Monday, February 20, 2017

Merchant, Mining Investor, Rancher, and Public Servant Alexander McKinlay [otd 02/20]

Pioneer rancher, prospector, and merchant Alexander Duncan McKinlay was born February 20, 1853 in Clayton County, Iowa, 20-40 miles northwest of Dubuque. In 1877, a year after he married in Iowa, he took up land on Idaho's northern Camas Prairie and went into farming.
Three-horse plow.
Library of Congress.

Almost immediately, he became involved in the Nez Perce War and the other Indian conflicts in 1878 and 1879 ... and acquitted himself well. The Illustrated History of the State of Idaho described him as "a man of the most desperate courage and of the highest order of patriotism."

Probably bolstered by that repute, he was elected an Idaho County Justice of the Peace in 1880. His farm also prospered: In 1882, and again in 1884, he had sufficient capital to finance and lead cattle drives into the northern mining regions.

In 1885, McKinlay decided to pursue opportunities in the Coeur d’Alene gold and silver mines. He and some partners located three tolerable claims, but prospecting was not his main interest. The Illustrated History of North Idaho said, "The earliest pioneer in Wallace, in a business sense, was Alexander D. McKinlay."

He and a partner first started a general merchandise business. Watching the early, explosive growth of the town, they began to focus more on real estate investment. To reduce their merchandising activities, in 1886 they sold off their grocery business. Their largest single real estate holding was the “Holohan-McKinlay Block,” a substantial two-story brick structure. The ground floor housed premium store space, with the second floor devoted to offices, apartments, and storage rooms.
Wallace, ca. 1888. Lewiston Tribune archive.

Soon, they dealt primarily in real estate. They did continue to operate a shop for cigars and other tobacco products. In the 1890s, McKinlay was twice elected a Justice of the Peace in Wallace, and then Probate Court Judge for Shoshone County. He was also twice elected to the Wallace City Council. In 1905, voters elected him to represent the district in the state House of Representatives.

At the end of that term, McKinlay moved to Twin Falls, where extensive irrigation projects had spurred farming and mixed ranching. Alexander invested in real estate and also began raising stock in the area. Voters around his new home elected him for the 1909 term in the House.

Later that year, he was appointed Executive Commissioner for Idaho’s exhibit at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle (Idaho Statesman, April 10, 1909). Despite the limited time to get ready, the Commission’s production was considered a great success [blog, March 29].

During the winter of 1911, McKinlay gathered some of his stock and loaded them on the railroad [blog, Aug 7] for transport to market. He rode in the caboose, since passenger space on a freight train was limited.

The train mounted the Blue Mountains in Oregon on the night of December 14. To assist the freight, a “helper” engine chugged up to the rear. Then, shortly after midnight, the pusher locomotive’s boiler exploded, sending twisted metal slashing through the caboose.

A Pendleton newspaper reported (December 14) that, “A. D. McKinley, a stockman accompanying a shipment to Portland, was instantly killed.”
References: [Blue], [Illust-North], [Illust-State]

1 comment:

  1. gdlogan44@yahoo.comFebruary 21, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    I had a great uncle by the name of Chauncey Miller that had several properties in Wallace and up near Prichard. Recently on Goggle Earth I saw a road along the Coeur d"Alene river in Prichard that was near this uncle's property. It was called "Miller Way". I was curious if this could possible be named after this uncle? Would you know anyone in this area that would be knowledgeable about this?