In January 1865, an “Anniversary Ball, in commemoration of Washington’s Birthday,” was advertised in the Idaho World of Idaho City. It was to be held in Magnolia Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 22, under the sponsorship of Barber & Oldham, with music by Paston’s Band. Tickets were $10.
The Washington’s Birthday ball of 1866 was described by the World as “a sociable and excellent party. Everyone present seemed to enjoy themselves. The supper gotten up at the Fenian Chop House was in excellent taste and gave general satisfaction.”
The town’s Idaho Circle of the Fenian Brotherhood sponsored a ball in 1869 “in honor of the coming anniversary of the birthday of immortal Washington, to be held in McGregor’s capacious Hall, on the evening of Monday, the 22nd instant. We believe it is the only Ball to be given in this Basin on that anniversary.”
The Fenian Brotherhood was a patriotic society dedicated to freeing Ireland from English rule. With nearly 400 natives of Ireland in Ada and Boise counties by 1870, it was perhaps inevitable that a local chapter of the Fenians be formed, and that George Washington, who had led the revolution to free the American colonies, should be revered by Irishmen.
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In 1876, Engine Co. No. 1 of the Boise Fire Department began sponsoring an annual Washington’s Birthday “Grand Masquerade Ball,” first at Good Templar Hall and then at New Capital Hall. The Statesman observed in 1886, “New Capital Hall is much larger than any room we have ever had and was supposed to be sufficient for all who would come to the masquerade, but the company was large enough to fill two such halls.”
In 1879, Washington’s Birthday was observed in Boise with a military parade organized by Col. John Green, commandant of Fort Boise. The Idaho Statesman published Col. Green’s “Orders No. 5 — Tomorrow being the anniversary of the birth of Washington the First President of the United States, the troops of this post will be formed at 10 o’clock a.m. and marched through some of the principal streets of Boise City. At meridian (noon) the national salute of 38 guns will be fired. Capt. P. Collins, Co. A, 21st Infantry, will detail an officer and the necessary detachment from his company, to man the guns for this purpose.”
Col. Green was popular in Boise City and was usually called “General Green” by its citizens. He was born in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg, Germany, on Nov. 20, 1825. His family moved to America in 1831. He entered the Army in July 1846, when he was 21, and fought in the Mexican-American War under Gen. Winfield Scott as a first sergeant of the U.S. Mounted Rifles. He was discharged in August 1848 but re-enlisted in the same regiment in September 1852. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he was a first lieutenant of the 2nd Dragoons. He was promoted to captain and served with the same outfit for the rest of the war, renamed the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. He fought at Gettysburg and Antietam and was advanced in rank after each.
After the war he was stationed in the far West, for which service he received the Medal of Honor for conspicuous bravery and leadership in the Modoc War. He retired in Boise in 1889 and died here in 1908. He is buried in Morris Hill Cemetery.
The firemen of Boise Engine Co. No. 1 sponsored a Washington’s Birthday Ball for many years. In 1887, people were encouraged to “make up their faces the same as theatricals, using paint, powder, artificial hair, etc. instead of masks.”
In February 1894, Judge and Mrs. George H. Stewart greeted guests at their home in Central Addition dressed as George and Martha Washington. A good time was had by all.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.