Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tollef Jorgenson Flamer (1854-1929)

Portrait from the North Dakota Magazine, Vol. I. February 1907.

  One term North Dakota representative Tollef Jorgenson Flamer is another new odd name found via a recent cull through that state's legislative annals, and I was extremely surprised to have found a picture of him in a February 1907 edition of the North Dakota Magazine (where his name is misspelled as "I.J. Flamer"). While his name may have been misspelled, mention of his being a hotel owner and native of Norway confirmed his identity, and a further biography of him (via W.B. Hennessy's 1910 History of North Dakota) detailed his first name and legislative service.
  Born in Norway on April 16, 1854, Tollef Jorgenson Flamer was the son of Jorgen and Agatha (name also given as Anna) Flamer. His early education occurred in the country of his birth and in 1872 left Norway for a new life in the United States. Following the boat trip to America, Flamer migrated to Red Wing, Minnesota, where he engaged in farming through the late 1870s. In 1880 he removed to North Dakota, and after settling in Fargo farmed and worked as a grain buyer in the employ of the Pillsbury and Hulbert Elevator Co. Flamer later purchased additional farmland near Moorhead in Clay County, which he would "farm at long range" for a number of years afterward.
  In 1883 Flamer entered the business life of Fargo when he erected what would become known as the "Flamer House." Originally constructed as a store, Flamer and his family would move into the establishment following the original client's abandonment and soon began work on adding a restaurant and boarding house to the existing structure. The hotel later added a west wing and early in its existence was utilized by Fargo physicians "for surgical procedures" in the years prior to the construction of Fargo hospitals. The Flamer House continued as a cafe and boarding house until its destruction in 1959, being torn down during an urban renewal project.
   Tollef J. Flamer married in 1884 to Olina "Lena" Erickson (1859-1947), with whom he had five children, Augusta Bertine (1884-1904), Henry (1883-1908), Pearl (1888-1983) George (1890-1966) and Erma (born ca. 1904). In addition to his hotel business, Flamer was remarked as having had 
 "A number of other interests which take a good deal of his time, and has not only built up a snug fortune, but also a long list of friends.
    As an avowed non-office holder, Flamer repeatedly cast aside calls for him to run for political office and continued along this route until 1906, when "public sentiment practically compelled his acceptance of the nomination for the lower house in the state legislature." In November of that year, he was elected as one of three Republican representatives from the 9th legislative district and during the 1907-09 session sat on the committees on Charitable Institutions, Immigration, Labor, Public Debt, and Corporations Other Than Municipal.
  The remainder of Flamer's life following his legislative service remains a mystery, other than his continued affiliation with the aforementioned Flamer House. He died in Cass County on August 28, 1929, aged 75 and was survived by his wife Lena, who died in 1947. Both were interred at the Riverside Cemetery in Fargo

Friday, July 13, 2018

Cordie McCord Helferich (1894-1979)

Portrait from "Hebron's Heritage", 1960.

  A recent cull through the annals of the North Dakota legislature has yielded several new odd names, among them Cordie McCord Helferich, a one-term state representative as well as a past mayor of the town of Hebron. While little information could be found on Helferich's life, the 1960 history of Hebron (entitled Hebron's Heritage) helped significantly when it came to compiling this article! 
  A native of Delmar, Iowa, Cordie McCord Helferich was born in that town on May 7, 1894, one of six children born to Charles Wallace and Amanda (Juel) Helferich. Little is known of Helferich's early life, excepting notice of his marriage in Fergus Falls, Minnesota in November 1916 to Dorothy Schultz (1895-1974). The couple's near six-decade marriage would produce two sons, Harold Eugene (1924-1999) and Raymond (1928-1997). Helferich's Minnesota residency would see him managing the Faith Creamery near Twin Valley, and in 1921 took charge of a creamery in the city of Mahnomen.
   Following his resettlement in Hebron, North Dakota in 1928, Cordie Helferich was elected to the Hebron town council in 1932, continuing to serve well into the late 1950s. In 1947 he purchased the Sax Motor Company of Hebron, later changing its name to the Auto Implement Co. In the succeeding years it would operate as a "franchise to sell Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and John Deere products", and Helferich would be joined in this business by his wife and son, Harold. 
  In 1950 Helferich was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives from Morton County. Nothing could be found on his service in the legislature, excepting the length of his term, 1951-53. In the early 1950s, he was elected as a member of the board of directors for the Hebron Hospital corporation. Helferich would return to political life in the mid-1950s when he became acting mayor of Hebron, due to the resignation of then-mayor Ernest Wolter, who had removed to Oregon. Helferich would subsequently be elected to a full term of his own as mayor in 1958, his total length of service being unknown at this time.
  Widowed in 1974, Cordie M. Helferich died in Mandan, North Dakota on March 7, 1979, at age 84. He was later interred alongside his wife Dorothy at the St. John's Cemetery in Hebron.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Chantrey Alfred Fritts (1904-1971)

