Lemp emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1852, when he was just fourteen years old. Young John made his way to the Germany community in Louisville, Kentucky, where he found a position as a clerk. There, he learned to speak English, although he never lost a distinctive German accent. Starting in 1859, he tried his hand mining in Colorado. His efforts brought little success, so he hoped for better days in Idaho.
When Lemp’s party reached the Army site, they found two rude cabins and the tent-store run by Henry Riggs (July 6). Major Lugenbeel’s troopers were busy assembling a corral for their stock, and building a blacksmith shop and other structures. John figured he should check out the Boise Basin mines, so the group headed for Bannock City.
Later, Lemp said little about his time in the mining camps, but he soon returned to the little settlement that sprang up near Fort Boise. There, in 1864, he built a brewery to serve the usual thriving saloon trade. Lemp’s brewery became the basis for a growing range of property and business investments. The structure would remain the core of Lemp's financial empire for over forty years, until it was severely damaged by fire in 1905.
Lemp eventually had extensive real estate holdings in Boise, as well as over five thousand acres of ranch and farm property. He financed considerable development in the city, including the “Lemp Block” and various residential areas.
Lemp’s interests were not confined to his businesses. He served on the Boise City Council for around twenty years and had a term as Boise City Mayor starting in 1874.
Lemp was one of Idaho's first millionaires, and one of the wealthiest men in the Pacific Northwest upon his death in July 1912.
References: [French], [Illust-State]
Carolyn Thomas Foreman, “Colonel Pinkney Lugenbeel,” Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 24, No. 4, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City (1946).