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Widower Lafayette Cartee raised a notable family

The Lafayette Cartee house at 4th and Grove streets in Boise, pictured with last week’s column, was notable enough that Portland’s West Shore magazine published a different lithographic view of it in October 1878. It rivaled some of Oregon’s finest homes then and was unequaled by any private residence in Idaho Territory.

The Idaho Statesman, the Owyhee Avalanche and the Idaho World frequently mentioned Surveyor General Cartee and members of his family in the 1870s and ’80s. The Statesman noted in March 1876, “Miss Carrie Cartee’s many friends will be pleased, though not surprised, to hear that she is making very rapid progress in the study of the languages and music at Mannheim, Germany.” On March 10, 1877, the Owyhee Avalanche of Silver City published a long letter from Editor J.S. Hay that described and praised Cartee’s nursery, house and outbuildings.

In October 1879, the World of Idaho City noted, “Miss Ella Cartee, of Boise City, is up on a visit to Mr. Jonas W. Brown and wife.” Ella, second of the three Cartee daughters, was then 20. Attorney Jonas Brown was one of the leading spokesmen for the temperance movement in Idaho at the time. His wife, Margaret, was a talented artist and painter in oils. Later that month the Statesman reported: “Gen. Cartee has purchased of Mr. McCauley 160 acres of the Big Bend, situated on the north side of Snake River about 10 miles above the mouth of the Bruneau. This, with what Gen. Cartee owned before, gives him the exclusive right of pasturage on the Big Bend.”

Cartee always supported and encouraged Boise City’s cultural activities, as in February 1882, when he hosted the Holland Literary Circle.

When the Cartee children were of marriageable age, they chose mates from other prominent Boise families. Caroline, the oldest, married Fremont Wood on New Year’s Day 1885. Wood, who was born in Winthrop, Maine, in 1858, came to Boise in June 1881. He served as Boise City attorney, as assistant to the U.S. Attorney for Idaho Territory, and was himself appointed U.S. Attorney for Idaho in 1889. In November 1906 he was elected judge for the 3rd District. The most notable case over which he presided was that of “Big Bill” Haywood and George Pettibone, accused of involvement in the assassination of former Gov. Frank Steunenberg. Caroline and Fremont Wood had nine children.

Second daughter Ella Cartee married attorney Charles H. Reed, a native of Michigan, in September 1884. Her brother Ross D. Cartee married Leona Hailey in October 1887. She was the daughter of John Hailey, pioneer stagecoach operator, Idaho delegate to Congress and first head of the Idaho State Historical Society. Third daughter Mary Bell Cartee married Canadian John E. McCrum, brother of Julia McCrum, who became Mrs. Thomas Jefferson Davis and for whom Julia Davis Park is named. McCrum died in 1886 after being thrown from a horse at a ranch on the Bruneau River. Mary Bell later married druggist Clarence W. Joy.

Upon his return from a visit to his son in Helena, Mont., in December 1889, Lafayette Cartee told the Idaho Statesman, “For climate and the many things that go with it, Boise takes the cake and carries the banner.” In February 1890, Cartee was appointed superintendent of construction for a new cell house at the Territorial Penitentiary, and in 1891 he erected a drugstore building for C.K. McCrum, another brother of Julia Davis. The Statesman called it “one of the best structures in town.”

When Lafayette Cartee died on Sept. 2, 1891, the Statesman published a long story and an editorial praising his life and services. All businesses in town were closed, and “multitudes of old friends” followed Cartee to his final resting place in Pioneer Cemetery beside his wife, Mary Bell Cartee, who had died in Oregon in 1862 and was brought to Boise for reburial a few years later.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email histnart@gmail.com.

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