Robert E. McFarland, late incumbent of the responsible position of attorney general of Idaho, by his faithful and capable discharge of duty won the highest commendation. Thoroughly versed in the principles of jurisprudence, he was well fitted to handle the intricate problems which presented themselves for solution, and his success affords the best evidence of his capabilities. He is a native of Missouri, born in Independence, November 21, 1857. The family is of Scotch lineage, the first American ancestors having crossed the Atlantic in colonial days and actively participated in the events which form the history of that epoch. They also battled for the freedom of the nation in the war of the Revolution. The father of our subject Rev. W. B. McFarland was born in Pennsylvania, whence he removed to Virginia, and later to Missouri. He married Miss Elvira Early, a sister of General Jubal Early, and at the age of sixty-five she departed this life. Rev. W. B. McFarland now resides in Iowa and has attained the advanced age of seven-ty-nine. He has led a long and useful life in the Methodist ministry, and is now practically retired, although he still preaches occasionally.
One of a family of nine children, Robert Early McFarland was reared in a cultured home and acquired his education in Central College, at Fayette, Howard county, Missouri. He began reading law in Pettis county, that state, under the instruction of Hon. George G. Vest, now United States senator, and later continued his study in the office and under the direction of George L. Hayes, of Sweet Springs, and Judge John L. Strother, of Marshall, Missouri. He was admitted to the bar in 1880, and to practice in the supreme court of the state in 1891. He entered the practice of his profession in Socorro, New Mexico, and his career at the bar has been uniformly successful, his patronage steadily increasing as the years have gone by. In the fall of 1883 he was elected a member of the New Mexico legislature, and at the close of the session in March 1894, he left the south for the far northwest.
Locating in Shoshone County, Idaho, he has since been numbered among the prominent members of the legal fraternity in this state. In the fall of 1884 he was elected probate judge, which position he filled until May 1885, when President Cleveland appointed him register of the land office at Coeur d’Alene, in which capacity he served for five years. He then resumed the private practice of law, and on the 9th of April 1894, was admitted to practice before the supreme court of the United States. In 1896 he was nominated for the position of attorney general of Idaho on the People’s Democratic ticket, and was elected to the office, which he acceptably filled until the expiration of his term, in January 1899. He came to Boise in December, 1896, and made his home in the capital city until the expiration of his term of office, when he removed to Lewiston, where he entered into a professional partnership with his brother, S. L. McFarland, and is now actively engaged in the practice of law in that city. While practicing in Kootenai county he made a specialty of criminal law and for eleven years was retained on the defense in every important criminal case tried in that county. He lost only three out of all the number, and his reputation extended far throughout the state. As a lawyer he is sound, clear-minded and well trained. The limitations which are imposed by the constitution on federal powers are well understood by him. With the long line of decisions from Marshall down he is familiar, as are all thoroughly skilled lawyers. He is at home in all departments of law, from the minute in practice to the greater topics wherein is involved the consideration of the ethics and philosophy of jurisprudence and the higher concerns of public policy. He has always been a Democrat in his political affiliations and on account of his brilliant oratory and readiness in debate has done much effective campaign work.
On the 25th of November 1885, Mr. McFarland was united in marriage to Miss Marie Pendy, a native of Virginia City, Nevada. They now have three children, two sons and a daughter: W. B., Cathleen R. and Robert Early, Jr. The General is a genial, agreeable companion and friend, possessed of talent of a superior order, back of which is a will that commands success.