Saturday, January 31, 2009

Plat Maps of Steunenberg and Ferdinand

Today I received a very interesting copy of the 1907 Steunenberg, Idaho plat map along with a detailed "Certification and Dedication of Owner" with a full property description and the names of Sallie and James Vollmer, another plat map of Ferdinand, a couple smaller maps of the streets and showing property owners at the time and property deeds for current owners. I have reviewed satellite and city maps of today, descriptions and photos of the towns and have pinpointed where Steunenberg apparently once stood. Not really difficult to find.

Above is one of the small 8 1/2" by 11" map pages. The 1907 "Plat of Steunenberg" and the "Certification and Dedication of Owner" are too large for scanning and the Ferdinand plat is larger yet. Eventually, I will try to so get some partial scans posted and will be dropping a note in the mail to the property owners to see what they can tell me.

Time to start planning the expedition.

Caldwell, Idaho-History and Questions

Here are a few more photo postcards and a cover from Caldwell, Idaho courtesy of our friend Mark Metkin. The postcards I have among my collection and you may have seen elsewhere. The cover I do not and is a wonderful postal item reflecting this important building in Caldwell history.

With all this free publicity I am giving Mark, he is going to have to find me a deal on a Steunenberg, ID postmark or a nice Caldwell cover such at the one shown below (smile). I have added a tad bit to his descriptions here and there. Click on the pictures for enlarged views.

Caldwell real photo postcard - town panorama - mailed from Caldwell in 1917. The OSL Depot can be seen to the upper left, the Caldwell Banking & Trust Co. (arched windows) and The Saratoga Hotel (turret) are visible near the center of the picture.

Caldwell lithographed postcard - Boise-Caldwell trolley at Main and Sixth Streets - mailed from Caldwell 1908. The Saratoga and the Caldwell Banking & Trust Co. appear to the right of the

Caldwell 1904 cover with illustrated building advertising for The Saratoga, R.V. Sebree, Manager. Shows the building as it looked when it was completed in 1904. Subsequently enlarged with an upper floor that removed the turrets and completely changed the appearance. The hotel burned down in a tragic 1990 fire.

Thanks again to Mark for continuing to share helpful information and interesting covers and postcards.

Mark submitted the following questions. I am going to give some hints but ask others to take a shot at it before I give any more detailed answers. Of course, no guarantee that I have anything right and this way I can copy from everyone else.

Stump a Steunenberg questions:

Suppose you could go one century back in time and ride the trolley from downtown Boise to downtown Caldwell. You could then be in this picture! How long would the trip take? Hint: "The Loop"

Could your great grandfather have taken the same trolley ride? Hint: Only in spirit.

On the other hand, being a prominent businessman and former governor, your great grandfather may have preferred to travel between Caldwell and Boise on a real passenger train rather than an electric streetcar. Could he do so without changing trains? Hint: Where the Oregon Short Line and Idaho Central Railroad meet.

This cover identifies one R.V. Sebree as the general manager of The Saratoga. Who was he? Hint: Splinter collector.

Who was Walter S. Campbell? Hint: You still can't miss his turrets.

Some claimed in later years that The Saratoga was haunted. Perhaps because Harry Orchard (an alias) stayed at the hotel (under another alias) while perpetrating a terrible crime. What room did he stay in? Hint: The eighth smallest prime number.

So tell me more....

Friday, January 30, 2009

"The Gate on 16th Avenue" - A Century Ago and Today

A Boise State University student asked me this week where the assassination site was located and that got me checking to see if the street view at 16th and Dearborn had yet made it to Google maps. And yes, click here. The above picture of the original house is one of several, mostly photo postcards, that I have in my collection.

