In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed five men to the office of territorial governor of Idaho. The first two accepted and then decided to take more attractive appointments. Grant’s third choice rejected the appointment outright. The fourth choice, Thomas M. Bowen accepted Grant’s appointment and struck out for Idaho. He spent all of a week in the territory before resigning.
Grant’s fifth choice for governor was Thomas W. Bennett, who had been a brigadier general on the Union side in the Civil War, and who had served two years as the mayor of Richmond, Indiana.
Idaho Territory’s Secretary of State, Eward J. Curtis, had been the acting territorial governor for a year, when the December 23, 1871 Idaho Statesman ran a short article speculating why the new governor, Thomas Bennett hadn’t shown up yet in Boise. Was there an issue with his confirmation? A snow blockade? After losing four other potential governors, the paper asked, “Does not this thing begin to look a little like a farce?”
Happily, the paper was reporting about a month later that the governor was headed up to Idaho City to “reconnoiter among the Idahoites a few days.” One more thing we can thank our stars for is that “Idahoites” did not become the standard of usage when referring to someone living in Idaho.
By most accounts, Bennett was a competent governor. He served the territory from 1871 to 1875. He won the election for Congressional delegate for Idaho Territory, and served in that capacity until June 1876, when a recount gave the 1874 election to his opponent, Stephen Fenn. Bennett moved back to his native Indiana when his Congressional office went sour. He died there on February 2, 1893.