Biography of James Madden

The broad acres of Idaho have made stock raising one of the principal industries of the state, by reason of the excellent pasturage afforded, and among those who are successfully and extensively engaged in this business is James Madden, of Lewiston. A native of Ireland, he was born in county Galloway, December 18, 1855, his parents being Patrick and Mary (Kane) Madden, both of whom were natives of the Emerald Isle, where the father filled the responsible position of superintendent of a large estate. He lived to the venerable age of ninety-five years, and the mother passed away at the age of seventy-five. They were devout members of the Catholic Church and were people of the highest respectability. In their family were seven children, five sons and two daughters, and with one exception all arc yet living.

James Madden, the fourth in order of birth, was reared and educated in the land of his nativity, and in 1865 crossed the Atlantic to America. He was then a poor young man without capital, but he possessed energy, and resolute purpose, and these stood him instead of fortune. He spent eighteen months in Massachusetts, working for twenty-nine dollars per month. He saved his money and when he went to San Francisco, California, he had three hundred and twenty dollars. He was forced to expend this for board, however, after which he went to Sutter County, where he entered the employ of John G. Briggs. Subsequently he rented a farm and planted one hundred and sixty acres to wheat, gathering there from a large crop, which he sold for a dollar and ninety-five cents per bushel. He then paid twelve hundred dollars for three hundred and twenty acres of summer fallow, and gave two dollars and thirty-seven and one-half cents per hundred for seed wheat. That winter the high water destroyed the entire crop and thus he lost all that he had made. Through the succeeding four years he worked for wages, and then purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land for five thousand dollars, making a payment of one-half down.

About this time Mr. Madden was united in marriage to Miss Mary Riggs, a native of Kentucky and a daughter of Sylvester A. Riggs, also of that state. They began their domestic life upon the California farm, and by their careful management, economy and industry were soon enabled to clear it of all indebtedness. Prosperity attended their efforts for a time, but later high water again destroyed their crops and washed off nearly all of the top soil. He then summer fallowed it and raised forty-five bushels of wheat to the acre. After this he sold the property for twenty-five hundred dollars, just half of what it cost him, and then came to Idaho, in 1884, bringing with him five thousand dollars. Here he took up one hundred and sixty acres of government land, also a timber claim of one hundred and sixty acres, and a homestead of like amount. He purchased sixty head of cattle, but at the end of the year they were so scattered over the plains by the large cattlemen that he was never able to recover half of them. He then sold out what he had left and purchased six hundred breeding ewes, at two dollars and seventy-five cents each. They were grade merinos, and thus Mr. Madden began the business in which he has since been eminently successful. His flocks increased rapidly, but at first he and his sons, with the assistance of one hired man, took care of them. Now, however, they employ nine men and have had as high as six thousand sheep at one time. He also has two thousand five hundred acres of land, which he is fencing for his own stock. He has erected a good residence in Lewiston, has two others on his farm, and now has about eighty thousand pounds of wool on hand. He also has two thousand young lambs, and is one of the heaviest taxpayers in Nez Perces County.

Mr. and Mrs. Madden have reared an industrious and intelligent family of seven sons and one daughter, Patrick, who is associated with his father in business; James, who is foreman of the ranch; Michael, who is working with their men; George, who is herding one of the bands of sheep; John, who is herding the cattle; and Joseph, Dan and Mary Jane, who are in school. The family are all valued members of the Catholic Church.

Mr. Madden always gave his political support to the Democracy until President Cleveland’s second administration, when he voted the Republican ticket and has since been allied with that party. He has, however, never sought nor desired office, preferring to devote his energies to his business, in which he is meeting with gratifying success. He has met many difficulties and hardships in life, but has wrested fortune from the hands of a seemingly adverse fate, and is now one of the wealthiest residents of Nez Perces County. This is due entirely to his own well directed efforts, his business ability, sound judgment and untiring labor, and certainly his prosperity is well merited.



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

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