Sunday, December 4, 2016

Zales Nelson Ecton (1898-1961)

Portrait from the Dillon Daily Tribune, November 4, 1946.

   A prominent name in Montana politics in the mid 20th century, Zales Nelson Ecton represented Montana in the U.S. Senate for one term beginning in 1947. A member of the both houses of the Montana legislature prior to his election to the Senate, Ecton's notoriety on the political stage quickly faded after his failed reelection bid in 1952. Despite this loss, Ecton accomplished much good for his state while in office, and was remarked as having been a "bitter foe of reckless spending, corruption and the give-a-way foreign policy."
  Born in Decatur County, Iowa on April 1, 1898, Zales Nelson Ecton was the son of Aaron Smith and Mary Delphia Ecton. The origins as to Ecton's unusual first name "Zales" remain unknown, and when age nine removed with his family to Gallatin County, Montana. He would attend school in the city of Bozeman and later studied at the Montana State College. During the First World War Ecton trained with the Student Army Training Corps but did not see action. 
  Following his training Ecton resumed his studies, enrolling at the University of Chicago Law School. He married on November 25, 1920 to Vera Harris (1898-1980), to whom he was wed until his death. The couple would have two children, Eloise (1923-1992) and Zales Jr. (1926-2006). 
  Beginning in the early 1920s Zales Ecton was engaged in ranching, making a specialty in grain production and cattle raising. He is mentioned as having owned a "1,000 acre dry land farm" near Manhattan, Montana and also helped to organize "the first oil and gas cooperative for farmers in Gallatin County." This cooperative later evolved into the Gallatin Farmers Company, of which Ecton would serve two years as president
  Ecton actively followed ranching until entering state politics in the early 1930s. Elected to represent Gallatin County in the Montana House of Representatives in 1932, Ecton served two terms in that body and in 1937 began a nine year stint in the state senate. His near decade long tenure in the Montana senate saw him serve as a member of the Republican State Policy Committee and in 1943 was a prime mover in the attempt to pass legislation that would have created the 18th judicial district, "for the benefit of Gallatin County residents."
    In 1946 Zales Ecton announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator from Montana. He would win the Republican primary in July of that year with 66% of the vote and in November faced off against Democratic nominee Leif Erickson (1906-1998), who had defeated longtime Senator Burton K. Wheeler in the state Democratic primary. On election day in November Ecton won out over Erickson, besting him by over 15,000 votes. Ecton's senatorial win was a watershed moment for Montana Republicans, as he was the first Republican ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the state's history.

An Ecton campaign advertisement from the Big Timber Pioneer, Oct. 17, 1946.

   Taking his seat at the start of the 1947 senate session, Ecton went full bore into his duties as a freshman senator, taking a stand against reckless spending and the ever increasing national debt. A member of the committees on Appropriations and the Interior and Insular Affairs, Ecton would introduce and sponsor a total of 35 measures during his term, all of which became law. As the Flathead Courier remarked on Ecton's legislation:
"Most of these relate to farm problems, public lands, reclamation, rural electrification, Indian affairs, mines and miners and civil service. He stated, however, that what this country needs most is fewer laws and better administration of those we have."
   In addition to his attention the above legislation, Ecton also worked closely with anti-communist Joseph McCarthy, being noted as one of the Wisconsin senator's closest allies. Ecton would support the House Un-American Activities Committee (chaired by McCarthy) and in his 1952 reelection bid even had a visit from McCarthy, who had come to Montana to campaign for Ecton.
   In 1952 Ecton announced that he would be a candidate for reelection, and during that year's campaign faced off against Mike Mansfield (1903-2001), who had represented Montana's 1st Congressional district in Congress since 1943. Despite attempts to paint Mansfield as being soft on communist activity in the United States, Ecton was narrowly defeated in his bid for second term, garnering 127, 360 votes to Mansfield's 133, 109. Mansfield would go on to serve twenty-four years in the senate (sixteen of those as senate majority leader), and at the conclusion of his last senate term was named as U.S. Ambassador to Japan by President Carter.
    After his defeat for reelection Zales Ecton resided in Bozeman, Montana, where he continued with his earlier ranching interests. He died at a hospital that city on March 3, 1961 at age 62, following an "extended illness." Ecton was survived by his wife Vera, who, following her death in 1980, was interred alongside her husband at the Sunset Hills Cemetery in Bozeman. 

