Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Curious Case of the Curator and the Christmas Tree

To begin our tale I would like to thank everyone who came to the McConnell Mansion last week to support the Latah County Historical Society's Victorian Christmas party.  The party was a huge success, thank you.

To fully comprehend the curious case of the curator and the Christmas tree I am here to take you on a journey back in time.  The journey takes you all the way back to November 30, 2015.  While most people were staying at home (or at their office) working on Cyber Monday shopping the Curator went out in search of a Christmas tree.

The morning of the 30th found our curator traveling to Tri-State Outfitters to purchase two Christmas tree permits from the National Forest Service.  As our hero purchased the permits he was expecting some form of a map in which to find the best Christmas trees in the St. Joe National Forest, however finding none he packed up his hand saw and gloves and set his plan in motion.

The curator called his friend Luke Sprague of to ask to borrow his truck for the adventure.  Luke Sprague graciously donated the use of his pickup which allowed the curator to get lost in the woods searching for his Christmas Tree.  Driving out from Moscow, Idaho the curator stopped for provisions and fuel for the trip.

On the way to the National Forest the curator stopped in at the Potlatch Ranger Station for a map.  Now that the curator was armed with a map he was still lacking any direction as to where might be a good place to find said Christmas trees.  After examining the map the curator drove off into the National Forest looking for the best Christmas tree that the St. Joe National Forest had to offer.

As the curator navigated the roads winding int the forest he found that all of the side roads (where the curator had planned to look for a Christmas tree) were closed for the season.  Finally after investigating three different areas the curator got out of the truck and began to walk into the woods to find the LCHS Christmas Trees.

The curator left the comfort of the truck with a wool coat, map, measuring tape and gloves.  The curator began by following the roads the he had so recently planned on driving.  As the curator walked down the road he realized that the best trees were probably 30-50 feet high.  The curator decided, as he often does, that more research would be required before selecting a tree so he continued walking.

The road to find the tree.

As the curator continued walking down the road he found plenty of potential trees to chose from but none were just right.  Until he found it, the one.  The curator knew this would be the perfect tree for LCHS, the tree stood about 15 feet tall and was located on a slope which went down to the road.  The curator was excited.  He got out his trusty hand saw and began to liberate the tree from the forest.

The epic battle between the tree and the handsaw.

The curator knew he had truly found the right tree when it was a royal pain in the butt to alter the tree from vertical to horizontal.  As the curator worked up a sweat the tree finally fell.


Once the tree had been chopped down the curator was faced with a new set of challenges.  First of all the curator had to get the tree off of the hill, then get the tree back to the truck.

The tree is on the hill to the left.
As the curator began to carefully drag the tree into position he finally got it placed on the road and began to head back to the truck.  While dragging the tree the curator began to realize how far away from the truck he had wandered looking for the tree.  The curator walked down the road with his new friend the tree for about half a mile before finally arriving at the truck.  Once the tree met the truck the curator then had to find a way to insert the tree into the truck for transport back to the McConnell Mansion.

Tree, meet truck.
Tree in truck.
Once the first tree was loaded into the truck the curator went back up the road to find another, much smaller tree for upstairs in the Mansion.  The curator then packed the second tree into the truck and began driving back to the McConnell Mansion.

Once the trees were unloaded at the Mansion the curator asked the executive director of LCHS for assistance in getting the tree in the stand.  Once the tree was properly aligned in the stand the tree was ready to be decorated.  This year the University of Idaho Interior Design group volunteered to spend an evening decorating the McConnell Mansion.  After an evening of hard work the Christmas tree was ready for display.

The decorated Christmas Tree in the McConnell Mansion.

The curator would like to personally thank everyone who helped make this year's Christmas tree a reality including Luke Sprague, Dulce Kersting and the University of Idaho Interior Design group.  The curator would also like to thank everyone who attended this year's Victorian Christmas party.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Sweet Summer Tradition

The Latah County Historical Society marks 40 years carrying on a local tradition whose origins date back over a century when it hosts its annual ice cream social this Sunday, July 26th, at the McConnell Mansion in Moscow. The event, held from 1:00-4:30 P.M. at 110 South Adams Street, is expected to attract several hundred guests to the Historical Society’s primary public venue. The Historical Society hosts several such community events every year-- including a harvest dinner, a Victorian Christmas party, and an annual potluck-- in addition to its ongoing work collecting, preserving, and cataloging local historic pictures, documents, and artifacts.

