|Governor Wallace. J.H. Hawley photo.|
Less than a week after its creation, President Abraham Lincoln appointed William H. Wallace as the Territory’s first governor.
Born about fifteen miles north of Dayton, Ohio, Wallace took up a law career in Indiana and moved to Iowa in 1837, at the age of twenty-six. He emigrated to Washington Territory in 1853 and became heavily involved in politics there. In 1861, Wallace was elected as Washington’s Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. (Territorial Delegates have no vote on the floor, but can serve on committees and vote on issues at that level.) By then, of course, Pierce had discovered gold in what would become Idaho [blog, Oct 2].
Wallace did not arrive in Idaho until four months after his appointment. Even then, he took his time getting started. But finally, he set the election date. Aside from Montpelier, which everyone thought was part of Utah, Idaho contained the tent city of Lewiston – the Territorial capital – and a host of rough mining camps.
|Idaho’s first Capitol, in Lewiston. J. H. Hawley photo.|
Historians Beal and Wells commented, “Idaho did not suffer from any lack of candidates for Delegate to Congress in the first territorial election.”
The list of ten or so included William H. Wallace: A return to Washington D.C. clearly appealed far more than presiding over an undeveloped and, truth be told, dangerous Territory.
With his recent experience as a Delegate, plus the visibility as Governor, Wallace soon distanced the field of Republican candidates. He received the nomination at a convention held in Mount Idaho.
During this period, large numbers of refugees and other discouraged Southerners – almost all of them Democrats – had begun to appear in Idaho. (Grant’s capture of Vicksburg in May 1863 convinced many that the Confederate caused was doomed.) Thus, people rather expected that the Democratic nominee, one John M. Cannady, would win handily.
That turned out to be a misread, for whatever reason. Some newcomers were not yet settled enough to participate in the election, and many had arrived too recently. (The Organic Act for the Territory stipulated that a man had to have been a resident when Congress passed the Act.) Wallace won with about 52 percent of the legitimate voters.
However, the election was marred by the infamous “Laramie Fraud.” Somehow the 50-100 eligible voters at Fort Laramie morphed into around 480 … almost all of whom voted for the Republican ticket. This blatant fabrication was angrily rejected by both political parties. Oddly enough, the perpetrator – Federal Marshal Dolphus S. Payne – apparently did it to further a personal agenda; he had no particular interest in helping Wallace.
No one thought Wallace had any involvement, so opponents did not challenge his election. On the other hand, he received no encouragement two years later when he expressed a desire for a second term.
|References: [B&W], [Hawley]|
|“Laramie Fraud,” Reference Series No. 154, Idaho State Historical Society.|
|“William Henson Wallace (1811-1879),” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, online.|