Sunday, March 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

That turned out to be an incorrect assumption. When their tunnels met, the confrontation escalated into an underground shooting war. To make matter worse, partisans for both sides flocked to the area from other mining districts.

The first deaths occurred on March 25 and 26, when one man on each side was killed. Soon, the exchanges became extremely heavy, and included blasts with “giant powder” and fire bombs. A later investigator observed that one 15-inch supporting beam had been "nearly cut in two" by bullet impacts.

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

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

J. Marion More, ca. 1864.
Idaho City Historical Foundation.
The proclamation was delivered by a Deputy U.S. Marshal, who rode straight threw from Boise in six hours. News that soldiers were being dispatched from Fort Boise to restore order bolstered his authority. These measures led to an uneasy truce. But bad feelings remained, and opposing viewpoints exchanged hot words.

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

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

For a year or so after the transcontinental line was completed, Haynes staged in central California and western Nevada. He often found himself moving on because railroad service had overtaken the stagecoach. Thus, in late 1870, Haynes became division agent for the stage line between Elko and Boise City. Two years later, he took charge of a route from Kelton, Utah to Boise City. After three years in that position, in returned to California to oversee routes there.

After about 1877, Hayes briefly ran his own stage lines, first into the Tuscarora, Nevada mining region and then in the Wood River area of Idaho. In about 1880, he retired to a ranch on Goose Creek in Cassia County. (The 1880 Census shows him there with wife Nancy and two stepsons.) In the mid-1880s, he served as Deputy U.S. Marshall, a position he held again in 1891-1893. He also served as a constable in Shoshone and as Lincoln County sheriff.
C. C. Hayes, ca. 1895.
Photo from Root-Connelly reference.

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

Haynes transported the tourists in his own old Concord stagecoach. Observers noted that the “vehicle is a little marred by the Indians’ bullets and arrows” but was in fine shape otherwise. No less a personage than renowned orator and Presidential hopeful William Jennings Bryan affirmed that old "Uncle Charley" could still "finger the ribbons" with the best at the age of sixty. Bryan's 1897 letter to the Shoshone Journal said, in part, "Our driver, Capt. C. C. Haynes, was so experienced, and his horses so fast, that the twenty-five-mile coach ride across the lava-covered plain was made in less than four hours, and was neither tiresome nor unpleasant."

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

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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

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

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

Life in Idaho City during that period was wild and dangerous. Carpenter later said he had seen as many as four dead bodies on the streets at one time, and sometimes you could hardly move through all the crush of wagons and teams. Demand for goods was so great that nothing of value could be left unattended for fear of thieves. A story went around about a luckless crook who made off with two hundred pounds of flour. Then he came to a steep hill and had to split his load and carry only half to the top. But when he returned for the other half, another thief had already stolen it. So he trudged back to the top of the hill, where he found that that too was gone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Borglum fell in love with the notion of carving a whole mountain. He proposed a project to honor a host of Confederate heroes: Lee, Jefferson Davis, and something like seventy officers from all the Confederate states. Of course, his concept proved far too costly and leaders cut it back substantially. Some preparative work began in 1916-1917, but the advent of World War I halted the project.

Work resumed after the war, leading to a huge splash of publicity in early 1923. The item in the San Francisco Chronicle (February 18, 1923) was fairly typical: “The huge figures will be visible for miles. They will make a work of sculpture which will rival the famous Sphinx of Egypt and dwarf the pyramids.”

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Idaho spent 1931-1934 on the East Coast undergoing an extensive modernization refit. A modified turret design greatly increased the range of her main battery, and some smaller guns were replaced by an array of anti-aircraft weapons. Her deck and hull were also clad with more armor. These additions, plus changes to her higher superstructure, greatly increased her displacement (overall weight). However, installation of a new, more efficient power plant actually increased her top speed.

