Tuesday, October 16, 2018

George Collister: Boise Physician, Spotted Fever Researcher, and Developer [otd 10/16]

Dr. Collister. H. T. French photo.
Boise physician and developer George Collister, M.D., was born October 16, 1856 in Willoughby, Ohio, just northeast of Cleveland. He graduated from high school there, and attended The Ohio State University. The youngest of eight children, George paid much of the cost of his higher education himself. He attended a medical college in Cleveland and received his M.D. degree in 1880.

Dr. Collister practiced in Ohio for a year. Then, in 1881, his sister Julia recommended that he move to the "coming" town of Boise City. By then Idahoans knew the Oregon Short Line would soon run tracks across the state, but only the most knowledgeable realized that the line would bypass Boise. (Rails would not arrive in Boise until 1887 [blog, Sept 13].)

Collister soon developed a large and prosperous practice. His dedication to his profession was such that historian Hiram French said (1914), “During all the years since beginning practice in Boise, he has had but three months of actual vacation time.”

Besides his private practice, Dr. Collister at various times acted as official Physician for Ada County, Boise City, and the State Penitentiary. For a while he served on the Idaho State Board of Medical Examiners. Collister belonged to the the Idaho State Medical Society, serving a term as its President. He was a member of the Ada County Medical Society as well as the American Medical Association.

Dr. Collister, along with Dr. Warren Springer [blog, Mar 30] and others, contributed data to the first detailed and systematic assessment of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

George also found time to expand into farming, ranching, and general real estate development. To complement winter pasture in the Boise Valley, he owned five thousand acres of summer range in Boise County, running several hundred head of prime cattle.
Fruit Orchard Along Interurban Railway.
Library of Congress.

George, and sister Julia, also had extensive real estate holdings around what came to be called Collister Station on the interurban railway. This station, located about three miles from downtown, was built in the 1890s and made it easy for the doctor to commute to his office in the City.

Dr. Collister had thousands of fruit trees planted on part of his acreage, including some of the first peach orchards in the Valley. Over the years, he and his wife added a greenhouse (which supplied flowers to a shop in the Boise Hotel) and a feedlot.

In 1912, the family moved into a modest (twenty rooms) mansion near Collister Station. When bids were requested for construction, the Idaho Statesman said (March 19,1911), “The palatial home to be constructed for Mr. and Mrs. George Collister … will be one of the best designed and most complete homes ever built in Boise.”

The request included plans for “a large porch with Corinthian columns,” The kitchen would be “fitted up in the most modern and complete manner, having a dumb waiter into the basement and cold storage room, built-in refrigerator, etc.” The full basement would have “a large and well appointed billiard room … and a large den and summer sitting and dining room.”

Although George and his wife had no children themselves, they did have an adoptive daughter: The mother, George’s patient, died of childbed fever a few days after the birth and the couple adopted the baby.

Dr. Collister passed away in October 1935. Today, the area is a subdivision of Boise. The doctor’s name is preserved as Collister Drive, Collister Elementary School, and the Collister Neighborhood Association.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Collister Neighborhood Association, Collister Neighborhood Plan, Boise City Council (September 2007).
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.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Rogerson Stockman, Banker, and Businessman Louis Harrell [otd 10/15]

Louis Harrell. J. H. Hawley photo.
Idaho stock raiser and businessman Louis Harrell was born October 15, 1846 in Forsyth County, Georgia, 30-40 miles northeast of Atlanta. Of course, the Civil War badly ravaged that area, so right after the war Louis sought better prospects in the West. He was just thirteen years old. Louis eventually landed in Denver, and spent several years in Colorado gold and silver camps.

Around 1870, Jasper Harrell, an older cousin, bought a ranch near Elko, Nevada. Jasper had followed the gold rush to California in 1850 and stayed to become a prosperous cattleman, grain producer, and real estate investor. However, cultivated agriculture was now replacing large-scale cattle operations in California. Jasper hired Louis as part of the crew driving a herd of Texas cattle to his new ranch.

Louis apparently remained in the area as a cowboy working at various ranches, including the Jasper Harrell operation. By the early 1870s, Jasper had “claimed” considerable summer range in south-central Idaho and ran cattle on several satellite ranches there.

In the spring of 1880, Louis moved to Cassia County (which then included today’s Twin Falls County) to work full time for the Harrell operation. Then, with major transactions in 1881 and 1883, Jasper sold his holdings to the Sparks-Tinnin outfit (cattlemen John Sparks and John Tinnin). Louis stayed with the ranch, and then, after Tinnin sold his share to Jasper’s son A. J. (Andrew), continued with the Sparks-Harrell operation.

Louis was among those who saw “Diamondfield” Jack Davis on February 4, 1896 … the day when sheepmen John Wilson and Daniel Cummings were shot [blog, Feb 4]. During the time he was not observed by witnesses, Davis would have had to ride all-out to the exact scene of the shooting – and even that might not have been enough. Yet Louis later told his sons that Jack’s horse showed no signs of hard riding – which other witnesses confirmed at the trial. (A jury of sheepman and farmers convicted Jack anyway.)
Cattle brought to water. Library of Congress.

In 1897, Louis started his own small ranch operation not far from today’s Rogerson. An incident the year before might well have played a role in his decision.

According to one of his sons, Louis had been roping wild horses when his riata – woven leather rope – snapped. The backlash flailed his eyes, almost blinding him. It took him over two days, on horseback and then by train to Ogden, to reach medical help. They could save only one of his eyes. He might then have decided it was time to settle down as a ranch manager rather than continue as a working cowboy.

Over the years, Louis expanded his ranch operation. Then, after the Oregon Short Line ran a railroad line south from Twin Falls in 1909, he invested in the town of Rogerson. That included a position as Vice President of the Bank of Rogerson. He also owned stock in a bank in Kimberly.

Louis remained active on the ranch until late in life. He listed his occupation as stock rancher, not “retired,” even as late as the 1930 U. S. Census. He finally retired some time in the Thirties. On October 15, 1946, the Harrell family celebrated Louis’s 100th birthday. He told an interviewer he well remembered “Civil War gun-smoke” and had known people like those portrayed in the hit movie Gone With the Wind. Louis pass away less than two months later.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Charles S. Walgamott, Six Decades Back, The Caxton Press, Caldwell, Idaho (1936).
James A. Young, B. Abbott Sparks, Cattle in the Cold Desert, University of Nevada Press, Reno (2002).

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cattleman David Shirk Owns Longhorns Driven from Texas [otd 10/14]

“The next day, October 14th, 1871, after all were mounted, we proceeded to divide the cattle,” rancher David L. Shirk said in his memoir.
Ridin' drag. Library of Congress.

