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Idaho Political Affairs, 1862 – 1866
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Idaho | No Comments
On the 22d of September, 1863, more than four months after the passage of the Organic Act of the territory, William H. Wallace, late delegate to congress from Washington, appointed governor of Idaho by President Lincoln July 10th, issued his proclamation organizing the Territory of Idaho, with the capital at Lewiston. Owing to the shifting nature of the population and the absence of mail facilities, the fact of this organization was not known in the mines till late in the spring. Meanwhile the laws of Washington were held to be in force.
Much irregularity had prevailed in municipal affairs since the settlement of the region east of the Walla Walla Valley had begun. Missoula county was not represented in the Washington legislature in 1862-3, the member elect, L. L. Blake, wintering in Boise to look after his mining interests. Nez Percé and Idaho Counties sent Ralph Bledsoe to the legislature that session, the latter having been organized by a meeting of the commissioners in May 1862. An election for representative was held, T. M. Reed being chosen to a seat in the assembly at Olympia. Boise County was also organized under the laws of Washington, two of the commissioners – John C. Smith and W. B. Noble – having met for that purpose at Bannack (Idaho) City March 17th.
When it became known that the territory of Idaho had been established, much impatience was felt to have the government organized, and a representative elected to congress; but the organization being delayed, an election for delegate was held July 13th in the Boise basin, which contained the majority of the population at this time. The proclamation of Governor Wallace being made three days before the election took place, the votes for delegate went for nothing. Not until September 22d did Wallace utter his proclamation ordering an election for delegate and members of the legislature, to be held on the 31st of October, the legislature elect to meet at Lewiston December 10th.
Political conventions had been previously called, and, as I have before mentioned, two campaign papers were published during the canvass for delegate. J. M. Cannady was nominated by the democrats and W. H. Wallace by the administration party. There was a short and warm canvass, followed by a noisy but bloodless contest on Election Day, which resulted in a majority for Wallace of about 500 votes. This result deprived the territory of its governor, and made the secretary, W. B. Daniels, of Yamhill County, Oregon, acting governor. Daniels had but one commendable quality – the complexion of his politics.
Previous to his election as delegate, Wallace had districted the territory, the counties of Idaho, Nez Perce, and Shoshone constituting the 1st district, A. C. Smith, judge; Boise county 2d district, Samuel C. Parks, judge; Missoula county and the country east of the Rocky Mountains 3d district, Sidney Edgerton, judge. Florence, Bannack City, and Hellgate wore appointed for the holding of the first sessions of the United States courts.
The Organic Act fixed the number of representatives at the first session of the legislature at twenty, thirteen in the lower and seven in the upper house.
The general laws passed at the first session of the Idaho legislature were nowise remarkable. Among the special laws I find that Owyhee County was organized December 31st out of the territory lying south of Snake River and west of the Rocky Mountains; and that on the 22d of January the county of Oneida was cut off from its eastern end, with the county seat at Soda Springs. Alturas County was defined as bounded by Snake River on the south, Idaho County on the north, Boise County on the west, and the meridian of 112° on the east, with the county seat at Esmeralda.
Previously, on the 16th of the same month, that portion of the territory lying east of the Bitter Root Mountains was divided into the several counties of Missoula, Deer Lodge, Beaver Head, Madison, Jefferson, Choteau, Dawson, Big Horn, Ogalalla, and Yellowstone, with their county seats located respectively at Wordensville, Deer Lodge, Bannack, Virginia City, Gallatin, Fort Benton – Big Horn was left to the county commissioners – and Fort Laramie – Yellowstone being also left to the county commissioners, who should name a county seat. The fact that eight counties in that portion of Idaho bounded west by the Rocky and Bitter Root ranges should have had at this period towns which might be named in the legislature is significant of the rapid growth of population.
