This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Alfred Milnes was born in Bradford, England, in 1844. He and his parents and several siblings emigrated to the United States, landing at New Orleans in 1854. After a few years of wandering, during which time his mother and two of his little brothers died, Milnes settled in Coldwater, Mich.
Milnes attended public school, served in a Michigan infantry unit throughout the Civil War, and went into business in Coldwater, becoming a banker, postmaster and dealer in real estate.
He also was active in Republican politics, later claiming to have cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln in 1864 while on a Civil War battlefield (he would have had to lie about his age by a few months in order to have voted that year). He served his county as a delegate to numerous state Republican conventions.
He was elected as alderman once and mayor of Coldwater twice, became a state senator for two terms, and was elected as Michigan's lieutenant governor. In 1894, he was elected to the House of Representatives and served from 1895 to 1897.
Theophilus "Lee" Mantle was born in Birmingham, England, in 1851. His father died before Mantle was born, and his mother brought him and his siblings to the United States in 1864.
Life was harder than she expected, and the children were forced to seek labor while still very young. Mantle worked as a farm hand from the time he was 14 or 15 years old, then found work with the Union Pacific Railroad. This work took him to Idaho and then to Montana, where he learned to be a telegraph operator and a line repairman.
Like Milnes, Mantle had political ambitions. He published a newspaper in Butte in the interest of the Republican Party. He served as his city's representative to Republican state conventions numerous times. He was elected as an alderman once and as a member of Montana's territorial House of Representatives three times, then became the mayor of Butte.
The Montana Legislature failed to elect a U.S. senator in 1893, and the governor appointed Mantle to fill the vacancy. The Senate refused to seat him, however, because of machinations involved in his appointment. He was regularly elected the following year and served from 1895 to 1899. Mantle lost his bid for re-election the next year, probably because he, along with other senators, had bolted from the Republican Party as "Silver Republicans" who supported Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan.
Alfred Milnes and Lee Mantle: two emigrants from England who were recognized as leaders in their communities and served responsibly in the highest levels of American government, their federal service overlapping.
I wonder if these two men knew each other, and if they did, whether they knew what else they had in common?
You see, the parents of both men were converted to Mormonism while still in England. Both boys came to the United States aboard Latter-day Saint emigrant ships, with the help of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund that financed the travels of Mormons too poor to pay their own way. Both boys crossed the plains with LDS overland companies, arriving first in Utah.
Milnes' father became discouraged by the deaths of his wife and children, and he left the church and Utah in 1859, taking his surviving children first to Iowa and then to Michigan.
Mantle's difficult adolescence and the nomadic life he led while seeking employment led him away from Utah and Mormonism. He eventually made a home for himself in Montana and brought his mother there to live with him.
Although neither man had a stellar congressional career, they were capable men who overcame the disruptions of their early lives, won the trust of their neighbors and succeeded in both business and politics. You have to wonder what contributions men like that could have made to Utah had they remained here.
Ardis E. Parshall is a Utah historian who welcomes feedback from readers. Reach her at AEParshall@aol.com.