After a stint in Pacific waters, she returned to the Atlantic. She was stationed in Iceland on December 7, 1941. Two days after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Idaho left Iceland to join the Pacific Fleet.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

The colonists named their outpost Fort Limhi, after a king appearing in the Book of Mormon. In its altered form, the designation later became associated with the river and its valley. They immediately built a stockade of nine-foot-tall timbers. The area enclosed was large enough to protect a couple dozen cabins spaced around a central well. Over the next several weeks, the settlers added a blacksmith shop, plus a sawmill and large stock corral outside the wall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After awhile, company developers also devised an effective process to dehydrate potatoes. In fact, the company won a contract to supply dehydrated potatoes to the U. S. Army, but World War I ended before it could be completed. In addition to their own packing and shipping operations, Idaho Products handled sales and shipping for other regional producers. Most of the firm's managers – including the President – worked in Spokane, leaving Stoehr as the highest officer in Boise. Some time during this period, Stoehr himself acquired property west of Caldwell to grow fruit trees. Then, around 1930, he left the company and devoted himself to his orchard operation.

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

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

Stoehr remained with the Bohemian brewery until about 1937, when he returned to farming. A year later, the Overland Brewery in Nampa lured him out of “retirement” for a year or so to help with their operation. After that, he again returned to farming. Then, in 1956, he moved back into Boise, where he died from a heart attack about two years later.
References: [French], [Hawley]
City Directory: Boise, R. L. Polk & Company, Detroit, Michigan (1923-1956).
“[William Stoehr News],”  Idaho Statesman, Boise (November 1915 – November 1958).

Thursday, March 21, 2019

New Idaho Territorial Penitentiary Opens Near Boise [otd 03/21]

On March 21, 1872, the Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman reported, “We understand that the Territorial prisoners are to be brought down to-day and placed in the penitentiary, under the charge of the U. S. Marshal.”
Boise County Jail.
Idaho City Historical Foundation.

This move initiated the use of a new Territorial Penitentiary in Boise City, Idaho. Eleven prisoners previously held in the Boise County jail in Idaho City became its first inmates.

When Congress created Idaho Territory in 1863 [blog, March 4], the region had no penitentiary. Thus, Territorial prisoners were housed at county jails in Lewiston and Idaho City. Three years later, officials moved all such prisoners to the Idaho City unit.

Accounts of the time indicate that the jail was, at best, a marginal facility [blog, Dec 31]. Finally, in early 1867, the Idaho Territorial Delegate to the U. S. Congress persuaded that body to appropriate funds for a prison. However, two years passed before the Territorial legislature saw fit to enact a process to certify and use the planned structure. Construction began in the spring of 1870, and was complete about a year later.

Another year passed before officials could plan the transfer of prisoners to the new facility. They had to work out the details of who would have charge of the operation, and who would pay for what. Initially, the serving U. S. Marshal for Idaho Territory acted as prison warden.

Still, as a federal facility, the new penitentiary housed convicts sent there by both Federal and Territorial courts. This helped spread the fixed costs over a larger population. H. T. French noted that the arrangement provided “a great saving to the territory over its previous outlay for the care of law breakers.”

In 1885, the Territorial legislature created a separate Prison Commission. This three-member Commission watched over the budget and operation of the prison, and eventually had authority to investigate complaints about conditions at the facility. A year later, the prison received a donation of books to start a library. The library also subscribed to current newspapers and magazines, and made them available to the inmates.

In 1890, the federal government turned the penitentiary over to the newly-admitted state of Idaho. According to Hawley’s History, “On August 1, 1890, there were seventy-five prisoners in the penitentiary, six of whom were United States prisoners.”
Idaho State Penitentiary, ca. 1918. J. H. Hawley photo.
Over a period of years, the Penitentiary grounds and facilities were expanded and officials implemented numerous upgrades.

One major improvement was the construction of a massive outer wall. Prisoners who had been taught stone masonry actually cut sandstone from quarries east of the prison, then they and the other prisoners assembled the wall. The Idaho Statesman noted (July 12, 1894) that “The convicts at the penitentiary will have a holiday today in honor of the completion of the new stone wall.”

Four years later, the prisoners also completed construction of a new stone dining hall. The prisoners’ room could hold “250 men, without any crowding, and could seat 300 men without any inconvenience. … ” Besides the kitchen, the main floor contained a separate staff and guard dining room. A full basement held six rooms, including a bake shop and a laundry. 

