I wrote about Beaver Dick’s encounter with Theodore Roosevelt in an earlier post. Today, I’m going to tell you a bit about a little-known part of his life.
Richard Leigh, born in Manchester, England in 1831, came to what would become Idaho in the late 1840s. The biography Beaver Dick, The Honor and The Heartbreak, written by his great grandson William Leigh Thompson and Thompson’s wife Edith M. Schultz Thompson, does not mention his time in the Boise Valley. For the best account of that brief period in his life we turn to the diary of Charles Teeter.
In 1863, he wrote, “We were the first to cross the (Boise) river on a new ferry just constructed by an old mountaineer called Beaver Dick, consequently the ferry was to bear that name. Beaver Dick himself, accompanied by two or three of his men, brought over the ferry boat, and we were soon safely landed on the other side. Here we spent the night and as Beaver Dick was the first man we had seen who had visited the Boise gold mines, we had many questions to ask concerning them.”
It’s worth noting that the “old mountaineer” was 32 at the time. Living rough ages one, apparently.
Beaver Dick’s Ferry operated in 1863 and 1864 near where the Crow Inn was for many years on Warm Springs Boulevard, just west of Highway 21. The historical marker at the site says the following:
“In 1863 and 1864, overland packers hauling supplies from Salt Lake City to Idaho City crossed here and took a direct route northward to More’s Creek.
“They cut a steep grade from the Oregon Trail down to Beaver Dick’s Ferry, which served as a crossing only a short distance below here. After gold rush excitement ended, Idaho City traffic came on through Boise and used a toll road further north to Boise Basin.”