Friday, February 22, 2019

Freighter, Rancher, Mine Owner, and State Senator George Rogers [otd 02/22]

George Rogers. Illust-State photo.
Idaho state Senator George Bailey Rogers was born February 22, 1842 in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, 35-40 miles west of Madison.

Dodgeville was a well-known center for lead mining, and young George worked in the mines as well as on his father’s farm. At the age of twenty, he emigrated to California. There, he adapted his mining skills to work in the quartz gold lodes.

After a year or two in California, George tried his hand in the gold fields of British Columbia. Then, in 1865, he returned to the States and prospected in the placer fields of the Boise Basin. Rogers worked hard, but never seems to have done well in the mines. Over the next four or five years, he tried mining in other parts of Idaho, in Montana, Nevada, and back to Montana.

At some point, he had met and become friends with Charles W. Berryman, another young man who grew up in the same Wisconsin lead mine country. Unlike Rogers, Berryman prospered in the Montana mines and returned to Wisconsin “comfortably fixed.” Then, in the spring of 1870, he traveled back to Montana and formed a partnership with Rogers in the freight business. The firm of Berryman & Rogers became one of the largest and best-known freight outfits in eastern Idaho and southern Montana.

However, in late 1881, Utah & Northern Railway tracks reached Butte, Montana. As early as the spring of 1880, the partners had begun looking for another line of work. They sold out in 1883 and turned to ranching and farming near Blackfoot, Idaho. With considerable land in the area, Berryman & Rogers soon began importing purebred cattle and blooded horses to upgrade their herds. For the next twenty years, the two would also be leaders in the development of the town of Blackfoot.
Blackfoot, Idaho, ca. 1898.  Illust-State photo.
On December 8, 1890, newly-elected Senator George B. Rogers was among the men who convened for the first meeting of the Idaho state legislature. He was one of fourteen Republican versus just four Democrats in the Senate. Among their most important early duties was the election of Idaho’s first two United States Senators. Rogers had only the one term in the state Senate. He did serve two terms as Bingham County Commissioner.

In October 1897, President William McKinley appointed Rogers to be the Receiver for the U. S. Land Office located in Blackfoot. As Receiver, he handled the paperwork to verify that settlers had satisfied the requirements of the Homestead Act so they could receive title to their land.

Then, the Idaho Statesman reported (December 9, 1900) that Rogers had purchased a home in Boise. The item said, “Mr. Rogers intends to move to Boise to reside permanently two years hence.”

Rogers never lost his zest for mining. From Boise he ran several mining companies across southern Idaho. For example, the Idaho Statesman reported in 1903 that, “George B. Rogers, who is president of the Intermountain Gold Mining company, arrived home yesterday from a visit to the mine owned by his company, east of Pocatello.”

Six years later, Rogers was also identified as the vice president of a mining company that owned a lode mine about seven miles east of Boise. He also invested in real estate and was president of the Canyon Canal Company, based in Emmett.

In the spring of 1926, George and his wife and a daughter moved to Portland, hoping to improve his health. He passed away there in September.
References: [B&W], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
“[George B. Rogers News],” Blackfoot Register, Blackfoot; Idaho Statesman, Boise; Times-Register, Idaho Falls, Idaho (January 1881 – September 1926).

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Emma Russell Yearian: Wife, Mother, and “Sheep Queen of Idaho” [otd 02/21]

Emma Russell, “Sheep Queen of Idaho,” was born February 21, 1866 in Leavenworth, Kansas. Her father had been born in Illinois and served in an Illinois regiment in the Civil War. By 1870, the family was back in Illinois, living near Chester, about 35 miles west and a bit north of Carbondale. After completing high school, Emma attended Southern Illinois Normal College (now Southern Illinois University) in Carbondale. She received her teaching certificate in 1883 and immediately came west to Idaho in search of a position.
Emma Yearian.
Lemhi County Historical Society.