A photo of the Hog Heaven Muzzle loaders at the 2007 ice cream social.

William J. McConnell, Idaho’s first two-term governor, built the McConnell Mansion in 1886, and his wife, Louisa, became well-known for the ice cream socials she held there around the turn of the 20th century. The Historical Society’s ice cream socials still honor Louisa’s memory with features such as the esoteric inclusion of fresh pineapple as an ice cream topping-- something she always insisted on when hosting her own parties. 

The Moscow Volunteer Fire Department at the 2007 ice cream social.
This year’s event will involve street closures in the area of 2nd and Adams to make room for a variety of activities, including live music, a water balloon toss, a seed-spitting contest, lace-making, and horse-and-wagon rides. Representatives of the Moscow fire department and the historical reenactment group Hog Heaven Muzzleloaders will be in attendance to make presentations for guests.

Horse drawn wagon rides at the 2007 ice cream social.

Attendance is free of charge, though donations are encouraged. All ice cream is graciously provided by the DeWitt family of Moscow.

Just as in 2007 there will be entertainment for all at the ice cream social.

This article was written by Cody Wendt.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Streetview Perspective of the McConnell Mansion's Sustainability

The hot and very dry days of summer are upon us, and it's got us thinking about ways to efficiently maintain the grounds of the McConnell Mansion while also being mindful of the water needs of our entire community and region.  Such considerations seem even more important as wildfires threaten neighbors on all sides of the Palouse. 

One way that we are able to conserve water is by maintaining the beautiful trees that surround the Mansion.  Earlier this spring we were pleased to welcome the Moscow Tree Commission to the grounds and serve as a test site for the new program being utilized by the group.  iTree is a free online tool developed by the USDA Forest Service that analyzes the environmental and economic benefits of the trees on any given property.  The Commission is exploring the use of iTree to enhance the Community Forestry Program.  

"The i-Tree Tools help communities of all sizes to strengthen their urban forest management and advocacy efforts by quantifying the structure of community trees and the environmental services that trees provide.  Since the initial release of the i-Tree Tools in August 2006, numerous communities, non-profit organizations, consultants, volunteers and students have used i-Tree to report on individual trees, parcels, neighborhoods, cities, and even entire states. By understanding the local, tangible ecosystem services that trees provide, i-Tree users can link urban forest management activities with environmental quality and community livability. Whether your interest is a single tree or an entire forest, i-Tree provides baseline data that you can use to demonstrate value and set priorities for more effective decision-making." --

Members of the Moscow Tree Commission took measurements of the 34 trees that grow on the McConnell Mansion property.  Those figures were then put into the iTree Design program, which "allows anyone to make a simple estimation of the benefits provided by individual trees. With inputs of location, species, tree size, and condition, users will receive an understanding of tree benefits related to greenhouse gas mitigation, air quality improvements, and stormwater interception. With the additional step of drawing a building footprint – and virtually 'planting' or placing a tree – tree effects on building energy use can be evaluated."

Moscow Tree Commission members Patrick Fekety and Mary Jo Hamilton

The results provided by the iTree report were wonderfully informative.  For example, one report focused specifically on carbon dioxide revealed that our trees will sequester 1,257 pounds of CO2 this year.  The report put that value into perspective when it noted that a flight from LA to NYC which releases ~1,400 pounds of CO2 per passenger.  In total, the iTree Design software produced six separate reports from the data that took just a few hours to gather.  

Along with overall benefits, reports were available for how the trees kept storm water from becoming wasted runoff, how much energy they saved, how they improved air quality, and how much carbon dioxide they sequestered. 

To find out more about how to use the iTree program, I encourage you to contact the Moscow Tree Commission.  You should also take a look at their Tree Selection Guide for Street Tree Planting.  Representatives from the commission will also be available at this year's 40th Annual Ice Cream Social on July 26th to answer any questions you might have about the iTree program.  

