Idaho History

Idaho History

What’s in a name? In Gem State places, a whole lot of history and mystery

No small part of the charm of exploring Idaho place names and their stories is the sheer music of saying those names — whether staccato and amusing or long and sonorous. Who can resist a state that has a Picabo, pronounced “peek-a-boo,” a Wickahoney and an Inkom? There are also Eden, Bliss, Grace and Hope. The Idaho map is covered with magic if you have an ear for names and an eye for history.

Idaho History

Boise’s first church bells inspired praise — but also gambling

James S. Reynolds, founder and first editor of the Idaho Tri-weekly Statesman, writing in April 1869, complained that “Boise City is sadly in need of a church bell of some kind. Why don’t we have one?” By February 1870, he was able to note, “The bell for the Episcopal Church has arrived. It weighs 400 pounds and will be put into position soon.”

Idaho History

Idaho fair of 1897 quickly became gold standard for locals, children, exhibitors

The prime motivation for organizing the great Idaho Intermountain Fair of 1897 was to show off the state’s resources to the region and the nation. A secondary benefit, certainly anticipated by Boise’s business community, was that it would attract lots of people to the capital city who might spend money. These goals have characterized fairs since the Middle Ages in Europe, whether sponsored by the church, by merchants or by guilds of craftsmen. Today nearly every American city has its fair or festival. These occasions furnish entertainment and education, help local business and contribute to local pride. They would not flourish unless people loved them. They certainly loved the 1897 fair, and in the 120 years since Idahoans have continued to support fairs at every level.

Idaho History

Hall of Fame pitcher got start in Idaho striking out Dudes, Beet Diggers

Some of the most famous baseball players of all time played for Idaho teams before going to the major leagues, where they had long and impressive careers. Two of them were pitchers with outstanding won-lost records but with very different public images. Walter Johnson, who played for Weiser in 1906-07, was always popular, but Carl Mays, who pitched for Boise in 1912, was disliked by most and even detested by some. We’ll tell his story in a later column.

Idaho History

Prohibition kept Boise law enforcement officers busy

Prohibition had no sooner gone into effect in Idaho in 1916, and in the rest of the country in 1920, than a significant part of the population began to look for ways to get around it. The demand for liquor was so great that tens of thousands of Americans who had never before broken any law now figured that making and selling illegal liquor was worth the risk. The Idaho Statesman reported regularly on those who got arrested for trying.

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Columnist Arthur Hart says people will always enjoy history because it's about people

Arthur Hart shares his love for history as a teacher, museum director and in his columns found in the pages of the Idaho Statesman.
Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com
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