BOOKS ON IDAHO HISTORY
In 2020, John published two companion books that give an unparalleled insight into the history of the Wood River Valley and the Sun Valley resort: Sun Valley, Ketchum and the Wood River Valley, and Skiing Sun Valley: a History from Union Pacific to the Holdings. John is donating his author’s profits from both books to the Center for Regional History at The Community Library in Ketchum. These are discussed in the Book Section of the website.
LECTURES AND POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS
John has given a number of PowerPoint presentations at The Community Library in Ketchum, which can be accessed through its slideshare website.
July 2014: John gave two presentations on the Oregon Short Line Railroad, as part of the celebration of the 130th anniversary of the arrival of the railroad at Ketchum. See, “A Railroad Ran Through It,” The Weekly Sun, July 16, 2014.
June 2015: John gave presentations on two topics:
History of Wood River Valley’s Resort Hotels before Sun Valley: Hailey Hot Springs and Guyer Hot Springs.
“Before the Lodge: Slide Show Focuses on Sun Valley’s Early Resorts, “Eye on Sun Valley, June 22, 2015. ”
Click Links Below:
The Philadelphia Smelter: Key Component of the Silver Boom of the 1880s; Wood River Valley’s Largest Employer, and the Processing Facility for the Silver Ore Mined Locally. “Laying the Foundation for Today,“ Eye on Sun Valley, July 15, 2016.
Click Links Below:
July 2016: As part of the Smithsonian exhibit on water issues:
“Early Water Issues and Conflicts in the Wood River Valley (January 2019 (repeated at the Hailey library in June 2019)
January 2019 (repeated at the Hailey library in June 2019):
Robert & Carrie Adell Stahorn: Union Pacific Publicists; Developers of New Railroad Towns; Chroniclers of the West; and the Couple Who Convinced Union Pacific to Build a Branch into the Wood River Valley.
Click Links Below:
September 2019, at the Hailey Library:
Wood River Valley’s Hot Springs Resort Hotels before Sun Valley: Hailey and Guyer Hot Springs Resorts.
March 2020, at The Community Library:
Sun Valley's Early Days: Union Pacific, Averell Harriman and Alf Engen. First John Fry Legacy Lecture the Community Library for the joint meeting of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and International Ski History Association at Sun Valley (cancelled because of the Corona virus).
Book Talks on John’s new Sun Valley books – Sun Valley, Ketchum and the Wood River Valley and Skiing Sun Valley: a History from Union Pacific to the Holdings, The Community Library December 15, 2020 and the Hailey Library February 11, 2021.
July 11, 2021, at the Hailey Library.
Early Water Issues and Conflicts in the Wood River Valley
Click Links Below:
October 2021, at the Hailey Library
The Reclamation Act of 1902: Making the Desert Bloom and Creating an Agricultural Giant, With the Help of Union Pacific Railroad
Click Links Below:
HISTORY PROGRAMS WITH EYE ON SUN VALLEY TV
June 2019: Robert Strahorn, The Most Important Man You Never Heard of.
July 2016: Laying the Foundation for Today
October 2020: Guyer Hot Springs Resort.
December 2020: Ski Jumping in Sun Valley: History of Ruud Mountain.
“Galena Lodge was a Peanut Stand Before It was a Nordic Center,”Eye on Sun Valley, December 19, 2021. – “Galena Lodge was a Peanut Stand Before It was a Nordic Center”
ARTICLES PUBLISHED IN MAGAZINES
– Skiing History, March/April & July/August, 2020,published by the International Ski History Association, “Alf Engen in Sun Valley.”
– Idaho Magazine, November 2020, “Back Then in the Wood River Valley: The Story of an Idaho Writer.”
“2019, assisted in drafting descriptions of “Wood River Valley’s Historic Areas” section of Blaine County’s Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 9 – Special Areas and Sites.”