Below is the summary report of the benefits provided by the 34 trees that share 110 South Adams Street with the McConnell Mansion.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rolling Shelving

Some of you out there might be aware that we have a bit of an issue with our rolling shelving.  Here at LCHS we use our rolling shelving units to house our archival records.  These consist of mostly paper records that are housed in acid-free folders which sit in acid-free boxes, which sit on acid-free shelving.  The reason for the absence of acid is that it helps to extend the life of the paper records.

The shelving units roll from side to side to allow us to maximize our space in the shelving units.  However a strange thing started to happen (from since before I came on board), the shelves were drifting.  If you had to get a record from the rolling shelving you would not only have to roll open the aisle you wanted to look into, but also you had to wedge one of your feet into the shelf behind you in order to stop it from rolling back into you.

In order to fix the problem, we contacted a local architect who informed us that the south wall of the building had settled, causing the floor to fall out of level.  In order to re-inforce the floor, we had to move (almost) everything out of the housewares room in the basement to reinforce the beams underneath the rolling shelving.  This part of the project was completed about three months ago.  Now that the floor was not settling any more we still had to fix the shelving.  The shelves run on rails on top of the flooring.  Over time with the settling of the floor the rails had bent and were still out of level even though the floor had been reinforced.

We contacted the local SpaceSaver (the company who makes the rolling shelving) representative to find out what could be done.  A maintenance technician visited the Annex about a month ago to inform us that the shelves needed to be taken out so that they could be re-layed with a steel base underneath the rails to prevent this problem from happening again.  The technician looked at the floor reinforcement and he believes that the floor will not settle further.

So, fast forward to June 12th, the company called and asked if the work could begin on June 22nd.  With a mix of enthusiasm and terror we accepted the start date so that we were not pushed down the list until next fall or worse.  In order to have the rolling shelving ready for the technician I had to remove all of the boxes of records from the shelving.

In order to do this I first made a map of where all of the boxes were.  I plan on making some changes to the organization of the boxes, however it helps to know where everything was before making major changes.  After the map of all the shelves was complete I spent the better part of two days removing all of the records to the research room, volunteer office, mail room, accessions table and oversize storage room.  The rolling shelving is now empty and ready to be fixed.  I'm very excited that the shelving will be fixed soon and look forward to the day when I can grab a box of records without precariously wedging my foot in the proper place to avoid being crushed.

Zachary Wnek
Museum Curator
Latah County Historical Society

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Locust Blossom Festival

Last Saturday (5/30/15) I had the opportunity to head down to Kendrick to enjoy the Locust Blossom Festival.  The festival marked the 55th anniversary of the event and was a lot of fun.  The events started in the morning with a 2 and 5K run.  Then at 10am there was a parade going down main Street, which lasted for almost an hour.  After the parade a fantastic lunch was served, with proceeds benefiting the J-K Lions club.

Since this was my first Locust Blossom Festival I didn't really know what to expect.  However after watching the parade for a few minutes I quickly realized that you should expect a great, family friendly time at the Locust Blossom Festival, which is exactly what I experienced.  Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to put the festival on this year and I look forward to attending again next year.  Mark you calendars teh last Saturday in May for the Locust Blossom Festival.

Here are some pictures of the parade that I took while enjoying the festival.

A keen eye might see a former Latah County Historical Society director in this photo.

By Zachary Wnek
Museum Curator
Latah County Historical Society

Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Afternoon in Kendrick

If you're looking for a great party, look no further than Kendrick, Idaho.  Saturday April 25th marked a festive celebration in Kendrick, Idaho.  The Juliaetta-Kendrick Heritage Foundation opened their permanent museum.  This museum is the culmination of years of hard work to obtain and preserve the Fraternal Temple building in Kendrick.  Entering the museum you go into a large open space that just screams for large events to be hosted there.  This space had wonderful exhibits along the walls which explained the history of downtown buildings in Kendrick and Juliaetta.  This exhibit traced ownership and in most cases showed images of the buildings and their various uses.

When you are at the museum, I encourage you to ask a lot of questions.  First and foremost, look at the floor beneath you on the first floor it is from Mr. Walt Disney!  Be sure to ask the host at the museum about how that came to pass.  While you are asking questions be sure to inquire about how much their rental fees are for your next great event.

