Biography of Charles M. Hays

Charles M. Hays
Charles M. Hays

A well known lawyer and pioneer of Idaho is Charles Marshall Hays, of Boise. Almost his entire life has been passed on the Pacific coast and he has therefore been a witness of the marvelous development of this section of the country. He was born in Saline County, Missouri, on the 22d of April 1845, and is descended from Irish ancestry. Members of the family were early residents of Virginia and Kentucky and were participants in the struggle that brought to the nation her independence. The grandfather of our subject removed from the Old Dominion to Kentucky during the pioneer epoch in its history, and there the birth of Gilmore Hays occurred. The latter married Mrs. Nevina Knox Montgomery, and to them were born seven children, of whom three are living. In 1848 the father crossed the plains to California, in 1852 went to Oregon, and in 1855 came to Idaho, when it was still a part of the territory of Washington. He was the first recorder of Owyhee County and held various offices of trust and honor under the territorial government. He was a man of unwavering integrity and ability, and lived to be seventy-one years of age, while his wife passed away at the age of thirty-five years.

Their son, Charles Marshall Hays, was educated in the schools of California and Washington. When a boy he crossed the plains with his father, following the old emigrant road on the south side of the Snake river and passing under the shadow of what is now known as War Eagle mountain, never even dreaming then that thirteen years later he would return to pass a quarter of a century at its very base. In the fall of that year he reached The Dalles, then a military post, whence he proceeded down the Columbia River and on to Portland, where he spent the winter. In the spring of 1853 he made his way to Puget Sound, and in 1857 removed to California, where he made his home until August 1865, when he started for Ruby City, then the county seat of Owyhee County, arriving on the 8th of September. He filled the office of deputy county recorder under his father until 1866, when he became deputy district clerk under Solomon Hasbrouck now the clerk of the supreme court of Idaho.

In the fall of 1866 Mr. Hays removed from Ruby City to Silver City, and in 1868 was appointed deputy United States internal-revenue collector, which position he filled until the following year. In 1868 he was nominated on a Citizens’ ticket for the office of recorder, but was defeated at the general election. In 1870 Hill Beachy, the proprietor of the railroad stage line from Boise to Winnemucca, Nevada, a distance of two hundred and sixty-five miles, appointed him agent at Silver City, with full power and authority to conduct all business connected with that office during the absence of the superintendent. When Mr. Beachy sold the line to the Northwestern Stage Company, Mr. Hays was retained as agent and also remained with that company’s successor, John Hailey, holding the position until 1880.

In 1871-2 he read law in the office of Richard Z. Johnson, afterward attorney-general of Idaho, and in 1873 was admitted to practice as an attorney and counselor at law and solicitor in chancery in all the courts of record in the then territory of Idaho. He has ever acknowledged I his indebtedness to his preceptor for the kindness and assistance he received at his hands, and has ever pointed to him as an example that all young lawyers might well emulate. Thus Mr. Hays entered upon his career at the bar, and by his marked ability in the line of his profession has won distinction as a legal practitioner. In 1874 he was nominated by the Republican Party for the office of county sheriff. Having so recently begun practice, he was loath to accept the candidacy, but finally did so. He was nominated on the first ballot, and then followed a hotly contested campaign, which resulted in Mr. Hays receiving a majority of two hundred votes, although the county was regarded as a strong Democratic stronghold. He carried every precinct but one, a fact which indicates his personal popularity and the confidence reposed in him by his fellow townsmen. He made a most capable officer, was entirely fair and impartial in performing his duties, and displayed the utmost courage in their discharge.

On one occasion, a man having stabbed another at South Mountain, Mr. Hays mounted a fast horse and rode the distance of thirty miles in two and a half hours. He found the members of the Miners’ Union wild with excitement, wishing to hang the murderer, but the sheriff resolved to make the arrest and save the man’s life that he might have a fair trial. He appointed five deputies, armed them with double-barreled shotguns, arrested the murderer and another man who was implicated in the affair and marched with them through a crowd of a hundred men who had been searching all night for the culprit in order to lynch him. He then put his captives in a wagon and took them to Silver City, where they were granted a trial in accordance with the laws of the land.

Mr. Hays discharged his duties with such ability and fidelity that he was reelected in 1876, and served for a second term. In 1881 he was appointed deputy district attorney for Owyhee county, which position he filled until elected county attorney in 1882. In 1884, in 1886 and a third time in 1888 he was reelected, and in the trial of important cases manifested superior legal attainments. In the spring of 1882 he purchased a half interest in the Idaho Avalanche, the year following became sole proprietor and then conducted an independent paper, through the columns of which he strongly advocated the mininginterests of the state. He was thus largely instrumental in sustaining the camps at Silver City and De Lamar, and in bringing capital to aid in the development, so that the mines of southwestern Idaho were soon brought to the attention of the mining world. It was through his influence that Captain De Lamar was induced to come to Silver City, and Mr. Hays acted as his attorney until he sold his interests to an English syndicate.

Further political honors came to him in 1889, when he was elected to the constitutional convention from Owyhee County, and in that assembly was appointed a member of the committees on election and franchise, on corporation, and on revenue, serving as chairman of the last. He was a very active and useful member of the convention, his knowledge of constitutional law enabling him to aid greatly in framing the organic law of the state. At the first election after the admission of Idaho to the Union he was elected district attorney of the third judicial district, embracing Boise, Ada, Washington and Owyhee counties, and in 1894 was reelected, to serve until January 1, 1899. During this time he probably prosecuted more criminals and convicted more than any other attorney in Idaho. In the past two and a half years he has prosecuted eight murder cases, securing one conviction for murder in the first degree, three for murder in the second degree and four for manslaughter. Perhaps one-third of the convicts in the state prison are from the third district, yet Mr. Hays has never been known to abuse a prisoner, giving him every chance to introduce evidence and prove his innocence. If his guilt is once established, however, he never signs a petition for pardon, believing that the law should then take its course.

In 1898 he was elected to the state senate from Ada County, by a majority of six hundred. He was chairman of the judiciary committee and took an active part in the general assembly of 1899. At the close of the session he was appointed by the governor a member of the code commission of Idaho, being the only Republican appointed on the commission.

In 1868 Mr. Hays was united in marriage to Miss Rebecca L. Dye, a cultured young lady, who was born in California, and is a daughter of Job F. Dye, a native of Kentucky. He went to the Golden state in 1832 and was also an honored pioneer of Idaho. Eight children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Hays: Helen, wife of J. H. Hutchinson; C. D., who is mining in Silver City; Rebecca; Rowena; Irene; Elma: Mrs. M. M. Getchell, deceased: and one who departed this life in infancy. The family occupy a pleasant home in Boise, and in addition to this property Mr. Hays is the owner of six hundred and forty acres of land, besides stock and other property, all of which has been acquired through his own efforts. He is a past master of the Masonic lodge and a Royal Arch Mason, also belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and is a lifelong Republican. In all life’s relations he has been true to the confidence and trust reposed in him, and so intimately has he been associated with the history of the state in various departments that his life record is deserving of a prominent place in this volume.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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