– Far West Ski Association’s 90th Anniversary Magazine, “Washington Ski History.” “A Short History of the Sun Valley Ski Resort.”
IDAHO HISTORY ESSAYS
These essays can be obtained from the author and at The Community Library, but are not available online.
IDAHO’S RAILROAD HISTORY
WOOD RIVER VALLEY HISTORY
WOOD RIVER VALLEY HISTORY "Future Books"
My great-grandparents, Matt and Isabelle Campbell McFall, along with Isabelle’s Campbell relatives, moved to Bellevue, Idaho in 1881, drawn by the silver strike, and were early pioneers in the Wood River Valley. John and his brother Steve have been researching the history of the Wood River Valley and their family’s role in it for over a decade. I hope to publish at least three books about local history in the future based on this work.
Life in Small Idaho Mountain Towns: Idaho Pioneers – McFall and Campbell Families, Early Settlers of Bellevue (1881) and Shoshone (1893)
This book focuses my great-grandparents, Matthew and Isabelle Campbell McFall, Scottish immigrants who met and married in Eureka, Nevada, a silver mining town in the 1870s. They moved to Idaho’s Wood River Valley in 1881, when the discovery of silver began a major silver rush. Isabelle’s Campbell relatives soon followed. In 1881, Matt built a boarding house in Broadford, west of Bellevue, to serve the mines located in Galena Gulch. In 1882, Matt built the International Hotel in Bellevue, which was “one of the best in [Idaho] Territory,” according to historian Clark Spence in For Wood River or Bust: Idaho’s Silver Boom of the 1880s. Isabelle’s brother Neil Campbell operated Bellevue’s first blackmith shop; was the blacksmith-foreman at the Minnie Moore mine and built the mine’s headframe; operated a stagecoach line between Bellevue and the mining town of Muldoon; had the Valley’s first commercial apple orchard; and he and his sons owned farms and a number of silver mines. Matt McFall and Neil Campbell served on Bellevue’s Town Council in the 1880s.
Between 1882 – 1884, Union Pacific built its Northwest line from Wyoming, through Idaho to Portland, using a subsidiary, the Oregon Short Line Railroad (OSL). In 1883, the OSL built the Wood River Branch between Shoshone and Hailey, connecting the Valley to the outside world, resulting in an economic boom. Outside capitalists invested in the valley’s mines, bringing an era of large-scale industrial mining. In 1884, the branch was extended to serve the Philadelphia Smelter north of Ketchum at the head of Warm Springs Canyon. Matt McFall was a successful businessman. He and his friend Henry Miller, owner of the Minnie Moore Mine, built and operated the Bellevue Water Works (the town’s private water supply), and the Bellevue racetrack.
The International Silver Depression (1888 – 1898), said to be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, shut down mining in the Wood River Valley, with the Ketchum Keystone saying in 1893, “the Wood River Mining Region is deader than a lime fossil.” The Valley’s mines and smelters closed, its residents left in droves, and mining towns were abandoned, including Bolton, Bullion, Gilman, Broadford, Gimlet, Doniphan, Hays and Muldoon. Bellevue, Hailey, and Ketchum survived as centers of transportation and commerce, but their populations were reduced from their boom days. Most of the country’s railroads went into bankruptcy, including the Union Pacific and Oregon Short Line. The Wood River Branch was nearly shut down, but the next economic era kept it operating – sheep raising and agriculture. In 1893, the McFalls moved to Shoshone, Idaho, then a thriving railroad town. Shoshone was the “junction” between the Union Pacific Railroad’s Northwest line to Portland, and the Wood River Branch, and the center of Central Idaho’s growing agricultural industry.
The International Silver Depression was ended by the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, opening an era of great economic expansion. Banker Henry Morgenthau said “the decade from 1896 to 1906…was the period of the most gigantic expansion of business in all American history.” In 1897, E.H. Harriman headed a group that bought Union Pacific Railroad out of bankruptcy, and spent over $160 million rebuilding and expanding the line, building it into a major transportation giant and economic force. The fortune he made allowed his son, Averell Harriman, to use the railroad to build Sun Valley in the Wood River Valley in 1936, as a way to restore passenger traffic that had been decimated by the Great Depression.
