Note: The author has, for the past year, been writing a book about Herman J. Rossi, five-time mayor of Wallace, and his notorious murder of his young wife’s lover in June of 1916. The following was adapted from Ch. XXI of this draft volume.
Miss Mabel Price, who was 15 years younger than her groom, married Herman J. Rossi on March 16, 1906 at St. Thomas Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Herman was, at the time, the sitting mayor of Wallace. Ten years later, Mabel – while husband Herman was away on a political errand in Boise — engaged in a drunken and heedless encounter with musician Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist at the Rossi home in Wallace. Herman’s shattering discovery of her adultery upon his return home, on June 30, 1916, led to Rossi’s murder of Dahlquist that same evening at the Samuels Hotel in downtown Wallace. After a weeklong trial, in October, 1916, Rossi was readily acquitted by a Shoshone County jury. The trial and its dramatic verdict were frontpage news all over the Northwest. By the time of Rossi’s own death however — 20 years later, on March 12, 1937 — newspaper tributes said nothing of his 1916 murder trial and instead recounted the more the recent courtroom dramas springing from Rossi’s violations of the National Prohibition Act in 1929, for which he was once again ultimately exonerated.
Rossi in 1929 – by now long divorced from Mabel and happily remarried – was once again Wallace’s sitting mayor. In that capacity he’d participated in an unorthodox taxation scheme that drew revenue for the city’s treasury from liquor sales, prostitution, and gambling in Wallace. Nearby Mullan’s city government had developed a similar scheme. In both towns, such taxation was justified on grounds that large populations of young, male, work-parched miners imposed policing and other expenses that required tax revenue from somewhere. Since city officials did not pocket the money themselves, this reasoning went, taxing the steady and unabated flow of illicit liquor during Prohibition offered a pragmatic solution and as good an idea as any they could come up with. Continue reading