Friday, March 31, 2017

Novelist & Newspaper Columnist Vardis Fisher [otd 3/31]

Vardis Fisher.
Bonneville County Historical Society.
Vardis Alvero Fisher, best known for his Western-themed novels, was born March 31, 1895 in Annis, Idaho. (Annis is about 4 miles north of Rigby.) He grew up in that area before going off to school at the University of Utah. After receiving his Bachelor's and Master’s degrees there, he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1925.

From 1925 to 1931, Fisher worked as an English professor at the University of Utah and then New York University (NYU). While at NYU, he met Thomas Wolfe, who was an Instructor there. (Wolfe's literary fame, for Look Homeward Angel, would come later.) They remained friends until Wolfe's untimely death in 1938. Fisher taught some at Montana State University before becoming Director of the Idaho Writer's Project. He stayed with the Work Projects Administration effort from 1935 to 1939. After that, he devoted his full time to writing.

Fisher’s first published novel, Toilers of the Hills, appeared in 1928, about the time he took his position at NYU. His second, Dark Bridwell, followed in 1931. Set in pioneer Idaho, a milieu Vardis knew well from personal experience, these books present their settings with a level a verisimilitude that stamped all of Fisher’s work. Yet the power of these novels lies in his examination of how the hard, primitive environment shaped the character of the people who tried to make a life there.

Considering the magnitude of his typical themes, Fisher was an extraordinarily productive writer. He published thirty-seven or thirty-eight (bibliographies disagree) novels, most of them of considerable heft – many run over 400 pages. Besides those, Vardis published a half-dozen non-fiction volumes, some short stories and poems, numerous essays, and – for about thirty years – regular newspaper columns. As is often the case with highly prolific writers, critics consider his novels "uneven" – a judgement I would have to agree with. (Few writers hit a home run every time.)
Warner Bros. publicity image.

At his best, he received favorable comparison with such literary giants as William Faulkner, Thomas Hardy, and Thomas Wolfe. Personally, I think such views fail to give Vardis due credit. Fisher’s best material is every bit as powerful and insightful as the best of the “giants” – and far more readable. (I’m not a big fan of episodic, "stream of consciousness," or "inner turmoil" novels that have little or no plot.)

His popular legacy lies in the now-common western history and fiction style that features "naturalistic" or "nitty-gritty" detail buttressed by historical fidelity. At its best, the style neither glosses over the pain and violence of frontier life, nor exaggerates it for shock value. Thus, Fisher’s western-themed books are still both very readable, and instructive.

Ironically, Vardis may have succeeded too well. Some current reader/reviewers, not understanding the context, fault his themes as having been “done to death,” and seem to expect even more blood and feces. But the situations have been done to death because Fisher popularized them. In fact, Fisher's novel Mountain Man (1965) provided much of the script material for the hit movie Jeremiah Johnson. As for the “realism,” I’m not sure the recent “extreme-nature” approach is that much of an improvement over Fisher’s treatment.

For the last thirty years of his life, Fisher lived in a home he built himself near Hagerman, Idaho. He died in July 1968. Unfortunately, few of Fisher’s works are available today, except as now-costly volumes from the original print runs. And that’s a shame.
References: Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Tim Woodward, Tiger on the Road: The Life of Vardis Fisher, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho(1989).
Guila Ford, Elizabeth Jacox, "Vardis Fisher, 1895-1968," Reference Series No. 1138, Idaho State Historical Society (January 1996).

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Medical Researcher and St. Luke’s Chief Surgeon Warren Springer [otd 03/30]

Dr. Springer. J. H. Hawley photo.
Eminent Boise physician Warren David Springer was born March 30, 1864, near Toronto, Canada. He received a college degree and then went on to medical school at Trinity College in Toronto. After graduating with his medical degree, he took additional courses at the College of Physicians of Ontario.

Springer ran a practice near Toronto for a time and then moved to Ogden, Utah. After a relatively brief stay there, he opened a Boise office in 1892. Noted for his skill as a surgeon, Springer developed a thriving practice in Boise. According to Hawley's History, "He was, moreover, a close and discriminating student of the science of medicine and kept in touch with the latest researches and discoveries."

