John E. Rickards: Montana's Second Governor, A Republican In A Time Of Crisis
John E. Rickards was born and raised in Delaware City, Delaware. At the age of nineteen he left his hometown to find employment in Philadelphia in a mercantile establishment. By 1870 John Rickards felt the stirring of a young man's roving spirit. Rather than seek employment elsewhere in the East, he went West to Pueblo, Colorado. Here he settled for a few years working as a bookkeeper and clerk. While in Colorado, he married the descendant of one of the oldest colonial families in the East, Miss Lizzie M. Wilson Their marriage was blessed with three sons. At the close of the seventies, Rickards once more found himself yielding to wanderlust. This time he followed the frontier still farther west to take residence in the coastal city of San Francisco. In 1881 Lizzie died, and by 1882 John Rickards once again pulled up stakes. He moved to Montana, the state whose early political life he was destined to help form. In 1883 he remarried — a widow from Pembroke, Ontario named Eliza A. Boucher. They had five children, two of whom died in infancy. While in Montana, Rickards began operations in the oil trade in Butte. He was obviously a popular citizen of the community for he was elected as alderman, given a seat in the upper house of the territorial legislature, and in 1889 was chosen as a member of the state constitutional convention. Montana had been making overtures for statehood for a long while. As early as 1866 a constitutional convention was held in Helena under the direction of Thomas Francis Meagher, the state's territorial governor. A constitution was written and subsequently taken to St. Louis, Missouri for printing. The delegate in charge of the copy of the constitution lost it either on the journey to St. Louis or while he was there. In any event, further efforts for statehood were not forthcoming from this meeting. In 1884 a second constitutional convention was organized through the guidance of Joseph K. Toole, a prominent Montana Democrat. Again a constitution was drafted and this time was presented to Congress. However, Montana was not given statehood because the Congress was Republican, and Montana had strong Democratic leanings at this time.1 By 1889 Montana was finally admitted to the Union in a bill giving statehood to Washington and the Dakotas as well.