Gisela “Doris” Roizen

Gisela-hsGone 11 years ago, today.

And my sorrow for her continues in a palpable, if attenuated, way — although it’s taken a different shape more recently.

In my still relatively new experience with a more solitary life — since Maggie’s passing — I think about Mom a lot.

She quite simply was not the kind of person who should have been obliged, by circumstance, to live alone.

Heidi, for many years, did the best she could to give Mom a family life — and even a work life. I remember at one point she had business cards printed up for Mom with the title “Mother of the President.”

My own humble existence — buoyed up as it is by the internet, by various historical and work-related pursuits, by family, friends, and neighbors, and even by little Meistie’s semi-friendly relationship with me — seems a far cry from the isolation I know she felt. Even language posed, I came to learn, a considerable barrier for her.  She didn’t understand more words than most of us in the family ever realized.

A truth — an unfortunate truth I will be buried with one day — is that if I had it to do over again, I’d have given her more of my time.

The moral of this anniversary reflection, then, is simply this:  If you have a mother or father, or another loved one, who is struggling with the isolation of advancing age and lessening agency, then do more for that person now, while it’s still possible to make a difference.

Trite and syrupy advice, I know.  But — in my case, at least — a hard-won lesson.

Sorry, Mom!




Heidi, Mom, me, Peter, and Millie — c. 1963

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Wallace and Wallace — part 2

Note:  Important safety tip:  You might want to fasten your seatbelt and hold on to your hat in reading this part!

Wallace obit pic.jpg

Col. W.R. Wallace — image borrowed from his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Nov. 19th, 1901

I’m guessing that some readers of Col. Wallace’s account of his past dealings with the General Land Office in Coeur d’Alene City respecting his claim to the Wallace townsite reacted with slack jaws, wonderment, and shock.

Wallace description of that history showed (1) that he’d engaged in under-the-table dealings with a GLO representative, (2) that he’d quite possibly bribed said official, and (3) that he’d continued selling lots in Wallace on the basis of an illicit assurance from the same GLO representative.  Said representative, Robert McFarland, claimed Wallace, had assured him that the scrip-nullifying letter received from Washington, D.C. by the Coeur d’Alene City office would be deep-sixed and forgotten.

It was an account that — in some eyes, at least — might have further discredited the beleaguered Colonel.  It was also an account that bespoke volumes about the shady practices and corrupted personnel that plagued the contemporary U.S. General Land Office, according to historian Harold H. Dunham (1937), especially between the years of 1875 and 1890.  Permit me to lift a single brief paragraph from Dunham’s revelatory article on the history of the GLO’s operations and practices over this period.      Continue reading

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Wallace and Wallace — part 1

Note:  This is the first post in a series on this remarkable episode in Wallace, Idaho’s early history.


Wallace, Idaho, in photo dated 1887

Recently, I’ve been trying to gain a better understanding of the tumultuous events in the little frontier mining town of Wallace in 1889.  I even drove down to Moscow and spent some time at the microfilm machine in the University’s library down there.  It’s a complicated story, with ties to still older history and to events taking place far away from North Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Mining District.

The event that caught the nation’s eye and that threw Wallace’s citizens into confusion and doubt occurred on the night of Tuesday, February 19th, 1889.  Here’s the two-paragraph news item that appeared in the New York Times on March 1st of that year:

NYT - Wallace upheaval - 030189

The day after the great land rush, cooler heads assembled at city hall for a meeting to assess the young town’s true land-ownership situation.  A committee of five men was appointed to investigate the status of Wallace’s townsite’s patent.  The committee, in turn, selected three of its members — J.F. Cameron, P.J. Holohan, and Alfred J. Dunn — to travel to the General Land Office in Coeur d’Alene City to get to the bottom of the matter. The delegation left the next’s morning train and returned on Friday, February 22nd.  The news they brought back doubtless sent another shock wave through Wallace’s population.    Continue reading

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Family History: Two new photos

Aarons sister - poss my great grandmother - baby Joe

Possibly my maternal great grandmother with my infant father

My second cousin, Miriam Diamant Brenner, who lives in Israel, has kindly sent two new photos.  One (left), in particular, is notable because Miriam suggests it’s a picture of baby Joe (my father) held by (possibly) his grandmother (my great grandmother).  I’m guessing — because Miriam belongs to the Diamant side of the family — she’d be my grandmother’s mother, not my grandfather’s mother.  Miriam did not know her name; and, neither, sadly, do I.  I’ve never seen a candidate image before of my great grandmother.  This, therefore, is a very nice find, and gift.

The second image (below) is of my father’s Uncle Aaron’s mother, Aaron, and one of Aaron’s sisters.  Clearly, the right side of this photo was torn and repaired, thus distorting the sister’s left eye.  Aaron was my grandmother’s, Brana’s, younger brother.   That, in turn, would make Aaron’s mother, also pictured, my maternal great grandmother.  Or, in other words, possibly the same woman pictured in the first photo, although at different ages.  Aaron had three sisters — Brana, Riva, and Jenny.  Based on other family photos I’ve seen, my guess is that the pretty girl pictured would be Jenny.

