Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Irrigation Developer, Idaho Governor, and U. S. Senator James Brady [otd 06/12]

Senator and Governor James H. Brady.
Library of Congress.
U. S. Senator and Idaho Governor James Henry Brady was born June 12, 1862 in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. According to the biography in J. H. Hawley's History, Brady graduated from Leavenworth Normal School and then taught for three years while studying law. From this statement, one can infer that young James was a intellectual prodigy. Leavenworth Normal School closed after the 1876 year.

Very young professionals, including lawyers, often fudged their age back then so as not to put off potential clients. It appears that's what James did. When the 1880 U. S. Census recorder for Dickinson County, Kansas came round, James listed his age as 24, adding six years. He later began "correcting" that, giving his age as 36 for an 1895 Kansas state census.

After two years as a newspaper editor, Brady started a very successful real estate business, with offices in Chicago, St. Louis, and Houston. Extensions of that enterprise brought him to Idaho in 1895. From a base in Pocatello, Brady led irrigation and water power developments all over eastern Idaho.

One of those projects was an American Falls hydropower plant, which began operation in 1902. The initial structure included a diversion weir to direct flow into the power plant. (A dam impounding the entire river was not built until twenty-five years later.)

In 1907, The Oregonian, in Portland, reported (October 23, 1907) that “The Idaho Consolidated Power Company, with a capital of $2,000,000, has absorbed the American Falls Power, Light & Water Company, the Pocatello Electric Light & Power Company and the Blackfoot Power & Water Company.”

James had holdings in all of these companies and the paper noted that “Brady retains the presidency of the new company.” Power County, created in 1913, got its name from the presence of the American Falls hydropower plant. The town of American Falls easily won the county seat.

Brady also played a major role in the National Irrigation Congress, serving as its Vice President and on its Executive Committee. His activities for other national business development organizations gave him considerable name recognition outside the state of Idaho.

In 1909, Brady began a two-year term as Idaho Governor. During his tenure, Idaho instituted a school for the deaf, dumb, and blind, and made provision for orphaned or neglected children. The legislature also authorized local option liquor laws and implemented a direct primary system.

Brady failed in his re-election bid. However, Idaho's U. S. Senator Weldon Heyburn died in office and, in 1913, Brady was selected to fill the remainder of his term. At the completion of that term, Brady was elected for a full term that was to run into 1921.

War bond sales, WW-I. Library of Congress.
His national reputation earned him a number of important committee assignments. His seat on the Military Affairs Committee particularly interested Brady. Despite deteriorating health, he threw himself into legislative programs intended to support World War I soldiers and sailors, and their families.

The Senator had a heart attack and died in January 1918. Hawley, a political opponent but personal admirer of Brady, wrote, "his dying regret was that he could not live to do his part in the solution of the problems which he saw would confront this country after the victory, which he knew would come to the arms of the Allies."
References: [Hawley]
“Brady, James Henry, (1862 - 1918),” Biographical Directory of the United States Senate, online.
“Idaho Governor James Henry Brady,” National Governors Association, online.
Albert R. Taylor, “History of Normal-School Work in Kansas,” Transactions, Vol. VI, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka (1900).


  1. Hi Evan, interesting article. Just wondering if American Falls Power, Light & Water Co., was connected with American Falls Power & Canal Co., or perhaps one and the same. I think the latter went out of business around 1913 or 1914 after a flood in pocatello forced a power station to be demolished.

  2. I believe it was one and the same company, with a "tweaking" of the name during one or another of the consolidations that took place during that period.