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THOMAS A. WOOD. – It is gratifying to observe that to a large extent those who first lived in Portland, Oregon, and took the rough blows and made the numerous shifts of the early days, have kept their position in the ranks, and as Portland has grown have become her men of wealth. Ladd, Reed, Corbett, Failing, Lewis and about a hundred others illustrate this fact, and so also does our subject Mr. wood.
One so much a real-estate speculator as he should be the son of a speculator; and such we find to be the case. His father, William W. Wood, was one of the men who created Illinois, and made her rapid growth the wonder of the sixth decade of our century. He founded Woodborough in Montgomery county, and there, in 1833, Thomas was born. At an early age he assisted his father in his many operations, when only ten years old being competent to hire and discharge men on the farm and in the store.
The great conflict culminating in the Civil war absorbed the interest of his early life. His family was Democratic and from South Carolina, whence the grandfather removed at an early date to Illinois. But they were abolitionists, the grandfather freeing his slaves upon arriving at the frontier. An uncle was so outspoken against slavery as to have a reward of five hundred dollars publicly offered for his head at St. Louis. In 1852 Thomas, at the age of nineteen, crossed the plains to Oregon in Captain Gilliam’s company, and upon his arriving began business by buying apples at six dollars a bushel, and selling them from his little stand at one and two bits each. He soon found a place in the grocery store of W.S. Ladd, and later was employed with S.J. McCormick, the original stationer and bookseller of Portland. He was receiving one hundred and twenty-five dollars per month in that position; but, feeling a desire for more education than he had yet received, he left his work, and, crossing back, entered Delaware College, Ohio.
Soon after this the war broke out, and he became very active in raising recruits. he made a three-months’ tour of speaking in a county that he mentions as tolerably strong copperhead, and there secured three companies. He was offered the rank of major, but declined, accepting in lieu thereof the chaplaincy of Holman’s battalion, Frémont’s body-guard. Serving one hundred days, he returned to college, and graduating came out in 1862 again to Oregon, making the journey alone wit his wife and two men. He began business here the second time as dealer in turpentine, but afterwards became a member of the Methodist conference, preaching at Roseburg, Salem, Vancouver and again at Salem, in all a period of nine years. Removing to Portland, he opened a museum, a collection of natural curiosities.
In 1876 he took up the real-estate business; and in this has continued to the present time with great success. In 1883 he laid out the town of Sellwood, and is at present developing the delightful suburban retreat at Garden Home or West Portland. He has also been active in a public way to improve the city and state, being one of the number to solicit funds for the Board of Immigration, securing pledges which will produce an income of twenty-five hundred dollars a month.
As an Indian fighter, Mr. Wood served in the company of Colonel Backenstock in 1855, and saw some skirmishes in the Coeur d’Alene country, and was nearly captured at the Des Chutes. As a pioneer, he was first to build a quartz mill on Pine creek, and operated the Gem gold mine. He was the first to build and run a flour-mill in the Grande Ronde, and was a member of the first party to set a flag on the top of Mount Hood. He has a fine family, as follows: William Hosea, Edward C., Virginia A., Emma R., Mary B., John and Nellie. His home has a refinement secured not only by wealth, but by the mental culture of his father and mother, and the morality pervading all its members.