Did I mention that this was a party?  Along the rest of the first floor was a fantastic spread of food and beverages for the grand opening patrons to consume as well as chairs setup to watch the historical documentaries about the Kendrick and Juliaetta region.  But now let's head upstairs to go to the museum (as if this wasn't exciting enough).

Up a flight of stairs is an excellent example of what is possible when local historians work hard to remember and honor their heritage.  Much of the grand room upstairs is filled with historic images and objects that help to tell the story of the history of the Juliaetta and Kendrick region.  The entry room is dedicated to Bob and Lois Iller for all of their support of the J-K Heritage Foundation through the years.  Another room in the museum is donated to Arlene Wallace, whose family donated many objects and generous funding to the museum.  Remember, this is a party.  To begin the afternoon the museum had a formal dedication from the pump organ and flute accompanied by a formal blessing for the space.

Walking through the museum you are surrounded by historical images, objects and information about the Juliaetta and Kendrick region.  Looking at these objects it is clearly an example of local history well done.  The residents of these communities the museum serves should be excited to have such a valuable historic resource located in Kendrick.  I took many photos of the museum while I was there, but I thought I'd share just a few with you and encourage you to visit the museum yourself to see the rest of the exhibits.

The museum, located at 614 E Main St. in Kendrick, will be open from 1pm-3pm on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month, I strongly recommend visiting.

Here are some photos of the museum, research room and patrons.

A Communications exhibit at the museum.

A veterans exhibit at the museum.

Research materials available for research at the museum.

Happy and excited patrons at the museum.

  - Zachary Wnek
Museum Curator
Latah County Historical Society

Thursday, April 16, 2015

An evening with Vernon Law and James 'Mudcat' Grant

On Wednesday April 15th LCHS partnered with the University of Idaho for an evening listening to how race and religion collided with baseball in the middle of the 20th century.  A panel of presenters was brought to the 1912 Center for an evening of reflection by two all star major league pitchers.

Vernon Law and James 'Mudcat' Grant both played professional baseball around the middle of the 20th Century.  These two gentlemen stayed and spoke for about 90 minutes recalling some of the most interesting stories from their playing time.  The panel was moderated by Dan Durbin of the University of Southern California’s Institute of Sports, Media and Society who is creating an oral history database of African-American baseball players who played in the 25 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.

James 'Mudcat' Grant is on the right with a baseball cap on while Vernon Law is on the left.
The focus of the event was to hear about how race and religion affected the players.  Vernon Law discussed how his religion (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) played a role with both the fans and fellow players as many fellow players tried to tempt him to test his religious beliefs.  James 'Mudcat' Grant talked about the role of racism in baseball.  Mudcat spoke about how other players and fans reacted to African-American baseball players in Major League Baseball.   Many of Mudcat's stories can be found in his book: The Black Aces: Baseball's only African-American Twenty game Winners.

A great turnout for this panel at the 1912 Center.
The two pitchers spoke for about an hour until they opened up the floor for questions.  The pitchers answered all questions asked and were available after the event closed for further questions, signing autographs and taking pictures with the captive audience. 

Latah County Historical Society would like to thank James 'Mudcat' Grant, Vernon Law and Dan Durbin for sharing their experiences with us.  LCHS would also like to thank the University of Idaho for hosting this event and partnering with us.

Zachary Wnek
Museum Curator
Latah county Historical Society

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Unintended Consequences of a Noble Experiment

The gang that kidnapped Lieutenant Governor William Kinne and two other men in 1929, along with some of the posse that apprehended the criminals outside of Kendrick is shown in this undated photo. Back row, fourth from left is Lt. Gov. Kinne, sixth from left is Harley Perryman who was deputized during the search. Criminals stand in first row, beginning second from left are George Norman, Robert Livingston, Edward Fliss, Engolf Snortland and Albert Reynolds. Young heroes Ward Alexander and Sam Bryant likely kneeling in front.  LCHS Photo 10-09-003

Squeezed onto the front page of the June 12th, 1929 edition of The New York Times was a brief article from Orofino under the headline “4 Men Kidnap Idaho’s Lieutenant-Governor; Finally Leave Him and 2 Others Tied to Trees.”  The column went on to note that Kinne “was abducted by four automobile bandits this morning and left tied to a tree in the mountains after his car had been wrecked in a wild dash about the country side.  He returned home uninjured tonight.”  In the following days additional details about this ill-conceived and poorly executed criminal endeavor would surface, documenting just one more example of the lawlessness that came to characterize Prohibition-era America.  