Central Idaho benefitted greatly from the Reclamation Act of 1902, that provided funds to build dams and irrigation systems in the arid west, converting desert land into highly productive farms. Local projects included the Snake River dams and irrigation projects developed by the Twin Falls Land and Water Company, and the new towns it developed (Twin Falls, Milner, Jerome, Buhl, Eden-Hazelton and others); and Magic Dam on the Big Wood River, the Richfield Canal, and the new towns developed on lands around Shoshone irrigated by the canal (Richfield, Gooding, Dietrich and others). Farming historically brought many immigrants to Idaho, increasing its population from 88,000 in 1890 to 161,000 in 1900. Reclamation Act projects significantly increased the number of immigrants coming to the state, doubling its population to 325,000 in 1910, and increasing it to 431,000 in 1920.
Shoshone became one of Idaho’s wealthiest towns in the early twentieth century because of the projects financed by the Reclamation Act and private capital, becoming known as the center of “The Best Dam County” in the country. Union Pacific and the Oregon Short Line prospered, offering special rates to bring farmers to Idaho in immigrant cars, and transporting new agricultural products. Branch lines were built all over Central Idaho to serve the newly developed agricultural towns that sprang up around Shoshone.
In 1900, Matt McFall built the McFall Hotel across from the railroad station (which still stands), that became the cultural and political center of town. Matt also owned the McFall Ranch between Shoshone and Gooding on the Little Wood River, was an early participant in area irrigation companies, and his farm was used as a model when newly irrigated farmland around Shoshone was sold. Neil Campbell’s son Stewart and Matt McFall’s son John graduated from the Idaho School of Mines in 1905 and 1906, and became mining engineers, taking advantage of the reopening of Idaho’s mining industry.
In the teens, John McFall served on Shoshone’s town council, and John W. Lundin, Sr. (who married Matt’s daughter Alberta McFall) was Lincoln County Auditor. My father, John W. Lundin, Jr., was born and raised in Shoshone. Many famous people stayed at the McFall Hotel, including Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and members of the Hole in the Wall gang; several presidents; and Ernest Hemingway, who was known to stop for a drink at the McFall Hotel bar before completing his trip to Sun Valley. My grandmother was 10 years old and lived in the McFall Hotel when Butch and Sundance stayed there in September 1900, and likely ran into them in the lobby.
The Campbell branch of the family stayed in Bellevue, taking advantage of the growing economy in the early 1900s. The year 1900, “witnessed greater activity in the development of Idaho’s mineral resources than any other in its history,” according to the Report of Idaho’s Mining inspector. Neil and his sons bought and sold at least 25 properties between 1895-1912, including platted lots in Bellevue and Hailey, agricultural land in the County, and mining claims. They acquired at least 23 mines or mining claims from 1899 until the 1920s, in the Mineral Hill Mining District in the Big Wood River Valley, the Little Wood River Mining District near the mining town of Muldoon, and the Little Smokey Mining District outside of Fairfield. The Campbell family owned at least 41 mines over the years. They also acquired extensive farmland in the Big and Little Wood Valleys, including a multi-thousand acre ranch in the Little Wood Basin near the later constructed Little Wood Reservoir, where they built Campbell dam and reservoir to irrigate their land. The area is still known as “Campbell Flats,” and is part of Flat Top Ranch. Neil also owned a 460 acre farm in Muldoon Canyon east of Bellevue, extending from the present Ee-da-ho Ranch to the Bellevue cemetery, and south down Gannett Road approximately 3/4 of a mile along the east side of the Oregon Short Line roadbed. Neil continued to operate his blacksmith shop and livery stable, and managed the International Hotel for Matt McFall, until it burned down on October 15, 1909, in a spectacular fire that almost destroyed much of Bellevue.