That interest worked both ways. Several Boise doctors, including Springer and his partner, are collectively credited with the first written, clinical description of "rocky mountain spotted fever." [Blogs, Aug 21 and Oct 16.] The reports detailed the typical symptoms: crushing headaches, “grievous” joint and muscle pain, and the characteristic red spots.

The physicians described the course of the disease, which can last up to two weeks after the appearance of the first definitive symptoms. In severe cases, convalescence may take weeks or months. They reported fairly low fatality rates among Idaho sufferers, perhaps due to mis-diagnosis. The symptoms resemble the more common typhus and not all patients develop the distinctive spots.

Overall, spotted fever killed as many as 25-30% of those infected before antibiotic treatments became available. (Fatalities still run 3-5%, being highest for older patients.)

Besides his private practice, Dr. Springer served as one of the physicians for the Idaho Soldiers’ Home [blog, May 23] in Boise. In 1898, Springer volunteered for service during the Spanish-American War. As regimental surgeon, Major Springer served in the Philippines with the First Idaho Regiment. Like the regiment, he returned to Idaho in September 1899.
St. Luke's horse-drawn ambulance. City of Boise.

Some time in 1900-1902, the Right Reverend James B. Funsten, Episcopal Bishop of Idaho, began to promote a new medical facility in Boise. Dr. Springer, “a close personal friend,” helped found St. Luke’s Hospital, which opened in 1902 as a modest cottage with six beds. Springer became the hospital’s Chief Surgeon, a position he held at the time of his death.

Dr. Springer served as Secretary of the Idaho board of Health for a time, and belonged to several national, state, and local medical societies. In 1903, he helped found the Boise Medical Association, an affiliate of the American Medical Association, and became its first Vice President. Springer was also elected to a term as Ada County Coroner. And, when the Boise City Council created the position of City Physician, they selected Warren to fill that slot (Idaho Statesman, September 11, 1900).

In 1907, Warren’s younger brother, John Scott Springer, joined his practice. John, also born in Canada, had practiced for a year in Emmett, Idaho, before spending eight months in an internship in Chicago.

Unfortunately, the brothers had little time together. In October, 1909, Warren died a day or so after suffering a major heart attack. The death of the relatively young, well-liked doctor prompted an outpouring of shock and grief. The Statesman noted (October 23, 1909) that “The casket … was literally buried in flowers.” Physician friends came from all over southwest Idaho and “The nurses of the city attended in a body.”
References: [Brit], [French], [Hawley]
“Boise (Idaho) Medical Association,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 41, No. 11, American Medical Association, Chicago (Sept 12, 1903).
James F. Hammarsten, “The contributions of Idaho physicians to knowledge of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, Vol. 94 (1983) p. 27–43.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Prominent Attorney and Exposition Secretary George Huebner [otd 03/29]

Attorney George C. Huebner was born March 29, 1879 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. (Older records show the name as Huebener.) After graduating from high school there, George apparently worked at a store his father owned in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the same time, he attended the University of Minnesota Law School.

He received his degree in 1903 and moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the following spring. He was quickly admitted to the state bar and practiced in North Idaho for about a year. In 1905, Governor Frank Gooding appointed him Chief Clerk of the Idaho State Penitentiary, so he moved to Boise.
Harry Orchard.
University of Missouri Archives.

In his position as Chief Clerk, Huebner recorded the official transcript of Harry Orchard’s confession to the assassination of ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg [blog, Dec 30]. Later, George also recorded the confession of Steve Adams, an alleged accomplice. Although his testimony concerned other crimes, Adams also implicated the Western Federation of Miners in the assassination. In his words, “they wanted to ‘get’ Steunenberg.”

Huebner filled the penitentiary position until April 1909, when Governor James H. Brady selected him to be Secretary of the Idaho Commission for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Earlier that year, the Governor had urged the legislature to correct the oversight of the previous session, which had failed to provide funds for an Idaho exhibit at the Seattle event.

The Expo was scheduled to begin in June, so Brady recommended quick action to create "an exhibit that will be a credit to our state." The legislature complied and preparations hurried forward, including the selection of Huebner. Right away, Brady led the Commission on a trip to Seattle to select a suitable location on the Expo grounds for the Idaho exhibit.