William Kinne, elected to Boise only a few months earlier, was returning to his home in Orofino following a trip to Portland when his car was stopped along U.S. Route 12 east of Lewiston by a group of four armed young men.  Kinne was forced into the back of his own car by gunpoint, at which time the criminals piled into their newly acquired vehicle and proceeded east at speeds that the lieutenant governor believed topped more than 60 miles per hour.  Before the kidnappers could reach their intended destination of Pierce where they meant to rob a bank, a blown out tire threw Kinne’s car into the ditch.  Two men making their way along the same route stopped on the scene to offer aid, but when they resisted being kidnapped themselves, the bandits turned to physical violence.  Warren Tribbey was shot in the leg twice and Paul Kilde was beaten unconscious before the gang piled all three of their prisoners into Tribbey’s vehicle and made for the cover of mountains and Greer, Idaho. 

By late afternoon the criminals began to see the error of their ways, knowing that the absence of a lieutenant governor would not go unnoticed for long, and so the three were taken into the woods outside of Greer and tied to a tree.  Although the bandits took their hostages cash and vehicle, they neglected to confiscate Tribbey’s pocketknife in their hurry to make an escape.  It took little time to free themselves, and soon Kinne and his compatriots were sharing their harrowing tale in the town of Greer.  By nightfall scouting parties were forming to augment the official searches being undertaken by Nez Perce, Clearwater, and Latah County law enforcement.  The assembled efforts were so remarkable that newspapers across the country reported on the manhunt.  One article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted on June 13th that “a state-wide search was under way today for the four bandits who kidnapped and robbed Liet. Gov. W.B. Kinne…four airplanes and 150 possemen who hunted the official yesterday continued their search today for the bandits.”  

It would take two farm boys from Juliaetta, however, to nab the gang of would-be robbers.  Exhausted after nearly two days of skulking through the woods and ravines of north central Idaho, the bandits were spotted by 14 year old Ward Alexander and 16 year old Sam Bryant sleeping along the banks of the Potlatch Creek, and Latah County Deputy Sheriff Miles Pierce arrived within minutes to arrest the men.  The photo of the kidnappers and their captors above was most likely taken in Juliaetta the following morning, after Lt. Governor Kinne arrived to positively identify the culprits.  One nationally syndicated column shared that the man who Kinne singled out as responsible for shooting Kilde “threatened the lieutenant governor’s life if he ‘identified’ him.  ‘You may be all right for a while, but wherever you are when I get out of this, I’ll kill you sure,’ officers reported him as saying.”  Within a week the criminals stood trial in Lewiston on kidnapping charges, with all receiving multi-year jail sentences.  All threats of retribution went unfulfilled, however, because in September of that same year Kinne died in office from complications associated with appendicitis. 

Although sensational and worthy of note in countless newspapers, this sort of incident became all too common during the years of the national prohibition of alcohol, 1920 to 1933.  Proponents touted temperance as the single most effective way to uplift the moral character of the country and improve the lives of its citizens.  Yet the Noble Experiment, as it came to be called, undoubtedly contributed to a rise in organized crime, petty criminal activity, and a host of unhealthy behaviors.  You may be familiar with flappers and Al Capone, but how much do you really know about Prohibition?  Join the Latah County Historical Society next Saturday, April 11th for its second annual Brews & BBQ, presenting “How to Catch a Moonshiner, and Other Tales from Prohibition Era Latah County.”  More details about this fundraising event can be found at  A companion photo exhibit will also be on display at the Moscow Brewing Company through April.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Time to Partay! Help Us Celebrate the Latah County Oral History Project

More than 40 years after being recorded, the Latah County Oral History Project is getting a second life! Hundreds of hours of interviews have been digitized by the University of Idaho and are now available online. Join us for the launch party on Wednesday, April 1 in the 1912 Center Great Room from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Help us to remember Latah County and Idaho life at the turn of the 20th century. Co-sponsored by the Latah County Historical Society and the University of Idaho Library, this event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

Click HERE for a link to a story from Pullman Radio News on the University of Idaho's involvement in the project.

