|J. N. Ireland. H. T. French photo.|
Many Marylanders had strong southern sympathies when the Civil War broke out. Ireland’s reminiscences give no indications, but it seems he might not have wanted to “take sides,” because he emigrated west in 1862. The wagon train he joined split in the vicinity of Old Fort Hall. Ireland stayed with the part that headed for Montana.
Joseph enjoyed considerable success in the Montana gold fields, starting near Bannack (15-20 miles west of today’s Dillon). Then, in the summer of 1863, they got word of major discoveries in Alder Gulch. Within a month of the discovery, stampeders, Ireland among them, founded the town of Virginia City. Ireland later recalled how difficult it could be to keep what one had earned: “There was no law in the country. … Highwaymen were numerous, even operating by day.”
Ireland was tough enough, and smart enough, to prosper despite the difficulties and danger. In late 1863, he and his partners traveled east and made a substantial bank deposit in Omaha. Joseph returned to Idaho the following spring and began building stagecoach stations under contract to Ben Holladay [blog, Aug 11].
By around 1870, cattle raising had taken root in eastern Idaho, so Ireland started a ranch in the general area of Fort Hall. In 1875, he moved his operation to near Malad City, where he would remain for thirty years. Two years later, he returned to Baltimore to marry his first wife. (He would be widowed in 1888, and remarry in 1905.)
In 1888, voters elected Joseph to the Territorial Council, a legislative body roughly equivalent to a state Senate. Four years later, he and some other prominent Malad City businessmen founded a new bank. Because Joseph was the oldest of the founders, they named the institution in his honor. About the same time, Ireland sold his ranch and moved into town full-time.
Around 1898, he invested in the First National Bank of Pocatello. When failing eyesight forced his retirement from day-to-day business in 1905, he moved to that city. Shortly after moving there, he joined with four other investors to found the American Falls Realty and Water Works Company.
|J. N. Ireland Bank, Malad, Idaho, ca. 1908. Photo courtesy of Ireland Bank.|
Today, the J. N. Ireland Bank company, still independent, operates about a dozen branch banks, mostly in small southeast Idaho towns. In fact, Pocatello is by far the largest city where they have banks, and the company has two branches there.
|References: [Blue] [French]|
|J. N. Ireland Bank, Home Page.|