Exposition leaders soon discovered that commemorative “days” – dedicated to various groups, products, and so on – seemed to greatly enhance attendance. Thus, “Military Day,” “Spokane Day,” and “Swedish Day” were all well attended. Idaho had its chance to shine with (obviously) Idaho Day, along with Lewiston Day, Boise Day, and a day for three silver-mining towns. (The potato was not yet, in 1909, a major product, so there was no “Spud Day.”)
The Idaho Building.
University of Washington, Special Collections.

Overall, despite the short notice, the Commission made an excellent showing, with an entire building dedicated to the products and prospects of the state. The Expo ended in mid-October. Huebner’s tenure as Secretary ended with his compilation of a final report. Commenting on the report, the Idaho Statesman (December 1, 1909) said, “The impossible has been accomplished.” The exhibit actually made a profit, so “… a balance of $739.80 which will be turned back to the treasury.”

When James Brady was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1913, Huebner served as his private secretary for most of 1914. He then returned to private law practice in Boise.

In 1917, George moved his practice to Emmett. He retained a number of business interests in Boise, however, and was often listed as a visitor there. In 1934, Huebner ran unsuccessfully for judge of the district that includes Gem County. (Emmett is the county seat.) Two years later, he was a candidate for the state Senate, again unsuccessfully.

George became City Attorney for Emmett in 1938. He did not retire from that position until 1963, when he was 84 years old. He passed away in November 1972.
References: [French], [Hawley]
“Adams Told of Trade in Murder,” The New York Times (February 24, 1907).
"Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (1909): Special Days," Essay 8461, (January 17, 2008).
"Biographical Note," George Huebner Collection, MS 773, Idaho State Historical Society.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Governor Issues Proclamation to End Owyhee War [otd 03/28]

Idaho Governor D. W. Ballard issued a proclamation on March 28, 1868 to halt a shooting war near Silver City. The statement said, in part, "the lawless proceedings of the parties referred to must cease and peace and order be restored, and to that end the whole power of the territory will be used."
Mine and mill buildings on War Eagle Mountain, 1866.
Historical ... Directory of Owyhee County.

The conflict, now known as the "Owyhee War," occurred between two competing mining companies: the Ida Elmore and the Golden Chariot. Both had claims on War Eagle Mountain, 1-2 miles southeast of Silver City.

The lode that developed into the Ida Elmore had been discovered in the summer of 1863. Within a few years, mining investor J. Marion More and a partner gained control of the mine. More had arrived early in the northern mining regions, and then got in on the ground floor in the Boise Basin. By the mid-1860s, he was one of the wealthiest capitalists in the Territory, and well known in Western mining circles.

Prospectors also found several other likely veins in War Eagle Mountain, one of the most promising being the Golden Chariot. By the end of 1867, owners had shipped or stockpiled over 350 tons of valuable ore.

Registration records for the claims showed that they overlapped on a two-dimensional map. However, no one paid much attention to this commonly-occurring feature; the respective veins were at quite different depths within the ridge. Developers assumed – in perhaps a bit of wishful thinking – that the two lodes did not connect deep below ground.

That turned out to be an incorrect assumption. When their tunnels met, the confrontation escalated into an underground shooting war. The first deaths occurred on March 25 and 26, when one man on each side was killed. Soon, the exchanges became extremely heavy, and included blasts with “giant powder” and fire bombs. A later investigator observed that one 15-inch supporting beam had been "nearly cut in two" by bullet impacts.

The same day as the proclamation, the Owyhee Avalanche, in Silver City, published (March 28, 1868) an overview of the dispute. The article concluded, “As there are, at least, fifty men armed to the teeth, on each side, we are prepared, at any time, to hear of a bloody battle.”

Aside from such reports, the governor had been forced to act by wide-spread rumors claiming many battle deaths and secret burials. (Later, investigators were unable to substantiate any of the wild claims.)

J. Marion More, ca. 1864.
Idaho City Historical Foundation.
The proclamation, delivered by a Deputy U.S. Marshal, led to an uneasy truce. But bad feelings remained, and opposing viewpoints exchanged hot words.

As usual in such affairs, what happened next is highly muddled. A Chariot supporter shot J. Marion More, supposedly because More was about to brain him with a rough walking stick. An Elmore partisan then shot the Chariot man in the arm.

