Clinton T. Stranahan

Lewiston Morning Tribune
Saturday, April 1, 1950

Death Takes C. T. Stranahan, 91, Pioneer, Author, Philanthropist

Clinton T. Stranahan, 91, whose steady hand helped guide the destinies of north central Idaho for 72 years, died at 9:30 yesterday morning at St. Joseph's hospital.

The beloved pioneer figure who had observed his 91st birthday on March 17, succumbed to pneumonia. He had been ill since March 21, when he entered the hospital.

Mr. Stranahan's death removes a man who helped mould central Idaho and Lewiston history as a rail splitter, farmer, deputy county assessor, deputy sheriff, Indian agent and pioneer orchardist. It also thinned the ranks of those who can say that they are real pioneers.

Mr. Stranahan's residence at Lewiston and Nez Perce county was continuous from 1884, when he brought his young bride here by stage coach from Bozeman, Mont. He first arrived in Idaho in 1878, when he was 19. He first settled in Latah county.

Mr. Stranahan was born March 17, 1859, at Clayton, Calif., then the first stage coach stop north out of San Francisco, still bubbling with the excitement of the gold rush. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ebenezer Stranahan and received his education at Oakland, Calif.

Mr. Stranahan arrived at Moscow during what he termed the mild winter of 1878. It was his first sight of snow. He spent his first winter as a rail splitter on American ridge near Troy. To make the hardy homesteaders believe that he was older, Mr. Stranahan let his beard grow.

Later he operated a farm on American ridge, but then secured an appointment as a deputy assessor for Nez Perce county.

On Dec. 23, 1884, Mr. Stranahan was married to May Louise Bostwick, the first white girl born in the Gallatin valley of Montana. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. Samuel L. Bostwick, pioneer Iowa farmers who settled in Montana in 1865.

Mrs. Stranahan survives her husband. They observed their 65th wedding anniversary at their home in Hatwai last Dec. 23. Early Orchardist

In 1887 they moved to Hatwai. Mr. Stranahan developed one of the first fruit orchards and vegetable farms in this region, growing his crops on a 40 acre tract. He also was serving as Nez Perce county deputy sheriff. When he was first in the fruit business, Mr. Stranahan used to haul his crops across the Clearwater river by row boat and then to Uniontown and Genesee by a horse and wagon and sell them from door to door in that area.

In 1889, Mr. Stranahan was appointed a deputy U. S. marshal.

An active republican, he was a representative of the party at state conventions for 16 years. He won a reputation, according to Idaho historians, as "a man of marked efficiency, sterling faithfulness to duty and integrity of purpose."

As U. S. marshall in 1890 he was in charge of quelling the disturbance caused by the march of Coxey's army across northern Idaho.

In 1889 he was named Nez Perce Indian agent by President William McKinley, with headquarters at Spalding. In April, 1902, he was given the added responsibility of superintendent of Nez Perce Indian schools when the two offices were merged.

Mr. Stranahan became widely known as a good friend of the Nez Perces. In his memoirs, Pioneer Stories, published by the Lewiston-Clarkston chapter of the Idaho Writers' league, Mr. Stranahan recalled that he counted on this friendship in 1901 when he served as liaison officer between the Indians and the Northern Pacific railway. He persuaded the Indians to move the graves of their dead between Kooskia and Stites, where a dispute had developed over railroad right-of-way.

He was able to persuade the Indians to move the graves and to obtain a fair financial settlement from the railroad.

Mr. Stranahan often said that he believed the Indians had been treated unfairly.

But through the years, his abiding interest was in his business as an orchardist. He conducted many experiments in fruit growing and until recent years was active in the fields, working a full day. At 80, he was still driving produce trucks to Walla Walla.

He often hold of his early efforts at planting trees and cultivating his garden.

Friends Proved Wrong

"The gloomy prediction of our friends was that it wouldn't last long," he once said. "It wasn't long before the town folks were coming out to our place in their buggies to get some of the fruit and vegetables we produced."

Seven years ago, members of the writers' league began work on Mr. Stranahan's stories of the early days at Lewiston. The booklet, which has sold well throughout the region, was a collection of true incidents, some tragic and some humorous, but all concerned with the raw frontier.

Profits from the booklet were turned over to the North Idaho Children's home, in which Mr. Stranahan had maintained an interest for many years. The profits were used to furnish a large living room in the boy's wing at the home. This is called the Stranahan room.

Not wanting to wait until funds from the booklet sales accumulated, Mr. Stranahan purchased a piano for the home with his own funds.

Mr. Stranahan was a man of merry wit and even disposition. When tales of the west were recounted, his eyes twinkled as he recalled humorous incidents of days when the region was young and its inhabitants were inclined to be without inhibition.

He remembered the first piece he ever spoke in public. He was 4, and said: "When I was a little boy, my mama kept me in. Now I am a big boy and fit to be king, I can handle a musket, I can smoke a pipe; and I can kiss a pretty girl at 10 o'clock at night."

Mr. Stranahan was a member of the Presbyterian church and the Lewiston Elks lodge.

Besides his wife he is survived by two sons, Clyde C. Stranahan and Everett B. Stranahan, Lewiston; a daughter, Mrs. Henry M. Jones, Lewiston; two brothers, William, of Lavine, Mont., and C. R., Portland; and a sister, Mrs. Cora Hosom; five grandchildren, Floyd and Clyde Stranahan, Coeur d'Alene; Westel Stranahan, Missoula, Farrand Stranahan, San Francisco, and Mrs. Cherryol Burrell, Billings, Mont.; and three great-grandchildren, Terry, Larry and Sharon Stranahan, Coeur d'Alene.

Funeral services will be conducted a 2 Monday afternoon at the Brower-Wann funeral home. Burial will be at Normal Hill cemetery.

Contributed by Natalie Huntley

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