Thursday, May 31, 2018

Businessman, Attorney, and Idaho Legislator Lorenzo Thomas [otd 05/31]

Lorenzo Thomas. Family archives.
Idaho legislator, attorney, and businessman Lorenzo R. Thomas was born May 31, 1870 in Staffordshire, England. The family moved to the United States three years later and settled in Salt Lake City.  Then, in 1882, they moved to Eagle Rock (now Idaho Falls), Idaho. As a teenager, Lorenzo went on a mission for the LDS church in England.

Upon his return, he began work in a store in Eagle Rock (the town name changed not too long after that). Thomas showed immediate talent for the retail trade and became manager of the Zion's Co-operative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) store in Rexburg at the age of twenty-two.

In 1895, Thomas was elected to the state House of Representatives, serving during the term of Governor William McConnell [blog, Sept 18]. That session of the legislature dealt with a wide range of issues vital to the young state. Early on, they worked out a reapportionment of the state Senatorial and Representative Districts, and restructured several counties in central Idaho.

The legislature also created several offices within the Executive branch. These included a Horticultural Inspector to oversee fruit grading and suppression of insect pests, and a Sheep Inspector to examine herds for possible infectious diseases. They also devised three amendments to the state Constitution. One amendment called for granting women the right to vote, a key milestone in women’s suffrage [blog, Nov 3].

Lorenzo so impressed leaders in Boise that he was appointed Deputy State Treasurer at the end of his term. Then, in rapid succession he became United States Commissioner and then Register of the Federal Land Office in Blackfoot.

Thomas was active in the LDS church, serving many years as a Bishop in Blackfoot. He also belonged to the Blackfoot Commercial Club, served as Director for several regional corporations, and rose to a captaincy in the Idaho National Guard. For a time, he acted as President of the Southeastern Idaho Fair Association.
Blackfoot, Idaho, ca 1898. Illustrated History photo.
Thomas also operated a mercantile business and owned considerable farm land in the area. Not content with all that, Lorenzo studied law, passed the bar exam, and began a successful legal practice

After ten years in the Land Office, Thomas retired to his law practice, interrupted by a term as a Probate Judge in Bingham County. He served as Blackfoot city attorney, and then was elected in 1915 to the first of his four terms in the Idaho Senate. He served two and two, with one term out of office between. During his final Senate term in 1921-1924, Thomas was selected as President Pro Tem.

Besides his political and legal activities, Lorenzo bolstered his farm holdings by supporting key irrigation ventures. Thus, the Idaho Statesman reported (February 15, 1919) that “Senator L. R. Thomas” and two others were trying to “interest the active support of the Pocatello Commercial Club” in an irrigation project in Bannock County.

Although he held no state public office after his final Senate term, he remained active in the Republican Party. As a sign of his commitment to service, Rotary International acknowledged Lorenzo as one of its three oldest District Governors … in 1939, when he was almost seventy years old. He passed away in July 1944.
References: [Blue], [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
"Jottings from Convention Folk," The Rotarian, Rotary International (August 1939).

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

U. S. Assay Office Added to National Register of Historic Places [otd 05/30]

On May 30, 1961, the old U. S. Assay Office in Boise took its deserved place on the National Register of Historic Places.

After the discoveries of 1862, gold – dust, nuggets, and quartz ore – poured out of the mountainous Boise Basin region (east of Boise City). Large amounts of silver from Owyhee County, and elsewhere, soon followed. Gold dust immediately became a preferred medium of exchange, as it always did in gold country. The metal has intrinsic value, of course, and can be doled out in widely varying amounts.
Gold scales. Oregon Historical Society.

However, the dust also suffers from some serious shortcomings. First, transactions require a set of scales and standard weights to measure the dust. Pioneer Charlie Walgamott noted that Chinese miners in south-central Idaho “invariably” carried their own devices, which were very precise and accurate. (A merchant caught with doctored scales would be in big trouble.)

