The Mystery of the Ledger

And the Remarkable Life of Cyrus Jacobs

By Jay Karamales

In late summer last year, our volunteer-operated Dry Creek Historical Society in the community of Hidden Springs, a few miles north of Boise, came into possession of an artifact important to the history of the capital city and the settlement of southwest Idaho. It’s an enormous leather-bound volume weighing twelve pounds, with the word “ledger”  printed in gold on the binder and the year “1888” written next to every customer’s account. It came to us from Hidden Springs resident Kriss Church. She and husband Rocky are prodigious collectors of antiquities, and Kriss bought the ledger online “blind.”

The couple immediately recognized the interest we’d have in it—but the questions were who did the ledger belong to, and for what business? One clue was a name and address written in small letters in pencil on one of the last, blank pages: “This book owned by W.S. (or W.G.?) White, 2101 No. 13th St.” We assumed it was a Boise address, just across the street from today’s Camel’s Back Park in a residential neighborhood. Fortunately, in the days before there were telephone directories, there were annual editions of what were called city directories, and the Idaho State Historical Society has a great collection of them.

Bob Hartman, who administers a popular Facebook page on the history of Boise, helped us search those directories. He reported, “There was a Walter G. White who lived at 2101 N. 13th from sometime around 1926-27 until 1934-35. The 1934 Boise City Directory has his occupation listed as parts man for Badgley Implement Company.” Bob discovered that Walter White, the son of pioneers, died on January 28, 1974 at age ninety-two.

On one of the ledger’s first blank pages is another hand-written name, this one in ink: “Cy Jacobs.” Who was he and why was his name in the book? Was he the clerk who wrote all the entries in beautiful flowing script? Did he buy the ledger at some point over the last 130 years? The first step in answering those questions—with more help from Bob Hartman— was to find out who Cyrus Jacobs was. Researching the answer led me, as the society’s president emeritus and chief historian, to a whole new level of understanding of the first days of Boise.

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