By JENNIFER K. BAUERWhen Idaho’s first courthouse was constructed in Pierce City in 1862, carpenters drove kegs of nails into the cell walls to prevent prisoners from sawing their way out.
That is one of the facts John Bradbury learned when he wrote an article about the courthouse during Clearwater County’s centennial. After retiring in 2011 as an Idaho District Court judge, Bradbury continued to study the history of the pioneers, miners and lumberjacks who found a life along the Clearwater River. In his first book, “Frontier History Along Idaho’s Clearwater River,” he tells the story of how the area shaped the creation of Idaho.
Most people don’t know it was the gold rush in Pierce that led to Idaho becoming a state, says Bradbury, 78, of Lewiston. “That’s where it began. I just don’t think people realize what incredible history they have right under their feet in this area, that led to what we now call Idaho.
Bradbury’s great-grandfather was one of those lured to the area by gold in 1869. While Bradbury long assumed he was a miner, he’s since learned he drove a freight wagon and tended bar. Besides family history, Bradbury, who serves on the board of the Clearwater Historical Society, read biographies, autobiographies and early and current histories of the area to write his book. Chapters focus on the gold rush, the founding of the territory, the statehood fight and lumberjacks.
One of the things he was surprised to learn was that to become a state, a territory had to have the same political persuasion as the president who, at the time, was Republican.
Idaho Territory was home to many Southern sympathizers, mainly from Missouri, who voted Democrat. In addition there was a growing population of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who also voted solidly Democratic. Part of Idaho’s struggle for statehood included disenfranchising Mormons of the right to vote to make the territory appear more Republican. Lewiston and Moscow remained resistant to joining southern Idaho in statehood, wanting instead to be annexed into Washington.
“Ultimately they bribed Latah County,” Bradbury says.
Moscow, the less fervent of the two cities, was promised the state university if it united for statehood. However, Latah County wouldn’t sign off until the first bricks were laid. That is why University of Idaho was established in 1889 and Idaho in 1890.
Bradbury’s 157-page book was published by History Press and is available for $19.99 at And Books Too in Clarkston.
if you go
WHAT: John Bradbury, author of “Frontier History Along Idaho’s Clearwater River”
WHEN AND WHERE:
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, And Books Too, 918 Sixth St., Clarkston
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, Patchwork Bazaar, Orofino Junior Senior High School
7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16, Lewiston City Library