Newcomers in Latah County, Idaho: A Public History Approach on Cultural Adaption in the American West, 1871-1921


The genealogies I have focused on include the history of the Taylor, Meyer, Scheyer, Hagedorn, and Williamson families.[1] Irish and German families, they all settled in Latah County and were successful in establishing roots in their new home. These families provide insight into the European immigrant experience in the American West, prompting readers to consider the place of culture amidst a new foreign land.

The Taylor Family

In early life Mr. Taylor became a Master Mason, in Illinois…. He is a gentleman of broad intelligence, of sterling worth and unassailable reputation, and he and his estimable wife are numbered among the honored pioneers of northern Idaho—pioneers to whose unselfish efforts this section of the state largely owes its prosperity and progress.[2]

The Taylor Family immigrated from Ireland to Moscow in 1871, becoming the fourth Euro-American family to settle in the region. Little is present in the archive pertaining to the much of the family’s descendants, but evidence written on William Taylor, the family’s patriarch, suggests the Taylor family found great success in Latah County. Later Pages will address more immigrant families, but William Taylor serves as an interesting introduction to this quantitative analysis, especially considering his family’s early arrival to the region. William Taylor’s granddaughter, Alma Taylor-Lauder Keeling, compiled a manuscript detailing the family’s pioneer days in early Moscow titled The Un-covered Wagon: A Glimpse of Pioneer Days in Moscow (1975). Much of this section focuses on Keeling’s stories about her family, their time in Moscow, and its significance in relation to this project’s analysis of immigrant and Indigenous relationships.

William Taylor was born in County Armagh, Ireland in 1820. He was the oldest of seven children. His parents decided to immigrate to America when William was eighteen years old, and the family initially settled in Boone County, Illinois. William’s father purchased forty acres of land, and the family began farming.[3] William had been trained as a mason, and he had seemingly constructed many structures in Boone County. While in Illinois, William married a native of the state, Priscilla Mitchell.

As noted above, the Taylors relocated to Moscow in 1871. William was in his fifties and had seven children with Priscilla. Nevertheless, he desired to settle more westward with his family. As Keeling wrote in her manuscript, “William Taylor’s ‘pioneer spirit,’ which had brought him from his native Ireland at the age of eighteen, with his family, now began to well up again!”[4] The Taylors first traveled to California and Oregon, but they ultimately chose the future Latah County region because Taylor “believed he had found the richest farming land in the United States, and the unsettled condition of the country made it possible for him to take his choice of a claim over the vast region.”[5] It is important to recognize that the region was indeed not unsettled—the Indigenous presence was strong. William initially migrated alone and called for his family to join him once he had decided on Moscow as their home. He traveled westward with a caravan of wagons. Keeling remembered her grandfather speaking of the land that would become part of Latah County: “I myself once heard him say that when he looked on this fertile valley with its two-foot high bunch grass waving in the breeze, its beautiful purple mountains in the distance, and its two crystal streams flowing through the valley, he was intrigued by it all.”[6]

In order to better understand the Irish presence in Latah County, one should first address the history of Irish immigration to the broader United States. While the Irish were certainly present in the East, they were also visible in the West. Historian David Emmons asserts that both the stages of Irish emigration and immigration were “layered, overlapping and regionally and socially selective.”[7] Of course, in William Taylor’s case, he first immigrated with his family in 1838 to Illinois and emigrated farther West with his family later. This is indictive of Emmons’ belief that Irish movement is not singular or same. Irish immigration to America came to waves, most notably beginning in the Great Famine years in the 1840s. Given that the Taylors immigrated to Illinois in 1838, it may suggest William’s parents felt the political climate in Ireland was simply too unreliable. The family may have detected signs of what was approaching and sought a better life abroad.

Irish immigration was not a singular phenomenon. Coincidentally, Irish immigration inspired by the Great Famine occurred simultaneously alongside the movement toward industrial capitalism. Furthermore, Emmons writes, “The agrarian distress in Ireland of the late 1870s and early 1880s contributed to a large emigration.”[8] New Irish immigrants to America provided American industrialization with more support, which in turn increased immigration rates.[9] Though William Taylor’s family initially immigrated in earlier years, it is still beneficial to understand the context of Irish immigration to America during this time.

It is also important to understand common reasons for emigration to the American West. While it may appear most convenient and perhaps even wise for Irish immigrants to simply stay near their early landing points in the United States, discrimination was present and did impact Irish movement. Historian Matthew Frye Jacobson elaborates on the nature of whiteness in his book Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race. He argues that whiteness was not monolithic: “…upon the arrival of the massive waves of Irish immigrants in the 1840s, whiteness itself would become newly problematic…. The Famine Migration announced a new era in the meaning of whiteness in the United States.”[10] Jacobson writes that a political revision of whiteness occurred in the period between the 1840s and 1920s.[11] During this time and amidst the waves of immigration from Ireland, the Irish newly settled in America were often on the receiving end of discrimination. Despite their skin color being white, Irish immigrants were subjects of racial differentiation, which Jacobson supports by citing instances wherein Irish immigrants were often placed under a separate category of “Irishism.” This Irishism suggested a condition that applied to all Irish immigrant populations and fueled rhetoric that framed the Irish as having an “alleged condition of depravity and degradation.”[12] This, Jacobson argues, inspired a “popular consensus” that the Irish were not capable of intelligent participation in nation governance.

When the Taylor family emigrated from Illinois to Moscow in 1871, this rhetoric was very much present and likely even popular. This notion of Irishism may have been a factor that pushed William Taylor to move his family even farther west, though there is not evidence in the archive to support this. Nevertheless, like many Irish immigrants, the Taylors moved westward.

