Safeguarding Col. Wallace’s Semi-Sullied Reputation


Wallace, 1887

There are weighty questions in history’s halls – Why did Rome fall?  What launched the Renaissance?  Why the American Civil War?  The following doesn’t deal with one.  It merely touches on one of history’s countless minor footnotes – in this case, here in Wallace.

Author Tony Bamonte offered a long quotation from Richard Magnuson’s Coeur d’Alene Diary at page 59 of his recently published book, Historic Wallace, Idaho and My Unforeseen Ties:

In 1887, the Colonel was called to Coeur d’Alene by the U.S. Land Receiver and informed that the scrip he used to buy the land was no good.  Wallace claimed he then paid the land officer $50 “for advice” and was told the government’s letter informing the land office about the scrip would not become a part of the Land Office records.  Wallace then went to Spokane Falls to buy other land scrip so he could cover his purchase, but he found it was too expensive.  He claimed the land officer told him to sell the land and no one could injure him for it.  The land officer said he would protect him as his attorney…. Wallace contended the entry or issuance of duplicate scrip was fraudulent, and that he would fight to establish his rights.

On March 7, the town council met to consider ways to raise money to get a patent on the town land.  Colonel Wallace asked that nothing be done for 30 days, as a land officer was on the way to investigate his land problem.  His request was not complied with.

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Wallace’s upcoming mayoral election


It was good to see — in the Wednesday, October 25th edition of the Shoshone News-Press – that Wallace’s upcoming mayoral election will be contested.

I’m guessing that Lynn Mogensen is the likely frontrunner at this point.  Her long service on the city council and perhaps especially her employment with the U.S. Postal Service have surely provided her with a wide array of acquaintances and friends around our town.  I like Lynn, and, speaking for myself, our interactions have always been friendly.

At the same time, I hope Wallace voters will take a close look at Lynn’s opponent, David Sherman.  I don’t know him well, but I’ve been following his remarks and commentaries for some time on Facebook.  On that medium David Sherman may be said to come across as an intelligent, thoughtful, educated, and sensible voice.  Perhaps especially in his many exchanges with our local Hunter-Thompson-esque and firebrand wordsmith, the redoubtable David Bond, Sherman elevates the medium.    Continue reading

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“David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities” — for Zoe

midwife toad.jpg


Dear Zoe,

Sometimes just before going to bed I like to watch a nature program on Netflix, just to take in some easy watching and to appreciate nature’s beauty and variety before drifting off to sleep.  Yes, I get tired of the endless repetitions in their scripts – including, for example, that old saw that juvenile animal play develops important life skills.  (“I know, I know!”)  But I like these sorts of programs anyhow, in their moment, and spend some time, when I’m hankering to watch one, looking for something new and interesting.

Last night, as it happens, I stumbled upon a David Attenborough series called “David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities.”  I was a little reluctant about starting it, thinking I may have seen all his examples before – on one or another of his other great productions.  The individual programs in the “Curiosities” series are short and, so far at least, he considers two such “curiosities” in each program.  So far, in the two programs I watched last night, he’s examined the chameleon, the giraffe, the platypus, and the midwife toad.  Well, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d lucked out.

Why?    Continue reading

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A needless safety disconnect in football

IW signal

Signal for an inadvertent whistle

Football season is upon us again.

I pursued a sidelight career as a high school football official – a “ref” – for ten years in my earlier life in the San Francisco Bay Area.

My initial training as a “newbie” official harbored more than a few unexpected revelations.

It didn’t take long to discover that football officials had their own subculture, a “social world” more or less unknown to everybody else.

One of the key elements in that secret world, as it turned out, was a generalized abhorrence and bitter distaste for something called the “inadvertent whistle,” or “IW.”

Seasoned officials tried to avoid the inadvertent whistle at all costs.  It was one of the very few mortal sins in the craft.     Continue reading

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Unpacking “gratuitous”


Though I probably use the word no less often than most of us do, the term “gratuitous” has always seemed vaguely problematic and suspect to me.

In its more common usage “gratuitous” means “unwarranted” or “uncalled for” in a negative sense – as in an undeserved slight, insult, or cut.  We say, for instance, “That was gratuitous!” when a criticism was wrongly offered or excessive.

And yet the word’s root — “gratus” – also underlies such neighboring words as “gratitude,” “grateful,” and “gratuity” (or tip), all sourced in the Latin word meaning “pleasing” or “grateful.”

In what sense, then, should we connect this “grateful” meaning-root with the unwarranted criticism or claim meaning we intend when we say “gratuitous”?  How, in other words, do “gratuitous” and “grateful” share a meaning bridge?    Continue reading

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Two newly unearthed pics of Mary White and Ralph Semmes Gordon

A wedding photo of Mary in her gown (Dec. 29, 1920) and Ralph in his military uniform (c. 1918).  Incidentally, Mary’s wedding photo, IMHO, indirectly confirms that the
“possible” image of teenage Mary White offered on p. 25 of A Child’s-Eye View is indeed Mary — because the two images appear to be the same young woman.  Nice finds this morning!

Mary Jane White wedding garb.jpg



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Mary White Gordon Reading and Discussion in Wallace on the 27th

Note:  Below, the press release and poster for the Mary White Gordon memoir event at the Depot, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27th, 2017.  I’m hoping to bring a little social history into play at the reading.  Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Roizen-posterThe public is warmly invited to a reading of selections from the memoir, A Child’s-Eye View and related discussion by Mr. Ron Roizen — in the Women’s Waiting Room at the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot Museum at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 27th, 2017.

Mary White was born in Wallace on April 8th, 1898, the daughter of Henry and Maude White.  The White family made their home in the handsome edifice at the northeast corner of Cedar and Third Streets.  Father Henry, a businessman and banker, was an early pioneer to the Coeur d’Alene Mining District.  He’d moved his business pursuits from Murray to Wallace in 1888 — where, soon thereafter, in 1890, he and partner Charles Bender built the White & Bender building in downtown Wallace, which remains one of the jewels of Wallace’s historic architecture to this day.  Maude Fox White, Mary’s mother, was cousins with Grace Campbell, the wife of noted mine owner and investor Amasa “Mace” Campbell; Grace and Amasa lived cattycorner to the White family on the southwest corner of Cedar and Third.      Continue reading

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