Fellow lovers of Wallace and Idaho history,
“The Rossi Murder,” my 94.4K-word manuscript, is still in need of a publisher. After a three-month stay at WSU Press it was courteously declined. As you might imagine, I’d hate to see the 18 months of effort congealed in this work go to waste. My hope is that Facebook and the World Wide Web may send news of its languishing situation far and wide. And, as a result, a publisher somewhere will get wind of the story and come knocking. I know, I know: it’s a longshot. But that’s my hope and — for now at least — I’m sticking with it.
HOW I CAME UPON THIS STORY
Wife Maggie, daughter Alexis, and I moved (from Berkeley, California) to the historic little mining town of Wallace, in Idaho’s northern panhandle, in November, 1997. We soon started looking around our new environment. It wasn’t long before we discovered beautiful, forested Nine Mile Cemetery, which lies a little more than a mile north of town on Nine Mile Creek Road. The cemetery’s entrance road runs upward between two hillsides. To the right, very near the entrance and only a few feet from the graveyard’s flagpole, sits the prominent grave of Herman J. Rossi. In due course I would hear the rumor that Rossi’s grave had been consigned to this location, across the road from the cemetery’s main grounds, because of objections that he was a murderer. (Despite all the years that have passed since I’ve never been able to securely confirm or disconfirm it – although I question this rumor’s verity at the end of this book.)
Also early in our Wallace experience, I acquired a copy of Patricia Hart and Ivar Nelson’s wonderful, large-format book titled Mining Town. It offered an intelligent and affectionate account of Wallace’s history alongside eloquent photographs drawn from a remarkable array of images housed down at the University of Idaho’s Library in Moscow – called the Barnard-Stockbridge Photographic Collection. Hart and Nelson’s text, as it happens, neatly summarized the main points of the notorious Rossi murder in two pages (140-141): Herman Rossi’s second wife, who was 15 years his junior, had a serious drinking problem. On discovering, on his return, that she had enjoyed a drunken weekend with a young lover, Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist, in the Rossi home while he was away for a week in Boise, Rossi strode downtown to the Samuels Hotel, assaulted Dahlquist in the lobby, and then shot him as he fled across the room. Three and a half months later Rossi was found not guilty of murder by a jury that wasted little time on deliberation. I remember thinking, on reading Hart and Nelson’s brief account, that there had to be a lot more to this story.
But there the matter lay for me for a long time. Until 2016. Then, that summer, a neighbor happened to mention that a local history buff and friend, Dick Caron, here in Wallace, was looking for historical material on the Samuels Hotel. Dick, added my neighbor, wanted to prepare interpretive signage on the hotel’s history for the pocket park where the hotel once stood in downtown Wallace. I did a little checking on Dick’s behalf and unearthed a couple of potentially useful items. One article, in the November, 1908 edition of the Overland Monthly, offered an enthusiastic review of the then-new hotel in a piece about all the charms and advantages of the bustling city of Wallace, Idaho in that year. “There are many beautiful homes here with every modern convenience,” wrote the article’s author, George M. Teale, “…but the pride of the city, and of the whole district for that matter, is the new ‘Samuels Hotel,’ a modern five-story brick structure that would be a source of pride to a city of 100,000 people.”
It was in reviewing the history of the Samuels Hotel that I just happened to recall that the hotel’s lobby was the site of Rossi shooting of Dahlquist in 1916. And then it suddenly hit me: 2016 — the current year, the year in which I was doing this small favor for Dick Caron — marked the one-hundredth anniversary of Rossi murder. That fact, in turn, soon prompted me to write up a newspaper article about the old story — a piece, I hoped, befitting its centennial. My article appeared in the Shoshone News Press, our local newspaper, on October 14, 2016 – the same October date, one hundred years earlier, that Rossi won his acquittal from a Shoshone County jury. A year later, in October, 2017, I gave an hour-long-plus presentation about the case, with more than 50 PowerPoint slides, at the Melodrama Theater downtown. My talk was part of the program of Wallace’s Fall For History event, held annually.
It would be my Fall For History presentation that most directly prompted the writing of this book. My talk ran over my allotted time and I came away from the experience feeling frustrated that, even though I’d run long, I hadn’t been able to cover all the aspects of the case I’d hoped to. And then it occurred to me that a book about the Rossi murder would not be similarly constrained. I’d have, in effect, all the time I wanted or needed at my disposal. That was the real spark. The existence of my notes and slides for this presentation – along with a number of blog posts I’d published along the way – also suggested that I already possessed, in effect, an outline and backbone for the book’s storyline.
What sort of a story was it? The answer or answers to that question turned out to be complicated — and a journey. The answers also, as might been expected, changed and evolved as my research and thought developed. Writing up “The Rossi Murder” would ultimately take me to roads, waystations, and destinations I never anticipated seeing at the beginning of this humble project — as you, dear reader, will soon discover. It may be noted, however, that one thing has remained unchanged for me: Along with a handful of other notable historic events — including, e.g., the Mining Wars of the 1890s, the Great Fire of 1910, and the 1991 raid by federal agents that shut down the town’s traditions of prostitution and gambling — Herman J. Rossi’s 1916 murder of his wife’s lover is one of the iconic episodes etched into Wallace’s storied past.
 Patricia Hart and Ivar Nelson, Mining Town: The Photographic Record of T.N. Barnard and Nellie Stockbridge from the Coeur d’Alenes, Seattle and London: University of Washington Press and Boise: Idaho State Historical Society, 1984.