Friday, November 29, 2013

Newspapers Report More Results from the Election in Idaho Territory

On November 29, 1863, the Lewiston Golden Age published an “Extra” with the results of the Territorial elections. (The item was reprinted in The Oregonian a few days later.) The headline was “Union Ticket Triumphant.”

At that time, they already had most of the totals from west of the Divide. This report contained “election returns from the precincts east of the Bitter Root mountains.”

The article first gave the result for Delegate to Congress: “Cannady’s majority east of the Bitter Root mountains is 251, which reduces Wallace’s majority to 339, as near as we can come at it until the returns are opened and counted.”

The Age added a postscript to the extra: “Since the above was put into type a letter has been received by the express from Fort Laramie, stating that Wallace’s majority at that place is 474, swelling his majority throughout the Territory to 813. Bully for Laramie!”

In reality, the census had enumerated only 218 people in the Laramie District, and less than half of them were eligible to vote. This ballot-box stuffing was apparently perpetrated by Territorial Marshal Dolphus Payne, but fortunately it did not affect the election for Delegate. Still, as could be expected, Democrats would repeatedly use the notorious “Laramie Fraud” to beat up Republican candidates in future campaigns.

Concerning the other elections, the Age said, “The following persons are elected to the Legislature from the eastern portion of the Territory: “East Bannock, W. C. Rheam [sic, Rheem], (Union), Councilman … ”

When combined with the other Districts, the results gave the Republican (Union) Party a majority in both the Council and the House of Representatives. However, Democrats would win the next election decisively, and held the legislator for many years afterwards.

With that turnaround, plus the splitting away of Montana Territory six months later, only three of the men chosen in that first election played any later role in Idaho government. Council member Stanford Capp served a second term on the Council, in 1872. Lyman Stanford, also on that first Council, was later sheriff of Owyhee County.
Judge Kelly. [Illust-State]

Milton Kelly, Representative from Boise County, played a much more prominent role after his term. Born near Syracuse, New York in 1818, Kelly became a lawyer in Wisconsin and then moved to California in 1861. He next followed the gold camps into Oregon and Idaho, settling in Placerville, Boise County, in 1863 … just in time for the election.

In 1865, President Lincoln, shortly before he was assassinated, appointed Kelly to the Supreme Court of Idaho Territory as an Associate Justice. He spent six years on the Court, assigned to the District based in Lewiston. He then moved to Boise City, where he purchased the Idaho Statesman newspaper. After seventeen years, in 1889, failing health led him to sell the paper. He passed away three years later.

References: [Hawley], [Illust-State]
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press, Silver City, Idaho (January 1898).
“Idaho Election Returns,” The Oregonian, Portland (December 4, 1863).
“Laramie Fraud,” Reference Series No. 154, Idaho State Historical Society (February 1966).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Newspaper Tries to Educate Its Readers About Idaho Gold Country

On November 23, 1863, the San Francisco Evening Bulletin reprinted an article from the Boise News in Bannock City (today’s Idaho City). The item began, “Many persons in Oregon, California and elsewhere are at fault as to the particular locality of these mines, as evinced by numerous blunders in letter writing, etc., that have come under our notice.”

The writer proposed to definitively explain where the Boise Basin towns were located, and how one might get to them. He wrote, “Bannock city is situated on a point formed by the junction of Moore’s and Elk creeks. Moore’s creek heads in a spur of the Rocky mountains, and flows nearly in a southeasterly direction, and empties into Boise river from the north side.”

He cataloged several Basin towns known at that time and then said, “Boise city is situated on Boise river, near the mouth of Moore’s or Grimes’s creek (we are not informed as to which name the stream assumes below the junction).”

The creeks join “some 12 or 13 miles below this city.” His distance estimate was high by only a mile or so, and that may reflect changes in the course of the road. Below the junction today, the stream is called Mores Creek. The writer said, “Those curious to know of our whereabouts may easily do so by [first] finding old Fort Boise on the map.”

Portion of Oregon Territory. Map issued by J. H. Colton & Co., New York, ca 1856.
The Hudson’s Bay Company had abandoned its Fort Boise after about 1855, but it still appeared as an important landmark in Oregon Trail guidebooks of the time. Remnants of the fort – which had been damaged by a flood – were located near where the Boise River emptied into the Snake.

With the map in hand, the curious person could “then trace Boise river up 65 miles.” That would have led to a spot about ten miles up-river from the new Fort Boise, and Boise City – neither of which would appear on any map published in 1863, or before. From there, the writer said, “Strike off in a northeasterly direction 30 miles. With that, he figured, the seeker “may very nearly put their fingers on Bannock city.”

The writer’s words provided a remarkably accurate set of directions for finding the town.

References: [B&W]
“Location Of The Boise Mines,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (November 23, 1863).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Richness of Owyhee Mines Not Over-blown, Location Given

On November 17, 1863, The Oregonian published news of the so-called Owyhee mines, especially quartz mines that might produce both gold and silver. The item began, “During the past two months, considerable importance has attached to the district of what is generally termed the Owyhee river mines. Reports, many of them exaggerated if not entirely without foundation in reality have been freely circulated and as freely repeated.”

