Sunday, February 12, 2017

Attorney, Developer, and Public Servant Albertus Freehafer [otd 02/12]

Attorney and legislator Albertus L. Freehafer was born February 12, 1868, in Mansfield, Ohio, about seventy miles southwest of Cleveland. After high school, he taught for three years, saving as much as he could.
Ohio Northern University, ca 1890.
Vintage postcard, Columbus Metropolitan Library.

With that “nest egg” and what he could earn during the summer, Albertus attended Ohio Northern University, then called Ohio Normal University. He graduated in 1893.

For three years, Freehafer served as a high school Superintendent in Ohio. He then began reading law with a firm in his home town. Albertus married in 1897, and served as a Deputy County Clerk while continuing his law office studies. However, in 1900, the couple and their year-old daughter moved to Scofield, Utah. There, Albertus worked as a school Principal while his wife, Olive, was a teacher.

After two years in Utah, the Freehafers moved to Council, Idaho, where Albertus again had a job as school Principal. Throughout this period, he studied law, and passed the Idaho bar exam in 1905. Albertus then quit his school job and opened a law office in Council. Six years later, his business had increased to the point that he added a partner.

Besides his law practice, Freehafer took up a homestead near Council. He also dealt in real estate and insurance, and was a director of the First Bank of Council. For a time, he provided legal counsel for the bank.

Freehafer served one term in the Idaho House of Representatives, starting in 1907. While there, he was House Leader for the minority Democratic Party. Voters then elected Albertus to two consecutive terms as state Senator from Washington County. Also active in local politics, Albertus served as Chairman of the Council Board of Trustees (roughly equivalent to a mayor’s position), and as City Attorney in 1911-1914.

In 1911, Senator Freehafer introduced legislation to carve Adams County out of Washington County.  Washington County officials fiercely opposed the division. However, the proposed new county held about half the assessed valuation and area of the existing Washington County, and about 44% of the voters (Idaho Statesman, January 28, 1911). The bill passed and Council became the county seat.
Adams County Courthouse, built 1915.
Adams County Historic Preservation Commission.

Freehafer was appointed to the state Public Utilities Commission in 1914. During a second term, he then served as Commission President. One of the more interesting 1918 cases denied a request to have electrical power service extended to a village in southeast Idaho. The refusal was, the Commission decided, “necessary for the conservation of raw material, capital, and labor required for the winning of the war.”

Freehafer served through 1921. He then moved his law practice to Payette, later serving two terms as state Senator for Payette County. In the Thirties, he performed legal work for various Federal agencies, generally related to “New Deal” programs.

He moved back to Council in 1939. There, Albertus was nominated for the state Senate from Adams County, but withdrew for health reasons. He passed away in October 1940. (Freehafer was the maternal grandfather of U. S. Senator from Idaho, James Albertus "Jim" McClure.)
References: [French], [Hawley]
Albertus L. Freehafer (Pres.), Sixth and Seventh Annual Reports of the Public Utilities Commission, State of Idaho, The Caxton Printers, Ltd, Caldwell, Idaho (1920).
"Freehafer, Albertus LeRoy - Obituary," Independent Enterprise, Payette, Idaho (November 1940).

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