Zales Ecton during his time in the U.S. Senate.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Ula Barksdale Ross (1869-1947)

From the Official and Statistical Register of Mississippi, 1917.

    A one term member of the Mississippi legislature and a former Mayor of Lambert, Mississippi, Ula Barksdale Ross can rightly lay claim to being the only man named "Ula" to be elected to state office in Mississippi. Born in Calhoun County, Mississippi on March 3, 1869, Ula Barksdale Ross was the son of George Washington and Sarah Catherine Gedford Ross. Young Ula was a student in the public schools of Calhoun County and married in December 1887 to Myrtis McDowell Linder (1870-1956), also of Calhoun County. The couple were wed for nearly sixty years and had three children, Herman Linder (1889-1962), George Lee (1891-1954), and Thelma Vance (1902-1976).
  For the majority of his life Ula B. Ross worked in real estate and insurance, while also being a farmer. He would serve as Mayor of Lambert, Mississippi for a short period and in 1909 was an organizer of the Quitman County Bank.  In 1915 he was elected to the Mississippi state legislature as a representative from Quitman County and during his term (1916-1920) served on the committees on Corporations; Public Lands; Mississippi Levees and Roads, Ferries and Bridges. Ross also chaired the committee on the Penitentiary. 
  Following his one term at the state capitol Ross returned to private life in Quitman County and in 1928 was again a candidate for Mayor of Lambert. Active in several non political areas in his community, Ross was a member of the local Baptist Church as well as the Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows and Masonic lodges. Ula Barksdale Ross died at age 78 on July 4, 1947 and was later interred at the Lambert Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Myrtis, who, following her death in 1956, was interred at the same cemetery as her husband.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Oda Alson Mallow (1887-1970)

From the Official Manual of the State of Missouri, 1941-42.

   Our stay in Missouri continues with another odd named state representative, Oda Alson Mallow of Maries County. Mallow was a lifelong Missourian, being born in Gasconade County on August 16, 1887, the son of Enoch and Malinda Stump Mallow. He would attend schools local to Gasconade County and in 1915 married to Lucy Caroline Davis (1889-1960), with whom he had five children: Vada (died 2006), Alson, Carla, Geraldine and Verl.
   The majority of Oda Mallow's life was spent as a farmer in Maries County, and several sources mentioning him denote his work as a "minster of the Church of Christ" in the city of Belle. Elected to represent Maries County in the Missouri state house in 1940, Mallow is remarked as having been the "first Republican representative from Maries County" in its history. 
  Mallow served one term in the house (the 1941-43 session) and was a member of the committees on Eleemosynary Institutions, Penal Institutions, Municipal Corporations, Roads and Highways, Social Security and Old Age Assistance, and the State University. Widowed in 1960, Mallow himself died at age 83 on October 10, 1970 and was later interred alongside his wife at the Liberty Cemetery in Belle, Missouri

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Marple Scott Wyckoff (1907-1995)

Portrait from the Official Manual of the State of Missouri, 1961-62.

    As November draws to a close we return to the "Show Me State" to highlight the political exploits of a man named Marple...Marple Scott Wyckoff! A citizen of prominent standing in Putnam County, Missouri, Wyckoff is another in long line of oddly named state representatives from Missouri, a number of whom (twenty or so at last count) have had profiles here.
   A lifelong resident of Putnam County, Marple Scott Wyckoff was born on July 12, 1907, the son of Edward L. and Anna M. Wyckoff. He studied in schools local to Putnam County as well as the Unionville High School. A farmer for a good majority of his life, Wyckoff first entered politics in the mid 1930s when he began service as an assessor for Lincoln township, serving in that post for an indeterminate length of time. In 1942 he won election as Putnam County Clerk and would hold that office for twelve years.
   Marple S. Wyckoff married in Unionville, Missouri on April 19, 1947 to Ruth Harrington (1916-1996). The couple were wed for nearly five decades and later had three children, Charles Lee, Patricia Kay and Dixie Ann. In 1954 Wyckoff announced his candidacy for the Missouri State House of Representatives and in November of that year was elected unopposed, garnering 1,970 votes. Taking his seat at the start of the 1955-56 session, Wyckoff sat on the following committees during his first term: Elections, Roads and Highways, Savings and Loan, Seeds and Grain and Ways and Means.