Idaho and the Wood River Valley thrived during the teens and WWI, as war-time demand for its minerals (lead) and agricultural products (especially wool) caused prices to soar. The McFall Hotel was expanded in 1910, and remodeled in 1914. In 1914, the McFall Hotel, the Hiawatha Hotel in Hailey, and the Guyer Hot Springs Resort located outside of Ketchum (where a new $25,000 hotel had been built), offered package vacations that included motor tours of Stanley Basin and the “Stanley National Park,” even though no such park existed. In the late teens and early 1920s, Matt and Isabelle McFall spent summers managing the Guyer Hot Springs Resort. My father and brother and their cousins joined them, playing on the hill that later became the Warm Springs run at Sun Valley.
Idaho was hit by an agricultural depression in the 1920s, as the inflated prices for Idaho’s commodities dropped after the war ended. “The Roaring Twenties hit Idaho with a dull thud,” said an Idaho historian. Many people left Idaho in the 1920s because of the hard times, including members of the author’s family – my grandparents moved to Portland seeking a better life. Neil Campbell’s sons became involved in politics. George Campbell was Blaine County sheriff in the 1920s and 1930s. Stewart Campbell served as Idaho’s elected Inspector of Mines from 1920 to 1932, an important post in those days. Stewart made a number of significant changes in the way the office did business, and enhanced its power and prestige. In anticipation of the arrival of a new era, Neil made plans to convert his blacksmith shop in Bellevue to a gas station in 1925.
The Campbells acquired 10 mines or mining claims in Galena Gulch west of Bellevue, including four extensions of the Queen of the Hills mine. When Stewart Campbell was Idaho’s Inspector of Mines and forbidden to engage in mining activity, he acquired the historic Queen of the Hills mine in Galena Gulch and the Silver Star Mine in the Little Smoky Mining District over Dollarhide Summit. Stewart formed the Silver Star – Queen Company, using third parties as proxies to hide his involvement, to develop the mines. Work on the Queen continued off and on in the 1930s. The company sought investment capital from the public in 1935, using a Prospectus labeled, DEPRESSION PROOF. The Company was working with Irwin Rockwell, owner of the Minnie Moore Mine to locate a rich vein of silver, which after the mine produced $10 million of ore, was lost below a fault. Work continued until the 1970s, although the Campbell family lost control of the company after WWII, but remained shareholders in the company.
The Wood River Valley’s mining industry faced difficult times after WWI, although sheep raising thrived. In the 1920s, Ketchum and Hill City on Camas Prairie shipped more sheep than anywhere in the world, except for sheep stations in Australia. This kept the Wood River branch of the Oregon Short Line Railroad in operation, making it possible for Averell Harriman and the Union Pacific Railroad to build the Sun Valley Ski Resort in 1936. When Harriman sent Count Felix Schaffgotsch to tour the west in late 1935, to find the ideal location for a new ski resort, it had to be on an existing Union Pacific rail line.
Neil Campbell died in 1925, and Matt McFall in 1930. The Shoshone newspaper said Matt McFall, Pioneer Hotel Man, “Checks Out,” noting he was “one of the genuine pioneers of the Wood River Valley.” There is a Campbell section in the Bellevue cemetery and a McFall section in the Shoshone cemetery. The family sold the McFall Ranch in 1939, and the McFall Hotel in 1945, after which the last of the McFall family moved out of Idaho. Some Campbell relatives stayed in the Wood River Valley, where several worked in the area’s mines.
This book explores several themes. First, the journey of immigrants seeking to make their own destiny and determine their own future by hard work and individual effort. Second, how Idaho’s mountain towns were not isolated, but were linked to the outside world and dominated by cycles of economic boom and bust, where individual efforts were trumped by national and international economic trends.