We are also please to announce some additional exciting news for the oral history collection. Here's a note from the 2015 Spring Newsletter, from Executive Director Dulce Kersting:
The Idaho Humanities Council and the Idaho State Historical Society have generously made grant funds available to help jump-start our oral history program. As many of you will know, in the 1970s the Society conducted hundreds of interviews with Latah County pioneers, creating one of the richest oral history collections in the state of Idaho. In subsequent decades, however, far fewer oral histories have been added to our archives. New funding is allowing the Society to once again sit down with Latah County residents whose experiences are representative of life in the area or individuals whose recollections are evidence of unique events or perspectives. If you or someone you know might like to contribute to this program, I encourage you to get in touch with me at or 208.882.1004. Our project happens to coincide with the University of Idaho’s launch of a brand new online resource that is bringing fresh attention to the Latah County Oral History Project conducted by the Society in the 1970s. Please be sure to visit to find digital recordings of the interviews, you won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stranger than Fiction: An Ill-Fated Love Story

Winifred Booth LCHS Booth.W.01
The headline was sensational: “Miss Winnie Booth was Hypnotized.”  The subtitle spelled out the startling double suicide in early May of 1902 in greater detail: “Lured to her ruin and death – New developments in the awful tragedy of Orofino – Two families are prostrated by the terrible occurrence.”

Anyone who has read Carol Ryrie Brink’s Buffalo Coat will recognize these details from the ill-fated love story of Dr. Allerton and Miss Jenny Walden.  But as the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction, and Brink’s dramatic tale was in fact inspired by the very real events that resulted in the deaths of Dr. F.J. Ledbrooke and Miss Booth.

Dr. Ledbrooke first met Reverend Booth’s daughter in the summer of 1901 when she entrusted into his care following a serious accident sustained during a camping trip.  Her recovery was slow, and for months she was the doctor regularly for treatments and evaluations.  According to one newspaper account,
“When Miss Booth was ill during the winter [Dr. Ledbrooke] had her under the influence of hypnotism during an operation performed on her for appendicitis.  It seems that ever since that time she was more or less under his control.  He saw her very often at her home in this city and was especially welcomed there by Rev. Booth as a warm friend and also as the family physician.”  
It would seem that an adulterous relationship developed between the married doctor and young woman, one that was quite unacceptable by the standards of the day and given the devoutly religious natures of both people.  The doomed lovers could not bear to be apart, and yet each knew that divorce was not an option for Dr. Ledbrooke.  And so they hatched a plan to find peace together in eternity.

In the spring of 1902 Miss Booth was teaching grade school in Kendrick.  On Saturday, May 10th Dr. Ledbrooke took a train from Moscow to Kendrick, and together he and Winnie traveled on to Orofino.  The couple spent Saturday and Sunday together in a hotel, and attended a Sunday evening church service where attendees noticed that the strangers were openly weeping.  Several letters were also postmarked on Sunday the 11th by Dr. Ledbrooke, as well as one final note from Miss Booth.

Winifred Booth LCHS Booth.W.01
On the morning of Monday the 12th, Dr. Ledbrooke administered a lethal dose of morphine to Winnie and then he turned the needle on himself.  Although heavy breathing from the room aroused enough suspicion from the hotel’s staff to warrant forced entry into the room, the young lady was already deceased and Dr. Ledbrooke would survive only a few minutes longer.  He was pronounced dead at 3:10pm after a failed attempt at resuscitation.  On the bedside table was found a note to the innkeeper, seemingly written by Winnie: “To the proprietor, Hotel Noble, we have notified our folks in Moscow that they will find us here, and unless the letters miscarry they will be here on the afternoon train.  We have also sent for an undertaker from Moscow.  Expect them on the train tomorrow.”

Two of the recipients of Dr. Ledbrooke’s letters, Mr. Gillette and Mr. Grice, did indeed arrive in Orofino by Monday afternoon.  The bodies were brought back to Moscow, just as the news caught like wildfire and stunned friends and acquaintances began to speculate how this tragedy could have come to pass without any prior warnings.

