Biography of Judge Frederick S. Stevens
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The distinguished citizen of Bingham County, Idaho, whose name appears above, has lived longer in that county than any other resident now alive. He has at different stages of his life in the county been soldier, pioneer, storekeeper, farmer and jurist, and in each capacity has won the respect of all who have been associated with him, and he is widely known as one of the most prominent citizens of southeastern Idaho.
Frederick S. Stevens was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, August 7, 18^8. Benjamin Stevens, his grandfather, was born in Massachusetts, as was also Benjamin Stevens, Jr., his father. Benjamin Stevens married a native of Lynn, Massachusetts, and a daughter of Smith Downing. He was a tanner, and died in 1856, at the age of forty-four years. His widow lived seventy-five years, her death occurring in 1896. They were devout and helpful members of the Methodist Episcopal church. They had four children, three of whom are living.
Judge Frederick S. Stevens, the eldest of the survivors of his father’s family, was graduated from the Lynn (Massachusetts) high school. He went early in life to California, via the Isthmus of Panama, and was there a miner, a bookkeeper and a clerk in turn, until the outbreak of the civil war. In April 1861, he enlisted in Company H, Third Regiment of California Volunteer Infantry, with the expectation that the regiment would be sent to participate in the war in the southern states, but it was sent into the interior, instead, to keep the Indians in subjection and to protect emigrants. The regiment was located at Camp Douglas and at Soda Springs, and Judge Stevens saw three years and six months of service in the wilderness, which has now mostly disappeared, the territory it covered being dotted by hundreds of villages and cities and peopled by thousands of prosperous and contented men, women and children, surrounded by all the evidences of an advanced civilization. After he was mustered out of the service, he opened a settler’s store at Soda Springs, and, with a company stationed there, carried on a trade which paid to a degree and promised more, but was terminated suddenly at the expiration of a year by the unexpected removal of the company.
In 1866 Judge Stevens came to the site of Blackfoot, then luxuriant in sagebrush and a frequent resort of Indians. He preempted a farm and acquired a timber claim and set himself energetically to the work of improvement and cultivation. The farm has become one of the model farms of Bingham County, and it has a fine brick residence and large modern outbuildings. The timber claim has been developed into one of the finest timber-culture quarter sections in the state, and not far from the handsome brick house stands the little log hut in which Judge Stevens began life in the wilderness. In that rude, scanty structure was dispensed a pioneer hospitality which was often made available by emigrants to or through the place; and sometimes it was the scene of festive gatherings of neighbors, who crowded one another within its narrow walls and gave themselves up to the enjoyment of a mutual friendship that was as genuine as it was spontaneous and hearty. Indian scares were frequent in those pioneer days. On such occasions the few settlers would seek safety in the house of Mr. Warren, which was provided with loopholes between the layers of logs and was otherwise adapted to purposes of defense, and men would take turns standing guard outside, day and night. Inside everything was in readiness for desperate battle, and every man was resolved to sell his life at the greatest possible cost to his assailants. Judge Stevens made many trips to Logan, to Corinne and to other distant points, with an ox team, for necessary supplies. The perils, deprivations and hardships of the past are now but a memory. Judge and Mrs. Stevens have seen the land of their choice touched by the magical hand of progress, the old order of things has given place to the new, and the pioneer is not without honor in his own country. Stock raising has received much attention from Judge Stevens, and he has become prominent as a breeder of and dealer in Durham cattle.
Busy as Judge Stevens has been, his interest in public affairs has always been keen. A Republican in politics, he cast his first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln, and from that day to this he has been a faithful and active adherent to the principles of his party. He was postmaster of Blackfoot under President Harrison, and filled that position to the satisfaction of the whole town for eight years. He was three times elected probate judge of Bingham County, and during his long term of service administered the office admirably. The trial of criminal as well as civil cases then devolved upon this office, and its incumbent was ex-officio superintendent of the schools of the county. The various and responsible duties of the position were performed by Judge Stevens with rare ability and fidelity, and it is a matter of record that only one of his decisions was reversed by a higher court.
In 1864 he married Finetta Garrett, a native of England, and they entered upon a married life whose happiness has not been diminished by time. They have brought up a family of five interesting children: Fred, named in his father’s honor, died of typhus fever at the age of twenty-six years; James is one of the prominent lawyers of this part of the state and lives at Blackfoot; Emma, Abbie and Rachel are members of their parents’ household.