Shirk was one of two junior partners with prominent Idaho cattleman George T. Miller. The three of them had purchased 1,500 longhorns in Bell County, Texas and driven them into Idaho.

Born in Indiana in 1844, David Shirk grew up on farms there and later in Illinois. Shortly after the end of the Civil War, he headed west, drawing wages for driving a freight wagon to Denver. From there, he traveled to Silver City, Idaho, arriving in August 1866. He started off well, but then almost died from “mountain fever.” That left him in debt for his care.

Determined to be debt-free, Shirk labored steadily for a farm-ranch operation, and was fortunate … and astute … enough to do well with some small cattle investments. Fifteen months later he found himself ahead by $1,150 – a considerable sum at a time when cow hands made $30 a month.

He spent another year herding cattle for a Silver City butcher. Then the butcher tasked him to drive a flock of sheep south to the gold camps in Nevada. Despite his limited experience, the latter drive was very successful. But Shirk commented, “After getting through with that drive, I could hear a sheep bleat for five years.”

By early 1871, Shirk had accumulated the capital to combine with Miller and the other partner. They bought horses and other equipment in Texas, and then bargained for cattle. The drive finally headed north in mid-April. Their trek was fairly typical: That is, months of punishing work and constant danger – from rustlers, Indian raiders, and the elements.

About a week out of Fort Worth, a severe nighttime storm stampeded the herd and Shirk rode off an embankment into a swollen stream. He struggled onto the dubious safety of a scant island. Still, he said, “All that saved me was the cessation of the storm, otherwise I should not now be relating the venture.”
David Shirk.
University of Oregon Library.
The herd-split noted above took place on the rugged plains south of Bruneau, Idaho. Shirk drove his band to a grazing area on the Snake River about five miles north of today’s Murphy. He eventually sold the animals for a net return of over $2,000. Considering that outcome, Shirk observed, “When one considers the risk, dangers of the drive, and the risk of losing every dollar you had in the world, not to mention life itself, the profits were not unreasonable.”

He made another successful drive from Texas in 1873. The Owyhee Avalanche in Silver City, Idaho reported (September 27, 1873) the arrival: “Two drovers, named Dill and Shirk, each with about 1,900 head of cattle, have arrived from Texas, and will hibernate in the northwestern portions of our county … Dill is at present at Salmon Falls, and Shirk has reached Bruneau valley.”

A few weeks after his arrival, Shirk made a deal for his cattle at a nice profit. Within a couple years, Shirk had established his own ranch in Oregon, having concluded that the Owyhee region in Idaho lacked room for the operation he wanted.

Ready to ease off in 1896, he bought a winter home in Berkeley, California. The family eventually moved there permanently. Shirk died there in 1928.
References: Mike Hanley, with Ellis Lucia, Owyhee Trails: The West's Forgotten Corner, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1973).
Byron DeLos Lusk, Golden Cattle Kingdoms of Idaho, Master’s thesis, Utah State University, Logan (1978).
David L. Shirk, Martin F. Schimdt (ed.), The Cattle Drives of David Shirk, Champoeg Press, Portland, Oregon (1956).

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Cattleman Bower Describes “Self-Defense” Shooting of Sheepmen Wilson and Cummings [otd 10/13]

On October 13, 1898, James E. Bower, Superintendent for the Sparks-Harrell Cattle Company, appeared before a Cassia County Justice of the Peace and made a sworn statement about the killings of sheepmen John Wilson and Daniel Cummings.  The two had been found shot to death at a spot about 25-30 miles south of today’s Twin Falls, Idaho. The bodies had been discovered in mid-February 1896 [blog, Feb 16].

Sheep wagon. Library of Congress.
Bower stated that he and cowboy Jeff Gray had ridden into a sheep camp between 11 o’clock and noon on February 4th [blog, Feb 4]. The sheepmen had located their wagon well west of the “dead line,” the boundary established by gentlemen’s agreement between sheep and cattle range.

The cattlemen did not recognize either of the herders, leading them to suspect that they were “tramps” out of Utah. So-called “tramp” stockmen – who could be running sheep or cattle – grazed their herds on range normally used by settled stockmen, but hurried the animals away before a tax assessor showed up.

Bower stated that they were invited into the sheep wagon, where he queried the sheepmen about their status in the area. One herder asserted positively that they did pay taxes in the county. The cattleman, who felt sure the animals were not on the county rolls, said, “I think you are mistaken about that.”

The sheepman angrily leaped at Bower and grabbed his coat collar near the throat. The older man tried to pull a revolver to protect himself. His opponent wrestled it away from him, although Bower still had his arm. Meanwhile, the sheepman’s rush had dumped Gray out of the wagon. Gray yelled at the attacker to stop. When he persisted and the other man lifted a rifle, Gray fired two shots … frightening the sheepmen and ending the attack on Bower.

Bower claimed that when they left the camp the two strangers seemed all right, except for a superficial scrape on the man who seized Bower’s gun. Both sheepmen had, of course, been fatally wounded. Later, Bower realized that he had left behind a new corncob pipe. That pipe had been found along with the bodies of Wilson and Cummings, but prosecutors never attempted to explain its presence.

Diamondfield Jack Davis.
Denver Public Library, Western Collection.
The deposition, with its self-defense assertion, caused a sensation. Eighteen month earlier, a jury had convicted cowboy-gunhand “Diamondfield” Jack Davis of the killings. His attorneys easily answered the prosecution’s flimsy and deeply flawed circumstantial evidence. Yet, despite “reasonable doubt,” Jack’s reputation and earlier threats against sheepmen led to a quick conviction … by a jury made up of sheepmen, farmers, and one miner.

That verdict was under appeal – but several appeals had already failed and Jack was scheduled to hang on June 4. Incredibly, the confession, supported under oath by Gray, only bought time, it did not win Jack’s freedom. After more legal fireworks, the Idaho Board of Pardons set a new hanging date of December 16, 1898.

In fact, Jack Davis twice came within hours of  being hanged for a crime he had nothing to do with. In July 1901, the Board revisited the physical evidence. Then, totally ignoring the Bower-Gray confessions, they decided Davis could not have done the shooting … so they rescinded the death decree and imposed a sentence of life imprisonment!

Davis was not pardoned and released until late in 1902 [blog, Dec 17].
References: David H. Grover, Diamondfield Jack: A Study in Frontier Justice, University of Nevada Press, Reno, Nevada (1968).
Mike Hanley, with Ellis Lucia, Owyhee Trails: The West's Forgotten Corner, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1973).
Byron DeLos Lusk, Golden Cattle Kingdoms of Idaho, Master's thesis, Utah State University, Logan (1978).
William Pat Rowe, “Diamond-Field Jack” Davis On Trial, thesis: Master of Arts in Education, Idaho State University (1966).

