Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rival Towns



I used optical character recognition (OCR) to scan the following excerpt and then gave it a read through to correct the usual errors and misspellings that occur in the process. I believe I corrected most and it should be pretty much as originally written. Feel free to holler if you spot a glaring error. I did not make any corrections to the original text. Some of the information was given in previous posts but I have provided the full text of it here. See the earlier post today for the picture of Ferdinand and Steunenberg Idaho that goes along with it.

From Pioneer Days in Idaho County,
Volume I, by Sister Alfreda Eisensohn

Pages 446-449

Rival Towns: After the stations on the new railroad had been located and established, J. P. Vollmer, Lewiston banker and millionaire, and a director in the Northern Pacific Railroad, having advance information, bought up the lands on which the depots were to be located. He paid a good price for the land and gave the right of way to the railroad company through his land free, so naturally enough, he expected to make some money from the sale of town lots. But the price at which he held them, from $250 to $1000, was deemed too high by many, and especially by those in the old towns which the railroad had missed and who were expected to move into the new ones. Thirty thousand dollars worth were sold in one week in Vollmer when that town was platted in 1907.

When Mr. Bieker heard of the plan to start a town on the east side of the tracks, one-fourth mile east of Ferdinand, he wrote Mr. Vollmer a letter and offered to sell him the forty acres on which Ferdinand is located, providing he would put the town on the west side of the tracks. Mr. Bieker received no reply, and after that started to sell tracts to people that wanted to go in business there. Ben Gerding, a former Cottonwood saloon man, was the first to build. He put up a two-story saloon and hall building, and also a dwelling, the present Bryant home. Later on, he erected a two-story hotel. Joe Bushue and Barney Herzog, partners, put up a two-story hall and store building, Tony Nau and Frank Staab, a general store, and Ed Nau, a harness store and workshop.

Vollmer started to plat a town, first near Kippen, which he named Reubens. He seemed to have no trouble getting the Kippen people to move to his new town, then a mile east of Ilo, he started a town named Vollmer. Ilo was a well-built town of about two hundred people; it even had a bank and a flour mill. It seems that the people first intended to stay right where they were, but Iater on, they decided to move to a tract of land which they had bought south of the railroad track, opposite VolImer. The VolImer town had a good start by that time and was about as large as Ilo, but the farmers seemed to favor the Ilo merchants and so the latter town always had the larger part of the trade. Ilo was a post office in 1903 and 1904 when W. H. Hill surveyed the Nez Perce branch of the Lewiston and Southeastern from Westlake.

From Vollmer the surveyor was sent to plat Steunenberg, one quarter mile east of Ferdinand. For some reason or other, perhaps because he was convinced by Mr. Gerding, Ferdinand saloon man, that VoIImer was not doing the right thing to start a town so close, difficulties arose between Vollmer and Mr. S. P. Judson, the surveyor. The latter lost his job, although the platting was not half finished. It was about this time, July, 1906, that Mr. Bieker arranged with Mr. Judson, who had also engineered the railroad grade from Culdesac up the hill, to survey and plat forty acres as the Ferdinand townsite. The platting of Steunenberg was not taken up again until about eighteen months later when a family by the name of Noel came from Oklahoma, and, backed by Mr. Vollmer, started a store there, a large, flat-roofed building was erected, containing, in addition to a storeroom, some dwelling rooms and a room in which a bank was to be located. The bank, a private one, was put in some time Iatter by the Vollmer Clearwater Company, but business did not flourish, and after a year or two, Mr. Noel left. The bank was then run in connection with the company's grain warehouse.

About a year after that, a notice appeared in the Lewiston Tribune to the effect that the depot at Ferdinand would be built two miles farther south. Four of the Ferdinand businessmen, including Mr. Gerding, got frightened at that and went at once to Lewiston, agreeing with Mr. Vollmer to move their businesses and buildings to Steunenberg if they were given free lots. They at once started to move. The rest of the Ferdinand businessmen took matters more calmly, conferred together, and after some parleying with Mr. Vollmer, decided to stay and stick it out. They had a bank at that time, the Denver State Bank having been moved to Ferdinand from Denver, Idaho, in the spring of 1907. Henry Kuther, its president, had also left Denver and was engaged in the general merchandise business. There were still two general stores, one hardware store, a saloon, a livery barn, a barber shop--in fact, all that was needed, except a hotel, which Gerding had moved out. Mr. Bieker decided to build one, although he had to borrow money in order to do so.

About a year Iater, something happened that caused both consternation and indignation at Ilo and at Ferdinand. Orders came from the Post Office Department in Washington to discontinue the post office at Ilo and establish a post office at Steunenberg, possibly on the recommendation of Congressman Hammer. Ilo had about two hundred people while Steunenberg had about twenty. As people put it, the latter town was made up of "Mr. Taylor and his family, and the two Jacks."

