Saturday, September 21, 2013

Governor Wallace Proclaims Legislative Districts for Idaho Territory

Marshal Dolphus S. Payne finally completed the first census for Idaho Territory around September 21, 1863. He did not count the Mormon towns near Bear Lake, which everyone thought were in Utah, but found over 32 thousand people. Over half of that total were located in Boise County and, at 6,275 people, Bannock City (on Mores Creek) was by far the largest town.

Placerville came next at 3,254, while Lewiston had a population of just 414. Almost all the inhabitants were men: there were just over a thousand women, and fewer than seven hundred children.

By the time the Marshal finished, Idaho Republicans had selected Governor Wallace as their candidate for the Delegate position, as noted for September 16. Democrats had narrowed their field down to Pioneerville merchant John M. Cannady.

With the census results in hand, Wallace laid out, by a proclamation on September 22, the legislative districts for the Territory. The area west of the Continental Divide and north of the Salmon River was designated as the first District. The region south of the Salmon and west of the Divide became the second District. And the area east of the Divide was the third District. This made geographic sense, but the apportionment that followed was bizarre.
Legislative Districts, 1863.
Highlighted on Historical Map.

The Organic Act stipulated that the “apportionment shall be made as nearly equal as practicable among the several counties or districts for the election of the council and representatives, giving to each section of the territory representation in the ratio of its qualified voters as nearly as may be.”

Instead, maintaining his seeming bias for Lewiston and the north, Wallace gave the first District three of the seven allotted Council members, even though it contained less than 10 percent of the voters. The third (eastern) District, which contained about 38 percent of the voters, got just two Council members, as did the second District with its 53 percent.

The same disproportion happened in the House. Although the Organic Act allowed for 13 Representatives, only 11 finally attended the session. Of these, four came from the northern counties, five from the south (over half the qualified voters, remember), and just two from the east side.

The Lewiston Golden Age announced a key part of the proclamation: “Governor Wallace has ordered the Territorial election to be held Saturday the 31st of October. At this election members of the Legislature and a Delegate to Congress are to be elected.”

Note: This is a small sample of the stories available in my latest book, Idaho Year One – The Territory's First Year, released by Sourdough Publishing.

References: [B&W], [Hawley]
“Census of 1863,” Reference Series No. 129, Idaho State Historical Society.

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