Biographical Sketches of Portland OR Mayors

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George W. Vaughn, elected in 1855, was a native of New Jersey, a man who in his prime was personally very handsome, with the full and imposing features of the middle coast people of the Atlantic seaboard. He began actively in commercial business and followed this successfully both in the Eastern States and Canada. He came to Portland in 1850 and established a hardware store. His investments were made with good judgment and brought large returns. In 1865 he built the large brick flour mill on Main street, which was burned in 1873. By that fire his losses were reckoned to be nearly two hundred thousand dollars; nevertheless they were not sufficient to bring him to insolvency. He died some years since at Portland.

James O’Neill, who served as mayor three terms from 1856, was one of the most popular men that ever held the seat. He was from New York State, having been born at Duanesburg, in Schenectady County, in 1824. Of a business turn, he came out to Oregon in 1853 and entered into mercantile pursuits at Oregon City. A few years later he came to Portland and managed all his affairs with success. Some time in the early sixties he accepted a government position as Indian agent at Port Lapwai. He subsequently went to Cheweela, in government employment on the Colville reservation. At the last election in Stevens county he was chosen auditor, and now serves in that position. He is a brother of Daniel O’Neill, of our city, so long known as a navigator on the lower Willamette and Columbia rivers.

A. M. Starr, eleted in 1858, was a New Yorker by birth, and came to Portland as early as 1850, opening a stove and tin store on the block now occupied by the business house of Corbitt & Macleay. He was one of the parties to the famous suit of Stark vs. Starr.

S. J. McCormick, who held the office next in succession, was from Ireland, and for many years infused into the life of our city much of his own native enthusiasm and humor. He first set up in business with a little job printing office in a room seven by nine on the west side of Front street between Washington and Alder. For many years McCormick’s Almanac was a regular publication, and seemed to be a part of the on-goings of the city itself. It was a breezy little pamphlet and of much value throughout the State. In addition to his Almanac he began in 1863 the publication of a City Directory and continued this yearly until late in the seventies. The historians of Portland will ever be grateful to him for the information which he stored away in these volumes. He first came to Portland in 1851, having with him his wife and his wife’s sister. The latter lady was then unmarried; but was afterwards joined in wedlock with Thomas Robinson, who lived upon the hill now known by his name on the southern side of the city. Mr. McCormick moved to San Francisco a number of years ago.

George C. Robbins, elected in 1860, came to Portland in 1854 and engaged in business as a jeweler. He brought with him a family. Some years since he removed from the city to Nevada.

John M. Breck, who served in 1861, is at present one of our well known and active citizens. He was born in Philadelphia in 1828. At the age of sixteen he went out to Wisconsin, but in 1850, at the instance of Aspinwall, president of the Pacific Mail Steamship Co., took passage on the Columbia for Oregon. On this vessel he served as purser for the voyage, and brought a stock of goods. From 1852 until 1855 he was in business with W. S. Ogden, of New York, a well educated young man, nephew of Peter Skeen Ogden, of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1860 Mr. Breck received appointment as purser on the steamer Northerner of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, which made the trip from San Francisco to Victoria, Olympia and Portland. On his second voyage he suffered shipwreck in this steamer, off Cape Mendocino, on Blunt’s Reef. Reaching Portland after this disaster, he accepted a position as shipping agent of the company, and remembers the immense cargoes of apples with which the steamships were loaded down-believing the estimates of shipments usually given as to that period, much too low. In 1862 he received unexpectedly the nomination as county clerk on the Union ticket and was elected over a very popular opponent.

With the exception of a few years in California, he has been in business in our city, and is still one of our most energetic business men.

W. H. Farrar, the next in order, was a lawyer of ability and is said to have been a native of Massachusetts. While a citizen of Portland he was active in public affairs, giving evidence of somewhat larger mind and greater general ability than he usually chose to bring into action-but nevertheless bore his share of the burden and heat of the day. He served two terms.