She began as a tutor and governess for a family living 5-6 miles north of Salmon. She then spent the next two years teaching at tiny schools in the Lemhi Valley. Having been trained on the piano, she was also in demand to play at country dances around the area. At one of those dances, in 1887, she met Thomas Hodge Yearian, a young cattle rancher who played the fiddle at those dances.

Coincidentally, Thomas was born in DuQuoin, Illinois, a small town about 32 miles east Chester. However, the family moved west the same year Emma was born. They lived near Bannack, Montana (15-20 miles west of Dillon) for awhile before purchasing a ranch 25-30 miles up the Lemhi River from Salmon.

Thomas and Emma married in April 1889. Soon, the couple moved into a log cabin on what came to be called Yearian Creek. Between then and 1902, they had six children, one of whom died as a pre-teen.

About that time, Emma decided to go into the sheep business. Her decision was not a popular one, because the Lemhi and Salmon river valleys had always been viewed as cattle country. Thus, Emma had repeated problems with Idaho’s “Two Mile Limit” law, which prohibited the grazing of sheep anywhere within two miles of a cattle property. In reality, however, she and Thomas were ahead of their time, as more and more stockmen began raising both or switched entirely to sheep.

In any case, the “experiment” was a success. In 1910, the family moved from their old log cabin to a fine six-bedroom stone house, equipped with electric lights and indoor plumbing. Despite bouts of severe weather and down markets for wool and lamb, she persevered. It’s unclear exactly when she acquired the “Sheep Queen of Idaho” sobriquet, but it was well deserved and “stuck.”

She even found time to contributed to the literature of her industry. In 1920, the American Sheep Breeder and Wool Grower journal published Emma’s article about her experience in breeding range sheep. She had wondered if she could somehow avoid bringing in fresh “blooded” rams every year or two. (As a given ram’s progeny spread through a flock, the quality deteriorated due to in-breeding.) The first generation from her trial resulted in “splendid bunch of grade rams.” But the second generation was disastrous. Unfortunately, she wrote, “Instead of reproducing the good qualities of both sire and dam, they seemed to emphasize their poorer ones.”
Sheep Grazing. Library of Congress.

By the 1930s, the sheep operation had spread over 2,500 acres of range, with around 5,000 sheep.

Emma’s forceful personality and staunch Republican feelings led her into politics in 1930. She ran for the Idaho House of Representatives and became the first woman to represent Lemhi County in that body. (Some accounts describe her as the first ever woman Representative in Idaho, but that is not correct. The first three women were elected to the House in 1898 [blog, Oct 4].) Her re-election bid was swamped by the Democratic landslide in the next election cycle.

Emma continued her operation until very late in her life, despite a steady decline in U. S. demand for wool and lamb. She passed away on Christmas Day in 1951.
References: [Defen]
L. E. Bragg, More Than Petticoats: Remarkable Idaho Women, The Globe Pequot Press, Guilford, Connecticut (2001).
Fred Snook (Ed.), Centennial History of Lemhi County, Idaho, Lemhi County History Committee, Salmon, Idaho (1992).
Joseph E. Wing, Sheep Farming in America, The Breeder’s Gazette, Chicago, Illinois (1912)..
Emma R. Yearian, “Developing the Range Ewe,” American Sheep Breeder and Wool Grower, Vol. 40, No. 1, Chicago (January 1920).

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Merchant, Mining Investor, Rancher, and Public Servant Alexander McKinlay [otd 02/20]

Pioneer mining investor, merchant, and rancher Alexander Duncan McKinlay was born February 20, 1853 in Clayton County, Iowa, 20-40 miles northwest of Dubuque. In 1877, a year after he married in Iowa, he took up land on Idaho's northern Camas Prairie and went into farming.
Three-horse plow.
Library of Congress.

Almost immediately, he became involved in the Nez Perce War and the other Indian conflicts in 1878 and 1879 ... and acquitted himself well. The Illustrated History of the State of Idaho described him as "a man of the most desperate courage and of the highest order of patriotism."

