Sunday, April 1, 2018

Cattle Rancher, Idaho Governor, and U. S. Senator George L. Shoup [otd 04/01]

Senator George L. Shoup.
National Archives.
On April 1, 1889, President Grover Cleveland appointed Lemhi cattleman George Laird Shoup governor of Idaho Territory – the last to hold that position. He was also, therefore, first to hold the position of state Governor. Shoup then became one of the state's first two U. S. Senators. Records suggest that some convoluted political machinations lurked behind this progression.

Shoup was born in Kittanning, about forty miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in June 1836. The family moved to a ranch in western Illinois in 1852. Seven years later, George followed the rush to Pike’s Peak gold. At the start of the Civil War, Shoup joined an independent scout company, watching Indians in what later became Colorado and New Mexico.

When Colorado Territory was organized in 1861, Shoup became an officer in the Colorado Volunteer Cavalry. He was stationed at Fort Union, New Mexico, in the spring of 1862. He apparently did not see any direct action against the Confederate force that marched north from Santa Fe during that period. In late 1864, Shoup rose to the rank of Colonel in the Colorado Cavalry.

After the War, Shoup’s unit disbanded and he moved to Virginia City, Montana and opened a store. In 1867, George followed eager prospectors into Idaho and helped found Salmon City. He served as commissioner when Lemhi County was established two years later, and then served several terms in the legislature. By 1875, Shoup was one of the largest landowners and cattlemen in the region.

Shoup’s political career flourished and by 1889 he was one of the best-known and most influential figures in Idaho. Almost universally well-liked, any elective office he wanted, he could have. He wanted a U. S. Senate seat, which would open up when (if) Idaho achieved statehood.

However, factional disputes complicated matters. North Idaho leaders demanded one of the two Senate seats, but couldn't assemble a coalition strong enough to achieve that aim. (At that time, Senators were elected by the state legislature, not by popular vote.)

Governor Willey.
J. H. Hawley photo.
The factions finally compromised by promising the governor's chair to the North. Shoup agreed to become governor first, with the assurance of legislative support for his Senate bid. The scheme coupled his appointment with essentially unopposed election of a North Idahoan, Norman B. Willey, for Lieutenant Governor.

Idaho then became a state, with Shoup as Governor and Willey as Lieutenant Governor. When Shoup resigned to take his Senate seat, Willey moved up to the governor's position. A North Idahoan also filled the brief gap until the election of a full-term Senator to take a seat in March 1891. At the end of his four-year partial term, Shoup was reelected to the Senate for a full term starting in 1895.

For a man from a new, and very small state, George did remarkably well on the national stage. That included service on several important Senate committees. Then, in 1900, he was appointed to the five-member Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee (Idaho Register, Idaho Falls, June 29, 1900).

However, his loyalty to the Party cost him in Idaho. A coalition of Democrats and Silver Republicans, led by Fred Dubois [blog, May 29], won a majority in the Idaho legislature that fall. They denied Shoup’s next re-election bid, so he retired from public life in 1901. George passed away three years later.
References: [Hawley]
“Biographical Sketch: George Laird Shoup,” George Laird Shoup Papers, Manuscript Group 8, University of Idaho, Moscow (1994).
George Elmo Shoup, "History of Lemhi County," Salmon Register-Herald (Series, May 8- October 23, 1940).
"Norman B. Willey, March 25, 1838-October 20, 1921," Reference Series No. 400, Idaho State Historical Society.

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