Biography of Benjamin and Hosea Eastman

Tales of heroism have been the theme of song and story throughout all ages. He who has gone forth to battle for his country, his home or his principles, has figured in history, in literature and in music, and his bravery has stirred the souls of men through all times. All honor to such an one, and yet his heroism is no greater or his daring more pronounced than that of the honored pioneers of the west. Men reared in comfortable homes, accustomed to all the conveniences and privileges of life in the east, have come into the wild western districts and braved danger and hardships untold. Cut off from all comforts and luxuries, they have also had to face death at the hand of the treacherous Indian, and in little bands and oft times singly they have had to fight for liberty and life. Volumes have been written, yet the story of the pioneers has never been adequately told. They deserve all praise and honor and the mighty states of the west with their splendid improvements, enterprises and tokens of civilization are monuments to their memory.

The Eastman Brothers, Benjamin Manson and Hosea Bradford, are among those who have founded the state of Idaho and brought about her present prosperity and greatness. They are now numbered among the leading business men of Boise, where many important business interests are found as the result of their diligence and executive ability. They are natives of Whitefield, New Hampshire, born December 30, 1830, and November 21, 1835, respectively. They are descended from good old Revolutionary stock, their grandfather, Ebenezer Eastman, having aided the colonies in their great struggle for in-dependence. He and his wife, Susan Eastman, were members of the Baptist church and were industrious farming people, noted for their integrity and sterling worth. The grandfather died in his seventy-fifth year, and the grandmother in the ninetieth year of her age. The father, Caleb Eastman, was born on the farm at Lisbon, and having arrived at years of maturity married Tabitha Aldrich, who was born at Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, and was descended from one of the old New England families. They became the parents of fourteen children, of whom eight sons and four daughters grew to mature years, and one of the sons laid down his life on the altar of his country in the civil war.

Benjamin M. and Hosea B. Eastman received but limited educational privileges, but in the school of experience have learned many valuable lessons. While in the old Granite state, they engaged for a short time in the sawmill and lumber business. Attracted by the varied resources of the west they resolved to make their way to the Pacific slope, and on the 21st of October, 1861, sailed from New York, making the voyage by way of the Isthmus of Panama, to California. There were nearly one thousand passengers on board, and on one occasion they had a very narrow escape from shipwreck at the “ninety-mile boulder.” The long voyage ended, the brothers landed at San Francisco, and at Vallejo followed the plow for a time. In the spring of 1862 they went to Mendocino County, where they joined a party planning to go to the mines of Idaho. Not having money enough for both of them to make the trip, they drew “cuts” and it was thus decided that Benjamin should accompany the party. He located a claim at Canyon City, Oregon, and soon Hosea B. followed with a pack train, working his passage by driving mules. During the journey they had considerable trouble with the Indians, and night after night a guard had to be placed around their camp as they slept.

The mining camp at Canyon City did not prove a paying one, and thus obliged to seek another location they started for Owyhee County, Idaho. At night they slept on their arms for fear of Indian attacks, but at length reached their destination in safety and secured good claims at Silver City, on Jordan creek.

At other times, however, they were engaged in serious encounters with the Indians, and their deeds of valor form part of the early history of the state. Throughout Idaho and other sections of the west were wild districts not yet explored by the white men. The Indians regarded the advance of civilization as an encroachment on their rights and rose in hostility, making raids against the pioneers, carrying off their stock and goods and often killing the men. In 1864 they made a raid on Silver City and drove off fifty mules and horses. Twenty-one men including H. B. Eastman, started in pursuit. They rode all one day and part of the next, and then came up with the Indians in a rocky canyon. Jordan, Henderson, and Mr. Eastman were in the advance. The Indians challenged them to come into the canyon. They rode, however, to a bluff on the left, and saw that the other side would be best for the attack. While crossing over they shot at the Indians and killed some of them. At the top of the bluff was a large juniper tree, from which point Mr. Eastman saw an Indian, two hundred yards away, trying to drive a horse. He ran his own horse toward the savage, who left the horse he was driving, but himself dodged behind trees and rocks so dextrously that Mr. Eastman could not get a shot at him. He captured the horse, however. The white men tied their horses to the tree; Henderson, Edgerton and Berry took their station behind rocks, while Mr. Jordan and Mr. Eastman got into a little thicket of bushes, from which vantage point they fired on the red men. Mr. Jordan had a breech-loading rifle, and just after Mr. Eastman had shot at the Indians skulking behind the rocks he raised his gun to shoot, with the remark, “See the dead Indian jump in the Mr.” The Indian did jump, but Mr. Jordan also fell dead, shot through the heart. Mr. Eastman then took his papers and his gun, drew the body into the bushes out of sight, and returned to the other men and the horses. There were more than three hundred Indians, who were gradually closing in around the white men. Mr. Eastman was shot just below the hip, but never mentioned it until the fight was over. Without water, their mouths became so dry that they could not wet the patches to load their guns, and they were finally ordered to retreat. By this time the Indians had come very near. The pack-horse had strayed off some distance, but Mr. Eastman man-aged to capture him and was rushing him along a rocky path when he fell, and our subject’s horse got his foot in a loop of the rope and was struggling. Henderson saw the trouble, drew his knife from his boot and cut the rope. Mr. Eastman had fallen from his horse and in the tumble had lost his hat. He started to get it when Mr. Henderson with an oath bade him to let the hat go for the Indians were in hot pursuit. Soon they came to some water and Mr. Eastman said he would drink if the Indians were on top of him, so he and his horse took a few swallows of water from the same pool. That night the party camped thirty miles from Silver City. The next day Mr. Eastman was in much pain from his wound and was forced to ride standing in his stirrups. On their return the surgeon, a man of very little ability, said that the ball was so near an artery that he was afraid to cut it out. Three weeks passed in which he constantly grew worse, and at last he said the bullet must be gotten out. The surgeon, therefore, after much probing and cutting secured the ball. The operation was a most painful and difficult one, but Mr. Eastman took no anesthetic nor uttered a word, although he afterward said it required more nerve than to fight the Indians! A piece of his trousers, which had also been carried in with the ball, was taken out, and after that the wound rapidly healed.

