John Whitnah Leedy was born in Bellville, Ohio in 1849, the son of Anabaptist parents. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and he moved to Princeton, Indiana after the war. He then moved to Carlinville, Illinois, and then to Le Roy, Kansas in 1880. Leedy engaged in horse breeding until the Panic of 1893, which caused him to lose his business and home to his creditors. Originally a Republican, he defected to the Democratic Party in 1872 before joining the Populist Party at its foundation. He served in the State Senate from 1892 to 1897 and then as Governor from 1897 to 1899, criticizing privately owned railroads and implementing a system of small rural banks. In 1901, he moved to Alaska and became very wealthy after a gold mine, and he served as Mayor of Valdez for two years. He then moved to Alberta, Canada in 1908, settling in Whitecourt and becoming a British subject. Leedy agitated for the reform of Canada's banking system, and he became active with the United Farmers of Alberta and the Alberta Non-Partisan League. He died in Edmonton in 1935 with little money or assets left.