History of Pocatello, Bannock County, Idaho
The city of
Pocatello, so named in memory of an Indian chief, stands
at the western entrance to the Portneuf canyon, and for
that reason is appropriately known as the "Gate City."
Its site marks the junction of the Montana and Idaho
divisions of the Oregon Short Line railroad, and the
tremendous volume of traffic that passes through its
yards, together with the many departments maintained
here, is rapidly developing a large and prosperous city.
Twenty-five years ago the town was a mere hamlet; in
1910 the United States Census returns gave a population
of 9,100, and in 1914 Polk's Directory credits Pocatello
with over 12,000 inhabitants, to which must be added
some 500 transients. The city is the metropolis and
county seat of Bannock County, and the second largest
place in the state of Idaho.
Pocatello is pre-eminently a railroad town, and to the
railroad she owes her birth as well as her growth. When
the westward course of the Oregon Short Line crossed the
tracks of the Utah & Northern railroad, some fifty miles
south of Idaho Falls, then called Eagle Rock, a hamlet
naturally sprang up at the junction. This was in the
heart of the Fort Hall Indian reservation, but the
railroad had a grant of some two hundred acres for its
right of way, upon which it allowed settlement, and upon
which, in 1882, it erected the Pacific hotel and
station. Shoshone had been selected by the railroad
officials as, a division terminal, but there being some
dispute relative to the townsite, they determined upon
Pocatello instead. In 1887 the town received a further
impetus in the removal thither of the shops from Idaho
Falls, which brought several hundred men, many of them
with families, into the hamlet. For the accommodation of
this addition, the railroad company built what is today
known as Company Row.
One of the most historic buildings in the city is the
two-story frame house to the left of the west end of the
Center street viaduct. In the days when buildings were
scarce and the little available space overcrowded, this
building, now used for office purposes, served as a
public meeting hall. Portneuf Lodge, No. 18, A. F. & A.
M. was organized here in 1886, and met in the building
for some time. In the late eighties the building was
used for public school purposes, and in 1891 as the fire
hall. At various times it has been used as a church, a
theatre, a pool hall, and within its walls were held
many a church fair that helped to build the present city
churches, and many a dance that lives yet in the
memories of the older members of Pocatello society. The
city council also used it for a meeting place.
Although there was no land open for settlement, there
quickly grew up a typical frontier town, "wide-open," as
the saying is, where excitement ran high, where vice
went unashamed, and where saloons and gambling knew no
closing hours nor Sunday laws. At last the demand for
more room became so insistent, that the United States
government purchased two thousand acres of reservation
land from the Indians, to be used as a town-site. This
was surveyed in 1889, and the following year lots were
sold at auction at prices ranging from ten to fifty
dollars. At that sale the foundation of many comfortable
fortunes of today were made. Already some buildings had
boon erected, and it was feared that the purchase of
their sites by other parties might yet cause trouble.
But the squatter's right was honored, and the man who
had built a store or homo was allowed to secure a title
to his holdings.
The community was organized into a village during this
year, with H. L. Becraft as chairman of the board of
trustees, and D. K. Williams, A. F. Caldwell, L. A. West
and Doctor Davis members. Another tract of reservation
land was opened for settlement in 1905.
Before 1892, Pocatello had a population of over three
thousand, and by an act of legislature it was in that
year created a city of the first class. At the first
city election, held in 1893, Edward Stein was elected
mayor; Ed. Sadler, clerk, and J. J. Curl, treasurer.
Eight councilmen were also elected.
Edward Stein, Pocatello 's first mayor, and now a
citizen of Boise, has had an eventful career. He is a
grandson of Baron von Stein, commander-in-chief of the
Prussian army during the Napoleonic wars. His father,
William von Stein, a veteran of the Franco-Prussian war,
became a follower of the brilliant reformer Carl Schurz,
and upon the failure of the latter 's attempt to
establish a democracy in Germany, was cast into prison.
He was afterwards released, but lost his title to
nobility. Edward von Stein was born in Schubina, Poland,
January 17, 1854, and was educated at the Prussian
University of Bromberg. His republican tendencies
naturally turned his attention toward America, where
Carl Schurz and many another European revolutionists had
already found a haven, and with his father's approval,
embarked in 1871 on the steamer Weiland from Hamburg to
Because he had reached an age at which the German
military service would have claimed him, young Stein had
entered upon his journey without a passport, an
application for which would have led to his compulsory
enlistment in the army. Presently an officer of the ship
accosted him and demanded his passport, and proceeded to
make a search for it when none was forthcoming. But the
search was vain, which the officer announced in a loud
voice, adding that officials had warned the ship's
officers that young von Stein had no passport. The
future mayor of Pocatello thereupon produced a packet
from his pocket, which he handed to the officer, who
examined its contents, and promptly shouted to his
superior officer, "I find the papers of Mr. Stein to be
quite correct." The packet contained the four hundred
marks his father had given him at starting.
