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Wagon Days
For the week of August 30 through September 5, 2000

Horace C. Lewis’s gunfight

Fast Freight Line Owner shot a man over a woman


By PETER BOLTZ
Express Staff Writer

Most people familiar with Wagon Days know the name Horace C. Lewis. The ore wagons in the parade were used by his Fast Freight Line.

And many people also know that the first Wagon Days in 1958 featured Lewis’s widow, Katherine, as the Grand Dame of Ketchum.

Indeed, descendants of this historically important family, Cutler Lewis and his sister, Hildegarde Lewis, are this year’s Wagon Days parade marshals.

But how many people know that in 1883, Horace apparently shot a man three times in a fight over a woman?

According to The Wood River News-Miner, "An old feud has grown up between Horace Lewis and John Pilmer since the commencement of the [former’s] attentions to Miss Irene Brasher."

The News-Miner reported that after an earlier "affray" Pilmer confronted Lewis in the Ketchum post office.

The two "were seen to be very near to each other, as if about to fight, when young Lewis quickly backed off and fired three shots in rapid succession at Pilmer."

One shot nicked Pilmer’s shoulder; one shot was a flesh wound to the right thigh; and one shot went across the front of Pilmer’s mouth taking out the four front top teeth.

Despite his wounds, Pilmer "in an instant had Lewis’s pistol wrested from him, when several men who were nearby interfered and separated the combatants."

Pilmer, reported the News-Miner, was taken to the drug store and treated for his wounds. The paper wrote that he would recover but would live with a "deformity of the upper part of the mouth."

All this was reported in the Oct. 20, 1883, issue of the News-Miner. According to this account, the shooting took place on Monday evening, Oct. 15, 1883.

The paper wrote more on Irene Brasher one week later in a story the News-Miner called "A Concentration of Various Reports into What Is Most Likely the True Position."

The paper reported that Brasher was Pilmer’s sister-in-law and that both of them were from Des Moines, Iowa.

Furthermore, Brasher was living in Pilmer’s home at the same time Lewis was calling on her.

Pilmer "at length forbade Mr. Lewis in his house upon which Miss Brasher left it herself, and lived at the house of Captain J. B. Harper.

Declared the newspaper:

"Under this irritation, Mr. Pilmer from time to time manifested his hatred of Mr. Lewis."

The other newspaper in the valley at the time, The Ketchum Keystone, was outraged by the News-Miner’s reporting.

But then again, the editor of the Keystone was George J. Lewis, Horace’s brother.

The same day the News-Miner ran its story "The Ketchum Shooting," on Oct. 20, the Keystone ran its editorial, "A Hailey ‘Times’ Scandal."

George Lewis wrote, "The uncouth manner in which Mr. Picotte [the editor of the News-Miner] grabs at the single-handed conjuration of a domestic scandal is shocking to every sense of journalistic duty, and unpleasing to his readers. The disgraceful manner in which he has overstepped his bounds in attacking citizens of this place with a dastardly attempt to amuse, at the expense of their characters, is illustrated in his recent account of the shooting here."

In its next issue, Oct. 24, 1883, the Keystone printed this wedding announcement:

"Married, at the Merchants’ Hotel, in Hailey, on Sunday [Oct. 21] morning, the 21st instant, by the Rev. E. Pratt, Mr. Horace C. Lewis and Miss Irene Brasher, both of Ketchum.

"Miss Brasher, who had been on a two month’s visit to her home in Des Moines, Iowa, reached Hailey on Sunday morning’s train, where she was met by Mr. Lewis. They are both well known in Ketchum."

(The Mountain Express thanks Wendy Warren and Rusty Marti of The Community Library’s Regional History Department for their help in researching this story.)

 

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