J. Marion died soon after the shooting. The Chariot man survived an amputation but died from gangrene several agonizing weeks later. Expressions of regret over More's death poured in, for he had friends all over Idaho. His body was returned to Idaho City for burial with full Masonic honors.
References [B&W], [Illust-State]
Dale M. Gray, “War on the Mountain," Idaho Yesterdays, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Winter 1986).

Monday, March 27, 2017

Stage Line Operator and Coach Driver Charles Haynes [otd 03/27]

Long-time stagecoach driver Charles C. Haynes was born March 27, 1837 in Liverpool, Ohio, about thirty miles south of Youngstown. Before his twenty-first birthday, he had accumulated years of experience driving stagecoaches in Ohio, Michigan, and Iowa.
Took a top driver to handle a 6-horse hitch. Library of Congress.

Railroads were supplanting stage lines there by 1857, so he moved west. The following year he began driving stagecoaches in Missouri and Kansas. Thus, for two years, Charlie staged in and out of Topeka. During the Civil War, he drove along the lines between Atchison, Kansas and various Rocky Mountain destinations. After that, Haynes moved even further west. He staged for a few months across eastern Idaho between Salt Lake and the Montana gold camps before heading for the West Coast.

Haynes spent nearly two years driving stage in California for the Wells-Fargo Express Company. He then returned to the Montana route out of Salt Lake. The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 relegated Western stage lines to local and regional routes, usually carrying passengers, mail, and light freight to and from major railway stations.

From about 1872 until 1880, Haynes staged in central California, western Nevada, and southern Idaho. The latter operation mostly involved various routes in and out of Boise City. He often found himself moving on because railroad service had overtaken the stagecoach.

Hayes briefly ran his own stage lines, first into the Tuscarora, Nevada mining region and then in the Wood River area of Idaho. In about 1880, he retired to a ranch on Goose Creek in Cassia County. (The 1880 Census shows him there with wife Nancy and two stepsons.) In the mid-1880s, he served as Deputy U.S. Marshall, a position he held again in 1891-1893. He also served as a constable in Shoshone and as Lincoln County sheriff.
C. C. Hayes, ca. 1895.
Photo from Root-Connelly reference.

He still owned the Cassia County ranch in 1890, along with other property in Shoshone. However, the Shoshone hotel he purchased in 1889 burned down in November 1890. After that, Haynes spent his time overseeing his various other properties and transporting tourists to see Shoshone Falls

No less a personage than renowned orator and Presidential hopeful William Jennings Bryan affirmed that old "Uncle Charley" could still "finger the ribbons" with the best at the age of sixty. Bryan's 1897 letter to the Shoshone Journal said, in part, "Our driver, Capt. C. C. Haynes, was so experienced, and his horses so fast, that the twenty-five-mile coach ride across the lava-covered plain was made in less than four hours, and was neither tiresome nor unpleasant."

In the Haynes biography recorded in 1914, H. T. French wrote, "it has been his privilege to witness events that have made history, and he has played no small part in shaping the destiny of the great Northwest."

In early February, Uncle Charley went to visit old-time friends in Boise. He passed away there about two week after suffering a severe stroke. In reporting his death, the Idaho Statesman (February 21, 1914) said, “He is well known to the old residents of southern Idaho.”
References: [French]
Frank A. Root, William Elsey Connelley, The Overland Stage to California, Nabu Press (1901, facsimile 2010).

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Freighter, Stagecoach Driver, and Eagle Developer John Carpenter [otd 03/26]

John R. Carpenter.
J. H. Hawley photo.
Pioneer John R. Carpenter was born March 26, 1846 near Albany, New York. In 1859, John helped his father drive a covered wagon to California while his mother traveled by ship around Cape Horn. After mining and ranching in California and then Oregon for awhile, the family moved to Idaho in the spring of 1863.

John and his father hauled logs and carried freight for several years. On one early trip to procure supplies in Oregon, highwaymen attacked and robbed them. During the altercation, John received a wound in the hand and wrist. He never regained the use of two fingers on that hand.

Life in Idaho City during that period was wild and dangerous. Carpenter later said he had seen as many as four dead bodies on the streets at one time, and sometimes you could hardly move through all the crush of wagons and teams. Demand for goods was so great that nothing of value could be left unattended for fear of thieves.

