Biography of John Hailey

The well-known pioneer and statesman of Idaho from whom the town of Hailey takes its name, is now a resident of Bellevue, this state. He has been twice elected a delegate to congress from this territory, and is one of the best informed men in the state on national affairs.

Mr. Hailey is a native of Smith County, Tennessee, born August 29, 1835, of Scottish ancestry and a descendant of a family long resident in the Old Dominion, his grandfather, Philip Hailey, and his father, John Hailey, having been both natives of Virginia. His father married Miss Nancy Baird, a native of Tennessee, the daughter of Captain Josiah Baird, who had been a captain in the war of 1812.

Mr. Hailey received his education in the public schools. His father, with his family, removed to Dade County, Missouri, in 1848, and in 1853 young John crossed the plains to Oregon, as a member of the Tatum Company. When near the Platte a large company of Indians came upon them and made them give up the greater part of their provisions, leaving the emigrants short of everything excepting bread and tea. At Rock creek the Indians again swooped down upon them and stampeded their horses, after which they had to drive the one hundred head of cows they had on foot.

The company arrived at Salem, Oregon, in October 1853, after a long and tedious journey of six months and a day from the time they had started. Mr. Hailey, directly after his arrival at Salem, went over to Coos bay, where he was employed at work, connected with which event he relates the following interesting incident. Being nearly out of money, he applied for work and was told by the employers that they had all the help they needed. He offered then to work for his board only, until he could do better. They told him that all the axes they had were in use. The ambitious young immigrant then said he would buy an ax. With this arrangement he was allowed to work until Saturday, and the superintendent then offered him four dollars and fifty cents: but Mr. Hailey declined it, saying, “I offered to work for you for my board until I could do better, and mean to keep my bargain.” The boss then told him, “I have put you on my payroll at sixty dollars per month.” Mr. Hailey thereupon said he would accept that, as that was the first chance he had to do better. After another week’s work the boss made him foreman and allowed him one hundred dollars a month and this position Mr. Hailey filled until the job was completed.

From there he went to the mines and was employed at placer mining until late in the autumn of 1854. Not meeting with satisfactory success, he proceeded to Jackson County, in the southern part of the state, and worked on a farm for eight months, for J. B. Risley, and then he leased the farm for a year. At this time the Indian war of 1855-56 broke out, and Mr. Hailey joined the volunteers and participated in the first engagement on Rogue River. He, with the others, was discharged in 1856. He had gone into the service as a private, and was promoted as first lieutenant.

Returning to the ranch, he leased it again. August 7, this year (1856), he married Miss Louisa Griffin, a daughter of B. B. Griffin, an Oregon pioneer of 1847. The following year he purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land adjoining the one he had rented, obtaining sixty head of cattle with the place, and remained there, engaged in ranching, until 1862, when the gold discoveries in what is now Idaho brought him hither. He came with a number of sheep and horses. He sold the sheep at Walla Walla, and went to Lewiston with the pack-horses and mules and engaged in packing from Lewiston to Florence. After making two trips in this service he went to the Yakima, in company with William K. Ish, and located two hay ranches, and they made four hundred tons of hay each year. He built a flat-boat eighty feet long, and on it loaded the baled hay, which he floated to Wallula and Umatilla, and for which he received thirty to forty dollars per ton. To get the boat back home they made a towpath and hauled it back with mules. When the wind was favorable they hoisted sails. In this enterprise the proprietors made money.

In 1863 Mr. Hailey started a saddle train from Walla Walla and Umatilla to Boise, and that was the commencement of the great stage business which he inaugurated and in which his name became so noted. While in that business he took the first pack train to the Boise basin in winter, and the first over the Blue Mountains in winter. He had thirty mules and as many packhorses, using large, strong horses without packs to go ahead and break the trail. It was a great and hazardous undertaking but with his energy and courage he successfully accomplished it. He received twenty-six or twenty-seven cents a pound for freight, making in one trip two thousand and one hundred dollars. No other packer would undertake the job.

