Biography of Joseph Carman Pence

For thirty years Joseph Carman Pence has been a resident of Idaho, and has been extensively interested in one of the leading industries of the state stock-raising. He was born in Des Moines County, Iowa, on the 28th of May 1844, and is a representative of an old Pennsylvania-Dutch family that was founded in America in colonial days. Some of its members participated in the Revolutionary war, valiantly aiding in the struggle for independence. William Pence, the father of our subject, was born in the Keystone state, and in early manhood married Miss Mary Thurston, who was a native of the same County in which her husband’s birth occurred. During the pioneer epoch in the history of Iowa, they emigrated to Burlington, that state, and there spent their remaining days, the father dying in his fifty-fourth year, while the mother passed away in the fifty-sixth year of her age. They were the parents of six sons and four daughters, of whom six are yet living.

Mr. Pence of this review is the ninth of the children in order of birth. He was reared and educated in his native state, and when eighteen years of age responded to his country’s call for aid in crushing out the rebellion in the south. Joining the Union army in 1862, he became a member of Company A, Nineteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and participated in the battle of Prairie Grove, the siege and capture of Vicksburg and the capture of Brownsville, Texas. Later his command was sent to Pensacola, Florida, where it spent the winter of 1864-5, and in the spring went to Mobile and was engaged in the siege of Spanish Fort, which was at the close of the war. Mr. Pence received an honorable discharge, having for three years faithfully defended the stars and stripes. Then he returned to Iowa, where he remained until the following spring, when he started westward with a company who crossed the plains with mule and horse teams.

They traveled by way of the Bozeman route, this being the second year that route was ever followed. On arriving in the northwest, Mr. Pence engaged in freighting from Fort Benton to Helena, and in 1869 went to White Pine, Nevada. He engaged in the cattle business in that state and in Idaho, owning as high as six hundred head of cattle at a time. They sold their stock directly from the ranches and were able to command a good price, the enterprise thus proving a profitable one. In 1881 Mr. Pence came to Boise and began dealing in sheep. For eight years he owned an extensive sheep ranch, having thereon as many as seven thousand head of sheep at one time. His capable management and business ability made this undertaking successful, and largely added to his capital. On the expiration of eight years he purchased a tract of land at Boise, which he planted with prunes, and his orchards have borne plentifully. In all that he has undertaken through a long business career he has met with success, owing to his careful direction, his perseverance and his enterprise, and today a handsome bank account indicates the result of his labors. He was one of the organizers of the Capital State Bank, of Boise, and from the beginning has been one of its stock-holders and directors.

On the 22d of August, 1877, Mr. Pence was united in marriage to Miss Susan M. Keene, a native of Dallas, Texas, and to them were born five children, four of whom are living, namely: Ruth, Laura, Myrtle and Homer. The mother departed this life June 5, 1896, and her death was deeply mourned by her many friends. The two older daughters have since cared for the home, and Mr. Pence is justly proud of his family. Their residence is a commodious brick dwelling, which was erected by our subject in 1882. In politics he has always been Republican, taking due interest in supporting the principles of that party and in promoting the public welfare generally. Socially he is connected with the Knights of Pythias fraternity, and is a valued member of Phil. Sheridan Post, No. 4, G. A. R. In all the relations of life and to all the duties of citizenship he is as true and faithful as when he followed the nation’s starry banner upon southern battlefields.


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

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