Chantrey A. Fritts as he appeared in Denver Post, 1951.

  The Colorado legislature yields another much needed odd name in the person of Chantrey Alfred Fritts, who is notable for being the first state legislator profiled here who was a chiropodist (or, to be more precise, a foot and hand doctor.) While his name may be unusual and his profession unique, it is Fritts' terms in the state house of representatives that garners him a place here, as well as his brief service in the state senate, being appointed to that body to fill a vacancy. A native of Belle, Missouri, Chantrey Alfred Fritts was born in 1904, one of two sons born to Charles Oscar (1869-1966) and Emma (Travis) Fritts (1870-1955).
  Little is known of Fritts' early life and education in Missouri, and after deciding on a career in the medical profession enrolled at the University of Colorado, and following graduation undertook further study at the University of Denver's Podiatry School. Sources also relate Fritts briefly being a school teacher in the Oak Creek school from 1926-27. In February 1926 Fritts married in Denver to Edna Violet Smith (1906-1985), to whom he was wed for over four decades. The couple would have two children, Chantrey Alfred Jr. (1931-2016, later a professor at Abilene Christian University) and an adopted daughter, Nancy Fritts Vourexes (1941-1995). 
  After the completion of his schooling, Chantrey Fritts operated a "private podiatry practice" and was also connected to the Ft. Logan Hospital and the Denver General Hospital. From 1938-39 he held the presidency of the Colorado Association of Chiropodists and was also a longstanding member of the Colorado Podiatry Association.
   Fritts entered the political life of his state in 1942 when he was elected as one of Denver County's representatives to the Colorado legislature, polling over 50,000 votes on election day. Fritts' first term (1943-45) saw him chair the committees on Medical Affairs and Public Health, as well as the committee on Penal and Reformatory Institutions. He would win a second term in 1944 and during the 1945-46 session sat on the committees on Appropriations and Expenditures; Denver City Affairs; Education; Elections and Appointments; and State Institutions.
  The 1946 election year saw Chantrey Fritts be appointed to the Colorado State Senate, due to a vacancy brought about by the resignation of Eudochia Bell Smith, who had served since 1941. Fritts' brief time in the Senate (which extended from December 1946 to December 1948) saw him chair the committee on Reapportionment, as well as serving on the committees on Medical Affairs, Military Affairs, Printing, Privileges and Elections, and Supplies and Expenditures.
  After leaving the Senate in 1948 Fritts returned to his medical practice, and in 1956 was again elected to fill a vacancy, this time in the state house of representatives. With representative Paul Hodges Jr. resigning his seat that year, Fritts was tapped to fill the vacancy and during his brief time in office was a member of the House Services, Judiciary and State Affairs Committees.
  Little information exists on Fritts' life after leaving the legislature, excepting notice of his being a speaker at the 58th annual meeting of the American Podiatrist Association in 1970, where he spoke on "reactions to foot disorders that can contribute to mental depression." Chantrey Alfred Fritts died on June 21, 1971, in Colorado and was survived by his wife and children. Both he and his wife were interred at the Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, June 23, 1971.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Oyer Alton Saunders (1889-1983)

From the Colorado Transcript, October 20, 1938.

