Weldon Brinton Heyburn Papers, 1889-1911

Overview of the Collection

Weldon Brinton Heyburn, 1852-1912
Weldon Brinton Heyburn Papers
1889-1911 (inclusive)
2 cubic feet
Collection Number
MG006 (collection)
Bills and receipts, 1889-1896; correspondence, 1896-1897, relating to Leroi Mining and Smelting Co.; correspondence, 1896-1911; and other papers.
University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives
Special Collections and Archives
University of Idaho Library
875 Perimeter Drive
MS 2350
Moscow, ID
Telephone: 2088850845
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

A native of Pennsylvania, Weldon Brinton Heyburn was born near Chadds Ford, Delaware County, on May 23, 1852, the son of Sarah Gilpin and John Briton Heyburn. Both parents were of English Quaker stock. He was educated in the public schools and Maplewood Institute, Concordville, Pennsylvania. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania where he studied civil and mining engineering, metallurgy, and geology in addition to his pursuit of law. In 1876 he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar and began his practice in Media, Pennsylvania.

From 1878 to 1882 he lived in Leadville, Colorado; then in the winter of 1883, lured by the newly developed mining interests in the Idaho Territory, he moved to Shoshone County, where, in addition to his legal practice in Wallace, he also engaged in mining ventures. In 1884, in partnership with H.E. Dennis and L. Matheson, he recorded the Polaris, Southern Cross, and Omega lode claims, these being among the first lode discoveries on the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River. In 1886 he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Sierra-Nevada Consolidated Mining Company.

The year 1903 saw both Heyburn's marriage to Gheretien Yeatman of Chester County, Pennsylvania and his election to the U.S. Senate. Heyburn's political career spanned over 20 years. When the committee that framed the constitution of the State of Idaho met in 1889, Weldon Heyburn was among the delegates, and was chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary. He was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions at Chicago in 1888, Minneapolis in 1892, Philadelphia in 1900, and Chicago in 1904. He served as National Committeeman for Idaho from 1904 to 1908.

Letters written to Heyburn reveal his high standing in the Republican Party. Many people wrote asking him to use his influence in getting them patronage positions. Upon forwarding these requests, with his recommendations, to Senator Shoup in Washington, the Senator, in a letter dated December 26, 1896, replied, "You can rest assured that those persons recommended by you will have first consideration...."

Heyburn was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the 56th Congress in 1898. In 1902 four men were being considered for the Republican Senate nomination, W.E. Borah, W.B. Heyburn, G.L. Shoup, and D.W. Standrod, but the real contest appeared to be between the progressive Borah and the conservative Heyburn. When the Republican legislative caucus met on January 7, 1903, to nominate its candidate a stalemate was reached by the fourth ballot. By shifting their support to Heyburn, Shoup and Standrod assured his nomination. On January 14, 1903, the Republican controlled legislature of the State of Idaho elected Heyburn to his first U.S. Senate term. In reporting the election of several new Western Senators, the Oregonian, in its March 6, 1903, issue commented, "Judge Heyburn comes nearest the Senatorial ideal, for he is a statesman in thought, habit, method, and training."

Following his re-election in 1908, Fred Dubois, in a February 16, 1909 letter to Harry Day (Hercules Mining Company Records, MG 236) said, "I do not know whether Heyburn appreciates the fact that you were more largely instrumental in his re-election than any one else. I know the word you sent and I also know the thin ice on which Heyburn was standing. You were extremely wise in foregoing your personal feelings against Heyburn. You and I both know his faults, but at the same time he has virtues. One of the se is that he will be outspoken and fearless in protecting all the industries of Idaho, and you can talk to him very freely on matters of that kind."

The legislation Heyburn is most remembered for is the Pure Food and Drug Bill which passed the Senate in February 1906.

On two occasions Heyburn's vote defeated the Joint Statehood Bill for Arizona and New Mexico. Although favoring the admission of all territories of the United States to statehood, he opposed the consolidation of any territories for admission on the ground s that such a consolidation would eliminate geographical divisions in a way that would reduce the representation of the West in the U.S. Senate.

Opposition to the forest reserve system was centered in the Western states where most of the reserves were located. Heyburn thoroughly disliked the reserves and, after his election to the Senate, became the spokesman for the opponents of the system, a position which was directly opposed to that of the Republican President.

While in the Senate he was chairman of the Committee on Manufactures and of the Joint Committee of Senate and House on the Revision and Codification of the Laws of the United States. He was a member of the Committees on Immigration, Public Lands, Mines and Mining, Public Buildings and Grounds, Coast Defences, Geological Survey, Privileges and Elections, Conservation, and the Committee on the Philippines.

In March 1912, he collapsed in the Senate after delivering a speech on the arbitration treaties. He ignored repeated warnings to rest, and literally worked himself to death. At 8 p.m., October 17, 1912, he died at his Washington home of complications of diseases of the heart and kidneys. His last words were, "I have lived my life as best I could within the power of human limitation...I am worn out in the service of a great cause."