The legislature proceeded in February to define the boundaries of counties already organized west of the Rocky Mountains. It incorporated Idaho City after changing its name from Bannack. It also incorporated Bannack City on ‘Grasshopper Creek’ in Beaver Head County; and Placerville in Boise County. Among the laws intended for the moral improvement of society was one “for the better observance of the Lord’s day,” which prohibited theatrical representations, horse-raising, gambling, cock-fighting, or any noisy amusements on Sunday. Another act prohibited the sale of ardent spirits, firearms, or ammunition to the Indians. This law allowed Indian evidence to be taken in cases of its alleged infraction. A law exempting homesteads from forced sales looked to the permanent settlement of the territory. Congress was memorialized to appropriate $50,000 for the construction of a military wagon-road to connect the navigable waters of the Columbia with the navigable waters of the Missouri, that is to say, from the forks of the Missouri on the east to the junction of the Snake and Clearwater rivers on the west; also to establish a mail route from Salt Lake City to Lewiston; and to treat with the hostile Indians of the Yellowstone country. The pay of governor and legislators provided in the Organic Act being out of proportion to the expense of living in Idaho, they voted themselves enough additional to amount to ten dollars per diem, which increase was to be paid by the territory. Then they adjourned. It might be said that Idaho was now fairly launched upon its territorial career, with the promise of another governor in the person of Caleb Lyon of New York.
But the career of the young commonwealth was not altogether a smooth one. There was a desire on the part of the men of Boise and Owyhee counties to have the capital removed from Lewiston to some point more central to the population west of the Rocky Mountains, there being already a scheme on foot to erect another territory out of the eastern counties. A delegation from Boise visited the legislature while in session, to endeavor to affect the passage of an act fixing the capital at some point in that county. But there was sufficient influence in other parts of the territory to prevent it. And here began the same contest over the matter of location of the seat of government which had been witnessed in Oregon and Washington when it became a party question.
The acting governor becoming unpopular through his opposition to the legislature which had appointed Frank Kenyon public printer – Daniels having threatened to give the printing to a San Francisco firm – and other injudicious measures, resigned his office in May, leaving the secretaryship in the hands of Silas Cochrane until another appointment should be made. Lyon arrived at Lewiston in August, and assumed office, which was that of Indian superintendent as well as governor. He visited Boise in October upon business connected with the superintendency, and was well received.
Meantime a large immigration from the states in rebellion had changed the complexion of politics in the territory. Boise County, which in 1863 gave a majority of 400 or 500 for republican candidates, gave in 1864 between 900 and 1,000 majority for democratic candidates. As there were many in Idaho who were disloyal, nearly every criminal in the country being so, and as nothing in a man’s moral character could prevent his voting, it was not to be expected that good government could long prevail.
The first legislative assembly left the capital at Lewiston as appointed by the governor; but the legislature of 1864 passed an act removing it to Boise City, and appointing Caleb Lyon, C. B. Waite, and J. M. Cannady commissioners to receive a deed of a plat of ground in that town, known on the map as Capitol Square, and the secretary was authorized to draw upon the territorial treasury for the money to pay the expense of removing the archives and other property of the territory, the law to take effect after the 24th of December, 1864. Such was the reluctance of the people of Lewiston to having the capital removed, that the majority of the county commissioners refused to acknowledge the legality of the proceedings of the assembly, on the ground that the members had never taken the oath required, but had met at a time not authorized by the law, with other quibbles. Meetings were held, and the execution of the act removing the capital was enjoined, bringing the case into the courts. Associate Justice A. C. Smith decided in favor of the Lewiston party, against the law-and-order party; though if the truth were told, neither cared much for order or law, but only to carry out their schemes of ambition or theft Governor Lyon had escaped all responsibility by leaving the territory, and the new secretary sided with the legislature and Boise party.
There seemed to be no way out of the controversy except to appeal to the supreme court, which the law said should be held “at the capital” in August of each year. But the judges did not hold a court in either of the two places claiming to be the capital, and for ten months there was anarchy. Secretary Smith died in the midst of the quarrel, and for a while there was neither capital nor governor, nor even secretary, as I have said. Finally United States Marshal Alvord received orders from Washington to take the archives and convey them to Boise City, the capital of Idaho. The men of Lewiston dared not resist the authority of the general government, and the change was effected in the latter part of October.
The county of Ada was created out of the southwestern part of Boise County, at the legislative session of 1864, with the county seat at Boise City. Lahtoh County was created out of the territory lying north of the Clearwater and west of Shoshone County, with the county seat at Coeur d’Alene. The remainder of the narrow strip of territory reaching up to British Columbia was organized into the county of Kootenai, with the county seat at Sinnaacquateen.