  Hailing from a state that has yielded only a handful of profiles here on the site, Colorado resident Oyer Alton "Sandy" Saunders served one term in the Colorado state senate and prior to his service had held the post of coroner for Jefferson County for over a decade. One of only four politicians profiled here who were morticians by trade, Oyer A. Saunders was a native of the Buckeye State, being born in Crown City, Gallia County, Ohio on June 21, 1889. The son of Joseph Walter and Sarah Jane (Dailey) Saunders, little information could be located on Saunder's life in Ohio, excepting notice of his being a teacher and school superintendent in Gallia County, holding the latter post from 1918-1919.
  Oyer Saunders married in Gallia County on December 16, 1911, to Minnie Belle Gothard (1887-1953), with whom he had one son, Rothbe Oyer Saunders (1914-1933). In 1920 Saunders and his family removed from Ohio to Colorado, and early in his residency in that state was head of the physics department at the Boulder High School. This was followed by a stint as a high school principal in Fort Lupton and, later, an eight-year tenure as superintendent of schools for the city of Steamboat Springs.
   In 1930 Saunders and his family settled in Golden, Jefferson County, Colorado, and in that same year, he first entered into the mortuary business, purchasing the Woods Mortuary, which had been established in 1913. Despite having had no previous experience as a mortician, Saunders and a partner, T.E. Cline, pooled resources to purchase the business, with Cline handling the "technical details of the business" and Saunders serving as manager. In the Colorado Transcript write-up concerning the purchase, details note that Saunders and his family lived  "above the mortuary" for a time and that both he and Cline planned to "remodel and refurbish the establishment." 
   Beginning in 1936, the Woods Mortuary began a "ten months program of modernization" that eventually culminated with the addition of "soft lighting effects, rich draperies, soft carpeting, appropriate interior decoration, new equipment and beautifully furnished rooms for those who have passed on." The mortuary would also boast a new chapel, and in 1937 Saunders would purchase the neighboring Taft building, thereby enlarging the mortuary storefront. By the mid-1940s the building also contained a casket display room, and, following renovations, the second floor of the building had been converted to apartment housing.

The Woods Mortuary as it appeared in the October 20, 1938 Colorado Transcript.

   By 1932 the name of O.A. Saunders had been established in the Jefferson County community, and in that year Saunders made his first run at elected office, announcing his candidacy for county coroner. In September 1932 he entered into the primary race and in the latter part of the year several newspapers in the county highlighted his candidacy, with the Colorado Transcript noting:
"O.A. Saunders is the successor of William Woods in the Woods mortuary at Golden and is also the Republican candidate for coroner. He is the logical man to serve the county as coroner and should be given the vote of the high citizenry at Tuesday's primary election. He is a lifelong Republican and was the high designee of his party at the recent county assembly."
  Following his primary win that September Saunders would go on to win the election for coroner in November. He would continue to win reelection to that office well into the 1940s and garnered a reputation as an official of "efficiency, economy, and fair-dealing." Saunders first months as coroner were marred by the tragic death of his son Rothbe, who died aged 18 in January 1933, having undergone surgery for "sinus trouble" the previous December. This surgery was later compounded by flu and spinal meningitis, and following Rothbe's death on January 5th, O.A. Saunders presided over his son's funeral at the Woods Mortuary. The young man was later laid to rest at the Crown Hill Cemetery, his casket being escorted by a contingent of Colorado National Guardsmen, as well as a plane from the 120th observation squadron from the air service of the Colorado National Guard. 

From the Colorado Transcript, October 20, 1932.

From the Colorado Transcript, October 18, 1934.

   Through the 1930s and into the 1940s the name of Oyer Saunders continued prominence in Jefferson County, and in addition to his services as county coroner and mortuary director gained distinction in several other civic endeavors, including holding the presidency of the Golden Chamber of Commerce from 1941-42, the presidency of the local Kiwanis Club, serving as County Chairman of the Red Cross Drive during WWII, and was a member of the Golden City Lodge #1 of Free and Accepted Masons. In 1935 and 1936 Saunders served back to back terms as president of the Colorado Funeral Directors Association, and in November 1940 was appointed by Governor Ralph L. Carr as a member of the state board of embalming examiners for a four-year term.
   In 1945 Saunders and his wife Minne purchased T.E. Cline's entire interest in the Woods Mortuary and became that business' sole owners. Saunders would reach his highest degree of political prominence in August 1948 when he announced his candidacy for the Colorado state senate, and in that year his past business successes were touted in the August 20th edition of the Douglas County Record-Journal. In an article detailing his candidacy, Saunders acknowledged his wife Minnie as his "chief supporter and most helpful critic", and remarked:
"If I go to the Colorado Senate, I shall do my best to represent fairly the 8th Senatorial district as a whole. Its schools, educational and other institutions, business and professional interests, agriculture and civic improvements, shall have my cooperation--I think I have something to offer in the way of unbiased legislation."
  Saunders' opponent that year was Democratic nominee Ed Moder, a real estate dealer and later owner of the Jefferson Sentinel newspaper. In November 1948 it was Saunders who won out at the polls, besting Moder by a vote of 10,600 to 9,693. Taking his seat in January 1949, Saunders would serve one four year term and served on the following committees: Banking; Education and Educational Institutions; Fish, Forestry, and Game; Insurance and Interstate Cooperation; Medical Affairs; Mining and Metal. He would also chair the committee on Veteran's and Miltary Affairs during the 1949-50 session and chaired the Industrial Affairs committee from 1951-52.

