Saturday, October 31, 2020

Rolandus Aurelian Watkins (1853-1929)

Portrait from Vol. 5. of Wisconsin, Its Story and Biography, 1913.

  Endowed with an impressive set of sidewhiskers and an even more impressive name, Rolandus Aurelian Watkins was a Wisconsin based attorney who attained local distinction in Grant County, where he served as city attorney for Lancaster. A candidate for both houses of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Watkins also served on the Wisconsin Democratic State Central Committee, taking his seat in 1898. Born in Grant County on January 15, 1853, Rolandus Aurelian "R.A." Watkins was the son of Stephen and Florinda (Hirst) Watkins.
  Watkins attended local schools as a child, and his higher education "came entirely of the result of his own efforts and utilization of opportunity." He decided on a career as an attorney and first read law in the Lancaster-based firm of Bushnell and Clark. He was admitted to the bar in 1876 and for three years clerked in the above-mentioned law office, working directly with Allen Ralph Bushnell (1833-1909). Bushnell, a future U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, invited Watkins to join his firm in the early 1880s, with the firm changing its name to Bushnell and Watkins in 1882. The firm added a third partner, Herbert Moses, in 1895.
  Rolandus A. Watkins married in Lancaster in 1881 to Ellen Clark (1858-1926), to who he was wed for over four decades. The couple's union produced five children, Charles Stephen (1883-1960), Ralph Bushnell (1884-1962), Margaret Louise (birthdate unknown), Ellen (1891-1968), and John Clark (1894-1963).
  Recorded in Wisconsin, Its Story and Biography, as an active Democratic party worker in his region, Watkins is erroneously noted as having never sought public office "at any time." In 1898 Watkins announced his candidacy for the Wisconsin State Assembly from Grant County. After garnering the Democratic nomination, he was opposed by incumbent Republican Thomas McDonald, also of Lancaster. In November 1898 Watkins polled 1,435 votes but was defeated by McDonald, who polled 2,110 votes.  Despite this loss, Watkins rebounded politically that same year when he was named to the Wisconsin Democratic State Central Committee, as a representative from the 3rd district. In this capacity Watkins also served as chairman of the Grant County Democratic Committee, continuing in that post until at least 1912.
  Following his defeat for the assembly Watkins returned to practicing law and continued activity in the local Congregational Church, where he and his wife were longtime parishioners. He served as its Sunday School superintendent and also was a church deacon, secretary, and treasurer. In 1901 Watkins visited the Oklahoma Territory, where he purchased a land claim which he later turned into a  "fine farm of considerable value". Watkins and his family would later permanently remove to Oklahoma, where he died in 1929.

From the Lancaster Teller, September 26, 1912.

  In 1912 Watkins launched his candidacy for the Wisconsin state senate, and that September defeated Rollo Oscar Bremmer for the Republican nomination, polling 1,000 votes. In addition to his victory, Watkins could boast of spending less than ten dollars on campaign expenses! That November he faced off against Republican Robert Glenn, and although he faired better than in his previous legislative run (polling 5,920 votes), it was Glenn who emerged victorious.
  Four years after his state senate run Rolandus Watkins began preparations to remove with his family to Oklahoma. Shortly before their move in December 1916 the family was feted with a reception by a number of prominent Lancaster citizens. Through early 1917 Watkins continued to "tie up the odds and ends" of his law practice in Lancaster before resettling in Lawton, where he engaged in farming. Watkins died at the home of his  daughter Nellie in Okemah, Oklahoma on October 10, 1929, aged 76. He was predeceased by his wife Ellen, and both were interred at the Highland Cemetery in Lawton. 

From the Madison Capital Times, October 25, 1929.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Jaynes Bailey Wheeler (1853-1910)

From the Men of Progress, Wisconsin, 1897.

