Rice Burroughs's older brothers, George and Harry, graduated from Yale
in 1889 [LETTERS] and went to work in their
father's [GEORGE BURROUGHS,
SR.] ABC battery company. When they developed lung damage from the
battery fumes, father George invested in a cattle ranch in Cassia County
along the lower Raft River near its confluence with Snake river
in SE Idaho where they went to recover. They were joined by Yale
classmate Lew Sweetser. [ERBZINE LINKS AND PHOTOS].
Their ranch, which they named the Bar-Y (Yale), [PHOTOS]
was in Raft River Valley, 30 miles from the rail station at American Falls
[PHOTOS]. The boys persuaded the federal government to establish a post
office near their ranch which they named Yale.
When a grippe (flu) epidemic swept Chicago, young Ed's very protective
parents sent him to his brothers' ranch in the spring of 1891. He
took the Northern Pacific to Pocatello and transferred to the Oregon
Short Line for American Falls where he was met by his brothers.
Life in Idaho range country was a rather rude awakening for a 15-year-old
teenage city greenhorn, who was soon introduced to the "Wild West": saloons,
cowboys, outlaws, wild horses, and wilder desperados .
I did chores, grubbed sage brush and drove a team of bronchos
to a sulky plow. I recall that once, after I unhooked them, they ran away
and evidently, not being endowed with any too much intelligence, I hung
onto the lines after tripping over a sage brush and was dragged around
the country three times on my face....
Ed's main task was to make a daily mail/supplies round-trip run to American
Falls via horseback or wagon. The experiences from this summer would
prove invaluble in later years -- especially his skill in horsemanship
and the local colour which influenced much of his writing twenty years
later. Indeed, the names of many of the colourful characters he met found
their way into his Western novels: Texas Pete, Blanco, Hank (Monk), Sam
(Lands), Sheriff Gum Brown (Smith), Idaho, etc. A friend of the Burroughs
family, after visiting the ranch, took back some of the wild tales that
Ed had told him about the rogues he had met. This resulted in his father
ordering him back to Chicago immediately.
Young Ed was obviously quite disappointed when his father enrolled
him in Phillips Academy at Andover that fall of '91. Although he
did not adjust well to the academic demands of the school, his tales of
the West made him a favourite among his classmates and he was voted class
president. He did well in athletics and contributed stories, poetry, art
and cartoons to the school publications. His poor grades brought
about his dismissal in the second semester. His father then enrolled him
in the Michigan Military Academy at Orchard Lake where his fascination
with military life, writing and artistic skills, and his skill in athletics
and horsemanship served him well. [ERBzine sites and photos] He
made close friendships and was inspired by Academy Commandant, Charles
King, who was a famous writer of military and western fiction.
Upon graduation he persuaded his brothers to enlist the aid of the Idaho
congressman to obtain permission to write the West Point examinations.
When he failed to gain entry to West Point he enlisted in the US Cavalry
and served in Arizona Territory 1894-95. He later received an honourary
discharge for a heart condition. On his way home to Chicago to work for
his father, he accompanied a rail shipment of Mexican longhorns north for
his brothers' Idaho ranch.
ERB returned to Idaho in spring of 1898 to help his brothers
in spring roundup. That fall he used a loan from brother Harry to
purchase a stationery/photo business from a Mr. Roeder at 233 West Center
Street in Pocatello. The store was not a success and by spring
of 1899 he had sold it and had returned to Bar-Y to help with the roundup.
It was during this time that a blow on the head from a billy club in a
bar fight left him with life-long hallucinations and nightmares which many
attribute to the boundless imagination displayed in his novels.
View from the West Center Street railway overpass
a few years before and after
Ed Burroughs operated his stationery store.
The store was in the building in the left foreground
in both photos.
Interior of Ed's Pocatello Stationery Store
The dictionary stand at centre is now proudly displayed
in the ERB, Inc Tarzana Offices
His uncle Harry's daughter, Evelyn, recalled those times:
At the time he was making his home with
us in Pocatello, while he tried out an unsuccessful business venture, financed
by my father. Uncle Ed had just been discharged from the Army, Seventh
Cavalry, and was a romantic figure to my brother, Studley [Studley Burroughs
would later do illustrations for some of his uncle's novels] and myself.
My outstanding memory of him then and in the following years of my childhood
in Idaho, when he visited us, was of his irrepressible sense of humour.
He kept us in gales of laughter with his pranks and nonsense. He delighted
in writing foolish verse for us and illustrating his quips with clever
cartoons. I think of him as always laughing, his dark mischievous eyes
crinkled at the corners.
Sometime later in 1899 ERB returned to Chicago to resume his job
at ABC, and to woo childhood sweetheart Emma Hulbert, whom he married on
31, 1900. In September of that year he sent niece Evelyn a 12-page
one-of-a-kind illustrated poem which he collated in home-made hardcovers
bound by a shoe lace. He entitled this first "published" work,
River Cotton-Tail Tales -- named after the river where his brothers'
mining enterprise was located.
His training in the Cavalry resulted in expert
horsemanship; he rode magnificently, as much one with the horse as an Indian.
He was slim and dark and carried himself with military erectness.