Land: A Deeper Look into the Indigenous Presence
In The Un-covered Wagon, William Taylor’s granddaughter, Alma Taylor-Lauder Keeling, provided a background of the Indigenous presence in Latah County that is unique in the archive to the Taylor family. While the Indigenous presence was clearly in the region, Keeling offered a look into her own Euro-American family’s perspective and relationship to the Indigenous tribes. While Keeling presented a brief history of her grandparents’ and mother’s reactions to the Native presence, it is also important to note that Keeling’s own biases are clear in The Un-covered Wagon. Instead of addressing Native Americans (who she often refers to in offensive terms, such as “squaw”) of Latah County as the first landowners, she exhibited a point of view that exalts Euro-American settlers as brave souls while dismissing the Indigenous presence completely in some instances.[13] Keeling adopted language that addresses Indigenous tribes as “uncivilized.”[14] Despite this troubling language, Keeling still offered an important insight to early Euro-American immigrants and Indigenous land rights in the late nineteenth century.

Keeling wrote that the Native Americans would often “drop in at the most unexpected times to invite themselves to partake of Grandmother’s [Priscilla Taylor] good cooking. In the Indians’ code of conduct this was considered a compliment.”[15] She described her ancestors as having a predominantly peaceful relationship. Prior to the Nez Perce war of 1877, Keeling discussed that the settlers were surprised by the outbreak of violence, as “they had always enjoyed the most amiable relations with the Indians.”[16] While some settlers created a fort—which acted as a stockade—and resided there in groups in anticipation of conflict, the Taylor family did not join other settler families and move into the fort. Instead, William Taylor gathered necessities into two wagons, “locked his house, turned loose his cattle and horses to fend for themselves, and took off for Walla Walla!”[17] Keeling noted that, while William sought to first protect his family from potentially violent encounters, he himself probably did not want to harm the Indigenous population: “I am sure Grandfather Taylor also had no desire in his heart to point a gun at Indians who may at one time have smoked the pipe of peace with him.”[18] A timeline is not provided for just how long the Taylors were in Walla Walla during this “war scare,” but soon after the family returned to their untouched homestead in Moscow.

During this time, the Nez Perce were facing land removal at the hands of the United States government. After the Nez Perce War of 1877, the tribe was exiled out of the region. As Diane Pearson notes, “Following more than a decade of turmoil involving broken treaties and discarded federal promises, separatist religious influences, settler and gold miner invasions, and an intrusive federal bureaucracy, the nontreaty bands were forced into conflict with the United States.”[19] Though Keeling asserted her family shared a predominantly peaceful relationship with the Nez Perce, her family’s experience does not necessarily serve as the usual standing of the Nez Perce peoples and Euro-American settlers in Latah County. Nevertheless, the Taylor family do offer an insight into what Indigenous relationships may have looked like with other Euro-Americans relocating to the area. Despite her own biases, Keeling did acknowledge the mistreatment of Indigenous tribes in Latah County—and subsequently, in the United States as a whole—writing, “Our government’s dealings with the Indians is not a chapter in our history of which we can be proud. It still is not!”[20]

Historian David Emmons has drawn some interesting comparisons between the Irish and Native Americans, which adds to the contextualization of the Taylor family and the Indigenous peoples in the broader Moscow area. In Beyond the American Pale: The Irish in the West 1845-1910, Emmons examines the similarities between the Irish and Indigenous peoples of the United States, arguing that the two groups shared a number of commonalities. Indigenous peoples were conquered by a settler society. Similarly, Emmons points out that the Irish were natives of an English settler society and were subject to colonial warfare. He states, “Ireland was England’s practice field, where the English rehearsed their role as imperial lords.”[21] Emmons argues that the English had an advantage when it came to understanding the Indigenous populations of North America, as the English had already attempted to colonize Ireland—Emmons refers to the English colonization of Ireland as a “template” easily applied to North America.[22] Emmons points out that colonial powers in North America branded Indigenous populations as uncivilized and savage as a means to justify imperial aggression, much like the English accomplished when colonizing Ireland. The Irish were often labeled as savages by colonial English powers.[23]

Moreover, subjects of colonial powers is not the only commonality the Irish and Native Americans share: “The traditions of the two [Irish and Indigenous groups] were not mirror images, but they were close, certainly closer than those of any other of the European settlers and Indians.”[24] One important similarity lies in the ways of life of Irish and Indigenous populations. Much like many Native American tribes, the Irish traditionally had no towns and were influenced by Gaelic culture and society, which rejected urban living environments. Furthermore, the Irish had not developed a solid sense of private property and were consequentially similar to Indigenous tribes in their approach to communally utilized land.[25]

It is not clear the true nature of the relationship between the Taylors, the Nez Perce, and surrounding Indigenous tribes. There is no solidified piece of evidence proving the Taylors either did or did not have an amicable relationship with Native Americans. However, David Emmons presents a crucial aspect of similarities between Indigenous and Irish histories. Of course, the intention is not to suggest Irish immigrants faced as much discrimination as Indigenous groups. Rather, this comparison lends to important considerations of the nature of relationships the Taylor’s settlement may have cultivated.