  The Strangest Names In American Political History makes its first stop in Wisconsin for 2020 to highlight the life of Jaynes Bailey Wheeler. So far the only "Jaynes" discovered by this author, Wheeler was a transplant to Wisconsin from Vermont, and after being admitted to practice law established himself in Walworth County. He would win a term as District Attorney for Walworth County in the early 1880s and later served thirteen years as county judge. The son of Lyman Blandin (1825-1870) and Sally (Johnson) Wheeler (1826-1878), Jaynes Bailey Wheeler was born in Pawlet, Vermont on February 28, 1853.
  A student in schools local to Pawlet, Wheeler pursued a career in law at an early age, enrolling at the Albany Law School in late 1873. He graduated in 1875 and shortly thereafter relocated to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where he was admitted to the state bar. In 1877 he formed a law practice with H.E. Smith, which extended nearly a decade, and on April 24, 1879, married Ella Shaw (1857-1899). The couple were wed until Ella's death and had two childrenMargaret (1880-1948) and James Blaine (1883-1933).
   Active in several fraternal organizations in Walworth County, Wheeler was a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, the International Order of Oddfellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Knights Templar Masons. In 1879 he entered politics with his successful run for district attorney of Walworth County, serving from 1880-1882. In 1885 he was elected as county judge on the non-partisan ticket, succeeding Peter Golder, who had served nearly thirty years in office. Wheeler took his seat on the bench in January 1886 and won a second term in 1889. In 1893 the voters returned him for a third term, and in 1897 won a fourth term, this win being "a most conclusive evidence of Judge Wheeler's efficiency in office, and of his personal popularity."
  Jaynes Wheeler resigned the judgeship in January 1899, and by February had removed back to Vermont. Settling in Rutland, Wheeler assumed the post of associate director of his family's fertilizer business, the M.E. Wheeler and Co. Headed by his brother Marcellus Edgar (1850-1927), the company was remarked as one of the largest fertilizer dealers in the United States, with "over five thousand agents" scattered throughout the country. 
  Several months following his return to Vermont Wheeler suffered the loss of his wife of twenty years, Ella. Two years after her death he remarried to Elizabeth J. Murray (1872-1958), with who he had one son, Murray Jaynes Bailey Wheeler (1902-1984). The couple was wed until Wheeler's death from pneumonia on April 14, 1910, aged 57. Following his death, he was entombed in the Wheeler family mausoleum at the Evergreen Cemetery in Rutland, Vermont.

From the Bennington Evening Banner, April 16, 1910.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Delazon Delimer Holdridge (1834-1919)

From the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, December 21, 1898.

  On a shortlist of political figures who've left their mark in two different states, Delazon Delimer Holdridge was a native of New York who found his business and political fortunes in Iowa and South Dakota. After settling in Iowa in the early 1860s Holdridge established a law practice in the city of Independence and was later elected as its mayor for two terms. Holdridge would be elected to one term in the Iowa House of Representatives from Buchanan County, and in 1881 removed to South Dakota. In the years following his settlement, he attained political prominence through his service as state's attorney for both Miner and Lake County, and in 1898 was elected to a term in the South Dakota House of Representatives.
  Born in Madison County, New York on September 4, 1834, Delazon Delimer Holdridge was the son of Merrill (1802-1841) and Perlina Baldwin (Harp) Holdridge (1808-1894).  Holdridge's first name has a variation in spelling, being given as Delazon and Dilazon. However, his headstone in South Dakota records the spelling as "Dilazon", a spelling that can be found in the 1870 U.S Census, the 1915 South Dakota state census, and the U.S. Veteran's Bureau pension card file. Holdridge's birth year is variously given as 1833 and 1834, with his headstone denoting the latter year. His full name is recorded as "Delazon Delimer Holdridge" in volume three of South Dakota, Sui Generis; published in 1931, and it is that spelling given here.
  Holdridge's early education was obtained in his county's public schools, and at a local academy. He went on to enroll at the Oneida Conference Seminary (later known as the Cazenovia College) and graduated in 1857. He decided to pursue a career in law, and after a period of study under future Madison County district attorney Delos W. Cameron, entered the Albany Law School. He graduated in 1860 and was shortly thereafter admitted to the New York bar. In March 1859 Holdridge married Louisa A. Loomis (1835-1929), to who he was wed for nearly sixty years. The couple had four children, including Mary Baldwin (1861-1941) and Herbert Harry (1871-1952).
  After being admitted to practice Holdridge elected to follow a teaching career, and for a brief period (1861) was head of the Union Schools of Cazenovia. In 1862 he and his family removed to Independence, Iowa, where he established a law practice. Within a year of his settlement Holdridge had gained a foothold in Buchanan County social circles, and in 1863 was put forward as a candidate for the Iowa House of Representatives. At the Union County Republican Convention in August of that year, Holdridge won the nomination, and that November was elected.
  Taking his seat in January 1864, he was named to the committees on Engrossed Bills and the Judiciary, and at the close of that year's session in April joined in the ongoing war effort, being named as Quartermaster of the 46th Reg., Iowa Volunteer Infantry. His service extended 100 days and was mustered out with the rank of first lieutenant. After returning to Iowa he continued with his law practice, and in August 1866 served as a delegate to the Republican Convention for Iowa's Ninth Judicial District. A later report on his life, published in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, details his service as city attorney for Independence for four years but fails to relate when he may have served.
  In 1874 Holdridge returned to politics when he sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Representative from Iowa's 3rd district. Though he failed to make it past that year's primary, he "at once aided his most fortunate competitor", Lucien L. Ainsworth, in the latter's successful campaign for Congress. Though his congressional aspirations came to naught, Holdridge received a measure of consolation in March 1875 when he was elected as Mayor of Independence. He would be reelected in 1876, and in March 1877 was narrowly defeated for a third term by Democrat Oliver Hazard Perry Roszell.
   The Holdridge family left Iowa for South Dakota in 1881, first settling in Howard, Miner County. His residence there extended a decade and quickly immersed himself in the county's political scene, being elected as president of the Howard school board. In March 1882 he was elected secretary of the Dakota Eighth Judicial District Republican Convention, and two years later won election as temporary chairman of the Territorial Republican Convention held in Pierre. His service at the convention brought him into contact with another curiously named figure, Visscher Vere Barnes (profiled earlier this month), who served as a convention secretary
  In the 1880s Holdridge entered into a four-year stint as district attorney for Miner County, and in 1891 removed with his family to Madison in Lake County. He operated a law practice with his son Herbert and again advanced to the front rank in local politics, being elected as police justice for Madison around 1892. In November 1898 he was elected as one of two Lake County representatives to the South Dakota state legislature and took his seat in January 1899. Prior to taking his seat Holdridge was mentioned as a potential candidate for speaker of the house but was ultimately passed over for that position. He was named to the committees on penal institutions and municipal corporations and chaired the committee on the judiciary. 