Such transactions were complicated by the fact that not all gold dust was the same. The nominal value was $16 per ounce. However, dust from one placer area might be worth $12 per ounce while that from another might go $19. The circulation of bogus dust caused further doubt in such dealings.

Private assayers provided a stopgap service by melting dust into gold bars of various sizes. Stamped with the weight, value, and assayer identification, these too could be used as a medium of exchange. However, such “currency” did not travel well … generally only as far as the assayers good name.

Thus, by 1864, miners and businessmen alike were agitating for the establishment of a branch mint within Idaho Territory. Failing that, they wanted at least an official assay office. It simply cost too much to ship the precious metals to the Mint in San Francisco. The 1866 Territorial legislature made a formal request for an assay office, but partisan politics and pressing business at the end of the Civil War delayed action until 1869.

In February of that year, Congress authorized creation of an assay office in Boise City. President Grant then appointed former Idaho Chief Justice John R. McBride [blog, Feb 28] to oversee construction and act as the office’s first superintendent.
U. S. Assay Office, ca. 1898. Illustrated History image.

The structure was designed by Alfred B. Mullet, Supervising Architect for the Treasury Department. Mullet design around forty government buildings, including the original San Francisco Mint, the Carson City Mint, and many post offices and customs buildings. The original structure had offices and a laboratory on the ground floor, with living quarters for the Chief Assayer on the second. Construction began in 1870 and the Office received its first official deposits in March 1872.

The Assay Office operated as part of the Treasury Department for over sixty years. It processed several billion dollars (in today’s values) worth of gold and silver during that period. The Office closed in 1933 and the U.S. Forest Service began using the building for office space.

Although the interior was extensively remodeled, the exterior of what became a National Landmark was largely unchanged from the original. The National Register states, under Significance, that the Office was “One of the earliest monumental structures in the Northwest … and has always symbolized the importance of Idaho's mines.”

In 1972, the Idaho State Historical Society became the owner of record. Today, the building houses the Idaho Historic Preservation Office and the Archaeological Survey of Idaho.
Reference: [Brit], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
"Assay Office, Boise," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service (1961).
“The Old Assay Office in Boise,” Reference Series No. 359, Idaho State Historical Society (December 1974).
Charles Shirley Walgamott, Six Decades Back, The Caxton Printers, Ltd, Caldwell, Idaho (1936).

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Political Operative, U. S. Senator, and Public Servant Fred Dubois [otd 05/29]

Senator Dubois. Library of Congress.
Idaho Senator and political operative Fred Thomas Dubois was born May 29, 1851 in a tiny Illinois town about thirty-two miles south and a bit west of Terre Haute, Indiana. Dubois graduated from Yale in 1872, then worked in a Chicago dry-goods store for about three years.

More inclined toward politics and public service, DuBois wrangled an appointment to a low-level Illinois administrative post. He resigned a year later, shortly before the death of his father, a prominent Illinois politician.

He kept himself busy until 1880, when his brother was appointed resident physician at the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Fred and his brother were very close, so he decided to move west also. After their arrival, Fred rode on a cattle drive and then worked various jobs around Fort Hall.

Possessed of remarkable political instincts and skills, DuBois began by using family connections to obtain an appointment as U.S. Marshal for Idaho Territory in 1882. The job took him all over the Territory. He then parleyed all those contacts into election as Idaho’s Delegate to Congress in 1887. For the first but not the last time, his campaign promises exploited an undercurrent of anti-Mormon sentiment in the Territory.

DuBois played a key behind-the-scenes role in arranging for the selection of the state’s first U. S. Senate slate [blog, Apr 1]. In the end, DuBois became one of Idaho’s first two Senators, as a Republican. By all accounts, he put his extraordinary political skills to good use there.

Silver mining was then a mainstay of the Idaho economy, so DuBois quite naturally became part of the 1896 Silver Republican Party. Their Presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan, won overwhelmingly in Idaho, but lost nationwide. Meanwhile, a Democratic-Populist party “fusion” ticket won the Idaho legislature, which elected a Populist to replace Dubois in the U. S. Senate.

