|Mark Twain, 1867.|
Library of Congress.
William also went into Nevada politics, serving in the Territorial and then State House of Representatives. There, he became known as an outstanding speaker, soon earning praise as “the silver tongued orator of the west.”
He then practiced law, served in political offices, and invested in mining properties in Montana and Dakota Territories, as well as around Denver. In 1871-1873, he served Montana Territory as Delegate to Congress. (Delegates have no vote on the floor, but can serve on committees and vote on issues at that level.) While there, he introduced the bill that would eventually result in the creation of Yellowstone National Park.
In 1873-1874, he held an appointment as a U. S. Special Counsel to investigate possible fraud in the Office of Indian Affairs for Montana. However, he failed to accomplish much in that position. Newspaper reports of the day suggest that backroom politics thwarted his most diligent efforts.
Clagett practiced law in several mountain west towns, including Denver and Deadwood, Dakota Territory, before gold and silver discoveries in the Coeur d’Alene region brought him to Idaho in 1883. According to the Illustrated History of North Idaho, “Mr. Clagett’s cabin was the first one put up in Murray.” [Blog, Murray, March 5.]
When residents of Idaho Territory convened their Constitutional Convention in 1889, delegates selected Clagett as Convention President. After that, newspaper reports from the convention began referring to “Judge” Clagett, an honorary title he carried for the rest of his life. (There is no record that he served any regular judgeship.)
After Idaho achieved statehood, Clagett became involved in a nasty political dispute with regard to the new state’s first Senatorial seats. Voting together (technically a violation of the legally mandated procedure) the state House and Senate elected Fred T. Dubois to a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate.
|Judge Clagett. Library of Congress.|
Clagett ran again when the other Senatorial seat came up for a vote, but lost. The Illustrated History said, “Friends and foes alike unite in believing he was too uncompromising to succeed in politics.”
After his election disappointments, Clagett moved to Spokane to enjoy its more civilized amenities. (Such a move was common practice for well-off pioneers from the Coeur d’Alene mining districts.) He died there in August 1901.
|References: [Hawley], [Illust-North]|
|“Clagett is Very Hopeful,” The New York Times (May 23, 1891).|
|“William H. Clagett,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.|
|“Old Friends of the Late Judge Clagett Speak … ,” The Standard, Anaconda, Montana (August 11, 1901).|