The legislature of 1864 does not seem to have made any requests of congress, nor was there anything more remarkable in its legislation than the number of bills passed granting charters showing the improvements in roads, ferries, and bridges. The legislature of 1865-6 passed a large number of memorials asking for appropriations for public buildings, and other matters, and for some changes in the organic act, so that the territorial auditor, treasurer, and superintendent of public instruction might be elected by the people, besides praying that the probate courts might have jurisdiction in all civil cases where the sum in dispute did not exceed $1,000, and also that the justice’s courts might receive authority from the legislature to settle cases where no more than $250 was involved.
The act passed by the first legislature providing for the increased compensation of the officers of the territory was amended so as to exclude the governor from the benefit of the act, and to increase the benefits accruing to the attaches of the legislature.
Late in the autumn of 1865 Lyon returned to Idaho, having been reappointed governor, and interested himself in creating a diamond insanity which ruined many a better man, while he lent his signature to any and every bill of the most disloyal and vulgar minded legislature that ever disgraced the legislative office, except the one that followed it, the single act which he dared not sign being one to nullify the test oath. His appointments were equally without regard to the welfare of society and the territory; and after six months of such an administration, he once more abandoned his post, suddenly and finally. The territorial secretary, Gilson, was succeeded by Lyon’s private secretary, S. R. Howlett, who filled the executive office until June 1866, when David W. Ballard of Yamhill County, Oregon, was appointed, and arrived in the territory to inaugurate a different condition of gubernatorial affairs, Howlett being appointed to fill the secretary’s office.
The organic law gave members of the legislature four dollars per diem, and four dollars for every twenty miles of travel to reach the capital. The territorial law gave legislators six dollars per diem additional, which sum of ten dollars a day was not too great during the first year or two of territorial existence, when the necessaries of life cost high. But this was now uncalled for. The same act which raised the per diem of the legislators doubled the salary of the governor, making it $5,000 per annum, and also doubled that of the secretary, making it $3,000, while the pay of clerks and other officers was proportionately increased, the whole territorial tax to support this extra pay amounting to $16,000 yearly. The legislature of 1865 had passed an act abolishing the extra pay of the governor and secretary, but retaining, and even increasing, their own or that of their clerks. Becoming ashamed of this arbitrary exercise of power, they restored it a few days afterward by another act.
Ballard, learning that the present legislature was about to deprive him of his extra pay, and that of the secretary, sent in a special message, very artfully worded, approving of the measure, and suggesting that the territory might be saved the whole of the $16,000, and congress relied upon to furnish the funds necessary to support the federal branch of the government, as in other territories. Upon this provocation there began and continued throughout the session a series of insults to the executive, requiring extraordinary nerve to meet with self-possession.
A quarrel was also sought with the secretary, who was treated with scorn, as successor to the scandals of his office. With a virtuous air, the legislature demanded information concerning the amount of federal appropriations, the money received, and the correspondence with the treasury department. Howlett replied that the statement given in the governors annual message was correct; that he found Secretary Smith to have expended $9,938 for the territory, but that he had no knowledge of any other money having been received by previous secretaries, nor had he received any, although he had applied for $27,000 on the approval of his bond for $50,000.
The legislature chose to ignore Hewlett’s answer, and telegraphed to McCulloch, secretary of the United States treasury, alleging that Howlett had refused to give the information sought. This brought the statement from the department that $53,000 had been placed at the disposal of former secretaries, and that $20,000 had that day been placed to Hewlett’s credit. This was the knowledge that they had been thirsting for, as it was a promise of the speedy payment of their per diem.