Friday, October 12, 2018

Bishop Tuttle Arrives in Boise, Rancher and Businessman Peter Pence [otd 10/12]

Bishop Tuttle.
Utah State Historical Society.
On October 12, 1867, the Right Reverend Daniel S. Tuttle, missionary bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, arrived in Boise. In the Episcopal Church, a missionary bishop is basically like any other bishop except that his stipend is paid by the parent church, rather than through local or regional collections.

At that time, Tuttle acted as bishop over Idaho, Montana, and part of Utah. He had first visited Virginia City, Montana, returned to “base” in Salt Lake City, and then headed north. It was not a happy experience: “I arrived at Boise Saturday afternoon, October 12, with broken neck, bruised head, aching bones, sore throat and disturbed temper.”

Still, he also said, “As the name implies, the river on which this town is situated is wooded with willows and cottonwoods. It is very pleasant to see these green growths.”

During his visit, Tuttle helped the resident missionary establish a parish school. He actually bought a full city block for the the church, “fencing it at a cost of $325.88.” Over his many years in the region, he endured thousands of miles in jolting, dusty stagecoach rides to cover his territory. Not until 1881 did the church assign a separate bishop for Montana.

Possessed of a “commanding presence” leavened by a practical and unassuming demeanor, Bishop Tuttle won the respect and admiration of even the rough element in his territory. During his 19 years in the mountains, he personally visited, held services, recruited local leaders, and generally grew the church at over 50 sites in Idaho alone. When church leaders moved him to Missouri in 1886, he had organized missions in Boise, Silver City, Idaho City, Lewiston, Blackfoot, Bellevue, Hailey, and Ketchum.

On October 12, 1837, Idaho pioneer Peter Pence was born in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, northeast of Pittsburg. As a young man, he worked for a time in Kansas and freighted into Denver. In the early 1860s, spillovers from the unrest in the states further south persuaded Pence to moved west. The wagon train he joined arrived in Oregon in September 1862, about the time the Boise Basin gold rush had really begun to boom.

Rancher Pence. H. T. French photo.
Pence followed the rush to Placerville and then to Idaho City. He prospected there, but made more money whipsawing lumber. Pence returned to packing for a time, then threshed grain in the Boise Valley.

In early 1867, he invested his grain-threshing profits in a band of fifteen hundred cattle. These were then moved to a spread he purchased where Big Willow Creek joins the Payette River, about twenty miles downriver from today’s Emmett. His was the first substantial herd set grazing on those ranges.

Pence helped organize several irrigation systems that drew water from the Payette River. In 1899 the Illustrated History said he was “President of three ditch incorporations.”

Pence later branched out into real estate, banking, and other investments … and was elected to the state legislature in 1901. He played a significant role in the development of the city of Payette and served as the first chairman of the town Board of Trustees, staying on the Board for several terms. (In a common practice for the times, news reports after that began referring to Pence as "The Honorable," as though he were the mayor of Payette.) The ranch he established in 1867 is on today’s list of “Century Ranches” – properties that are still operated by descendants of the original owners.
References: [French], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
Melville Knox Bailey, The Right Reverend Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, Church Missions Publishing Company, Hartford, Connecticut (1923).
Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, Missionary to the Mountain West, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City (1987).

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Packer Lloyd Magruder and Others Murdered on Nez Perce Trail [otd 10/11]

On the night of October 11, 1863, conspirators murdered packer Lloyd Magruder and four other men. The killings took place on the South Nez Percé Trail. The Trail – now also called the Magruder Corridor – twists crazily through the deep Central Idaho wilderness to cross a regional divide into Montana at Nez Percé Pass.
Magruder Corridor segment. U. S. Forest Service.

Scion of a prominent Maryland family, Lloyd Magruder had fought in the Mexican War and earned a promotion from private to second lieutenant. He resigned that commission to try his hand in the California gold fields. Bad luck reversed his initial success, so he moved to Lewiston, Idaho in July, 1862.

Within a year, the hard-working and intelligent Magruder owned both a pack train and a store. In August, Magruder’s string of mules headed east from Elk City on the South Nez Percé Trail, which provided the most direct route across the Bitterroot Mountains. Their initial destination might have been Bannack, the first gold camp in the area. But rumors had reached Lewiston of a new, richer strike at Alder Gulch, 40 to 50 miles further east.

So Magruder took his train straight there to a brand new Virginia City, where he soon profitably sold his goods. He returned by way of Bannack, where he bought more mules at bargain prices. Then he headed home, leading a train of six horses and about forty mules. Eight other men accompanied him.

About fifteen trail miles into Idaho from Nez Percés Pass, the party encamped on a side stream at the base of a ridge. They released the stock on a good forage area about a half mile up the slope. Magruder and a man named Christopher Lower drew the sundown-to-midnight watch over the animals.

When they left camp, Lower carried an ax, purportedly to clear some brush intruding on the pasture. Before midnight Lowe, or another conspirator who had joined them, split Magruder’s skull from behind with the ax. Those two and a third conspirator then slaughtered four other innocent bystanders. Hunter and guide William “Billy” Page knew about the plot but kept quiet through fear or greed. He later turned state’s evidence.

The men disposed of the evidence and headed surreptitiously for Lewiston. A few days later, they waited until after dark to enter the town. Page arranged to corral the animals out of sight. With no steamboat scheduled any time soon, they decided to take the early morning stagecoach to Walla Walla.

Luna House, ca. 1868. Illustrated History.
The nearest ticket office happened to be at Luna House, the hotel operated by Hill Beachy, a friend of Lloyd Magruder. Beachy, schooled on Mississippi River steamboats and in California gold camps, knew how to read men, and situations. When a conspirator bought tickets for four men, his furtive manner caught Beachy’s attention: Perhaps they planned a stage robbery.

Beachy passed a warning to the other passengers and watched them leave the next morning. That’s when he realized the strangers had considerable gold themselves. That induced other suspicions: Where had that gold come from? Investigation soon uncovered some of Magruder’s animals and gear that had been stashed with a friend of one of the conspirators.

Beachy's pursuit of the men became the stuff of legend, as he just missed them when they sailed from Portland on a coastal packet. Beachy had to race overland to apprehend the killers in San Francisco. He then returned them to Idaho for trial and execution.
References: [B&W], [Illust-North]
Julia Conway Welch, The Magruder Murders: Coping with Violence on the Idaho Frontier, Falcon Press Publishing, Helena, Montana (© Julia Conway Welch, 1991).

