Probably every state in the Union has contributed to the quota of prominent men in Idaho. Among the number furnished by Indiana is Judge George Harlan Stewart, who is now presiding over the third judicial district of the state. He was born in Connersville, Indiana, on the 26th of February 1858, and is of Scotch and English lineage, his ancestors having located in Pennsylvania at a pioneer epoch in the history of the Keystone state. Representatives of the family were also early settlers of Ohio, where, in 1821, occurred the birth of Mathew Stewart, father of the Judge. Having arrived at the years of maturity he married Miss Nancy Harlan, whose father was a Baptist minister and an early settler of the state of Indiana. Mr. and Mrs. Stewart took up their residence near Connersville, Indiana, where he industriously carried on farming. He was an ardent Republican, a lover of civil liberty and a hater of every form of oppression. He died in 1887, at the age of sixty-six years, and his wife departed this life in the fifty-eighth year of her age. They were the parents of eight children, of whom four are living.
Judge Stewart is the second eldest survivor of the family. In the common schools he acquired a sufficient education to enable him to engage in teaching, and in that way he won the means which enabled him to continue his studies in higher institutions of learning. He attended the Northern Indiana Normal school, located at Valparaiso, Indiana, where he graduated in 1879, on the completion of the scientific course, after which he took up the study of law in the same institution and was graduated in the law department in 1881, and the same year he was admitted to practice before the supreme court of his native state.
In 1882 Judge Stewart opened a law office in Fowler, Indiana, and soon won a fair clientage, and his business steadily increased as he gave evidence of superior ability in the handling of intricate law problems. In 1886, on account of failing health, he removed to Stockville, Nebraska, where he practiced law until 1890, during which time he was elected and served as County attorney of Frontier County. He was retained as counsel either for the defense or prosecution in nearly every case of importance tried in south-western Nebraska, and gained prestige among the members of the bar in that section of the state. In 1890 he came to Idaho and for a time was associated in the practice with Hon. John S. Gray, and later he formed a partnership with Hon. W. E. Borah. He rapidly gained a commanding position at the bar of the state, and his clientage constantly increased in volume and importance. In 1893 he was elected to represent Ada County in the state senate and served in that position with marked credit to himself and satisfaction to his constituents. In 1896 he was appointed judge of the third judicial district upon the resignation of Judge Richards, and in 1898 was elected to the same position.
His campaign and election constitute one of the brightest pages in the political history of the state. He was nominated upon the straight Republican ticket in a district where the silver vote was in the majority by several thousand. In addition to this, there was a fusion of silver Republicans and Democrats, while the Populist candidate withdrew and permitted the fusion candidate’s name to go upon the Populist ticket. So far as the party was concerned, the three silver parties were combined and practically united on one candidate, this apparently uniting the entire silver force in an overwhelming silver district. Notwithstanding this Judge Stewart was elected by a large majority, the vote of his home County being one of the rarest compliments ever paid to the personal worth of a candidate. Men of all parties voted for him simply because they had discovered in the two years he had sat upon the bench that he not only possessed exceptional executive ability and invincible moral courage in the discharge of his duties, but also what was and is perhaps more difficult to find, that peculiar turn of mind without which a man may be strong in the pit but can never be a great judge. He had won and held so firmly the people’s confidence that the party lash was used in vain.
From the beginning of his career as a legal practitioner, his efforts have been attended with success. He has mastered the science of jurisprudence, and his research and thorough preparation of every case committed to his care enabled him to meet at once any contingency that might arise. His cause was fenced about with unanswerable logic, and his arguments were strong, clear, decided and followed in natural sequence, forming a chain of reasoning that his opponent found very difficult to overthrow. His record on the bench has been most creditable, his rulings ever being those of a just and impartial judge, while his charges to the jury are clear and concise, and his decisions plain and incapable of being misconstrued.
In addition to his law business Judge Stewart has other business interests. He is the owner of some valuable realty, including a forty-acre orchard of winter apples near the city of Boise. He has other property interests in different parts of the state, having made judicious investments of his earnings at the bar.
In 1881 the Judge married Miss Elizabeth School, of Connersville, Indiana, and to them were born two children, Charles L. and Ethel C. In 1885 Mrs. Stewart departed this life, and in 1888 the Judge married Miss Agnes L. Sheets, a native of Fowler, Indiana. They have a delightful home in Boise and their circle of friends is only limited by their circle of acquaintances.
In his political connections the Judge has always been a Republican and warmly advocates the principles of that party. He is president of the Bar Association of his judicial district, and is a valued member of the Masonic fraternity. He was made a Master Mason in Fowler, Indiana, in 1883, and has filled most of the offices in the blue lodge, and is now an acceptable member of Boise Lodge, No. 2, A. F. & A. M., and Boise Chapter, R. A. M. He is also a charter member of the Elks and is past exalted ruler of Capital City Lodge, No. 310.
His life record commends him to the confidence and regard of all and no man occupies a higher position in the public esteem than Judge Stewart.