terms as state Senator from Washington County. Also active in local politics, Albertus served as Chairman of the Council Board of Trustees (roughly equivalent to a mayor’s position), and as City Attorney in 1911-1914.

In 1911, Senator Freehafer introduced legislation to carve Adams County out of Washington County.  Washington County officials fiercely opposed the division. However, the proposed new county held about half the assessed valuation and area of the existing Washington County, and about 44% of the voters (Idaho Statesman, January 28, 1911). The bill passed and Council became the county seat.
Adams County Courthouse, built 1915.
Adams County Historic Preservation Commission.

Freehafer was appointed to the state Public Utilities Commission in 1914. During a second term, he then served as Commission President. One of the more interesting 1918 cases denied a request to have electrical power service extended to a village in southeast Idaho. The refusal was, the Commission decided, “necessary for the conservation of raw material, capital, and labor required for the winning of the war.”

Freehafer served through 1921. He then moved his law practice to Payette, later serving two terms as state Senator for Payette County. In the Thirties, he performed legal work for various Federal agencies, generally related to “New Deal” programs.

He moved back to Council in 1939. There, Albertus was nominated for the state Senate from Adams County, but withdrew for health reasons. He passed away in October 1940. (Freehafer was the maternal grandfather of U. S. Senator from Idaho, James Albertus "Jim" McClure.)
                                                                                 
References: [French], [Hawley]
Albertus L. Freehafer (Pres.), Sixth and Seventh Annual Reports of the Public Utilities Commission, State of Idaho, The Caxton Printers, Ltd, Caldwell, Idaho (1920).
"Freehafer, Albertus LeRoy - Obituary," Independent Enterprise, Payette, Idaho (November 1940).

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Inventor, Atomic Bomb Witness, and University Professor Larry Johnston [otd 02/11]

Larry Johnston, ca 1945. U. S. Army.
Physicist Lawrence Harding “Larry” Johnston was born February 11, 1918, in Shantung (Shandong) Province, China. His parents were missionaries, who returned to the U. S. in 1923, probably to avoid Nationalistic unrest in the area. By 1930, his father held a position as a Presbyterian pastor in Santa Maria, California.

Like many boys of that era, Larry was fascinated by electricity. That led him to a B.S. degree in physics from the University of California at Berkeley. One of his professors was Luis W. Alvarez, later a Nobel Prize winner, but then a newly-minted Ph.D. and faculty member.

The U.S. had not yet entered World War II when Larry graduated in 1940. He began graduate school on schedule, intending to work for Alvarez. However, the professor took a leave of absence to consult at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The “temporary” assignment soon lengthened, and Alvarez drafted Johnston to help. Larry arrived at MIT in January of 1941.

Much of the work there sought to improve the relatively new technology of radar. Soon, Alvarez made Larry the Project Engineer for what became a Ground Control Approach (GCA) radar system. The system provides precise data on a plane’s altitude, and its track versus the runway centerline. A ground controller uses that information to “talk the pilot down.”
Trinity Test Blast. National Archives.
Then Robert Oppenheimer recruited Alvarez for the atomic bomb project, working out of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Alvarez, in turn, brought along Larry. The details are beyond the scope of this blog, but Johnston tackled, and solved, the detonation trigger array for the plutonium-239 atomic bomb (“Fat Man”). In the summer of 1945, he witnessed the first atomic detonation in history at the Trinity site near Alamogordo.

A few days later, Johnston and his team were ordered to Tinian Island. From there, Larry rode an observation plane and witnessed the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. He was the only person known to have seen all three of those first atomic explosions. They had also seen the enormous supply of coffins stockpiled in case the Allies had to physically invade Japan. A deeply religious man, Johnston later wrote that he and the bomber crews “had come to terms with the inevitable loss of life. We hoped for an early end to the War and its heavy drain of human life and potential.”

The terrible destruction gave the Japanese a face-saving way to avoid a fight to the death, something they were, indeed, prepared to do. Less than a week after the second bomb, they surrendered. After matters settled down, Johnston went back to graduate school at UC-Berkeley.
GCA Radar Console.
National Air and Space Museum.

During the winter of 1948, the GCA system he and Alcarez had pioneered made possible one of the most dramatic peacetime campaigns of the Twentieth Century: the Berlin Airlift. With ground controllers – the “unsung heroes” – talking them down through bad weather, daring pilots flew a steady stream of supply planes into blockaded Berlin. The Soviets finally gave up their unexpectedly-futile obstruction.

After receiving his doctorate in 1950, Johnston taught for over a decade at the University of Minnesota. He then worked back in California before becoming a physics professor at the University of Idaho in 1967. Some of his research results are still considered the definitive works in his field, and he was renowned as a teacher and mentor. After his retirement in 1978, Larry stayed active, including enthusiastic support of Christian ministries in Moscow.

He passed away in late 2011.
                                                                                 
References: [Brit]
David Bergamini, Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, William Morrow & Company, New York (1971).
Lawrence Johnston, “The War Years,” Discovering Alvarez, W. Peter Tower (ed.), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1987).
Sandra L. Lee, “Idaho Man Witness to 3 Atomic Blasts,” Lewiston Tribune, Lewiston, Idaho (November 19, 2011).
“Obituary: Lawrence H. 'Larry' Johnston, 93,” Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho (December 7, 2011).
Stewart M. Powell, “The Berlin Airlift,” Air Force Magazine, The Air force Association, Arlington, Virginia (June 1998).