It was, therefore, with a light pocketbook that Mr. von
Stein landed in the United States. He was anxious,
however, to see something of the country before settling
down, and got as far as Chicago before his funds failed.
He accordingly pawned some of his belongings, and was
dejectedly walking the streets, wondering where to turn
in his perplexity, when a gun was thrust suddenly in his
face, and the order given, "Hands up." The highwayman
found nothing of value on his victim, and when he
learned that the boy was penniless, took him to a
restaurant and bought him a meal, and told him where he
could find employment as a Polish-German interpreter in
a brickyard. From then on von Stein's fortunes began to
advance. He spent some time in "Wisconsin, was recalled
to Europe in 1876 by his father's death, when he made an
extended tour of the continent, returned to this country
and made a fortune in the Black Hills, which he later
lost in mining ventures, and moved on to Colorado, where
he married. In 1884 he came to Idaho, and in time became
superintendent of car service on the Oregon Short Line,
with headquarters in Pocatello.
Before his tenure expired, Mr. von Stein resigned his
office as mayor of Pocatello, and moved to Nampa, where
he had purchased a section of land, and helped to
organize that town. He still has property interests in
A. B. Bean succeeded Edward Stein as mayor of the city,
and was followed by W. F. Kasiska, the present
proprietor of the Bannock hotel and owner of large real
estate and business interests in and about Pocatello.
Mr. Kasiska held the office until 1898, when W. T.
Reeves was elected, who in turn was succeeded by A. B.
Bean, the former mayor of 1894.
During 1895, J. B. Bistline filled the office. Mr.
Bistline is a member of the Bistline Lumber Company and
has been a resident of the city since 1891.
M. D. Rice was the next mayor and in 1901 Theodore
Turner was elected to the office. He was reelected in
1912. Theodore Turner is one of the most prominent men
in the political life of the county. He was a state
senator in 1900, and in 1902 was elected state auditor.
Besides holding many public offices, Mayor Turner has
taken great interest in the Academy of Idaho and in the
good roads movement.
Dr. O. B. Steeley succeeded Mr. Turner in the mayor's
chair, and has since served the county as coroner and
the city as school trustee. In 1904, D. Swinehart filled
the office, and in 1905, W. H. Cleare. Mr. Clears was
one of the organizers of the Farmers & Traders Bank in
Pocatello and also of the Railroad Y. M. C. A. He served
in the city council during the years 1901-2, and has
been a member of the board of trustees of the Academy of
Dr. C. E. M. Loux, of the lumber firm of Loux, McConnell
& Co., a member of the city council, was elected to the
mayoralty in 1907 and D. W. Church, cashier of the
Bannock National Bank, in 1909. Mr. Church is one of the
most prominent members of the Republican Party in
Bannock County, and was a state senator in 1898. He has
been identified since the organization of the city with
nearly every movement for civic betterment and
advancement. Mr. Church was succeeded by J. M. Bistline,
a brother and business partner of the mayor of 1899, who
in turn was followed by Theodore Turner, who is now
filling the office for the second time.
Many other residents of Pocatello, whose names make a
list too long to repeat here, have rendered valuable
public service to both the city and county. Among them
may be mentioned Judge T. A. Johnston, who for a period
of twelve years, beginning in 1900, served the county as
probate judge; Oscar B. Sonnenkalb, who has been county
surveyor since 1896; the late D. Worth Clark, Lorenzo
Brown, Andrew B. Stevenson, and John Hull, who have
served in the state senate; W. A. Staley. W. J. Inkling,
Col. H. V. A. Ferguson, and W. A. Hyde, former members
of the state house of representatives; Alfred Budge, who
after long and faithful service as district judge, has
just been elevated to the supreme bench of the state;
Daniel C. McDougal attorney general of the state of
Idaho in 1908, and Hon. Drew TV. Standrod.
Judge Standrod was elected district attorney in 1S86,
while he was still a resident of Malad, where his father
practiced medicine for many years, and in 1890 he ran
successfully for election as judge of the Fifth Judicial
District of the state of Idaho. He moved to Pocatello in
1895, since which time he has been actively identified
with the legal and financial activities of the city. In
addition to his interest in the First National Bank of
Pocatello of which he is president, Judge Standrod is
interested in ten other banks in the inter-mountain
country. He is a leading figure in the Republican Party,
and has recently resigned a six-year appointment on
Idaho's first Public Utilities Commission, after serving
nearly two years.
Of Senator Brady, who is not only one of the most
distinguished citizens of Pocatello nor yet of Idaho,
having been governor of the state, but also of the
United States, he being a member of the nation's highest
legislative body, we will speak in the next chapter.