Dubois returned briefly to his ranch near Blackfoot, and then traveled in the Orient with two friends from the Senate. They stopped in Hawaii, where private U. S. interests had overthrown the indigenous monarchy and were pushing for annexation. The situation only fueled Dubois’ opposition to groups that advocated American expansionism.

As the Silver Republicans withered away nationally, DuBois resuscitated his career with a clever end-run. His skillful manipulation of factions in Idaho’s Democratic Party won him control of that group, which he then led into a fusion with the state’s remaining Silver Republicans. This peculiar amalgam gained control of the Idaho legislature, which then elected Dubois to replace Senator Shoup in the 1900 election.

Filipino rice field, ca 1905. Library of Congress.
For various reasons, DuBois switched to the Democratic Party for his term in the Senate. He particularly opposed the continued American presence in the Philippines. DuBois and other “anti-imperialists” pushed independence for the islands. On the other hand, DuBois supported Republican President Teddy Roosevelt’s proposal to expand national forest reserves, and a program to encourage irrigation projects for arid western lands.

Meanwhile, Idaho’s Republicans had re-unified to gain an overwhelming majority in the state legislature. Thus, DuBois didn’t even bother to run for reelection. (Even with his skills, he probably felt he’d burned too many bridges.) He remained active in Idaho politics until about 1918, but never again ran for public office himself.

DuBois spent the rest of his career in various appointive Federal positions, and sometimes as a lobbyist. Although his wife still operated the Idaho ranch, Dubois spent most of his time in Washington, D. C. He died there in February 1930.
References: [B&W]
Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Leo W. Graff, Jr., “Fred T. Dubois – Biographical sketch,” Fred T. Dubois Collection, MC 004, Idaho State University  Special Collections, Pocatello.
"Fred Thomas Dubois,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, online.
"Fred Thomas Dubois: May 29, 1851 - February 14, 1930," Reference Series No. 541, Idaho State Historical Society.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Western Film Maker and Adventure Writer Oliver Drake [otd 05/28]

Prolific writer, producer, and director Clarence Oliver Drake was born May 28, 1903 in Boise. While not especially “wild” by that time, Idaho retained much of its Western character: Cowboys rode the range on horseback, and most packed a gun. Stagecoaches still linked outlying towns.
Stage headed for Boise, 1908. Elmore County Historical Research Team.

Oliver reportedly left “the city” at an early age to work on a ranch. However, by 1920, he was picking lemons near Chula Vista, California. Enthralled by silent film entertainment, he began working in the industry in the early Twenties. He apparently acted in several low-budget Westerns, but we know the name of only one: Red Blood and Blue, in 1925.

Drake eventually turned more to the production side: writing, producing, and directing silent films and then talkies. The earliest producer/director credit listed by the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) was Texas Tornado, released in 1932. The IMDb lists a total of 55 films that he produced or directed (14 in which he did both).

Republic Pictures.
He was an even more prolific writer, contributing original stories, scripts, songs and soundtracks for over 130 movies. He is credited with the original story, screenplay, and songs for the 1936 movie Oh Susanna! starring Gene Autry. At that time, Autry was in the second year of what would be a long career as the prototypical “singing cowboy.”

Drake essentially perfected the “B-Western” approach to movies: formulaic – but action-filled – scripts, low-cost performers, and streamlined production. Often disparaged as low-brow “oaters,” such films nonetheless offered good entertainment value to the movie-going public right into the 1950s.

Not blessed with budgets that could afford stars who had “made it,” Drake worked with a number of stars on their way up. These included Sebastian Cabot, Denver Pyle, and John Paine, among others.

In 1949, he directed a film in which Emmy-winning actress/singer Polly Bergen played a cantina singer. Bergen was still active until 2012.  She played an on-going role in the TV series Desperate Housewives and acted in another film after that. She passed away in 2014. In 1956, Drake wrote a small part for Slim Pickens, later noted for cowboy-riding the dropped nuclear bomb in Dr. Strangelove.