Probably bolstered by that repute, he was elected an Idaho County Justice of the Peace in 1880. His farm also prospered: In 1882, and again in 1884, he had sufficient capital to finance and lead cattle drives into the northern mining regions.

In 1885, McKinlay decided to pursue opportunities in the Coeur d’Alene gold and silver mines. He and some partners located three tolerable claims, but prospecting was not his main interest. The Illustrated History of North Idaho said, "The earliest pioneer in Wallace, in a business sense, was Alexander D. McKinlay."

He and a partner first started a general merchandise business. Watching the early, explosive growth of the town, they began to focus more on real estate investment. To reduce their merchandising activities, in 1886 they sold off their grocery business. Their largest single real estate holding was the “Holohan-McKinlay Block,” a substantial two-story brick structure. The ground floor housed premium store space, with the second floor devoted to offices, apartments, and storage rooms.
Wallace, ca. 1888. Lewiston Tribune archive.

Soon, they dealt primarily in real estate. They did continue to operate a shop for cigars and other tobacco products. In the 1890s, McKinlay was twice elected a Justice of the Peace in Wallace, and then Probate Court Judge for Shoshone County. He was also twice elected to the Wallace City Council. In 1905, voters elected him to represent the district in the state House of Representatives.

During his term, McKinlay had occasion to visit the Twin Falls area, where extensive irrigation projects had spurred farming and mixed ranching. Greatly impressed, he moved to Twin Falls Falls after his term ended. There, he invested in real estate, joined the local Mining Exchange, and began raising livestock in the area. Voters around his new home elected him for the 1909 term in the House.

Later that year, he was appointed Executive Commissioner for Idaho’s exhibit at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. All went well until McKinlay objected to the placement of a peanut stand right in front of the Idaho Building. He must have protested with some heat, because it was widely reported that he was “arrested and escorted from the grounds” by guards. But organizers quickly apologized and the booth was moved. In the end, the Idaho Commission’s production was considered a great success [blog, March 29].

During the winter of 1911, McKinlay gathered some of his stock and loaded them on the railroad [blog, Aug 7] for transport to market. He rode in the caboose, since passenger space on a freight train was limited.

The train mounted the Blue Mountains in Oregon on the night of December 14. To assist the freight, a “helper” engine chugged up to the rear. Then, shortly after midnight, the pusher locomotive’s boiler exploded, sending twisted metal slashing through the caboose.

A Pendleton newspaper reported (December 14) that, “A. D. McKinley, a stockman accompanying a shipment to Portland, was instantly killed.”
References: [Blue], [Illust-North], [Illust-State]
“[A. D. McKinlay News],” Idaho Statesman, Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Mining Review (March 13, 1905 – February 15, 1910).

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Poet, Attorney, and Public Servant Herbert Ferguson [otd 02/19]

Herbert Ferguson.
H. T. French photo.
Colonel Herbert Van Allen Ferguson was born February 19, 1852, in Three Mile Bay, New York state, about 65 miles north of Syracuse. After attending a preparatory institute in Rochester, he taught school in New York and in Michigan.

Clearly a talented and impressive young man, at the age of eighteen he served as a high school principal in New York. Ferguson then enrolled at the University of Michigan Law School, graduating with an LL.B degree in 1878.

After four years practicing law in Carthage, New York, Ferguson moved to Denver, Colorado. He practiced law there for five years, and also served a term in the state legislature. He then lived for two years in Leadville. During his time in Colorado, he served with their National Guard unit and attained the rank of Colonel.

After looking briefly at business prospects in Butte, Montana, Ferguson moved on to Salt Lake City. He worked there from 1889 to 1893 before relocating to Pocatello, Idaho. In his History, Hiram T. French tellingly described Ferguson as "interminably vigorous and intensively industrious."

He developed a reputation as “a most formidable opponent” in legal circles, no doubt aided by his impressive skills as a speaker. In fact, it appears he could have earned a living as a public lecturer, having had engagements all over the state.

