Idaho’s last territorial governor and the first governor of the State of Idaho was George L. Shoup. He didn’t serve long as Idaho’s governor. The Idaho Legislature elected him to the US Senate just a few weeks after he had been appointed governor. He served in the senate for ten years.
There is much one can say about Shoup that is positive. He was a strong force in shaping Idaho in its early days. Strong enough that he is honored in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the US Capitol. Each state gets only two statues. Idaho chose Shoup (photo) and Senator William E. Borah for that honor.
Among his many business and political accomplishments is one that is a mere footnote in his biography, but it is one that has always troubled me. Col. George L. Shoup was a key leader of what is most often referred to today as the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:
The Sand Creek massacre (also known as the Chivington massacre, the Battle of Sand Creek or the massacre of Cheyenne Indians) was a massacre in the American Indian Wars that occurred on November 29, 1864, when a 675-man force of Colorado U.S. Volunteer Cavalry attacked and destroyed a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho in southeastern Colorado Territory, killing and mutilating an estimated 70–163 Native Americans, about two-thirds of whom were women and children. The location has been designated the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site and is administered by the National Park Service.
It is too complex an issue for a short post to examine all sides of the story and better understand the motives of those involved. To his credit, many times in his later life Shoup showed a willingness to work with Native Americans and he supported fair treatment for them. It is also worth noting that two troop commanders, Captain Silas Soule and Lt. Joseph Cramer, refused to have their soldiers engage. They are seen as heroes today by many.