Wyckoff as he appeared in the 1955-56 Missouri State Manual.

   In all Wyckoff would represent Putnam County in the Missouri legislature for five terms (1955-1965) and ran unopposed in his reelection bids in 1956, 1958 and 1960. During his final term in the house Wyckoff held a seat on the committees on Agriculture, Roads and Highways, Unemployment, Utilities and Ways and Means. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a sixth term in August 1964, losing out in that year's Republican primary to Leslie C. Shelton, who bested him by over 250 votes. 
  Little could be found on Marple Wyckoff's life following his leaving the legislature. He died in Putnam County on December 14, 1995 at age 88 and was survived by his wife Ruth, who died in February of the following year at age 79. A burial location for both Wyckoff and his wife remains unknown at this time. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Devoe Pell Hodson (1856-1932)

Portrait from the 1916 New York Red Book.

   After a near month long break (in which there was ample time to process the results of the recent presidential election), the Strangest Names In American Political History returns with a post highlighting Buffalo, New York jurist Devoe Pell Hodson, who would go on to further political prominence as a New York State Public Service Commissioner (beginning service in 1913) and as an unsuccessful candidate for state Attorney General.
   Although a resident of distinction in Erie County for many years, Hodson was a native of Tompkins County, New York, being born in Ithaca on March 23, 1856. The son of Horatio and Harriet Ward Pell Hodson, Devoe Pell Hodson attended school in the city of his birth and also at the Ithaca Academy. He would later enroll at Cornell University, attending from 1873-1874. In the late 1870s he began reading law in the offices of Samuel Holliday and Marcus Lyon of Ithaca and in 1879 was admitted to the New York bar at Saratoga Springs. 
   Soon after his admittance Hodson returned to Ithaca to establish his law practice, which he would continue to operate for several years. He married in December 1880 to Mariette Wood (died 1937), a native of Painted Post, New York. The couple would remain childless through the entirety of their marriage. Hodson entered political life for the first time in 1882 when he began a year long stint as clerk of the Tompkins County Board of Supervisors. In 1887 he entered the publishing field, purchasing an interest in the Ithaca Republican newspaper. His connection to that paper later led him to spend a brief period in California, where he and a partner established the Morning Telegram in San Diego. 
   After several months of residence in California Hodson returned to Ithaca, but his stay proved to be short lived. Hodson would remove to Buffalo in February 1889 and returned to practicing law, operating a solo practice until 1893, when he joined with George B. Webster in the firm of Hodson and Webster.
  Following his relocation to New York's "Queen City" it didn't take long for Hodson to become active in Erie County public life. Within a short period of his resettlement he was named as a non-resident corporation counsel for Niagara Falls, NY and was later talked of as a potential candidate for Buffalo city attorney and delegate to the 1900 New York Constitutional Convention. Hodson became a member of the Buffalo Board of School Examiners in 1900 and served a term of three years, later refusing to be a candidate for renomination. 
  In 1905 Devoe Hodson launched his candidacy for Judge of the Municipal Court of Buffalo and was elected in the fall of that year. Taking his seat at the start of the new year, Hodson was selected as an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1912 and served on the bench until his retirement in December 1913. Hodson's retirement was met with a profound show of respect, with the Penn Yan Democrat later reporting that:
"More than 150 lawyers, headed by Adelbert Moot, former president of the Stae Bar Association, and Carlton E. Ladd, then president of the Erie County Bar Association, crowded into his courtroom. Speeches were made declaring Judge Hodson an able lawyer, a good judge and an honest man. His loss from the bench was deplored by many."
Portrait from the Buffalo Evening News, February 7, 1913.