From the Madison Daily Leader, January 9, 1899.

  Holdridge's term concluded in 1901 and in 1906 was elected to a four-year term as state's attorney for Lake County, which was to begin in January 1907. In a curious twist, he succeeded his son Herbert, who had served a four-year term in that post beginning in 1903. Following his term, Holdridge continued with his practice in Madison and just hours before his death appeared in court in the city with a client. On the evening of February 27, 1919, Holdridge died at the home of son Herbert, while resting in a "large comfort chair". Death was attributed to a "sudden stroke of paralysis or violent heart trouble." He was survived by his wife and three children and was later interred at the Graceland Cemetery in Madison, South Dakota.

From the Madison Daily Leader, March 3, 1919.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Herbrand Langeberg Olson (1845-1926)

Portrait from the History of  Mitchell and Worth County, Iowa.

   Another in a long line of Norwegian natives profiled here, Herbrand Langeberg Olsen immigrated to the United States with his family at an early age, and first settled in Wisconsin. Following his relocation to Worth County, Iowa, he began a career in farming that extended through the remainder of his life. During his eighty years, Olson cultivated a reputation as a hardworking citizen and earned positions of public trust in his community, serving as township supervisor and school board treasurer. In 1903 he won election to the Iowa House of Representatives from Worth County, serving one term.
  The son of Ole and Gertie Olson (surname also spelled Oleson), Herbrand Langeberg Olson was born in Nes, Hallingdal, Norway on January 27, 1845. Left fatherless at an early age, Olson immigrated with his mother and family across the Atlantic and reached Quebec, Canada after a nine-week journey. The family then traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin before establishing roots in Rock County. Olson's formative years were spent there and in 1855 saw his mother remarry to Ole Peterson. The family removed to Worth County, Iowa the following year, where Olson worked at farming and was a student in the district school. 
  In 1862 Olson joined in the ongoing war effort, enlisting in Co. B., 32nd Iowa Infantry. His service extended several months and was honorably discharged in March 1863 in Tennessee due to health concerns. He returned to his family's farm upon the conclusion of his service, and in 1864 removed to the town of Brookfield, where he established his own farm. In April 1868 he married Ragnhild Olsdatter Mickelson (1843-1925), whose name is misspelled in the 1918 History of Mitchell and Worth Counties as "Maranda Mekkelson". The couple's marriage extended nearly sixty years and produced several children, Gertie, Augustina (1872-1897), Olena (1871-1909), Amelia, Ole, Amelia (1881-1961), and Carl (died in infancy).
  Following his marriage Olson continued farming in Brookfield, owning a "very productive tract of land" with "fields carefully and systematically cultivated". He would hold membership in the G.A.R. chapter and with his family attended the local Norwegian Lutheran Church. Before his service in state government, Olson held several local political offices, including county supervisor, town clerk, trustee, and for fourteen years was school treasurer for Brookfield. In the early 1900s, he served as president of the Farmer's Mutal Insurance Company of Worth County, his full dates of service being unknown at this time.
  In 1903 Olson made the jump into state politics, announcing his candidacy as an independent republican for the Iowa House of Representatives. In the weeks following his announcement Olson's character was highlighted in editions of the Forest City Summit and the Lake Mills Graphic, with the latter noting that he was "universally respected, and no lisp against his integrity was ever raised or ever will be, we believe."

From the Lake Mills Graphic, October 7, 1903.

  In November 1903 Olson defeated his opponent, Andrew Miller, by nearly 600 votes, and took his seat in January 1904. The 1904-06 session saw Olson appointed to the following committees: the Agricultural College and Farm, Agriculture, Claims, Congressional Districts, County and Township Organization, Labor, Military Affairs, Penitentiaries, and the Soldiers and Sailors Home.
  After leaving the statehouse Olson and his wife resided in Northwood, Iowa. In 1925 he traveled to Minneapolis, Minnesota to take part in the Norse-American Centennial, and was selected as an honorary bodyguard to President Calvin Coolidge. Widowed in March 1925, Olson survived his wife by one year, dying after weeks of ill health on December 30, 1926. Both he and his wife were interred at the Elk Creek Lutheran Cemetery in Kennett, Iowa.