Family Patterns: Occupations and Migration/Mobility
As noted above, William was trained as a stone mason in Ireland. However, he became a farmer once he settled in the American West. In 1886, Minnie Taylor, daughter of William and Priscilla, married Wylie Lauder.[26] Wylie Andrew “W.A.” Gifford Lauder was born in New York to a Scottish father and American-born mother. He was raised in North Carolina and migrated to Colfax, Washington on railroad business ventures in 1883. Wylie’s uncle and brother were westward, working on the railroad. This inspired him to join his family members. It was while working on railroad tracks that he first spotted Minnie, William Taylor’s daughter. After residing in the area for some time and eventually taking Minnie’s hand in marriage, he decided to stay in the West and relocated to Moscow with the Taylors. W.A. then began manufacturing bricks with his brother-in-law, Thomas. Thomas was a businessman as well as sheriff of Lemhi County, Idaho in the late nineteenth century. The two became business partners and are credited with making the first brick ever manufactured in Moscow. Their brick businesses are noted as being extremely successful in Latah County. The two brothers’ business provided the bricks used to construct Latah County’s first courthouse (c. 1888-89).[27]

Being one of the first Euro-American families to relocate to Latah County, the Taylors act as a great example of what the earliest immigrants in the region would have experienced. To keep the narrative flowing in a chronological order, the next family to analyze are the Meyers. The Meyers move the topic of cultural maintenance into the 1880s and also provide a look into German immigration.

The Meyer Family

After President Garfield’s assassination, Chester Arthur became President and the West was opening up more to settlement. The railroads were coming in, and although Idaho was not yet a state, there was rail connection to the southeast area…. There was a formal school system in Idaho after 1864, and the prospect of farming the rich lands in this territory was the incentive for the Meyer family to choose Latah County to settle. Genesee was a tiny village. Nearby Moscow was considered a metropolis and in 1884 the railroad came that far. The Meyer family probably travelled by wagon much of the way between Utah and the Genesee Valley.[28]

Born in Meyenburg, Prussia (now Germany) in 1840, Claus Heinrich Meyer and his wife, Catherine Hedewig Bullwinkel Meyer, immigrated with their family to New York in 1882. The Meyers immigrated from Driftsethe, where Catherine was born in 1842. The couple were in their early forties when they made the great move with their five children, John George Conrad, Henry William, Mary Catherine, Wilhelmina Catherine, and Martine Edward. The Meyer family present an interesting look into German immigration to Latah County, ID.

Catherine was the primary reason behind the family’s immigration to the United States. Her older brothers Conrad and George Bullwinkel, encouraged the Meyers to immigrate and suggested they settle in the “lush farmland in Idaho which promised them a good livelihood not unlike the northern lowland farming country of Germany.”[29] The family came directly to the American West from New York, meeting George in Ogden, Utah. Their family genealogy recounts that George most likely “met them with a ‘goose in one hand and a jug in the other!”[30]

Historian David Emmons’ theories surrounding the Irish in the American West can also be applied to other European immigrant groups, including Germans. Beyond the American Pale addresses the myths surrounding the American West, and the ways in which these myths either inspired or discouraged immigration to the region. For example, Emmons considers the West as having two major different reputations historically: “there were two contradictory fairy-tales about the West. One emphasized its anarchic and violent—and hence manly and heroic—aspect. The other described its pastoral and edenic—hence domestic and mundane—aspect.”[31] Emmons argues that the true nature of the West was not so binary—much like the cultural adaption of European immigrants to Latah County.

These myths were further influenced by the American West being perceived as the “heart of America.”[32] This rhetoric was promoted by people like President Theodore Roosevelt, who insisted the West was “the home of the ‘true American.’”[33] It will never be clear as to what side—if any—the Meyers were on. However, considering the enthusiastic sentiment shared by George, Catherine’s brother, it is likely the family believed the West held great opportunity and promises for a happy and fulfilling life.

Furthermore, it is significant and vital to consider George Meyer’s role in influencing his sister, Catherine, and her family to also immigrate not only to America, but to the American West. Historian Katherine Morrissey’s Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire observes circumstances in which family members or friends have inspired their loved ones to relocate. Morrissey refers to this as “chain migration.”[34] Families and friends who received letters from their sisters, brothers, children, parents, and close friends they had grown up beside urging them to relocate to the American West may have been the major turning point inspiring many people to make the move. These connections were not only vital to establishing residency in the region, but also greatly affected the “linguistic, emotional, and physical connections," which influenced the “development of a collective understanding of the new country.”[35] Perhaps if George Meyer had not spoke so fondly of the region, Catherine and her family would have never undergone such a long and difficult change.

The Meyer family genealogy also mentions issues surrounding land and settlement. In 1882, when the Meyers first immigrated, Chester Arthur was president of the United States and seemingly placed a heavy emphasis on settlement in the American West.[36] Idaho, of course, would not become a state until 1890. Nevertheless, the railroad was coming to fruition in the region, granting access for families like the Meyers to move that way. War was beginning to wane between the United States military and indigenous tribes for land. The Meyer family most likely traveled to Utah via the railroad and continued by wagon to Idaho. It seems as if their two biggest incentives for settling on Latah County was the prospect of an established formal school system and rich farming lands, as Catherine’s brothers had pointed out. The family chose Genesee specifically, which was then considered a tiny village. However, nearby Moscow was seen as an established city.

Both George Bullwinkel and Claus Meyer acquired land through the Homestead Act of 1862. Claus secured lots in the western portion of Genesee. The Homestead Act also enabled Claus to become a citizen of the United States in 1888. Several immigrant families during this time acquired land through the Homestead Act, which this project will continue to analyze.