For seven years, he worked for the Department of the Interior, at least part of the time as a Special Agent for the General Land Office. During his tenure, the Federal government threw so-called “surplus” lands inside the Fort Hall Indian Reservation open to white settlement.
Eager settlers and speculators await signal to enter Reservation, 1902.
Library of Congress.

Stockmen – especially sheep herders, as it happened – saw this as an opportunity to graze their herds on land not specifically claimed by homesteaders. Such range was, however, still part of the Reservation and not “public land” open for general use. Thus, in 1902, Ferguson had to publish notices in regional newspapers to remind white interlopers that grazing there was forbidden.

Early the following year, Ferguson was sent to Vancouver, Washington to investigate fraudulent claims related to timber and quarrying in that area. His work was part of a broad investigation that uncovered widespread corruption in the handling of timber claims in the Pacific Northwest. Federal prosecutors called him to testify in land fraud cases a number of times over the next few years. Near the end of the decade, a Tacoma newspaper reported that over thirteen hundred such cases were still pending in Washington and Northern Idaho.

Ferguson also served as special attorney for the city of Pocatello as well as one term as Bannock County prosecuting attorney. In 1912, he was elected for a term in the Idaho legislature. While there, he served as the Chairman of the State Affairs committee.

Ferguson took an active role in the bar association, attended the Congregational church, and was a member of several fraternal societies.

On top of all that, he wrote and published poetry that was quite well received. His Rhymes of Eld, published in 1912, got generally good reviews. One reviewer deemed the poems “slight,” but considered them “brightly written with a good feeling for rhyme and rhythm.” “Slight” or not, the poems had staying power. In 2010, Kessinger Publishing re-released the book in hardcover and paperback versions … as part of its “Legacy Reprint Series.”

Ferguson passed away in July 1917.
References: [Blue], [French]
“Deaths: Herbert Van Allen Ferguson,” The Michigan Alumnus, Volume XXIV, The Alumni Association of the University of Michigan Publishers, Ann Arbor (1918).
 “[Ferguson Land Fraud Work],” Idaho Register, Oregon Journal, Evening Statesman, Tacoma Times (January 2, 1903 – January 19, 1909).
Robert E. Ficken, The Forested Land: A History of Lumbering in Western Washington, University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington (1987).
“Reimbursement to H. V. A. Ferguson,” Statues of the United States of America, Passed at the Second Session of the Fifty-Seventh Congress, Government Printing Office, Washington (1903).

Monday, February 18, 2019

Idaho, Other Territories Can Now Get Land Grants for Colleges [otd 02/18]

Congressman Justin Morrill.
Library of Congress.
On February 18, 1881, Congress passed "an act to grant lands to Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming, for university purposes." These lands could then be sold to provide endowment funds for what we now call "land grant" universities; that is: "colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts."

The original "land grant college" law – the Morrill Act of 1862 – gave acreage "to the several states" based on their numbers of Congressmen: two Senators and a population-based slate of Representatives. Iowa was the first state to accept the terms of the Morrill Act. The legislature selected the existing* Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) to receive the benefits of the Act, so that school is generally considered the first land grant college.

Territories were not included and, of course, had no U. S. Senators or Representative anyway. The political entities named in the 1881 Act's title were all Territories. This law explicitly extended a form of the "land grant college" provision to those areas. Dakota Territory quickly took advantage of the new law, establishing Dakota Agriculture College (now South Dakota State University). The 1883 Territorial legislature provided funding for the first college building.

In general, however, territorial economies proved too weak to support such institutions, even with the grants. (Like Idaho, for example, Montana waited to attain statehood before establishing its land grant college.) When delegates gathered to write a constitution for the proposed state of Idaho, they took it for granted that a land grant college would follow. In particular, they wrote into that document not only that there would be such a university, but that it would be located in Moscow [blog, Oct 3].
Wheat harvest, ca. 1909. Project Gutenberg image.

