Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ricks College (Brigham Young University-Idaho) President Hyrum Manwaring [otd 06/23]

President Manwaring.
BYU-Idaho archives.
Hyrum Manwaring, President of Ricks College (now Brigham Young University - Idaho) was born June 23, 1877, southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1890, the family moved to near Provo, where Hyrum began working as a railroad section hand. He eventually advanced to a foreman’s position. However, he felt the need for more education and attended the preparatory school at Brigham Young University.

In 1899, Manwaring started a three-year mission in Australia. He then mixed personal education and teaching for several years until, in 1911, he received his B.A. degree from Brigham Young University in Provo. After teaching English at Provo for three years, he joined the Ricks College faculty in Rexburg, Idaho, as Head of the English Department.

Manwaring’s very first views of the campus and the town depressed him. He later wrote, “I stood lonely and very depressed and silently shed tears to think I was bringing my dear wife and children to this place.” But then, somehow, “I suddenly seemed to catch the spirit of the pioneers, and to dream of the great potentials that lay before me.”

Next, he met the “vigorous” student body, who “looked energetic and eager to work at any task that was hard and challenging.” In the end, he wrote, “I left Rexburg happy and enthusiastic with the potentials I saw and experienced.”

When Ricks became a junior college in 1923, Manwaring served as Head of the Department of Psychology and Education. That same year he received his Master’s degree from BYU-Provo. He also acted as Summer School Director while then-President Romney attended graduate school, and later taught some of the first night classes provided at Ricks.

In 1929, the Ricks Board of Education offered Manwaring the job of Acting President. At the time, the family had sold their Idaho property and moved to Washington, D. C., where Hyrum planned to attend George Washington University. Manwaring took some time to consider his options before accepting the position. His tenure was soon made permanent.

Over the next decade, Manwaring's faith and natural optimism must have been sorely tried. Budgets had always been tight, and even before he assumed the Presidency rumors abounded that the school would be closed. This being the depths of the Great Depression, the LDS Church found it couldn't give the school away. The state of Idaho said they couldn't afford to run it.

To survive at all, as a church or state institution, Ricks needed full accreditation. With that, earned credits could be transferred wherever a student might want to go. Hyrum pushed hard to upgrade programs, and to convince the accrediting body that they provided a quality education. Finally, despite its uncertain future, the college received the coveted certification in April 1936.

The following year, the school began to receive better funding from Church authorities. Even so, rumors about a possible closure continued to surface whenever finances were particularly tight. Finally, in the spring of 1940, school officials received word that there would be no further attempts to give the school away.
Student Center. BYU-Idaho photo.

As with most colleges and universities, Ricks had to substantially step up recruitment during World War II. Even so, male enrollment for the fall of 1943 showed a dramatic decline.

In 1944, Manwaring made his last commencement address as College President. He continued teaching at Ricks for almost a decade, and then taught part-time until he passed away in 1956. Today, his memory is honored at BYU-Idaho in the Manwaring Student Center.
                                                                                 
References: [Defen]
David L. Crowder, The Spirit of Ricks: A History of Ricks College, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho (1997).
“Hyrum and Bessie Manwaring,” The Presidents and First Ladies, Brigham Young University – Idaho.
Jerry C. Roundy, Ricks College: A Struggle for Survival, Ricks College Press, Rexburg (1976).

Friday, June 22, 2018

Irrigation Water Flows into East Idaho's Great Feeder Canal [otd 06/22]

On June 22, 1895, water was diverted from the Snake River into the Great Feeder Canal. The Diversion Dam, located about 20 miles northeast of Idaho Falls, supplied water to one of the most ambitious of the early irrigation projects in Idaho. The main Canal and the many smaller canals it feeds now make up one of the largest irrigation systems in the American West.
Headgates, Great Feeder Canal.

