Saturday, March 10, 2018

Colonel Judson Spofford: Civil War Veteran, and Idaho Developer [otd 03/10]

Civil War veteran and Idaho developer Judson Spofford was born March 10, 1846 in Derby, Vermont, two or three miles from the Canadian border. The family had a proud military heritage. A great-great-grandfather was a colonel in the Revolutionary War and that man’s son served in the Quartermaster Corp. Another forebear served in the War of 1812. Judson enlisted in the 10th Vermont Regiment in July 1862. The regiment saw minor action initially, and just missed participation at Gettysburg in 1863.
Union infantry in Fredericksburg trenches, 1863.
Library of Congress.

Later, the 10th Vermont fought in many celebrated battles of the Army of the Potomac: The Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and the Siege of Petersburg. In July 1864, they also took part in the relatively little-known Battle of Monocacy Junction, 30-40 miles northwest of Washington, D. C. That clash, while technically a Union defeat, kept Confederate troops from hitting the capital before reinforcements could arrive to drive them off.

On March 25, 1865, Private Spofford himself was almost killed by a Minie ball during the Union counter-attack at Fort Stedman, in the Petersburg fortifications. The severity of his wound kept him in hospital when the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered two week later.

After the war, Spofford spent three years in Vermont and then moved to West Virginia. There, he worked for a railroad company for a number of years. He was also active in party politics and, in 1880, President James Garfield appointed him Postmaster in Huntington. He acquired the "Colonel" honorific while in West Virginia –  and certainly he had seen more action and suffered more than most "titular" colonels. Then the lung damage from his wound finally forced him to seek the more healthful climate of Idaho.
Col. Judson Spofford.
J. H. Hawley photo.

Spofford arrived in 1884 and immediately purchased a Boise Valley farm. He then acquired and expanded a herd of purebred dairy cattle. From that, he produced a noted line of high grade butter.

Farming led him into various irrigation canal projects, including improvements to what eventually became today's Riverside Canal. That enterprise sparked Spofford's interest in hydroelectric power, including a plant on the Payette River.

In addition to these projects and various real estate developments, Spofford promoted construction of Boise's Broadway Bridge. This fueled considered expansion of residential areas in "South Boise" – on the southwest side of the Boise River. The colonel also helped initiate a street car line, including a branch that served South Boise.
South Boise streetcar on the Broadway Bridge.
City of Boise.

Not content with all that, Spofford sought opportunities around the state. He invested in valuable mining properties, but competitors thwarted his attempt to build an electric railway to connect Lewiston and Grangeville. In his 1920 History of Idaho, Hawley wrote, "During the past third of a century there has perhaps been no one in Idaho who has been a more consistent supporter of the Gem State than he."

Spofford remained vigorous and active well into his eighties. At one point, he even traveled back east to the Monocacy battlefield to consult with a historian writing an account of the battle. He returned in 1936 to take part in a parade of Grand Army of the Republic veterans in Washington, D. C. He was then the last known Union Army survivor of the Battle of Monocacy Junction. The colonel passed away about a year later at the veterans’ hospital in Boise. Spofford was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.
References: [Hawley]
Marc Leepson, Desperate Engagement, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, New York (2007).
Original South Boise Neighborhood Plan, City of Boise (2003).
"Pioneer-Dixie Ditch Company," Reference Series No. 509, Idaho State Historical Society (1996).
Glenn H. Worthington, Fighting for Time, Press of Day Printing Company, Baltimore, Maryland (1932).

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