Hon. John F. Shafroth, M. C. The character of a city is the character of its citizens. The character of the city of Denver may be judged in a measure from the names of its leading public men, who have become closely identified with its interests by long residence and have contributed to the extension of its interests. Few of its citizens are better known throughout the entire nation than Mr. Shafroth, and certainly none has a more enviable reputation for breadth of intellect and uprightness of life. To write of his career is to write, in part, a history of Colorado during a similar period, for his name has been associated with all the leading measures for the benefit of the state and the development of its industries.
The life of Congressman Shafroth began in Fayette, Howard County, Mo., June 9, 1854. His father, John, who was born in Canton Berne, Switzerland, was the son of a hotel keeper who took part in the French wars under Napoleon, but died at an early age. Orphaned at twelve years, John Shafroth had few advantages in his youth. When a young man he came to America and in 1839 settled in Booneville, Mo. The following year he married Miss Annis Aule, a native of Frankfort, Germany, and an orphan who came to America with two sisters. After his marriage he engaged in the general mercantile business until his death, in 1866. Thirty years afterward his wife passed away in Fayette, where she had lived for fifty-six years, having come there at the age of twenty. She was the mother of six children, five now living, of whom John F. is the youngest.
The education of our subject was begun in the public schools, continued in Central College and finished in the University of Michigan, where he studied from 1872 to 1875, graduating with the degree of B. S. He then studied law with Samuel C. Major, of Fayette, and was there admitted to the bar in August, 1876, after which he formed a partnership with his former preceptor under the title of Major & Shafroth. Upon the election of Mr. Major to the state senate, the business of the firm fell upon the junior member. In 1879 he came to Colorado, reaching Denver on the 1st of October, and soon afterward forming a partnership with Andrew W. Brazee, ex-judge of the supreme court. Two years later this connection was dissolved, and the firm of Stallcup, Luthe & Shafroth formed. Soon afterward Mr. Luthe was elected district attorney and Mr. Shafroth became prosecuting attorney. The latter, in 1887, was elected city attorney of Denver upon the Republican ticket, was re-elected two years later, serving until the spring of 1891. Meantime the senior member of his firm was appointed a judge of the supreme court, and in 1888 he formed another partnership, becoming a member of the firm of Rogers & Shafroth.
In the fall of 1894 Mr. Shafroth was nominated on the Republican ticket as member of congress from the first congressional district of Colorado, and was elected by a majority of thirteen thousand and five hundred At the expiration of his term, in 1896, he was re-elected on the silver Republican ticket by a majority of fifty-eight thousand. During both terms in congress he has been a member of the committees on public lands and the irrigation of arid lands. The numerous bills introduced by him have been largely in the interests of his constituents, and among those that passed perhaps the most important was that providing for the opening of forestry reserves to mining, exploration and the location of mining claims. He introduced and was largely instrumental in securing the passage of bills providing for water reservoir sites at Colorado Springs, Leadville and Sugar Loaf; also for the protecting of the forests from fire.
Always an active Republican, Mr. Shafroth favored the readjustment of the currency of the nation and the placing of silver upon its proper standard. He was one of the party of seven senators and five congressmen who issued a paper calling for the organization of the silver Republican party and a meeting of its supporters in Chicago. He believes prosperity will never come, in fullest measure, to the great west until the present financial policy of the government is altered. That he is sustained in this belief by his constituents is shown by the largely increased majority be received at his last election.
In matters pertaining to the improvement of Denver Mr. Shafroth has always been interested. While city attorney he succeeded in securing from the supreme court a reversal of the decision rendered by the same court in the past, and under this new decision abutting property can be assessed and taxed for street improvements, a measure that has been most helpful to the city. He also began a case against all the railroads here to compel them to construct a viaduct over Nineteenth street. This was defeated before the district court, but when taken to the supreme court the latter body held that the railroads were compelled to construct, at their own cost, a viaduct over streets rendered useless to the general public by their use for railroad purposes. This decision has not yet been made effective, but will be in time.
In Fayette, Mo., October 26, 1881, Mr. Shafroth married Virginia F. Morrison, who was born there, is a graduate of Howard Female College and in religious belief is connected with the Baptist Church. Her father, John L. Morrison, a prominent business man of Fayette, at one time was sheriff of Howard County and later warden of the state penitentiary. Her grandfather, Alfred Morrison, settled in Fayette about 1824 and became a man of prominence in public affairs. He was elected state treasurer and filled the position for four years; also held other offices of responsibility. Mr. Shafroth has four sons, John, Jr., Morrison, George and William.
Source: Portrait and biographical record of Denver and vicinity, Colorado : containing portraits and biographies of many well known citizens of the past and present : together with biographies and portraits of all the presidents of the United States.. Chicago: Chapman Pub. Co., 1898.