Columbia Pictures.
However, the advent of television, with its “free” content, doomed the B-Western. Whereas Drake directed and/or produced 46 movies in 1941 through 1950, he did only 8 over the next twenty years. His last “standard” B-Western was The Parson and the Outlaw, released in 1957.

Ironically, but perhaps fittingly, the film was also the last movie role for Charles “Buddy” Rogers (who played the parson). A musician and band leader as well as an actor, Rogers had entered the movie business about the same time as Drake. Rogers was never a big star, and was perhaps better known as Mary Pickford’s husband for over forty years.

Drake continued to write, both for movies and for television. He wrote nearly thirty TV episodes, including spots for such popular shows as The Adventures of Superman, The Gene Autry Show and Lassie. He also produced or directed at least 16 TV episodes, including some for Sky King and Lassie. His last IMDb movie title appeared in 1970. He ended as he started … with credits as writer, producer, and director. Drake passed away in August 1991.
References: [French]
"Oliver Drake," Internet Movie Database,

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Snake Indians Defeat U. S. Army at Battle of Three Forks [otd 05/27]

The afternoon of May 27, 1866, a force of white infantry and cavalry encountered a band of about 500 “Snake” (Shoshone-Bannock-Paiute) Indians at the Three Forks of the Owyhee River. Major Louis H. Marshall had led the U. S. Army Regular infantry out of Boise Barracks in an attempt to “pacify” the tribes. Indian attacks on outlying ranches and passing stagecoaches had intensified as prospectors and ranchers poured into the Owyhee area.
Three Forks of the Owyhee.
Photo posted on by L. A. Price.

The Army had sent the Regulars west in response to what the newspaper called the “Snake War” [blog, Nov 25]. This generally low-level conflict with tribes in southwest Idaho, Nevada, and southeast Oregon had flickered off and on since 1862. Released from the East by the end of the Civil War, the troops arrived in Boise City in late 1865. Totally unused to Indian warfare, the soldiers had little early success.

From Boise, Major Marshall led his infantry across the Snake River and south to Camp Lyon. This Army outpost straddled the Idaho-Oregon border, 16-18 miles west and a bit north of Silver City. From there, the troops moved south and west into Oregon. Around the 23rd, a troop of Oregon Volunteer cavalry had joined Marshall. They soon discovered fairly fresh Indian sign and followed it south, using trails over the plains high above the Owyhee River.

Marshall and the cavalry commander suspected that the Indians at Three Forks were those who had massacred about fifty Chinese a week earlier. They hurried to attack despite the obstacles and dangers. At Three Forks, the river twists through an 800-foot canyon, where the walls are practically vertical in places.

The soldiers had to clamber over loose rocks and through shifting gravel in their descent along a ravine. Heavily outnumbered (about 85 versus 250-300 warriors), they deployed along the west bank and began exchanging fire across the river. They inflicted a few casualties in four hours of fighting, but the Indians easily replaced the perhaps 15-20 wounded and dead who were carted off over the ridge. Even some shots from their mountain howitzer failed to create an opening to advance.

Battle diagram, soldiers entered initially from left.
Overlaid on U.S. Geological Survey relief map.
As the shadows grew long in the canyon, Marshall moved downstream in hopes of outflanking his adversary. However, they lost their cannon trying to ferry it across. In the morning, the Indians ambushed the flanking attempt, killing one soldier. They kept the troops pinned down throughout the day.

Marshall finally realized the futility of trying to attack a superior force in such rugged country. He later wrote that “Ten men can hold a hundred in check and prevent their ascent.”

He ordered a risky night withdrawal. Although they had inflicted more casualties than they took, Marshall’s force had lost its artillery piece and been forced to retreat. Their performance surely did little to inspire fear or respect in their adversary. Nor were civilian observers impressed. Editorial writers were scathing in their criticism of the Army’s ineptitude, poking fun at them for the drowned cannon.

