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One of the foremost representatives of the mercantile interests of the Wood river valley is James W. Ballantine, of Bellevue. A native of Pennsylvania, he was born February 15, 1839, and in his life has manifested many of the sterling traits of his Scotch ancestry, who emigrated to the United States in 1825. His parents were Nathaniel and Sarah (Wallace) Ballantine, natives of Scotland, in which country they were reared and married. Crossing the Atlantic to America, they took up their residence near Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, where the father engaged in merchandising. They were Presbyterians in their religious faith, and were people of the highest integrity of character, respected by all who knew them. For more than forty years Nathaniel Ballantine was a successful business man of Pennsylvania, and lived to be seventy-eight years of age, while his wife passed away at the age of seventy. They had eight children, four of whom are living.
James W. Ballantine is the eldest living of their sons. He was educated in the public schools of his native state, and received his business training at the store and under the direction of his father, whom he assisted in the conduct of a mercantile establishment until President Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers to aid in suppressing the rebellion in the south. Mr. Ballantine at once responded, enlisting in April 1861, and assisted in raising Company E, of the Ninth Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, of which he was elected first lieutenant. He was afterward chosen captain of Company K, of the same regiment in which position he served until the expiration of his term. He then assisted in raising the One Hundred and Ninety-third Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, of which he was elected lieutenant colonel, continuing to act in that capacity until the close of his second term of enlistment. For three years he was with the Army of the Potomac and participated in all of its hard-fought battles and glorious victories. He was wounded by a gunshot in the thigh and was also captured at the second battle of Bull Run, but after two months he returned to his command, with which he continued until the close of hostilities. He was always a valiant soldier, fearless and true, and because of his meritorious service on the field of battle was brevetted major by President Johnson.
Soon after his return home Major Ballantine engaged in the oil refining business, at Pittsburgh, and did a successful business in that line from 1865 to 1883, when the great mining excitement in the Wood river valled allured him to Idaho, and he has since been a valued and influential citizen of this part of the state. He came to superintend the mining and smelting works of a Philadelphia company, doing business at Muldoon, and was thus engaged for two years, when the company concluded to close their establishment. Mr. Ballantine then turned his attention to mining and stock-raising. He has been interested in various gold mines, and was a member of a company that, after taking out considerable ore from the Hub mine, sold the property for ninety thousand dollars. He is still interested in mining ventures, and is now working a copper mine in Nevada. This property is bonded and probably sold. He also has a valuable cattle ranch twenty miles east of Bellevue, where he is raising cattle and horses on an extensive scale. At Bellevue he is a member of the firm of Hill & Ballantine, proprietors of the largest general mercantile establishment in the Wood river valley. They enjoy an extensive and constantly increasing patronage, and have a well equipped store, supplied with everything in their line demanded by the general public. Reasonable prices, honorable dealing and courteous treatment have secured for them a good business, and the enterprise has proved a profitable one.
In 1865, after his return from the war, Mr. Ballantine was united in marriage to Miss Lena McIntyre, a native of Pennsylvania, and they had one daughter, Carrie, who died while the family yet resided in Pittsburg. Mrs. Ballantine is a consistent and faithful member of the Presbyterian church.
Mr. Ballantine gave his political support to the Republican Party until 1892, when his opinions concerning the money question led him to withdraw his allegiance. He then aided in the organization of the Populist Party, and on that ticket, in 1892, was elected a member of the Idaho state legislature. In 1894 he was honored by the Populist nomination for governor and polled a heavy vote, but was defeated by a small majority of a few hundred. In i8g6 he was elected a member of the state senate and was the candidate of his party for United States senator, receiving the full Populist vote, lacking only eight votes of being elected. Before coming west he served as a member of the Pennsylvania legislature. He has long taken an active and influential part in politics, and is a recognized leader in the ranks of his party, his opinions carrying great weight in its councils. Socially, he is connected with the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Grand Army of the Republic, and served as commander of O. H. Rippey Post, No. 41, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In business he sustains an unassailable reputation, in political life he has the ability and knowledge of the statesman, and in social circles he is known as a courteous, cultured and popular gentleman.