Governor Steunenberg was assassinated near the corner of Dearborn and 16th Avenue in Caldwell, ID when he opened the side gate to his home, setting off a dynamite bomb. Through the magic of Google street view maps, we can see how that same area looks today.
The original house burned down in 1913--the fence, gate and all remnants of the property are long gone. The link will take you to the location as it currently looks. The fence there now with the small steps is reasonably near where the original fence and gate would have been located and where the bomb exploded when Frank lifted the gate latch. The house would have been located a little further back then the current home as it was larger acreage at the time.The story has it that subsequent property owners of the site cut down what had become much larger trees a hundred years later. Probably some of those you see in the top picture. They kept wearing out the chain on the chainsaw because of remaining pieces of shrapnel that were deeply embedded in the wood. I don't believe any original trees from the Steunenberg era remain but the similarities with the fence, gate, two trees on this side of the fence and another on the other side is a bit uncanny when you compare the photos. The home is located within the Steunenberg Historical District.

News article from the Idaho Statesman, September, 6, 2006. Drive by and take a look but please do not disturb the property owners.

I attempted to find some street views of Steunenberg, Idaho, maybe one of that saloon/soda pop establishment, but was unsuccessful. I guess no one was doing that kind of Goggling in 1910.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inauguration of Barack Obama in Washington DC

Regardless of your political persuasion, I wanted to share a bit of the inaugural experience through the eyes of my son Joe. This may not be specifically Idaho or Steunenberg but certainly applies to everyone everywhere. I was pleased to see that his view of government has transitioned from that of being something that is only repressive and negative to a now more positive force for change. Besides the inauguration itself, I think the setting of Washington DC, the Lincoln Memorial, seeing the Constitution and Bill of Rights and gaining a sense of the historical underpinnings of our country has helped to enhance that new found enthusiasm. Now, we all need to play our role as good citizens, because if we expect one person or only government to solve our problems then we are already doomed for failure.

I think he did a pretty job of summing up his experience in Washington D.C. Click below.
Inauguration of Barack Obama in Washington DC

Monday, January 26, 2009

Newly Found Photo of a Young Frank Steunenberg circa 1880 taken in Des Moines, IA

Here is a newly discovered photo I just acquired showing a young Frank Steunenberg. I place it circa 1880. Frank would be about 19-20 years old and living in Iowa. I have never seen Frank's hair so slick and plastered down! Click on the photos to enlarge.

This was found through the generous efforts of Shelley Cardiel. She is a fellow historian and antique buff with the wonderful hobby of re-uniting old photographs with family descendants. You know, all those pictures and albums we see at antique sales and on eBay and wonder what has happened to the family? Of course most sad is when it is the family doing the selling. Shelley found this photo at an antique sale in Portland, Oregon.

Fortunately, the photo had Frank's name written on the back. Shelley did a little research on the family and posted a message on the Canyon Canyon Idaho Rootweb site. There it was spotted by another one of my fellow Idaho history and collecting addicts, John Mutch, who was kind enough to point Shelley in the direction of my blog and contact information. Fortunately, John and I had run into each other online before, as it certainly helped to have a friendly pair of eyes out there that knew where to find me. I always believe "what goes around comes around." Although some of us Idaho collectors occasionally find ourselves knocking heads over an item, most of the time we are happy to share information regarding our mutual historical interests. Thanks John.

Although Shelley could probably make a little more money posting items on eBay, she only asks to recoup her costs...$6.00 bucks in this case...what a deal and I cannot thank her enough for her efforts and John for helping link us up.

End of story...not quite. Jan Boles, archivist at the College of Idaho and caretaker of the Crookham Collection/Steunenberg Papers, found Shelley's message too. I always know Jan is watching out for Steunenberg items and someone else had alerted him to it. Another person that found the posting on the Canyon County site was Mary Sue Chatfield. I contacted Mary Sue and discovered she was from the Keppel side of the family. Mary Sue has already provided some helpful information and I look forward to our continued communications. Hence, I have found a heretofore-unknown photo and kinfolk connection thanks to some good networking.

A happy new beginning for a lost photo.

