Orric Cole was described in French's 1914 history of Idaho as "one of the best known and highly esteemed citizens of Boise, where he has had his residence continuously for nearly four decades."
Cole was born of an old New England family in Massachusetts in April 1843. His father, Seth, was a native of Vermont who had tried to make a living as a farmer in rocky Massachusetts soil before deciding to move west in search of better land.
Orric's father was only one of many hundreds of Yankee farmers who gave up on New England in the 1850s and headed west in search of better land and a better life. Seth Cole moved to Illinois in 1855.
Orric Cole worked on the family farm while attending public schools in Massachusetts and Illinois until he was 17. When the Civil War broke out he enlisted in the 112th Illinois Volunteer Infantry and served until the war ended in 1865.
Orric then went back to farming, first in Illinois, and then in Iowa and Missouri before locating permanently in Boise in 1874. In 1878 he married Ella Bown, daughter of pioneers Joseph and Temperance Bown, who had homesteaded 240 acres east of Boise in 1865. The large stone house Joseph built in 1879 still stands and now houses exhibits and activities used in the heritage education programs of Boise Public Schools. Mrs. Bown, while raising seven children of her own, still found the time and energy to teach in the nearby neighborhood school. When it was destroyed by fire she taught classes in her own home. It is not surprising that her daughter Ella would also teach school after marrying Orric Cole.
For the first nine years he was in Boise, Cole owned and operated the Palace Restaurant in Downtown Boise. It was a business success from the beginning. In January 1879, the Statesman published a list of "Regular Boarders at the Palace Restaurant" that included some of the city's best-known businessmen, including jeweler John Broadbent, owner of much choice Downtown real estate, and who would become a millionaire.
When Cole bought back a half interest in the Palace from his former partner G.B. Pinkham in August 1880, the Statesman commented, "His many friends will be glad to see his familiar face at the old stand. Call and see him." Like many successful businessman, then and now, Orric Cole belonged to a number of fraternal organizations: Odd Fellows, Elks, Eagles, Red Men, and as a Union Army veteran, Phil Sheridan Post of the Grand Army of the Republic.
After he acquired 800 acres of farmland on the bench southwest of Boise in 1888, Orric and Ella Cole deeded the land at the corner of what became Cole Road and Fairview Avenue to the trustees of new School District No. 5. to be used for erecting a public school. Ella Bown Cole taught for five years in the first schoolhouse on the site. The deed stipulated that the land would revert to their son Orric S. Cole should it ever stop being used for a school, and he in turn willed the property to the Children's Home Finding and Aid Society should there no longer be a school on that corner. The school district paid $695,000 to the society before it could proceed with demolition of the historic Cole School, for which the low bid was reportedly $306,600.
Orric and Ella Cole left us a legacy, even though the school they envisaged and where she taught is now gone. Their name lives on in Cole Road and in our Cole and Ustick library.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.