Judge I.G. Denny, portrait from the Nov. 30, 1941 Butte, Montana Standard.
The inaugural posting for 2015 takes us out west to Montana and one "I.G." Denny of the city of Butte. After discovering that his rather hard-to-find initials stood for "Iullus Greenleaf", I immediately set to work trying to locate a picture of the man. After what seemed like hours of searching a 1941 edition of the Butte, Montana Standard yielded the above portrait of Mr. Denny, looking quite intense and grumpy! Facial expression not withstanding, "I.G." Denny (as most sources refer to him) was a prominent lawyer and political figure in Montana during the early years of the 20th century, serving as Missoula County prosecuting attorney. Shortly before his passing in 1925 Denny served one term in the Montana House of Representatives and in 1924 was an unsuccessful aspirant for Governor of Montana.
Denny's story begins with his birth on May 19, 1859 in Bethel, Polk County, Oregon, being one of seven children born to Aaron (1823-1903) and Almyra King Denny (1826-1892), who had migrated to the Oregon territory from Indiana. As mentioned earlier, nearly every available source on Denny's life records him by his initials, excepting his biography in 1913's A History of the Montana Vol. 3, which denotes his first and middle names as "Iullus Greenleaf." His first name also has a slight variation in spelling, being given as "Iulius".
As the son of pioneer settlers in the Oregon territory, I.G. Denny was "reared to the study discipline of the pioneer farm" and commenced his education in the village school of Bethel, Oregon. After unsuccessfully applying for enrollment at West Point Denny enrolled at the University of Oregon, where he studied for one year. He would leave that school to begin the study of law in the offices of Daly and Butler, where he remained for about a year. Denny would decide upon a career in law during this time and would earn his law degree from Willamette University at Salem, Oregon in the class of 1888.
Soon after graduating Denny was admitted to the Oregon bar but within a short period decided to remove to Montana. He first settled in Ravalli County but later removed to Missoula, where he would enter "vigorously upon the practice of his profession." In the succeeding years Denny would gain a "substantial and lucrative practice" in his new home town and in 1889 made his first attempt to gain public office, being the Democratic candidate for Missoula County prosecuting attorney. He would be defeated for that office by Republican Frederick Webster by just two-hundred votes.
Denny made another run for Missoula County prosecuting attorney at the next election and was successful. He would serve a few more terms as county attorney (1899-1901 and 1901-1903) and was also headhunted by Montana Democrats to be a potential nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from his district. Denny had married in February 1892 to Beatrice Reynolds, to whom he was wed until her death in 1906. Two sons were born to them, Robert M. (born 1892) and Thomas R. (born 1894).
Sometime after his time as Missoula County attorney Denny relocated to Butte, Montana,. where he continued to practice law. Sources of the time also give note to the "I.G. Denny Law School" located in Butte. Sadly further information regarding this school remains at a minimum, although it receives prominent mention in a November 30, 1941 article on Denny featured in the Butte, Montana Standard. The Standard notes that he:
"Established what was believed to be the only private law school in the northwest, from which many Butte young men graduated and later were admitted to practice by the Supreme Court. His school was in his law offices on the Silver Bow block. Most of the classes were at night due to the fact that most of his pupils were employed during the day."
Despite the scant information available on the I.G. Denny Law School, it is known that it produced one notable graduate from its ranks, Dimitre A. Batchoff (1888-1968), who served as U.S. Marshal for the district of Montana from 1949-1953.
Late in his life Denny won election as one of Silver Bow county's representatives to the Montana General Assembly, serving in the session of 1923-24. He is recorded by the Big Timber Pioneer as having been one of the legislators to introduce a bill providing for the "appropriation of $15,000 for the construction of a tannery at the state penitentiary at Deer Lodge."In the 1924 election year I.G. Denny threw his hat in the ring in the race for Governor of Montana. As one of five candidates vying for the Democratic nomination during the primary season, Denny faced an uphill battle, and on primary election day placed fourth, garnering 6, 340 votes. The winner of the Democratic primary, John Edward Erickson (1863-1946), would go on to defeat Republican incumbent Joseph Dixon in November and began the first of three terms as Governor, later serving a short stint as U.S. Senator from 1933-34.
Following his unsuccessful bid for Governor Denny continued to practice law in Butte, and in early May 1925 became afflicted with appendicitis, which in turn necessitated an operation. Denny died shortly after undergoing the operation on May 16, 1925 at age 67. He had been preceded in death by his wife Beatrice and following his passing he was interred alongside her at the St. Patrick's Cemetery in Butte (note the misspelled first name on Denny's Find-A-Grave page!)
From the Billings Gazette, May 19, 1925.