Biography of John Lane

Colonel John Lane, the senior member of the law firm of Lane & McDonald, has long resided on the Pacific coast, but has made his home in Lewiston for only two years. In that time, however, he has gained prestige as one of the ablest members of the bar of this locality, and is therefore a valued addition to the professional circles of the city.

A native of the state of Indiana, Colonel Lane was born in Evansville, May 17, 1837. His ancestors were of Irish and French stock and were early settlers of North Carolina, where they founded the city of Raleigh one hundred years before America sought her independence through the power of arms. Several of the family held military commissions under General Washington, in the Revolutionary war, and the family has always been celebrated for bravery and valor in battle. General Joseph Lane, the father of the Colonel, was born in North Carolina, December 14, 1801, and became a brevet major general in the Mexican war. He was appointed by President James K. Polk to go to Oregon and organize the territorial government there before the expiration of the president’s term. With all expedition he started across the plains, in the fall of 1848, with a small escort of the regiment of mounted rifles. On the approach of the winter, he turned aside and passed through New Mexico and Arizona, finally reaching San Diego. California, where he took a schooner for Yuba Buena, afterward San Francisco. From that point he proceeded by schooner to the mouth of the Columbia, after which, with Indians and canoes, he proceeded up the Columbia to Willamette, and up that river to Oregon City, where he arrived March 3, 1849. He immediately issued the proclamation organizing the territory of Oregon. This was just the day previous to the close of Mr. Polk’s administration, so that he made the long and perilous journey and performed his mission just in time. He then took up his abode in the new territory, and in 185 1 was elected its delegate to congress. When Oregon became a state he was its first United States senator, and in i860 he was a candidate on the Democratic ticket for vice-president, Breckinridge being the nominee for president. Soon afterward he returned to Roseburg, Oregon, where he retired from active life. He died there on the 19th of April 1881, at the age of eighty years, and his death was probably hastened by the wounds which he sustained in the Mexican war and in the Indian wars in Oregon. In early life he had married Miss Mary Hart, a native of Kentucky, and to them were born ten children, six of whom are yet living. The mother died in 1870.

Colonel Lane, the eighth of the family, acquired his education in Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia, and in his twentieth year he was appointed by President Pierce a cadet at large to West Point, where he remained until March, 1861, when he resigned, and at the opening of the civil war entered the Confederate service as a second lieutenant. He was ordnance officer and drill master at Fort Pulaski, and subsequently was ordered to Virginia, where he was attached as drill master to a company of artillery. He was on the staff of General G. W. Smith as aid-de-camp and later was captain of a battery of artillery. He participated in twenty-three battles, and at the siege of Petersburg, at the close of the war, he held the rank of lieutenant colonel in command of a battalion of artillery. He was three times slightly wounded. His training at West Point, combined with his devotion to the cause he espoused, made him a most valued and brave representative of the southern cause.

After the war Colonel Lane visited his father in Oregon, and was induced by him to engage in the stock business, which he carried on successfully for a number of years in Douglas County, Oregon. He also engaged in mining at the Black Sand mines on the coast, and took out one hundred thousand dollars, but it was such difficult work that the cost of carrying it on was as great as the returns. In the meantime, while engaged in stock-raising, Colonel Lane had read law under the direction of his brother, L. F. Lane, who afterward became a member of congress, but before beginning practice he served in public office, first filling the position of assessor of Coos county. Later he was elected and served for two consecutive terms as sheriff of the county. In 1883, being in Salem, Oregon, with prisoners at the time the Supreme Court was in session; he was invited by one of the supreme judges to take the examination for admission to the bar. With no idea of engaging in practice, he consented, and acquitted himself most creditably, thus becoming a member of the legal profession. He then completed his term as sheriff, after which he took up the practice of law at Roseburg with his brother, L. F. Lane.

In 1893 Colonel Lane went to Washington, D. C, where he had the pleasure of seeing President Cleveland inaugurated, and was by him appointed Indian agent, in which capacity he served until March, 1896, when he was ordered to report to Washington, and was appointed by Hoke Smith, secretary of the interior, to the position of special Indian agent and afterward appointed Indian inspector. He capably filled that office until June, 1897, when he retired and has since devoted his energies to the private practice of law. In the summer of that year he visited Lewiston, and being greatly pleased with the city and its excellent outlook he determined to locate here. He arrived October 19, 1897, and, on the hill just above the town, the stage on which he was riding was held up and robbed. Opening an office, he has within two years secured a large clientage and has been connected with most of the important litigation heard during this period. The firm of Lane & McDonald take precedence of many others of longer standing, and their devotion to the clients’ interests, combined with their skill in argument, insures them a continuance of the law business of Lewiston and the surrounding country.

In 1878 Mr. Lane was united in marriage to Miss Hattie Sherrard, of Coos County, Oregon. Five children have been born to them, of whom four are living: Joseph W., Roy C, Winifred and Lorena. The family reside in one of the nice homes of Lewiston, and the Colonel and his wife are held in high regard. Socially he is a representative of the Ancient Order of United Workmen.


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

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