John worked full-time for his father in farming and ranching for about two years. He then began hauling freight by pack train and wagon, and drove the Idaho City to Boise City stage for awhile. John apparently worked part time at his father’s ranch until 1876, when his father sold out and retired back to the East. Later, John hauled freight from Kelton, Utah to Boise City, and drove stage routes all over southern Idaho

During the Bannock War of 1878, Carpenter served as express messenger and scout for Federal and local troops. Because of his knowledge of the terrain, leaders sometimes sent him out to find and repair breaks in government telegraph lines. On one repair trip, he barely avoided being attacked and killed by Indians.

On another occasion, he carried a message from Boise City to an Army column on the Camas Prairie, far east of Mountain Home. The commander was reportedly “dumbfounded” that he had avoided the numerous hostile Indian bands that then infested the countryside.

After the tribes had been suppressed, John went back to hauling freight and driving stage. For several years, he drove stagecoaches in the Wood River area for stage line tycoon John Hailey. Despite his impaired hand, “Carpenter was known as one of the best stage drivers in the United States.”

In 1895, he homesteaded in the area that became Eagle, about 8-9 miles northwest of Boise City. Eagle Island had been settled over thirty years earlier [blog, Dec 21], but the area had grown very little. Within a few years after John settled there, another major landowner promoted a bridge to the island and the Eagle community began to expand.
Odd Fellows Hall. Eagle Historical Museum.

Carpenter joined forces with the developer, selling fifteen acres as a town site. In 1902, he also donated land for an Odd Fellows Hall. Carpenter continued to encourage development of the town for many years. The biography in Hawley’s History, published in 1920, said, “There is no phase of the state’s development and upbuilding with which he is not familiar.”

John lived in Eagle until his death in March, 1936.
References: [Hawley]
Laurie Baker, “The City of Eagle: Yesterday and Today,” City of Eagle, Official Website (May, 2007).
John Hailey, History of Idaho, Syms-York Company, Boise, Idaho (1910).

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Gutzon Borglum: Sculptor of Gigantic Figures, Including Mount Rushmore [otd 3/25]

Gutzon Borglum, ca. 1925.
Library of Congress.
Gutzon Borglum, who created the Mount Rushmore monument, was born March 25, 1867 in St. Charles, Idaho, near Bear Lake. "The best archival research" indicates that the family moved to Los Angeles in 1884 and Gutzon stayed there when the rest moved on.*

Borglum began his artistic career as a painter, studying first in California. There he met divorcée Lisa Putnam – a well-connected painter – who became his mentor, manager, and eventually his wife (she was eighteen years older than her protégé).

A year after they were married in 1889, the couple moved to Paris. There, Gutzon studied at several prestigious art schools and studios, and branched out into sculpture. Borglum earned praise, and commissions, for both his painting and sculpture, but he soon began to concentrate on the latter. He completed several important commissions in Europe before returning to the U.S. in 1901.

With a base in New York City, Borglum established a major reputation as a sculptor, aided by his outstanding talent and his persistent cultivation of the media – then the big metropolitan newspapers and national magazines. He attained celebrity status when he began producing out-sized works of art, such as the 40-inch-high bust of President Lincoln displayed in the U. S. Capitol building.

This and other huge works led to a commission for what … eventually … became the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial, on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. The project backers initially envisioned “simply” a giant carving of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the granite face of Stone Mountain.

Borglum fell in love with the notion of carving a whole mountain. He proposed a project to honor a host of Confederate heroes: Lee, Jefferson Davis, and something like seventy officers from all the Confederate states. Of course, his concept proved far too costly and leaders cut it back substantially. Some preparative work began in 1916-1917, but not much happened until about 1923.

The following year, publicity about the proposed project attracted the attention of the South Dakota State Historian. The Historian approached Borglum with a rather modest notion of carving The Needles – a forest of granite spires – into giant statues of western heroes. Borglum had a more grandiose idea: Not obscure Westerners most people had never heard of, but true national figures ... and on a colossal scale.

Planning for a national-scale monument began almost immediately. Thus, when major disagreements arose between Borglum and the Stone Mountain backers in 1925, he abandoned that project altogether. (Almost a half century passed before Atlantans dedicated their memorial.)
Mount Rushmore National Monument.
National Park Service.