In The Oregonian’s view, such wild stories served only to drive up the prices of mining stocks. The article went on, “Hitherto, we have sought to avoid giving currency to the stories – as far as compatible with the duties of responsible journalism – preferring to await the receipt of authentic information upon a matter of such interest to the venturesome miners who risk so much.”

However: “We yesterday conversed with a gentleman of the utmost reliability – whose judgement is seldom warped by the sanguine hopes that afflict a majority of our fortune hunters.”

This level-headed individual first described the location of the primary Owyhee mining region: It is “twenty-five miles from the river of that same [name], being located on the hills above Jordan Creek, thirty miles from Snake river, sixty-five from Boise City, … and about 150 miles from Humboldt, in a north-westerly direction, and in the same range with Washoe, Humboldt, and South Boise.”

These and his other distance estimates were acceptable. However, the notion that the Owyhee mines were “in the same range” with other rich quartz-mining regions was rather odd, and erroneous. Unfortunately, snowy weather had limited his exploration, but he saw enough and “returned, satisfied with his trip, to prepare for the coming of spring.”

Overall, he had found rich lodes, “some of which have yielded assays of $3,000 silver ore, besides a fair proportion of gold. … There were over 200 miners at Boonville [sic] when our informant left.”
Colonel Dewey. [Illust-State]

One of those miners was probably “Colonel” William H. Dewey. Born in Massachusetts, Dewey followed the rush to California and then to Idaho “in the fall” of 1863, when he was about forty years old. Known as “a born miner,” Dewey came to own numerous mining claims, then later added real estate and railroad development. He eventually became one of Idaho’s first millionaires.

The Oregonian also learned that “There are no placer diggings on the hills, the bed-rock in many places being near the surface of the hill. For about eight miles along Jordan Creek, however, the gold is fairly evenly distributed, and miners are taking out from one to four ounces per day to the man, with sluices."

Returns of $15 to $60 a day for each member of a sluice team were considered very good. The item concluded, “We have been promised more reliable details … which we shall give our readers as soon as received.”

References: [Hawley]
“Gold and Silver Quartz Mines Near The Owyhees,” The Oregonian, Portland (November 17, 1863).
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press, Silver City, Idaho (January 1898).
Merle W. Wells, Gold Camps & Silver Cities: Nineteenth Century Mining in Central and Southern Idaho, 2nd Edition, Bulletin 22, Idaho Department of Lands, Bureau of Mines and Geology, Moscow, Idaho (1983).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Magruder Killers Fight Extradition from California

On November 6, 1863 the Evening Bulletin published an article entitled “The Murderers from Idaho,” which discussed, at length, the murder of Lloyd Magruder in Idaho Territory. Recall that, after October 18, Hill Beachy  had begun to suspect murder had been done and shortly thereafter pursued the killers to San Francisco.

The article began, “The four fugitives from Idaho, supposed to be the murderers of Lloyd Magruder … have failed thus far in their attempt to escape justice under that sometimes abused protection to society, a writ of habeas corpus.”

Their lawyer argued a host of technicalities, one being that “the Governor of a Territory had no right … to make a requisition on the Governor of a State.” He also pointed to various procedural issues in the preparation of the requisition itself, issues that – in his view – invalidated the document.

The judge, however, cited a variety of precedents and seemed inclined to deny the writ. The defense attorney hoped to delay a decision against his clients and “asked the Judge to suspend an opinion and regard this merely as an intimation of his views.”

Although the prosecuting attorney preferred an immediate ruling, the judge did agree to another hearing the next morning. The newspaper writer felt the judge would send the fugitives back to Idaho, although the defense would probably be able to force more delays.

The writer then devoted several paragraphs to what was known of the murders and the pursuit. Among other facts, he noted that the alleged killers were “well known individuals” in Lewiston, and Beachy knew they had boarded the stage while “answering to assumed names.”

Beachy had found various indications that something had happened to his friend Magruder. The Bulletin writer said, “All these circumstances taken together, it was deemed proper to pursue the men who had passed through Lewiston so mysteriously.”
Hill Beachy.
Nez Perce County Historical Society.

During the subsequent chase, the pursuers found that the fugitives had changed their “traveling names” twice. They used new aliases to board a Columbia River steamer west of Walla Walla, and different ones to register at hotels in Portland. From there, the writer said, “They gave out that their intention was to go to Victoria, but took passage, instead, on the steamer which left Portland on Sunday morning, direct for San Francisco.”

Trial records later gave the names of the fugitives as David Renton, James Romain, Christopher Lower, and William ”Billy” Page. Even then, it was never clear that those were their real names.

At the time, it was thought that just three men had been murdered. The Bulletin article concluded, “In the whole record of crime, three murders more cold blooded, instigated only by a lust for the hard-earned gold of others, can scarcely be found.”

References: “The Murderers from Idaho,” Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, California (November 6, 1863).
Julia Conway Welch, The Magruder Murders, Falcon Press Publishing, Helena, Montana (1991).