From the Northwood Anchor Index, December 30, 1926.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Amplias Hale Avery (1870-1950)

Portrait from the Iowa Red Book, 1931-32.

   Nine-term Iowa state representative Amplias Hale Avery rose to become a beloved figure in his adopted home city of Spencer, where he served as mayor and city school superintendent. Familiarly known as "Dad", Avery was a well-known civic leader in his community and attained further prominence in the Masonic fraternity, holding memberships in several lodges in his state. A native of Wisconsin, Amplias Hale Avery was born in Richwood, Richland County on May 20, 1870, the son of Alden Hale and Sarah (Otto) Avery. Unique in name, Avery is the first and only "Amplias" this author has located. Amplias (or its Latin counterpart, Ampliatus) is of biblical origin, recorded in Romans 16:8 as a Roman Christian greeted by the Apostle Paul.
   Avery resided on a farm during childhood, with his early education being obtained in the rural schools of his region. He was left parentless at the age of nine, with he and his six siblings being "parceled out" to various neighbors. It was Avery himself who was deposited in the hands of an "unfeeling old man", who proved a stern taskmaster. Avery was subjected to long hours of chores and verbal abuse for over a year before running away to seek his way in the world. Despite being just twelve years old, Avery traveled, lived, and worked upon several farms over the next few years, accumulating enough income to finally remove to Iowa. Locating at Osage, he enrolled at the Cedar Valley Seminary, and "worked his way through school" over four years, holding various jobs during his stay. 
   Shortly before graduating Avery saw a bright future for himself in South Dakota, and after settling in Aberdeen pursued a law degree. He supplemented his income by teaching in a country school and following the financial panic of 1893 elected to pursue a teaching career full time. After a year in Aberdeen, he removed to Ashton (residing here three years) and later removed to Woonsocket, where for seven years he was a school principal. Amplias Avery married in December 1888 to Grace Cornwall (1871-1915). The couple had one daughter, Theta Bell (1889-1965), and separated in the late 1890s. In 1899 he remarried to Grace Dunham (1878-1972), to who he was wed until his death. Their union produced three children, Margaret (1902-1931), Alden Dunham (1908-1994), and Barbara (1918-2011).
   In 1901 Amplias Avery was offered the post of principal of a high school in Spencer, Iowa, and after accepting relocated to the city that became his home for the next forty-nine years. He served as principal for one year, and following the resignation of the city school superintendent, succeeded to that post. He served thirteen years and during that time oversaw four schools in Spencer. His tenure was lauded in the 1909 History of Clay County, Iowa, noting that:
"During his incumbancy as superintendent he has introduced many substantial improvements in teaching and also in the branches taught. His labors are at all times practical and he inspires the teachers under him with much of his own his zeal and interest in the work."
  After stepping down as superintendent Avery undertook a career change and entered into the life insurance business. He advanced quickly and by the time of his entering politics had become the sales manager for "one of the largest life insurance companies operating in Iowa." Avery also owned three farms in the vicinity of Spencer, and engaged in Chautauqua work, organizing assemblies in Kossuth County. Avery also proved instrumental in the founding of the Spencer library, and sat on its board of trustees until his death. A longstanding Mason both before and after his settlement in Iowa, Avery had been a Worshipful Master of the Woonsocket Lodge #33 of Free and Accepted Masons, and in Iowa held memberships in the following:
  • The Evening Shade Lodge #312 of Free and Accepted Masons
  • Clay Chapter #112 Royal Arch Masons (served as High Priest)
  • Temple Council #37 of Royal and Select Masters (past Illustrious Master)
  • Asotus Commandry #65, Knights Templar (past Commander)
  • Sioux City Consistory#5 Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite 
  • A founder of the Spencer DeMolay Chapter in 1922.
From the Spencer Reporter, March 31, 1926.

   Amplias Hale Avery made his first foray into politics in 1924, announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination for state senator from the 47th district. Acknowledged as "well known and time tried" by the Kossuth County Advance, Avery's opponent that year was William J. Breakenridge, president of the Kossuth County Farm Bureau. Breakinridge defeated Avery in the Republican primary and went on to win the general election, later serving two consecutive terms in the senate.
  Undeterred, Avery continued plotting his political future and in 1926 entered into the race for mayor of Spencer. In March he defeated incumbent William Ziegler Long by 55 votes and during his term was elected as president of the Iowa League of Municipalities for 1926-27. Avery was defeated for reelection in March 1928, placing third in a field of four candidates. 
  Two years following his term as mayor Avery set his sights on a seat in the state legislature, and in June 1930 won the Republican primary. In the general election, he defeated W.J. Heikens by a vote of 2,217 to 1,754 and took his seat in January 1931. Avery proved to be busy as a first-term legislator, being named to the Committees on Appropriations, Cities and Towns, Conservation and Resources, Dairy and Food, Fish and Game, Insurance, and Roads and Highways. As the first session of the legislature came to a close in April 1931, Avery's  work was profiled in the Spencer News-Herald, which noted:
"In political affiliations in the legislature, Mr. Avery maintained the position of an independent Republican, being affiliated with no group or faction. As a result he was enabled to meet with and cooperate with almost every faction of the house during the term and advance Clay County's cause through his connections with all blocs."
From the 1939-40 Iowa Red Book.

