Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"Uncle" John Hailey: Miner, Stage Line Pioneer, Stockman, Public Servant, and Historian [otd 8/29]

John Hailey. Library of Congress.
John Hailey – Idaho stockman, miner, stage line operator, politician, and historian – was born August 29, 1835 in Smith County, Tennessee, 30-40 miles east of Nashville. The family moved to Missouri in 1848, and John set out on his own from there in 1853. He joined a wagon train to Oregon, where he tried his hand at many tasks and slowly built up a stake.

After distinguished duty in the Rogue River Indian War of 1855-1856, he took up ranching, raising sheep and horses. Then the Idaho gold discoveries offered a better opportunity. In 1862, Hailey sold his sheep to finance his part of a venture packing supplies from Oregon into the Boise Basin.

He and his partner, William Ish, also ran “saddle trains” into Idaho. A saddle train rented riding horses to people who didn’t want to invest in an animal themselves. They soon became one of the most successful operators in that line of work, and initiated stagecoach service from Umatilla into the Basin in 1864.

He made a considerable success of that enterprise, augmented by a lucrative mail subcontract from Ben Holladay [blog, August 11]. In 1870, Hailey sold the stage line at an impressive profit and started a substantial livestock and meat market business in the Boise City area. However, in the late 1870s, he encountered some financial reverses – these included having to make good on several co-signed obligations.

He recouped much of the loss by returning to the stagecoach business in 1878, but saw that too decline as the railroad marched across Idaho. While the stage line still prospered, in 1879, Hailey claimed land that shortly became a fast-growing mining town. John called the village “Marshall,” but the townspeople soon changed that to honor the founder.

In time, John would own interests in several productive Wood River mining properties. He also returned to the ranching business, raising top-grade cattle and horses.
Wood River Area. [Illust-State]

Hailey had a long-standing interest in politics and public service, but had to be persuaded to accept election as Territorial Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1872. (Delegates have no vote on the floor, but can serve on committees and vote on issues at that level.) Both political parties wanted him to fill the position for the next term but Hailey declined.

In 1880, John served a term on the Territorial Council – equivalent to a state Senate – and was elected president of that body. Four years later, he again served as Idaho Delegate to Congress. In 1899, the governor appointed "Uncle John" to be Warden of the Idaho State Penitentiary.

In 1907, upon the founding of the Idaho State Historical Society, Hailey was made its first Secretary and Librarian [blog, March 12]. At the request of the Legislature, he wrote a history of the state. John did it, he said, to correct “the many misstatements published about Idaho in early days, and particularly concerning the character and conduct of the good people of those days … ”

“Uncle John” Hailey passed away in April 1921.
                                                                                                                                     
References: [Illust-State]
“John Hailey (1835-1921),” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
John Hailey, History of Idaho, Syms-York Company, Boise, Idaho (1910).
“John Hailey: August 29, 1835-April 10, 1921,” Reference Series No. 543, Idaho State Historical Society (1971).
John H. Hawley, Eighth Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Idaho, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise Idaho (1922).

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