  Following his early retirement from the bench Hodson returned to practicing law for a short period, but was called to public service once again in February 1913 when he was appointed by Governor William Sulzer to the New York State Public Service Commission. Hodson's fellow lawyers and Buffalonians lauded this appointment, making light of Hodson's fair mindedness and judicial temperament while on the municipal court. Amongst the contemporaries who weighed in on Hodson's appointment was former Erie County District Attorney Edward E. Coatsworth, who noted that:
"The appointment of Judge Hodgson should be gratifying to all citizens regardless of politics, who desire to see the public service commission render valuable service to the people. It should be especially gratifying to the people of Buffalo, a city so vitally interested in the proper adjustment of important problems that come under the jurisdiction of the commission."
   Hodson's time on the Public Service Commission extended four years (1913-1917), during which time he represented the state's 2nd district. Hodson resigned his seat in 1917 and was later succeeded by John Barhite, a former County Judge of Monroe County, New York. In the same year as his resignation Hodson became the Democratic nominee for New York State Attorney General, competing against Republican Merton Elmer Lewis (1861-1937), who had been acting attorney general since the resignation of Egburt E. Woodbury. Despite his status as an "eminent lawyer" and past service as a judge and commissioner, Hodson would place second on election day. While having a heavy lead early in the balloting, Hodson's vote count would later be usurped by Lewis, who bested him by a vote of 696, 969 to 541, 385.

From the New York Sun, August 8, 1917.

   After his defeat for Attorney General Hodson returned to his law practice, continuing with the firm of Hodson and Webster until his retirement. In 1923 Hodson and his wife removed to Yates County, New York, eventually settling in the town of Penn Yan. For a number of years afterward they owned a home on Lake Keuka, where he died on May 16, 1932 at age 75. Hodson was later cremated and his ashes interred in the Hodson family plot at the Ithaca City Cemetery. Curiously, no gravestone looks to have been carved for Hodson, as the Find-A-Grave page for him notes that he currently rests in an unmarked location in the Hodson family plot.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Hinche Parham Mabry (1829-1884)

Portrait courtesy of Find-A-Grave.

  Today marks a return to the Lonestar State to highlight another unusually named Texas state representative, Hinche Parham Mabry. A two term member of the house from Cass and Titus County, Mabry would go on to serve in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and following his military service served as a member of the Texas State Constitutional Convention and briefly as a District Court Judge.
   A native of Georgia, Hinche Parham Mabry was born in Carroll County on October 27, 1829, being the son of Hinche and Linnie Williams Mabry. Afforded a limited education as a child, Mabry enrolled at the University of Tennesee at Knoxville in the late 1840s and in 1851 relocated to Jefferson, Texas. He began reading law shortly after his resettlement and in 1854 married to Sarah Abigail "Abbie" Haywood, with whom he would have three sons, Woodford Haywood (born 1855), Bob (born 1867) and Hinche Parham (born 1877).
  Admitted to the Texas bar in 1856, Mabry entered the political life of Texas in that year when he successfully contested the election of representative J.C. McAlpin, and took McAlpin's seat in the Texas legislature in July 1856. He would serve until November of the following year and in November 1859 won a second term in the state house. During this term (1859-61) Mabry chaired the committee on Enrolled Bills and also held seats on the committees on Federal Relations, Internal Improvements, the Judiciary and the Penitentiary. 
   During his last year as a state representative Mabry saw the dawn of the Civil War and, although opposed to secession, cast his lot with the Confederacy. In May 1861 he served amongst the ranks of a volunteer expeditionary force that took command of Forts Washita and Arbuckle located in the Indian Territory. In the following month he joined the newly organized Third Texas Calvary and shortly thereafter was promoted to Captain of Co. G in that regiment. 
   In the fall of 1861 Mabry and another companion, Captain Alfred Johnson, made a narrow escape in Springfield, Missouri while that city was under control of Gen. John C. Fremont. Entering the city on foot patrol, Mabry and Johnson entered the home of widow to whom both were familiar, in order to obtain information. While at the home the two were surrounded by a number of Union troops, several of whom grabbed Mabry in order to get him to surrender. Mabry managed to escape by killing two of his pursuers with a Bowie knife, while Captain Johnson (who was inside the home) used a revolver to kill several more officers stationed in the back of the home. Both Mabry and Johnson were wounded during this skirmish, but managed to make an escape from the area under cover of night.
   After a period of recuperation Hinche P. Mabry returned to the battlefield, and saw action at the Battles of Elkhorn and Iuka. Severely wounded at the latter battle, Mabry was taken prisoner and in late 1862 was released in a prisoner exchange in Vicksburg. After stints as commander of the Texas Calvary Brigade and later a rag-tag brigade made up of units from Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, Mabry was stationed at Yazoo City, Mississippi, where in 1864 he and his men captured the federal gun boat "Petrel" . His latter period of service saw him serve alongside Gen. Nathan B. Forrest and in June 1865 "signed his parole at Shreveport".
   Returning home to Texas, Mabry recommenced with the practice of law and in 1866 was elected as a delegate to the Texas State Constitutional Convention to be held at Austin. For a short period he also served as Judge for Texas' Eighth Judicial district but was later replaced by "Federal Military authorities" after a year of service. Sources also note that Mabry was affiliated with a Ku Klux Klan offshoot group called the "Knights of Rising Sun" and for a time resided in Canada, having escaped there due to being implicated in the "Stockade Case", an act of reconstruction violence that claimed the lives of George W. Smith (a former Texas Constitutional Convention delegate) and two innocent black men
  Mabry's later life saw him practice law in Jefferson, Texas with David Browning Culberson (1830-1900), a former Texas state represenative and senator. Mabry removed to Fort Worth, Texas around 1879 and resided there until the early 1880s. Having taken an interest in silver mining in Mexico, he spent considerable time in that country during the early part of that decade, but spent his final days in Sherman, Texas. While visiting Sherman in early March 1884 Mabry was injured in the foot due to an accidental pistol discharge, the wounded later being compounded by blood poisoning, which would result in his death on March 21, 1884. Mabry was later interred at the Oakwood Cemetery in Jefferson, Texas.