David Logan, mayor in 1864, was a an of intense and brilliant mind, popular with the men of the city on account of his ready speech and familiar manners. His abilities as a lawyer were of the first order; as a political speaker his powers were unrivalled in his day, and his fame was co-extensive with the Northwest. He was three times the candidate of his party for congress, but at each time may be said to have “led a forlorn hope,” as the opposition was too strong to be overcome. About the year 1871 he retired from the practice of the law in Portland, took a farm in Yamhill county, and died there a few years later.

In 1864-5, in 1865-6 and again in 1873-4, Henry Failing was mayor. For a full account of this representative man of the city the reader is referred to the biographical sketch in another part of this volume.

For sketch of T. J. Holmes, reference will be had to the biographies at the close of the volume.

Dr. J. A. Chapman was born in Allegheny county, New York, in 1821. At an early age he began the study of medicine at Cuba, New York, and graduated from the medical college at Geneva, in that State, in 1846. In 1861, upon the breaking out of the war of the Rebellion, he placed his services at the disposal of the government, and was appointed army surgeon. After serving during a campaign at the South, he was transferred to an overland expedition and came with it to Oregon as acting surgeon, with rank of major. Returning to civil life he came to Portland and engaged in the practice of medicine with Dr. William H. Watkins. He filled three terms as mayor of Portland, and was also surgeon-general of the Oregon militia by appointment of Gov. L. F. Grover.

Hamilton Boyd, who was mayor in 1868-69; came to Portland about the year 1860. He was reckoned a good man of business, became an assistant in the office of county clerk and shortly afterward took a position as leading accountant in the banking house of Ladd & Tilton. In 1868 he was elected county commissioner, and served two years. He was elected to the mayoralty by the common council to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Thomas J. Holmes. Mr. Boyd died in Portland in 1886.

B. Goldsmith, who was mayor in 1869-70 and 1870-1, is an old resident of the Pacific Coast. He came to California in 1851, thence to Oregon in 1856, and to Portland in 1861. He has been in business at Portland ever since. Throughout his career in this city he has been known as a man of business ability and energetic character. He bore a leading part in bringing about construction of locks at Willamette Falls, and later has been prominently connected with development of mining property in Northern Idaho. During many years he was at the head of a wholesale dry goods house in Portland. Mr. Goldsmith was born in Germany in 1832.

Philip Wasserman, elected mayor in 1871, was born in Germany in 1827, and came to America in 1849. He has had an active life in mercantile pursuits. In 1858 he came to Portland, and still lives here. He served in the legislature of the State two terms. Declining further legislative honors, he was prevailed on to stand as a candidate for mayor, and was elected by a large majority. He was a careful and efficient mayor, but at the expiration of his term decided to withdraw from further service in office. Mr. Wasserman has always been known as a worthy and successful man of business, and is held in high esteem.

W. S. Newbury, who was elected mayor in 1877, is one whose life has been spent much in the Old West, or interior, as well as upon the Pacific Coast. He was born at Ripley, N. Y., in 1834. In 1850 he went to Chicago, engaging as salesman with one of the first firms of that city, on Lake street. Four years later he went to Wisconsin, and there pursued a course of study in law, completing his education at a commercial college. He soon accepted an important position as book-keeper and accountant, and afterwards became manager of a large business at Sioux City, Iowa, for the Little American Fur Company, of St. Louis. Removing to Iola, Kansas, in 1860, he soon became identified with that town, some years later being elected mayor. He served in the Union army, and was assistant provost marshal of Kansas, and also assistant secretary of the State senate. He came to Oregon in 1870, settling at Portland in 1874. Until 1880 he conducted an extensive business in farm machinery, but since that date has been practicing law.