My Idaho relatives lived in two periods of American history: first, where individuals believed they could create their future from their own labor and initiative without help from others; and second, where life was dominated by large investments made by corporations, the government and international economic trends. Their generation claimed they made their own way based on individual effort and self-reliance, but their success depended on numerous government programs that subsidized settlement of the West. These include financing the transcontinental railroad under the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862; the Homestead Act of 1862, that provided free land in exchange for living on and improving it; the Mining Act of 1872, permitting access to minerals on federal land; the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, requiring the Treasury to buy silver and put it into circulation as silver dollars, which spurred silver mining in the West; the Desert Land Act of 1894, which provided land in the arid west and money for irrigation projects; and the Reclamation Act of 1902, providing federal financing for dams and water systems which led to the irrigation of millions of acres of dry land, and brought hundreds of thousands of immigrants to the West.
Bernard DeVoto described western attitudes about the federal government as, “Get out and give us more money.” Wallace Stegner said, “Westerners who would like to return to the old days of free grab, people of the kind described as having made America great by their initiative and energy in committing mass trespass on the minerals, grass, timber and water of the Public Domain, complain that no Western state is master in its own house.” A 2008 New York Times article about the West said, “The inhabitants boasted of their autonomy, even as the government did the dirty work, took the risks and offered sweet deals to settlers, so they could expand the borders of the United States. Without this help…the waves of Western pioneers wouldn’t have the luxury of hating Washington bureaucrats.”
The politics of Idaho still reflect these attitudes.
1883 – 1884: The Oregon Short Line Railroad Is Built and Transforms Idaho; Branch Railroads Are Built; the Railroad Promotes Settlement
This book discusses the construction of the Oregon Short Line Railroad, a Union Pacific subsidiary, from Granger, Wyoming through Idaho to Portland, Oregon, between 1881 – 1884. This was part of the historic competition between the national railroads for control of the northwest trade. The OSL was the first rail line to reach the Pacific Northwest, it opened Idaho to settlement, and caused an economic boom in the areas it served. In May 1883, the OSL completed its nearly 70 mile Wood River Branch between Shoshone to Hailey to access the Wood River Valley’s booming silver industry, with plans to develop the town into the valley’s industrial center, the “Denver of Idaho.” Overcoming opposition from the business interests of Hailey, by August 1884, the line was extended to the Philadelphia Smelter north of Ketchum, the main source of rail traffic, since it processed the ore mined in the Wood River Valley and surrounding mining districts.
The arrival of the railroad dramatically changed the Wood River Valley and provided a huge economic boost. It provided a connection with the outside world so passengers and goods could travel rapidly in and out of the Valley, reducing the cost of transporting goods by over $20 a ton. In 1881, it took John’s great-grandparents two weeks to travel from Nevada to Bellevue by wagon. After 1883, Hailey residents could travel to Shoshone in two hours, reach Boise a few hours later, and be in Portland in 8 hours. They could reach Salt Lake in 9 hours and New York a few days later.
The Oregon Short Line transformed the area’s economy. It expedited the flow of capital into the Valley to exploit its “phenomenally rich ore deposits.” The railroad brought an end to “pick and shovel” mining, and introduced an era of industrialization and capital intensive mining. With the coming of the railroad, the Wood River Valley “past from lusty infancy to a more orderly adolescence,” according to historian Clark Spence in his book, For Wood River or Bust.
The book includes contemporaneous accounts of the railroad that appeared in Wood River Valley newspapers and elsewhere. The railroad provided the necessary transportation infrastructure for future economic eras of the Wood River Valley, including the sheep and agricultural industries, which led to the development of the Sun Valley resort in 1936 by the Union Pacific Railroad, led by Board Director Averell Harriman, to stimulate passenger rail travel that had been decimated by the Great Depression.