      In addition to his committee service, Avery supported seventeen of the twenty major pieces of legislation passed by the house during the 1931 session. Amongst these measures were the following:
  • Supported the State Road bond constitutional amendment.
  • Supported the inheritance tax increase.
  • Supported oleomargarine tax increase.
  • Supported a 5% tax cut by all levying bodies.
  • Supported a twenty-five-year conservation program.
  • Supported a state senate redistricting bill.
  • Fought against the state purchase of interstate bridges.
  • Fought against state control of telephone and telegraph lines.
  • Fought against the appropriation of $50,000 for an Iowa exhibit at the 1933 World's Fair, "on the grounds that it was an excessive outlay of tax money."
   Avery reflected on the camaraderie of the house at the close of the session, noting that he was:
"Most impressed by the honest and sincerity of the majority of the members of the house to act and vote in accordance with their honest convictions of what was the best for the state of Iowa. Honest disposition of all matters seemed to be the first consideration on the part of the majority, no matter how determined the opposition."

  In the June 1932 Republican primary Avery was defeated for reelection but was not out of the political spotlight for long. Due to the resignation of fellow Clay County representative Frank Wenig, a special election was held in September 1933 to fill his seat. Avery entered the race and was elected that September, and two years later won a third term, defeating Democrat Roy S. LaBrant by a vote of 2,812 to 2,077. These terms saw Avery named to four new house committees, including the Judiciary, Military Affairs, Public Health, and Public Utilities, and in November 1936 lost his reelection bid to Democrat Thomas I. Kephart.

From the 1947-48 Iowa Red Book.

   Amplias Avery was returned to the legislature for a fourth term in November 1938, besting J. Russell Cook by a vote of 2,858 to 2,317. The 1939-41 term saw Avery chair the committee on Public Libraries and sat on two new committees, Old Age Assistance and Telegraphs and Express. He subsequently won reelection to five more terms in the house (1940, 1942, 1944, 1946, and 1948), and during the 1943-45 session served as speaker pro tem of the house. 
  Acknowledged as the dean of the house in his final years of service, Avery celebrated his 80th birthday in May 1950 and that July was named "Tops In Our Town" by the citizens of Spencer. In November 1950 he took ill and collapsed at his home in Spencer, and on December 7 died at the Spencer Municipal Hospital. He was survived by his wife Grace and two of his children and was interred at the Riverside Cemetery in Spencer.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Tancred Burdette Thorson (1898-1949), Tancred Peter Blain (1868-1918)

From the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, December 31, 1931.
    Although he lived to just fifty-one years old, Tancred Burdette 'Ted" Thorson figured prominently in South Dakota law circles for over twenty years. A graduate of the University of South Dakota, Thorson served as state's attorney for Brule County and was afterward appointed as special counsel for the state banking department. In the 1930s he was again elected state's attorney (this time for Pennington County)  and also gained distinction in two decidedly non-political areas: polo-playing and show horses. Thorson was severely injured in 1949 after being struck by a vehicle in  Rapid City and succumbed to his injuries several days later. 
  Born in Cabery, Illinois on February 18, 1898, Tancred Burdette Thorson was the son of Thor Endreson (1855-1927) and Helen (Gaard) Thorson (1870-1959), both natives of Norway. The family removed to South Dakota during Thorson's childhood, where he grew up "on a farm northeast of Centreville." He would graduate from the Canton High School in Lincoln County, where he won first prize in an April 1916 oratorical contest, speaking on "The Injustice of Justice." 
  Following graduation, Thorson pursued a law degree at the University of South Dakota Law School. After graduating in the early 1920s he removed to Kimball in Brule County, where he established his practice. He married in 1921 to Bernice Margaret Byrnes (1897-1970), to who he was wed until his death. The couple would be childless. 
  Thorson quickly advanced to the front rank amongst the lawyers in his community, and in 1922 was elected to the first of two terms as state's attorney for Brule County. He served from 1923-27, and in October of the last-named year was appointed as special counsel for the state banking department in Pierre. Thorson's appointment necessitated his removal to South Dakota's capital, where he was acknowledged as "one of the youngest men ever hold a major official position in the state government". His time as special counsel extended four years, and on January 1, 1931, he resigned to return to private practice in Rapid City, where he specialized in criminal cases. 

From the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, December 31, 1931.

