Illustrated History photo.
Admitted to the Kansas bar in 1874, he practiced there until 1887. Along with his practice, he served as Clerk of a District Court, and later as a County Attorney. Stockslager also became heavily involved in real estate and mining properties. Thus, he helped organize the mining town of Galena (just across the border from Joplin, Missouri) and was elected its Mayor in 1881.
In 1887, President Grover Cleveland appointed Stockslager to be Receiver for the U. S. Land Office in Hailey, Idaho. (The Receiver formally accepts the fees paid by homesteaders when they claim a tract of public land.) Three years later, voters elected him to be Judge of the Fourth Judicial District, which then encompassed much of south-central Idaho. He was reelected four years later, and then again in 1898.
Stockslager’s biographies do not mention that he owned any specific mining properties in Idaho; however, given his activities in Kansas, it’s probable that he did. He owned much other property, and was prominent enough in the sheep business to be selected as a Delegate-at-Large for Idaho at the 1900 Annual Convention of the National Live Stock Association.
As Fourth District Judge, Stockslager handled cases tried at Albion, then the county seat of Cassia County. Thus, in 1897, he presided at the trial of "Diamondfield Jack" Davis, accused of murdering sheepmen John Wilson and Daniel Cummings [blog, Feb 4 and others].
|Courthouse, Albion. Cassia County Historical Society.|
The prosecution's case was deeply flawed and totally circumstantial. The slugs that killed the sheepmen were .44 caliber; Jack owned only a .45 revolver. Moreover, most of the physical evidence had been grossly mishandled, and the State could not credibly place Davis at the scene of the crime. Nonetheless, the jury found Jack guilty. Stockslager then saw fit to sentence Jack to be hanged.
In 1900, the judge was elected to serve a six-year term on the Idaho Supreme Court, beginning in 1901. He therefore participated in an appeal review for Diamondfield Jack's case. Oddly enough, Stockslager did not recuse himself from the ruling. The appeal only bought more time: The court pushed back the hanging date. (In fact, the Idaho courts never did change Jack’s status. That was left [blog, Dec 17] to the Board of Pardons, a panel consisting of the governor, secretary-of-state, and attorney general.)
Stockslager ran unsuccessfully for Idaho governor in 1907 and tried, also unsuccessfully, for a U. S. Senate seat in 1909. Except for one more term as district judge, he engaged in private practice until his retirement. He died in March 1933.
|References: [Blue], [Hawley], [Illust-State]|
|William G. Cutler, History of the State of Kansas, A. T. Andreas, Chicago (1883).|
|David H. Grover, Diamondfield Jack: A Study in Frontier Justice, University of Nevada Press, Reno, Nevada (1968).|
|Charles F. Martin, Proceedings of the Annual Convention, Fort Worth, Texas, National Live Stock Association, Denver (1900).|