Within a week after the battle, Indian raiders struck at three widely scattered spots and ran off over 120 cattle and horses. All told, they made seven or eight attacks in about a month after the debacle. Finally, in November, the Army appointed a new commander, Lieutenant Colonel George Crook, to prosecute the war [blog, November 25].
References: [B&W]
"Battle of Three Forks and the Owyhee Cannon," Reference Series No. 239, Idaho State Historical Society.
Gregory Michno, The Deadliest War in the West: The Snake Conflict, 1864-1868, Caxton Press, Cakiwell, Idaho (2007).
"The Snake War: 1864-1868," Reference Series No. 236, Idaho State Historical Society (1966).

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Idaho Territory Reduced in Size to Create Montana [otd 05/26]

On May 26, 1864, the U. S. Congress passed legislation that reduced the previously-massive Idaho Territory by creating Montana Territory and splitting off most of future Wyoming. President Lincoln signed the bill two days later. By this action, they solved one of the major problems with the original structure of Idaho Territory.
Original Idaho Territory.
Adapted from J. H. Hawley with future borders tinted in color.

When Congress created Idaho Territory in 1863 [blog, Mar 4], it encompassed today’s Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. It was, in fact, larger than Texas and Illinois combined. Put another way, the direct distance from Fort Laramie, in the southeast corner of the Territory, to the Territorial capital in Lewiston was almost as much as that from St. Louis, Missouri to Washington, D. C.

Aside from the sheer size, geographical reality made the Territory practically ungovernable. The Continental Divide separated two-thirds of all that area from the capital. Most of it was, of course, largely empty of whites. They were concentrated in the rich gold finds around Bannack and Virginia City. Still, over a third of the Territory’s population lived east of the Divide.

The first Idaho Territorial legislature convened on December 7, 1863. The handful of elected officials from east of the Divide had no particular trouble getting to Lewiston. However, when the legislature adjourned in February 1864, deep snow totally blocked the massive ranges to the east and south of the capital.

East-side officials first rode a stagecoach west to Wallula, where they could board a Columbia River steamboat. (Due to ice and low water, the first Snake River steamer would not reach Lewiston until April.) From there, they could proceed to Portland. They then embarked on a coastal ship to San Francisco, where they caught the regular overland stage to Salt Lake City. From there they split, some continuing to Fort Laramie, the others heading north.
Territorial map, 1866. J. H. Colton & Company.

Congress knew of this “ludicrous arrangement.” Even the Eastern newspapers, such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, remarked (March 4, 1864) on Idaho’s problem: “It will be impossible to establish good government there until the Territory is divided. The seat of government is in the extreme northwest corner of Idaho, from which the eastern part of the Territory is cut off by a mountain range, placing it quite beyond the control of the authorities while stationed so far away.”

Fortunately, Federal officials were already devising a solution. The easy answer would have been to partition the area along the Continental Divide. That would have put the border just east of today’s Butte. However, settlers in the Missoula Valley rejected the notion that their government would still be in Lewiston. (The final Idaho-Montana boundary followed the path we see today.)

By early May, 1864, legislators were deep in discussions of a bill to create this new Territory, to be called “Montana.” One final point held up passage, however. The House Committee proposed wording that restricted voting in the first Territorial elections to white men only. The Senate opposed that provision. Finally, after weeks of argument, they settled on the “color-blind” wording that ended up in the Territory’s Organic Act: “all citizens of the United States and those who have declared their intention to become such … shall be entitled to vote at said first election.”

Of course, Montana didn’t get everything Congress split off. They also put Wyoming (more or less) back in Dakota Territory. Note also that Idaho’s eastern border ran along the 33rd longitude west of Washington. That changed to the 34th in 1868, giving Idaho its present odd shape.
References: [B&W], [Brit], [Hawley]
"The Creation of the Territory of Idaho," Reference Series No. 264, Idaho State Historical Society (March 1969).
Michael P. Malone, Richard B. Roeder, and William L. Lang, Montana: A History of Two Centuries, Revised Edition, University of Washington Press, Seattle (1991).
“Map of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana,” General Atlas, J. H. Colton & Company, New York (1866).