Frank still in the Warehouse

The then (two years ago) Interim Director of the Idaho State Historical Society, Keith Petersen, holds up a portrait of Former Gov. Frank Steunenberg in the Idaho State Historical museum's warehouse on Jan. 29, 2007. The portrait was removed from the statehouse in preparation for the capitol restoration. Frank is still waiting in the warehouse but hopes to make his escape sometime in 2010.

See the following post for a picture showing where this portrait hung in the capitol before the start of the current restoration project. "Frank Watching Over the Capital Restoration."

For more infomation, go to: Ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg, (painting). Artist Charles Leopold Ostner.

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. Here again is the photo of Ferdinand and Steunenberg Idaho that goes along with it.

Below 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.

Photo of Steunenberg, Idaho...sort of

Steunenberg, ID. You see it don't you? Over there on the "extreme right" as per the caption. Here is a detail from that side of the photo. Maybe that larger building in the background is the hotel that later burned down? Click the photos to enlarge.

This is the only picture I have found to date of the metropolis of Steunenberg, ID. It definitely demonstrates that Ferdinand and Steunenberg were but a stones throw from each other. The photo comes from that great work, Pioneer Days in Idaho County, Volume I, by Sister Alfreda Eisensohn. I went in search of both volumes I and II figuring I might have to get them from an Idaho library or pay the hefty price a set of these books can sometimes demand. To my surprise, I found both just a few minutes down the road at the Cal Poly State University San Luis Obispo Library.

There have been several more surprises and interesting contacts in the past week or so. A just rescued photo of a young Frank Steunenberg that is on its way to me, an old wash bench probably made at the Idaho Pen by Harry Orchard that a gentleman contacted me about, interesting Caldwell, ID covers from Mark Metkin, a copy of the original 1907 surveyed plat map for Steunenberg, Idaho and more from Pioneer Days in Idaho County. I am a little short on time but will get that stuff on here soon.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Presidential Inauguration 2009

Hopefully you will excuse me for getting slightly political, as I try not to go too far down that road on this blog. However, history is being made in the next few days—history steeped in the rich tradition of Washington D.C. and every president since the First Inauguration in 1789.

No matter what your political affiliation or views, I am sure we all sense the significance of the inauguration about to take place of President Obama. The historical setting of Washington D.C., the proximity of the inauguration to Martin Luther King Day, to the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and, most of all, to the challenges before us—will hopefully bring forth a resurgence of "Americanism" and participation as we grapple with the difficult days ahead. We will still have much in the way of disagreement and debate and that is as it should be, for it sets America apart from despots and kings. However, let us make it a discourse more steeped in the common good rather then a pundit’s television or radio ratings or the selling of a new book. We need to temper both the extreme right and extreme left and seek the common ground toward the middle if we are to move down the road to a more prosperous and peaceful America and world—a road that must intersect Main Street, Wall Street and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

As my son, Joe, heads off for the inaugural in Washington D.C., I think back to the days when I shared his youthful exuberance and political awakening with the election of John F. Kennedy and the later presidential run of Robert Kennedy. In both cases, other forces snatched away that enthusiasm and hope, something all too similar and rooted in our own family history. Growing up in the 1960’s was certainly a time of great social upheaval, as were the 1930's/40’s for my mother and father before me and now for my children in a still just dawning 21st Century. Evil will always lurk in the world, and fears will linger in the back of ones mind. Nevertheless, dulled memories have been awakened once again and, for the first time in decades, I too feel the hope that has come alive through my children. I wish President Obama, Democrats, Republicans, Independents and all of us success as we enter a new era in American politics and seek to re-establish a legacy of leadership, respect, prosperity and peace at home and abroad—for ourselves, our children and future generations.

President Obama will use President Lincoln's Bible at the Inauguration. (The Abraham Lincoln Blog)

For a little more Washington D.C. history with a family connection, go to:
National Capital Centennial - Program from 1900

Commemorative Medal Give to Governor Steunenberg on 12/12/1900

Boise, Idaho - Real Photo Postcards & Covers.

