Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sportsman, Animal Advocate, and District Judge Charles F. Koelsch [otd 06/21]

Judge Koelsch. H. T. French photo.
Idaho District Judge Charles F. Koelsch was born June 21, 1872, in Mayfield, Wisconsin, about twenty miles north of Milwaukee. He graduated from high school at the age of fifteen and then studied at Northern Indiana Normal School (now Valparaiso University). Charles taught school several years after that, but also studied law.

Koelsch moved to Boise City in 1895 and began reading law in the offices of William E. Borah [blog, June 29]. At that time, Borah was gearing up to run for the U. S. House of Representatives. Koelsch was admitted to the Idaho bar in November 1897 and practiced in Borah’s office for about a year. Charles dissociated himself from Borah’s office when voters elected him to be a Probate Judge in the fall of 1898.

Charles served two terms in that capacity. In 1904, he was elected to the position of Prosecuting Attorney for Ada County. During his term as Probate Judge, Koelsch published An Exposition on the Constitution of the State of Idaho, the first text to discuss and analyze provisions of that document.

As Prosecuting Attorney, Koelsch played a peripheral role in the trial of “Big Bill” Haywood, accused of conspiring to assassinate ex-Governor Frank Steunenberg. In 1946, Koelsch wrote “The Haywood Case: A Review” for the Idaho Mining Journal, Boise. It is often cited as an account by an “insider” of events during the trial and the surrounding context.

After his term as Prosecuting Attorney, Koelsch returned to private practice in partnership with Joseph T. Pence. About that same time, Pence was elected to a term as Mayor of Boise [blog, November 9]. Charles himself was elected to a term in the state House of Representatives in 1912. The firm of Pence & Koelsch would handle many important cases for well over a decade.

In August 1929, Idaho Governor H. Clarence Baldridge appointed Koelsch to be Judge of the Third District Court of Ada County. He held that position for over twenty years.

A “great sportsman,” in 1938 Charles and some like-minded citizens proposed a voter Initiative to create a non-political Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Koelsch drafted the Initiative, which passed handily.
Pronghorn antelope. Idaho Fish & Game.

Charles retired from the bench only when forced to do so by a change in the legally-mandated retirement age. That was on January 1, 1951. His son, M. Oliver Koelsch, actually succeeded him in that position. (Eight years later, President Dwight Eisenhower appointed M. Oliver to be a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge.)

Koelsch did not retire from active participation in public affairs, however. Before 1900, Charles had helped form Idaho’s first humane society, to prevent cruelty to animals. That group did not last. However, he was later affiliated with the Idaho Humane Society that is still in operation today. Three years after his retirement, Koelsch signed (Idaho Falls Post Register, August 4, 1954) an animal cruelty complaint “in behalf of the Idaho Humane Society.”

Another of Koelsch's sons, C. Frederick, became an a chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota. Among other honors, C. Frederick won the Award in Pure Chemistry from the American Chemical Society.

Charles F. Koelsch passed away in April 1965.
                                                                                 
References: [French]
Idaho Humane Society: History, Boise.
J. Anthony Lukas, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle … , Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York (1997).
Byron Johnson, “Homer Martin - a ‘Poacher’ Extraordinary, ” Wild Idaho News, Boise (Aug 14, 2006).
Charles F. Koelsch: MS 152, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise (December 11, 1990).

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