Friday, May 25, 2018

Boise Veterinarian, Horse Breeder and State Veterinary Surgeon George Noble [otd 05/25]

Dr. George Edward Noble, Idaho’s first State Veterinarian, was born May 25, 1868 in Nashua, Iowa. (Nashua is about 100 miles west and a bit north of Dubuque.) There are conflicting accounts of his early education, but as a youth he apparently completed a business program at Upper Iowa University (in Fayette, a tiny town about sixty miles northwest of Dubuque).
Vet students learn about horses. Kansas State University Archives.

After “nine terms” of teaching school, George began studies at the Chicago Veterinary College and “qualified for practice as a veterinarian” in 1890. The following year he graduated with a Doctor of Veterinary Surgery degree. Dr. Noble opened a practice in his home town and then, after three years there, married and set up in Osage, Iowa.

He moved to Boise in 1902. For several years, Dr. Noble was the only graduate veterinarian in the state of Idaho. That led to his appointment, in 1905, to the first of three terms as official State Veterinary Surgeon.

The doctor had his work cut out for him, right from the start. Some sheep ranchers objected to his decree that they should dip their sheep a second time, in the fall. Noble’s intent was to eradicate sheep scab, which is highly infectious, and can cause severe weight loss or even death. Dissenters, who disliked the extra cost, claimed a second treatment would damage the wool. But they got no relief from the Governor, Frank R. Gooding, a major sheep raiser himself and considered an expert on the business [blog Sept 16].

And the Vet’s vigilance paid off. Five years later, he returned from a statewide inspection and told the Idaho Statesman (November 29, 1910), “I find conditions most favorable. There is little disease and the stock is looking fine.”

Initially, there was some confusion about his position: Dr. Noble had to take the State Auditor all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court to have his salary paid. In creating the office, the legislature did away with the office of State Sheep Inspector. They intended to transfer those duties – and the relevant compensation – to the Veterinary Surgeon. However, the wording left some doubts. Noble finally did get paid.

In the course of his duties, George naturally traveled all over Idaho. By this, he displayed a highly profession presence to the state’s stockmen and “raised the bar” for the delivery of veterinary services. A 1932 biographer noted that “no man is more familiar with the live stock industry here.”

Dr. Noble led professional development in Idaho by organizing an association of veterinary surgeons. In 1913, he helped found the Idaho Veterinary Medical Association, and served as its first president. For many years he acted as resident secretary for Idaho for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

George also took an active role in the Boise business community, starting with the founding of the Boise Veterinary Hospital. He became a member of the Boise Commercial Club and invested in real estate in and around the city.
Shires in harness. Snake River Shires photo.

During his time in Iowa, George got interested in breeding and racing fine trotters and pacing horse. He decided to continue that in Idaho and soon bought a ranch in Canyon County. He also began to raise registered Shire horses, with which he won numerous State Fair awards. He also bred registered shorthorn cattle.

Dr. Noble later bought more ranch property. At some point he began running sheep, and also devoted part of his property to raising certified alfalfa seed.

George Edward Noble passed away in January 1963, having almost reached his ninety-fifth birthday.
References: [Defen], [[Hawley]
“Noble, State Veterinary Surgeon vs Bragaw, State Auditor,” Pacific Reporter, Vol. 85, West Publishing Company, St. Paul (1906).

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Stock Growers Offer Reward to Catch Rustlers and Horse Thieves [otd 05/24]

On May 24, 1889, the Secretary of the Idaho County Stock Growers’ Association posted a notice in the Idaho County Free Press (Grangeville): The Association would pay $100 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of rustlers and horse thieves. The specific wording targeted those who illegally branded or marked the animals.
Branding on the range. Library of Congress.