Mabry's obit from the March 22, 1884 edition of the Fort Worth Gazette.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sharpless Morgan Dietz (1867-1931)

Portrait from the Danville Morning News, January 21, 1931

   A standout citizen in the history of Danville, Pennsylvania, Sharpless Morgan Dietz was a prominent businessman in this Montour County city for over thirty years, being the proprietor of two hotels as well as a leader in the local Moose lodge. A two term member of the Pennsylvania State Assembly from Montour County, Dietz's life ended tragically via a car accident near Liverpool, Pennsylvania in January 1931, an accident that also claimed the life of the man who had preceded him the legislature, Jesse Beaver Gearhart (1868-1931). 
   Born in Danville on November 15, 1867,  Sharpless M. Dietz was the son of John George and Mary Anna Dietz.  He attended schools local to the Danville area and first entered into the workforce in the mid 1880s as a rolling mill employee. In 1887 he traveled to Ft. Worth, Texas and for nine years was employed as a engineer and fireman for the Texas and Pacific railroad. He married sometime in the early 1890s to Ms. Rachel Crumb (1869-1911), with whom he had three children, Oscar William (1894-1969), George (died in infancy in 1908), and a daughter, listed as Mrs. Ralph Jenkins.
   Sharpless Dietz returned to Pennsylvania in the late 1890s and around 1899 entered into the hotel business, becoming the owner and operator of the "Glendower House". He operated that hotel for nine years and around 1907 took ownership of the Riverview Hotel, operating it until his death two decades later. Active in a number of civic organizations in Danville, Dietz was a longstanding member of the local Moose Lodge and was its past director. He also held members in the local Eagles and Elks lodges and for over three decades was a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotives Engineers and Firemen.
   Dietz first entered the political life of Danville in November 1920 when he became a candidate for the Pennsylvania General Assembly from Montour County. Dietz's opponent that year was Republican Jesse Beaver Gearheart , a veteran of both the Spanish American and First World Wars. On election day 1920 it was Gearhart who eked out a narrow win over Dietz, besting him by a margin of just 13 votes--2,134 to 2,121!
   Two years following his loss Dietz launched another campaign for the assembly and was this time successful, defeating J. Beaver Gearhart. Taking his seat at the start of the 1923 session, Dietz would serve two assembly terms and was defeated for reelection in November 1926. 
   After leaving the legislature Sharpless Dietz continued to be a citizen of prominent standing in Danville and died in tragic circumstances in January 1931 via an automobile accident. On January 19th of that year he, former representative J. Beaver Gearhart and Montour County Associate Judge Victor Olsen left the Riverview Hotel and began traveling to the state capitol to attend the inauguration of Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot. The trio made it as far as Liverpool, Pennsylvania and on January 20th the Buick coupe they were travelling in encountered icy pavement, which in turn sent the vehicle plunging into a culvert. The Danville Morning News reported on the particulars of the accident, stating that:
"The driver lost control of the car and it started to slide crossways in the road towards the abutment. The four passenger coupe struck the abutment in the center of the right side, demolishing every window and bending the frame into a half moon shape around the end of the abutment."
   The force of the crash caused Dietz to be thrown from the vehicle and he was later found in the creek bed near the abutment in an unconscious state. Judge Olsen (who had been thrown into the highway upon initial impact) sustained injured ribs and lacerations. Only J. Beaver Gearhart remained in the vehicle, pinned in the wreckage. The Danville Morning News reported that Dietz showed "no signs of life" following the crash while Gearhart expired a short while later. A coroner's report later stated that both men had suffered skull fractures caused by being "thrown against the framework of the interior of the machine with such violence that the tops of their skulls were crushed like eggshells." Only Judge Olsen survived the accident. 
   After news reports of the accident reached Danville the outpouring of grief was immediate, as two of the city's most prominent figures had died suddenly and violently. Following funeral arrangements Dietz's body was returned to Danville and was later interred at the Fairview Cemetery in that city. He had been preceded in death by his wife Rachel in 1911, and was also interred at the aforementioned cemetery.