Rock-work began on Mount Rushmore in 1927. They completed Washington’s head three years later. With the stock market crash and Great Depression, the second head – Jefferson’s – was not unveiled until 1937. Lincoln’s followed a year later, and Roosevelt’s two years after that. The final carving was not completed until October 1941. Borglum himself did not live to see the completion: he died in March of that year.

* It's somewhat unclear when this move actually happened because, like many celebrities, Borglum "tinkered" with his biography over the years.
References: [Brit]
Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
"Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941)," The American Experience, Public Broadcasting System (1999-2000).

Friday, March 24, 2017

Battleship Idaho Commissioned, Becoming the Navy’s Fourth USS Idaho [otd 03/24]

On March 24, 1919, battleship BB-42 – the USS Idaho – was commissioned into the Navy under the command of Captain Carl T. Vogelgesang.

BB-42 was actually the fourth Idaho to sail for the U.S. Navy: predecessors included a wooden sloop-of-war, a motor launch, and an earlier battleship, BB-24.
USS Idaho, BB-24, ca 1909. Library of Congress.
Launched in late 1905, BB-24 followed a design that was a compromise between fighting prowess and cost. As a result, a new generation of battleships soon made that USS Idaho obsolete. She was decommissioned and turned over to Greece in 1914.

Battleship BB-42 had been christened not quite two years before commissioning, in June 1917, by the granddaughter of Idaho Governor Moses Alexander [blog, Nov 13], who was also in attendance.

This USS Idaho had the latest design for the time, with a battery of twelve 14-inch guns. She played a significant role in American naval activity. After shakedown and training in the Atlantic, she transferred to Pacific waters. Her early duty was off the coast from California to Alaska, with occasional voyages as far south as Chile.

In 1925, the Idaho performed exercises near Hawaii, and then sailed to Australia and New Zealand before returning to the West Coast.
USS Idaho exiting Pearl Harbor,
DT-2 torpedo plane overhead, Sept 1925.
Naval Historical Center photo.
From then until 1931, the Idaho was based at San Pedro, California, engaging in fleet readiness maneuvers off the coast and in the Caribbean.

The Idaho spent 1931-1934 on the East Coast undergoing an extensive modernization refit. After a stint in Pacific waters, she returned to the Atlantic. She was stationed in Iceland on December 7, 1941. Two days after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Idaho left Iceland to join the Pacific Fleet.

The USS Idaho participated in many of the great World War II Pacific operations, receiving seven battle stars, including: the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

In April 1945, the Idaho steamed toward a special date with history, but was denied. In a desperate, suicidal throw of the dice, the Japanese Imperial command sent their superbattleship Yamato to try to break up or delay the attack on Okinawa. The American commander, Admiral Spruance, countered first with his battleship bombardment group, including the Idaho. However, they were “demoted” to a contingency force, and a carrier air strike sank the Yamato instead.
USS Idaho bombarding Okinawa, April 1945.
Naval Historical Center photo.

A sailor on the Idaho wrote, “There was a show of disappointment among the crew that we didn't get our chance at them, but on the other hand, had we met with this force, for sure, some of our ships would have taken a shellacking from the Yamato's 18-inch guns long before we would have come in range.”

She suffered battle damage from a kamikaze off Okinawa, but returned to action after quick repairs in Guam. On September 2, 1945, the Idaho was anchored in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender ceremony. After over a quarter century of service, the battleship was decommissioned in 1946 and then sold for scrap in November 1947.
References: Dylan J. McDonald (Ed.), The Moses Alexander Collection, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (2002).
James A. Mooney (Ed.), Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Dept. of the Navy (June 1991).
William Schumann, The Big Spud: USS Idaho in World War II, The Merriam Press, Bennington, Vermont (© William Schumann, 2008).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Indian Unrest Forces Mormon Colonists to Abandon Fort Lemhi [otd 03/23]

On March 23, 1858, a force of nearly 150 Utah militiamen arrived at Fort Lemhi, Idaho to escort the Mormon settlers there to safety: Indian hostility had rendered the settlement untenable.
Brigham Young, ca 1850.
Utah State Historical Society.

Three years earlier, church leader Brigham Young had tasked a band of Mormons to establish a mission among Idaho’s indigenous peoples “and there teach the Indians the principles of civilization.”

A month later, the missionaries headed north from the Salt Lake area. They had no specific destination. Their instructions were to locate “anywhere that the tribes would receive them.” In the middle of June, 1855, they arrived in the Lemhi Valley, where the local tribes – Shoshone and Bannock, at first – welcomed them.

