By Major Frank A. Fenn, Copyright 1920

An Early Prize Fight

In spite of the rough and ready character of the people who first came into Idaho they never encouraged the brutalities of the prize ring.  Fisticuffs and brawls of all kinds were but too common, in fact, human life was held very cheap as an evidence of which it need only be said that in the spring of 1864 there were over a hundred graves in the little cemetery in Florence and with the exception of about a dozen, who had died of disease or as the result of accidents in the mines, each grave was the resting place of someone who had been shot or knived.

In Lewiston in 1868, as elsewhere on the frontier, gambling was wide-open.  Squires saloon in that town was a popular resort and there the devotees of chance assembled in great numbers.  One night Harry Lamar and Ike Grostine while playing poker in the Squires place, engaged in an altercation which resulted in blows.  Bystanders separated the two combatants before either of them had been convinced of the other’s superior prowess.  Each was willing to bet that he was a “better man” than the other.  In these circumstances it didn’t take long for interested outsiders to rib up a fight, according to the Queensberry rules.  Harry and Ike each put up fifty dollars to back up his good opinion of himself and friends of the respective parties stimulated interest in the coming event by contributing liberally to the purse to be contended for.  Negotiations for the fight were progressing nicely when the sheriff got wind of the affair and advised all parties that nothing of the kind could be pulled off in Nez Perce County while he was sheriff.  Matters had gone too far to permit the public to be disappointed.  Just across Snake river from the city was a fine sand bar in the territory of Washington and although prize fighting was not legalized there it was a long way to the seat of government of Walla Walla county, and it was well known that the two belligerents might fight to their heart’s content on that sand bar and then get back into Idaho safe from the Washington authorities before the latter could get wind of the event.

Consequently the morning after all preliminaries had been arranged; two rowboats transported Ike and Harry with their seconds and other ring officials across the Snake River.  A ring was quickly marked out on the sandbar and the apostles of the manly art of self defense simply went to it.  There were no niceties of the ring invoked – it was merely a fight to the finish.  If a blow happened to be below the belt it was regarded as accidental not as an intentional foul.  After about twenty minutes of sure enough fighting the single round of the contest was ended by a smash on the jaw with which Ike put Harry out for the count.  The referee decided Ike the winner and the better man.  Practically the entire male population of Lewiston was lined up on the Idaho bank of the river as spectators of the affair and they unanimously approved the decision of the referee.

As a matter of fact, however, when the two men had been returned to Idaho soil and a place of safety, it was found that Ike was in mighty bad shape, nearly all his front teeth were gone and it required the skill of Dr. Kelly to extract one of them from Harry’s right fist where the tooth had been lodged in the knuckle of the middle finger.  Ike was also badly hammered up about the kidneys and otherwise so bruised that it was necessary for him to lie in the hospital for over two weeks.  It was the general belief after all the facts were known that the blow which won the fight was rather accidental than otherwise.






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