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Locations of Gas Plants and Other Coal-tar Sites in the U.S.

THE STATE OF IDAHO 

Introduction

            Lodged as it is high in the upper tier of American States, Idaho was broken open first for farming and shortly thereafter by mineral exploitation. Its mountains are rugged and its lava plan broad and dry. Coal is essentially absent from the state, as is oil, leaving gasmen to ponder gathering pitch pine, which was available, but far from the already sparsely populated farm towns. Finally, as elsewhere in the American West, the few population centers were served with rail and these turned out to be the lower-tier and agriculturally-oriented cities.

            Manufactured gas yet did not appear in Idaho until the turn of the 20th century and coal-gas was favored. To date, the author has turned up commercial gas plants only at Boise, Lewiston and Pocatello. Pocatello outshined the State’s capital, Moscow, with its gas plant, producing (1920) some 36,000 gallons of by-product crude tar, shipped in oak casks to the Montana Power Company adjunct tar distillery at Butte. Since western settlers were hardly fussy about construction of their shack before the first winter, there was a brisk business in tarred paper (“tar paper”) for roofing and to keen the winter wind from whistling through the lapped and shrunken wall boards. Tar paper was produced for the northwest regional trade by the gas plant at Butte, Montana.

            Utility holding companies appeared on the scene about 1910, here in the form of the Pacific Power & Light Company of Portland, Oregon, which jostled for position with the H.M. Byllesby organization of Chicago, operating regionally as the Northwest Cities Gas Company. Eventually Byllesby died (1926) and his empire was consumed in transfers even before the advent of the Great Depression (1929). Also contending and winning in 1912 at Boise, was the American Public Utility Company of Grand Rapids, fronted as Kelsey, Brewer & Company.

            All in all, the author’s personal tally of gas plants in Idaho rests at only eight. Idaho small town hotels, such as at Aberdeen and Arco, sported gasoline-gas lights in public places and kerosene in the rooms. These towns did not see formal lighting systems until the 1920s and then electricity by long-distance transmission from hydroelectric stations. The second gas plant at Pocatello was the Pintsch works for railway lighting, suffering damage in its own fire of 1912.

            Idaho’s great mines, mills and smelters of the old Mullin Road, stretching from Fort Benton (MT) to Fort Walla Walla (WA) are all suspect for having had gas producers, the workhorse fuel of mineral extraction from 1890 through 1930. The Uinta Basin (Utah) pipeline that successfully supplied the Wasatch Front cities by 1934 had reached Pocatello.

Click the blue "EPA" link below to view the
Idaho map of the EPA 1985 Radian FMGP Report.

Click the green "Hatheway" link below to view the
Idaho map of Professor Hatheway's research.

Copyright © 2012  by Dr. Allen W. Hatheway    All rights reserved.
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