On another occasion Mr. Jennings, who was a renowned Indian fighter, with a party of twenty men, were surrounded by Indians in the South mountain country, where they were prospecting. They built a fort and fought the Indians off as best they could. At length two of the party made their escape in the night and brought the news to Silver City, arriving at two o’clock in the night. The next morning at sunrise one hundred and fifty men started to the rescue, and when they arrived the Indians at once fled. Both the Eastman brothers were with that party.

In 1868 H. B. Eastman returned to Vallejo. California, and on the return trip, with a six-horse team, the wagon was put on runners in order to cross the snow of the Sierra Nevada mountains, on the 10th of May. They had reached Jordan valley, fifty miles from Silver City, when Mr. Eastman, with his three companions in the wagon, was attacked in passing through’ a narrow track between rocks. One of the men shouted “Indians!” and jumped from the wagon without taking a gun or other weapon of defense. The man who sat beside Mr. Eastman was shot in the breast, the other man had a ball across the back of his neck, while a third ball crossed Mr. Eastman’s arm and the off wheel-horse was slightly wounded. Mr. Eastman started the team on the run. Looking back he saw the man who had jumped running after them, and giving the reins to the wounded men he started to the defense of the other. As he advanced he fired, and the nearest Indian fell into the bushes. On the run he reloaded and then shot the other Indian dead. With the rescued man he then got into the wagon and drove as fast as possible four miles to a little station where there were a few soldiers, hoping that the stage would be through a little later; but on reaching the station they were told the stage had arrived, the driver had been shot dead by the Indians and a ball had struck the blinder of the leading horse, which in fright had left the road and broke one of the wheels of the stage. There were eleven passengers in the stage, one of them a woman. Mr. Eastman afterward drove his team back and assisted the soldiers in taking up the dead driver. The man who had been shot in the breast after-ward recovered, and Mr. Eastman learned that the Indian he had first shot had his leg broken. Those days of peril are now over, and a debt of gratitude which cannot be paid is due to the sturdy pioneers who braved the dangers of the west and steadily advanced in the work of reclaiming this wild but rich region from the savages.

The Eastman brothers continued their mining-operations for a number of years. From their claims on Jordan creek and at Silver City they took out on an average an ounce of gold apiece each day, and soon had some seven thousand dollars. Later they purchased an interest in the Adorning Star mine, the first quartz mine in the County. It proved very rich, yielding eight hundred tons which assayed five hundred dollars to the ton. Most of the bullion taken out at the time was sent down Snake and down Columbia Rivers to Portland. In 1867-8 they abandoned mining and purchased a half interest in the Idaho hotel, of Silver City, which proved a profitable investment, and was successfully conducted by them until 1877, when they sold and purchased the Overland hotel, at Boise, a property which they conducted until 1891. They carried on one of the best hotels in the west, supplied with all modern conveniences and accessories, and its splendid equipment secured it a very large patronage. They found the water supply of Boise very poor and immediately set to work to secure better water. At a cost of ten thousand dollars they established a small plant, which became the nucleus of the present fine water system of the city, and which supplies both hot and cold water to many of the best homes and business houses of the city. The hot water is obtained from artesian wells on the mountain side, a novel feature in the water supplies of cities. In connection they also conduct one of the finest natatoriums in the country. The Eastman brothers are heavy stockholders, both in this enterprise and. in the electric light and power company of Boise. The Artesian Hot and Cold Water Company have done more for the advancement and prosperity of Boise than any other one agency, and this has resulted largely from the progressiveness and industry of the gentlemen whose names begin this review. They were also instrumental in the organization of the Boise City National Bank, in 1886, the officers of which are Henry Wadsworth, of San Francisco, president: H. B. Eastman, vice president: Alfred Eoff, cashier: and W. P. Bruce, assistant cashier. The board of directors comprise Alfred Eoff, W. S. Bruce, B. M. Eastman, H. B. Eastman, Henry Wadsworth. The bank is capitalized for one hundred thousand dollars. In 1891 the bank was built, of fine sandstone quarried near the city. It is a large and substantial bank building, fifty by seventy feet, three stories in height with a basement.

The Eastman residence is a beautiful home, supplied with all modern conveniences and surrounded by most attractive grounds. In 1872 H. B. Eastman was united in marriage to Miss Mary Blackinger, who was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1850. They now have two sons, Frank M. and Ben S., who are being provided with liberal educational privileges. In politics the brothers have ever been stalwart Republicans. Their attention, however, is not given to political matters, but to their extensive business interests, which have brought to them merited prosperity and have also advanced the welfare of Boise, and in the history of Idaho their names are found among those who have conferred honor upon the state.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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