Biography of James H. Hawley

James H. Hawley
James H. Hawley

No Compendium such as the province of this work defines in its essential limitations will serve to offer fit memorial to the life and accomplishments of the honored subject of this sketch a man remarkable in the breadth of his wisdom, in his indomitable perseverance, his strong individuality, and yet one whose entire life has not one esoteric phase, being an open scroll, inviting the closest scrutiny. True, his have been “massive deeds and great” in one sense, and yet his entire life accomplishment but represents the result of the fit utilization of the innate talent which is his, and the directing of his efforts in those lines where mature judgment and rare discrimination lead the way. There is in Mr. Hawley a weight of character, a native sagacity, a far-seeing judgment and a fidelity of purpose that commands the respect of all. A man of indefatigable enterprise and fertility of resource, he has carved his name deeply on the record of the political, commercial and professional history of the state, which owes much of its advancement to his efforts.

James H. Hawley was born in Dubuque, Iowa, on the 17th of January 1847, and in his veins mingles the blood of English, Dutch and Irish ancestors. The Hawley family was founded in America in 1760. William Carr, the maternal great-grandfather of our subject, was a major in the Revolutionary army; and the grandfather, Henry Carr, commanded a company in the war of 1812, with the rank of captain. Thomas Hawley, his father, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and became a civil engineer by profession. He married Miss Annie Carr, who died during the infancy of her son James. In 1849 the father went to California, and in 1856 took up his residence in Texas. When the civil war was inaugurated he joined the Confederate army, and served throughout that great struggle as major of a regiment of engineers. He is still living in the Lone Star state. He was married a second time, and by that union had five children, but our subject is the only son by the first marriage. In his native city Mr. Hawley of this review-acquired his early education. In 1861 he accompanied an uncle to California, and was preparing to enter college there when he heard of the wonderful discoveries of gold in the Salmon River country, in Idaho. Hoping to gain wealth in that district he left California April 8, 1862, arriving at Florence the latter part of the month while the mining excitement was at its height. Since that time he has been identified with mining interests, though his efforts have been con-fined by no means to one line of endeavor. In December, 1862 he went to Dallas, Oregon, and in May, 1863, came to Boise County, locating at Placerville, working for several months on Gold Hill mountain. He then purchased placer claims near Ophir creek, and in 1863-4 prospected in various sections of Idaho, his partners being James Carr and James Bradford. They were the discoverers of the Banner mining district, and Mr. Hawley was interested in many of the first locations there. He also made many of the first locations at what is now Quartzburg. In December 1864, however, he returned to San Francisco, California, where he attended school and studied law, remaining there until the fall of 1868, when he returned to Idaho and resumed mining operations at Banner. In the spring of 1869 he worked placer claims on California Hill, and through the summer was at Gold Hill mountain. He also prospected in the Loon creek country, returning in the fall to what is now Quartzburg, where he prospected for quartz. That autumn he discovered what is known as the Iowa mine, a very valuable property. While working one day he found a very rich deposit, and. gathering some of the rocks into a flour sack, he took it to the creek, where he washed out the gold to the value of one thousand dollars! He was interested in most of the best placers in the basin, notably the Ebenezer and Yellow Jacket, and still has large mining interests in various parts of the state. When the mining exchange was established in Boise, in 1895, he was chosen its first president, and has since held that position.

Throughout his entire life Mr. Hawley has been an advocate of Democratic principles, and has been a most active worker in the interests of his party in Idaho. In 1870 he was elected a member of the lower house of the territorial legislature, receiving the largest majority given any one on the ticket. During that session he served as chairman of the judiciary committee. He was chief clerk of the house at the seventh session, was a member of the council of the eighth session and was chief clerk at the ninth session of the territorial legislature. In 1878 he served as County commissioner of Boise County. In the meantime he had studied law and was attaining considerable prominence at the bar. He began his legal studies in San Francisco and continued them at every available opportunity until February 14, 1871, when he was admitted to practice in the supreme court of the territory. He acted as deputy district attorney under Hon. George Ainslie for several years. In 1878 he removed to Idaho City and was nominated and elected on the Democratic ticket to the position of district attorney for the second district, embracing Boise, Alturas, Lemhi and Custer Counties. It was during his term that there occurred the great mining excitement in the Wood River country and in Custer County, bringing with it a great increase in the population and a great accumulation of criminal work in the courts, but Mr. Hawley discharged his duties with marked fidelity and ability, and in 1880 was renominated for the same position. So great was his popularity that the Republicans would make no nomination, and he was therefore practically elected by acclamation. In 1883 he removed to Hailey, Alturas County, where he remained until 1886, when he came to Boise, where he has since made his home. In 1885 he was appointed, by President Cleveland to the position of United States district attorney, in which capacity he served most acceptably for four years. It was during that time that the Mormon troubles arose in the territory and he became prominent as the prosecutor of many of that sect under the Edmund Tucker law, though he vigorously opposed the test-oath law, being persuaded that it was wrong in principle. He was a conspicuous figure in the settlement of the Idaho land matters under the Sparks administration, and in 1884-5. while assistant prosecuting attorney of Alturas County with Hon. N. M. Ruick as principal, he had charge of and settled amicably the strikes on Wood River. In 1888 he received the Democratic nomination for congress and was defeated after a vigorous campaign by ex-Senator Fred T. Dubois. He was elected chairman of the Boise County Democratic committee, in which capacity he served for six years, doing excellent service for the party by his capable and wise management of its forces. He has been a member of every Democratic state convention since his arrival in Idaho with the exception of that of 1896 and has been one of the leading figures in Idaho politics for a third of a century. In 1896 he took the stump for Bryan, and his voice was heard in every precinct in Idaho, ably expounding the doctrines in which he believes.

But it is as a learned, experienced and eminent lawyer that Mr. Hawley is most widely known. He is one of the most celebrated criminal lawyers of the northwest, and it is a notable fact that he has tried more criminal cases than any lawyer on the Pacific coast. He was associated with Hon. Pat Reddy, of San Francisco, in the Coeur d’Alene mine trials, of 1892, and out of between seven and eight hundred indictments by federal and state courts they cleared every one of the defendants, carrying some of the cases into the United States supreme court, where they were likewise victorious. Mr. Hawley enjoys a very extensive and remunerative practice, mostly in the departments of criminal, mining and irrigation law.

The home relations of our subject are most pleasant. He was married on the 4th of January 1875, to Miss Mary E. Bullock, of New York City, and to them have been born nine children, six of whom are living. Edgar T., the eldest son, is now lieutenant in the Idaho regiment, and is serving his country in the Philippines; Jesse B. is a student in the high school: Emma and Bessie are attending the Sisters” school; and James H. and Harry R. are at home. The family is one of prominence in the community, and the members of the household occupy high positions in social circles. Mr. Hawley belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in which he is past noble grand, and he is a member of the Knights of Pythias and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He was also at one time president of the Bar Association of Idaho. The future of such a man can be forecast at least to this extent: it will be characterized by great activity in the important things that concern the interests of society and government. The world is always in need of men of his character and ability, men who are high-minded, public-spirited, energetic and enterprising, who believe that the citizen owes a solemn duty to the community; and while the demands on such men are increased by their willingness to sacrifice for the public good, fortunately they are possessed of the patriotism, humanity and public spirit which prompt them to respond whenever the public will imposes a burden upon their time and patience; and while their successes are regarded as personal achievements, they are also credited as victories for society and civilization.



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

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