Family Patterns: Occupations and Migration/Mobility
Given that the Meyer family immigrated to Latah County because of the region’s rich farmlands, it is not surprising that farming provided for the family’s livelihood. Claus had seemingly farmed in Germany prior to the family’s immigration. Once in Genesee, he began farming the Meyer land with his sons, John and Henry. Eventually, Henry and his sons became responsible for farming the land. In his older years, Claus sold the farm and his first son, John, used the proceeds to pay for his father’s care.

Henry was the second son of Claus and Catherine, and he was twelve years old when the family immigrated first to New York. He married Ellen Teed, an American born in Kansas, and the couple had three children, Carrie, Barney, and Clyde in Genesee. Henry farmed his father’s land and even purchased land from Claus in 1891 and 1898. While it seems the intention of Claus was for Henry’s sons to take on farming like their father, that was not the case. Barney became a cook and, interestingly, Clyde became a musician. This is a point of interest, as one of Claus’ brothers was believed to be a concert musician. The family genealogy writes that this story was “not hard to believe since all the Meyer descendants have strong musical abilities.”[37] Henry died in 1920 at fifty-years-old from influenza.

Claus and Catherine’s eldest son, John George Conrad Meyer, assisted Claus in establishing the family farm in Genesee following their arrival to Latah County. Eventually, John and his wife, Meta, had their own farm. However, unlike Claus, John did not farm as an occupation for his entire life. Instead, he began a lumber yard business in Genesee, which he later sold to Madison Lumber Company. In the early 1900s, though, he became “one of the pioneer auto dealers in north Idaho.”[38]

John and his wife, Meta, did not stay in Genesee throughout their lives, though they are both buried in the county. Instead, the followed their daughter, Henrietta, to Walla Walla, Washington. Following John’s death in 1948, Meta migrated to San Diego, and this is where she died in 1954. John and Meta Meyer’s son, John G. Meyer, was born in Genesee in 1890. He was also somewhat of a businessman, like his father. John had served a period in the Armed Forces but was also a representative for International Harvest Company for approximately nine years. John was not only a successful businessman—he was also mayor of Genesee for a time. He is also noted as being a community leader in general.[39]

Cultural Retention: Religion, Naming Patterns, and Marriage Patterns
Cultural retention as well as adaption is evident in European immigrant families and the families examined in Latah County. Tradition and Agency: Tracing Cultural Continuity and Invention edited by Tom Otto and Poul Pedersen and New Land, New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest edited by Janet Rasmussen both offer insight into tradition and culture, which can help to contextualize the nature of culture in these analyzed families.  Using an interdisciplinary approach considering history, anthropology, and sociology, Tradition and Agency offers a thorough analysis on tradition. Otto and Pedersen write that tradition’s “primary meaning is to capture continuity in human affairs, as it refers both to the activity of handing down the cultural heritage from one generation to the next, and to what is actually handed down: customs, beliefs, rituals, rules.”[40] Traditions suggest a connection to past practices or customs, according to Otto and Pedersen. Traditions are passed down from generation to generation, and their “continuity lies therefore in the practice of maintaining traditions and in their function of enforcing the institutional world to which they are connected.”[41] At their core, traditions are used as a vehicle for maintain a group identity or culture.[42]

Jon Magnusson immigrated to North America from Iceland in 1913 and married the daughter of Icelandic immigrants, Gudrun, in Canada. The couple offer an example of the traditions Otto and Pedersen discuss in Tradition and Agency. Gudrun Magnusson wrote that the family she and Jon raised learned to read and write Icelandic, and Icelandic was the predominant language spoken in their home. For thirty-eight years, Gudrun asserted, “We had the Iceland library in our home….”[43] The Magnusson family, though living in Canada, held steadfastly onto their mother language. Furthermore, food acted as another mode for cultural continuation in their family. Gudrun recalled their family consistently making Icelandic dishes, including skyr (a type of pudding), hangikjöt (smoked mutton), and vinarterta (coffeecake).[44]

Culture and cultural traditions are evident in the Meyer family, who immigrated when their eldest child, John George Conrad, was fifteen years old. Claus and Catherine’s children were most likely quite connected to their pre-established Prussian identity, which may have been evolving into Germanness, as all of the Meyer children were born in Driftsethe, Germany.[45] This leads to cultural transfers between the German heritage and the Meyers’ new lives as Americans in the United States.

There is a story of John George Conrad being sent back to Germany by Claus in order to collect money owed to Claus for the sale of property, which was presumably the family’s home prior to their immigration to America. While back in his home country, John had tried to find some old classmates of his. This led to him reuniting with Meta Flomer, who he discovered had also immigrated to America in 1885. Instead of bringing back his father’s money, John decided to ditch his assignment and instead returned to Genesee with Meta. The two married in 1889 and were notably the very first couple to be married in the recently constructed St. John’s Lutheran Church in Genesee. Meta is noted in the Meyer family genealogy as having a “sweet and gentle spirit.”[46]

This cultural retention can be observed in John George Conrad's son, John G. Meyer. During his employment with the International Harvest Company, he made an international trip to Germany—his father’s birthplace. In Germany, he met Gisela Rose Baudis, from Breslau. She and John were married in 1917. The Meyer genealogy notes that their "marriage was accomplished with considerable red-tape as war had just been declared."[47] Given the heightened tensions between the United States and Germany at this time, John and Gisela actually married in Norway and required governmental intervention to return to America. Upon their marriage, though, Gisela immigrated to Genesee to live with John. They had no children, but cultural continuation is present in the case of Gisela alone.