David P. Thompson, one of the most widely known men in our State, was born in Harrison county, Ohio, in 1834. In his nineteenth year he came to Oregon, driving sheep’ across the plains and walking every rod of the way. Upon his arrival at Oregon City in 1853 he took a job of cutting cordwood, which lasted through the winter. Soon after he entered upon the profession of a surveyor, which he followed during several years. In pursuance of this business he acquired an unequaled knowledge of the northwestern country, and laid the foundation of his present ample fortune. He lived at Oregon City till 1876, when he removed to Portland. In 1879, and again in 1881, he was elected mayor, and gave the city a vigorous and efficient administration. Mr. Thompson, throughout his whole life, has been noted for activity and energy. He is a man of firm and positive character, tenacious of his purposes, active in business and successful in his undertakings. By appointment of President Grant he became governor of Idaho Territory in 1875, but resigned the office in 1876. He is now engaged in the banking business in Portland.

John Gates, who was elected mayor in 1885, was a native of Maine. Born in 1827, he came to Portland in 1851, and passed all his active life here. His first situation was that of engineer at the steam saw-mill at the foot of Jefferson street. When the Oregon Steam Navigation Company was organized he became its chief engineer, and superintended the construction and the placing of the machinery in all its boats. He made many inventions, including one which produced almost a revolution in the construction of stern-wheel steamers. He devised the method, now known to be highly successful, of sluicing out the sand bars of navigable streams with powerful propellers, and invented a most excellent and successful apparatus for applying hydraulic power to the steering gear of steam vessels. Mr. Gates was a man of original mind and great industry. He died, while holding the office of mayor, in April, 1888.

Van B. De Lashmutt, now serving the second term, is. a representative man of our city and time, of whom a full sketch will be found elsewhere.

The following is the list of officers from the year 1851 to 1889, inclusive:

1851-Mayor, Hugh D. O’Bryant; Recorder, W. S. Caldwell; Councilmen-Robert Thompson, Shubrick Norris, George A. Barnes, Thomas G. Robinson, L. B. Hastings.

1852-Mayor, A. C. Bonell, Recorder, S. S. Slater; Marshal, Wm. Grooms; Councilmen-W. P. Abrams, A. P. Dennison, Thomas Pritchard, Abell G. Tripp, Hiram Smith.

In November of that year by a new election, under change of charter, the following were chosen: Mayor, S. B. Marye; Recorder, C. B. Pillow; Councilmen-Shubrick Norris, Thomas Pritchard, Josiah Failing, P. A. Marquam, A. P. Dennison.

1858-Mayor, Josiah Failing; Recorder, A. C. Bonnell; Assessor, S. S. Slater; Treasurer, W. H. Barnhart; Marshal, William Grooms; Councilmen-Robert Thompson, W. S. Ladd, John. H. Couch, W. P. Abrams, R. N. McLaren, R. N. Field, Charles B. Pillow, H. W. Davis, Jonas Williams.

1854-Mayor, W. S. Ladd; Recorder, A. P. Dennison; Treasurer, Thomas Pritchard; Assessor, Charles P. Bacon; Marshal, W. L. Higgins; Councilmen–A. M. Starr, James Field jr., Shubrick Norris, Thomas Carter, William McMillan, A. D. Fitch, O. J. Backus, A. R. Shipley, James Turnbull.

1855-Mayor, George W. Vaughn; Recorder, L. Limerick; Marshal, Thomas J. Holmes; Assessor, W. S. Ogden; Treasurer, Thomas Frazer; Councilmen-George Kittridge, John Green, H. S. Jacobs, Matthew Patton, Lewis Love, John C. Carson, Thomas Hartness, E. B. Calhoun, George C. Robbins. (Anthony L. Davis filled the position of Limerick, resigned).

1856-Mayor, James O’Neill; Recorder, A. L. Davis; Treasurer, Thomas A. Savier; Assessor, Z. N. Stansbury; Marshal, Thomas J. Holmes; Councilmen-Robert Porter, A. D. Shelby, A. B. Elfeldt, L. M. Starr, W. S. Ladd, William Beck, H. W. Davis, S. M. Smith, James Burke.



MLA Source Citation:

Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 28 November 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/oregon/biographical-sketches-of-portland-or-mayors.htm - Last updated on Aug 16th, 2013


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