The mad rush to Boise Basin in 1863 following the discovery of gold there on Aug. 2, 1862, created an immediate need for hotels, restaurants, retail stores of every description and, of course, lots of saloons and a brothel or two.
The earliest hotels in Idaho City were the Poujade House and the Occidental Hotel, both of which advertised in the Idaho Tri-weekly Statesman on Aug. 6, 1864. The Poujade House was owned and operated by Theodore Clement Poujade, son of Dr. Jean Pierre Poujade, who was born in France in 1790. He became a surgeon in the army of Napoleon in 1812 before coming to America where his oldest son, Theodore, was born in Perry County, Ohio, in 1830. The Poujade family crossed the plains to Oregon in 1847 and settled in the Willamette Valley. The doctor died in Gervais, Oreg., in July 1875, by which time his son T.C. had been in Idaho by more than a decade.
W.A. Goulder, in his reminiscences, describes meeting Poujade in North Idaho in 1861: “Three days of battling with the fallen timbers on the trail and with alternating hills and deep ravines, and we are safely landed among our old Webfoot friends on the golden sands of Rhodes Creek in the heart of the placer-mining district of Oro Fino. Our first care was to provide a home for our ponies, that were given in charge of another dear old Willamette friend named Theodore Poujade, who had established what he called a horse ranch away out on the Weipee plains some 15 miles from our present camp.”
Three years later the Poujade House was the largest hotel in Idaho City, with competition from these others: Montana House, Occidental House, Irving House, Pine Grove House, International Hotel and City Hotel. The directory of that year tells us that the Poujade House had on its payroll George Phifer, First Cook, and Edward Walters, Second Cook. Most of the larger hotels of the day could provide board as well as rooms. Placerville had its own International Hotel and an Empire Hotel. Buena Vista Bar had a Buena Vista House.
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Pioneer hotels were lavish in their praise of themselves. T.W. Rhoads said of his Occidental Hotel that it was “newly furnished in a style not surpassed by any house in the Territory. The Occidental will, in all respects, be conducted as a first class hotel.”
“The culinary department is under the personal supervision of Mrs. Col. White, which is a sufficient guarantee of its excellence. No pains will be spared to render guests comfortable, and give the most perfect satisfaction.” Rhoads continued.
Boise City in 1864 had a Stage House hotel, A.M. Addington, proprietor. His ad in the Statesman noted, “The Table is supplied with the best the market affords. The Idaho City and Owyhee stages arrive at, and depart from this house daily.”
Taking its name from a nationally famous hotel in St. Louis, Boise’s Planter’s House on Main Street advertised accommodations for animals as well as people: “An abundance of excellent hay and grain always at hand for stock. Give us a call, and be convinced that this is the largest, most convenient, comfortable, and best hotel in Boise City.” In March 1867, David Miller, a wealthy New Yorker, advertised in the Statesman his purchase of the Idaho Hotel in Ruby City, calling it “the best hotel in Owyhee,” and his renaming it Miller’s Exchange.
James W. Griffin and C.H. Huggins ran a different Idaho Hotel in Boise in1864, and by 1870 Griffin would own the Overland Hotel at Eighth and Main. This native of the state of Maine was 50 in 1870 and a prosperous man. The census lists the names of 30 people living in the Overland.
Next week: Idaho’s pioneer hotels were primitive in significant ways.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.