Thank you very much, Miriam, for sharing these!

Aarons mother - Aaron - Aarons sisterAaron’s mother, Aaron, one of Aaron’s sisters

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Rossi case: Our first really good look at Mabel

— See Roster of Rossi posts


Mrs. Mabel Rossi — photo received from the Barnard-Stockbridge Collection, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho

Well then!  What can we mine from this first real image of Mabel, Mrs. Herman J. Rossi!  I think I notice first the smiling eyes and the petulant — and perhaps sensual as well — up-turn of her upper lip.  The presence of the dog is notable.  It would suggest a target of Mabel Rossi - The_Tacoma_Times_Mon__Nov_13__1916_some claim to sophistication if the breed were not so indefinite.  As it is, the dog seems…well…just a nice dog.  Mabel is dressed for winter — and so her sweater obscures as much as it reveals of her upper body.  The fullness of her face and the billowy fit of the sweater suggest of course that she was no Twiggy.  Yet normal weight for her height and age seem quite possible.  It’s not too hard to see how the sketch artist may have arrived at the rendering a newspaper article offered.  And yet this photo suggests a measure of youth and animation that the sketch somehow did not offer.  Looked at in a certain way, the face could almost be Slavic or Native American in its broad-cheekedness, I thought. How much playfulness lurks in this young woman is hard to say, yet there certainly is some measure of that quality.  There is confidence and assuredness in her gaze, too, I thought.  And certainly still the bloom of youth.  Comments from others — others perhaps better at this sort of thing — are welcome as always!

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Shoshone County’s mistaken origin accounts

Note:  This article was originally published under a different title (namely, “Did Shoshone County Turn 150 Years Old This Year”) in Idaho magazine, July 2008.


Hubert Howe Bancroft

There is a majestically large book in the Wallace Public Library’s locked glass case.  Its pages amount to a veritable bible of early Idaho history and biography.  It is titled An Illustrated History of North Idaho, Embracing Nez Perces, Idaho, Latah, Kootenai and Shoshone Counties, published in 1903. Historian Robert Wayne Smith wrote of this volume — in relation to Shoshone County’s early history in particular — that the book contained “…more documentary material and more authoritative information than any other work.”

The book says, on page 33:  “The territorial government of Washington…organized Shoshone County in January, 1858, comprising all of the country north of the Snake river and between the Columbia river and the Rocky mountains, with the county seat on the land claim of Angus McDonald.”

Organized in 1858?

If so, then 2008 would be Shoshone County’s 150th anniversary year.

No small anniversary.

An 1858 birth date would make Shoshone County older than the State of Idaho and even a little older than the Idaho Territory.  The state was created by the U.S. Congress on July 3rd, 1890, the territory on March 4, 1863.

But what is the source and authority behind this birth year assertion?

The great volume in the locked glass case offers no source.


A little digging revealed, however, that the 1858 claim appears in more than a few additional historical works.  For instance, Hiram T. French’s History of Idaho (1914, page 109) says Shoshone County was created on January 29, 1858.  Vardis Fisher, the celebrated Idaho writer and historian, dated the county’s origin to 1858 in his The Idaho Encyclopedia (1938, page 329).  W. Earl Greenough’s First 100 Years [of the] Coeur d’Alene Mining District (1947, page 7) says, “Shoshone county was without county government for three years following its creation in 1858.”  Even U.S. Senator Mike Crapo’s web page on Shoshone County offers:  “It was the first organized unit of government within Idaho boundaries, created and named for the Shoshoni Indians in 1858 by the Washington Territorial Legislature as part of Washington, effective in 1861.”      Continue reading

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Film Review: The City of Your Final Destination

Destination City Film

This is a very watchable film (2010), with some very good performances.  Laura Linney, contrary to type, plays a heartless and obstinate widow — and plays her character well, even with her native gifts of sympathetic eyes and gentle ways.  Anthony Hopkins plays an aging gay dandy with a golden heart all the same — and plays it well too.  I particularly liked the young would-be author and the young mother he becomes attracted to in the encampment in Uruguay.  There were annoying bits, I confess.  I wish the writers had come out earlier in the film that the would-be author was trying to write his doctoral dissertation — and not just some vaguely defined “book.”  (I did some pondering afterward as to why the writers did that — and maybe you will too.)  The would-be author’s official girlfriend, back at the University of Colorado’s literature faculty, was substantially overdrawn, IMHO, and, with that, too easily disliked for a plausible romance between them to have happened.  Yet the film had traction in its truths.  And the final scene, at the opera, in New York City was a wonderful way to find resolution for the intertwined stories.  The very tall figures on the stage, in luminous colors, were an eyeful too.  Very watchable film.  Like I said.

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