That reward amounted to about three months pay for a typical cowhand back then, so the stockmen were deadly serious. Horse theft had started hand-in-hand with the discovery of Idaho gold in 1861-62. Cattle herds entered the country within a year or two, and so did rustling.

Ranching in southern Idaho and the Great Basin* offers crucial advantages for stock thieves. First, ranchers must scatter their animals over considerable rangeland because of the rather sparse forage. Ranch headquarters are usually located near the few streams that trickle through the region.

Worse yet, ranching practices of the time almost invited rustlers to help themselves. Early cattlemen basically turned their animals out on the range to fend for themselves. They only saw the whole herd during spring round-up, for castrating young bulls and branding. They might see them again in the fall when they culled out market-ready animals.

The rest of the year, cowboys had little to do except “line-riding” – casually patrolling the vague and generally unfenced boundary of whatever range “the boss” considered his. Thus, barring accidental meetings, rustlers could operate largely undisturbed. By gathering small numbers from several ranches, they could make off with a considerable “take” and leave each rancher unsure that he’d been raided. Finally, because of the rugged terrain, rustlers are seldom far from rough country to hide in.

Rustler struck everywhere. A major incentive for the formation of the Idaho County Stock Growers’ Association, in 1885, was “to prevent the stealing, taking or driving away of horned cattle, sheep or other stock.”

Unfortunately, they and other similar organizations only partially succeeded. Nor has the problem gone away: Ranchers in our region have lost millions of dollars in stock to rustlers over recent years.
Rancher discusses his losses with a deputy sheriff.
Richard Cockle photo, The Oregonian.

Thieves still work many of the same advantages, although the range is now fenced and cattle are gathered for a winter feeding regime. Yet for most of the year, the animals scatter over vast areas and stockmen lack the manpower to patrol extensively. Thieves even foil aircraft surveillance by operating during bad weather.

Riding horses, they steal a couple dozen head and drive them into rough country, eventually loading them onto a stock truck … perhaps fifty miles away. Lawmen know the real problem: “They may end up four states away from us.”

The rustlers obviously have experience handling cattle, and they’ve carefully scouted the country. And they don’t care that their depredations can put a small rancher out of business. Sadly, rustling is probably almost “an inside job.” Law officers and rancher-victims agree: “It’s people who know cows, who know the country.” Or, as one sheriff said, “The people who are the victims of the cattle thefts are going to know [the thieves].”

* Great Basin: Western Utah, a major portion of Nevada, and southeast Oregon.
References: [B&W], [Illust-North]
Jeff Barnard, “Cattle rustling amounts to $1 million loss in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada ” The Associated Press (January 4, 2010).
Richard Cockle, “Modern-day cattle rustlers hit ranches in southeast Oregon,” The Oregonian, Portland (November 23, 2009).
M. Alfreda Elsensohn, Eugene F. Hoy (Ed.), Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Caxton Printers, Caldwell Idaho (1951).

Monday, May 14, 2018

Books: Indians, Cowboys, Sheepmen; Gold, Mining, Timber; Prospectors, Bandits, Boom Towns

I received a royalty check from a few days back, which reminded me that it had been awhile since the last one. So, it must be time to plug my books again. I’m sure regular readers of this blog appreciate that fact that I don’t have ads and don’t beat you all over the head about my books. But I do need to sell some books to at least break even on the money we’ve spent of research. Of course, I do also have a blog about the books at Sourdough Publishing, but it does not get much traffic.

So here goes (in alphabetical order):
Before the Spud: Indians, Buckaroos, and Sheepherders in Pioneer Idaho
Tells the story of how the Idaho stock raising industry developed. It begins with the "first stockmen of Idaho" – Shoshone and Nez Perc├ęs horse raisers – and carries forward to about 1910, followed by a brief survey of the state of affairs today.

Governor Shoup. National Archives.
Among the pioneer stories is that of George L. Shoup who, in one routine 1888 transaction, sold a thousand cattle from his Salmon River ranches. Two years later, he became Idaho's first state governor and then one of its first two senators.
In 1897, a jury convicted hired cowboy-gunman "Diamondfield Jack" Davis of murdering two sheepmen south of Twin Falls. Although two other "respectable" cattlemen soon confessed to the killings, Davis twice came within hours of hanging and was not pardoned until 1902.