Mark Metkin has continued to send a few scans my way, including these real photo postcards and covers from Boise, Idaho. I have a beginning collection of postcards, some of which you see scattered throughout the blog, but covers (I am getting sophisticated now and no longer refer to them as mere envelopes!) are a relatively new item of interest. I had a few that came along with old family letters and always found postmark dates and towns to be of interest. However, running into Mark, and my recent foray into postal history, seems to have opened up a whole new avenue of research & collecting. Along with each cover or postcard I have included Mark's description just as he provided it. I have put any notations of my own in italics. Click on the pics for an enlarged view.
Boise real photo postcard - the Idan-ha Hotel building - mailed from Boise in 1915.
Boise real photo postcard - Main Street looking east and showing the Idan-ha Hotel towering above the surrounding buildings - mailed from Boise in 1910. Picture postcards are probably of more interest to your readers than covers (old envelopes to the uninitiated). Unfortunately, postcards did not come into vogue until after your great grandfather died. This photo likely dates from the year it was mailed because the Overland Building (subsequently enlarged and renamed the Eastman Building) is visible a couple blocks up the street.

I might disagree with Mark when he says postcards are probably more interesting to my readers then covers. Check out the following where you get the best of both, postmarks and a picture, all on a single cover.

Boise 1905 cover (Doremus machine cancel again) with engraved Idan-ha Hotel illustrated Indian advertising. In 1907, the Idan-ha filled with newspaper reporters while the "trial of the century" was followed across the country.

Another Boise 1905 cover (Doremus machine cancel again) with up-and-coming attorney W. E. Borah corner card and lithographed Lewis-Clark Exposition illustrated advertising

Only months away would be the assassination of Borah's friend, Governor Steunenberg. Borah would soon find himself preparing for the Haywood trial.

Boise 1903 cover (Doremus machine cancel) with lithographed Idan-ha Hotel illustrated building advertising.

Boise private mailing card (from before postcards) - Main Street looking east - unused, circa 1900. This view shows Main Street as your great grandfather might have seen it in his last year as governor. Note the wall papered over with signs on the sidewalk at the extreme left of the picture. Behind the wall was presumably an excavation, which would have been for the basement of a new building... the Idan-ha Hotel.

The Idan-ha Hotel in Boise opened for business on New Year's Day in 1901. At the time, it was the only six-story building in Idaho. It was also the only building in Idaho with an elevator.
You can view the Idan-ha stationary that goes along with the above cover on blog post: Frank Steunenberg to son Julian - February 2, 1905. Frank Steunenberg often stayed at the Idan-ha when in Boise on business.

Thanks again to Mark, for sharing a few items from your collection.
Here are a couple of covers from among the few I have on the blog. Now if I can only hunt down one of those postcards or covers with a Steunenberg, Idaho postmark.  

Spanish-American War cover addressed to Governor Steunenberg
Letter and cover from the Hotel Moscow

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Steunenberg & Ferdinand Idaho

A little tidbit of information from Ultimate that mentions the formation of Steunenberg and Ferdinand Idaho.
Pop. 145

"When the Nez Perce Reservation opened up for settlement in 1895, Frank M. Bieker and ten other settlers homesteaded claims at just $3.75 an acre. Bieker then petitioned for postal services in 1898, naming his new settlement Ferdinand after his mother’s hometown of Ferdinand, Indiana.

When the Camas Prairie Railroad built its line, Ferdinand was on the west side of the tracks. Bieker got word that John P. Vollmer, a ruthless millionaire-banker, planned on building another town just one-quarter mile away on the other side of the tracks. Bieker offered to sell Ferdinand’s forty town acres to Vollmer if Vollmer would promise to put his proposed community on the west side of the tracks as well. Vollmer never responded to the offer, but proceeded to build his town, called Steunenberg, and even managed to claim a few of Ferdinand’s businessmen. Most of Ferdinand’s residents stayed put, however, and Steunenberg’s newly established post office soon closed. Realizing his costly mistake, Vollmer eventually sold his land, and the small town was moved across the tracks to join Ferdinand."