Saunders campaign notice, September 24, 1948.

   Following his term, Oyer A. Saunder wasn't a candidate for renomination in 1952 and in May 1957 suffered the death of his wife of over forty years, Minnie. Sometime after his wife's death, Saunders would remarry to Ruby Merle Mylar Topping (1900-1990), who would survive him upon his death in 1983. Saunders' later years saw him residing in Evergreen, Colorado and in 1969 returned to his old home of Steamboat Springs to attend the 40th-anniversary reunion of the class of 1929. Oyer Alton Saunders died in Denver on January 13, 1983, at age 93. He was later interred alongside his wife Minnie and son Rothbe at the Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

From the Steamboat Pilot, September 4, 1969.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Roscius Harlow Back (1865-1941), Roscius Back (1837-1921)

Portrait from the Clark County Bar Association newsletter, 2011.

   It isn't often that one stumbles upon an oddly named father-son pair who were both active in public service, but that is precisely the case with Connecticut state representative Roscius Back and his son, Washington state superior court judge Roscius Harlow Back. Both members of a New England family that extended back to the French and Indian War, the first to be profiled is Roscius Harlow Back, who was born in Union, Tolland County, Connecticut on May 28, 1865, a son of Roscius and Harriet Cutler (Robbins) Back.
  A student in schools local to Union, Back would go on to attend the Hitchcock Free Academy in Brimfield Massachusetts and after deciding to pursue a career in law enrolled at the Boston University Law School, during which time he worked as a university librarian. He received his bachelor of laws degree in 1889, and soon after being admitted to the bar Back removed to Massachusetts, where he practiced from 1889 to 1903.
  In November 1903 Roscius H. Back left Massachusetts to pursue opportunities in the Pacific Northwest, and in February of the following year established his law practice in Vancouver, Washington. He would return to the East Coast in October 1906 to marry Ann Phillips (1881-1972), with whom he had three children, Roscius Harlow Jr. (1894-1942), Helen Robbins (1896-1994) and Harriet (1907-1972).
   Just a few years following his settlement in Vancouver Back entered the political life of Clark County when he was elected as City Attorney for Vancouver, serving from 1907-1908. In November 1912 Back was elected as a Superior Court judge for Clark County, Washington, and took his seat on the bench in 1913. He would win a second term in 1916 and left office in 1921. Back's life following his judgeship saw him return to practicing law in Vancouver and was later a member of the Clark County Legal Advisory Board. He died in Vancouver on June 17, 1941, aged 76, and was survived by his wife Ann. Following her death in 1972 at age 91 she was interred alongside her husband at the Park Hill Cemetery in Vancouver.

Portrait from the Connecticut Legislative Souvenir of 1907-08.