In 1864 he and Mr. Ish placed a stage line between Umatilla, Placerville and Boise, and the next year Mr. Hailey bought his partner’s interest in the concern. They had rough times in crossing streams, being obliged occasionally to convey the passengers over in boats. They had eleven to fourteen passenger coaches, using four to six horses with each. The fare in the summer time was forty dollars and in the winter sixty dollars, and for baggage over twenty-five pounds they charged extra.

In 1866 Mr. Hailey received from Ben Halliday a sub-contract to carry the mail from Boise to The Dalles, Oregon, by way of Umatilla, for which he received eighty thousand dollars per year, and in connection with this job he also did a good passenger business. In 1868 C. M. Lockwood secured the contract and stocked the road from Boise to Ogden. Soon afterward Mr. Hailey bought the stock and contract from Ogden to The Dalles and ran the business of the route until July, 1870, then sold out to the Northwestern Stage Company, for one hundred and thirty thousand dollars, at which time it was a fine line, well stocked, and made very close connections, seldom varying as much as five minutes from schedule time. After this Mr. Hailey engaged in the livestock and butchering business in Boise.

In the year 1872 Mr. Hailey was elected a delegate to represent the territory of Idaho in the Forty-third congress, and after this he was again offered the position by both parties, but he declined it and confined himself to his private business affairs. Soon afterward he met with some heavy financial reverses, having to pay forty thousand dollars as a bondsman for other parties, and losing about ten thousand head of his sheep by death, worth at the time four dollars a head. He had also invested somewhat heavily in Boise property, which declined in value.

In 1878 he again purchased an interest in the stage business, in company with Salisbury and Gilmore, the line being the same that he had previously owned, by this time, however, including some others, as those from Boise city to Winnemucca, Nevada, Boise to Boise Basin, Blackfoot to Challis, Arco to Ketchum, Goose creek to Hailey, Mountain Home to Hailey, Mountain Home to Rocky Bar, Roseburg to Redding. California, Redding to Yreka, same state, by way of Scott’s valley. Redding to Weaverville, and several others of smaller distances, making in all over two thousand miles of stage line. They built stations and had a grand stock of horses and coaches, and all these were superintended by Mr. Hailey himself. The consequence was, he worked too hard and injured his health: and soon after this, too, the railroads began to creep around over the country, rendering the stock of the company of little value, all having to be disposed of at less than a quarter of what they cost. This third and last great misfortune greatly reduced the resources of Mr. Hailey.

In 1884 Mr. Hailey was again elected a delegate to congress, and served two years, being active in many improvements of the political condition of his territory, especially in respect to mail service and the law for settling the Indians upon specified lands in severalty, also in having passed the Idaho “depredation” bill.

It was in 1879 that he located the land on which the nice town of Hailey now stands. In company with others, he platted the land for a town and named it Marshall: but the settlers would not have it, and insisted on naming the place Hailey, in honor of the great pioneer and statesman who had done so much for Idaho.

Mr. Hailey now owns the Susie S. mine, on which he has done a considerable amount of work by way of development. It is a gold property, fifteen miles south of Bellevue, and has a large low-grade ledge forty feet wide, which assays an average of eight dollars per ton. In this mine he has a thousand feet of tunnel and shafts, and there is in sight a million tons of ore. Mr. Hailey also has a ranch of two hundred and forty acres, on which he is raising cattle and horses.

Every good citizen of Idaho hopes that Mr. Hailey ‘s last days will be his best days, and that his gold mine may bring him a fortune again. Mr. and Mrs. Hailey have had eight children, six of whom have grown up five sons and a daughter, as follows: Jesse C, John, Leona mow Mrs. Ross Carter), Thomas G. (a graduate of the Washington Lee University, in Virginia, where he took the gold-medal prize in his class of 1888, and is now a practicing lawyer at Pendleton, Oregon), Burrel B. and George C. There are now thirteen grandchildren.

Politically, Mr. Hailey has been a life long Democrat, and is at present the chairman of the Democratic state central committee. He is a man of clear intellect, thoroughly posted in governmental affairs, both state and national, and is sound on financial questions, an able expounder of bimetallism and a very convincing speaker on the rostrum, having done his Party great service during the campaigns. “Uncle John Hailey,” as he is familiarly called, is now serving as warden of the Idaho state penitentiary.


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

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