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C. W. Moore


Papers, 1889-1915

MSS 100a  


Photo 101, Moore-Cunningham-Bettis collection

Christopher Wilkinson Moore was one of Idaho’s leading citizens, a key figure in Boise’s rapid growth from the 1860s for fifty years. He came to southern Idaho from Oregon to participate in the gold rush in 1862 and became a merchant for miners in the Boise Basin and Silver City areas. Although he is best remembered today in Boise as a founder of the Idaho First National Bank and for building the Moore-Cunningham mansion, in the autobiography he wrote at age 74, he adds these accomplishments almost as footnotes to the dominant theme of the wagon trip which brought him with his family westward from the Territory of Wisconsin in 1852.

C.W. Moore was born in Toronto, Canada, on November 30, 1835. At the end of the journey West, during which his strength, optimism, and self-reliance were tested and proven in a number of fascinating and dangerous episodes, he was only 17. For the next ten years, he tried his hand at several jobs. He was buying and selling livestock to customers from the California coast north to Victoria when he sold out in 1862 to try his luck in the gold fields. His confidence in striking it rich as a miner soon waned. After making only wages on the Powder River near Baker, Oregon, and again at the Red River near Elk City in northern Idaho, he quickly sold out and decided to direct his destiny elsewhere. He went into partnership with Benjamin M. DuRell, purchased forty-two mules, and began shipping supplies to miners. This business proved to be much more lucrative. It brought them soon to the Boise Basin, supplying miners who were working in Silver City, Booneville, and DeLamar. New supplies were shipped from The Dalles and Umatilla (on the Columbia River) overland by mule. In 1864, the partners started a store at Ruby, and in 1865, one at Silver City nearby. Trading mainly in gold dust, the miners’ merchants performed banking functions, keeping valuable for miners, selling supplies on credit, and often taking gold dust and nuggets for payment.

In the summer of 1864, C.W. Moore met Catherine Minear from West Virginia, who was visiting her brother’s family at the quartz mill in Ruby City. They were married on July 3, 1865, and traveled on their honeymoon to San Francisco while a small home was erected and furnished for them at Ruby City. They had seven children, one of whom died as a young child and three who produced five grandchildren.

In 1867 the family moved to Boise. Moore, DuRell, Governor Ballard, William Roberts, and Joel Fithian filed for a bank charter, the second national bank charter west of the Rockies, the first going to the First National Bank of Portland. The certificate to charter the First National Bank of Idaho was issued on March 11, 1867. C.W. Moore was the first cashier of the new bank. In 1872 he bought out the interest of B.M. DuRell, its first president. C.W. Moore served as the bank’s president from 1889 until his death in 1916.

In 1879 the Moores built a stately mansion with a mansard roof at 8th and Grove Streets in Boise. It was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle of the day. This home was sold in about 1891 to the Silver King, Captain J.R. DeLamar, who never fulfilled his intention to live there. It was leased to the Arid Club a year after he bought it. At that time the Moore family moved to what is now known as the Moore-Cunningham mansion at Walnut and Warm Springs Avenue.

In 1891 C.W. Moore was one of the founders of the Artesian Hot and Cold Water Company, a water company which would pipe geothermal water from a spot under Table Rock east of Boise to heat homes in town. The first home to be served was his own, at 1109 Warm Springs Avenue. Like Seward’s, his idea was scoffed at as folly by many, but the system endures a century later. The Moore-Cunningham mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the first home to use geothermal heat in the United States. The new home had both gas and electric lights. C.W. Moore was also a Director of the Capital Electric Light, Motor and Gas Company.

C.W. Moore was a stern patriarchal figure in the family with unquestioned authority over his children, even after their marriages. Laurence Moore Bettis (“Docky”),  the eldest of his five grandchildren, said on tape that his own father, Dr. Harry S. Bettis (who married the Moores’ oldest child, Alice) appealed to C.W. Moore to allow Docky to stay in Idaho and not return to the University of Virginia for his junior year of college. “I saw my father in there talking to him and I could see the old man in there pounding his desk… and I knew the answer. My father came out and said, ‘Son, get ready to pack your bag and go.’ Grandfather died the end of September and I came home in December when the quarter was over.”  Docky said that Mr. Moore ruled in all subjects but religion at home.