  After leaving the state banking department Thorson wasn't out of the political spotlight for long, and in November 1932 was elected as state's attorney for Pennington County. He served two back to back terms from 1933-37 and was succeeded by Charles H. Whiting. He continued in private practice after leaving office and gained additional repute through his musical and horsing interests. 
  Remarked in his Rapid City Journal obituary as "one of the few polo players in the state", Thorson had a lifelong interest in horses and in addition to polo owned several show horses, participating in the West River Horse Show and the Black Hills Range Days rodeo. He was also musically inclined, founding a civic choral club in Rapid City and held memberships in the Elks Male Chorus and the Trinity Lutheran Church choir. 
  Thorson continued his law practice in Rapid City until May 1949. On the night of May 5, he was severely injured while crossing the street in downtown Rapid City during a rainstorm. While crossing, Thorson ran into the side of a panel truck driven by local businessman Grover Ru'we and was struck by the truck's rear fender. He was thrown to the pavement where he sustained cranial injuries and was transported to a hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. Thorson succumbed to his injuries at the hospital on May 15, 1949, aged 51, and was survived by his wife Bernice. Following her death in 1970, Bernice Thorson was interred alongside her husband at the Mountain View Cemetery in Rapid City.

"Ted" Thorson, from the Rapid City Journal, January 16, 1940.

From the Deadwood Pioneer Times, May 16, 1949.

From the 1905 South Dakota Legislative Manual.

   Prior to Tancred Thorson's political activity, another South Dakotan with that curious first name entered public office. That man was Tancred Peter Blain, a resident of Redfield. Like Tancred Thorson, Blain's early life began in Illinois, being born in Kankakee County in November 1868. The son of Nazaire and Marie Louise Blain, his formative education was obtained in Illinois, and in 1882 he removed with his family to Spink County, South Dakota.
  Following his family's resettlement, Blain continued his schooling and later enrolled at the South Dakota Agricultural College at Brookings. By 1895 he was residing in Redfield, and in that year was awarded a patent for "a combined tongue and thills", utilized in farming equipment. Blain married in the early 1890s to Alberta Estella Bull (1872-1942), with who he had two daughters, Gleva Lucille (1894-1964) and Gladys Augusta (born 1896).
  Blain made his first foray into local politics in 1890, when he assumed the post of deputy clerk of courts for Spink County. He served until January 1895 and continued in public service with his appointment as assistant engrossing and enrolling clerk of the state house of representatives.
  Active in banking concerns in his region, Blain became cashier of the First State Bank of Ashton, South Dakota in December 1901, and was for many years a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. His membership in that organization saw him designated receiver for its grand lodge in South Dakota, a post he occupied for several years. 
  In November 1904 Blain was elected as one of two Spink County representatives to the South Dakota state legislature, and during his term became vice president of the state bank of Ashton. In his last year in office, Blain announced his candidacy for state treasurer. Hoping to garner the nomination at the Republican state convention in June 1906, Blain's candidacy didn't extend past the June primary, with victory going to Charles H. Cassill. Cassill went on to win the general election and served as treasurer from 1907-09.
  In the years following his defeat for treasurer Blain continued in business in his native Redfield, being secretary of both the Blain Lumber Co. and the Blain Automobile Co. In 1912 he was an unsuccessful candidate for alternate delegate to that year's Republican National Convention, with little else being known of his life after this date. Blain died aged 49 on June 10, 1918, in Minnesota, and was survived by his wife and children. He was returned to South Dakota for burial at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Redfield.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Karelius Nelson (1868-1937)

From the Sisseton Weekly Standard, October 23, 1914.

  From North Dakota, we journey to that state's southern neighbor to highlight the life of Karelius Nelson, a Swedish native who was elected to three terms in the South Dakota House of Representatives. Following his resettlement in the United States, Nelson resided in Minnesota, where he farmed, and later engaged in railroad work. After migrating to Roberts County, South Dakota he entered into the grain elevator business and before his legislative service was elected as Roberts County clerk of courts. The son of Nils and Karin Nelson, Karelius Nelson was born in Varmland, Sweden on May 2, 1868. 
  Nelson's formative years were spent in Sweden, where he attended public school. He later took a special course in mathematics. At age eighteen he left Sweden for a new life in the United States, and first settled in Minnesota. For the next several years he worked at farming and on the railroads, and in 1892 removed to Roberts County, South Dakota. Here he established a farm, which, by the turn of the 19th century consisted of "three hundred acres of fine land." Nelson returned to Minnesota in October 1894 to marry Maria Sophia Erickson (1863--1941), to who he was wed for forty-three years. The couple would have seven children, Cora (1895-1987), Mamie Edith (1897-1988), Carl Arthur (1898-1962), Ruth Mabel (1900-2001), Agnes (1902-1929), Karin (1905-1921), and Nels Gottfred (1909-2000).
  For the majority of his life, Nelson followed farming in Roberts County and entered the business sector of his community with his time as secretary of the White Rock Telephone Company. He also entered the grainery business, being the secretary of the Farmer's Elevator Company in Rosholt. He was active in the Lutheran Church and entered local politics when he was elected as a township supervisor. He later won terms as a school clerk and justice of the peace, and in 1914 entered into the race for Roberts County clerk of courts. He proved successful at the polls and was elected that November, and went on to win a second term in 1916.

From the 1919 South Dakota Legislative Manual.

