Biography of George L. Shoup

It is a well-attested maxim that the greatness of a state lies not in its machinery of government, nor even in its institutions, but in the sterling qualities of its individual citizens, in their capacity for high and unselfish effort and their devotion to the public good. Rising above the heads of the mass there has always been a series of individuals, distinguished beyond others, who by reason of their pronounced ability and forceful personality have always commanded the respect of their fellow men and who have revealed to the world those two resplendent virtues of a lordly race, perseverance in purpose and a directing spirit which never fails. Of this class George L. Shoup stands as an excellent illustration. The goal toward which he has hastened during the many years of his toil and endeavor is that which is attained only by such as have by patriotism and wise counsel given the world an impetus toward the good; such have gained the right and title to have their names enduringly inscribed on the bright pages of history.

George L. Shoup has been a resident of Idaho since 1866, has served as chief executive of the state, and is now representing the commonwealth in the United States senate. He was born in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, June 15, 1836 and traces his descent to German ancestors, who located in the colony of Pennsylvania when it was a British dependency. Representatives of the name fought for the independence of the nation, and also participated in the war of 1812. Henry Shoup, the father of our subject, was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and married Miss Anna J. McCain, daughter of George E. McCain, of the Keystone state, a gentleman of Scotch-Irish descent. The Shoups were industrious farming people, and were faithful members of the Presbyterian Church. The Senator’s father lived to be sixty-five years of age, and his mother departed this life when about the same age. They had six sons and three daughters, of whom four now survive. One brother of our subject, T. S. Shoup, is now a professor in the Iowa State Normal School, and the other, J. M., is United States marshal of Alaska.

Senator Shoup was reared in the County of his nativity and acquired his education in its public schools. In 1859 he crossed the plains to Pike’s Peak, being one of the first to discover gold in western Colorado. He engaged in mining and merchandising, with good success, until the great civil war broke upon the country, when he enlisted in the Union service as a member of Captain Baxter’s Company of Independent Scouts. During the fall of that year he was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant, and in 1862, when his company was assigned to the Second Colorado Volunteer Regiment, was made first lieutenant. With his command he was engaged in scouting in the borders of Texas and the Indian Territory; in 1863 his company was attached to the First Colorado Cavalry; and in the following year he was commissioned colonel of the Third Colorado Regiment. In the spring of that year he was elected to the convention chosen to frame the state constitution of Colorado, and served in this capacity during the session of the convention, and then rejoined his regiment, on the 28th of November. He was in command of his regiment at the battle of Sand creek, in which Colonel Chivington and a detachment of his men also participated. This was a hard-fought and sanguinary battle in which four hundred Indians were killed. Both colonies were afterward censured by the United States senate, which had been misinformed in regard to the hostility of the red men, the atrocious murders they were committing and the property they were destroying. Colonel Shoup was called to appear before an investigating committee in Washington the following February, and after giving his testimony to the committee he was congratulated and complimented by every one of its members for the valuable service he performed for his country in that battle. Thus was he completely exonerated, which was very gratifying to him and to the men who had jeopardized their lives in an engagement in which they had severely punished the Indians and freed that section of the country from the lawless acts of the red men.

In 1865 Colonel Shoup purchased a cattle train for the purpose of hauling merchandise of his own into the far west, but was induced to load his train with government supplies for Fort Laramie, at which place he bought a stock of goods from a merchant who was en route for Montana. Mr. Shoup took the goods to Virginia City, Montana, where he arrived in the spring of 1866 establishing a store there and one in the Salmon River Mining District, Idaho, the same year, and the following year surveyed and laid out the town of Salmon City. Since then he has made the latter place his headquarters, and by great industry and honest endeavor he has become one of the most successful businessmen of the state. He still carries on his mercantile interests and has erected a large, substantial brick store building, where he is carrying on an extensive wholesale and retail business. His reliable and systematic methods have gained him the confidence of many patrons, and he derives from his mercantile ventures a good income. At various intervals he has introduced fine thoroughbred cattle from the east, in this way improving his own stock and that of the state. He is likewise interested in mining in Lemhi County, in the vicinity of the Salmon River, and along these various lines has done much to develop the resources of the state. He also has broad farming lands, on which he raises hay and grain for his stock and for the market. He possesses keen discrimination and great energy in business, and his resolution enables him to carry forward to successful completion whatever he undertakes.

On the 15th of June, 1868, Senator Shoup was happily married to Miss Lena Darnutser of Iowa, a lady of Swiss descent. Their union has been blessed with three sons and three daughters, namely: William Henry, who is bookkeeper for the firm at Salmon City, where he resides with his wife and two children; George E., who has charge of the farm and ranch; Walter C, who is a graduate of the law department of Yale College, and is now practicing his profession in Salt Lake City, Utah, also serving as first lieutenant of Company D, Colonel Terry’s regiment, and acting as judge advocate of the court martial, at Jacksonville, Florida; and Lena J., Laura M. and Margaret E., all at home. The two eldest sons are graduates of the Dubuque (Iowa) Academy. The family is one of marked prominence in Boise, and its members occupy enviable positions in social circles, where intelligence, culture and refinement are the passports into good society. They have a nice home in Boise, and its hospitality is enjoyed by their very extensive circle of friends.

Probably, however, Mr. Shoup is better known in connection with his political service. He has always been an ardent worker in the ranks of the Republican Party to which he has ever given his unwavering fealty, influence and support. His fellow citizens, appreciating his fidelity and worth, elected him their representative in the lower house of the territorial legislature in 1874; in 1878 they elected him to the upper house, and in 1884 he was appointed commissioner to the World’s Cotton Centennial at New Orleans. Senator Shoup at first declined the Cotton Centennial appointment, but later, finding there was no one in the territory who would take the position, he finally accepted the appointment and gave thirty-five thousand dollars to make and maintain the territory’s exhibit at the Exposition. The exhibit was the means of giving the world some idea of what Idaho was at that time, and did more good than all other efforts to place the name of Idaho where it properly belonged. Although Senator Shoup gave freely of his means and one year’s time to the project, he feels that the time and money were not spent in a lost cause.

In March, 1889, he was appointed governor of the territory, and upon the admission of the state in 1890, he was elected governor. In December of the same year he was chosen to represent Idaho in the United States senate, where he is now ably and creditably serving, taking an active part in the business that is transacted in the council chambers of the nation. His course has ever been above suspicion. The good of the nation he places before partisanship, and the welfare of his constituents before personal aggrandizement. He commands the respect of the members of congress and the senate, but at home, in the state of his adoption, where he is best known, he inspires personal friendships of unusual strength, and all who know him have the highest admiration for his good qualities of heart and mind.


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

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