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, and 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.