   The father of the preceding gentleman, Roscius Back was a prominent son of Union, Connecticut, being a farmer, grist mill owner, lumber merchant and two-term member of the Connecticut General Assembly. A native of Massachusetts, Back was born in Holland, Hampden County on February 4, 1837, the son of Lucius and Sophia Black. He would attend schools in the town of his birth and the Mashapaug district in Tolland County, Connecticut. At the conclusion of his schooling Back farmed and cut lumber with his father and for a time was employed at the Samuel Colt Armory in Hartford, Connecticut.
   Roscius Back married in Massachusetts in August 1863 to Harriet Cutler Robbins (1840-1933), with whom he had two sons, Roscius Harlow (1865-1941) and Harry Eugene  (1869-1956). A year prior to his marriage Back sought his business fortune in Mashapaug, Connecticut, partnering with factory owner Albert Weld to purchase an interest in the latter's mattress business and grist mill. For two years their operation manufactured and sold excelsior mattresses (along with a grain mill) until its destruction by fire in October 1864. Following the fire Back retired from business and ventured into farming, owning seventy-five acres devoted to "farming and dairying interests." Through the succeeding years, Back purchased several hundred acres of timberland in Connecticut and Massachusetts, with his name becoming prominent in the lumber industry in his area, work that occurred mainly during the winter months.
  The holder of several political offices in Union, Back would serve at various times as town assessor, tax collector, constable, and member of the board of relief. In 1890 he was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly as one of several Tolland County representatives and during the 1891-93 session sat on the committee on Agriculture. He was returned to the legislature for a second term in 1906 and during the 1907-08 session was a member of the committee on Roads, Bridges, and Rivers
  After leaving the legislature in 1908 Back and his wife removed from Union to the town of Southbridge, and during the twilight of his life saw both of his sons go on to political success of their own, with Roscius Harlow being a Washington superior court judge and Harry Eugene serving as a state representative,  prosecuting attorney and judge for the town of Killingly. Roscius Back died in Connecticut at age 84 on July 15, 1921. He was survived by his wife Harriet, who, following her death at 92 in 1933, was interred alongside him at the Danielson Cemetery in Westfield, Connecticut.

Portrait from the Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham County.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Rorer Abraham James (1859-1921)

Portrait from the May 21, 1916 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

   Following June's monthlong sojourn through West Virginia, we journey to that state's Southeastern neighbor to profile Rorer Abraham James, a member of both houses of the Virginia legislature who in 1920 was elected to a term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Unfortunately, James died a year into his term, bringing to end a noteworthy political career that is sadly forgotten today. The son of Dr. John Craghead and Angeline (Rorer) James, Rorer Abraham James was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia on March 1, 1859. 
   Bestowed his unusual first name in honor of his mother's maiden name, young Rorer received his education at home under private tutors and also attended the Roanoke College. He later enrolled at the Virginia Military Institute (graduating in 1882), and after deciding on a career in law entered into the University of Virginia's law department, graduating with the class of 1887. James would remain connected to the Virginia Military Institute for many years following his graduation, serving a ten-year tenure on the university's board of visitors, four of which were as chairman of the board.
  After receiving his law degree James established roots in Danville, where he would practice law and first entered into politics in 1888 when he won election to the first of two terms as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Pittsylvania County. James' two terms (1889-1893) saw him sit on the committees on Schools and Colleges, and Banks, Currency, and Commerce, and in 1892 was elected to the state senate, where he would serve for eight years. James' time in the Senate saw him named to the committees on Agriculture, Mining and Manufacturing, Enrolled Bills, General Laws, Public Institutions and Education, and Public Printing.
  Rorer A. James married on October 12, 1892, to Annie Marshall Wilson (1869-1938). The couples near three-decade marriage would see the births of four children, Robert Wilson (1893-1953), Ruth (died in infancy in 1895), Rorer Anderson (1897-1937), John Bruce (1905-1939). Of these children, Rorer Anderson James followed his father into public life,  succeeding him as publisher of the Danville Register and Bee after the former's death in 1921.
  While still an incumbent state senator Rorer James added the title of newspaper owner to his resume when in 1899 he purchased the Danville Register for $5,500. Soon after assuming stewardship of that paper, he laid plains to increase its circulation, page length and price (raising it from five to six cents), and in May 1900 purchased a second paper, the Danville Daily Bee. James maintained ownership of both these papers until his death in 1920, and had "with untiring energy and sound judgment, raised to the front rank of Virginia journalism." 

Rorer A. James as he appeared on the 1899-1900 Virginia state senate composite.