As in the Boise and Payette river valleys, pioneers along the upper Snake River began digging small irrigation ditches almost as soon as they settled there. Thus, the first "active irrigation farming" began in 1868, just three years after Matt Taylor built his toll bridge [blog, December 10]. The farm was located about 15 miles north of the spot called, successively, Taylor's Bridge, Eagle Rock, and (today) Idaho Falls.

Still, the region remained mostly ranch country until the railroad arrived in 1879, when homesteads blossomed. To this point, settlers had mostly tackled side streams of the Snake River itself, or creeks flowing into it. Finally, in 1880, ambitious irrigation companies filed two major water rights. They edged small weirs into the Snake’s current to divert water into multi-user canal systems.

Within a decade a network of canals laced the plains along both forks of the Snake. However, water supplies for these systems depended largely upon the vagaries of the river. It was sometimes a case of too little or too much. Often, small diversion dams washed out during spring high water and had to be rebuilt every season. Conversely, major changes in the river course sometimes left entire canal systems without a source.

One such twist created what locals called the "Dry Bed." The Bed had once been an important river channel but now lay dry most of the year. Thus, in 1895, a score of different canal companies cooperatively formed the Great Feeder Canal Company. Construction began immediately on a substantial diversion dam and ditch segment. They located the dam far enough upriver so the flow would fill the old channel and feed water to numerous component canal systems.

Reported with a full-page spread in the Idaho Falls Times (June 27, 1895), the opening was a well-attended, gala event. There were songs, a prayer, a poetry recital, and – of course – speeches by various dignitaries.

All did not go quite as planned, however. As the third or fourth major speaker began, “Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to – ”
“Boom!!!” the Times reporter wrote. The miner handling the dynamite had jumped the gun on breaching the holding wall, “and with a mighty roar in rushed the foaming stream and 2,000 second feet of water had passed through the headgate before the speaker could utter another word.”
Great Feeder Canal.

As with all such systems, their work had only begun. Continual upkeep and periodic upgrades – supplemental dams, replacement headgates, and more – were and still are required to maintain a good flow to water users. Today, besides its traditional uses, real estate ads tout residential properties that are near or "back up to" the Great Feeder Canal. (Which does not mean a property has any water rights associated with the Canal, but it sounds impressive.)

The Great Feeder, or Dry Bed as it is still identified on many maps, is also host to an odd, but useful annual event. A special fishing season opens on April 1 when the channel is emptied for routine maintenance. Individuals with valid fishing licenses can each "harvest" a half-dozen fish – which would die anyway – using any means short of chemicals, electric shock, or explosives.
                                                                                 
References: [B&W], [Hawley]
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 (1991).
John L. Powell (ed.), “Great Feeder Canal Company Records, 1896-1983,” Manuscript MSSI 31, Brigham Young University-Idaho Special Collections, Rexburg, Idaho (2002).
Steven Pope, “Dry Bed Canal Fishing Begins,” KIDK.com (April 1, 2010).

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Sportsman, Animal Advocate, and District Judge Charles F. Koelsch [otd 06/21]

Judge Koelsch. H. T. French photo.
Idaho District Judge Charles F. Koelsch was born June 21, 1872, in Mayfield, Wisconsin, about twenty miles north of Milwaukee. He graduated from high school at the age of fifteen and then studied at Northern Indiana Normal School (now Valparaiso University). Charles taught school several years after that, but also studied law.

Koelsch moved to Boise City in 1895 and began reading law in the offices of William E. Borah [blog, June 29]. At that time, Borah was gearing up to run for the U. S. House of Representatives. Koelsch was admitted to the Idaho bar in November 1897 and practiced in Borah’s office for about a year. Charles dissociated himself from Borah’s office when voters elected him to be a Probate Judge in the fall of 1898.

Charles served two terms in that capacity. In 1904, he was elected to the position of Prosecuting Attorney for Ada County. During his term as Probate Judge, Koelsch published An Exposition on the Constitution of the State of Idaho, the first text to discuss and analyze provisions of that document.