Despite their poignant love story, John and Gisela present an active act of cultural continuation—though he was born in the American West, John was evidently deeply connected to his German roots. Gisela seemingly retained some of her own “Germanness” following her immigration to the United States with John as well; Gisela visited her family back in Germany and also hosted her sisters in Genesee. Despite her immigration to Latah County, Gisela clearly kept close connections to her home country. In fact, it is not wrong to wonder if she would have ever immigrated at all if it had not been for John. When he died in 1956 from leukemia, Gisela could not live without him. After his passing, she remained in Genesee and eventually took her own life in 1962.

Religion also presents an interesting aspect of cultural retention. Given Lutheranism’s popularity in Germany at this time, the Meyer family’s involvement in and commitment to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Genesee suggests that the family valued their ethnic ties to their religion. Historians Richard Scheuerman and Clifford Trafzer found that among religious Volga German immigrants, the major practiced denomination was Lutheranism. They write: “As was the case elsewhere in the nation, most Volga Germans who settled in the Pacific Northwest remained Lutheran….”.[48] Furthermore, Scheuerman and Trafzer argue that Lutheranism acted as a mode of cultural retention.

Claus and Catherine had been involved in Lutheranism prior to their immigration, and the commitment did not waiver following their arrival to the American West. Their son, John George Conrad Meyer, and his family were also devout members of the St. John’s Lutheran Church. In fact, it is noted that “John Meyer was the last living charter member when the church celebrated its golden anniversary in 1939."[49] This cultural continuation through Lutheranism is also present in Claus and Catherine’s grandson and John George Conrad’s son, John. John, was educated at the Pacific Lutheran College in Tacoma, Washington. He and his wife, Gisela, are also noted as being “active members of the St. John’s Lutheran Church.”[50] If ethnic attachments are present in St. John’s Lutheran Church, it is not a stretch to assume that Germanness was retained and was also a source of pride in the Meyer family.

The Hagedorn and Scheyer Families
Like the Meyer family, the Hagedorns and Scheyers also immigrated from Germany. Though these are obviously two separate families, categorizing them as one is beneficial, given they became related through marriage shortly after their initial immigrations to the United States. The Hagedorn biographical sketch begins with Edward Hagedorn, who is the first descendant of the Hagedorn family to immigrate to the United States. Born in Hammar, Germany in 1857, he decided to make the great move to a new continent following serving in the military for three years. His father, like the Meyers, had been a farmer in Germany.

Edward first immigrated to Minnesota in 1881. The following year, he relocated near Rudd, Iowa. At this time, Rudd was considered a German immigrant community, as many Germans had settled there. There, he purchased one hundred and seven acres of “timber land.”[51] The concentration of German immigrants to Rudd is further apparent given the relationships Edward had already established with the Germans back in their home country. The Schaefer family were pre-existing acquaintances of Edward’s. One of their children, Augusta Schaefer, married Edward in Rudd in 1884.[52] Edward built a one-room house on his timber land, and the young couple added onto the house as each of their five children were born on the farm. Augusta is noted in the Hagedorn family genealogy as priding herself “on the good, sweet butter which she made, but she also helped with the field work.”[53]

The Hagedorns had been successful in their endeavors in Iowa, eventually owning three hundred acres of “good farm land, nice horses, cows and hogs.”[54] The reason for the family’s migration to Latah County is not listed in the archive. However, for some unknown reason, Edward desired to move farther west. In the fall of 1902, the Hagedorns moved westward to Spokane, Washington. Edward “spent several months looking over the Inland Empire for the best farming country,” which led to the family settling in Whitman County, between Moscow and Pullman in 1903.[55] In 1915, Edward and Augusta retired and moved to Moscow.

The Scheyer family’s history begins with George and Rossana Carle, who immigrated from Germany to Albion, Minnesota in 1885. The couple had seven children. One of their daughters, Louise Caroline, who was approximately ten years of age during their immigration, would later connect the Scheyer and Hagedorn families. In 1893, Louise married John Calvin Scheyer in Annandale, Minnesota. John was born in Pennsylvania in 1869 but raised in Minnesota. Upon marrying Louise, the couple immigrated first to Spokane, and then to Moscow in 1903.[56]

Louise and John’s daughter, Elizabeth Viola, married Edward and Augusta Hagedorn’s son, Fredrick William in Moscow in 1914. Elizabeth was born in Minnesota but relocated with her parents to Moscow in 1903. Fredrick and Elizabeth’s families had an established relationship because of their involvement together in the German Methodist Episcopal Church in Moscow.[57] The Hagedorn family genealogy notes the following: “Fred happened to be visiting the Scheyer family when Lizzie’s [Elizabeth’s] younger sister Joyce became ill with diphtheria. The whole family, including guest, was quarantined. During this time Fred decided that he wanted to marry Elizabeth. Lizzie, a young romantic, left high school five months before her graduation in order to marry Fred.”[58] Thus, this union joined together the Hagedorns and the Scheyers—two German immigrant families.