The state operated the facility until 1973, when all the prisoners were transferred to a modern new prison about ten miles south of Boise. That same year, the "Old Pen" was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the site is open to the public under the management of the Idaho State Historical Society.
Reference]: [French], [Hawley]
"Old Idaho Penitentiary," National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.
Rachel S Johnstone, Inmates of the Idaho Penitentiary 1864-1947, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (2008).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Rocky Mountain Fur Company Advertises for "Enterprising Young Men" [otd 03/20]

William H. Ashley.
Legends of America.
Missouri Republican, St. Louis, March 20, 1822: "To enterprising young men. The subscriber wishes to engage one hundred young men to ascend the Missouri river to its source, there to be employed for one, two, or three years … "

Signed by William H. Ashley, the job posting marked the first public presence of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company (RMFC).

At the time, independent American trappers and small fur companies were focused on exploiting the Missouri River watershed, east of the Continental Divide. Ashley and his partner, Andrew Henry, had more ambitious plans.

Pennsylvanian Andrew Henry first entered the fur trade in 1808, when he was about thirty-three years old. He led an attempt to establish a Missouri Fur Company (MFC) post at Three Forks, in Montana. When Indian attacks ended that venture disastrously, he moved to Idaho and built Fort Henry, four to five miles southwest of today's St. Anthony.

A hard winter soon crippled that effort. The MFC struggled along for a number of years, but the War of 1812 drew Henry's interest for the duration. After his military service, until he joined up with Ashley, Henry focused on mining activities around St. Louis.

William Ashley had moved to St. Louis from Virginia in 1808, when he was about thirty years old. Prior to 1822, he engaged in real estate development, banking, and mining. He too served in the Missouri militia, rising from a captaincy during the War of 1812 to the rank of General in 1822. Along with all that, Ashley engaged in politics, being elected in 1820 as the first Lieutenant-Governor of the new state of Missouri.

Although the Ashley-Henry announcement drew enough men to their new company, the RMFC got off to a shaky start: The Arikara Indians of South Dakota inflicted heavy losses on their Missouri River expedition. After that, the company avoided that area and dispatched trains of pack horses to the Rocky Mountains on a more direct overland route.

RMFC trappers crossed the Continental Divide into the Green River area via South Pass in 1824. Two parties continued into Idaho – one, led by legendary Mountain Man Jedediah Smith, camped on the Portneuf River in the fall. In October, along the Salmon River, Smith's group met the "Snake Brigade," the large fur-trapping operation of the British-Canadian Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) [blog, Oct 6].
Mountain Man. Frederic Remington drawing.

The RMFC overcame its inauspicious start and the 1823 and 1824 seasons yielded substantial returns. However, after perhaps too many years in the wilderness and too many close calls, Andrew Henry chose to retire from the fur trade. He returned to his mining interests and died just eight years later.

Assessing the fur business, Ashley decided that the vast beaver resources west of the Continental Divide promised much better returns than the highly competitive Missouri River watershed. However, the region was too sparsely populated to support fixed trading posts. Traders in Canada had used temporary trading stations for some time, but those were small and largely ad hoc. Ashley adapted the idea to initiate what became a defining feature of the Mountain Man era, the annual rendezvous, a huge trading fair … and drunken celebration.

Gatherings in 1825 and 1826 made Ashley a wealthy man. Thus, late in the 1826 affair, he essentially sold the Rocky Mountain Fur Company to three experienced traders. He never returned west. Later, he served several terms as a U. S. Congressman from Missouri, before his death in 1838.

The RMFC would vigorously compete with the HBC, and with other American rivals, for the next decade. In the process, the Company would introduce a long line of famous Mountain Men into the trade: the Sublette brothers, David Jackson, Thomas "Broken Hand" Fitzpatrick, freed slave Jim Beckwourth, Jim Bridger, and many others.
References: [B&W]
H. M. Chittenden, The American Fur Trade of the Far West, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1986).