As Prosecuting Attorney, Koelsch played a peripheral role in the trial of “Big Bill” Haywood, accused of conspiring to assassinate ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg. In 1946, Koelsch wrote “The Haywood Case: A Review” for the Idaho Mining Journal, Boise. It is often cited as an account by an “insider” of events during the trial and the surrounding context.

After his term as Prosecuting Attorney, Koelsch returned to private practice in partnership with Joseph T. Pence. About that same time, Pence was elected to a term as Mayor of Boise [blog, November 9]. Charles himself was elected to a term in the state House of Representatives in 1912. The firm of Pence & Koelsch would handle many important cases for well over a decade.

In 1926, Koelsch campaigned for the seat as Judge of the Third District Court, covering Ada, Boise, Elmore and Owyhee counties, but lost (badly) in the primary. Three years later, Governor H. Clarence Baldridge appointed him to that position when the incumbent resigned. Koelsch continued to be elected to the judgeship for over twenty years.

A “great sportsman,” in 1938 Charles and some like-minded citizens proposed a voter Initiative to create a non-political Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Koelsch drafted the Initiative, which passed handily.
Pronghorn antelope. Idaho Fish & Game.

During his long tenure as judge, Koelsch handled many crucial issues. But in 1944, he “ruled” on a less weighty matter involving a jury trial where he was presiding (Post-Register, Idaho Falls; November 23, 1944). Asked if female jurors should or should not wear their hats, he said, “If they are pretty hats the women may as well wear them. … If they are those ugly ones, the ladies had better take them off.”

Charles retired from the bench only when forced to do so by a change in the legally-mandated retirement age. That was on January 1, 1951. His son, M. Oliver Koelsch, actually succeeded him in that position. (Eight years later, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed M. Oliver to be a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge.)

Koelsch did not retire from active participation in public affairs, however. Before 1900, Charles had helped form Idaho’s first humane society, to prevent cruelty to animals. That group did not last. However, he was later affiliated with the Idaho Humane Society that is still in operation today. Three years after his retirement, Koelsch signed (Post-Register, Idaho Falls, August 4, 1954) an animal cruelty complaint “in behalf of the Idaho Humane Society.”

Charles F. Koelsch passed away in April 1965.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
Idaho Humane Society: History, Boise.
“[Judge Koelsch News],” Idaho Statesman, Boise (August 1926 – February 1950).
J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle … , Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York (1997).
Byron Johnson, “Homer Martin - a ‘Poacher’ Extraordinary, ” Wild Idaho News, Boise (Aug 14, 2006).
Charles F. Koelsch: MS 152, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (December 11, 1990).

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Boise River Water Flows into the New York Canal [otd 06/20]

On June 20, 1900, a rude diversion structure turned water from the Boise River into the New York Canal. The diversion, though feeble, culminated nearly twenty years of effort to bring irrigation water to the higher benches paralleling the river.
New York Canal construction. Boise State University.
Individuals and small cooperative groups began diverting irrigation water from the Boise River less than a year after the 1862 gold discoveries in the Boise Basin. With limited resources, ditch developers had to be clever and creative. Whenever possible, they led their channels along old creek beds and other natural depressions. According to Beal & Wells, "by the summer of 1864 all the river bottom land in Boise Valley was under irrigation."

As Idaho's population grew and funds became available, developers tackled larger, more ambitious irrigation projects. Around 1882, investors from the East began considering an extensive project along the Boise.  They had the notion that gold recovered from hydraulic placer sites over on the Snake River might pay much of the construction cost. After that, collecting fees for water delivered to new farms on the Boise Bench would almost be “gravy.”

The placers would have produced mostly “fine gold,” that is, tiny particles that can be finer than flour. Fine-sized gold tends to be of higher purity and there can be a lot of it along a big river like the Snake. However, no economical methods to recover the dusty material existed at that time. Thus, in the end, the placer gold mining notion went nowhere.

Company Engineer Arthur D. Foote laid out plans for a system that could eventually irrigate an estimated half million acres. Foote then spent thousands of dollars to survey a seventy-five mile main canal and an intricate grid of lateral ditches. With an elaborate map drawn from these surveys, planners could start wooing investors.