  With his name firmly established in politics and journalism in Virginia, Rorer James' career in public life continued to rise through the early 1900s, serving as part of the Virginia delegation to the Democratic National Conventions of 1904 and 1912, and in 1908 was a Democratic presidential elector for his state. For a number of years, James held the chairmanship of the Fifth congressional district's Democratic committee and at the 1920 Democratic state convention in Roanoke was elected as chairman of the Virginia Democratic State Central Committee.
   1920 proved to be a significant year for James in addition to his election as state Democratic chairman, as he also served as a delegate at large to the Democratic National Convention that year that saw Ohio Governor James M. Cox nominated for the presidency. That same year also saw the resignation of Virginia congressman Edward Watts Sanders, who had represented James' district in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1906. As luck would have it, Rorer A. James was the man elected to the vacant congressional seat, and filled out the remainder of Sander's term, entering into his duties on June 1, 1920
   As 1920 was an election year, James found himself in campaign mode through the latter part of the year, and in that year's congressional race was opposed by Republican nominee S. Lloyd Landreth. On November 2, 1920, it was James who emerged triumphant at the polls, besting Landreth by a vote of 15, 567 to 11, 109. Having been elected to a full term of his own in Congress, James began the 1921-22 session by being named to the house committee on the Post Office and Post Roads, and in the summer of 1921 had returned to Danville for a brief visit home. While at his home alone on August 6th, James began experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack and phoned his brother, Dr. R. Bruce James, for aid. By the time of Bruce James arrival at his brother's home, Rorer A. James was dead, having succumbed to a heart attack on the steps near his bedroom.
   The death of the incumbent congressman was front page news in a number of Virginia newspapers, and many of Virginia's leading Democratic politicians gave personal reminiscences of James in newspapers issued in the days following James' death. Amongst these was the testimonial of Judge William F. Rhea, a personal friend of James, who remarked:
"As chairman of the state Democratic Committee, he was, at all times, an agressive fighter. He was ever loyal to his friends and always could be counted on to put forth his best efforts in behalf of the party and to fight to the finish for what he believed was right. He was a mighty fine man; I knew him well. He was loyal and true."
  Rorer A. James was survived by his wife Annie and three of his children, all of whom were interred alongside him at the Green Hill Cemetery in Danville. 

Rorer A. James during his congressional term.

James' obituary from the Washington Evening Star, August 6, 1921.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Lehi Aldridge Thorley (1874-1959)

Portrait from the Latter Day Saints Southern Star, 1898.

  The Strangest Names in American Political History makes a rare stop in Wyoming with the following write-up on Lehi Aldridge Thorley, a leading Utah Mormon who later removed to Big Horn County, Wyoming. His residency in that state saw him elected to two terms in the state legislature and in the latter period of his life resettled in California, where he died in 1959. Despite his prominence in both Utah and Wyoming, details on Thorley's life remain scant, and a fair amount of research had to be done to confirm that the "L.A. Thorley" that resided in Utah and the "L.A. Thorley" of Wyoming was indeed the same man!
  Born in Cedar, Utah on November 7, 1874, Lehi Aldridge Thorley was one of several children born to Thomas and Ann Thorley. Named in honor of Lehi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, Thorley was remarked as being "possessed of a fair education", and attended the Utah Agricultural College in Logan. Being born into a Mormon family who had settled in Utah in the 1850s, Thornley was baptized in 1884 and rose through the ranks of the church, and by 1897 had been called to a mission of the Southern States, where he remained through 1899. In that year he was named as president of the Northern Kentucky Conference, succeeding Albert Arrowsmith.
   Lehi A. Thorley married in St. George, Utah on June 13, 1900, to Minnie Tryphina Dalley (1877-1912). The couple were wed until Minnie's death at age 35 in 1912 and had six children, Lucille (1901-1983), Minnie (died in infancy in 1903), Evelyn (1904-1970), Annabelle (1905-1940), Wesley Dalley (1908-1992) and Jennie (died in infancy in 1910.) 
  Following his marriage, Thorley was again called to religious work, this time as a General Mutual Improvement Association missionary. After a meeting at the Latter Day Saint's University in October 1901, Thorley was dispatched to Big Horn County, Wyoming and by 1902 had already made an impact in the state, being appointed as U.S. Postmaster at Otto. He served in that post until 1903 and continued to keep his friends in Utah abreast of his activities in his new home state, writing in 1905 to the Iron County Record that:
"It seems there is so much work in this new country that one does not have time for anything else. I have rented out to other parties 560 acres of land and still have plenty left to work. Men and teams are in great demand and are all products of the farm, as well as stock and horses, are selling good figures."
From the Iron County Record, October 18, 1912

