NOVEMBER 25, 1905


Major Fenn Tells of the First Public School in This State, Of the First Baby in Florence, and of Ostner’s First Washington Statue

Major Fenn, superintendent of forest reserves in Idaho, fell into a reminiscent mood the other day.  He recalled the first public school in Idaho at which he was a pupil.  That was in 1864, at Florence.  At the first session of the territorial legislature in this state the public school law of California was adopted, with a few minor changes to fit conditions in Idaho.  Major Fenn’s father, who was a member of the assembly, returned to Florence that winter and formed a public school district there.  The directors sent to Ohio for a teacher, a Mrs. J.H. Robinson, who charged the district $160 per month for teaching six scholars, who were Major Fenn, his oldest sister, since dead, a brother and three other boys whose names the major does not recall.

“Those were the great old day,” says the major with a sigh of reminiscent relief.”  “I remember in the winter of 1864 a child was born at Florence.  The mother was very ill and unable to nurse the little fellow.  He was kept alive for a couple of days with crackers dipped in brandy, there being nothing like milk in the camp.  One of the miners in camp happened to remember that on his way up the river a few days before had had seen a band of sheep being driven in to be slaughtered.  He recalled that there was a lamb in the herd.  Without consulting anyone he strapped on his snowshoes and hit the back trail.  He found the sheep, and the lamb, likewise the maternal ewe.  He carried the ewe back to camp and the baby waxed fat and sassy.  The baby is now city treasurer of Baker City, Ore.  His name is George Foster.”

The equestrian statue of Washington in the capitol grounds, the handiwork of Ostner, the sculptor, recalled to the memory of Major Fenn another incident of old days in Florence.

“Old man Ostner was in Florence in the winter ’63, said the major.  On Washington ’s Birthday, February 22, of that year, Ostner made a statue of Washington out of ice.  Miners hauled snow and piled it up in the street, until there was a mass 25 feet high.  Water was thrown on it and next morning it was a mass of ice.  Ostner worked a couple of days and hewed out a likeness of George Washington seated in a chair, with a sword in one hand, a scroll in the other.  The statue was of heroic size – fully 20 feet high, and was a magnificent likeness.






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