Work began on the upper end of the canal in 1884. However, very little got done because a recession in the East dried up capital. The startup firm did just enough work – basically, a handful of men chipping away at the rocks – to maintain their water right through 1886. Competing efforts also lagged, and then collapsed.

Not until 1890 did serious work again proceed on the canal. A fresh infusion of capital resulted in about 14 miles of partially finished ditch before that money ran out in late 1892. Then the nationwide Panic of '93 caused yet more delay. When money again became available, in 1896-1898, several competing interests fought over who had rights to what. Some of these cases rose all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court.
Boise River Diversion Dam, 1909.
Canal in foreground. National Archives.
In 1899, various interests finally reached an accommodation in what became the new New York Canal Company. At last, in 1900, they got water through their ditch. However, the amount was a mere trickle compared to Foote's grand original concept. Insufficient flow and uncertain water rights created a snarl of problems.

Finally, water users asked Congress to authorize a larger project to meet their needs. In the end, the U. S. Reclamation Service (later the Bureau of Reclamation) took over the canal and made it part of a larger Payette-Boise Project (Idaho Statesman, September 1, 1905).

The Bureau of Reclamation made two key additions to the project: a permanent Diversion Dam, 7-8 miles upstream from downtown Boise, and a reservoir (now called Lake Lowell) near Nampa. Finally in 1909, substantial amounts of water began flowing through a greatly expanded New York Canal system.
                                                                                 
Reference: [B&W], [French]
“The Beginning of the New York Canal,” Reference Series No. 190, Idaho State Historical Society (March 1972).
Arthur Hart, “Idaho History: The New York Canal was an epic achievement,” The Idaho Statesman, March 14, 2010.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Idaho Chief Justice, Businessman, and Educator James F. Ailshie [otd 06/19]

James Franklin Ailshie, Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, was born June 19, 1868 in Greene County, Tennessee, 50-70 miles east of Knoxville. He attended a "noted preparatory school" through his junior year and then moved to Missouri, where he taught school. After a couple years there, he took a Principal’s job in Washington state. Ailshie then attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
Waller Hall, Willamette University, 1880.
Salem Public Library Collections.

Ailshie received his B.A. and LL.B. degrees from Willamette in 1891, then moved to Grangeville, Idaho to establish a practice. By that time, the town had substantially outgrown nearby Mount Idaho. In 1892 and again in 1898, Grangeville citizen tried unsuccessfully to capture the county seat designation. (They finally succeeded in 1902.) In addition to his thriving law practice, Ailshie served two terms as a Regent of the University of Idaho, starting in 1893.

Ailshie was elected to the Idaho Supreme Court in 1902 and moved to Boise the following year. Reelected to the Court, he served until his resignation in 1914. During four of his years on the Court, he served as Chief Justice and was, at one time, the youngest Chief Justice on any state Supreme Court.

In 1909, Willamette University honored him with a Doctor of Laws degree. James H. Hawley noted in 1920 that "About two-thirds of the [Idaho] constitution was tested in the court during his service on the bench."

While not on the Court, Ailshie was very active in Republican Party politics. In 1898, delegates to the state convention of the Republican Party elected him as convention president. In 1900, 1916, and 1932, he served as delegate to the Republican National Convention. In 1913, he missed election to the U.S. Senate by just four votes in the legislature.
Justice Ailshie.
University of Idaho Special collections.

Ailshie resigned from the Court in 1914 to run for a U. S. Senate seat under the new direct election mode dictated by the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. He had hoped to resign earlier, but the illness of Justice George Stewart [blog, Feb 26] delayed that. (Stewart died the following September.) After his failed run – which he blamed partly on his inability to campaign – he moved from Boise to Coeur d'Alene and resumed his private practice.