Men who left Pocatello ten or fifteen yean ago would
hardly recognize the city today. Recently a man returned
from Ohio, who had owned a large number of lots near
Center and Main streets in the late nineties, and who
sold them for a modest sum after having held them for
some years on speculation. He learned to his surprise
and chagrin that the property he had sold for fifteen
hundred dollars is worth more than twenty thousand
today. Another old-timer who grew tired of the west and
returned to his eastern home, in acknowledging the
receipt of a picture of Pocatello, wrote that the
picture was very nice but that he knew it was not a
picture of Pocatello because Pocatello had no trees!
Not only is the city well supplied with trees, but it is
equipped with the full complement of an up-to-date city.
Commercially it is one of the most active and prosperous
in the west. It has an ample supply of water, of
electric power, a street ear service, and is gradually
installing new improvements in its street and sewerage
system. It is a common thing in the west for growing
cities to outstrip themselves in their zeal for
improvements, and an unwise enthusiasm and optimism has
plunged many municipalities into embarrassment and debt.
Pocatello has been wisely governed in this respect, and
if she is rather behindhand in some lines of
improvement, this is far preferable to being several
years ahead, and attempting by a forced growth to meet
an unneeded equipment. Several local organizations,
notably the Civic Club, have done much for the
betterment of civic life in the city, and it is probable
that the next five years will see a decided improvement
in the appearance of both streets and homes.
The religious needs of the city are well supplied. The
Congregational church was organized in 1888, and Trinity
parish, of the Episcopal Church, was established the
following year. Since then the Baptist, Methodist, and
Presbyterian denominations have built up strong
institutions. The Latter Day Saints and the Roman
Catholic Church are so strong that they have each two
churches, one on the east and one on the west side of
the town. No reference to the religious growth of
Pocatello would be complete without a sketch of the Rev.
Father Cyril Van der Donckt, who came to Idaho as a
missionary in 1887 and has resided in Pocatello since
Father Van der Donckt was born in Belgium in 1865 and
was educated in Renaix College, in the Seminary of St.
Nicholas, and in the American college in Louvain. By a
special dispensation from Pope Leo XIII, he was ordained
when twenty months under age, and came directly to
Idaho, where he has since labored. During six years he
was general missionary for the whole of southern Idaho,
his ministrations covering eleven counties, and for some
time he was the only secular priest in the whole state.
In addition to St. Joseph's parish, a large and strong
institution, Father Van der Donckt has built a parish
school, and will soon see a hospital added to his
establishment. The prolonged and faithful services of
such a man as Father Van der Donckt are invaluable to
any community, but especially to a country in its
formative stage. The hardships, discouragements and
indifference that the latter condition always throws in
the way of a missionary call for no ordinary amount of
pluck and perseverance, and great credit is due to the
man who faces them unflinchingly and who out of nothing
builds up a flourishing and useful work.
Among the religious activities of Pocatello, the
Railroad Young Men's Christian Association takes a
leading place. This is the second largest institution of
its kind in the United States, having a membership of
over fifteen hundred members. Its success is due to the
ability of its general secretary. A. B. Richardson, and
his associate, Eric A. Krussman.
During recent years Christian Science has become firmly
established in Pocatello.
Other among the city's public institutions are the
Carnegie Public Library and the Pocatello General
In addition to her public school system, of which Supt.
W. R. Sliders is the head, Pocatello is the seat of the
Academy of Idaho, a state institution created by the
legislature of 1901 and opened for instruction in 1902.
The city gave ten acres as a site for the Academy, and
in 1905 the state gave the institution forty thousand
acres of land, the sale of which will provide an
endowment. The work of the Academy is largely along
technical lines, and for the use of the agricultural
department a hundred acre farm has been purchased just
south of the city. Miles F. Reed is president of the
Academy, which has about three hundred students.
Standing sentinel over the city, towering above it to
the south, and doubtless protecting it from many a wind
and storm, is Kinport's Peak. Harry Kinport, for whom
this mountain was named, is now dead, but he was well
known in Pocatello a few years ago, and is supposed to
have been the first white man to climb the mountain. He
signalized his feat by planting a flag there. Kinport
was a businessman in Pocatello for several years, coming
to the town in 1885. He was always a great hunter and
fisherman, and when President Roosevelt visited the
city, caught a mess of trout and presented them to the
There is every reason to hope that Pocatello will have a
population of over 20.000 before the next census. Its
facilities as a distributing point are attracting many
manufacturing; and merchandise companies, who are
building warehouses, and the fact that the Oregon Short
Line railroad has built a freight depot to handle the
traffic of a town of 50,000 population, shows that the
management of that line expects a big growth.
Source: The History of Bannock County
Idaho, By Arthur C. Saunders, Pocatello, Idaho. U. S.
A., The Tribune Company. Limited, 1915