George Ainslies political career began with his election to the Idaho Territorial Council in 1865. In 1874 he was elected district attorney of the 2nd Judicial District, a position to which he was re-elected in 1875, and in 1878 he was elected as a Democrat to the first of two terms as Idaho Territorys delegate to Congress.
Thomas Donaldson, in his book Idaho of Yesterday, wrote of Ainslie, During his service at Washington I saw much of him and always respected him, despite his bitter political views; he was on the opposite side of politics, the Democratic side. But while he was in Congress he managed to get everything within the range of a territorial delegate, either in laws or appropriations, for Idaho, and he won the good will of the Republicans as well as the Democrats.
Territorial delegates could serve and vote in committee, but not on the House floor. Ainslies role was to look out for the interests of Idaho Territory, and the Annals of Congress list several memorials and resolutions introduced by him. They include requests for payment of volunteers in the Nez Perce and Bannock Indian wars, proposals for development of irrigation on public lands, and an appropriation for a public building in Boise City. Presumably, this was for the Territorial Capitol, completed in 1886.
Although Ainslie was enormously popular in Boise County in the years he lived there, as his election as district attorney and to two terms as delegate to Congress suggest, his defeat for re-election in 1882 marked the end of his political career. The Idaho World, which he had edited from 1869 until 1873, had turned against him by 1885: George Ainslie left yesterday for Eagle Rock (later Idaho Falls), and said he might go on to Washington. Presume he intends to go to Washington with his slick side out, to beg for an appointment to office. The people of Idaho, and especially right here at his home, where he is best known, dont want to see any territorial office disgraced by a man of his caliber; but would not be at all displeased if President Cleveland should send him as minister to the Cannibal Islands.
Despite the World editors opinion, in 1889 Ainslie was chosen as one of three Boise County delegates to the constitutional convention, held in Boise as the territory prepared for the admission to statehood that would come on July 3, 1890. Ada County delegates at the convention included future Gov. Frank Steunenberg of Caldwell. (Canyon County would not be separated from Ada County until November 1892.)
On Jan. 10, 1890, the Idaho Statesman reported Ainslie was looking for a home for his family in Boise. On Feb. 8, 1890, the paper reported, Hon. George Ainslie has recently purchased the estate of H.E. Prickett, deceased, the very commodious and handsome residence situated on Main Street opposite of the U.S. Assay Office, with the three lots immediately adjoining cost $10,000. Possession April 1st. Attorney Henry E. Prickett had served as Boises first mayor in 1867-68. The Ainslie family would live in this elegant house until 1909, when they moved to California, where George died in 1913. Gov. James H. Hawley and his family would live in the house for many years after the Ainslies left.
On June 25, 1890, the Statesman noted, The Street Railroad. The charter members of the Electric Street Railway Company were in consultation yesterday and probably will be today over the required power, necessary machinery, and all other matters and things necessary to put the road in operation. Hon. George Ainslie, one of the incorporators, says it is designed to have the road in running order before the next session of the legislature. The 1899 Boise city directory lists Ainslie as Pres. Boise Rapid Transit Co. Ainslie, during these early years of Idaho statehood, also served on the board of directors of the Boise Artesian Hot & Cold Water Co. that developed the first geothermal heating system in the United States.
Ainslie certainly deserves inclusion in any list of the 100 most influential people in Idaho history.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.