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Arthur Cronquist: Famed Botanist with Idaho Connections [otd 03/19]

Dr. Cronquist. New York Botanical Garden.
World-renowned botanist Dr. Arthur Cronquist was born March 19, 1919 in San Jose, California. An expert on the broad Compositae or Asteraceae family (sunflowers and daisies, among others), Cronquist began his scientific career in Idaho and maintained a life-long interest in the area. He grew up near Portland, Oregon and then Pocatello, Idaho.

After high school, Arthur enrolled at the University of Idaho-Southern Branch (now Idaho State University [blog, Sept 22]). He planned to major in range management, which led him to a plant taxonomy course taught by eminent Idaho botanist Ray J. Davis.

Davis sparked Arthur’s interest in botany, and became his mentor. As a semester project, the professor required each class member to do a field study on some plant family. The story is told that Arthur and another top student flipped a coin and the loser – Cronquist – had to “settle” for Compositae. The account concludes, “Thus do legends begin.”

Arthur soon transferred to Utah State University, where he received a B.S. degree in 1938 and an M.S. two years later. During those years, he found time to study Idaho flora – around Dubois for the U. S. Forest Service, and also as a contract plant specimen collector. He earned a Ph.D. degree from the University of Minnesota in 1944. During the last year of his doctoral studies, he worked on his specialty at the New York Botanical Garden.

Dr. Cronquist next held teaching positions at the University of Georgia and then at Washington State University. Starting in 1951, he served a year in Europe as a botanist for the U. S. government. He spent the rest of his career after 1952 back at the New York Botanical Garden. At the same time, he also served on the faculties of Columbia University and the City University of New York.

This brief essay cannot begin to detail Cronquist’s monumental contributions to botany – those encompass a huge body of field observations as well as landmark treatises on botanical theory and principles. Cronquest's many honors include the Asa Gray Award, for career achievement, from the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and the Linnean Medal for Botany.

His obituary noted that he, “was also a recognized expert on the plants of the Western United States. He wrote or contributed to nearly all the major works on plants of the region and was at work on a six-volume series about the plants of the Intermountain West when he died.”
Sunflowers. U. S. Dept of Agriculture.

In fact, Cronquist died on Sunday, March 22, 1992.  He was then scheduled to be featured speaker the following Friday for the Annual Symposium of the Idaho Academy of Science, in Caldwell. A hastily-organized tribute session extolled Arthur’s professional legacy as well as his humanity: Colleagues and students remembered him as an animated raconteur, clever punster, and a helpful and caring friend. He was also renowned as a boisterous singer. One colleague said, “About the halls of the New York Botanical Garden, Cronquist bellows Russian folk songs. (He has an excellent bass voice.)”

After the meeting, I prepared a summary of the event for the Academy newsletter. I found it fascinating that the speaker had subconsciously slipped into the present tense. (Nor was he the only one who did so.) My comment: “Cronquist was obviously a man so alive in life, he barged full-bellow into a tribute after his death.”
References: Theodore M. Barkley, “In Memoriam: Arthur Cronquist: An Appreciation,” Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Vol. 119, No. 4, Lawrence, Kansas (1992).
“Biographical Note,” Arthur Cronquist Records (1939-1992), Mertz Library, The New York Botanical Garden (1999).
E. E. Filby, “Memories of Dr. Arthur Cronquist,” The Retort, Vol. 28, No. 3, Idaho Academy of Science, Idaho Falls (September 1992).
“Obituary: Arthur Cronquist,” The New York Times (March 26, 1992).

Monday, March 18, 2019

Bonneville Rancher, Developer, and Public Servant Hank Kiefer [otd 03/18]

Henry W. “Hank” Kiefer was born March 18, 1851 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania … one of twelve children born to the family between 1844 and about 1863. As a boy, he served an apprenticeship as a machinist, while also working part-time for his father, a Master Tanner. His father died in 1865, his mother two years later.
Golden Spike Ceremony. National Park Service.

In 1869, Hank decided to head West. French’s History specifically mentions June as the date when he arrived in Colorado. It may well be significant that the transcontinental railroad had been completed just a month earlier.

Within a year or so, Kiefer landed a job with Coe & Carter, a well-known Omaha firm that had major contracts to supply ties and lumber  for the Union Pacific Railroad. Over the next few years, the job took Hank through Wyoming, Utah, and into Idaho.