Ailshie was President of the Idaho State Bar Association in 1921-22 and was a long-time member of the their Board of Commissioners. He also served three years on the Executive Committee of the American Bar Association, and over a decade on that organization's General Council.

In the late Twenties and early Thirties, he was a member of the Idaho Law Journal Board of Advisers. During that period, he also served on the state Commission on Uniform State Laws. That Commission advises the legislature on laws that should be revised to be more consistent with the laws in other state.

Besides serving on the University of Idaho Board of Regents, Ailshie taught there at the College of Law, lecturing on "mining law and legal ethics." For a time while practicing law in Coeur d'Alene, he owned a farm-ranch operation near Grangeville. He was also President of the Grangeville Light & Power Company and Director of a bank there.

Ailshie again served on the Supreme Court in 1939-41, and from 1945 until his death in May 1947.
                                                                                 
References: [Defen], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“James Franklin Ailshie: Biographical Sketch,” James Franklin Ailshie Papers 1902-1931, Manuscript Group 9, University of Idaho Special Collections (July 1997).
Ben Ysursa, Idaho Blue Book, 2003-2004, The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho (2003).

Monday, June 18, 2018

Idaho National Guard Mobilized for Mexican Border Duty [otd 06/18]

On June 18, 1916, state authorities mobilized the Idaho National Guard for duty on the Mexican border. The Governor had received instructions from the Secretary of War under the National Defense Act, passed by Congress two weeks earlier.
Pancho Villa, ca 1914.
Library of Congress.

Since about 1910, Mexico had been wracked by fighting between various revolutionary factions. In 1914, a coalition headed by Venustiano Carranza gained the upper hand. Because Carranza promised a constitutional government, eventually, the United States recognized him as President of Mexico in 1915.

However, Carranza’s refusal or inability to propose deep social reforms caused a split with more reformed-minded revolutionaries such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa.

As a revolutionary ally of Carranza, Villa’s success and charisma attracted support from the United States, including guns and ammunition. That ended after his split with Carranza. Angered, Villa turned against his erstwhile allies. In early 1916, Villa’s troops killed seventeen Americans working for a mining company in Mexico.

In March, Villa raided the border town of Columbus, New Mexico, about 70 miles west of El Paso, Texas. The garrison reportedly inflicted heavy casualties (60-80 killed) on the revolutionaries. However, 18 Americans – soldiers, militia, and civilians – were killed and many structures burned.

Newspapers all over the country clamored for action against Villa. Less than three months later, Congress passed the National Defense Act. At the time, the Army was badly undermanned to handle all its commitments, so they needed reinforcements from the Guard. Authorization to call up these units had one major string attached: Guard soldiers were not to operate on foreign territory.

The Spanish-American War of 1898 had established the position that the government could nationalize Guard units for a declared war. Because the Villa campaign was not part of a declared war, the troops could only "defend the border."

That turned out to be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” stance for the government. Some units resented being hauled across the country to watch over a stretch of barren desert. This hardly fit the traditional scenario where militiamen were called out to protect their home state from imminent invasion. But other Guard units wanted to march into Mexico and fight.
National Guard troops bivouacked in Nogales. National Archives.
Mobilized units of the Idaho National Guard arrived in Nogales, Arizona in mid-July, joining regiments from many other states. That freed Pershing’s troops to pursue Villa's units deep into Mexico.

For several months, the Idaho regiment drilled and conducted patrols across the rugged border country. They were mustered out of Federal service in late January 1917. (Some Guard units did see live action and had soldiers killed or wounded.)

A fundamental flaw in the militia/national guard concept appeared even that early: What do we do with the demobilized soldiers? A sergeant wrote to the Idaho Statesman (January 2, 1917), “All of us were working or going to school before we left, while now our positions are filled … ”

Business groups made some sincere, but spotty attempts to alleviate their plight. Yet even today there are few good answers to the problem. For the 1917 soldiers, the issue went away a few months later: Guard units were recalled for duty in World War I. Thus, the border duty became a “dress rehearsal.” It toughened the men to field duty and provided officers and men experience in coordinating the regiment's actions as full units.
                                                                                 
References: [Brit], [Hawley]
Cornelius James Brosnan, History of the State of Idaho, Charles Scribner’s sons, New York (1918).
Jerry M. Cooper, The Rise of the National Guard: The Evolution of the American Militia, 1865-1920, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (2002).
Richard W. Stewart (ed.), American Military History, Vol 1, Center of Military History, U.S. Army, Washiongton, D.C. (2004).

