Montana History:  Governor Biographies



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Joseph K. Toole
1889-1893, 1901-1908

Brief Biographical Sketch
quoted from Mt.Gov site

Governor Joseph K. Toole, a Democrat from Helena, was born May 12, 1851, in Savannah, Missouri. A former territorial Legislator, and territorial delegate to the United States Congress, Governor Toole was elected Montana's first Governor in 1889 and served until 1893. Governor Toole led Montana through the first years of statehood and equally divided legislatures to ensure continuity in state government. Toole was a popular governor and was re-elected to the post for two more terms from 1901 to 1908.

Longer Biography
from Montana Capitol exhibit

Joseph Kemp Toole, Montana’s first governor, was born on May 12, 1851 in Savannah, Andrew County, Missouri. He attended public schools in St. Joseph, Missouri and graduated from the Western Military Institute in New Castle, Kentucky. After reading law in the offices of Webb and Barber of New Castle, the 18 year old Toole left St. Louis by steamboat and arrived at Fort Benton, Montana in the spring of 1869. He traveled on the tri-weekly stage to Helena, which was then a town only five years old. Toole continued studying the law, was admitted to the bar in 1871 and entered into a successful partnership with his brother, Edwin Warren Toole. This same year, he was elected at the age of 21 as district attorney of the Third Judicial District and served from 1872-1876. Toole served as a member and president of the Council of the 12th Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Montana from 1881-1883 representing Lewis and Clark County.

He was elected a member of the constitutional convention of 1884, whose constitution was ratified by the territory’s voters but was not recognized by Congress. During Toole’s term as delegate to the 49th Congress and 50th Congress of the United States from March, 1885 through March, 1889, he spoke often in favor of obtaining statehood for Montana. His efforts were rewarded by the passage of the Enabling Act of 1889 which allowed the people of Montana Territory to form a constitution and state government. Toole declined a 3rd term in Congress and became a member of the constitutional convention of 1889, in which year he was also elected the state's first governor. After serving one term as governor, he resumed the practice of law. He was reelected governor in 1901 and again in 1905, the last time being nominated against his wishes. He retired April 1, 1908 on account of ill health and divided his time between his homes in Helena, Montana and San Francisco, California.

He died in Helena on March 11, 1929.

Montana Governor Index

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