Hon. George Ainslie is a western man by birth, training and choice, and possesses the true western spirit of progress and enterprise. He belongs to the little group of distinctively representative business men who have been the pioneers in inaugurating and building up the chief industries of this section of the country. He early had the sagacity and prescience to discern the eminence which the future had in store for this great and growing country, and, acting in accordance with the dictates of his faith and judgment, he has garnered, in the fullness of time, the generous harvest which is the just recompense of indomitable industry, spotless integrity and marvelous enterprise. He is now connected with many extensive and important business interests, is one of the leading lawyers of Boise, and is a recognized leader in Democratic circles in Idaho.
A native of Boonville, Missouri, he was born October 30, 1838, and is of Scotch descent. Several of his paternal ancestors served in the British army as members of Scotch regiments, and the grandfather and an uncle of our subject both held the rank of colonel. His father was also an officer in the army and was a graduate of Edinburg University, where he won a gold medal on the completion of his course. He was admitted to the bar in his native land and licensed as an advocate. In 1836 he came to America, but after the birth of our subject returned to the land of his nativity, remaining in Scotland until 1844, when he again came, with his family, to this country, once more taking up his residence in Boonville, Missouri, where he was the owner of large landed interests. He engaged in the manufacture of salt at Boone’s Lick, and man-aged his business interests with such ability that his efforts were crowned with substantial success. He married Miss Mary S. Borron, a native of Lancashire, England. They were members of the Episcopal Church and people of the highest respectability. The father was drowned in the Missouri River in June 1844, and the mother, long surviving him, departed this life in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1886, at the age of seventy years.
Hon. George Ainslie, the only survivor of the family, began his education in the schools of Scotland, and after the return of his parents to America, pursued a high-school course. Later he spent one year in the St. Louis University, and in 1856 was offered an appointment as cadet at West Point, by Hon. Henry S. Geyer, United States senator from Missouri, but owing to the opposition of his mother, who believed all graduates of the military school and its officers were more or less dissipated, he did not accept the offer.
Desiring to enter the legal profession, Mr. Ainslie began reading law under the direction of Judge Ben Thompkins, and later continued his studies in the law office of Douglass & Hayden. In April, 1860, he was admitted to the bar and the same year started for Pike’s Peak, where he engaged in mining and in the practice of his chosen profession. He was one of the pioneers of that locality, where he remained until 1862, when he went to Salmon River, attracted by the discovery of gold at that place. There he continued until the snow fell, when he went to Clackamas County, Oregon, spending the winter in school teaching. In the spring of 1863 he came to the Boise basin, where he practiced law and also engaged in mining, owning an interest in the General Custer mine, which paid several million dollars in dividends. His first knowledge of the administration of the law in this then wild district came to him in rather a peculiar but also typical manner. In the winter in which he came to Idaho, on the arrival of himself and party at Lewiston, he was waited upon by some gentlemen who desired to secure his services in a professional capacity. Some days before, three men, Dave English, Frank Scott and William Peoples, were accused of having robbed a man by the name of Berry on the Florence trail. They were to be tried by a “citizens’ court,” and desired the services of an attorney. Mr. Ainslie consented to act in their defense and started down town to see his clients, who, he learned, were confined in a temporary jail under guard. Upon asking the guard if he might be permitted to see his clients, he was told that he could not see them that day, but if he would call next morning they would grant him an interview. Accordingly he called at a seasonable hour the next day and was favorably received by the guards, who ushered him through several rooms and finally led him to a rude shed at the back of the building, where he beheld all three of his whilom clients hanging side by side. This was Mr. Ainslie’s first experience with Idaho justice. Realizing the importance of demurrer and the irrelevancy of an appeal, he retired in good order. He has witnessed great changes in the workings of the courts since that time, and through all the years has enjoyed a liberal patronage. Of recent years, however, lie has largely confined his attention to the branches of law which treat of mining and of water irrigation. He is careful and painstaking in the preparation of his cases, is logical and convincing in argument, forcible in his appeals to court or jury and holds high rank as one of the ablest representatives of the profession in the state.
Since his arrival in Idaho Mr. Ainslie has taken a deep and active interest in political questions, and aided in formulating the first Democratic platform of the territory. In 1865 and 1866 he was elected to the legislature, and from 1869 until 1873 he edited the Idaho World, then the only Democratic paper in the territory. He was elected and served as district attorney for the second judicial district from January 1875, to January 1879; in 1878 he was elected a delegate to congress and reelected in 1880. In 1889 he was chosen a member of the constitutional convention, and was chairman of the committee of the executive department. In 1890 he removed to Boise, where he has since made his home. Here again he has been called to lead the Democratic forces to victory, and his influence in political circles is most marked. He has perhaps more than any other man shaped the policy of the party in Idaho, is one of its most trusted and respected leaders, and is the Idaho member of the Democratic national committee.
In the promotion of many business interests Mr. Ainslie had also been an important factor, and belongs to that class of representative Americans who advance the general prosperity while laboring for individual success. He was one of the organizers of the Rapid Transit Company, of Boise, and from the beginning has served as its president. Through his instrumentality the electric street railway was built in Boise, before an electric line was laid in San Francisco. He was one of the organizers and stockholders of the Artesian Hot and Cold Water Company. In 1891 he organized a company and built the electric-light works at Baker City. Oregon, and is now at the head of that enterprise as its president. He is a man of resourceful business ability, keen discrimination, sound judgment and well defined purposes, and carries forward to successful completion whatever he undertakes. He is also interested in various mines, and from these varied concerns is deriving a good income.
In 1866 Mr. Ainslie was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Owens, a native of Clay County, Missouri, and to them have been born two daughters: Lucy Lee, who is now the wife of Dr. Edward Perrault, of San Francisco; and Adelma, wife of John F. Nugent, of Silver City, Idaho. The parents were members of the Episcopalian church. Theirs is one of the beautiful homes of Boise, its characteristic culture and intellectuality making it a favorite resort with the best people of the city.
Mr. Ainslie has ever taken a deep interest in those movements or measures calculated to prove of public benefit, and withholds his support from no enterprise that tends toward the general good. Boise owes much of her advancement to his enterprising and carefully directed efforts, for its commercial interests have been the important element in building up the city. He is a member of the Pioneer Association of the state, of which he formerly served as president, and during more than a third of a century he has engraved his name deeply on the pages of Idaho’s history.