Samuel Coulter was born in Tyler county, Virginia, August 20, 1832, and is a son of Samuel and Sarah (Rodes) Coulter. His father’s parents were natives of Wales and at an early day settled in Virginia, while his maternal ancestors came from England. At the age of four years he lost his father and soon thereafter the family moved to Van Buren county, Iowa. When be reached the age of twelve his mother died, after which he went to live with his half brother, Capt. B. L. Henness, who now resides near Mt. Tabor, Oregon, who kindly offered him a home and such educational advantages as the place afforded.
In 1850 he drove an ox team across the plains to Oregon, arriving at Oregon City on the 12th of September, 1850, his entire possession at the time outside of a scanty wardrobe being two dollars in money. But he was not discouraged and soon after his arrival he secured employment and in April, 1851, was able with six others to purchase a wagon and six yoke of oxen and complete outfit for the mines, it being reported at the time that good mines had been discovered near Yreka, California. The excitement caused by the discovery of gold in California was then most intense, and young Coulter determined to try his fortune in this direction. His mining venture was rewarded with a fair degree of success but after one season’s experience he returned to Oregon and engaged in lumbering, following this business for a year. He then went to Olympia, Washington Territory, when that part of the country was only accessible by canoe up the Cowlitz River or trail along its banks. Here he took up a claim under the donation act upon which he resided and cultivated for some five years. During this time he married Miss H. E. Tilley, eldest daughter of Judge Abram Tilley, formerly of Indianapolis, Indiana. Soon after his marriage he engaged in the cattle business, which he followed until 1877, when he closed it out and moved to Portland. In 1878, he and C. P. Church purchased the land and built the Esmond Hotel, and the year following in company with James Steel and D. D. McBean he constructed a section of the Northern Pacific railroad from Chany to Spokane Falls. In 1881 he again embarked in the wholesale cattle business with Seattle as headquarters and with branches at Tacoma and Port Townsend. In 1884 the Esmond Hotel burned, after which he purchased Mr. Church’s interest in the property and rebuilt it. He retired from the cattle business in 1886, since which he has confined himself to his extensive real estate and mining interests.
He was one of the organizers of the Northwest Coal and Transportation company, of which he has since been president. This company owns and is operating mines along the line of the Northern Pacific railroad near Tacoma. He, with his two sons, organized the Washington Lumber company, which has built a line of railroad from timber lands to salt water on Puget Sound. He is also president and principal owner of the Takou gold mines near Juneau, Alaska. Besides these interests he is a large owner of real estate in Portland, and of many thousands of acres of valuable timber lands in Oregon and Washington. In the management of his large interests he finds his time fully occupied and has little opportunity to engage in enterprises not connected with his private affairs.
To Mr. Coulter and wife three sons have been born, two of whom are living. The eldest, Clarence W., is manager of the Takou Milling and Mining Company, of Alaska, and the other, Alvah S., is also connected with this company. Both sons are also associated with their father in the Washington Lumber Company. His second son Esmond, after whom the Esmond Hotel was named, died at an early age.
Mr. Coulter is a republican in politics, but takes no active part in political affairs. While he resided in Washington Territory, he was, however, appointed by President Grant internal revenue collector for the territory and held the position for four years. Beyond this office he has never held political position and has no inclination in this direction. In all of his business career he has shown rare good judgment and has accumulated a large fortune. He is conservative in his ideas; is a man of strong convictions and when he determines upon a course of action is not easily turned aside until the end he has in view has been reached. Coming to this portion of the Union a mere boy in years, he has grown with its growth and is now one of the oldest of the pioneers in active business life in Oregon. He has ever maintained an unsullied record as a business man, while his life in every way has been exemplary and above reproach.
He is social and genial in nature and deservedly popular with all who know him. A man of naturally rugged constitution, he is still remarkably active and in vigorous health. He is in the best sense of the term a self-made man and is a representative of the best type that our pioneer times have produced.