Family Patterns: Occupations and Migration/Mobility

Edward’s father was a farmer in Germany…. He [Edward] arrived in the United States in 1881, going first to Minnesota where he worked on a farm. In 1882 he moved on to Iowa, near Rudd, where he also worked as a farmhand. Soon he was able to make payment on 107 acres of timber land. By 1902 they had acquired 300 acres, plus livestock, but the elder Edward wanted to move west. They sold out and came to Spokane, Washington, in the fall of 1902. Edward took the train in different directions from Spokane, looking for the ideal farmland. He decided on the Palouse area, and the family moved to Moscow, Idaho, in March of 1903. They bought the Sunshine farm, in Whitman County, Washington, between Moscow and Pullman.[59]

To paint a better picture as to why many European immigrants decided to settle in the Latah County region, one must first understand the nature of the Palouse territory. Katherine Morrissey’s Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire observes the nature of territory itself, and Morrissey asserts the “literate residents of this ecologically diverse area frequently characterized themselves in their public and private writings as a united, settled people with shared goals.”[60] Simultaneously, though, the population of the Inland Empire was not as uniform. Immigrants from Scandinavian countries, Russia, Germany, and Italy comprised the majority of foreign-born citizens in the region. Though residents often spoke different languages, practiced different cultural traditions, and followed different religions, the rhetoric of unity upheld in the region inspired these different immigrant groups to develop a regional identity.[61]

While the Inland Empire encouraged unanimity among its residents, it also provided people with fruitful and promising land for farming. Morrissey quotes one settler who, after arriving in Washington Territory in 1871, wrote back home to his relatives saying, “‘The soil is rich, deep, and very productive. It is capable of producing more grains per acre than any soil that I have ever seen…. We raise the finest quality of potatoes, turnips, carrots…that I ever saw grow in any country.’”[62] Morrissey’s assertions on immigration to the Palouse region can help contextualize the motivations and presence of German and Irish immigrants in Latah County. Though Edward Hagedorn began his career in the military, he farmed for a living following his immigration to the United States. In Minnesota and in Iowa, he worked as a farm hand. The Schaefers, Augusta’s parents, had operated a grist mill in Germany prior to their immigration but adopted farming once the family relocated to Rudd. Farming was probably a natural choice for these families immigrating to the American West, especially for those who had experience farming in Germany. 

Edward and Augusta’s children, much like the Meyer’s children, participated heavily in the labor on their parent’s farm. In fact, the couple strived to give their sons training in farm work in the hopes that they may eventually have their own family farms. This did materialize, in fact, as some of their sons continued to farm into adulthood. Augusta and Edward had five children, as noted above: Herman Edward, Fredrick William, Emma Louise, Henry Otto, and Edward Berthold.[63] Though little is known about all of their occupations, much can be observed surrounding their migration patters within the American West. While Edward died away in Mesa, Arizona and was subsequently buried in Moscow, no other Hagedorn children left the region. Henry died in Toppenish, Washington, Herman died in Lewiston, and Fredrick and Emma both died in Moscow.[64] While this does not necessarily contribute to understandings of cultural patterns, the majority of the Hagedorn family clearly did not stray far from Latah County, even following the passing of their parents.

Cultural Retention: Religion and Marriage Patterns
Despite having immigrated away from their homelands, both Edward and Augusta present cultural continuation by their marriage to one another. As was explained earlier in relation to the Meyers, marriage within one’s own ethnic group can point to cultural retention. However, though Edward’s cultural continuation can be seen in his marriage to a German woman after immigrating to the American West, archival records also point to a sense of American assimilation and pride: “He [Edward] also took a penmanship course by correspondence and received a certificate for it. He really made every effort to be a good citizen of America.”[65]

Furthermore, Augusta also made efforts to become more American, as she is noted as schooling herself and learning to read English by translating the Bible after the Hagedorns relocated to Moscow.[66] It is difficult to tell what provoked or encouraged Edward and Augusta to pursue these more assimilationist routes in America. It could have been a need to be accepted into the society, desires to further advance their success in their farming and broader economic stance, or a genuine interest in becoming more “American”—as seems to be the most likely case based on Edward’s stated intentions. The Hagedorns are indicative of the fluidity of culture—the relationship between cultural maintenance and assimilation into American culture was not always a binary.

The relationship between language and culture is evident among many European immigrant groups. In New Land, New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest, writer Arnfinn Bruflot reflects on his experiences as a Norwegian immigrant in Tacoma, Washington. Bruflot writes, “I have my language from Norway, and my tradition.”[67] Bruflot’s experience with language should not be considered unique, and he offers an important comparison to the Hagedorn family.

Nevertheless, cultural retention is interestingly evident in Edward and Augusta’s descendants. Though born in Rudd, Iowa, Fredrick William Hagedorn seemed to identify with his parent’s Germanness. This is arguably true, given his marriage to a daughter of a German immigrant, Elizabeth Viola Scheyer. Though Fredrick and Elizabeth were both born in the United States, the two married into families with extremely strong and present German roots. Interestingly, Elizabeth’s father also repeated this cultural continuation through marriage. John Calvin Scheyer, though born in Pennsylvania, was the son of a German immigrant father. John Peter Scheyer had immigrated from Wollendorf, Germany to Jefferson County, Pennsylvania in 1854.[68] Of course, John Calvin married a woman born in Germany, who immigrated to the United States at approximately ten years old. Both the original immigrants of the Hagedorn and the Scheyer families continued marrying other ethnic German descendants.

Religion and marriage intertwined the Scheyer and Hagedorn families. Religion and marriage intertwined the Scheyer and Hagedorn families. Though the Methodist denomination was not the popular denomination among practicing German immigrants, historians Richard Scheuerman and Clifford Trafzer further support that Methodist churches acted as a mode of cultural continuation, arguing, “The church was an institution within Volga German society that remained significant once the immigrants had moved to the United States.”[69] If it had not been for the both the Scheyer and Hagedorn’s involvement in the German Methodist Episcopal Church in Moscow, Fredrick and Elizabeth may have never met, and thus never married. So, while it is important to examine both marriage and religion patterns in relation to cultural maintenance, it is unavoidable in this particular case.