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

British and American Fur Trapper Bands Have Friendly Meeting in Central Idaho [otd 10/10]

On October 10, 1830, a party of trappers working for the American Fur Company met the bulk of the “Snake Brigade” – trappers and camp keepers of the British-Canadian Hudson’s Bay Company. The encounter apparently took place on the Little Wood River, west of the lava flows and probably not too far from today’s Carey. (One must account for travel time estimates and reconcile different geographical names to locate the probable meeting place.)
HBC Leader John Work.
British Canadian Archives.

Such encounters did not happen every day, but they were not uncommon during the height of the region’s fur trapping era. What made this event unusual was the fact that it was documented by members of both of the respective parties.

Irish-born John Work, a sixteen-year HBC veteran, had been appointed in August to lead the Brigade [blog, Oct 23]. They crossed from Oregon into Idaho in late summer. On September 9th, Work wrote, “Reached the discharge of Payette’s River, up which we proceeded.”

After trapping the Payette and Boise rivers, they moved east to the Camas Prairie, down the Big Wood, and then up the Little Wood.

On October 10th, Work said that a few of his trappers had met the Americans, who had “just arrived from Snake River across the plains.” His daily note ends with the statement: “Americans are encamped within a short distance of us.”

A day or so later he wrote, “Crooks & Co. are the outfitters. A Mr. Fontenelle, who manages this business, is now at Snake River with 50 men.”

American trapper Warren Ferris mentioned “Mr. Fontenelle” several times in his account of Life in the Rocky Mountains. Born in New York state, Ferris joined the American Fur Company and headed west early in 1830. Besides the hope for adventure, he said his motives were economic: “For times are hard, and my best coat has a sort of sheepish hang-dog hesitation to encounter fashionable folk.”
Lava near Craters of the Moon. State of Idaho photo.

Lucien Fontenelle was one of the principals for the AFC. According to Ferris, a band of AFC trappers “travelled north of west, through a barren desert, destitute of every species of vegetation, except a few scattering cedars, and speckled with huge round masses of black basaltic rock. … It was doubtless lava, which had been vomited forth from some volcano, the fires of which are now extinct.”

This is an accurate description of the lava plain that covers great tracts south of the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Almost too late for some of the men, the Americans staggered out of the barrens onto a “pure cool reviving stream, a new river of life.”

Although Ferris himself was not with this particular party, he recorded a detailed account based on talks with several men who were there. A day after escaping the lava, they heard gunshots in the distance and sent a scout to investigate. Ferris then reported that the scout "shortly after returned, accompanied by several trappers who belonged to a party of forty, led by a Mr. Work, a clerk of the Hudson Bay Company.”

After this chance encounter, the Brigade headed north along the Little Wood. Knowing the country, Work then succeeded in ditching the Americans somewhere deep in the mountains. They continued to the prime beaver country along the Salmon River. The AFC party had to settle for stumbling upon the Little Lost River, which disappears into the ground southeast of today’s Arco.
References: [B&W]
W. A. Ferris, Leroy R. Hafen (ed), Life in the Rocky Mountains, Old West Publishing Company, Denver (1983).
William R. Sampson, “John Work,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
John Work, T. C. Elliott (Ed.), “The Journal of John Work,” Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. X, No. 3 (1909).

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Kitty Wilkins, Horse Queen of Idaho and North American Supplier [otd 10/9]

On October 9, 1936, the Idaho Statesman announced that “Kittie” Wilkins had died the day before at her home in Glenns Ferry. The Statesman then reminded its readers of her place in Idaho history, when newspapers celebrated Wilkins as the “Horse Queen of Idaho” and the “Queen of Diamonds.”
Kitty Wilkins. Elmore County Historical Research Team.

Katherine “Kitty” Wilkins was born in the Rogue River area of Oregon, in 1857. The family moved around a great deal after about 1861 – with stops in Florence (Idaho), Boise City, and then Tuscarora, Nevada. During those years, Kitty received an excellent education at Roman Catholic schools in Utah and California.

In the 1870s, Kitty’s father John developed an interest in stock raising. An acquaintance pointed out the fine grasslands available in Idaho’s Bruneau Valley, so John grazed a band of horses there as a sideline to their hotel in Tuscarora.

Shortly after the hotel burned down in 1879, he moved the family to the Valley. At that point, “Kitty” found her true calling: She discovered a special ability and affinity for raising topnotch horses. Her father and brother raised cattle, but in an interview (one of many) she said, “I haven’t got a bit of use for cattle, though I love horses.”

She had an active role in the business by the time she was twenty years old. Thus, the Owyhee Avalanche in Silver City, Idaho, reprinted (June 18, 1887) a Mountain Home item that said, “The Wilkins Bros., and Miss Kitty Wilkins, of Bruneau, come [sic] over to the city Tuesday, and shipped two carloads of horses to the Omaha market.”

Later that year, the Evening News in San Jose, California (December 14, 1887) described Kitty as “one of the most noted women of the West.”

By around 1890, she was basically in total charge of the horse operation. Historian Adelaide Hawes, who knew Kitty personally, wrote, “Contrary to public belief she did not don male attire. … When demonstrating her horses she rode a sidesaddle and wore the usual feminine riding skirt of those days. When riding the range she always rode a sidesaddle.”

Ride the range she did … being very much of a “hands-on” manager. And her personal “marketing” and sales appearances caused a sensation everywhere she went. Well-schooled, attractive, and quietly charismatic, Kitty dazzled reporters who interviewed her.

She sold only the best horses, and her knowledge impressed even professional horse dealers and breeders. In 1891, an article in the St. Louis Republic observed: “Miss Wilkins is a horse trader, and what she does not know about a horse is not worth knowing.”

Kitty Wilkins with carriage horse.
Elville Wilkins photo posted at GlennsFerry.org.
The ranch operated under the Diamond brand, which sparked another colorful nickname: “The Queen of Diamonds.” As early as 1890, the famous King ranch in Texas purchased 750 Diamond Ranch horses. For three decades, Kitty shipped horses all over North America, including train carloads for the U. S. Cavalry.

The ranch did well during World War I, but motorized vehicles had even then begun to depress markets for horses. Not long after the war ended, Kitty retired to a fine home in Glenns Ferry. She spent her later years associating with her closest friends and performing quiet acts of charity.