In 1878, the Utah & Northern Railway extended its narrow gauge tracks across eastern Idaho, headed for Montana. Kiefer took charge of a logging camp on the South Fork of the Snake River. As the tracks approached the Montana border in the spring of 1879, Hank moved the camp closer to Monida Pass.

Kiefer worked on tie contracts in the Rocky Mountains until the spring of 1883. At that time, he purchased a ranch on Willow Creek, northeast of Eagle Rock (now Idaho Falls). There, he raised cattle, farmed, and also planted an apple orchard. Four years later, Eagle Rock school teachers took their pupils on a field trip to see the first home-grown apples in the Upper Snake River Valley.

Hank spent the rest of the 1880s tending to his crops and livestock. Thus, the Idaho Register in Idaho Falls reported (October 1, 1887), “Hank Kiefer has purchased from Taylor & Smith one of the latest improved hay balers and will soon commence operating it, when he will be prepared to ship hay.”

 In 1892, he was elected Assessor for Bingham County. At that time, the county encompassed most of eastern Idaho. He then served two years as sheriff, before being elected again as County Assessor.

In the summer of 1901, Kiefer, like many others, took a fling at the the Klondike gold rush, where he apparently did better than most. The following year voters elected him to a term in the Idaho Senate.

As his farm-ranch operation prospered, Kiefer invested in irrigation projects, real estate, and a mercantile company in Iona. He remained president of one canal company for nearly twenty-six years, until the holdings were reorganized as a cooperative water district.

In 1907, his expertise in land development, and his Republican Party loyalties, led President Theodore Roosevelt to appoint Kiefer to be Register for the U. S. Land Office in Blackfoot. He would subsequently be re-appointed to that position by President Taft.

Idaho Falls Carnegie Library construction, ca 1915.
Bonneville County Historical Society.
However, he still retained an interest in Idaho Falls and, in 1908, donated a lot to be used for a public library. A committee proceeded with a request for a Carnegie Library grant and the facility opened in 1916. After his tenure as Land Office Register ended, Hank became a member of the Idaho Falls City Council. In late 1917, he served a half-year as Acting Mayor.

After that, Kiefer began winding down his active participation in business and politics. He lived a comfortable retirement until his death in 1937.
References: [French]
Barzilla W. Clark, Bonneville County in the Making, Self-published, Idaho Falls, Idaho (1941).
Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–1934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Medical Researcher and Teacher Thomas C. Galloway, M.D. [otd 03/17]

Dr. Galloway.
University of Idaho Archives.
Eminent physician Thomas C. Galloway was born March 17, 1886 in Boise. As a researcher at the Northwestern University Medical School, Galloway made award-winning discoveries in the symptomatic treatment of "bulbar" poliomyelitis, one of the most dreaded diseases of the Twentieth Century.

His father, of the same name, was among a handful of whites who first settled along the Weiser River in 1863 [blog, June 6]. The elder Thomas married in 1868 and began raising a family. After about fifteen years, Galloway owned a huge herd of horses. However, his oldest children were also approaching high school age, and he and wife Mary felt their local educational opportunities were limited.

Father Tom sold his horses, and one of two ranches they then owned, and moved the family to Boise City. There, he bought a home as well as much other real estate. It was also there that Thomas, Junior, was born. The Galloways remained in Boise until the older children had completed high school, then moved back to Weiser in 1896-1899.

Thomas, Junior, arrived at the University of Idaho campus at a time of substantial growth. During that general period, contractors completed a new women's dormitory, a gymnasium, and a new science hall. Of course, he would have also been on campus when fire destroyed the Administration Building at the end of March 1906: He graduated that spring.

He taught chemistry at the University for a year and then moved on to the University of Chicago. The Idaho Statesman proudly reported (May 19, 1911) that Galloway was “winning high honors in scholastic and athletic lines” there. As a junior at the University's Rush Medical College, he had already published a paper in the American Journal of Physiology. Moreover, having taken up wrestling for exercise, he had become a two-time wresting champion at the school.