Citizens of Ilo sent a man to Washington. D.C., to try to get their post office back, but their efforts did not meet with success until about two years later--when another man, French, had again become congressman. The Steunenberg post office was discontinued after one year for lack of business

The Free Press makes the following comments regarding Steunenberg:

April 16, 1908: The Chief engineer of the railroad construction informs us the trains will pass through here July 1, 1908.

May 14, 1908: Westly Nickel moved into his new apartment this week. Westly installed a new refrigerator in his shop which enables him to keep fresh meats all summer.

May 28, 1908: Steunenberg had its first fire Tuesday morning when the hotel and building formerly used as a saloon burned to the ground.

September 10, 1908: Forty teams hauling grain to local warehouses stopped here at noon Wednesday.

November 26, 1908: Mr. Long's team went to VolImer Monday to get the safe and fixtures for the bank here. The former barber shop had been fixed up for the bank. 

In the meantime, as noted by the Free Press item of May 28, 1908, fire had destroyed two of the buildings moved to Steunenberg. Mr. Vollmer put up a new store building, and his manager was also the first postmaster. Business did not flourish, however, and some time later, after a road to the depot had been forced through the land west of the tracks from Ferdinand, it seems Mr. VoIlmer sold his land on that side of the tracks and also the store building, to the Vollmer Clearwater Company. Then the building and bank were moved to the Ferdinand site, as well as some other buildings east of the tracks.

The Iand on the west side was now platted and sold for residence property. A concrete bank building was put up, and the bank and warehouse were kept going by the VolImer Clearwater Company until 1927, when, after insistent urging by the bank commissioner, both parties finally got together on a deal whereby the Ferdinand group took over the Steunenberg building and fixtures at cost, according to their original offer.

In conclusion, Mr. Bieker has this to say of Ferdinand's fight for existence:

Thus ended the townsite strife at Ferdinand and with it all hard feelings. No one had been seriously hurt although mistakes in plenty had been made on both sides. It is the competitive system, however far from the ideal it may be.
Vollmer certainly did not make any money at Ferdinand or Steunenberg. I still think that he should have given the people in the towns the railroad missed some inducement to move to his new towns, either in the way of cheap lots, or at least, given the new towns the names of the old ones. They might also have let us have this small territory for our bank as we were here first, not start competition. Thanks are due to the conservative people here who always gave us their banking business and also to all the people for their loyal support of the Ferdinand Townsite.

(When I receive the Steunenberg ID plat maps and current ownership information, maybe a little archeological expedition will be in order during my next Idaho visit).

Below comments received from Mark Metkin regarding the above information from Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Volume I, by Sister Alfreda Eisensohn

From: Mark and Janice Metkin
Sent: Saturday, January 24, 2009 6:45 PM
Subject: Rival Towns
Referring to your latest blog post, the line about how "Orders came from the Post Office Department in Washington to discontinue the Post Office at Ilo and establish a Post Office at Steunenberg" is rubbish. Firstly, in the period of concern, PO's were not established upon "orders" of the PO Department. PO's were granted or not granted according to need (anticipated revenue) by the PO Department in response to a formal application by a local resident. Said local resident was often the person who was appointed as the first postmaster if the application was approved. Secondly, the PO at Steunenberg was established in 1909 whereas the PO at Ilo was discontinued temporarily in 1910. Thus, the PO at Steunenberg was established and in operation before the PO at Ilo was discontinued. Not after or at the same time.

The rivalries between Ilo and Vollmer on the railroad and also Kippen and Reubens on the railroad (in Lewis County) were not intertwined with the rivalry between Ferdinand and Steunenberg on the railroad (in Idaho County). The PO at Ilo was established in 1899 and discontinued temporarily in 1910 because either (1) the PO at Vollmer had taken away its postal business (loss of revenue) and/or (2) the postmaster at Ilo wanted to quit the job and could not find a replacement or possibly (3) the postmaster at Ilo failed to submit his returns (revenues) for the previous quarter or otherwise failed to perform the duties of his office as required by law. In any event, the PO at Ilo was reestablished in 1911 and renamed Craigmont in 1920. The PO at nearby Vollmer was established in 1907 and discontinued in 1919 with no breaks in operation. Mark

Below from Mark:
Real photo postcard mailed from Vollmer 1908 - scans of picture and message sides.
Above: Looks like a work train loaded with cross ties. The picture is maybe not too dramatic but certainly historic.
Message: Dear Genie, This is a picture of the first train in Vollmer.This is about three and a half miles from home. Love to all. Jenny.

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