I have a request in to Idaho County to see if they can pinpoint the exact location of Steunenberg, ID on a plat map. Other bits of information still flowing in too. Perhaps the Idaho State Historical Society and the Idaho Transportation Department would consider adding an historical marker to designate this interesting piece of Idaho history related to the Camas Prairie Railroad, John Vollmer and the towns of Ferdinand and Steunenberg. Something mentioning that the Nez Perce were essentially run off their reservation and the land given away to homesteaders by way of the Proclamation regarding Nez Perce reservation, 1895 might also be appropriate.

Nez Perce Chiefs in War Dress, Camas Prarie ca. 1899

Studio portrait of two chiefs (Edward Gould on right) wearing full war attire including feathered headdresses and breechcloth. One holds a sword.
Public Domain Image

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


The following comes courtesy of Byron Bovey and the ILO-Vollmer Historical Society. Thank you Bryon for providing these details regarding the fire. Slowly but surely we are putting this story together as interesting bits of information continue to trickle in regarding Steunenberg, Idaho.

Wednesday, May 27, 1908


Steunenberg, May 26--Fire in the town of Steunenberg at 2:30 o'clock this morning destroyed the Steunenberg hotel and the Gerding soft drink establishment and lodging house. The total loss in buildings furniture and personal effects is estimated at $7,000 while the insurance will not exceed $2,000.

The fire started in the rear of the lower room of the building occupied by the soft drink establishment and pool room and is of unknown origin. The establishment was being conducted by Joe Gerding. No person slept in the building. The upper floor of the establishment was devoted to lodging rooms. The hotel, also a two-structure, was located about ten feet distant from the pool room building, and the flames soon spread there. It was impossible to save a part of the furniture, but within a comparatively short time both buildings were a ruin.

The large general merchandise store conducted by J. C. Noel is located across the street from the hotel and for a period it was threatened with destruction. The front of the building was severely scorched and the heat was such that some panes of glass were broken.

The buildings destroyed were owned by Ben Gerding, of Grangeville. Prior to the ruling of the supreme court holding that liquor could not be sold on the reservation, Mr. Gerding conducted a saloon at Ferdinand. When the new town of Steunenberg was established, Mr. Gerding moved the buildings here and later when the conducting of saloons on the reservation was forbidden, he moved his stock of liquors to Grangeville. The saloon building has since been devoted to the use of the soft drink establishment and pool rooms conducted by Mr. Gerding's brother, Joe Gerding.

The hotel was constructed by John Schiller.

From: High Line of the Camas Prairie Railroad researched and compiled by Byron Bovey and the Ilo-Vollmer Historical Society.

(Somehow I imagine a few other libations snuck in among the soft drinks. John)

Monday, January 5, 2009

"Steunenberg will be one of the best of the new towns"

"STEUNENBERG. A few miles farther on (from Lawyers Canyon) lies the new town of Steunenberg, situated in the heart of a vast and beautiful farming section. One cannot observe the resources in sight of this place without coming to the conclusion that Steunenberg will be one of the best of the new towns. Adjoining the town site is the village of Ferdinand. Here there is no prejudice about the new town as Ferdinand is so close as to really be a part of it." --High Line of the Camas Prairie Railroad, researched and compiled by Byron Bovey and the Ilo-Vollmer Historical Society.

Of course, it didn't quite work out that way. Apparently the hotel and saloon in Steunenberg burned down. John P. Vollmer, director of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which co-owned the Camas Prairie Railroad, had purchased property along the right of way with an eye toward town development and profit. It was apparently decided that moving Ferdinand back near the railroad and referring to the whole area by that name would be the most profitable way to go. The town of Steunenberg disappeared into obscurity. Hopefully we can bring it back into the historical consciousness.

