Bob Sobba served thirty -six years in law enforcement in the Boise Valley, including eighteen as chief of police in Caldwell, Idaho. He also spent four years on the Caldwell City Council. He is a graduate of Boise State University, the FBI National Academy, and has a Masters degree in Administration.
Bob has published several articles on law enforcement and history subjects. He has written a history of the Caldwell Police Department, and recently published a book on the history of Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, A Century of Conservation: Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge 1909-2009.
He has had a life long interest in the history of lawmen and outlaws of the Old West and has given numerous presentations on the famous and infamous characters of that era. He is a member of the Wild West History Association and gave a presentation on the Steunenberg murder at their last national convention. He is the Vice President of the Canyon County Historical Society and is responsible for scheduling history programs for their meetings and supervising the historical booth at the Canyon County Fair.
In 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt pushed Congress to fund irrigation projects in the U.S. that resulted in the passage of the Reclamation Act. There was little money designed for Idaho, but a group of visionaries, lead by James Lowell, pushed congress for funding. Their efforts led to $1.5 million dollars being given to build embankments for an irrigation project in Canyon County, and to improve and expand the New York Canal from Boise to Caldwell to funnel water into what would soon be called Lake Lowell. President Roosevelt was also an avid supporter of preserving wildlife, and as this area was in a fly pattern for migratory birds, Lake Lowell was designated as a National Bird Refuge. Later it was changed to being a refuge for all wildlife and now provides over 10,000 acres of protected land. Building the man-made lake was a major project utilizing manpower, horses, mules, and steam engines. After its completion, irrigation water was available for thousands of acres of farm land. It was the first step in the water project that later saw the building of the Lucky Peak, Arrowrock, and Anderson Ranch Dams that made Idaho an agricultural giant in America.
On December 30, 1905 former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg walked through the gate to his home and set off a dynamite bomb that took his life. A person later identified as Albert Horsley, also known as Harry Orchard, was arrested for the murder. Idaho Governor Gooding knew Idaho didn’t have the resources to investigate this crime, so he hired the well known Pinkerton Detective Agency, with James McParland (known as “The Great Detective”) to do the investigation. He also appointed two prominent Idaho lawyers, James Hawley and William Borah to help prosecute the case. Orchard confessed to the Steunenberg assassination and stated that he was hired by the leadership of the Western Federation of Miners union to murder Steunenberg in retaliation for his actions against the union when he was Governor. This lead to a series of events that brought three union leaders, defended by the well known attorney Clarence Darrow, to trial for the murder in what has been called the” Trial of the Century”. The investigation, arrests and the subsequent trials all make for an interesting story of Idaho history.