Funeral services were held in his Washington apartment on October 19; burial was near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania on October 20. Memorial addresses were delivered in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 23, 1913, and in the Senate on the first day of March.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The papers of Weldon B. Heyburn span the years 1889 to 1911, with the bulk of the material covering the years 1892 to 1903. They consist primarily of Heyburn's correspondence in his capacity of lawyer for mining companies, respected Republican politician, and as U.S. Senator from Idaho. Included are both incoming and outgoing correspondence, letterpress books containing copies of outgoing letters, a scrapbook, a book containing his Senate accomplishments, and legal briefs for cases in which he represented one of the parties. Also included is one year of correspondence belonging to LeRoi Mining and Smelting Co. of Rossland, British Columbia.

In addition to this manuscript group the Special Collections division of the University of Idaho Library also has a printed book of memorial addresses presented in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate upon the occasion of the death of Senator Heyburn, and a Master's thesis which deals with the political career of the Senator through his first term in the Senate, 1909.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The papers in this record group were left in their received order. All letters are in strict chronological order, followed by the letterpress books, scrapbook, and remaining material. This chronological order explains why the LeRoi Mining and Smelting Co. letters are placed with Heyburn's correspondence.

The early folders of this collection contain bills and receipted bills for personal and professional purchases, including food, clothing, laundry, telephone, stenography, rent of office space. and the purchase of books. Concerning his book collection, Senator Turner wrote on February 6, 1903, "He has collected around him probably the handsomest miscellaneous library in Spokane."

The LeRoi Mine, located in Rossland, British Columbia, was part of the Trail Creek mining district. Heyburn was a respected lawyer for the mining companies and handled the legal affairs for LeRoi. The company letters in this Manuscript Group were apparently left in Heyburn's office at the conclusion of a legal inquiry.

The remaining correspondence is both incoming and outgoing. Some letters are from friends and family and give an insight into his concern for those close to him. Other letters deal with mining concerns, requests for payment of bills and acknowledgments for same, and requests for endorsements for appointed political positions. Several letters in 1897 concern his possible nomination for Circuit Court Judge, a position which eventually went to a Mr. Morrow. In 1903 many of the early letters are ones of congratulation on his election to the U.S. Senate. Beginning in 1903 there are also copies of letters written by Senator Heyburn when he was away from his Wallace office. Most of these are dated either from San Francisco where he was attending court, or from Washington, D.C.

From 1904 to 1908 there are many letters and telegrams from William H. Batting, Heyburn's law partner, keeping him abreast of the legal matters in the Wallace office. An interesting feature of this collection is the telegrams, many of which were sent in coded form. Fortunately for the researcher (or the curious) Heyburn has provided a translation.

The letterpress books contain copies of letters written in Wallace. Two of these books have been water damaged and consequently portions of the letters are difficult to read.

The scrapbook contains newspaper clippings which deal not only with Senator Heyburn's own career, but also include clippings of the political situation in Idaho, the Mormon question, and appointments which were made upon the recommendation of Senator Heyburn.

The next item in record group is a 34 page booklet entitled Hon. Weldon B. Heyburn, Senior United States Senator from Idaho; his record in the Senate, compiled by Addison T. Smith (Twin Falls, Idaho, 1908).

The final items are eleven legal briefs, 1891-1904, for cases in which Heyburn was attorney for one of the parties.

In the process of refoldering the correspondence in this record group the material was changed from legal size to letter size folders. This reduced the bulk of the collection by one cubic foot.

Acquisition Information

The papers of Senator and lawyer Weldon Brinton Heyburn were purchased for $200 from Samuel Moyerman, Philadelphia Autograph Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in September 1947. Correspondence regarding the purchase may be found in the papers of the University of Idaho President's Office (UG 12, Box 50, folder 1538).

Processing Note

The Heyburn papers were processed in April 1979, then in March 1993 they were reprocessed and placed in acid free folders.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series I. General Correspondence and Related Records , 1891-1911Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
1 item
Bills and receipts
3 items
Bills and receipts
1 item
Bills and receipts
124 items
Bills and receipts
229 items
Bills and receipts
76 items
Bills and receipts
3 items
LeRoi Mining and Smelting Company correspondence
395 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
106 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
603 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
313 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
178 items
June-September 1898
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
343 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
44 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
6 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
420 items
January-July 1903
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
68 items
August-September 1903
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
19 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
75 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
4 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
12 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
22 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
54 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
33 items
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
1 item
Weldon Heyburn correspondence
4 items
Letterpress books
2 items
June 8 - November 28, 1904
Letterpress books and index
2 items
July 25, 1906 - November 8, 1908
1 item
Hon. Weldon B. Heyburn, Senior United States Senator from Idaho; His Record in the Senate, compiled by Addison T. Smith
1908 1
Legal briefs
11 items

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Legislators--United States--Correspondence

Personal Names

  • Heyburn, Weldon Brinton, 1852-1912--Archives

Corporate Names

  • Le Roi Mining & Smelting Company

Geographical Names

  • Idaho--Politics and government
  • United States--Politics and government


  • United States senator for Idaho, 1903-1912