Isolated as Boise City was in the 1860s, it still was influenced by the passions of the Civil War. Miners at lonely diggings would pay several dollars in gold dust for a scrap of newspaper, only a quarter of a page, that bore news of the war. Boise was originally settled largely by people from Missouri and Arkansas, Democrats all. They were as anxious as anyone to learn the fate of the United States.
Businessmen prevailed on Henry C. Riggs, who was leaving on a trip, to attempt to lasso a press, some type and an editor and bring the works back to Boise. Riggs, whose daughter Ada gave her name to Ada County, did not fail. He overtook freight wagons carrying a printing outfit to Idaho City from The Dalles and convinced the owners, two brothers named Reynolds, to listen to the Boiseans’ proposal. The businessmen offered $1500 and a building for a printing office in return for publishing a newspaper for a year. The Reynolds brothers liked the idea. They made a good impression; they were pro-Union Democrats, like many Boiseans. Their editor, Judge James Reynolds, was not present for the initial meeting. He was not in the same family as the Reynolds brothers but when he heard the offer he was also willing to set up shop in Boise.
The first issue of the eagerly-awaited Idaho Statesman on July 26, 1864 was a surprise. In the first column on the front page was the editor’s endorsement for President: Abraham Lincoln. Democrats of Boise were the stunned audience for a brand-new, strident Republican newspaper. Before each election, Judge Reynolds would lay out for his readers all the shortcomings of Democratic officeholders and candidates. But the fighting editor saved some of his criticism for Idaho’s Republican Governor, Caleb Lyon. Reynolds wrote:
During [a] few months. . .Caleb Lyon has done his party more injury and made for himself a more [disgraceful] record than any man did in the same length of time. IT IS NOT OUR PURPOSE TO HELP HIM OUT OF IT BECAUSE HE HAPPENS TO BELONG TO OUR PARTY. WHEN REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS JOIN WITH DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATURES TO COVER UP PUBLIC ROBBERY THEY WILL ALL HEAR FROM US WHILE WE PUBLISH THE STATESMAN.
It turned out that Governor Lyon had helped himself to $46,000 that was budgeted to benefit the Nez Perce Indian tribe. Readers of the Statesman learned to respect its editor even if they didn’t take his advice while in the voting booth. At the end of the Civil War, the South was forced into the punishing upheaval of Reconstruction, which did little to make Republicans popular in Boise. James Reynolds tried to warn his readers about crooked politicians who exploited sympathy for the South in order to win votes. He was frustrated by his lack of success, writing after the 1868 election,
“As we now view it, it looks indeed deplorable for the future of Idaho. The people have chosen their lot and by their choice they must stand. Our voice of caution has not been heeded.”
James Reynolds sold his share of the Statesman in 1872, but it remained a Republican newspaper until the early 1960s.

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