Friday, February 8, 2019

Landowner, Sheep Rancher, and Supreme Court Justice Charles O. Stockslager [otd 02/08]

Judge Stockslager.
Illustrated History photo.
Idaho Supreme Court Justice Charles O. Stockslager was born on February 8, 1847, in Indiana, about ten miles west of Louisville, Kentucky. He attended a Normal school in Lebanon, Ohio, but apparently never taught school himself. Charles decided to become a lawyer instead. He read law at his brother’s office in Indiana, and then with some “prominent attorneys” in Kansas.

Admitted to the Kansas bar in 1874, he practiced there until 1887. Along with his practice, he served as Clerk of a District Court, and later as a County Attorney. Stockslager also became heavily involved in real estate and mining properties. Thus, he helped organize the mining town of Galena (just across the border from Joplin, Missouri) and was elected its Mayor in 1881.

In 1887, President Grover Cleveland appointed Stockslager to be Receiver for the U. S. Land Office in Hailey, Idaho. (The Receiver formally accepts the fees paid by homesteaders when they claim a tract of public land.) Three years later, voters elected him to be Judge of the Fourth Judicial District, which then encompassed much of south-central Idaho. He was reelected four years later, and then again in 1898.

Oddly enough, Stockslager’s biographies do not mention that he owned any specific mining properties in Idaho. Yet, given his activities in Kansas, it’s probable that he did. And in 1910, he was a major organizer of the Idaho-South American Mining & Development Company. Stockslager had many other investments besides that. Those included a share of the Hailey Hot Springs Hotel Company, originated by railroad publicist Robert Strahorn. He was also prominent enough in the sheep business to be selected as a Delegate-at-Large for Idaho at the 1900 Annual Convention of the National Live Stock Association.

As Fourth District Judge, Stockslager handled cases tried at Albion, then the county seat of Cassia County. Thus, in 1897, he presided at the trial of "Diamondfield Jack" Davis, accused of murdering sheepmen John Wilson and Daniel Cummings [blog, Feb 4 and others].
Courthouse, Albion. Cassia County Historical Society.

The prosecution's case was deeply flawed and totally circumstantial. The slugs that killed the sheepmen were .44 caliber; Jack owned only a .45 revolver. Moreover, most of the physical evidence had been grossly mishandled, and the State could not credibly place Davis at the scene of the crime. Nonetheless, the jury found Jack guilty. Stockslager then saw fit to sentence Jack to be hanged.

In 1900, the judge was elected to serve a six-year term on the Idaho Supreme Court, beginning in 1901. He therefore participated in an appeal review for Diamondfield Jack's case. Oddly enough, Stockslager did not recuse himself from the ruling. The appeal only bought more time: The court pushed back the hanging date. (In fact, the Idaho courts never did change Jack’s status. That was left [blog, Dec 17] to the Board of Pardons, a panel consisting of the governor, secretary-of-state, and attorney general.)

Stockslager ran unsuccessfully for Idaho governor in 1907 and tried, also unsuccessfully, for a U. S. Senate seat in 1909. Except for one more term as district judge, he engaged in private practice, first in Hailey and then in Shoshone, until his retirement. In 1919, Stockslager led the effort to create Jerome County from portions of Lincoln, Gooding, and Minidoka counties. The Act creating the new country passed on February 8.

Stockslager passed away in March 1933.
References: [Blue], [Hawley], [Illust-State]
William G. Cutler, History of the State of Kansas, A. T. Andreas, Chicago (1883).
David H. Grover, Diamondfield Jack: A Study in Frontier Justice, University of Nevada Press, Reno, Nevada (1968).
Charles F. Martin, Proceedings of the Annual Convention, Fort Worth, Texas, National Live Stock Association, Denver (1900).
“[Stockslager News],” Idaho Statesman, Boise, Idaho (September 24, 1890 – June 19, 1910).


  1. This is fascinating information. Thanks for putting it up. I have a photo of his daughter Ingobo here

    His wife Ingobo passed when his daughter, also named Ingobo, was very young. The daughter was raised by her aunt Frances. She had a fortunate life and ended up being somewhat wealthy as an adult. Thank you for putting this information online! ~ Claire McNally

  2. The younger Ingabo, Ingabo J.F. Stockslager-Thiessen did marry into a prominent Lewiston, Idaho family. She went to college, Lewiston State, now Lewis-Clark State, and married one of her classmates. But, she died at about age 36. She had five children, but only two lived to have families. One died in infancy, one in her hearly 20s and one was killed in action if France in September, 1944.

  3. Charles O. Stockslager is my great-great grandfather! Does anyone else have any further information on or pictures of Judge Stockslager?

  4. Chris,
    There is a fair amount of information on him, due to his having been an Assoc. Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, 1901-1904, Chief Justice, 1904-1907 and Democratic nominee for governor in 1906. His grandson, Bryce Stockslager of Spokane did a geneology going back 300 years to Germany [Stockschlaegers, the "a" with an umlaut instead of the 'e' sometimes]. Bryce was the son of Dr. Leslie Stockslager who practiced in Lewiston, then Spokane. The first wife, Ingabo [nee Chrisman] was the mother of two, Ingabo the younger, my grandmother, and Roscoe. They married in 1877 and she died in 1881. By the second marriage to Carrie [nee Bryce] in 1884, I assume to be your side, produced Leslie and William, who I understand to have stayed in Idaho, an attorney in Shoshone for at least awhile. Charles was born on a farm near Corydon, Harrison County,in southern Indiana on Febr. 8, 1847. He died March 15, 1933, if you do not have that.