Printed on: April 01, 2013

Remodel leads to discovery of old Idaho newspapers

MICHAEL H. O'DONNELL
Idaho State Journal

BANCROFT, Idaho (AP) - When a couple of new residents to the Chesterfield Valley purchased the Lawrence Holbrook ranch house 8 miles north of Bancroft, a remodel was in order. When the old walls inside the place were stripped, history came to life.

Old newspapers from 1899 had been used for insulation. Weathered, brittle and yellowed they still held the events from May and June of that year. One of the newspapers was an issue of "The Pocatello Advance," a publication that only lasted a few years in the Gate City.

Not to waste the find, the couple contacted Caribou County Historian, Norman Tolman.

"I was excited," Tolman said. "These are the oldest papers I've found as insulation."

Tolman knows the history of the area. He was born in Bancroft in 1936.

"We used to farm down there and helped build Kerr-McGee," he said.

In addition to the Pocatello newspaper, Tolman received copies of "The Deseret Semi-Weekly News" and a German language paper called "Bikuben."

The big news in the Advance for May 19, 1899, was the  visit of U.S. Senator George Shoup and the death of a railroad worker in the train yard in Pocatello.

That news in Pocatello paled compared to a confrontation with Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang spelled out in the Deseret paper.

The gang had dynamited a Union Pacific train in Wyoming and a posse was in hot pursuit.

"The posse pursuing the Union Pacific dynamiters has had a second fight with the fugitives who are making for The-Hole-In-The-Wall rendezvous," the newspaper reported. "The robbers were driven into a gulch, after abandoning their horses. They ambushed the posse and severely wounded Sheriff Joe Hazen of Converse County, who was shot through the body. The robbers are armed with smokeless powder, long-range rifles and although putting up a stubborn fight, their capture is inevitable as they are now on foot and completely surrounded."

Meanwhile in peaceful Pocatello, the good senator was top billing.

"The Senator stated to the editor of the Advance that the mining industry in his county, Lemhi, was taking on a new life and would make a splendid showing this season - the best record for years," a front page story in the Advance said.

Editorializing in stories was common at the time, and the Advance sang the praises of an effort to encroach on Indian-held lands on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.

"The Senator did some very effective work in the successful effort made to open the Nez Perce reservation, and feels confident that with proper local assistance, he will land the Fort Hall reserve proposition before the next congress adjourns."

There were several front-page advertisements including ads for N.P. Nielson, the Pioneer Grocer, Silver Club Saloon, The Idaho Drug Store, and J.F. Kane Staple and Fancy Groceries.

Tolman has laminated the old copies to keep them from crumbling.

A personal goal of the historian is to gather information and photographs of everyone who ever lived in North Gem Valley.

"Everybody's related in Bancroft," Tolman said. "I've got a lot of pictures of people that they don't have themselves."

His favorite old family possession is his "granddad's pistol." He still has the Sears and Roebuck receipt that came with it that says the .32-caliber revolver sold for $1.50.

His advice to Southeast Idaho residents is simple. If they find something really old, "don't throw it away."