Society Saturday: Nez Perce County Historical Society & The Letters of Phineas H. Howe

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Howe Letters

This is the first of a new series in my blog that will document the work I undertake for my local historical society, but also just showcase the wonderful things that society is doing. Like most such groups across the country, it’s staffed by passionate, knowledgeable people who love their history and their community, and are doing great work with very little money. Budgets are shrinking, especially in this difficult economic time, and I think every society struggling to serve its members and patrons in such times deserves a serious HURRAH and a large round of cookies. While I may not do a Society Saturday every week, I intend for it to become a permanent fixture on my blog.

For this first post, I just wanted to mention the exciting developments since my last post, in which I mentioned I had just joined the Nez Perce County Historical Society. I returned today to get a better feel for the place, and spent some time roaming around the exhibits. The registrar really would like me to take on some docent and tour guiding work for them, but first I need to bone up and brush up on what I already know about the area. I have many tidbits, but I’ll need to do better than that to speak to a local tour group! To that end, I checked a couple of books out of the college library and I’ll be reading through those. As well, in looking through the exhibits, I found I was most intrigued by the earliest part of Lewiston, Idaho, history, which includes the first settlement, the ‘ragtown’ days that were wild and rough, and the gold mining era. All of that lasted about the 1850s and 1860s, slowly winding down thereafter. A fascinating time, to be sure, but the best part – especially for me – was yet to come!

In discussing my interest in early Lewiston with the registrar, she generously offered to let me check out some letters she had transcribed from some originals donated years back to the society that centered on that very era! A man by the name of Phineas H. Howe wrote letters to his sons back in Maine from the gold fields of Idaho and the town of Lewiston. The registrar was fascinated by them, as well, and had already done the transcription work of the letters and the abstraction of another folder of newspaper clippings she promised to dig out later – but what a find! She told me she’d very much like to see it written up as an article for their society newsletter, a challenge I am very excited to undertake. I’ve begun a new family tree for Phineas H. Howe and have been tracing him through the censuses, along with the rest of his family, and have already located him in Maine, and also in Idaho in the expected time periods. I can barely wait to start reading the letters, but I wanted some context first to better understand him and his family before I begin. As I reconstruct his story, I hope to write the article that the registrar is looking for, and any interesting tidbits I come across in these letters. Perhaps there’s also some family of Phineas out there this will assist, as well!

As a final note, the genealogical work I undertook for the registrar was brief and incomplete, but I found several very good nuggets to get her on the right track and she was very thrilled. That was the final icing on the cake for what turned out to be a very successful second visit to the society!

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Society Saturday: Nez Perce County Historical Society & The Letters of Phineas H. Howe — 4 Comments

  1. Welcome to Blogging! I enjoyed your post about defining “professional.” Look forward to future posts!

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