Biography of Seth Gifford

Not only has the subject of this article taken a leading and influential part in the affairs of the County of Nez Perces since he has been here, but in his career formerly, he has held prominent positions and has achieved brilliant success in the face of great odds. A more detailed account will be interesting reading for the people of our County and accordingly we append an epitome of his life.

Seth Gifford was born in Morgan County, Ohio, on November 23, 1847, being the son of Burton and Rebecca (Worrall) Gifford. His father was born in Kennebec, Maine, and for forty years sailed the ocean.

Our subject’s mother was born in Ohio, being descended from Holland Dutch and her ancestors were early settlers in Pennsylvania. Mr. Gifford’s paternal ancestors were English Quakers and the sturdy blood of that race is manifest in the life of our subject. They were among the earliest settlers at Roxbury, Massachusetts, and the family is known there to this day. Mr. Gifford’s present wife was formerly Miss Cannie Crewdson, born in Iowa in 1866, her parents being William W. and Eliza Crewdson. She has two brothers, Ezekiel, treasurer of Crook County, Wyoming, and Monroe, a farmer in Iowa; she has also two sisters. Carrie, wife of John Haney: Eva, wife of Israel Lake. Mr. Gifford has two brothers living, John and Charles; George died in the south during the Civil War; and six sisters, Harriet, wife of Jesse H. Swart: Ann, wife of Thomas Gray; Ruth, wife of John Malone; Martha, wife of James Pierce: Maria, wife of Joseph Walker: Eliza, wife of Cass S. Swart. By a former marriage Mr. Gifford has two children, Wilford L., now assessor and tax collector of Nez Perces County, and Lenna M., who is now assistant superintendent of the city hospital at Sioux City, Iowa. This former wife of Mr. Gifford used to be Anna Buckman. From the present marriage there have been four children, Burton, Lora, Lucy and Ruth.
Mr. Gifford spent his boyhood on a farm in Cedar County, Iowa, coming there when four years of age.

At twenty, there he married his first wife and settled on a farm which his father gave him. In 1864 he enlisted in Company G, Forty-seventh Iowa, under Colonel Sanford, being most of the time at Helena, Arkansas. He went to Dakota in 1870, taking a preemption and then came back to Montgomery County, Iowa. Later he sold out and removed to Audubon County, purchased a farm and also engaged in mercantile labors for one year, and the next five years were spent in traveling about in the government secret service. He came as far west as the Pacific coast and did commendable work in capturing law breakers. In 1882 he was engaged in the Apache Indian war as a scout and had many narrow escapes and much thrilling experience. In 1885 he went to the Black Hills, representing five leading companies in detective work as well as being in the government service.

In 1887 he was elected sheriff of Fall River County, and served six years. He was the only Republican that has ever served in that County. In 1890 under the state law, it was his duty to protect the interests of the people, as the Sioux Indians at Pine Ridge and Rosebud agency were on the war path. He did a great deal of fighting and while not at the battle of Wounded Knee, he was there just after the battle. It was at a time of great trouble, as the outlaws of the world had flocked there: but soon it was apparent that in Mr. Gifford, a man was on the scene who was a match and during two terms he was instrumental in sending to the pen nineteen terrorizing criminals. During his term of service the territory was made a state and under the state constitution he could hold only two terms or doubtless he would have been called to still conserve the interests of the County in peaceful government. He then retired to his stock farm on the Cheyenne River, remaining in that retreat, taking the long needed rest from constant strain for years, until May, 1895, when he went to Little Bitter Root Falls, Montana, with teams, taking his family and there settled on unsurveyed land. On account of the exposure of his family to hostile Indians who were fighting for that land, he vacated and came to Nez Perces County and settled on land that now adjoins Gifford. He broke twenty acres the first fall and now it is all farmed to wheat. He bought land where the town stands, and was instrumental in starting it. He owns a large interest in the site and is one of the prominent men of this section.

Mr. Gifford is engaged in conducting a first class hotel, operating a general merchandise establishment and is postmaster for the town. In all these relations he has manifested great ability, excellent wisdom and integrity to the satisfaction of the patrons of the office and to the enlargement of a fine business.

He served as justice of the peace from 1895 to 1900 and in politics he has always been active. He is a Republican and has not scratched the ticket for twenty-five years. For two years, Mr. Gifford was in charge of the post office and the stage station at Beeman. He has a brother who was connected with the famous Brown in operating an underground railroad in 1859.

Mr. Gifford is unsectarian but his wife is a member of the Methodist Church. Mr. Gifford stands well among the people of this section and has gained a prestige that is deserving and enviable. He has many friends from all quarters and his past services in the interests of peace and good government entitle him to the emoluments that are now his to enjoy.

Back to: Nez Perce Biographies

Source: An Illustrated History of Northern Idaho, Embracing Nez Perce, Idaho, Latah, Kootenai and Shoshone Counties, Western Historical Publishing Company, 1903

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