This information came to me via my kin Malcolm McClain who got it from his contact, Iver Jay Longeteig. Iver has kinfolk in Idaho county. Another example of information that is coming in through the "network."

Being the ever obsessive historian, I just purchased a couple of old maps that are on there way to me that have the town of Steunenberg. More to come.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

More on the Town of Steunenberg or Steunenburg, Idaho

Since that last post, I have done some map searching and Mark Metkin has provided more information on the town of Steunenberg, Idaho. I have looked at maps of Idaho online before, own several, but never thought about looking for a town of Steunenberg. The two or three old maps I have predate the town so it wasn't right under my nose but pretty close to it. Steunenberg appears on maps between approximately 1911 to 1913. We can actually widen that range a bit as I just heard back from two map dealers this morning that have 1910 and 1914 maps showing the town. So Steunenberg remained on maps for three or four years beyond its actual existence.

Steunenberg, ID was only a click away on Historical Maps of Idaho once I knew to look for it. To explore further, I would really recommend using that site and their map viewing tools. Thanks to those of you that are out there skowering the countryside for more information.

Above Steunen-burg on the railroad with Ferdinand just to the east. 1911 Cram, George F. (Courtesy of Mark Metkin)

Above Steunenburg and Ferdinand practically touching on the railroad. 1911 The Kenyon Company from Historical Maps of Idaho.

Steunenberg (got it spelled right!) still on the railroad with Ferdinand now to the west. 1912 Rand McNally & Company from Historical Maps of Idaho.

Steunenberg still on the railroad with Ferdinand now to the north. 1913 Rand McNally & Company from Historical Maps of Idaho.

"Steunenberg was one of a number of promotions by Lewiston banker and capitalist John P. Vollmer. Vollmer was, among other things, a director of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which co-owned the Camas Prairie Railroad. As such, Vollmer had advance information on the railroad alignment and depot locations and, armed with that information prior to construction of the railroad, he quietly went about purchasing land at a number of those locations. The idea was of course to eventually resell the land at a profit as town lots.
I mentioned before that Steunenberg was near the present-day town of Ferdinand. Ferdinand dates from 1895 when the Nez Perce Indian Reservation was opened for settlement by non-Indians. So much for treaties, but that is another story. In the next century, Ferdinand found itself bypassed by the Camas Prairie Railroad by about a quarter of a mile, so the town relocated itself to the tracks across from Vollmer's Steunenberg. Accounts vary on the negotiations that went on between the good citizens of Ferdinand and the opportunistic Vollmer, but there evidently was a rivalry between the adjacent towns for a brief time. Vollmer built a hotel and saloon at Steunenberg, which burned down shortly after it opened, and also a store and bank, which the good citizens of Ferdinand refused to patronize. Vollmer ended up selling his property at Steunenberg to no great advantage. And so it is just Ferdinand that they call the place by today." --Courtesy Mark Metkin
Thanks again Mark. Hmm...seems the town of Ferdinand didn't know if it was coming or going. Maybe John Vollmer should have kept the town of Steunenberg but no doubt it boiled down to which was the most profitable. Click here for a satellite map view of the area. Perhaps I can search the old land deeds and survey records and pinpoint the exact location--not that anyone but me would be too too worried about it most likely. Might find a few old remnants or a dig site where the saloon and hotel burned down. I wonder if the 143 folks living in Ferdinand are up for a name change? Probably not.