She last appeared in a public event in 1934, leading a parade for the Fort Boise Centennial Celebration (commemorating the older Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, not the Army fort built in 1863).
References: L. E. Bragg, More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Idaho Women, The Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Connecticut (2001).
Arthur Hart, “Meet Kitty Wilkins, the Horse Queen of Idaho,” Idaho Statesman, February 10, 2009.
Adelaide Hawes, Valley of Tall Grass, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (1950).
Sandra Ransel, Charles Durand, Crossroads: A History of the Elmore County Area, Elmore County Historical Research Team, Mountain Home, Idaho (1985).
Queen of Diamonds – blog about Kitty.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Guy Bowerman: Bank Organizer and Investor, and Banking Official [otd 10/8]

East Idaho banker Guy Emerson Bowerman was born October 8, 1866, in Coldwater, Michigan, about forty miles south of Lansing. Armed with just a public school education, Bowerman found bank employment in Dell Rapids, South Dakota (about 20 miles north of Sioux Falls). For fifteen years, he advanced into higher and higher positions at the bank.
St. Anthony in 1907. Vintage postcard.

Then, in 1899, Bowerman moved to St. Anthony, Idaho, the county seat of Fremont County. There, he and some partners organized the Idaho State Bank, and Guy became Cashier* of the firm. In two years, the company designation changed to the First National Bank of Saint Anthony. Bowerman moved up to be President in 1907. Five years later, he sold his interest in the bank.

That did not, however, take Bowerman out of banking. He owned stock in the Rigby State Bank, and held high offices in a number of others: director of the First National Bank of Rexburg, vice president of the Fremont County Bank (Sugar City), and President of the First National Bank of Ashton. He helped organize two of these banks – in Ashton and Sugar City – as well as the First National Bank of Driggs.

Often, he would see a firm through its formative stages and then either divest his holdings or limit his involvement in management. Still, even in 1920, Bowerman held interests in eight different banks around the state of Idaho, as well as two in Salt Lake City. He also had other business interests in Salt Lake.

According to Hawley’s History, Bowerman could have had an extensive political career, but chose to be selective in his public service activities. He did serve one term as mayor of St. Anthony, and one term in the Idaho House of Representative. While in the House, Bowerman chaired the Committee on Appropriations and was a member of the Committee on Banks and Banking.

In 1919, Governor Davis appointed him to be State Commissioner of Finance. Hawley’s History of Idaho asserted that he had to be talked into accepting the appointment, but that “the choice has been most strongly endorsed by public opinion, for Idaho's citizens recognize in Guy Emerson Bowerman a man whose initiative, enterprise and progressiveness have been, and will continue to be of the greatest value to the state.”
Guy Bowerman. J. H. Hawley photo.

Bowerman resigned the Commissioner position within a few months, however, to become General Secretary of the American Bankers Association (The New York Times, November 26, 1919). He had been active in that Association for some time, serving on its Executive Council. (Bowerman also  helped organize the Idaho State Bankers Association and served one term as its president.)

At the Association’s 1927 Annual Convention, he declared that the U. S. was – to use his coined term – “overbanked.” Quite prescient, in retrospect, Bowerman spotted one of several factors that led to the Great Crash of 1929 – too many profit-hungry banks fueling wild stock market speculation.

Bowerman later held an executive position with a Los Angeles investment firm. He died there in March 1940.

* Bank Cashiers held a much higher position than is commonly perceived today. They were significant company officers and could personally write and sign “cashier’s checks” backed by the bank’s reserves. Such a note might circulate like “real” money for some time before being presented for redemption. 
References: [Blue], [French], Hawley]
“Business & Finance: At Houston,” Time Magazine, (Nov. 07, 1927).
Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People, Oxford University Press (1965).

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Classes Start at College of Idaho, Boise Basin Gold Towns [otd 10/7]

On October 7, 1891, classes began at the new College of Idaho in Caldwell. The Presbyterian Church's Wood River Presbytery began discussing the idea of an Idaho college in 1884. Leaders canvassed the membership and found a considerable groundswell of interest. That interest grew, so in 1889 the Presbytery asked the Reverend William Judson Boone [blog, Nov 5] to explore the idea further.
College of Idaho, ca. 1900. College of Idaho photo.
The 1891 meeting of the Presbytery’s Education Committee accepted an offer of land for the school from the city of Caldwell. (An attempt to attract the school to nearby Nampa was short-lived.) Plans proceeded rapidly to open the new college that fall.

Classes for the first students – 19 of them to start with – were taught in the basement of the Caldwell Presbyterian Church. The institution lays claimed to being the oldest college in Idaho: Although the land-grant University of Idaho was formally authorized earlier, it did not begin classes until 1892. In common with the University, none of the College’s first students were prepared for college-level classes.

That year, College of Idaho moved to its own building in downtown Caldwell. In 1893, Reverend Boone resigned his pastorate to become full-time President of the College, a job he would hold for the rest of his life. Early on, he picked all of the “classically trained faculty,” who became known for their “intelligence and probity.”

The college graduated its first high school equivalent class in 1894, but did not enroll its first full group of college students until 1906. Still, the college grew steadily and, in 1910, moved to a larger campus at what is basically its current location. This privately-supported liberal arts college now has over a thousand students.

On October 7, 1862, miners who had returned to the Boise Basin founded Pioneer City, today’s Pioneerville, on Grimes Creek. George Grimes had led a small band of prospectors into the mountains about two months earlier, chasing a story told by one man’s Indian friend. They did find gold, in considerable quantities, but then Grimes was killed in a skirmish with Indians.

The band of less than a dozen men had seen signs of many Indians in the area.  Thus, they buried Grimes’ body in a deep prospect hole and fled the mountains. Later, a monument was erected in his honor at Grimes Pass. The miners returned in force – fifty to sixty strong – in October and began laying out Pioneer City and recording claims.

By then, word of the discovery had spread, and before winter blocked travel, hundreds of hopeful miners had rushed into the area. In no time at all, other camps sprang into being: Placerville, Centerville, and West Bannock (today’s Idaho City).
Placerville, Lithograph. History of Idaho Territory.
The following spring, thousands of miners poured into the Basin and several mining camps turned into towns. Moreover, the presence of all those prospectors drove the creation of Idaho Territory in March 1863 [blog, March 4]. The first Territorial census enumerated over 15 thousand residents in the Basin, and “conservative” estimates placed that number at 20 thousand by the end of the year.

Miners continued to extract major amounts of gold from the Basin for another eighty years. Over that time, the region yielded over $2 billion worth of gold (using today’s prices). Nor is the area totally played out: Prospectors still find isolated pockets of the precious metal. 
References: [French], [Illust-State]
Louie W. Attebery, The College of Idaho, 1891-1991: A Centennial History. © The College of Idaho, Caldwell (1991).
“Census of 1863,” Reference Series No. 129, Idaho State Historical Society.
“J. Marion More: Idaho Mining Pioneer (1830-1868),” Reference Series No. 455, Idaho State Historical Society (July 1994). 
Merle W. Wells, Gold Camps & Silver Cities, 2nd Edition, Bulletin 22, Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Mines and Geology, Moscow, Idaho (1983).

