Friday, February 2, 2018

Attorney, Montpelier Mayor, and U. S. Congressman Thomas Glenn [otd 02/02]

Congressman Glenn.
H. T. French photo.
U. S. Congressman Thomas L. Glenn was born February 2, 1847 near Bardwell, Kentucky, in the extreme southwest corner of the state. His father died two years later. The family moved first to Indiana and then to Illinois, ending in Cairo, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

When the Civil War began, Thomas clamored for a chance to fight, despite his youth. (Like many Kentuckians, he supported the Confederacy.) Then, in 1862, his mother died, leaving him an orphan. So he joined the Second Kentucky Cavalry – famous as “Morgan’s Raiders.” However, in June 1864, he was severely wounded in a battle in north-central Kentucky. Captured by Union forces, he was paroled three months later.

After the war, Glenn studied at a couple of small local colleges and read law diligently. By around 1880, he had qualified for the Kentucky bar, and voters elected him to the state Senate in 1887.

In 1890, he moved his family to Montpelier, Idaho and opened a law practice. In August, 1897, he had a brief encounter with a bit of local notoriety. Bob Meeks, an accomplice with Butch Cassidy in the 1896 Montpelier bank robbery [blog, Aug 13], had been captured and brought to trial. After the trial started, Meeks had a falling out with his first attorney, so the judge appointed Glenn and another man to represent him. But when the new attorneys asked for more time to get familiar with the case, the judged threatened to replace them. As could be expected, Meeks was convicted.

Glenn also participated in local and state politics, usually with the Democratic party. However, in 1898, Democrats formed a "fusion" slate with the Silver-Republicans. For whatever reason, Thomas ran instead as a Populist for the position of state Attorney General. He was defeated, as the Fusion ticket swept every state office.

Two years later, the Populist party selected Glenn as their nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives (Idaho Register, Idaho Falls, July 27, 1900). About a month later, Democrats and Silver Republicans settled their differences enough to re-form a Fusion alliance. They then also selected Glenn as their nominee for U. S. Representative.

This action pained some Populist Party members, so the election was very close: Glenn won by just over twelve hundred votes out of nearly 55 thousand cast. Records of the U. S. Congress do identify Glenn as a member of  the Populist Party.

He is credited with helping Nevada Congressman Francis G. Newlands pass the Newlands Reclamation Act. Under authorization of the Act, the Secretary of the Interior organized the Reclamation Service, which became the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) in 1923. The USBR ultimately built a vast array of irrigation, flood control, and hydropower projects all across the West.
Panama Canal construction, 1907. Library of Congress.

That session of Congress authorized the president – Teddy Roosevelt – to purchase land for a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, and to treat with the Panamanian government to obtain clear title to the property. Congress also passed a bill to tax colored oleomargarine, which might be mistaken for butter, at 10¢ a pound (equivalent to about $2.60 today). They taxed uncolored margarine at just 1/4¢ per pound.

Glenn did not run for re-election to Congress, but served a term as mayor of Montpelier in 1904. After a stint as a prosecuting attorney, he resumed his private practice before passing away in November 1918.
                                                                                 
Reference]: [French], [Hawley]
“Brief History of the Bureau of Reclamation,” History Program, Bureau of Reclamation, U. S. Department of the Interior (July 2000).
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, online.
“Fighting For Man’s Freedom,” Idaho Statesman, Boise (April 16, 1901).
Arthur Hart, “Bob Meeks: The Rest of the Story,” The Idaho Statesman, Boise (February 21, 2006).
“Record of This Congress,” The New York Times (June 29, 1902).

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