One of the founding fathers of the Children’s Home on Warm Springs Avenue, C.W. Moore was well known for his generosity to his community. He and his wife were charter members of the First Methodist Church. He was president of the Pioneer Society and a prominent Republican. In 1876 C.W. Moore was awarded the position of Commissioner Alternate for Idaho by the U.S. Centennial Commission for the International Exhibition at Philadelphia.

Laurence Bettis remembers his grandfather holding forth by the fire smoking a pipe in the back parlor with the gentlemen, while the ladies chatted in the front parlor. C.W. Moore loved to travel with his wife several times a year. They enjoyed San Francisco and Portland, where they had clothes made, purchased furniture, and had their portraits taken. They also visited the Oregon coast in the summers. He was a fine horseman and wrote on the back of an equestrian portrait, “This was taken two days before my 77th birthday.” His wife and a son, Arthur, preceded him in death. His daughter Laura and her husband J.W. Cunningham moved back from New York, where they were doing very well financially, in order to provide good company for C.W. Moore after Catherine’s death in 1911. He died at home September 20, 1916, at nearly 81 years of age.

                                                                                       --by Carol L. MacGregor (1990)


Anderson, Eloise H.  Frontier Bankers: A History of the Idaho First National Bank.  Boise: The Idaho First National Bank, 1981.

Bettis, Laurence Moore. Tape recorded interview with the author, April 1975.

First Talk, Magazine of the Idaho First National Bank.  Vol. VI, No. 2 (February 1976)  p.1 (Copy in the collection, Box 10, Folder 1)

Hart, Arthur A.  The Boiseans at Home.  Boise: Historic Boise, 1984.

McFadden, Thomas G. “Banking in the Boise Region: The Origins of the First National Bank of Idaho.” Idaho Yesterdays 11 (Spring 1967)  pp. 2-19.

Moore, C. W.  Autobiography in the collection, 1909.

The Papers

The principal item among the papers of C.W. Moore is the autobiographical memoir he wrote in 1909, which addresses primarily his emigration to the West on the Oregon Trail and his early days in the Pacific Northwest. This box contains a photocopy of the original handwritten manuscript, a typewritten transcript, and an edited typewritten transcript prepared by Carol L. MacGregor. The memoir was also published, with annotations, in the Summer 1991 issue of Idaho Yesterdays. Because the original manuscript is in such fragile condition, researchers are asked to consult either the photocopied, typewritten, or published versions. The original is stored elsewhere for safekeeping.

Also included within the C.W. Moore papers are letters he wrote to his daughter, Laura Moore Cunningham, while she was away at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois (1889-90), chiefly about family matters and her finances; and letters to Laura and her husband, J.W. Cunningham, from Hot Lake, Oregon, and other resorts (1912-1915).  In one undated letter from the period 1889-90 (Box 1, Folder 6), he writes of giving up coffee, tea, and cigars: “I don’t miss them [tea or coffee] much but I do miss my cigars every minute of the day.” He quit them in the hope that doing so would help his eyes (January 14, 1890). Letters exchanged between C.W. Moore and his son Marion during 1913 and letters by Moore to others about Marion’s difficulties are located in the Marion Moore file (Box 13, Folder 15) (See page 57).

Container List

Box 1, Folder  1        Biographical Material
Box 1, Folder  2        Ancestry and Descendants
Box 1, Folder  3        Autobiography (1909): Photocopy
Box 1, Folder  4        Autobiography (1909): Typewritten transcript (1989)
Box 1, Folder  5        Autobiography (1909): Edited typescript (1989)
Box 1, Folder  6        Letters To Laura Moore Cunningham: 1889-1893
Box 1, Folder  7        Letters To Laura Moore Cunningham: 1898
Box 1, Folder  8        Letters To J.W. and Laura Moore Cunningham: 1912-1915
Box 1, Folder  9        Wedding Invitations (Daughters): 1898, 1910

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