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Edward James Jeffery was born in Oneida county, New York, April 23, 1835, and is of English descent, his parents having been born in England. During his infancy the family moved to Lenawee county, Michigan. Here he resided on a farm and obtained a limited education in the district school until the spring of 1852, when he started across the plains for the Pacific slope. In October following, after a journey of more than six months, he arrived at Placerville, California, where, until the following spring he engaged in mining. He then went to Stockton where he was employed in a brick yard for a season. In the fall he went to Tuolumne county, and worked in the mines until 1856, when he located in Shasta county, and for two years was engaged in farming.
Upon the breaking out of the Fraser River gold excitement in 1858, he started for that region, taking passage on the Cortez on the first trip made by that vessel. from San Francisco to Bellingham Bay. From the latter point he followed a trail as, far as Mount Baker, but beyond that point was unable to proceed further because of the absence of any well defined trail. Returning to Bellingham Bay he then, with five companions, made a trip with a canoe up the Skagit River and all around the Sound, traversing a section of country at that time containing but few inhabitants, but now dotted with several large and populous cities. He finally ascended the Fraser as far as Fort Yale, and after an unsuccessful prospecting tour, returned to Bellingham Bay in a penniless condition-the fate of most of the early miners who started to the Fraser mines in search of the “golden fleece.” By working his passage on the Gold Hunter he arrived in San Francisco, and for two years thereafter was employed in farming and brick making at Stockton.
In the spring of 1862, he started for the Caribou mines, in British Columbia, but on the way, while waiting at Victoria, news was received of a rich gold find on the Stickeen River, in the Russian Possession, near where Fort Wrangle is now located. Abandoning his original purpose he then started for the new field, and during the summer prospected along the Stickeen, but it proved a fruitless task. He then returned to Fort Simpson and being without funds, hired out as a sailor on a Hudson Bay ship, and made a trip three hundred miles north of Sitka. Upon his return to Victoria, in November, he accepted anything in the way of work he could find to make a living. In the spring of 1863, he again started for the Caribou mines. Working his way on a vessel to Fort Yale, he started from that point on foot and walked a distance of four hundred miles to the mines, a journey through a comparatively uninhabited region and fraught with many hardships. He worked in the mines during the summer and in the fall returned to Portland, but the fascination for mining was still strong within him, and the following spring he went to the Boise Basin mines, Idaho. After spending the summer in unsuccessful prospecting, he came back to Portland and determined to abandon mining, which had proved in his case a most unprofitable pursuit. With only a few cents in his possession he began the struggles for a fortune in a less fascinating but more sure channel.
He first secured a position in a saw mill, where the Oregon & California railroad office is now located. A short time thereafter he became superintendent of the brick yard of A. M. Eldridge and was thus employed for two years. He then, in partner-ship with George Fagg, embarked in the brick business, establishing a yard between Yamhill and Morrison streets, where Donald Maculae now resides. During this time he married (August 8, 1867), Miss Mantilla King, daughter of Amos N. King, one of the earliest pioneers of Portland.
After his marriage Mr. Jeffery started a brick yard on the premises where his present residence is situated, on Nineteenth and B streets. Here he continued the making of brick until 1876, when he removed his yard to the corner of Twenty-third and J streets. At the latter place he remained until the fall of 1886 when he commenced making brick at his present location in East Portland on the Sandy road. His business in this line has grown to large proportions, and during the last two years he has averaged over five and a half million bricks annually. Besides his brick business, he has of late years been extensively engaged in city and railroad contracting. For a time he was associated with S. S. Cook, under the firm name of S. S. Cook & Co., in macadamizing and street paving. This firm was succeeded by the present firm of Bays & Jeffery. They have done a large portion of the macadamizing on the streets of Portland and laid the stone block pavement on Front and First street. With S. S. Cook, under the firm name of E. J. Jeffery & Co., he built in 1882, the Grave Creek Tunnel and 1800 feet of the Cow Creek Tunnel No. 8, for the Oregon & California railroad. Late in the fall of 1883, with D. D. McBean, he commenced the Siskiyou Tunnel for the same road, but the failure of Villard, after two-thirds of the work was completed, caused the work to be suspended. The last of his city contracting consisted in the construction of the Tanner Creek brick sewer extending from Washington street and emptying into the river near the Albina ferry, and the Johnson Creek sewer, commencing at the City Park and extending a mile and three-quarters to the bone yard. He is also interested in the Arlington Silver mine in the Ruby district, Washington Territory, being one of the organizers of the company which is now erecting a plant to reduce the ore. He was also one of the organizers and builders of the Multnomah Street Railway line.
Mr. Jeffery is a democrat and for many years has taken an active part in local and State politics. In 1872, when there was much dissatisfaction among the members of both political parties in Multnomah County with the political leaders, Mr. Jeffery was nominated as the citizens candidate for sheriff and elected. His discharge of the duties of this office was so satisfactory, that two years later, when he was nominated as the regular democratic candidate, he was again elected. He has since been his party’s candidate for State Senator and for Sheriff, accepting the nominations at the urgent solicitation of his friends when the republicans were largely in the majority and there was little hope of success. During the presidential election of 1888 he was Chairman of the Democratic State Central Committee and in this campaign as well as in preceding ones was an earnest worker for his party.
To Mr. Jeffery and wife seven children have been born, five daughters and two sons. Their eldest, a daughter, is the wife of Ivan Humason.
Mr. Jeffery is an active factor in Portland’s prosperity and takes a lively interest in everything calculated to advance the public good. He was one of the organizers of the North Pacific Industrial Association; is a large stockholder in the enterprise, a director and its treasurer. The recent Industrial Pair held by the association was the largest and most successful exhibition ever held on the Pacific Coast, and toward the gratifying success attained Mr. Jeffery in large measure contributed. He is a man of fine business attainments and in all of his enterprises has achieved a high degree of success, while a; a citizen he deservedly holds an honorable position in the community.