The Hagedorn family genealogy notes that Edward and Augusta were quite religious and were committed to both the German Methodist Church and a Lutheran church, supposedly while in Rudd. Family records note the following: “Mother Hagedorn [Augusta] had attended a school in Germany that required scripture memorization, and she could quote hundreds of verses unto her dying day. She was a real Bible student and also lived it.”[70] Their religious commitments followed the family when they migrated to Latah County; they were members of the German Methodist Church until 1921, and the family then joined the First Methodist Church. John and Louise Scheyer, Elizabeth Scheyer’s parents, were also active members of the church. In Minnesota, they attended the German Methodist Church. In Moscow, they attended the German Methodist Episcopal Church.[71]

Nathaniel Williamson: Moscow’s Merchant Prince of North Idaho

Nathaniel Williamson began his merchandising career as a mere clerk in Seattle and through hard work, originality and natural ability he became a successful businessman in the Inland Northwest. He brought a competitive and innovative selling style to Moscow and influenced the local business community…. He showed his appreciation of Moscow and the Palouse country through the community functions that he sponsored.[72]

In order to bring this project farther into the twentieth century, this narrative will now shift to examine Nathaniel Williamson, an immigrant who made his great move in the late 1890s but relocated to Moscow in 1903. Nathaniel “Nat” Williamson is unique in this context, as there is not an extensive amount of genealogical research conducted on him or his family. He is an important immigrant to consider in this context, though, because he was extremely successful in Latah County. Although not much has been detailed surrounding Williamson’s family, but archival photographs provide a glimpse into his seemingly happy family life.[73] A brief genealogy written by one of William’s sons, Frank, as well as a student paper for the University of Idaho offer a comprehensive look at Williamson himself and his successful career. Historian David Emmons asserts that “between 1845 and 1910 approximately five million people left Ireland for the United States.”[74] Williamson was toward the end of this wave, as he first immigrated to Seattle, Washington in the late 1890s.

While in Seattle, Williamson met and married a native of the city, Caroline Robinson, in 1899. The couple had four children: Frank, Mary, Harry, and Jack. Nearly all archival records address Williamson’s individual success as a businessman in Moscow and surrounding areas. Nevertheless, his family did become central in his career, as readers will observe below.

Williamson’s Successful Career
Nathaniel Williamson is undoubtedly known in Moscow for his success as a business owner. Williamson was born in County Monaghan, Ireland in 1872. The youngest of ten children, he was raised on a small family farm. In a written biography of Williamson, his son, Frank, wrote that his father immigrated to the United States because of his “insatiable desire to better himself.”[75] Williamson first came to America by way of Canada, as his older brother, John, already resided there with his own family. Williamson was attracted to the states by the Alaska gold rush. However, after arriving in Seattle, Washington on his long journey to Alaska, he decided to stay in the area and pursue a job as a clerk.

Many Irish immigrants were motivated to leave their home country during the late 1870s and early 1880s because of the very poor political economy in Ireland, which had evolved to be especially dire following the Great Famine. Williamson immigrated toward the end of this wave and in 1898, he began working for McDougal-Southwick, a mercantile store.[76] Frank wrote that his father was “a very likeable young Irishman, made friends easily, and acquired a reputation among wholesale salesman and merchants as an up-and-coming merchant in his own right.”[77] This assumption was correct, as Williamson was eventually offered the opportunity to acquire his own store in Moscow. In 1903, he arrived in Latah County and purchased the stock of The Boston Store, which was first located on the corner of Fifth and Main Street in Moscow.[78]            

Historian David Emmons argues that Irish immigrants valued steady work more than the majority of Euro-American immigrants. Emmons writes, “More than most, the Irish wanted to be depression-proof, or as close to it as they could get. That meant either government work—usually local—or jobs with the largest and most economically invulnerable corporations they could find.”[79] As Matthew Jacobson notes in Whiteness of a Different Color, publications between the 1840s and 1920s often reported that “‘many large companies won’t hire anyone who looks or sounds Irish.’”[80] It is not known whether or not Williamson was faced directly with this type of discrimination, but he likely knew of its existence. With this in mind, it is not difficult to understand why the Irish immigrant jumped on the opportunity to become a store owner.

Williamson’s The Boston Store became incredibly successful, with customers traveling by wagon and buggy from Troy, Deary, Bovill, Lewiston, Genesee, Pullman, Potlatch, Palouse, and other surrounding areas.[81] In 1913, Williamson relocated his store and renamed the establishment “Williamson’s.” The new Williamson’s, also known as the “Greater Boston,” was located on the corner of First and Main Street.[82] The three story building was built by Governor William McConnell. Given the three levels of this store, Williamson installed an elevator for customers. Williamson’s became the only store in the region to have a passenger elevator. Williamson’s also boasted “the largest stock of Merchandise in Idaho north of Boise.”[83]

Williamson established multiple stores in Winchester, Gifford, and Bovill, Idaho, as well as in Heppner, Oregon between 1906 and 1913.[84] Williamson was incredibly savvy when it came to advertising his stores. As M. Alexis Rippel stated in a research paper conducted on Williamson, “Williamson’s large number of promotional campaigns never lacked in originality. There always seemed to be something going on at the store.”[85]

John, Williamson’s older brother who lived in Canada, had a son, James, who relocated to Moscow to work in Williamson’s store. It is possible that John would not have immigrated to Moscow if the opportunity to work for his uncle was not given to him. Furthermore, in 1921, Williamson established a new store in Palouse, Washington. Williamson had appointed his nephew, James Williamson, as manager of the Palouse store. Two of Nathaniel Williamson’s sisters-in-law, Mabel and Pearl Robinson, were also employed in the Palouse store.[86]

Nathaniel Williamson’s success was not harbored by him alone—his family became a central aspect of his business ventures and likely contributed greatly to Williamson’s success. While this is interesting in the context of Williamson’s career, it also provides an interesting analysis into immigration and mobility in the American West. While Williamson first immigrated from Ireland, he further inspired other family members (namely James, his nephew) to also immigrate to the American West.

