Lewis Hobart Sweetser Collection
Knight Library, University of Oregon
"This is George and his wonderful dog Oakum as they appear after a short hunt.
George has just contracted with the wood haulers to bring in the balance of his 'bag'."

Lewis Hobart Sweetser (1868-1944)
Born San Francisco.
HIs father died in 1897 in a drowning accident in San Francisco Bay.
Sweetsers were a successful farming and cattle raising family moved to Southern Idaho in 1871 where they set up a ranching operation.
George and Harry dreged for gold and ran a ranch in souithern Idaho in early 1890s.
Later became somewaht of an amateur historian who wrote many newspaper articles about the pioneers of the region.
Lew was sent back to California to attend the Urban School in San Francisco and later University of California at Berkley after which he transferred to Yale. It was here, while enrolled at the Sheffield Scientific School that he met George and Harry Burroughs. He and the Burroughs brothers had similar interests: rowing, boxing, wrestling, track, etc. After graduation in 1889, Lew went to Idaho to work with the family cattle operation and the Burroughs boys returned to Chicago to work at their father's American Battery Company. Harry soon developed consumption from exposure to battery acid fumes and both he and George moved to join Lew in Idaho, Raft River Valley,  to take advantage of the healthier environment and to make their fortunes in the "wild west."

In his article, "Edgar Rice Burroughs, Frontiersman," Lew Sweetser (circa 1929) described the influence of Idaho's Raft River valley upon Ed Burroughs::

Ed Burroughs (got a good start) in the mystic wilds of frontier Idaho more than a generation past. Frontier Idaho as it then existed in Raft River valley, and in the little railroad towns of American Falls and Pocatello, and up in the placer mines, guarded by the snowy sentinel peaks of Stanley Basin.

But more particularly, Raft River valley. That great, broad expanse of friendly desolation that has so strange a power to kindle man's imagination. That tremendous weave of blue-gray sagebrush land that stretches like a gigantic hammock from the summits of the Haglaer Hills to the windswept forelock of Mount Harrison.

An expanse of silent, friendly desolation, checkered down the center by productive fields bordering the narrow little stream that's dignified by name of "river." A great expanse of virgin territory whose unspoiled fertile ranges and mild winter months brought earliest settlers into souther Idaho. A territory rich with history of the frontier's people, and of the later pioneers attracted by their love for wild things, for the deep canyons and steep mountain sides, and for the inpiring prospects that lay unfolded to the sight that had never been looked upon by white man's eyes before. Prospects that these pioneers of this mountain wilderness could not help but feel beckoned them to unlock the alluring mystery of all existence.

And this mystery, unlocked, and disclosed to these hardy folk, brought fruit according to their vision and according to their talents. Brought fruit to all, but to a small handful it brought fruit in vast degree."

"Ed Burroughs was one who had this vision. He rode the ranges with cowpunchers of those days. At fifteen, he had a mustang horse named Whiskey Jack, said to be an outlaw. And an outlaw in those early cowboy days, was some horse. They used to throw this Whiskey Jack, to get the saddle on, and the budding author of Tarzan would stride him, and stick to him like the proverbial leech when the pitching ball of wildlife regained his feet. A lover of wild animals, this Burroughs was, I told you. Yes. For it was not so very long before Whiskey Jack would come to Burroughs' call, and stand, though quite impatiently, whilst his young master threw on and cinched the saddle.

"Yes indeed, young Burroughs was a rider. And all nooksin the high hills this boy soon came to know, and the headwaters of teh little mountain streams, and the grim basalt borders of the Black Desert. And all the wild things in these places.

"And we, of those times, used to think that Ed Burroughs would some day make a great cartoonist. For he was ever drawing well proportioned, six-shootered cowboys, and saddled, bucking broncs freeing themselves of sprawling riders. And Sketches of the placer dredging boats on Snake River, and up in the Stanley Basin.

Always Up to Something New

"This youngster, though, was always up to something new. He forgot his drawing, and went to something else. He left his ponies and opened up a stationery store in Pocatello. He joined the Salt Lake City police force, and made a natty officer. He gecame a United States cavalryman, and as such spent many weary hours digging post holes for his government along the borders of old Mexico.

And the, he forsook the frontier, and wrote Tarzan of the Apes. And the magazine that printed his story sent him a modest check, and sent him, also, on the road to fame. And then he wrote more Tarzan stuff, and married, and one day, when automobile trucks were in their infancy, he got one of these things and stocked it as he thought a touring truck should be, and started with his family and maid, and tons of trappings on tour.

He navigated this truck across the central states to near New York, and turned, and worried the thing clear to the Pacific. And sold some more yarns, for checks by no means modest. And then bought the estate of Harrison Grey Otis, editor, near Los Angeles, which he named Tarzana. And presently airplanes came. And he was one of the first to fly as passenger from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, where he went to see his daughter, Joan, playing at a local theatre there.

Talents Bring Distinctions

Joan, of the second generation, tasting of the inspiration that beckons artists of the stage. Ed Burroughs, he of the first generation, who tasted of that strange, compelling inspiration of old Raft River valley. Who drank deep of this inspiration, enlivening his talents, and then reached forth to notable achievement. A small handful, there was, Raft river pioneers, whose talents brought them wide distinction. One who drove the Kelton-Boise stage. One who traded a team of mules for a band of sheep. Another, who fashioned great water wheels to rob Snake river sands of flour gold.

A small handful, there was, that came to notable achievement. And yet, how many others, of more meager talents, who tasted not so deeply of this vigorous inspiration of the highlands of our Sunshine States! Who tasted not so deeply, yet still because endowed with the spirit of the pioneer, imbued with the urge of vast solitude, and favored with a dim vision of that great mystery that some time they all will come to understand.

In August of 1890 they reformed the Sweetser cattle company as "Sweetser and Burroughs, Dealers in Livestock" operating from holdings starting at the confluence of the Raft and Snake Rivers and stretching about 30 miles upstream (close to the present site of Malta). They ran the company from their Bar Y (Yale) Ranch a few miles from the mouth of the river. Even though they kept buying land and expanding over the next ten years, their colourful lives as cattle barons were not without hardships: long exhausting cattle drives, drought, severe winters, and too little return on investment. This prompted them to invest in a companion company in 1893. They decided to apply their engineering backgrounds to the separation of gold from the sands of the Snake and Raft Rivers. The Sweetser-Burroughs Mining Company was born. They built a dredge - the Argus - to suck up the river sands and gravels and to sift out the gold. Next they built a huge two-story houseboat to live in at the various mining locations along the river. George took on the role of president and manager of dredging operations. After fine-tuning the process they built a second dredge -- the Yale -- and another houseboat for the dredging crew. The Yale brought in the ore by means of a chain of buckets and although it worked well it was not successful in finding sufficient quantities of rich gold deposits. By 1904 both business operations had declined to such an extent that the Burroughs brothers returned to Chicago. George later returned to set up a business in Burley a few miles west of the Raft River valley.

Sweetser, who had married Clara Hawkins in 1902, tried a multitude of "get-rich-quick" schemes: sheep ranching, employment with a sugar and cattle feeder companies, formation of the Frye-Sweetser Oil Company. poultry farming, president of Ohio's Columbus Loan and Mortgage Company, many managerial and sales positions, and was quite involved in politics -- including his election as Idaho Lieutenant Governor in 1908 and 1910. In his later years he did historical articles for newspapers and travelled lecture circuits. Following his wife's death in California in the mid-'30s he became obsessed with spiritualism and the occult. He died in Los Angeles on June 9, 1944, one day after the death of his friend and partner George Burroughs. The two lifelong friends were cremated together.