Meantime the governor was resolutely vetoing such bills as conflicted with the Organic Act, and other congressional acts or established and beneficent laws of the territory. Few of the members had taken the prescribed oath of office, but had devised an oath which evaded the main point in all official oaths, allegiance to the government, which was passed over the governor’s veto. In this manner was passed the act abolishing the extra pay of the governor and secretary; an act taking from the executive the appointing power, regardless of the organic act, and lodging it with themselves, or the county commissioners; and a bill appropriating $30,000 for sectarian schools. This bill, a substitute for an act passed at the previous session to establish a common-school system, provided for the issue of territorial bonds to the amount of $30,000, drawn in favor of F. N. Blanchet, archbishop of Oregon, bearing interest at the rate of ten per cent per annum, and redeemable by funds arising from the sale of the 36th section of school lands. And so with every bill vetoed by the governor, they passed it over his head by acclamation. With the exception of a few harmless acts, all were made with a motive to defy the administration, and grasp the money and the power derived from it and from the territorial officers. Howlett, during these proceedings, had been in correspondence with the treasury department, and had given information concerning the refusal of the majority of the members to take the oath of office, on which instructions had been issued to him to withhold their pay. This order raised a tempest. Resolutions were passed charging the secretary with everything vile, and demanding his removal from office. This was followed by threats of personal violence. The secretary then called on the United States marshal for protection, who in turn called upon the military at Fort Boise, and a squad of infantry was stationed in front of the legislative hall, which only increased the violence of the disloyal members. To avert a collision, judges McBride and Cummings recommended Howlett to pay all such as would then take the oath of allegiance, which, on the following day, the majority consented to do, and the threatened émeute was prevented. This law-making body, elected by rebellion sympathizers, has been styled the ‘guerrilla legislature.’ “The third session,” writes one, “was by all good men, irrespective of party, pronounced infamous, but this one is Satanic.”
Ballard’s policy as governor was such that his political opponents very much desired to get him out of office. Holbrook had been reelected delegate in 1866, and was in Washington for the furtherance of any schemes concocted by his constituents, the principal one being a plan by which Ballard could be unseated and a man put in his place who could be used for gain; and in this they were so nearly successful that in the summer of 1867 President Johnson was induced to suspend Governor Ballard and nominate Isaac L. Gibbs. But before the commission was made out Johnson had changed his mind. A letter containing a notice of suspension had, however, been sent to Ballard, which, being forgotten, was not revoked until November, when he was restored to office.
Idaho continued to be democratic, but gradually the more objectionable representatives of the party were discountenanced and dropped out of sight. In 1868 J. K. Shafer was elected delegate over T. J. Butler, founder of the Boise News, the pioneer newspaper of southern Idaho. The last two years of Ballard’s administration was peaceful as it was wise and energetic. On the expiration of his term of office two thirds of the citizens of Idaho territory voluntarily petitioned for his reappointment, but another appointment had been made, that of Oilman Marston of New Hampshire. Secretary Howlett was also displaced by the appointment of E. J. Curtis, who – Governor Marston not yet having arrived – delivered the annual message to the legislature of 1870, and remained acting governor for a year and a half, during which time Marston resigned and Thomas A. Bowen was appointed governor, who also resigned, when Thomas W. Bennett was appointed, and accepted. Idaho did not appear to men at a distance to be much of a paradise, politically or otherwise. The republicans again put forward, in 1870, T. J. Butler as a candidate for the delegateship, but he was again defeated by the democratic candidate, S. A.
Merritt. In 1872 the republican candidate, J. W. Huston, was overwhelmingly defeated by John Hailey, democrat.
The chief justiceship was left vacant by the resignation of McBride, until the appointment of David Noggle in 1869, a man whose brain was affected, and who allowed himself to be made the instrument by which thieving politicians carried their points. The associates of Noggle were William C. Whitson in the 1st and J. R. Lewis in the 3d districts. Lewis was an upright, able judge, and became immediately obnoxious to the dominant political ring, which, to get him out of office, resorted to the device of sending a forged resignation to Washington. Before the trick was discovered, M. E. Hllister had been appointed in his place. Hollister succeeded Noggle as chief justice in 1875, and John Clark succeeded Hollister in the third district. Whitson died in December 1875, when Henry E. Prickett was appointed judge of the first district, which position he held down to 1884, from which it would appear that he administered the laws in a manner satisfactory to the majority in his district.
Governor Bennett was succeeded by D. P. Thompson of Oregon, a rising man in his state. Bennett, while still in office, ran on the republican ticket for delegate to congress, against S. S. Fenn, democrat. There were some irregularities in the election returns, and the election was contested. Coming before congress, Fenn was declared elected, and in 1877 was returned to the same office for another term. Thompson did not long retain the gubernatorial office, his private affairs requiring his presence in Oregon. He was succeeded in 1876 by M. Brayman, Curtis continuing in the secretary’s office until 1878, when R. A. Sidebotham was appointed. At the expiration of Brayman’s term, J. B. Neil became governor, and Theodore F. Singiser secretary. In 1878 George Ainslie was elected to succeed Fenn as delegate to congress. At the expiration of his term he was again returned to this place.