Finding the town on maps and Mark sharing his Steunenberg postmark has been quite a treat. Now an old photograph or picture postcard that might have been taken and survived the town's demise would be really cool. The chance of that may be a slim but the search goes on....
Below are a couple pictures from our friend Jan Boles, Archivist at the College of Idaho and an established photographer to boot. BTW, we spotted a Boles, Idaho that existed for awhile too and there might be a connection. Thanks for the pictures Jan.
1922 Cram courtesy Mark Metkin. Steunenberg is gone, Ferdinand remains and a Boles has appeared down toward the bottom center under Keuterville.
Coincidentally, Jan had recently been on assignment with the Idaho Heritage Trust to document the Camas Prairie Railroad since segments of it are beginning to disappear. In this picture near Ferdinand (and Steunenberg, ID!), you can see the railroad ties being piled up from where the track once ran through.
Wide shot near Reuben, Idaho.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Quite some time ago, I ran across an old listing from the Schuyler Rumsey Philatelic Auctions for a postmarked card from the town of Steunenberg, Idaho. I had never heard of a town with the family name and from time to time have tried to locate additional information regarding its existence. Unfortunately, no picture was available of the postcard or postmark, no information regarding the buyer and seemingly no trace of any such town.

My search eventually led to a website established by Corbin Miller, who maintains a listing of Idaho Doane Postmarks. The same above referenced auction item was listed as a reported but not confirmed Doane postmark. Corbin correctly reported the Doane designation as unconfirmed since no one had actually seen a scan or picture of the item that had been purchased at auction in 2003. We do not know where that particular postcard is at today or who owns it. Corbin has removed it from the above referenced list, since it now appears the auction listing was incorrect in identifying it as a Doane. He directed me to Mark Metkin, a collector of Idaho covers and postmarks, as someone that might have more information on the Steunenberg postmark.

I found out from Mark, the Coordinator of the Idaho State Postal History Registry, that the designation of the above item as a Doane cancel was in fact inaccurate and that the auctioned item would have been a 4-bar postmark similar to one in his collection. You can find the town of Steunenberg, ID on Mark's list of Idaho County Post Offices.

For a primer on all this postmark business and what is what, go to: Postmarks

Of course, Mark and Corbin are both very knowledgeable regarding postal history and postmarks. My knowledge is rudimentary at best but has been sparked by these developments. All the discussion aside as to the type of postmark, my singular interest was to confirm the existence of a postmark from STEUNENBERG, IDAHO. Mark solved that problem with the STEUNENBERG, IDAHO 4-bar cancel postcard in his personal collection. Finally, I had found confirmation that a town, or at least a post office, had existed.
Here is Mark’s postcard along with a closer look below at the postmark. Click on any of the images for an even larger view. This card is apparently from the same sender (probably not a lot of folks in Steunenberg, ID in 1910) as in the Rumsey auction item and bears a March 22, 1910 4-bar postmark and post office name of “STEUNENBURG, IDAHO.” Mark says Post Office records have the name correctly spelled as “STEUNENBERG.” Misspelling of postmarks is apparently common and all of us in the family are well aware of the many incorrect variations on Steunenberg. It is not an easy name to spell and I even type it incorrectly now and then. We will forgive the maker of the postmark hand stamp for that one.


The Steunenberg post office was an early stop on the Camas Prairie Railroad between Lewiston and Grangeville. It was located in Idaho County just south of the Lewis County line near present-day Ferdinand. The Post Office was established October 9, 1909, with one Gust. A. Franz as postmaster. The Post Office was discontinued July 29, 1910 (above information and postcard scans provided courtesy of Mark Metkin).

Does anyone know that area near Ferdinand? I wonder if there is any documentation as to the exact location or what if any buildings ever existed except for what served as a post office. It could have been a shack or farmhouse along the railroad tracks. Today it may be barren land or a Wal-Mart as I have not been to that area during any of my recent Idaho trips. I guess it will be another place on the itinerary next time around. The map shown here comes from the Wikipedia page, Camas Prairie Railroad.

So henceforth, we can now say that STEUNENBERG, IDAHO did in fact exist, albeit for less then ten months, but it was there. The short duration would account for the rare nature of postmarks with the Steunenberg name.

Please let me know if you have any other information regarding the short-lived town of STEUNENBERG (or STEUNENBURG), IDAHO.

In a later post, I will show some additional postcards/postmarks shared by Mark that also have a Steunenberg connection.

Thank you Mark and Corbin for leading me down the right trail.