James W. Poe, a distinguished lawyer and Idaho pioneer, residing at Lewiston, is a native of Jackson county, Missouri, his birth having there occurred on the 15th of January, 1838. His father, William B. Poe, was born in North Carolina, and married Mrs. Nancy Mulkey, nee Johnson, a native of South Carolina, by whom he had four children, two of whom are yet living. He valiantly served his country as a soldier in the Mexican war, and in 1853 crossed the plains to Oregon with his family. Our subject accompanied his parents on their westward emigration, and acquired his education at Forest Grove and in the Portland Academy. He has the honor of being the first male graduate of that then new institution of learning. Well fitted by superior educational advantages for the practical duties of life, he then entered upon his business career, and in 1861 came to Idaho. He engaged in mining at Oro Fino, Florence and Warren, and also conducted a mercantile establishment for a time, but wishing to enter the legal profession, he took up the study of law in the office and under the direction of the law firm of Williams & Gibbs. The senior partner, George L. Williams, afterward became United States attorney general, and Mr. Gibbs held the office of governor of Oregon.
In 1869 Mr. Poe was admitted to practice in the district court. His partner was the discoverer of gold at Warren’s, and they operated and sold goods there for some time. Mr. Poe was elected the first district recorder of the Warren’s mining district, and practiced law at Warren’s and Mount Idaho until 1876, at which time he was elected attorney for the district comprising all of northern Idaho. He then established his office in Lewiston, where he has since made his home. He had served for six years previously as deputy district attorney, filling that position in all for ten years. He was elected and served in the territorial legislature in 1879-80, and took an active part in shaping the destiny of the territory during that period. Other public service of a very different nature also fell to his lot, as he was a participant in the Clearwater battle with the Nez Perces Indians, the conflict resulting in driving the Indians back into Montana. He was a leading member of the state constitutional convention, his knowledge of constitutional law rendering him an important factor in framing the organic law of Idaho. He also had the honor of presiding over the first mass meeting which was called for the purpose of adopting measures to secure statehood for Idaho, and is now, 1899, city attorney of Lewiston, and attorney for the board of education of the independent school district of Lewiston.
Such in brief is the history of his public service, a service in which at all times and under all circumstances he has shown himself worthy of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He has studied closely both the conditions and needs of his state, both locally and otherwise, and at all times has manifested a most loyal and public-spirited interest in the common good. He is now engaged in the private practice of law, as the senior member of the firm of Poe, Anderson & Anderson, one of the most able and prominent law firms in this section of the state. He enjoys a large and lucrative practice and his clientage has been secured through his marked ability in handling the intricate problems of jurisprudence. He is careful in the preparation of his cases, clear in argument and logical in his deductions and has gained many important cases.
Mr. Poe has also been the promoter of the horticultural interests of northern Idaho. He planted a large fruit orchard at Lewiston, and as the seasons passed gathered large crops, thus adding to his income and at the same time demonstrating the adaptability of the soil of this region for the production of choice fruits.
In 1877 Mr. Poe was united in marriage to Mrs. Fannie L. Turpin, a sister of Judge Moreland’s wife and a daughter of Colonel John L. Cline, a Mexican war veteran. She had two children by her former marriage, the elder, Serena, being now the wife of Dr. C. W. Shaff, a prominent physician of Lewiston ; and Sarah E., who has been a successful teacher in the state university at Moscow since its organization.
Socially Mr. Poe is connected with the Masonic fraternity, having joined the order at Mount Idaho in 1876. He now affiliates with Lewiston Lodge, No. ID, F. & A. M. In politics he has been a lifelong and ardent Democrat, has kept well informed on the issues of the day and has rendered his party valuable service in the campaigns. The record of Mr. Poe is that of a man who has by his own efforts worked his way upward to a position of affluence. His life has been one of industry and perseverance, and the systematic and honorable business methods he has followed, together with his diligence and ability in his profession, have won him the support and confidence of many. Without the aid of wealth, he has risen to a position among the most prominent men of the state, and his native genius and acquired ability are the stepping stones on which he mounted.