Robert and Carrie Adell Strahorn, and the Idaho and Oregon Land Improvement Company; Railroad Promoters, Authors and Developers of Railroad Towns in Idaho and Washington
Robert Strahorn is an early Idaho pioneer who was responsible for much of the state’s growth in the 1880s, but he is almost completely unknown these days.
Strahorn was a reporter who rode with U.S. Army forces covering the Sioux war of 1876, and was hired by Union Pacific financier Jay Gould as a publicist for the railroad, as Gould was planning Union Pacific’s Northwest connection to Portland. Strahorn and his wife Carrie Adell traveled 15,000 miles by stagecoach in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and other western states, exploring routes for Union Pacific’s planned Northwest connection, and publicizing the area to attract settlers and investors who would follow the new line.
Strahorn knew where the future rail line and its rail stops would be located. He and other U.P insiders formed the Idaho and Oregon Land Improvement Company, to obtain land where rail stops were planned, develop a series of railroad towns in Idaho and Oregon, and provide irrigation canals and water systems to support them, profiting immensely from the work. His company developed Shoshone, Hailey, Mountain Home, Caldwell, Weiser, and Huntington, Oregon. It purchased the townsite of Hailey in June 1882, and 10,500 acres of surrounding land for $100,000, planning to make the town the “Denver of Idaho.” Strahorn also built the Alturas Hotel in Hailey, Hailey Hot Springs Resort in Croy Canyon, owned the Idaho Electric Supply Company in Hailey, and supported the development of the College of Idaho in Caldwell.
Strahorn left Idaho in 1888, and worked to develop Fairhaven, a small town on a “glorious harbor” just south of Bellingham in Whatcom County, Washington, which Strahorn expected to be the western terminus for the Great Northern Railway being built by James J. Hill (1838-1919) from Minnesota to Washington. Strahorn played his usual role of promoter and publicity hound for the project to attract investors for the Fairhaven Land Company, which had acquired large landholdings for a townsite and terminal to donate to Hill to induce him to use Fairhaven as Great Northern’s western terminus. The project fell apart when James J. Hill selected Seattle as the terminus, and Strahorn lost a significant amount of money in the venture.
Strahorn spent much of the 1890s in Boston, working as an investment banker, promoting a market for the public warrants, with some considerable success. In 1898, he decided to “close out his successful bond business” and move back West to get back into railroad financing and construction. After traveling extensively, the Strahorns settled in Spokane, Washington, where he dedicated this phase of his life to building new railroads to connect various cities in the Northwest with each other and to national lines. Carrie Adell wrote her book, 15,000Miles by Stage, in Spokane, which became a national best seller.
Spokane interested Strahorn because of its railroad connections. Spokane was linked to national markets by the Northern Pacific and Great Northern, whose cross-country lines went through Spokane to Seattle; by the Union Pacific, which accessed the city through its Oregon Washington Railway & Navigation line from Pendleton, Oregon; and the Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound Railroad (known as the Milwaukee Road), was building a new line from Chicago to Puget Sound that would come close to Spokane. Local businessmen were building short rail lines to access Spokane’s rich surrounding areas. Strahorn said Spokane in the early 1900s resembled Denver in its early days, with its “creative and railroad-building galaxy of irrespressibles” who were building new rail lines reaching out in every direction from this capital of the Inland Empire.
rahorn planned to build the North Coast Railroad, to bring Spokane and Walla Walla closer to Portland and Seattle, which he described in his unpublished autobiorgaphy, Ninety Years of Boyhood.
“My general plan was a new shortest line from Spokane to Portland of 368 miles, and there commencing with the transcontinental line connecting therewith on Columbia River near Wallula to be built west through Yakima Valley, the largest and most productive in the state, to Puget Sound, about 250 miles. Both lines were to have certain necessary feeders, one of these southward to that golden Walla Walla granary. Then, at the important potential railway center of Yakima, to construct and connect up an electric railway system tapping four highly productive valleys, and, as far as necessary, serve the city and suburbs. Also a line from Spokane southeast through that magnificent Palouse wheat country to Lewiston, Idaho, several hundred miles more, making altogether a perfectly independent system of approximately 1000 miles to compel recognition of the existing and proposed main lines.”
