Great Leaders and National Issues of 1896/Chapter 8/Boies

VIII. Political Giants of the Present Day—

Horace Boies

Horace Boies


Ex-Governor of Iowa

Like many of the foremost men of our country, Horace Boies was a farmer's boy, having been born on a farm near Aurora, N. Y., some eighteen miles south of Buffalo, on the 7th of December, 1827. His father was of remote French descent, and his mother of English stock.

The son worked industriously on the farm during the summer months and attended school in winter. The country schools of those days were in wide contrast to the educational institutions of the present; the text books were poor, the seats hard and the teachers were generally selected more with a view of “keeping order” among the large and unruly boys than for their skill in imparting knowledge. Young Boies was a good student, and by close attention to his studies stored his mind with helpful knowledge. Yielding to his desire to go west and “grow up with the country,” he left New York at the age of sixteen, but was hardly settled amid his new surroundings when he received news of the death of his mother. He immediately returned to his old home, where with his usual energy he resumed his school studies and read law, supporting himself by doing chores for his neighbors.

Young Boies laid the foundations broad and deep, and was admitted to the bar in 1852. He hung out his sign at Hamburg, near Buffalo, where he became so favorably known that three years later he was elected to the Legislature as a Republican, that party then being in its infancy. While he did not attain marked prominence as a leader, his talents, ability and integrity won the respect of political enemies as well as friends.

Mr. Boies, some time later, was married to Miss Adelia King of Aurora. Her health became so frail that the young husband saw that if he would preserve her life, a permanent and radical change of climate was necessary. His eyes were once more turned westward, and, in 1867, he took up his residence in Iowa. Despite the removal and the loving care of her husband, the wife soon died.

Mr. Boies has always been a sagacious and far-seeing man. He was quick to perceive the future of the State which he had now made his home. The moderate savings which he brought with him were invested in fertile farm land, to which he added from time to time as he was able, until his possessions numbered nearly 4,000 acres, including a farm and 1,000 acres in Palo Alto county. He had fully 500 cattle, and when not in public office Mr. Boies has personally managed his property. The rugged outdoor life, to which he became accustomed in his youth, not only resulted in giving him a splendid physique, but imbued him with a love for a farmer's life which will always remain with him. Although profoundly interested in politics, it is safe to believe that he finds more real enjoyment in looking after his big farm than he does in all that politics can bring him. By his second wife, formerly Miss Versalia Barber, he has two sons and one daughter.

Mr. Boies is one of the most effective jury lawyers in the country. He has a winning, persuasive way which few people can resist, while he is logical, incisive and convincing with those that are more cultured than the majority of his fellows. Had he chosen to locate in one of our large cities, he would have earned a princely income from the practice of his profession.

Popularity with the Democrats


Having started out as a Republican, Mr. Boies remained with party until 1882, when he joined the Democrats, because of his dissatisfaction with the sumptuary legislation in Iowa. He was strongly opposed to the Prohibitory law, and fought it vigorously up to the last hour. He voted for Cleveland, and in 1884 stumped Iowa in the interest of tariff reform. This course increased his popularity with the Democrats, who nominated him for Governor in 1889. He was elected by a plurality of 6,523. Two years later he received a plurality of 8,216, on the largest vote ever cast in the State.



Few public men increase their strength and personal following by their manner of administering the affairs of office. As a rule, at the end of his first term, the incumbent finds that the majority of his supporters have become his enemies, and that a renomination is out of the question, but the figures just given prove that Mr. Boies is one of the exceptions whose popularity grows with his public service.

One of the “Idols of his Party”


To-day there is no member of his party held in higher esteem, and it is no disparagement to his rivals in politics to say that not one of them could poll a larger vote than he, should he become a presidential candidate. He was among the prominent men put forward for the nomination in 1892, and received 103 votes against 114 for Senator Hill, who was regarded as the most formidable opponent of Cleveland, and whose nomination, as will be remembered, was ardently supported by the delegates from his own State.

Since 1892 Mr. Boies has lived on his farm in Iowa, dividing the practice of his profession with his duties as a farmer, but he is one of the “idols of his party,” and to those who carefully note the trend of the times, it will not come as a surprise to hear of his nomination for the highest office in the gift of the American people.