Biography of Peter Pence

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The life record of this honored pioneer, and his connection with many of the leading events in the history of Idaho, form no unimportant chapter in the annals of the state. He has been identified with its early development through the period when existence in the northwest was attended by many difficulties and dangers, and with its latter-day progress and advancement which have placed Idaho on a par with many of the older states of the east. His early years were spent far from this “Gem of the Mountains.” He was born in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, in October 1837, and is of German ancestry, the founders of the family in America having been early settlers of the Keystone state. The grand-father of our subject, George Washington Pence, served as a lieutenant in the Revolutionary war and lived to be one hundred years of age, while his wife reached the remarkable age of one hundred and seven years.

Their son, who also bore the name of George W. Pence and is the father of our subject, was born in Pennsylvania, November 10, 18 10, and is still living on the old family homestead where he first opened his eyes to the light of day. He married Deborah McKee, who was of Irish lineage. They were industrious farming people and were members of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Pence has survived his fourth wife. By his marriage to the mother of our subject he had ten children, eight of whom are living, including Sarah Pence, who resides in the east and is president of the National League. Other members of the family are prominent in various walks of life and the Pence history is most creditable and commendable.

Peter Pence was reared upon his father’s farm, assisting in the labors of field and meadow through the summer months, while in the winter season he attended the public schools of the neighborhood. In 1857 he went to Kansas, where he was living all through the troublous times concerning the adoption or rejection of slavery in that state. He had many thrilling experiences and narrow escapes, which if written in detail would form an interesting volume. He almost met death at the hands of border ruffians on several occasions, and at one time was waylaid by the “jayhawkers,” who stole his team from him, but with dauntless courage he followed them and finally succeeded in recovering pos-session of his horses. With his team he hauled to Atchison the “Jim Lane cannon,” with which they defended the town. In 1861 Mr. Pence made three trips to Denver, Colorado, freighting with oxen and hauling the goods that stocked some of the first stores built in that city. In 1862 he again started with an ox team on the long and perilous journey across the arid plains, leaving the Missouri River on the 9th of June. They were harassed by Indians, lost some of their stock and saw the remains of many emigrants who had been killed by the savages. They arrived at the fording place of the Malheur River, September 26, 1862, but were there delayed for a day by the death of one of the party. At that point they met the men who had just discovered gold in the Boise basin, but Mr. Pence was prevailed upon to go with the company to Baker City, Oregon, which was then a town of two unfinished houses. After two weeks passed there, he went to Auburn and thence came to the Boise basin, where he arrived on the 1st of November. He formed a partnership with Samuel Kenney and they whip-sawed lumber, for which in the spring of 1863 they were paid three hundred dollars per thousand feet, the winter’s work thus bringing them thirty dollars per day. Expenses, however, were very high, flour sometimes selling for a dollar a pound, and other things in proportion. In 1863 Mr. Pence began mining, but did not meet with success in that venture, and so followed freighting from Umatilla and Walla Walla to the Boise basin until 1866, when he operated a horse-power threshing machine in Boise valley, receiving fifteen cents a bushel for threshing grain. He saw a man called Beaver Dick stake out the first ranch located in the Boise valley, the land being about five miles above Boise City. In 1867 he too became a ranch owner, in the famous Payette valley, ten miles above the present town of Payette, turning his attention to the raising of stock, in which he has since been successfully engaged. He has had as many as two thousand head of cattle at one time, and his sales of stock, in 1887, amounted to forty-two thousand and five hundred dollars. For many years he has made his headquarters in Payette, and at various times has successfully conducted a meat market in connection with the management of his large ranch, both in Boise City and other places.

His business interests have been conducted with marked ability, and he is widely recognized as one of the leading stock dealers of the state. His realty holdings are very extensive, including about three thousand acres of rich farming lands, together with an entire block in the city of Payette, on which his residence is situated. He also owns a half interest in the Garie addition to Payette, is largely interested in the irrigation ditch known as the Lower Payette ditch, which supplies water in the lower Payette and Snake River valleys to the Weiser River, a distance of twenty-two miles, and is at present president of three ditch incorporations. He is also vice-president of the Payette Valley Bank. The varied nature of his business interests indicates his resourceful business ability. He is quick to note a favorable opportunity, is energetic and enterprising, and in matters of business management his judgment is rarely at fault. His property has been worthily acquired and is a fitting reward to one who has experienced all the hardships of pioneer life in the northwest.

On the 6th of October 1873, Mr. Pence married Miss Anna Bixby, who was born in Missouri but was reared in Nebraska. Her father, Seth Bixby, was a prominent California pioneer. Mr. and Mrs. Pence have six children, four sons and two daughters: Emma Belle, wife of F. M. Satoris: Edward, Lloyd, Harry, Walter and Grace. The three eldest children are all college graduates, and it is the intention that the younger ones shall receive equally good educational privileges, that they may thus be well fitted for the practical and responsible duties of life.

Mr. and Mrs. Pence are charter members of the Methodist church of Payette, and have ever taken a most active interest in its work. They contributed liberally toward the erection of the house of worship in Payette, and also the Methodist church in Weiser. The cause of education has likewise found in them trustworthy friends, and no worthy movement seeks their aid in vain. He is at present a member of the school board in Payette.

In his political views Mr. Pence is a stalwart Republican. He served as the first mayor of Payette, proving a competent and faithful official, and is now a member of the town council.’ He is a charier member of the Masonic lodge of the town and has taken the Royal Arch degrees of the order. Thus has he been prominently connected with the business, social, educational and moral interests of his adopted state, and that, too, from the earliest period of its development. He came to Idaho at a time when perils and hard-ships were on every hand, when the pioneers built for their protection at different points along the River stockades to which they escaped from the savages. Many a night Mr. Pence has slept with his family in the bushes for fear the Indians would attack them in their home and murder them all. On other occasions he has hastily placed wife and children into the wagon and driven with all speed to the stockade. Atrocities committed by Indians, and often by the lawless element usually found in a new community, are too terrible to relate; but that period in the history of the state has long since passed; law, order and peace hold dominion over this beautiful region, rich with the bountiful gifts of nature, and Mr. Pence, with many others of the brave pioneers, is now enjoying the fruits of his former toil.



MLA Source Citation:

Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 12 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/idaho/biography-of-peter-pence.htm - Last updated on May 15th, 2012


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