Later accounts suggest that the Indians expected something more or less like the minimal impact they had seen elsewhere. These newcomers were relatively inept hunters and fishermen. They would be willing to trade manufactured goods for Indian furs, meat, and dried fish. Small farm plots would provide food for local consumption, with perhaps some left over as a further trade item.

Thus, the Indians readily allowed the men to settle, surely hoping to have access to white trade goods. That was probably why they also recommended a settlement site in an area where the Shoshone, the Bannock, and the Nez Percé gathered during the summer to fish and trade among themselves.

The colonists immediately built a stockade to enclose a couple dozen cabins and, shortly, a blacksmith shop and sawmill. They named their outpost Fort Limhi, after a king appearing in the Book of Mormon. In its altered form, the designation later became associated with the river and its valley.

The colonists began cultivating land for farms as soon as the fort was reasonably complete. Unfortunately, they started too late in the area's short growing season and had to bring extra winter supplies in from Utah. The Mormons soon adapted, and more colonists joined them in 1857.

The Lemhi Shoshone (rightly) saw that growth as a threat to their traditional foraging lands. There had also been a falling out between the Nez Percé and the other two tribes. Those bands saw continued trade between the settlers and the Nez Percé as a hostile act.

Broader influences also played a role, as Idaho tribes clashed more and more with white emigrants on the Oregon Trail. Partly because of Indian unrest, the Hudson Bay Company had abandoned Old Fort Boise in 1854. Two years later, they also abandoned Old Fort Hall [blog, July 14].

Finally, early in 1858, a Shoshone raid drove off most of the colony's cattle and horses. The Indians also killed two Mormons and wounded five others.
Fort Lemhi remains, ca. 1900. Lemhi County Historical Society.

These stinging losses, and the possibility of further attacks, convinced the settlers that the colony could not survive. The militia force arrived in response to messengers sent south shortly after the raid. The party suffered one more casualty during the withdrawal.

Mormon colonists never returned to the Lemhi, but other whites began moving into the valley within four years. Then, in 1866, prospectors discovered gold in the mountains to the north and triggered the rush that established Salmon City as a thriving town.
References: [B&W]
Judith Austin, “The Salmon River Mission,” Reference Series No. 554, Idaho State Historical Society (August 1976).
George Elmo Shoup, "History of Lemhi County," Salmon Register-Herald (Series, May 8- October 23, 1940).

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Brewery and Food Products Manager William Stoehr [otd 03/22]

Brewery manager William Stoehr was born March 22, 1880 in Bethalto, Illinois, 25-30 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri. As a youth, William worked as a cooper, his father's trade. However, his real interest was the brewer's craft, so as a teenager he took a job at a large brewery in St. Louis. After five years there, he moved to Chicago to attend the American Brewing Academy, perhaps the top brewmaster’s school in the U.S. at that time.

Stoehr received his certificate in 1902, along with a gold medal as top performer in his class. After that, he spent six months at a brewery in Illinois, and then became master brewer at a large plant in Seattle.
Beer by mule, Idaho Brewing & Malting Company
IMB logo on the hogshead.

Then a Spokane company bought the Idaho Brewing Company in Boise. The Idaho Statesman reported (June 20, 1905) that, “William Stoehr of Seattle … has resigned his position there and will have charge of the Boise brewery as manager.”

The facility he was hired to run could trace its roots, as the “City Brewery,” almost to the founding of Boise City. Certainly by September 1864, it was a thriving business. The plant had a succession of short-term owners before Joseph Misseldt, an emigrant from Prussia, acquired it in 1870. Sadly, he fell down a well and drowned in 1878. His widow sold the business to John Brodbeck. When Brodbeck sold it in 1901, the new owners changed the name to the Idaho Brewing Company.

Aside from his manager’s position, Stoehr immersed himself in the business and social life of Boise. One of his several investments led him to a position as Secretary and Treasurer of the Boise Gas Light & Coke Company.

However, prohibition came early to Idaho – in 1916 – thereby making the core product of the IB&M Company illegal. Officers quickly reinvented the business as the Idaho Products Company, making a variety of non-alcoholic beverages. They also set up plants in Meridian and Payette to dry fruits and to pack fruits and vegetables.