Saturday, October 6, 2018

British Canadian Trappers Camp Along the Salmon River [otd 10/6]

On October 6, 1824, a large band of fur traders, trappers, and camp keepers – the so-called "Snake Brigade" – returned to what they called "Canoe Point." (Probably located where the Pahsimeroi River empties into the Salmon, but possibly near Challis.) A unit of the Hudson's Bay Company led by Alexander Ross, the Brigade had earlier hidden their beaver pelts at the spot. At that time, Ross said, "Hiding furs in places frequented by Indians is a risky business."

Now he wrote, "Our cache of May is safe. Length of Salmon River covered this year, 100 miles."
Ship Tonquin, ca 1810. Gabriel Franchère drawing.

A Scotsman, Ross emigrated to Canada in 1804, when he was about twenty-one. He first worked as a schoolmaster and bought some land.

However, he hoped for better prospects in the fur trade. Thus, in 1810, he signed on as a clerk with the Pacific Fur Company [blog, yesterday]. Ross sailed with the ship Tonquin and helped build Astoria in the spring of 1811.

That summer, Ross was a member of the group that established a trading post in (future) Washington. He managed the post for several years, accumulating experience in the trade. When the North West Company (NWC) acquired all of the PFC's western assets, Ross continued working for them.

Donald Mackenzie, another ex-Astorian, led the first Brigade into Idaho in 1816. Two years later, Ross helped build Fort Nez Percés (near today's Walla Walla) and managed the post and its Brigade support operations until 1821.

That year, the British Crown "negotiated" a merger between the NWC and the Hudson's Bay Company. The new management promoted Mackenzie to a post in Canada, and Brigade activities languished for a year. Finally, the HBC appointed an interim leader for the 1823 campaign, then assigned the job to Ross for the following year.

Ross circled through Montana to enter Idaho via Lemhi Pass. Hoping to open new beaver country, he then led the Brigade up the Salmon River. By May, they had done well enough that, as noted above, they cached most of their pelts at Canoe Point.

From there, they had crossed over into the upper Boise River watershed … a very bad idea. Ross observed, "Never did man or beast pass through a country more forbidding or hazardous. The rugged and rocky paths had worn our horses' hoofs to the quick, and we not infrequently stood undecided and hopeless of success."
Mountain pack train. Canadian Archives photo.

The party finally reached the lower Boise. Here, Ross noted, ten of his coworkers with the PFC had been killed by Indians. He also wrote, “At its mouth an establishment was begun by Donald McKenzie in 1819. It was burned and two men killed. In spring 1820, four men more were destroyed by the natives. This river has already cost the whites sixteen men.”

Still, Ross’s expedition did better on the lower Boise, the Payette, and the Weiser before following the Snake upstream into central Idaho. The Brigade next turned generally north, scrambled over the mountains onto the Salmon, and then back to Canoe Point.

Just over a week later, the Snake Brigade met a band of trappers led by Jedediah Smith. These were the first Americans to hunt west of the Continental Divide since the Astorians in 1811-1812, and they ended the British-Canadian fur monopoly in Idaho.

Ross returned to Canada after that season.
References: [B&W]
Gabriel Franchère, Journal of a Voyage on the North West Coast of North America, Champlain Society, Toronto, Canada (1969).
Frits Pannekoek, “Alexander Ross” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
Alexander Ross, T. C. Elliott (Ed.), “Journal of Alexander Ross, Snake Country Expedition, 1824,” Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. 14 (Dec. 1913).

Friday, October 5, 2018

Fur Traders, the "Overland Astorians," Enter Idaho Via Teton Pass [otd 10/5]

On October 5, 1811, a column of whites led by American Wilson Price Hunt mounted the slope out of Jackson Hole toward Teton Pass: “We climbed it, following an easy and much-traveled trail.  Snow whitened the summit and the northern slopes of the heights.  The Snakes served as our guides … ”

J. J. Astor. Library of Congress.
The Hunt party represented the Pacific Fur Company, founded by fur trade magnate John Jacob Astor [blog, July 17]. Astor, with one American and several British-Canadian partners, created the PFC to exploit the riches described in the reports from the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Over a year earlier, the PFC had sent a shipload of men to establish a Pacific Coast base, Astoria, near the mouth of the Columbia River. Hunt’s “Overland Astorians” had been dispatched from St. Louis, Missouri to explore the country further and then continue on to Astoria. In late May, they encountered three white men traveling down the Missouri River in two small canoes.

The newcomers had spent the winter at a “fort” a few miles west of today’s Ashton, Idaho, on a branch of the Snake River. Andrew Henry, a partner in the St. Louis-based Missouri Fur Company, led the party that built the scattering of huts. For their own reasons, the three men had quit the company and headed east. They had originally traveled west by the route the Astorians planned to use. Now they persuaded Hunt that their more southerly return route was easier, and less exposed to possibly-hostile Indians.

This southern path took them out of the Dakotas into the northeast corner of Wyoming. From there they headed west, then south. In mid-September, Hunt wrote, “One of our hunters who had been on the banks of the Columbia pointed out three immense and snow-covered peaks which, he said, bordered a tributary of the river.”

This was the first recorded observation of les trois tétons, “the Three Tetons,” a famous landmark even to this day. (John Colter [blog, Aug 17] had surely seen them, but he did not keep a journal.)

Finally, a zig-zag trek led them into Jackson Hole. Concerned by the precipitous country and the wildness of the Snake – they called it the “Mad River” – Hunt sent a few explorers downstream. Soon, these men confirmed his worst fears: The river was too dangerous and the ranges practically impassable.

Fortunately, they encountered the Snake (Shoshone or Bannock) Indians who led them over Teton Pass. The Astorians then marched to “Henry’s Fort.” Happy to have reached a tributary of the Columbia, Hunt had the men construct dugout canoes from the abundant cottonwood trees. He assumed, quite erroneously, they could now cruise down the Snake and Columbia to reach their Pacific base.
Snake River upstream from the Idaho Falls. National Archives.

But even before the voyagers reached Idaho Falls (the actual Falls, not the present city), whitewater upset two canoes and cost them vital supplies. They were then wise enough to portage their gear around the Falls and lead their canoes through on long ropes. Hunt wrote, “The river narrows between two sheer mountain walls to not more than sixty feet, in a few places to even less.”