  Between 1905 and 1913 Thorley would make frequent trips back to his old home in Cedar City, Utah, and in late 1912 received the Republican nomination for a seat in the Wyoming House of Representatives from Big Horn County. He won the election in November of that year with 1,603 votes and took his seat at the start of the 1913-15 session. Named to the committees on Bridges and Highways, Corporations, Education and Public Libraries, Engrossing, Thorley's time in the legislature left him with a negative opinion of the workings of the state government and following a trip back to Cedar City in February 1913 reported on the session in which he served, noting that "the Wyoming legislature accomplished virtually nothing other than passing the necessary appropriation bills for the support of state institutions", and made note of the prolonged bickering between political factions in the legislature.
  Despite his opinion on the lack of legislation passed during his term, Thorley's efforts as a representative were lauded in the February 2, 1913 edition of the Basin Republican, which remarked:
"Much of the legislation at the last session of the legislature was due to the untiring efforts of Representative L.A. Thornley of Big Horn county. Having a keen interest in educational affairs, and in addition to being the father of four children who'll need the advantages of our schools he has labored during the session to secure proper recognition for the university and needed laws for our school system."
 Following the close of the legislative session in February 1913, Thorley headed back to Cedar City and, having lost his wife Minnie in October of the previous year, remarried in April 1913 in Salt Lake City to Mary Elizabeth Parry (1882-1936), who predeceased him in 1936. This marriage would see the births of six more children, who are listed as follows in order of birth: Earnest Parry (1914-1915), Kathryn (1916-2005), Morris Parry (1917-1995), Forest Parry (1919-1993), Mary (1920-2003) and Lehi Parry (1924-1926).
  Details on Thorley's life after 1913 remain sketchy, but it is known that he would maintain homes in both Cedar City and Otto, Wyoming in the succeeding years. In 1922 he was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the Wyoming legislature (losing out in the August primary) and in 1926 made another run for a state house seat, this time winning the election, polling 1,598 votes
  Little is known of Thorley's life following the 1927-29 session, and in 1936 was widowed for a second time with the death of his wife Mary. Sometime following her death Thorley removed to California, where in 1949 he married Florence Annie King (1889-1984), who survived him upon his death. Lehi A. Thorley's final years were spent in Solano County, California, where he died on March 16, 1959, at age 84. He was subsequently interred at the Davis Cemetery in Yolo County, California.
Lehi A. Thorley, from the 1913 Wyoming legislative composite.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Montezuma White (1872-1945)

Portrait from the 1929 West Virginia Blue Book.

  Certainly one of the most unusually named public figures ever to grace the West Virginia political stage, Montezuma "M.Z." White indeed shares a name with that famed Mesoamerican emperor Montezuma (Moctezuma), the ruler of the Aztec empire during the early 16th century who met his end during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. A leading figure in the civic and political life of Mingo County, White served as mayor of Williamson (the Mingo County seat) and for four years was warden of the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville. A multi-term state senator, White's tenure in the Senate extended over fifteen years and his last two terms in that body saw him in the position of Senate president. White was also an unsuccessful aspirant for West Virginia Governor in 1932, losing out in that year's Republican primary. 
  A native of the Keystone State, Montezuma White was born in Greene County, Pennsylvania on September 6, 1872, the son of Stephen and Lucinda (Booher) WhiteWhite's formative years in Pennsylvania are unusual in the respect that he was self-educated, and was remarked by the 1913 work West Virginia and Its People as having "never attended public or private school in his life." Curiously, White's 1945 Beckley Times-Register obituary and his brief biography in the West Virginia Blue Book mention his receiving a "common school education" during his youth...all in all very confusing! 
   By age ten White had lost both his mother and father and in 1889 removed from Pennsylvania to Mingo County, West Virginia. Following his resettlement, White took work as a clerk in a "commissary store" operated by a lumber business in what would become the city of Williamson. In 1896 M.Z. White made his first run at public office, winning election as justice of the peace for the settlement of Thacker, and in the year following married to Dayton, Ohio native Emma Jeanette Spielman (1866-1921). The couple were wed for over twenty years and remained childless.
  At the conclusion of his four years of service as justice of the peace White advanced to the post of jailer for Mingo County, in which he served for four years. This office was followed by his election to the first of three terms as mayor of the city of Williamson (which had incorporated in 1892), his exact dates of service being unknown at this time.  In 1905 White branched out from politics into banking, helping to organize the Mingo County Bank, located in Williamson. He would subsequently be named as cashier of this bank, holding that post until 1911.