    In 1918 Karelius Nelson announced his candidacy for the South Dakota House of Representatives, and in November was elected. Taking his seat at the start of the 1919-21 term, he was named to the committees on Appropriations, Dairy Products, and Statistics. In November 1920 Nelson won a second term, and from 1921-23 served on the same four committees from the previous session.
  Following his second term, Nelson was affiliated with the Rosholt Community Bank as a director, and in 1930 won a third term in the statehouse. Little else is known of Nelson's life after the completion of his term in 1933, except notice of his death on February 15, 1937, in Breckinridge, Minnesota. Nelson was survived by his wife Maria, who, following her death in 1941, was interred alongside him at the St. Joseph Cemetery in Rosholt, South Dakota.

From the South Dakota State Manual, 1931.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Thorstein Hartvig Haugen Thoreson (1885-1956)

From the Bismarck Tribune, September 23, 1933.

  An important name in North Dakota politics in the first half of the 20th century, the plentifully named Thorstein Hartvig Haugen Thoresen was a native of Norway who, following immigration to the United States, found distinction through public service in his adopted state of North Dakota. A former state's attorney, state tax commissioner, and candidate for attorney general and governor, Thoresen would serve one term as Lieutenant Governor and for four years was the mayor of Grand Forks. In the twilight of his career, Thoreson re-emerged on the political stage, announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senator from North Dakota in the 1950 Republican primary.
  While largely consigned to history's dustbin in the decades since his death, Thoresen's political career extended over four decades and was frequently featured in editions of the Bismarck Tribune, amongst other state newspapers. His life began in humble circumstances in Horten, Vestfold, Norway on December 9, 1885, one of nine children born to Thor Henrik (1843-1894) and Maren (Pedersdotter) Thoresen (1841-1904). He removed to the United States with his family while still a child and settled in Stoney Creek township in Grant County, Minnesota. His early education was obtained at St. Olaf's Academy in Northfield, Minnesota. He graduated in 1909, and in the following year relocated to Dunn County, North Dakota, where he farmed and taught school for a time. 
  Wanting to pursue a career in law, Thoresen enrolled at the University of North Dakota Law School in 1911. He continued there until the death of a brother necessitated his leaving school, and afterward took over management of his brother's farm in Ottertail County. He reentered the University of North Dakota in 1914 and graduated in the class of 1916. Thoresen had earlier married in Grant County, Minnesota on July 31, 1912, to Inga Mendine Vigen (1888-1951), to who he was wed for nearly forty years. The couple's union produced seven children, Cynthia Miranda (1913-1999), Theresa (born ca. 1915), Hans Vigen (1916-1979), Aurelia Mendine (1918-2003), Valborg A. (1922-2007), Thordis (1923-2012), and Shirley Lamoine (1924-1989). 
  Establishing his law practice in Dunn County, Thoresen quickly became active in the affairs of his community, being a member of the board of education and a trustee of the Normanna Lutheran Church. In 1916 he helped to found a 16 piece band in Dunn Center, of which he served as president. In the year following he was elected as treasurer of the Dunn County Bar Association, and in 1918 made his first move into politics when he announced his candidacy for state's attorney for Dunn County. He was elected that November and served two terms, 1919-1923.

From the Bismarck Tribune, February 26, 1925.

  By 1924 Thoreson had aspired to higher office, and at the Nonpartisan League convention held that February he received the nomination for state attorney general. Like other league candidates that year, Thoresen took to the campaign trail, giving addresses throughout the state touting the party's platform. On May 21, 1924, he delivered what was called the Nonpartisan League keynote address at McClusky, North Dakota, declaring "Let us clean our government of graft and corruption." In an address chronicled in the Bismarck Tribune, Thoresen further related that:
"Come join us in our fight for Democracy...Let businessmen, laborers, farmers and professional men join hands in this fight. It is a fight where all good citizens belong. Let us put this program over and demonstrate once and for all that we are going to rid ourselves of the shackles of industrial slavery which is sinking down thousands, yes millions, of good Americans every year."
  Throughout the year Thoresen continued to address large crowds, including a joint address with U.S. Senator Lynn Frazier at the Bismarck Auditorium that June. Opposing Thoreson that year was Republican nominee George Shafer (1888-1948), a former state's attorney for McKenzie County. On November 4 it was Shafer who emerged the winner, besting Thoreson by a vote of 95,638 to 70,022. Despite his defeat, Thoresen's name was later bolstered for state tax commissioner in the early part of 1925, and after being offered the post by Governor Arthur Sorlie, accepted.

From the Bismarck Tribune, July 1, 1929.

