Strategy Fails to Win Case for Basin Miner
Present Pearl District Mining Claim Calls to Mind the Plowman vs. LeVan Suit
By ANDERSON W. COX
Editorial Note—Interest in the lawsuit of the Ojus mine in the Pearl district which occupied the attention of the court recently, reminded Anderson W. Cox of Caldwell, a pioneer who has taken a keen interest in all business affairs in this section, of another interesting case which involved the Pearl district also, and he has written the following story of the case:
About the year 1897 there was quite a notable mining lawsuit pulled off in the district entitled Plowman vs. LeVan. The suit was filed by Plowman to recover the possession to a certain mining claim.
This claim was located by a very old man by the name of Brown, familiarly known as Major Brown. Brown had worked on the claim, as the mining law requires in making locations, and thought he had sufficient amount done to hold it.
Several months after Brown made his location LeVan filed a location over Brown, claiming Brown had not performed the required amount of labor nor had he properly staked the ground. This claim was thought to be valuable as very rich ore had been taken from various prospect holes on the claim.
Plowman was a well known mining and mill man from the Boise basin. He was experienced in the mining business from every angle. Being a good friend of Brown's he became deeply interested in his claim, that LeVan was trying to get away with. Brown had no money to fight lawsuits with so he arranged with Plowman that if he would take the case into court and win he could have a large interest in it. This promised to be a very interesting case.
Best Lawyers Engaged
LeVan employed a very able team of lawyers, James H. Hawley, W. E. Borah and two or three others. Plowman also had a bunch of good lawyers from Boise.
The trial was set for the fall term of court at Idaho City before Judge Richards, and as court time drew near the contestants were notified as to the date the case would be called. The day before the trial was to begin both sides had their lawyers and witnesses ready and very early in the morning all set out from Boise for Idaho City.
All travel was by team in the interior in those days. There were l5 or more witnesses on either side to go beside the lawyers. It required several different rigs to convey everybody. Plowman had a four-horse team and passenger wagon all nicely fitted up which carried the greater portion of his bunch, while his lawyers and some witnesses went on the regular stage. LeVan also took two rigs to take care of his men.
Before leaving Boise, Plowman phoned to the proprietor of the Halfway house on the road to prepare dinner for about 15 men, or whatever the number was with the team. Harry, one of Mr. Plowman's boys, was the driver and he surely could herd four horses. His father told him to outstrip all of the LeVan rigs and get to the roadhouse first as he had ordered dinner for his passengers. Harry made good and got there on time and all went in to dinner. While we were eating the LeVan teams drove up and they too wanted dinner but had neglected to send in their order ahead, so they would have to wait until a dinner could be cooked. This made them pretty mad, that they would have to wait until the first bunch finished their dinner and still wait for another to be cooked, but it was great joy for the Plowman crowd to get the best of the others. Plowman had previously phoned In his order to Walt Galbraith, proprietor of the Luna house, to reserve all of his spare rooms for his people whether they would all be occupied or not. Plowman was a pure type of pioneer miner and a few dollars made little difference to him in a little affray like this. Plowman's crowd arrived at the hotel far in advance of the other rigs. We all went in the hotel, registered and had our rooms assigned and were well settled when the LeVan rigs arrived. The occupants all rushed in to the hotel to secure quarters but were informed by the proprietor that all spare rooms were previously engaged by Mr. Plowman and that he could not accommodate them. The Luna house was the only hotel in the town so they had to scatter out and get lodgings wherever they could. There was a lady who ran a boarding house that had a few spare beds where some of them lodged. When the LeVan's saw they were again outwitted they were mad in dead earnest.
Plowman seemed to be the leading light of the city, an old-timer, and was well known. He had been a robust man—and despite his 60 years was yet hardy and strong, carrying more than 200 pounds avoirdupois and over six feet tall. He owned and operated a large placer mine very near the city where several men were employed during the summer, besides operating several quartz properties in different parts of the country. With his high standing in the community he was popular and generally got what concessions he asked, but in this particular mining case he was not successful, as he lost the suit.
