There’s nothing like receiving a book published in 1918 to take you back in time through Idaho’s history! Idaho Chronology, Nomenclature, Bibliography by John E. Rees is a slim, plain brown paperback book packed with intriguing information about Idaho history, including a detailed listing of significant events and the year they occurred starting with 1492 (Christopher Columbus) and ending with 1918 (the appointment of Democrat John F. Nugent as Idaho state senator, filling the vacancy left by the death of James H. Brady). Rees provides 36 pages of events in the Chronology section.
The Nomenclature section is prefaced with Rees’s essay titled Idaho – Its Meaning, Origin and Application which had been published in the Oregon Historical Quarterly the year before (1917). Today, there is some dispute regarding Rees’s theory as to the meaning of the word Idaho and its origins. Let’s save that topic for another article. The essay is followed by 64 pages describing the origins of place names as well as names given to lakes, rivers, tribes, winds (Chinook) and ideas, starting with Agency Creek (Lemhi County) and ending with an entry called Western Spirit comprised of this quote:
I longed to behold again the vast, wild country with its mountains, streams and valleys, its rolling bunch-grass plains interwoven with Indian trails, the country where the jack rabbits roamed at will, where sage hens and prairie chickens had their peaceful abode, where the warbling birds sang their noonday songs and the voice of the coyote was borne on the evening breezes, where, in the quiet night, the rising moon revealed to one’s gaze the boundless plains, unmarred by the habitations of man or by the barbed wire fences with trespass notices to make it sure. –Splawn, Kamiakin[A. J. Splawn published Ka-mi-akin, the Last Hero of the Yakimas in 1917.]
The final six pages are a bibliography of books and documents that Rees relied upon to assemble his book. In his Preface, Rees writes, “My only apology for writing this book is the desire to compile some scattered fragments of knowledge into a more compact form for the purpose of aiding the study of the history of Idaho.” He hoped it would prove useful to teachers and students doing research.
A friend spotted this gem at a library book sale in western Washington and mailed it to me. She paid fifty cents for it in 2018; its original price was $1.25.
The author, John E. Rees, was born in 1868 and lived in Salmon, Idaho at the time of publication of his book. According to the Idaho State Historical Society – where he left his papers – Rees grew up in Lemhi County, taught literature and history in Salmon City for 15 years, served as a prosecuting attorney the same year this book was published, and died in 1928 of heart failure.
Look for future McCall Digest articles incorporating tidbits of Idaho history culled from this fascinating little brown book.