  Following conformation, Thoreson threw himself into his duties, and his four-year tenure in that post saw him acknowledged as "an indefatigable worker for the interests of the state." Thoresen and his staff were responsible for "the assessment of all state property, the collection of the state income tax and the state inheritance tax, in addition to the state, county, and local taxes." Upon his retirement from office in 1929, Thoreson reflected on his tenure, remarking:
"The first task I met, and the first thing that I saw needed, was to arouse the people generally and the officials of the state to get equality of assessment. There must be equality between taxpayers...The people are beginning to realize there is such as thing as far treatment between individuals. My idea was, and still is, that all taxpayers must pay, and that they will pay more willingly if they know all are paying alike. The work of the tax commission has doubled since I took office, probably because we have been too willing to work."
  While still the incumbent commissioner in February 1928, Thoreson attended the Nonpartisan League state convention, where his name was put forward for governor. He quickly led in the vote count, and after the third round of balloting, won the party's endorsement. Early in his candidacy Thoresen gained a firm backer in another oddly named political figure, state treasurer Chessmur Arlen Fisher, who was profiled here in September 2019. As both were serving in state government at the same time, the men grew to be friends and following Thoresen's nomination Fisher accompanied him to a campaign banquet in Lunds Valley, where both were guests of honor. Thoresen also made his first address there since winning nomination two months prior. 
  In June 1928, Thoresen (again accompanied by Fisher) joined with then-Governor Arthur Sorlie in a massive rally held in Rice Lake. Attended by over 6,000 people, Thoresen and Fisher spoke on "reviewing the state industries", and were both endorsed by Governor Sorlie, a fellow Nonpartisan League politician. Thoresen's gubernatorial opponent in that year's primary was George Shafer, the same man who had bested him four years previously for attorney general. Both candidates continued to stump the state through the next few weeks and on election day (June 27) it was Shafer who again won out, polling 9,000 more votes than Thoreson. Shafer went on to win the governorship in the general election and won a second term in 1930.

A Thoresen for Governor advertisement from the Bismarck Tribune, June 21, 1928.

   After Shafer was elected governor, Thoresen continued with his duties as state tax commissioner until his resignation in July 1929. He was succeeded by Shafer-appointee Iver Acker, and following his resignation continued residence in Bismarck, where he practiced law. In 1930 he and his family removed to Grand Forks, and in that year was briefly considered as a gubernatorial candidate, but withdrew his name from nomination during the February Nonpartisan League (NPL) convention. 
  Although not an elected official, Thoresen remained active in the affairs of the NPL, and in a June 1930 party address assailed the Shafer administration's handling of state financesIn 1932 Thoresen again announced a gubernatorial bid, beginning his candidacy that February in Grand Forks. Taking the Shafer administration and the legislature to task over wasteful spending, Thoresen remarked that "through legislation, the masses have been taxed for the benefit of the few and this brought on the depression." Unlike his 1928 candidacy, Thoresen's campaign didn't extend past March, when the NPL nominating convention chose William Langer as its gubernatorial nominee. Langer subsequently won the governorship that November.
  Not one to let a loss get the best of him, Thoresen launched a fourth gubernatorial bid in 1934. With William Langer in the hot seat due to alleged illegal campaign contributions, the camp of anti-Langer NPL delegates formally endorsed Thoreson for governor that March. He would hit the campaign trail once again in preparation for the June primary, and on election day lost out to Langer in a very lopsided contest, polling 47,380 votes to Langer's 113,027. Langer was subsequently removed from office a few weeks later by an act of the state supreme court, this extending from the financial impropriety that had dogged him throughout the campaign.

The Thoresen family, from the 1934 Bismarck Tribune.

    Thorstein H.H. Thoresen's political fortunes improved with his 1936 candidacy for Lieutenant Governor of North Dakota. That March he received the NPL endorsement for the nomination and that June won the primary. In November, Thoresen emerged the victor, beating Democratic nominee P.H. Costello by over 11,000 votes. Thoresen served from 1937-39 under Governor William Langer, who had been returned to the governor's chair in 1936, having been acquitted of the charges against him.
  Thoresen's political career continued on the upswing after his term as lieutenant governor concluded. Having returned to his law practice in Grand Forks, he successfully ran for mayor of that city in April 1940, defeating Democrat Ralph Lynch by a margin of 432 votes. His mayoralty extended until 1944, and during term served as both vice president (1942) and president (1943) of the Grand Forks County Bar Association
  In 1950 Thoresen made a final attempt at elective office when he entered the Republican primary race for U.S. Senator from North Dakota. Hoping to oust one-term incumbent Milton R. Young (1897-1983), Thoresen was dealt a 58,653 vote loss margin in the June primary. Young would go to win in the general election and was returned to the senate on four more occasions, retiring in 1981 after three decades of service.
  Following his senatorial defeat, Thoreson removed back to Bismarck and in 1951 suffered the death of his wife of nearly 40 years, Inga. He would remarry the following year to Elizabeth B. Earl, a native of Minneapolis. Thoresen continued prominence in his region during the final years of his life, being a member of the legislative department in the Office of Price Stabilization (1951-52), and in 1952 was appointed as an assistant attorney general for North Dakota. He continued residence in Bismarck until his death at a city hospital on April 16, 1956, at age 70. He was survived by his second wife and all of his children and was interred at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Grand Forks.

From the Bismarck Tribune, April 17, 1956.