Galloway earned a medical degree from Rush Medical College in 1912. He spent the rest of his life in the Chicago area, although we're told that, "At his ranch in Idaho, Dr. Galloway hosted family reunions each summer for fifty years."

Thomas spent over a half century affiliated with the Evanston Hospital, and taught for many years at two other area hospitals and the Northwestern University Medical School. Galloway eventually served as Director of the Medical School. He authored or co-authored numerous medical publications.

His most noted discovery involved the use of tracheotomy to treat "bulbar" poliomyelitis. This polio variant causes severe breathing difficulties even before paralysis impacts the diaphragm and lungs.
Iron lung ward for treatment of polio victims, ca. 1953.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

Galloway carefully studied the risks associated with the tracheal operation versus the known breathing problems, including fatal respiratory arrest. His 94-page monograph describes the results and preferred procedure in great detail. His work is credited with saving hundreds of lives, and is still valid today, although polio vaccines have reduced the disease from a widespread, frightening scourge to a relatively uncommon pathology.

Dr. Galloway received many awards: An Honorary Doctor of Science degree from UI, recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus by Rush Medical College, and the James E. Newcomb Award from the American Laryngological Association. Galloway passed away in February 1977.
References: Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Thomas C. Galloway, Treatment of Respiratory Emergencies including Bulbar Poliomyelitis, Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UK (1953).
Rafe Gibbs, Beacon for Mountain and Plain: Story of the University of Idaho, The Caxton Printers, CaIdwell (© 1962, Regents of the University of Idaho).
Frank Harris, "History of Washington County and Adams County," Weiser Signal (1940s).

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Workmans' Compensation Law Initiated in Idaho [otd 03/16]

On March 16, 1917, Governor Moses Alexander signed Idaho's first Workers' Compensation law. The state thus joined a trend that began in this country around 1910-1911, and even earlier in Europe.
Governor Alexander.
McDonald, Moses Alexander.

Historically, records of the concept date back almost as far as we have writing … some four thousand years. It seems likely that the idea grew right along with the notion of one man paying another to work for him. Written laws, like the ancient Hammurabic Code of 1750 B.C., provided detailed schedules: so many drachmas (or other monetary unit) for loss of a finger, and so on.

Ancient writings indicate that the codes based such schedules on the actual disability assumed to be associated with a specific, “quantifiable” injury … broken or severed limb, loss of an eye, crushed foot, etc. The concept of impairment (diminished ability to perform a task) due to an injury was undeveloped or non-existent. Thus, a “bad back” or double vision from a blow to the head might not be grounds for compensation, even if you lost your job because of it.

In Europe, after a hiatus during the Middle Ages, the “common law” began to provide some recourse for an employee injured on the job. However, those precedents set the bar very high before the employer had to pay anything. The injured party had to prove a considerable degree of negligence on the part of the employer.

If a worker’s actions, or those of a fellow employee, somehow contributed to the injury, the employer was off the hook. Stumble and fall off a scaffold that had no safety rails … sorry, you should watch your step. A guy above drops a hammer on your head … sue him.

Workers might not even be compensated if they were injured by a "known" hazard of the workplace. They were judged to have "assumed that risk" when they took the job. People accepted exceedingly dangerous jobs – like hard-rock mining – because those positions paid better than ordinary work.

The Industrial Revolution had brought with it many new risks, with more workers exposed to those dangers. Under common law, injured workers generally had to file civil lawsuits to have any hope of compensation. The worker usually lost, but not always … so employers had to worry about defending such cases, as well as paying off the occasional big loss.
Workshop, ca. 1919. Personal Collection.

As suits by injured employees proliferated, industry leaders decided an insurance program, coupled with exemptions from all those legal actions, would be cheaper in the long run. In 1884, the first effective workers’ accident insurance laws went on the books in Prussia.

The trend spread to the United States in 1905-1908. Observers usually credit Wisconsin with the first effective workers’ compensation laws in the U.S., in 1911. (Laws passed a year earlier in New York state had been gutted by constitutional issues.) During the next five or six years, over thirty other states followed suit.