In a letter to Rev. Booth, the doctor expressed his regret for the terrible sadness their love affair would bring to both families.
“My very dear friend.  You have promised always to love me.  We have understood each other and do yet.  This explains what I meant when I said that someday you would understand all.  Do not get angry but please remember us in love.  It may seem utter nonsense to write about Winnie and myself loving each other so that to live pure and acceptable lives would have been impossible.  But such are the facts.  Rather than bring shame upon you, the church and my home, we each by ourselves choose death.  Our love for each other is stronger than death.  This is the only gate friendly to us through which we can be together always.  It costs us a great many tears to rend so many hearts, but explain is useless.  We would not be believed.  Some of [them will] still love us.  Others will think of us as heartless and vile sinners…We die thinking of you all and expect you will all love us and not say unkind things about us.  We are sorry that such tragedy should enter your life as well as ours.  We would that it were otherwise.  Poor Mrs. Booth, I know it will almost kill her.  She knows all about us and we will always sleep knowing one heart understands us…See my poor wife and comfort her.  Talk things over with her and then quietly lays us [together].  We would like the simplest kind of burial.  We are tired of living and want to rest.”   
Mrs. Booth maintained that she had no prior knowledge of the affair.   News accounts in the following weeks were equally as adamant that the tragedy was the result of a one-sided infatuation.
“The story told in the letters that each was madly infatuated with each other seems wide of the truth.  There is no doubt that it was the case with Dr. Ledbrook at all times but it was not rue with Winnie…That the girl was in love with Ledbrook is affirmed by all her friends, to several of whom she confided she hated the man but that he had a strange and irresistible influence over here.  It was an influence that led her on to her death.” – North Idaho Star, May 16, 1902        
With the exception of their final letters, neither Dr. Ledbrooke nor Miss Booth left behind diaries, and so it is difficult to determine the exact nature of their relationship.  As historian Mary Reed noted, however, “The newspaper reports were that he had hypnotized her, because who wanted to believe this could happen?  You had to find an excuse, a reason for this to happen, and you’re not going to say that a minister’s daughter would commit adultery with a married man.  So I think it must have been something like this, that people needed to believe that she was an innocent victim.  And there was already mistrust of him, because he was an outsider.”

Cover of the Pacific Northwest Inlander, with the headstone of Winnie Booth.
LCHS PAM 200-07
Despite their final requests, the two lovers were not buried together.  Both were laid to rest in the Moscow Cemetery.

If you are curious to know more about this sordid and sad affair, or about the lives of other Moscow residents immortalized in Buffalo Coat, please visit our archives.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The LCHS Victorian Christmas Party

On December 13th, 2014 the Latah County Historical Society had our annual Victorian Christmas party.  The party was well attended by folks from Latah County and beyond, with over 200 people in attendance.  We think this event was a great way to show off the McConnell Mansion in all of its Christmas splendor.  In case you missed it, the Mansion is open from Tuesday-Friday from 1pm-4pm and is available for tours.

The fantastic holiday party took place in the afternoon.  The event highlighted our biggest historical artifact, the McConnell Mansion.  The Mansion was decorated to the hilt with Christmas decorations including two live Christmas trees.  Any party at the McConnell Mansion would not have been complete without the assistance of the great LCHS events committee and membership who shared their favorite holiday cookies with everyone.  This year there were two special highlights, the opening of a new exhibit and the Palouse Choral Society.  The Palouse Choral Society sang throughout the event spreading cheer from the family parlor.  The new exhibit is titled Departments of Latah County: Department Stores and Mercantiles across Latah County's History.  While the choral society has gone the new exhibit will be up for a while yet.

Here are some photographs of this great event.

One of the two Christmas trees upstairs in the Mansion.
Children's activities upstairs.

The stairway all dressed up.

The Palouse Choral Society at the Victorian Christmas Party.

LCHS Door greeting committee.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

Thank you very much for attending this year's Victorian Christmas and we look forward to seeing you again next year!

Zach Wnek
Museum Curator
Latah County Historical Society