Historically speaking

Horace Olin Young is pictured. (Courtesy photo)

ISHPEMING — Ishpeming has sent a number of its citizens to serve in the state legislature, but only one, to date has served in the US Congress: Horace Olin Young.

Young, who preferred to go by either H. Olin Young or H.O. Young, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1902 as a Republican from Michigan’s 12th district. He would serve in this capacity until 1913.

Born in Albion, New York, on Aug. 4, 1850, Young suffered from asthma and when he was just 22 years old, he moved to Ishpeming. His first job was as a weighmaster at the Lake Superior Mine. He then took a clerical position at the Kloman Mine, moving to Republic for a short time. He served as an accountant at a mercantile, then came back to Ishpeming to work for Robert Nelson as an accountant in a meat market. He also worked as an accountant for Curtis, Prime & Co, merchants in Ishpeming, who had a store on the corner of Main St. and Cleveland Ave. The site would later become the J.C. Penney’s store.

In his spare time, he studied law and in 1879 he became a lawyer. This was before the bar exam even existed, so he gained his knowledge and skills through study and apprenticeships. In 1879, he was also elected to the Michigan House of Representatives from Marquette County’s 2nd District and served for two years. He became a member of the Marquette County Bar that year and remained a member until his death. He served as prosecuting attorney for Marquette County from 1886-1896.

“From 1883 until 1902 Mr. Young was a member of the law firm of Hayden and Young, his partner being the late George W. Hayden. This firm became widely known, particularly in mining circles and represented the most important iron mining companies in the country. The partnership dissolved by the death of Mr. Hayden in 1902.”

In 1903, Mr. Young entered into partnership with Frank A. Bell, of Negaunee, under the name of Young and Bell, and this firm also conducted an extensive legal business, including some of the most important cases arising in this mining district. This firm continued until 1913 when Mr. Young retired from the practice of law.” (Iron Ore, Sept. 8, 1917)

In 1903, Young was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. “Hon. H.O. Young is receiving many kind words from the press of the upper peninsula for his work in congress, and it is not always his biggest performances that have the greatest praise. The following from the Munising Republican of Saturday shows how he is looked upon for his attention to the humble homesteader.

Readers of the Republican will be pleased to learn that congress by special act has instructed to give a patent to E.P. Swett, of this city, for any quarter section of the public domain that Mr. Swett may select. This act was to, as far as possible, make good to Mr. Swett for homestead he lost several years ago.” (Iron Ore, June 21, 1906)

Young’s wife, Mary was the consummate politician’s wife.

“The apartments of Representative and Mrs. Olin Young of Michigan are the most inspiring rooms to visit during these days in which the natives of the capital city have staggered under and unprecedented and enduring wave from the equator belt. They are cool and pleasant rooms, opening on the graceful and verdant circle which extends about Vermont avenue, Fourteenth street and the adjacent thoroughfares. If a zephyr is stirring ever so lightly, it steals into the triangle where Mr. Young hospitably receives her friends, no matter what the temperature. But the chief joy to the guest is in the photographs of the Young home in Ishpeming, Mich., covered with snow and surrounded by trees which seem made of ice.” (Iron Ore, Aug. 12, 1911)

Young was a member of the Stanley committee, a nine member committee investigating the actions of U.S. Steel. Fellow congressman, Democrat A.O. Stanley chaired the committee which bore his name. The investigation lasted from May 1911 to April 1912 and at its conclusion, split along party lines. The majority report, authored by Stanley, condemned alleged price fixing by U.S. Steel and censured former President Theodore Roosevelt for his role in U.S. Steel’s purchase of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company.

“As a member of the Stanley committee he (Rep. Young) will have much to do in the preparing of the committee’s report, and it may not be improbable that he will have one of his own, he having decided views on subjects brought up by the commission. It is generally conceded that Mr. Young, in the investigation of the Steel corporation, was altogether the ablest questioner. This is not surprising as Mr. Young’s life work has been among the mines operated by this great organization, and he has been in close touch with iron ore mining and the manufactures of iron ore throughout the entire country.” (Op Ed, Iron Ore, May 4, 1912.”

Young’s service on that committee was probably a factor in the speech Teddy Roosevelt made when he campaigned as part of the Bull Moose Party in the fall of 1912. That speech attacked US Steel as part of the Steel Trust and led to George Newett’s infamous editorial in which he accused Roosevelt of being a drunkard. Roosevelt sued Newett for libel and brought an impressive array friends and associates to Marquette for the trial. Young stayed in Washington.

In the 1912 election, Young appeared to have won the election but a mistake in how the name of Progressive candidate William MacDonald appeared on the ballot in Ontonagon County led to some votes not being included in the official county by the state board of canvassers Unofficial returns showed MacDonald would have won and in March 16, 1913, Young resigned from Congress, pending the results of a contest to the seat. The seat was awarded to MacDonald.

After leaving Congress, Young served as the president of Miner’s National Bank in Ishpeming. Because his law offices were on the second floor of the Miner’s Bank building, Young was forced to replace parts of his law library at least twice. The first time was when the building exploded in 1905, then again when the building burned in 1912.

Although Young retired from active practice in 1913, he may still have had his law library in the building when it burned for a second time in 1914.

He was instrumental in securing a new post office building for Ishpeming, which he lived to see erected. That building still houses the post office over 100 years later.

In his last few years, Young suffered from heart disease and on August 5th, the day after his 67th birthday, Young passed away.

“Ishpeming will feel the passing of Mr. Young keenly, as he was a man who always held a warm place in his heart for his friends at home and who always stood ready to help, with his labor or purse, any worthy or charitable cause. Much of the good in the matter of municipal government, etc., for which Ishpeming is credited with possessing in advance of many other cities of similar size can be credited to the deceased, who for many years took and important part in the forming of the destinies of the city.” (The Mining Journal, Aug. 6, 1917)


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