Excerpt. The Idaho Statesman newspaper, in Boise City, has been lamenting the damage done to Idaho stockmen by the passage of nearly a quarter million cattle across their range in 1880:
Five days later, the Statesman had occasion to repeat this theme. “There is no greater curse to the stock growing interests of a country than the large bands of cattle that have been driven through this country for the past few years.”
The earlier article offered a solution. “The only practicable remedy for this, and the only hope of the afflicted is in the advent of the railroad, which will take the cattle at or near the points where they are purchased and collected.”
Fortunately, the Oregon Short Line (OSL) Railway was incorporated in Wyoming in April 1881. Because of an odd provision in the Union Pacific company charter, the OSL was created ostensibly as an independent company. However, with half its shares held by UP stockholders, its independence was merely a sham.
Track laying began in May at the Union Pacific station in Granger, Wyoming. …

Boise River Gold Country
Tells the story, in words and pictures, of the settlement of the mountainous regions drained by the Forks of the Boise River. In 1862, a party led by Moses Splawn and George Grimes found gold in the Boise Basin, a mountainous area northeast of today’s Boise. Large-scale gold mining continued in Boise River gold country for almost a century. Also, at the dawn of the Twentieth Century, logging began to increase in importance. Large-scale timber harvesting surpassed mining in value after about 1955, peaking around 1980. Today tourism and recreation are the mainstays of the economy, with small-scale mining and timber operations.
Boise Basin Gold/Quartz

Big companies were not the only people seeking gold during the Depression. Louie LeRoy Packer was born in Ola, Idaho, a tiny hamlet 20-25 miles north of Emmett, Idaho. A skilled carpenter and mechanic, he eventually opened an automobile service and repair station in Middleton. …
By the summer of 1935, Packer had a claim on Spanish Fork, about a mile and a half north of Idaho City. They started with just the tent on the claim, but later built a comfortable cabin. Early on, Louie acquired a partner
to help work his holdings
Soon, Packer began to improve his claim, rebuilding an abandoned flume system to deliver more water. Eventually, he had a large enough flow to work a hydraulic giant. Louie also prospected for quartz claims and after several years had properties the family considered worth $150 thousand dollars.

Idaho: Year One, An Idaho Sesquicentennial History
On March 4, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that created the Territory of Idaho, a geographical monstrosity roughly the size of Texas and Illinois combined.
President Lincoln. Library of Congress.
Newspapers in the East went a week before they could published details (often erroneous) about the new Territory. One fact stood out: Idaho had Gold! and perhaps a lot of it. But the Civil War raged and the Territorial birth had to share headlines. Interest eventually centered a some crucial questions: Where, exactly, could one find gold? Guidebooks say to be alert and have our guns ready: Are the Indians really that dangerous? Using contemporary published articles and letters from the gold camps, Idaho: Year One, captures the day-by-day excitement and uncertainty as hopeful prospectors poured into the area.

August 3 [1863]
The Oregonian reported, “Our merchants are constantly receiving letters from their correspondents at Boise and at other trading points in the mines, full of complaints because of the impossibility of safely sending out the immense amounts of dust now accumulated.”
Unfortunately, dangers lurked along every trail. The newspaper said, “On account of the enormous expense of maintaining Expresses of sufficient strength to be prepared to resist the possible attacks of highwaymen and Indians, none now transport treasure, except in very small sums, and parties coming out are always unwilling to bring or have in charge any more than belongs to them.”
One miner braved the trails by himself and managed to slip through. From him, The Oregonian heard that, “If he had taken all that he was begged to bring, he should have had over a million dollars worth, and from others we get similar statements.”

Besides the links at the Sourdough Publishing web site, the books are also available directly from
Before the Spud
Boise River Gold County
Idaho: Year One