They had to portage again at American Falls, but also found long stretches that fed their unwarranted complacency about the river. That would change before the month was out [blog, Oct 28].
References: [B&W]
Wilson Price Hunt, Hoyt C. Franchère (ed. and translator), Overland diary of Wilson Price Hunt, Ashland Oregon Book Society (1973).
James P. Ronda, Astoria and Empire, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1990).

Thursday, October 4, 2018

First Women on Jury Duty and in the Legislature in Idaho [otd 10/4]

On October 4, 1897, Idaho saw its first trial in which women sat on the jury – they having been granted equal suffrage the year before [blog, Nov 3]. Quoting historian Hiram T. French: “The women who, with W. R. Cartwright and R. F. Cooke, served on this jury were Mrs. R. E. Green, Miss Frances Wood, Mrs. Boyakin, and Mrs. E. J. Pasmore.”
All-woman Jury, Later. Library of Congress.

All the women included in that first jury had been active in the Idaho women’s suffrage campaign. Mrs. Richard E. Green owned the Meridian Creamery. Her husband was a trained civil engineer, managed the Ridenbaugh Canal for a time, and had business interests in Boise and Nampa.

Miss Frances Wood was very active in various Boise social and civic-improvement organizations, and served for many years as Deputy Clerk for Ada County. She also campaigned for the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote nation-wide.

Mrs. Boyakin’s husband was Adoniren J. “Jud” Boyakin. A long-time newspaperman, Jud had come to Idaho in 1864, originally working at the Idaho Statesman. From around 1877 until his death in 1899, he was owner and editor of the Idaho Democrat newspaper in Boise.

Mrs. Edward J. Pasmore worked in the advertising department for the Women’s Edition of the Idaho Statesman. Her husband, Professor Pasmore, taught music and singing, and had given speeches supporting women’s suffrage.

The trial they sat for involved a suit brought by Dr. Richard M. Fairchild against the Ada County Commissioners. He had billed the County $125 for an inquest and an autopsy he had performed. They had refused to pay the full amount, offering him just $25. An earlier trial had ended in an impasse, so the judge directed that a mixed jury be assembled for a new attempt.

The Idaho Statesman reported on the trial the next day, October 5, 1897. The panel selected Mrs. Green as their Foreman. The results showed their inexperience, but also a deep concern for law and justice. After over six hours of deliberation, they emerged and Green told the judge they could not agree. When she briefly described the problem, with some key details, the judge said, “You must not disclose the nature of your deliberations.”

Mrs. Green replied, “Well, that is the way we stand.”

According to the Statesman, “Miss Wood spoke up, saying it all hinged on one point.” There was some confusion about what evidence the county had actually presented. It seemed to boil down to the County Attorney’s opinion that “the services were not worth so much.” After some thought, the judge observed that “the county had introduced no witnesses” so there really was “no evidence on its side.”

Minutes later the panel returned from another session in the jury room and awarded the doctor the full amount.

Aside from immediately serving on juries, women quickly tested their newly-won vote. In 1898, three women – Clara Campbell, Hattie Noble, and Mary Wright – won election to the Idaho House of Representatives. They did not serve a second term, and it was not until 1915 that another female was elected. [ Photo of first women legislators.]*

In 1935, the first woman was appointed to the Idaho Senate, and four years later another woman won election to a seat. But only since the 1970s have women appeared regularly in the Idaho legislature.

* The Idaho State Historical Society holds the copyright on this photo and charges a usage fee. (As a member, I know the organization needs the money, but since my blog generates no income, I am not in a position to pay.)
References: [French]
Articles in the Idaho Statesman, Boise (1895-1921) … too numerous to list.
“Adoniren J. (‘Jud’) Boyakin: 1836- March 28, 1899,” Reference Series No. 568, Idaho State Historical Society (1981).

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Civil Engineer, Surveyor, Stock Breeder, and Farmer David O. Stevenson [otd 10/03]

Civil engineer and County Surveyor David Osborn Stevenson was born October 3, 1851 in Dayton, Ohio. After high school, he moved to California and engaged in stock raising, mainly sheep. However, drought and poor agricultural conditions ruined that operation.
David O. Stevenson. [French]

He went to work as an apprentice in engineering for the Union Pacific Railroad, working mainly on spur line construction in Kansas and Nebraska. Around 1882, he transferred to the Oregon Short Line (OSL) and helped complete the tracks across Idaho into Oregon.

Impressed by what he saw in the Boise Valley, Stevenson settled in the area in 1885 and began civil engineering work for the Settlers Canal. The Settlers branches off the south side of the Boise River a mile or so west of the capital building. The Idaho Statesman reported (March 18, 1890) that the company directors wanted to extend the canal and had “determined to send for D. O. Stevenson, the engineer of the company, and prosecute the work as soon as the proper survey is made.”

After that, David worked on a number of different canal and reservoir projects. However, he also bought property somewhere near Eagle and went back into ranching. There, he raised blooded draft horses, for which he often won prizes at the county fair. He also raised grained, both as feed for his animals and for sale to millers. Stevenson held that property until 1908, when he moved into Boise to pursue other interests.

People in the Boise Basin had long wanted a railroad to bring in heavy equipment and export timber. Several failed attempts had been made, but hopes finally ran high at the start of a new century. On October 10, 1901, the Statesman told its readers, “The railway project from Boise to the Boise basin is being put on a firm foundation. Work has actually begun, a large surveying party now being in the field under the supervision of the chief engineer of the new company, D. O. Stevenson.”
Survey Team, ca 1901. National Archives.
However, for various reasons, that effort also fell through. Not until 1914 did work begin on a rail line from the valley up Mores Creek into the Basin. Trains began hauling logs out in May of the following year. Apparently, much of the main line followed the route surveyed by Stevenson over a decade earlier.

David also had an interest in a least one industrial venture. The Idaho Statesman reported (June 9, 1919) that Stevenson was in charge of production for “the Sand-Lime Brick Company, owned and operated entirely by Boise capital, and for the first time in more that a year the plant is once more in operation.”

Sand-lime bricks are produced by compression molding and then curing under high-pressure steam. They are more uniform in size, with straighter edges and smoother surfaces than conventional clay bricks. According to the Statesman, “Practically all the white brick buildings in Boise have been made out of bricks produced in this plant, prominent among which are the new high school, the Pinney building, and now some 450,000 bricks have been ordered for the construction of the Roosevelt school.”