The following morning after the arrival of everybody, court opened and the case of Plowman vs. LeVan was called. The judge informed the attorneys that the court was ready to proceed with the case and asked if both were prepared. They answered that they were and the case. proceeded. This was to be tried by jury. Then 12 men were called to the jury box to be examined as prospective jurors. The usual routine was indulged in of rejecting, accepting and challenging of jurymen until a jury satisfactory to both sides was selected. They were sworn in and then the taking of evidence commenced.
Several days were required in examining witnesses on the side of the prosecution. A score of witnesses had testified and all evidence produced that was available and everything said that was necessary by the prosecution attorneys. Mr. Borah, for the defense, took the floor and in a very forceful manner addressed the court at length, making a strong plea that the prosecution had failed in every particular to show evidence sufficient to establish their rights to the mining claims involved, and made a motion that the case be set aside. Then a real combat between the attorneys on both sides ensued. The judge stated he would take the matter under advisement, and when court convened the following morning the judge informed the jury that they were excused as he had decided to dismiss the case. This was very disappointing news for the townspeople—LeVan winning the case without putting a witness on the stand or presenting evidence in any way. The citizen, spectators and friends of Plowman wore deeply interested and had watched the case closely from the start.
I was a witness for the Plowman side and had been on the stand nearly an entire day. I was examined by our own lawyers of course, then came the cross-examination by the opposite attorney. Mr. Hawley conducted this. I stood his constant grilling for many hours and when he had finished with me I had about all I was able to stand for one day. Mr. Borah did not take much part in my examination, as Mr. Hawley was a-plenty. His questions always came so blunt and earnest and always demanded direct answers, yes or no, and no hesitating around the bush.
In the evening after supper of the day I was on the stand someone called out for everybody to "come up" and have something to drink. As this was a very familiar custom I think nearly everyone in the lobby went up to the bar. The bar occupied a prominent place in the big lobby of the hotel. It was customary all over the country to have a bar in the hotel, for a hotel was not complete without one. The crowd present was for the most part Plowman people. A certain young lawyer of the LeVan side was in the lobby, as he was a guest of the house, and came up to the bar and took a drink along wit the crowd.
After the refreshments were dispensed with nearly everyone took seats save three or four who lingered about the bar. This certain lawyer and myself were among those who stood by or near the bar. He moved over near me and began talking. By this time the others had moved away so he and I were alone. When he commenced talking I saw he was in an angry mood. He wanted to talk about the happenings in court that day. After a few words relative to the case he asked me why I testified as I did on the stand as to the location of a certain corner stake of the claim in dispute—that I knew I had testified falsely and he knew it too. I said, "Mr. ‐, I testified to the location of that stake just as I knew it to be as well as all other stakes on the claim." "Well," he said, "you did not tell the truth and I know it and if you will come outside I'll mop up all the dust in the street in front of the hotel with you." No, I said, I was not going outside with him as that would not settle anything so he cooled off a little, then left me.
He was a stout, heavy built young man and could have done considerable mopping with me had he undertaken the job. I was rather small of stature and would have stood no chance in a knockout with him. I had a solid friend sitting in a chair just across the room and leaning back taking in all the talk between Mr. — and I. He told me afterward that had that fellow offered to lay a hand on me he was all ready to jump on him. Said he was fairly aching to get a chance to knock all the camas out of him and felt sure he could do it.
This friend was Brad Hurt, a perfect athlete when it came to a bout. His weight was about 200 pounds, very stout and active, but I did not know I had such good backing or I might have been braver. I was very glad that the trouble ended where it did, as feeling was at fever heat between the witnesses on both sides and if a riot had broken out there would have been someone hurt and maybe several. There had been bad blood brewing between I the two contending sides since they first came in contact at Idaho City preceding the trial.
I will not mention this lawyer's name that wanted to do some street mopping with me, because we became better acquainted and for many years I have enjoyed his friendship which I highly esteem. The scrap between us at Idaho City was never mentioned by either of us when we were together. He is a prominent lawyer at present and will probably remember this episode.
But the lawsuit ended and we all went home to resume our regular vocations. Plowman continued to work his big placer mine and Le-Van in a short time sold his mining claims and mill which he was forced to do to clear up the expense of his lawsuit.
---The Idaho Statesman, March 18, 1934.
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