Beyond his family, Williamson also inspired other two Irishmen to immigrate to the American West; Tom Brennan and Tom McElwain had both come from Williamson’s hometown in Ireland to the United States. Williamson trained both men in how to be successful as business owners. Brennan began a hardware business in Aberdeen, Washington, and McElwain had businesses in both Tacoma, Washington, and Twin Falls, Idaho.[87] As discussed earlier, this chain migration effect played a role in the lives of many immigrants. The role Williamson played in inspiring further immigration to the Northwest area should not be understated.
[1] All archival materials pertaining to the Taylor, Meyer, Scheyer-Hagedorn, and Williamson families were retrieved from the Latah County Historical Society archive.
[3] Manuscript titled The Un-covered Wagon: A Glimpse of Pioneer Days in Moscow by Alma Taylor-Lauder Keeling, 1975, F754 M6 K44 1975, Taylor Family Collection, Latah County Historical Society, Moscow, Idaho.
[4] The Un-covered Wagon: A Glimpse of Pioneer Days in Moscow, Taylor Family Personal Collection.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Emmons, Beyond the American Pale, 26.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 37-38.
[11] Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color, 41.
[12] Ibid., 48.
[13] The Un-covered Wagon: A Glimpse of Pioneer Days in Moscow, Taylor Family Personal Collection.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Diane Pearson, The Nez Perces in the Indian Territory, 3.
[20] The Un-covered Wagon: A Glimpse of Pioneer Days in Moscow, Taylor Family Personal Collection.
[21] Emmons, Beyond the American Pale, 138.
[22] Ibid., 139.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid., 145.
[25] Ibid., 145-146.
[26] The Un-covered Wagon: A Glimpse of Pioneer Days in Moscow, Taylor Family Personal Collection.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Meyer Family Genealogy, n.d., SC GEN 17, Meyer Family Personal Collection, Latah County Historical Society, Moscow, Idaho.
[29] Meyer Family Genealogy, Meyer Family Personal Collection.
[31] Emmons, Beyond the American Pale, 27.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Ibid.
[35] Morrissey, Mental Territories, 38.
[36] Meyer Family Genealogy, Meyer Family Personal Collection.
[37] Ibid.
[38] Ibid.
[39] Ibid.
[40] Tom Otto and Poul Pedersen, Tradition and Agency: Tracing Cultural Continuity and Invention (Oakville: Aarhus University Press, 2005), 7.
[41] Otto and Pedersen, Tradition and Agency, 29.
[42] Ibid., 34.
[43] Gudrun Magnusson, “Jon and Gudrun Magnusson,” in New Land, New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest, ed. Janet Rasmussen (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993), 278.
[44] Magnusson, “Jon and Gudrun Magnusson,” in New Land, New Lives, 279.
[45] Ibid.
[46] Ibid.
[47] Ibid.
[49] Meyer Family Genealogy, Meyer Family Personal Collection.
[50] Ibid.
[51] Hagedorn Family Genealogy, n.d., SC 04-17, Hagedorn Family Collection, Latah County Historical Society, Moscow, Idaho.
[52] Hagedorn Family Genealogy, Hagedorn Family Personal Collection.
[53] Ibid.
[54] Ibid.
[55] Ibid.
[56] Ibid.
[57] Ibid.
[58] Ibid.
[59] Ibid.
[60] Katherine Morrissey, Mental Territories: Mapping the Inland Empire, 6.
[61] Ibid., 7.
[62] Ibid., 37.
[63] Hagedorn Family Genealogy, Hagedorn Family Personal Collection.
[64] Ibid.
[65] Ibid.
[66] Ibid.
[67] Arnfinn Bruflot, “Arnfinn Bruflot,” in New Land, New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest, ed. Janet Rasmussen (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993), 303.
[68] Hagedorn Family Genealogy, Hagedorn Family Personal Collection.
[69] Richard Scheuerman and Clifford Trafzer, Hardship to Homeland, 111.
[70] Hagedorn Family Genealogy, Hagedorn Family Personal Collection.
[71] Ibid.
[72] Manuscript on Nathaniel Williamson titled “Nathaniel Williamson: Moscow Merchant, 1903-1920,” 12 May 1980, SC RIP-1, Williamson Collection, Latah County Historical Society, Moscow, Idaho.
[73] All archival photographs of Nathaniel Williamson and his family were obtained through and are housed with the Latah County Historical Society.
[74] David Emmons, Beyond the American Pale, 1.
[75] A Biography of Nathaniel Williamson, Williamson Collection.
[76] Ibid.
[77] Ibid.
[78] Ibid.
[79] David Emmons, Beyond the American Pale, 224.
[80] Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color, 93.
[81] A Biography of Nathaniel Williamson, Williamson Collection.
[82] Manuscript on Nathaniel Williamson, Williamson Collection.
[83] A Biography of Nathaniel Williamson, Williamson Collection.
[84] Ibid.
[85] Manuscript on Nathaniel Williamson, Williamson Collection.
[86] A Biography of Nathaniel Williamson, Williamson Collection.
[87] Ibid.

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