The 1890 "Organic Act" that established the state of Idaho specifically noted that the lands granted to the Territory under the 1881 law were "hereby vested in the State of Idaho to the extent of the full quantity of seventy-two sections to the said state." The Act also made additional public land grants for a state Normal school, penitentiary, and various charitable and educational public institutions.

On the other hand, the Act also included the provision that “said Act of February 18, 1881, shall be so amended as to provide that none of said lands shall be sold for less than $10.00 per acre.”

Although contemporary records are largely silent on the point, such a stipulation suggests that speculators had been buying up the ceded acreage at bargain prices. That might explain why prior sales had not generated enough income to establish a college.

But even with that stipulation, stingy additional financing from the state kept the new University of Idaho on a tight budget. Construction of the main campus building began in 1891. They started work on just the west wing, but even that was incomplete when the school’s first paid president, Benjamin F. Gault, arrived in September of 1892. He found piles of lumber inside, and what walls were up had neither plaster nor paint. In fact, the full structure was not completed until 1899.

* The Morrill Act and this 1881 follow-up proved quite effective. Perhaps twenty states or territories applied the land grant designation to existing schools. However, many of those institutions were barely holding on financially or were basically moribund. Their new status saved them from dissolution. About thirty states, like Idaho, founded totally new schools under the Act.
References: [Brit], [French], Hawley]
Rafe Gibbs, Beacon for Mountain and Plain: Story of the University of Idaho, University of Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho (1962).

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Teacher and Newspaper Operator Frances Roberts, and Her Sister Nellie [otd 02/17]

Newspaper owner and publisher Frances Ida Roberts was born February 17, 1860, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her sister Nellie had been born in 1844. Their grandfather and father both ran newspapers, the grandfather in Kentucky and Indiana.
Early printing press.
Library of Congress.

Both girls learned the newspaper business from the ground up. Thus, as a pre-teen, Frances helped set type at her father's print shop. Toward the end of her high school years, she studied piano at a music institute in Missouri.

With that as a side speciality, around 1879 she found work as a school teacher. Between school sessions, she helped at her father's newspaper.

About that same time, Nellie married a newspaperman and thereafter stayed in the business as printer, editor, writer, and every other duty that came along. Over the next few years, the couple ran newspapers in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Tennessee. Then, in 1887, they started a newspaper in Harney County, Oregon.

That same year, Frances moved to a teaching position in Oregon. A year later, her father also resettled there. He founded a newspaper in Harney County to serve Burns and the surrounding region.

In 1889, Frances claimed a homestead near Baker City. The next five years were busy ones: She had to build the required dwelling and cultivate a portion of the tract, and build fences to keep stock out of the crops. Meanwhile, she lived on the tiny stipend earned by teaching at a small country school a mile or so from her place.

In fact, for 15-20 years, Frances taught at schools in eastern Oregon and also across the border in western Idaho. Again– for a change of pace from teaching – she worked at her father’s paper, and for others.

Nellie’s husband died in 1900, and the women’s father three years later. Frances went into the newspaper business herself in 1906. Nellie, who was then 62 years old, perhaps did not feel up to running a paper on her own. With Nellie as Associate Editor, they ran a successful newspaper in Oregon for three years, then Frances sold that and invested in a Boise publication.

Roberts held that interest for only a year, probably while she explored investment possibilities in the Boise Valley. She then sold her share of the Boise publication and started the Star Courier newspaper in Star, Idaho. (Star is about fifteen miles west of downtown Boise.)
Star Interurban Depot, ca 1910. photo.

Star was then a "coming town," especially after it became a stop on the Interurban Railway between Boise and Caldwell. Besides serving valley farmers, Star was a junction point for traffic to and from the Payette River settlements north of the Boise Valley.

The weekly Star Courier served Star and the adjacent towns of Eagle and Middleton. Besides the usual news, Roberts made time to tell the story of an aged couple struggling to survive on the charity of family and friends. The husband had fought in the Rogue River War, but his petition for an Army pension was denied on a technicality. Frances sent her write-up to Senator William Borah [blog, June 29], who quickly interceded. The couple got a nice check for back payments and began receiving a handsome monthly pension.