Portrait from the 1917 West Virginia Blue Book.

   White continued his rise in Republican party circles in the state in the early 1900s, serving a six-year stint as president judge of the Mingo County Court, and in 1910 launched his candidacy for the West Virginia State Senate. In November 1910 M.Z. White won out at the polls and took his seat as senator from West Virginia's 6th senatorial district in January 1911. His term in that body saw him serve on the committees on Attaches, Banks, and Corporations, Claims and Grievances, Finance, Privileges and Elections, the Public Library, and lastly Mines and Mining, of which he served as chairman.
  During his last full year in the Senate, White was appointed by Governor Henry D. Hatfield as Warden of the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville. White's appointment was confirmed by the Senate in the summer of 1914 and he officially entered into his duties on August 1st of that year. Despite having no previous experience in penology or in prison management White took to his new post with vigor, and within several months of assuming office had instituted a number of prison reforms, work that would see him profiled in a lengthy write-up in the Clarksburg Daily Telegraph in 1915, which noted:
"All punishment, except the waring of stripes, has been abolished, and the convicts disobeying the rules are no longer whipped as heretofore. The punishment of the men, by forcing them to stand up against a wall with their arms extended above their heads for certain lengths of time no longer exists either. Under Warden White the guards keep a very close watch on the men and very few breaches of rules, which are very strict in some instances, have been reported."
  Amongst other reforms adopted under White were the allowance of convicts to converse and mingle among themselves for a two hour period each evening in the corridors near their cells, and White was lauded for bringing about "changes for the betterment of life for those who had fallen." His tenure as warden concluded in 1918 and in that year returned to political life, assuming the chairmanship of the Republican State Executive Committee. After four years in that post, White again sought a seat in the state Senate and following his legislative win that November began what would become a twelve-year tenure in office, serving three consecutive terms in all (1923-1935)
  Midway through the 1923-27 Senate term Montezuma White was elected by his fellow senators as Senate president in 1925, continuing to be elected to that post through the terms of 1927-29, 1929-31 and 1931-33. White stepped down as Senate president in 1933 following the Democrats gaining a majority in the legislature and was succeeded by A.G. Mathews. White's four terms as Senate president were referred to as "precedent-shattering" by the Beckley Tribune, being the longest serving senate president up to that time. White's time in office also saw him as a member of several prominent West Virginia government organizations, serving on the state capitol building commission, the Yorktown Sesquicentennial commission (1931), and the George Washington Bicentennial commission of 1932.
  During his final Senate term, Montezuma White announced that he'd be seeking the Republican nomination for Governor of West Virginia in 1932. As one of several candidates vying for the nomination, White's main rival was Thomas Chasteene "T.C." Townsend (1877-1949), a Charleston-based attorney and state tax commissioner. As the primary race heated up, White hit the campaign trail, and in the spring of 1932, his candidacy was boomed in a truly remarkable fashion. As the Charleston Daily Mail related in its April 13 edition, a 
"Motorcade of 52 automobiles, all decorated and with banners announcing the candidacy of Mont Z. White for the Republican nomination for governor, paraded through the street of Charleston early Sunday afternoon. The motorists came from Williamson, the home city of the candidate. They drove through Logan and Boone counties and returned by way of Huntington, leaving Charleston over the Midland trail. In the automobiles were 300 men and women, residents of Mingo and McDowell counties."
Portrait courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

   Despite the overwhelming support of the citizens of Mingo and McDowell counties, White came up short in the vote count on primary election day, polling 70, 334 votes to T.C. Townsend's winning total of 147, 210. Townsend, in turn, would go on to lose the general election in November to Democrat Herman Guy Kump, who held the governorship from 1933-37.
  Following his gubernatorial defeat, White served out the remainder of his Senate term and later returned to banking, holding the presidency of the First National Bank of Williamson until his death. Widowed in 1921, White remarried in 1922 to Pearl B. Criswell, who preceded him in death in 1930. He would marry for the third time in 1931 to Nell Clark Lynch (1884-1966), to whom he was wed until his death. White's final weeks of life were marred by ill health, and following his removal to a Williamson hospital his condition continued to fail, and on May 10, 1945, he died at age 72. He was later interred in the White family mausoleum at the Fairview Cemetery in Williamson.