Portrait from History of Idaho: The Gem of the Mountains, Vol. 4, 1920.
Despite being a state that has consistently refused to "play ball " when it comes to fielding unusually named political figures, Idaho has recently yielded three new strange name discoveries, all of whom were elected to the Idaho state legislature during the first half of the 20th century. The first of these men, Nona Benoni Carpenter, was unfortunately saddled with a very girly sounding first name, and after first locating the name I was under the assumption that I'd found a very early example of a woman winning a seat in the Idaho legislature. After further searching I was rewarded not only with Carpenter's middle name, but also the above portrait, and the following profile will be yet another example of a male political figure who "lucked" into getting a female first name!
A native of Wisconsin, Nona Benoni Carpenter was born in the city of La Crosse on June 7, 1873, the son of Menzo and Frances (Farley) Carpenter. Early in his life, Carpenter removed with his family to Minnesota, where his primary education occurred, and following his father's death resettled with his family in Oregon. Nona B. Carpenter married in that state in October 1896 to Bertha Galbraith (1878-1949), and the couple's near five-decade marriage saw the births of seven children, Oscar Frank (1897-1972), Walter, Bennie, Frances, Eunice (1908-2003), George and Ernest (1914-1962).
Carpenter was a resident of Oregon until 1898 when he permanently resettled in Idaho. Locating on the Nez Perce Indian reservation in Nez Perce County, Carpenter engaged in farming grain and raised cattle and hogs, owning a farming complex that spanned nearly 800 acres, 600 of which was under cultivation. He made his first foray into Idaho politics in 1918 when he was elected as a Republican to the Idaho House of Representatives, and during the 1919-20 session was named to the committees on Appropriations, Educational Institutions, and Fish and Game. This term would also see him chair the committee on School and Public Lands.
In November 1920 Carpenter won a second term in the legislature, and the 1921-22 session saw him named to two new legislative committees, those being Rules and Order of Business, and Waterways and Drainage. Carpenter's life following the conclusion of his second term remains a mystery, excepting notice of his death in Lewiston, Idaho on April 29, 1944. He was survived by his wife Bertha, and both were later interred at the Normal Hill Cemetery in Lewiston.