After a few years, she and her sister tired of the business and sold it. They moved to a home near Cove, Oregon (12-14 miles east of LeGrande). Frances died there in March 1929, and Nellie about ten year later.
References: [French]
Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers, The Library of Congress (online).
"History of Star," City of Star, web site.
“Romance of An Idaho Couple Brings Coin,” Idaho Statesman, Boise, Idaho (May 11, 1913).

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Sheepmen John Wilson and Daniel Cummings Found Dead [otd 02/16]

On the morning of February 16, 1896, sheepman Edgar "Ted" Severe settled his flock and then set up camp. Twelve days earlier, a looming snow storm had chased him from the campsite, located about 26 miles south of the near-future town of Twin Falls. Ted was worried. His flock was well over into cattle country, west of the informal “deadline” that was supposed to separate sheep from cattle range.
Sheep wagon. Library of Congress.

He had received thinly-veiled threats, but no one had directly confronted him. Several times, he had heard suspicious sounds around his campsite, and crept into the bushes to hide. However, nothing happened, and no one had bothered his flock.

All seemed quiet since his return, but he needed to stay alert. After awhile, he became even more worried about his two friends, John Wilson and Daniel Cummings. He could see their camp on Deep Creek, and some of their sheep. In all the time since he had trailed his flock into position and laid out his campsite, he’d seen no movement around their wagon.

In fact, their setup hadn't changed at all compared to what he remembered from twelve days before. That seemed odd since they would have been equally exposed to the bad weather. Finally, Severe saddled his horse and clip-clopped over to check out the other camp.

The Wilson-Cummings sheep had been allowed to scatter, and as Severe rode up to the wagon, he saw that their two dogs were still tied to the wagon wheels. Both animals looked weak and thin; one could barely bark. Inside the wagon, the horrified sheepman found the bodies of Wilson and Cummings. They had been shot and were long dead. [The blog for Feb 4 describes the claimed "self-defense" shooting by Jeff Gray.]

As quickly as he could, Severe found another sheepman to ride to Oakley, where they could pass word to the sheriff in Albion, the county seat. The sheriff and county coroner didn't arrived until two days later. In the meantime, other sheepmen avoided the camp, except for one who took the dogs to his own site for food and water.

The coroner estimated that the men had been dead for ten days to two weeks. Sheepman Davis Hunter recalled visiting them on the morning of the 4th, which roughly confirmed the estimate.
John Wilson and Daniel Cummings. Family Archives.
The investigators found plenty of clues. Besides a splash of blood on the ground near the wagon tongue, there was also a bloody handprint on the canvas wall of the wagon. Of course, the sheriff had no knowledge of the barely infant practice of fingerprint identification, so this evidence was useless. They also discovered three empty .44 caliber shells, matching slugs, a scrawled note (hardly readable), and a barely-used corncob pipe. Neither sheepman smoked, so someone else must have dropped the pipe.

Unfortunately, most of this evidence was mishandled. Only one of the shell casings appeared at the trial, and the coroner admitted that the shells had been stored in an unlocked cabinet in his office. At least two sheepmen kept the corncob pipe for a time before it was finally handed over to the sheriff. The note proved difficult to interpret, and then it disappeared between the inquest and the trial. A scrap of paper produced for the trial could not be verified as being the original note.

But that was for the future. At the time, suspicion fell on the notorious cowboy-gunman, “Diamondfield” Jack Davis [blog, December 17]. The hunt for him lasted over a year.
References: William Pat Rowe, "Diamond-Field Jack" Davis On Trial, thesis: Master of Arts in Education, Idaho State University (1966).
David H. Grover, Diamondfield Jack: A Study in Frontier Justice, University of Nevada Press, Reno (1968).
Edgar Severe, Virginia Estes (Ed.), "The True Story of the Wilson-Cummings Murder," A Pause for Reflection, J. Grant Stevenson, Provo, Utah (© Cassia County Company of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1977).