This was the first "published" work by ERB. On the inside front cover
AUTHOR'S AUTOGRAPH EDITION
Ed. R. Burroughs
Limited To One Copy
Of Which This Is No. 1
The title page, dated 1900, read:
The following text was fully illustrated by the author:
For Christmas, 1901, he authored and illustrated a cookbook for youngsters
that he named, Grandma Burroughs' Cook Book. It included recipes
for cookies, fried chicken, chicken gravy, angel's food cake, nut candy,
cream sponge cake and assorted ice creams.
A Bull Rush in the Meadow
"As the Blue-Jay on the Wing
"Informs me," said the Rabbit
"That we'll see an early spring
"When I see the little co-slip,"
Said the Rabbit to his chum,
"I can read teh storoy plainlyl
"That another Fall has come."
"That great big ugly egg-plant, ma
"Just bit me on the leg."
"That is a hen you foolish child,"
Well I saw her lay an egg."
"Good morning Mrs. Bunnie, could you loan
a friend some money?
"I have not tasted food for several days.
"I who used to be the real thing could eat a
cast iron cinch ring
"Who's bucked the giddy tender-foot
"Who's gi'en 'em all the shakes."
"Good morning Pinto Cayuse, you used to pass
right by us,
"Your appetite's improving of your ways.
"If you starve a little longer your manners
may grow strong.
"Since you're such a wondrous bucker
"Why don't you Buckwheat Cakes?"
"Is this what they call a cabbage, ma,
"I've been eating for an hour?"
"No, you silly little child
"It's what they cauliflower."
In 1903, Ed and Emma moved to Idaho via train and stage coach
[photo], taking with them their custom-made furniture and collie dog, Rajah.
They settled in Stanley Basin on Salmon River ("The River
of No Return"), a tributary of the Snake, to help George with one
of the gold dredges. By this time the Burroughs-Sweetser main dredging
operation on Snake River was in full swing and Ed's three brothers
and their families spent much of their time on the huge company houseboat,
the El Nino. Harry also had a house in Pocatello and Coleman
ran a general store in Minidoka.
Internet article: SNAKE RIVER GOLD provides some historical information
on the Burroughs gold dredging operation in the area:
The Historic Preservation Commision in Rupert, the largest city
in Minidoka County, displays a large commemorative sign which mentions
the Burroughs gold dredges and includes a photograph:
Gold Dredges On the Snake
Several large dredges were built and operated
on the Snake in attempts to economically recover the fine gold. The first,
the Burroughs Dredge, was reportedly built about 1892 and operated
from the mouth of the Raft River down to the Starrhs Ferry Ganyon.
The dredge consisted of a boiler, engine, and six-inch sand pump. The richest
gravel it found was at the mouth of the Raft River which ran 37 cents a
cubic yard (gold at $20/ounce). The Burroughs dredge was very modern for
its time and was capable of washing about 200 cubic yards of gravel per
day. However, it suffered greatly from downtime because of the large boulders
that were caught up in its suction pipe.
The second dredge was built by the Sweetser-Burroughs
Mining Company and operated in the river in the area from where the Raft
River joins the Snake to near Burley. This suction-type dredge operated
for about ten years and, because of its low operating costs, did return
profits. The mining company also built large water wheels in the river
just below the present site of Minidoka Dam, and raised water for
sluicing the sand on 216 acres of mining claims. This did not prove very
successful and the wheels were later used for irrigation. . . . The era
of Snake River gold mining remains an exciting part of Idaho's history.
The Snake River deposits are certainly one of the most interesting and
unique gold deposits in North America.
Burroughs Gold Dredge
Four miles east of Rupert, still
visible up and down the Snake River, are long narrow islands. They
are all that remain of the work done by the Burroughs gold dredge. Several
mining operations were attempted in the Snake River. They were abandoned
due to the fact that the gold in the river sediments was extremely fine
"flour gold." Edgar Rice Burroughs, who later gained national fame with
Tarzan of the Apes, worked for a time with his brother
on the dredge.
Stanley Basin was a wild and scenic area surrounded by the snow-capped
Range and teeming with wild game but was lacking in gold deposits.
When the Salmon River venture didn't work out Ed and Emma moved downstream
to Parma close to where Harry had one of the dredging barges. Ed
spent much of his time making up stories, poems, drawing and sketching
cartoons. These creations brought little interest and a long manuscript
he wrote was stored away and forgotten until it was unearthed almost 100
years later and published as Minidoka [Website]. It was also
during this time that he ran successfully for the position of alderman
In early 1904 the Sweetser-Burroughs mining company failed after
15 years due to high overhead costs.
brother Harry's connections Ed got a job as RR policeman for the Oregon
Short Line Railroad Company in Salt Lake City. They moved to 111 North
Fifth West Street and Ed worked the rail yards as a Depot Policeman from
8 - October 14, 1904. Although his employers reported his conduct,
services and capabilities satisfactory, it was low-paying, unsatisfying
work so the Burroughses sold their furniture to fund their train fare back
to Chicago. Ed's parents had changed residences so the they moved in with
Emma's parents. Soon after this, George, Harry and Coleman also moved back
The only connection that Ed would have with Idaho from then would be
through Harry who returned to Idaho to run a hardware business in Burley.
The many adventures ERB experienced in Idaho, first as a teenager, and
then as a young married man, had a profound effect upon his pursuits as
a student, cavalry man, adventurer, business man, gentleman farmer, and
world famous author.