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Nez Percés Drub U. S. Army at Battle of White Bird Canyon [otd 06/17]

On June 17, 1877, a column consisting of U. S. Cavalry and a few civilian volunteers engaged Nez Percés warriors in the Battle of White Bird Canyon. This was the opening clash of the Nez Percés War, which ultimately forced a large part of the tribe off their ancestral homeland.
Chief Joseph, ca. 1895.
Illustrated History of North Idaho
.

The reservation treaty of 1863 divided the Nez Percés into "treaty" and "non-treaty" factions [blog, June 9]. By the mid-1870's, many land-hungry whites had settled on areas held by non-treaty bands. They demanded that authorities force the Indians to move onto the small reservation in Idaho.

Chief Joseph of the Wallowa bands eloquently argued that the original 1855 treaty was still in force for those bands that had refused to sign the later document. That being the case, the authorities were obligated to remove the intruders. An Army staffer who studied the legal situation agreed, declaring that the newer provisions were "null and void" for the non-treaty bands.

Few whites wanted to hear that, so they declared that a majority had signed the 1863 and it was therefore binding on all. As noted in the earlier blog, that claim was at best specious, if not completely dishonest. Nez Percés leadership was not a democracy. Although family ties and a common language linked the bands, each was autonomous and their chiefs formed a council of equals.

The situation exploded when the Army ignored all that and moved ahead with plans to forcibly relocate the bands. Word reached Fort Lapwai on the 15th that the unrest had turned violent, so a force led by Captain David Perry moved out late that evening. They rode through the night and all the following day, with only brief rest stops, and arrived at White Bird Summit about midnight on the 16th. By then warriors had killed 8 to 10 civilians and burned many outlying buildings. The troopers and volunteers began descending into White Bird Canyon at about 4 o’clock in the morning.
Captain David Perry.
Nez Perce National Historical Park

John McDermott's book Forlorn Hope provides a detailed description of the action. After the first contact, Perry tried to arrange a battle line. Meanwhile, the small band of volunteers charged on horseback around the left. Effective counter-fire repelled their attack, so they gathered on a knoll to anchor the left flank.

At a crucial turn, a shot killed one of Perry’s buglers and the other lost his bugle. Then a ferocious Nez Percés counter-attack sent the volunteers fleeing from the field. With no bugler, Perry could not wheel his troops to meet the sudden assault from his exposed flank. His line collapsed into a confused retreat. Perhaps only some desperate stands by small, isolated groups saved the cavalry from total annihilation.

Once north of White Bird Hill, the cavalrymen made a fighting retreat across the prairie. Nez Percés warriors finally broke off the action when a column of armed civilians rode out to help the retreating force. The survivors reached Grangeville between 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning.

The Indians scored a decisive victory, despite being heavily outnumbered (60-70 warriors versus over 100 whites) and fighting with inferior weapons. The Army suffered thirty-four dead (to none for the Indians), and were driven headlong from the battlefield.

In the end, of course, the outnumbered and outgunned Indians were forced to flee Idaho. The tribe's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to escape into Canada is now legendary.
                                                                                 
References: [Illust-North]
“Battle of White Bird,” Reference Series No. 440, Idaho State Historical Society (June 1967).
Jerome A. Greene, Nez Perce Summer, 1877: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poos Crisis, Montana Historical Society Press: Helena (2000).
John Dishon McDermott, Forlorn Hope: The Nez Perce Victory at White Bird Canyon, Caxton Press, Caldwell, Idaho (2003).