After awhile, company developers also devised an effective process to dehydrate potatoes. In fact, the company won a contract to supply dehydrated potatoes to the U. S. Army, but World War I ended before it could be completed. In addition to their own packing and shipping operations, Idaho Products handled sales and shipping for other regional producers. Most of the firm's managers – including the President – worked in Spokane, leaving Stoehr as the highest officer in Boise.

When the U. S. gave up Prohibition as a bad idea, the company jumped back into brewing. The firm's President said (Spokane Daily Chronicle, June 27, 1933), "Bohemian Club Beer will be manufactured at Boise and new equipment will be installed in the old Idaho Brewing and Malting company plant there immediately."

The article went on to note that, “The Boise staff will be headed by William Stoehr, in charge of manufacturing.”

Some records suggest that Stoehr remained with the brewery, in some capacity, until it was bought out in the late 1950's. He passed away a few years after that.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Bob Kay, “Bosworth, Atlantic Brewery,” Correspondence files, Atlantic Brewery Company, Chicago (2008).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Stricker Log Home at Rock Creek Burns Down [otd 03/09]

On March 9, 1900, the Rock Creek home of Herman Stricker and his family burned to the ground. In some ways, this was a blessing as well as a tragedy.
Rock Creek. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Even before white men arrived, travelers in south-central Idaho depended upon the stream that gave Rock Creek Station its name. In August 1812, Robert Stuart provided the first written description of the feature. He called it Precipice Creek because, he wrote, “The banks of this stream, at and some distance above its discharge, are almost 300 feet perpendicular.”

The creek empties into the Snake River. For most of its length to the foothills, it runs through a narrow, steep-sided valley, 50-60 feet deep. Emigrants on the southern route of the Oregon Trail also knew it well. From near today’s Milner Dam [blog, May 7] on the Snake, wagon trains sought an upper stretch of Rock Creek as the nearest reliable water source.

In 1864, Ben Holladay had a stage station built near where the creek exits the higher foothills onto the plain. This “home” station – it provided meals and lodging – soon attracted a trading post. The store, established by James Bascom and John Corder, served stage passengers and bullwhackers piloting big freight outfits that hauled loads to Boise City. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad, stage and freight traffic connected at Kelton, Utah. After 1870-1871, miners and stockman became part of the clientele.

Herman Stricker emigrated to the U.S. from Hanover, Germany, a few years before the Civil War. He then joined the Union army, and saw action at Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and several other major battles. He moved to the Mountain West two years after the War. In 1870, he opened a store in the Snake River Canyon, about eight miles east of today’s Twin Falls.
Herman Stricker. J.H. Hawley photo.
In 1876, Stricker and a partner bought the Bascom-Corder store, plus a stable and log dwelling that had been added to their holdings. A year before Stricker's purchase, Charles Walgamott had come west and gone to work at the stage stop. [See my September 17th blog for an 1877 incident involving Charlie.] In 1879, Charlie's sister Lucy came to stay with her sister and brother-in-law. There, she met Stricker and, three years later, married him. They settled down in the log home to raise a family.

Stricker bought out his partner in 1884. By then, Oregon Short Line Railroad tracks had been completed across southern Idaho. Within months, through stage and freight traffic totally ceased. Fortunately, the expansion of the regional cattle business more than offset that loss. The population more than tripled between 1880 and 1900.
Stricker home, 1901. Friends of Stricker, Inc.
While Lucy surely missed the belongings lost in the fire, she did gain a far better home. Started on the same spot soon after the fire, the wood-frame plank structure was larger, with a nice covered porch. Within a few years, they added a second-floor dormer to the longer wing of the house.

Herman died in 1920, while Lucy lived until 1949. Today the immediate area is administered as a state Historic Site: The Rock Creek Station and Stricker Homesite.
References: [Hawley]
John Bertram, et al, Rock Creek Station and Stricker Homesite: Idaho Historical Site Master Plan, Idaho State Historical Society (2001).
Robert Stuart, Kenneth A. Spaulding (Ed.), On The Oregon Trail: Robert Stuart's Journey of Discovery, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman (1953).
Charles Shirley Walgamott, Six Decades Back, The Caxton Printers, Ltd, CaIdwell, Idaho (1936).