A matter which greatly troubled the people of the Idaho panhandle was their isolation and want of a community of interest with the southern counties. On the removal of the capital in 1864-5, they desired the re-annexation of this portion of the territory to Washington. For the purpose of advocating this measure, the Radiator newspaper was established at Lewiston, and the subject was not soon suffered to drop, either by the people of northern Idaho or by those of Washington, who, as I have before shown, were equally desirous of recovering this lost territory.
The Idaho legislature of 1865-6 passed a memorial to congress praying that the portion of the territory lying south of the Salmon River Mountains might dissolve connection with the panhandle, and receive instead as much of Utah as lay north of 41° 30′; while that portion of Montana lying west of the Rocky Mountains, the northern part of Idaho, and the eastern part of Washington, should constitute a separate commonwealth, to be called the territory of Columbia. The people of the Walla Walla Valley, being strongly in favor of a readjustment of boundaries, aided the agitation, which in 1867 was at its height, meetings being held and memorials adopted in Lewiston and Walla Walla. But neither Montana nor southern Idaho, on reflection, would consent to the division. Montana wished to retain the Bitter Root Valley, and southern Idaho feared to have its burden of taxation increased by parting with any of its population, already diminishing with the exhaustion of its placer mines. Still another proposition was made in 1869 by the legislature of Nevada, to re-adjust the boundary of Idaho, by annexing to that commonwealth the rich mineral territory lying south of Snake River between the eastern boundary of Oregon and the eastern limit of Nevada, or, in direct terms, the Owyhee country. This project was also strongly protested against by Idaho, and was rejected by congress.
But much dissatisfaction still existed concerning the manner in which the extensive district lying between the Cascade and Rocky Mountains had been partitioned off in the hurry of forming new territories. It had always been held by a considerable portion of the Oregon people that the natural boundary of their state on the east was the Cascade range; but if they were to retain the country east of the mountains, they desired to have the Snake River for their boundary on the north as well as the east, giving them the Walla Walla Valley. Washington, while less willing to part with its eastern division, was positive about never yielding the Walla Walla Valley to Oregon, and so the two communities could never agree to the same scheme of re-division. The Idaho legislature of 1870 again memorialized congress for a change, but none that would leave the territory less able to maintain the burden of government, interfere with the congressional ratio of representation, or decrease the prospect of arriving at the dignity of statehood. A plan was then discussed by journalists of making a state out of eastern Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
About the same time the citizens of the town of Corrinne in Utah petitioned, but in vain, to have that portion of Utah north of the north line of Colorado annexed to Idaho, not being in sympathy with the government of the Mormon Church. The boundary line between Utah and Idaho was not then established, but was surveyed in 1871, when it was found that several large settlements which had previously paid taxes and tithing in Utah were over the line in Idaho. Defining this boundary gave Idaho about 2,500 inhabitants more than previously claimed, and a considerable addition to its wealth, as nine tenths of the population thus acquired belonged to a class of large farmers and cattle-raisers. The proposition to reunite northern Idaho to Washington was revived in 1873, with the unification of the great Columbia basin under the designation of Columbia, a plan dear to the hearts of the people east of the northern branch of the Columbia.
The surface of Idaho, after taking all the territory east of the Rocky and Bitter Root Mountains to create Montana in 1864, to enlarge Dakota, and to organize Wyoming in 1868, was over 86,000 square miles, or nearly as large as New York and Pennsylvania together. Its northern boundary was latitude 49°, and its southern 42°. At its greatest width it was seven degrees of longitude, also, in extent. There was grand and wonderful scenery, great mineral and manufacturing resources, and, what was not known at the time of its settlement, good agricultural lands in all its sunny vales. Most of the disorders, which attended its infancy as a territory soon disappeared. Hidden in a great mass of sin and folly were the elements of social excellence, which, with an opportunity to germinate, spread their goodly branches throughout the land.
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