Strahorn convinced Edward H. Harriman (1848-1909) to invest Union Pacific funds in the venture, since Strahorn was challenging plans being made by Harriman’s rival, James J. Hill for his Great Northern Railway for railroad control of the Northwest. The North Coast Railroad was incorporated in 1910, with $60,000,000 in capital. Strahorn acquired property for freight and passenger terminals in Spokane, Tacoma, and Seattle, as well as the approaches into those cities, that he leased to the three national railroads. Strahorn built Union Station in Spokane for more than $500,000, for use by all three national railroads. He convinced Milwaukee Road to route its new line through Spokane to use the facilities he built, instead of going 45 miles south of the city as it originally planned.
Strahorn purchased the Yakima Valley Transportation System that operated electric lines in Yakima, extended its lines through the nearby valleys, and invested in power generation and irrigation facilities. He formed Yakima Light & Power and built power plants and a gas utility plant in Eastern Washington while he was developing the railroad system. These ventures were later consolidated into the Puget Power & Light Company. Strahorn also developed the first significant reclamation project in Pasco, Washington, diverting water from the Snake River.
During the teens, Strahorn promoted railroads in Oregon, initially working with Harriman’s interests and later on his own. He became President of the Portland, Eugene & Eastern Railroad owned by the Southern Pacific, and built an electric railway line through the Willamette Valley. Strahorn then worked to provide rail service to central and eastern Oregon and northern California, areas not served by rail traffic.
Strahorn made another fortune from his business activities in the Northwest, However, shortly before the panic of 1929, he invested in San Francisco real estate, borrowing heavily to do so, pledging his stocks and bonds as collateral. When the Great Depression of the 1930s destroyed the country’s financial markets, Strahorn lost everything and signed over his property to his creditors to avoid foreclosure. He ventured back into the mining business in the late 1930s, working with associates to buy and develop mines in Oregon and Idaho (near the Salmon River) that were shut down or operating inefficiently because of the lack of capital, trying to obtain financing for their efforts.
Robert E. Strahorn died in San Francisco in 1944, a poor man. A Spokane newspaper said: “Robert E. Strahorn, 92, who died Friday night in San Francisco, was a colorful figure of the Old West, remembered here as a railroad and town builder and early-day newspaperman.” Critics said Robert and Carrie Adell worked to publicize the West in a positive way, but their writings “were often overly optimistic because they focused on the positive and simply failed to mention parts they thought would be unappealing to their audience.”
“Although instrumental in settling the west and developing its resources, [Robert} made many costly mistakes, not only financially but in terms of people’s lives and fortunes. He was one of the best at selling people something that existed only in their dreams. Instead of swamp land, he touted farmland. Often a land so tough it would take three generations of stubborn farmers to finally succeed.”
This book contains material written by the Strahorns about Idaho in the 1870s and 1880s, and information from Strahorn’s relatives. Strahorn’s publication about Idaho, The Resources and Attractions of Idaho Territory, for the Homeseeker, Capitalist and Tourist, published in 1881, was paid for by the Idaho Territorial Legislature, but was secretly backed by the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1911, Carrie Adell Strahorn published her memoirs, 15,000 Miles by Stage, in which she described their travels throughout Idaho and the West in the 1870s and 1880s, based on articles she wrote during their travels that were published by women’s magazines. Her book became a best seller in the teens. In 1942, Robert Strahorn wrote an unpublished autobiography, Ninety Years of Boyhood, which described his work in the west. Information about Strahorn’s activities in the Northwest can be found in “Robert E. Strahorn: Railroad Promoter in Washington and the Northwest,” by John W. Lundin, in Historylink.org, the on-line encyclopedia of Washington history: Essay 10159,