Over the following years, Stevenson would serve on the Ada County Commissioner as well as several terms as the County Surveyor. After his last stint as Surveyor, he resumed his private practice. David kept it up until about a month before his death, at age 88, in April 1940.
References: [French]
“D. O. Stevenson, Surveyor, Dies,” Idaho Statesman, Boise (April 13, 1940).
Evan E. Filby, Boise River Gold Country, Sourdough Publishing, Idaho Falls, Idaho (2012).
“Sand-Lime Brick – Description and Specification,” Circular of the Bureau of Standards No. 109, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C. (1921).

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Prospectors led by Elias Pierce Find Gold on Orofino Creek [otd 10/2]

E. D. Pierce. [Hawley]
Speaking of this day in October 1860, Captain Elias D. Pierce said, “[On] the second we moved down and camped on the stream, afterwards called Oraphenia creek. Here we found better prospects than further up the stream where we first made the discovery, which was a sufficient guarrentee that we had a rich and extensive mining camp, and organized a new mining district, and gave its boundaries, drafted a code of mining laws, to govern our new mining district.”

Their discovery of gold near what would soon become the town of Pierce set off a rush into Idaho that transformed an “empty wilderness” into a thriving U. S. Territory. Of course, the region was not really empty. In fact, the only reasonable access to the gold fields ran right through the Nez Percé Indian Reservation. Many subsequent finds were actually inside the reservation boundary established in 1855.

Elias Pierce was born in 1824 or 1825, most likely in Virginia. (He always gave that or West Virginia as his birthplace to census takers, and suggestions that he emigrated from Ireland are based on probably flawed evidence.) Pierce enlisted in the Army for the 1846-1848 Mexican War, but saw only minor action. After his discharge, Pierce joined the stampede into the California gold fields. He did quite well there, both as a miner and as a storekeeper – he even served a term in the California legislature.

Unfortunately, that soon changed: First, a partner absconded with the company’s funds, then a major customer defaulted. Conflict with Pacific Northwest Indians complicated his efforts to recoup his fortunes.

Still, Pierce now had an unexpected asset: He spoke the Nez Percé language and had traded with the tribe on good terms for several years. His party did avoid confrontations on their way to make the gold discovery, but they marched out openly and had no trouble with surprised tribesmen.
Gold in the pan. National Park Service.

While fear of the Nez Percé checked an early flood of prospectors, many from Pierce’s party returned to Orofino Creek and built cabins for their winter stay. Wise in the ways of gold mania, Pierce did not go with them. He went to Olympia, the Territorial capital, and secured the franchise for a wagon road between Walla Walla and the Nez Percé country.

Pierce tried to continue in the freight business through about 1866, but without any notable success. He then prospected in Montana and mined coal in Montana before going east to Indiana in 1869 and getting married. He died there, virtually penniless, in 1897.

Meanwhile, back in 1860-61, legislators had made Pierce City the county seat of a brand new Shoshone County, although they had only Captain Pierce’s word that the village existed. They created the county in early January and concluded an agreement with the Nez Percé three months later: Whites could freely prospect and mine the watersheds of the Clearwater and Snake rivers within the reservation, but absolutely no permanent settlement was allowed.

Pierce City, technically outside the reservation, blossomed during the following summer, starting from the core of winter cabins. However, the best placers in the area soon played out and the population dropped from a peak of over a thousand to just 131 in 1864. Still, it held on as the county seat until 1885, when that moved to Murray.
References: [B&W], [Brit], [Illust-North]
“Census of 1864,” Reference Series No. 130, Idaho State Historical Society.
Elias D Pierce., as told to Lula Jones Larrick, The Pierce Chronicle, Idaho Research Foundation, Inc., Moscow, Idaho (1975).

Monday, October 1, 2018

Spain Returns Louisiana to France, L&C Expedition Builds Canoes [otd 10/1]

On October 1, 1800, by the (poorly-kept) “secret” Treaty of San Ildefonso, Spain returned what might be called “greater” Louisiana to France. “Returned” because Spain had received the region from France in 1762-63, during the latter stages of the Seven Years War. The Great Power details of the Treaty transactions don’t concern us.
Napoleon Bonaparte
Portrait by Jacques-Louis David, here cropped.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson dispatched “envoy extraordinaire” James Monroe to France to second our minister there in negotiations to reopen the Mississippi River to American traffic. If they couldn’t buy New Orleans, they were to obtain a “perpetual” right of transit to the Gulf.

Instead, of course, Napoleon sold all of Louisiana to the U.S. He was about to renew the war with Great Britain, needed the money, and knew he might lose the region anyway.

The mission to France addressed the immediate concerns of Jefferson’s constituents west of the Appalachians, but the President also had larger plans. He had a long-standing interest in exploring the West. Then he learned that a British-Canadian fur trader had crossed the Continental Divide, and reached the Pacific via a land route.

He decided to counter with an American expedition … to bolster a claim on the vast northwest region. Thus, when the negotiators returned, preparations for the Lewis & Clark Expedition were already in progress. The Purchase simply meant that the Corps of Discovery would be exploring American territory as far as the Continental Divide.

On the same day five years after the Treaty consummation -- October 1, 1805 -- Sergeant Patrick Gass of the Corps wrote in his journal, “This was a fine pleasant warm day. All the men are now able to work; but the greater number are very weak. To save them from hard labour, we have adopted the Indian method of burning out the canoes.”

They had started canoe construction a few days earlier, but the work had gone slowly because many men suffered from intestinal complaints, probably because of a switch to an unfamiliar diet of roots and dried fish. Stephen Ambrose, in his excellent book about the Corps, Undaunted Courage, wrote that they “put them over a slow-burning fire trench and burned them out.”
Idaho Travel Council.

While it can be done that way, and perhaps some were, an alternate method is as effective and much more controllable: piling hot coals on the surface and letting them eat into the wood. Periodically, workers scoop off the coals and chop out the charred wood. They did at least a few that way because Sergeant John Ordway wrote, “built fires on some of them to burn them out. Found them to burn verry well.”

The canoes were completed less than a week later. The final transport vessels weighed well over a ton.

They set out down the Clearwater River on the 7th. The very next day, they had their first mishap on the river: The canoe piloted by Sergeant Gass hit a hidden rock and cracked. One man was slightly injured, and most of their load got wet. They spent the next day letting the baggage dry and fixing the canoe.

The following day they reached the Snake River, leaving (the future) Idaho. They would not return for six months.
References: [Brit]
Stephen E. Ambrose, Undaunted Courage, Simon & Shuster, New York (1996).
Patrick Gass, Carol Lynn Macgregor (ed.), The Journals of Patrick Gass, Mountain Press Publishing Company; Missoula, Montana (1997).
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Gary E. Moulton (Ed.), The Definitive Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (2002). Journals Online.