From the Danville Morning News, January 21, 1931.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pennock Edwards Sharpless (1852-1935)

Pennock E. Sharpless, 1852-1935.

   A descendant of a family with roots in Delaware County extending back into the early 18th century, Pennock Edwards Sharpless was born in that county on May 15, 1852, the son of William and Sarah Ann (Yarnall) Sharpless. Young Pennock attended school in the county of his birth and studied at both the Maplewood Institute and the West Chester State Normal School. Following the completion of his schooling Sharpless returned home to assist his father with the running of the family farm.
   After reaching his early twenties Pennock Sharpless went into business for himself, establishing a dairy that specialized in the manufacture of a "high grade butter" for customers in Philadelphia. His success in this venture led him to establish a new creamery that would house the "Danish Western separator", a dairy implement mentioned in the History of Delaware County as being one of the "first imported separators known to have been used in the United States." 
   Pennock E. Sharpless married on Christmas Eve 1874 to Anna Phebe Bishop (1854-1938), to whom he was wed for over sixty years. The couple's lengthy union would see the births of five sons: Percival Yarnall (1875-1897), Albert Wayne (1877-1931), Casper Pennock (1878-1959), Edward D. (died in infancy in 1882) and Austin Edwards (1885-1948).
   In 1882 Pennock Sharpless removed his creamery operation to Concord, Pennsylvania and through the succeeding years built up an impressive business, one that would extend into several branch creameries located throughout Delaware and Chester County. The P.E. Sharpless Co., organized in 1902, is recorded by the History of Delaware County as specializing in a number of different products, including evaporated milk and "fancy soft cheese, one thousand three pound boxes being the daily output."
   One aspect of the life of Pennock Sharpless not highlighted in the 1914 History of Delaware County is his 1898 run for the U.S. House of Representatives on the Prohibition ticket. In May 1898 Sharpless received the Prohibition nomination for Congress at the party's state convention held in Harrisburg. In that year's congressional election Sharpless was one of several candidates vying for the seat and on election day in November 1898 received 47,543 votes, compared to Republican candidate Galusha Aaron Grow's winning total of 532, 898.
   Following his run for Congress Sharpless continued active involvement with his creameries and in 1912 served as a Presidential Elector on the Progressive Party or "Bull Moose" ticket. He was also affiliated with the Charter National Bank of Media, Pennsylvania, serving as its director. Sharpless died in Concord on July 22, 1935 at age 83. He was survived by his wife Anna, who, following her death three years later, was interred alongside him at the Cumberland Cemetery at Media, Pennsylvania. 

From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 1935.