In 1925 the group was formed to commemorate Idaho history. Their first act was to install a monument to honor George Grimes, one of the men who first discovered gold in the Boise Basin on August 2, 1862. He was killed a few days later and was buried by his partner, Moses Splawn, in a nearby prospect hole. Splawn’s story was that Grimes was killed by hostile Indians. Some suspect the story might have been, let’s say, convenient.
The Sons and Daughters of Idaho Pioneers placed 47 monuments in southwestern Idaho alone. Often, they were carved into the shape of Idaho using sandstone from Table Rock.
One problem with carving your stories about history in stone is that history doesn’t always stay the same. A prime example is the marker that was placed on Government Island in the Boise River in 1933. It was meant to commemorate the arrival of Colonel Pinkney Lugenbeel who scouted for a location of what would be Fort Boise. He settled on a site on July 4, 1863.
Certainly, this was an important link in the chain of events leading to the establishment of Boise. Lugenbeel helped plat the city a few days later.
Whoever wrote the inscription for the monument placed by the Sons and Daughters of Idaho Pioneers participated in a bit of hyperbole, not to mention misspelling. Okay, we’ll mention the misspelling, too. The inscription read:
THE BEGINNING OF CIVILIZATION
IN BOISE VALLEY MAJOR LUGENBILE
SENT BY THE U.S. GOV’T TO
ESTABLISH BOISE BARRACKS.
CAMPED HERE JUNE 1863
The spelling mistake was in Lugenbeel’s name. The hyperbole was to call his efforts “the beginning of civilization in Boise Valley.” Had the writer added “European style” before the word civilization, it would have been more accurate. Indians had a civilization in the valley for millennia prior to the major’s arrival.
Government Island is no longer an island, and the Lugenbeel monument is no longer in place. Boise City parks personnel removed the monument in 2017 for restoration, then had second thoughts about putting it back up with the original condescending language.
Did the history change? Not exactly, but our understanding of it is now more complete. The story is likely to change in six months or a year when this post becomes a rerun. By then something new might have happened to the monument. That’s why I don’t blog in stone.
Thanks to Boise City Department of Arts and History. Much of the information in this post, including the photo below, can be found in their publication Government Island Monument—A Sons and Daughters of Idaho Pioneers Artifact.