The Idaho governor called for a program in his 1913 message to the legislature, but nothing happened. The subject does not seem to have come up in the 1915 session. Then, in 1917, Governor Alexander urged passage of a system “drafted in accordance with the highest ideals of giving adequate compensation to the injured.”

The legislature did pass such a law, which Alexander signed on April 16th.
References: [Hawley]
Price V. Fishback, "Workers' Compensation," Encyclopedia, Robert Whaples (Ed.), Economic History Association (March 26, 2008).
Gregory P Guyton, “A Brief History of Workers' Compensation,” The Iowa Orthopaedic Journal, Vol. 19 (1999) pp 106-110.
Dylan J. McDonald (ed.), The Moses Alexander Collection, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (2002).

Friday, March 15, 2019

Boise Developer and Saloon Owner Madison Smith [03/15]

Madison Smith. H. T. French photo
Boise pioneer Madison C. Smith was born March 15, 1839 in Richmond, Missouri, about 35 miles northeast of Kansas City. The family moved West in 1851, crossing Idaho in a wagon train. Local Indian unrest was rising at that time, but the party had no trouble. They settled in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Unfortunately, Indians killed Madison’s father in 1856, so he had to work the family ranch until his mother remarried.

Madison was out on his own by 1860, and had built up a small stake. In 1864, he and his brother-in-law loaded a mule train with freight for the gold camps near Idaho City. That area was apparently well-supplied when they arrived, so they moved on to profitably sell their goods in Boise City. Although Smith retained some property and a house in Oregon, he made his home in Boise for most of his remaining years.

Smith found odd jobs where he could for awhile, and then settled into working at a popular saloon. Finally, the Idaho Statesman reported (August 14, 1873) that “Jim Lawrence and M. C. Smith will open out, this week, a saloon in the brick building formerly occupied by … a barber shop. … They understand the business, have many friends, and will endeavor to please their patrons.”

They moved into a larger space after six years or so, but the Lawrence & Smith Saloon remained a fixture on Main Street for at least 15-18 years. It appears that Madison went into business by himself around 1890. We do know he bought a lot near downtown a year after that (Idaho Statesman, June 14, 1891).

In 1893, Smith took a minor flyer in politics: He ran for Boise City Tax Collector on the Populist Party ticket led by his nephew, who was running for Mayor. (His brother-in-law, Peter J. Pefley, had been elected mayor in 1887.) Voters crushed the Populist slate and there's no evidence that Smith took any further interest in politics.

Madison, who never married, largely held aloof from the “boom" mentality of many frontier city developers. His conservative approach was surely influenced by a disappointment in 1896-1897. Smith had loaned money to his brother-in-law and sister to invest in a saddlery company. But the firm collapsed (Idaho Statesman, September 6, 1896), and he recovered less than half his investment.

Even so, Madison was comfortable enough in his financial circumstances that he listed himself as “capitalist" in the U. S. Census for 1900. At that point, he still owned at least one saloon, and may have had property in Lewiston, where his brother-in-law had moved.
Union Block, Boise. Library of Congress
Smith closely followed the building boom that gripped Boise in 1902. Various organizations initiated ten major projects that year, including a new Episcopal Cathedral, a high school, and several commercial blocks.

One such project was the so-called “Union Block," on the northeast side of Idaho Street between Seventh and Eight, and one street over from Madison's saloon property on Main. Three years later, Smith sold the saloon and used the proceeds to buy an interest in the Union Block (Idaho Statesman, October 4 and November 29, 1905).

Madison soon moved into an apartment in the Union Block and managed his leased properties from there. He passed away from pneumonia in June 1921, after a year of increasingly poor health.

Today, the Union Block –  still in use –  is on the National Register of Historic Places. Also, according to the Idaho State Historical Society, the Society now owns a fancy hardwood bar that once belong to Smith. He reportedly ordered it from “the Brunswick Company" around 1890, and it continued in use at various locations for about seventy years. The bar is now the centerpiece of the “M. C. Smith Saloon," a meeting facility at the Historical Museum.
References: French, [Hawley]
“Boise Building Chronology, ” References Series No. 672, Idaho State Historical Society (1983).