McConnell remembered one of their first gardening successes in a letter to the Idaho Statesman on January 2, 1916, “Four weeks after planting our onion sets we pulled them all, one Sabbath morning, and tied them in bunches, one dozen in a bunch. There proved to be one hundred bunches. I packed them into Placerville the same day and sold them for $1 a bunch as rapidly as I could hand them out. They were the first green vegetables offered in the market. Early beets and turnips came in a little later, bringing in the open market 45 cents per pound, tops and all, the tops making most excellent greens. Green corn was marketed at $2 per dozen ears; cucumbers, $2 per dozen; tomatoes, 35 cents per pound; potatoes, 35 cents.”
The Porter/McConnell operation was one of several in that area growing vegetables. Crickets discovered their efforts and right away started pestering the farmers. In 1864 the infestation of the critters was worse. Then in 1865 they arrived in hordes.
“At first the crickets [yes, probably the ones known today as Mormon crickets] while young did not seem to relish the growing wheat,” McConnell wrote,” but they took kindly to our barley, and the onions they considered a luxury. They not only ate the tops but they stood on their heads and explored the pith, They attacked the wheat when it was beginning to head and in three days it was utterly destroyed. Fortunately we were well supplied with water, and employing a force of men we constructed a ditch around the field where we had planted our potatoes, corn and vines, and by keeping it continually patrolled we managed to save that portion of our crop, but our neighbors were less fortunate, and we were the only gardeners who had vegetables to deliver from Jerusalem that year, consequently the others became discouraged and sold their holdings for what they were offered and abandoned the country.”
Porter inherited a farm in Canada in 1872 and left Idaho for good. McConnell started a general store in Moscow in 1884. When Idaho’s Constitutional convention took place, McConnell was the representative from Latah County. The ambitious gardener of 1863 became the third governor of Idaho 30 years later. He also served as one of the state’s first US senators in 1890 and 1891.
I talked about McConnell a bit in a previous post and plan on doing a future blog on his vigilante life. He was, let’s say, a well-rounded character.
Thanks to David Humphreys for pointing the way to this information.