J. L. STOUT. – The proprietor of the townsite of Sea View on the weather beach, a city which boasts of a population of from five to eight thousand during the summer bathing season, is from the Buckeye state, having been born in Ohio in 1824. During his boyhood his father took him to Illinois; and he passed his early life on the frontier. he came up with a generation of men whose natural force and enterprise led them into the most exalted position in the great West which their energies had developed. While in Illinois he was ever restless, moving from county to county, and in the northern part of the state learned the trade of a cooper.
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He was married at an early age to Miss Abigail E. Beckwith, but at his home in Marshall county his wife and children suffered greatly from malarial sickness, his two oldest children dying. Those were also hard “Democratic times” as Mr. Stout expressed it; and for a poor man it was very difficult to advance. Having heard constantly of the gold of California, he determined to come to its mines and dig the precious metal for himself.
Accordingly, in 1850, he crossed the plains, starting from the Missouri with a train of oxen late in April. He reached Hangtown, or Placerville, early in August, making a phenomenally speedy trip. Cholera was abroad on the plains’ but he kept in advance of it. He proved the endurance and capacity of oxen, his animals overtaking horses that had passed him in the early stages of his trip, and in crossing the Humboldt desert the brave fellows traveled continuously thirty-six hours without a bite of brass or a drop of water. On this desert, three hundred and twenty-five dead horses were counted; and the road on both sides were strewn with the remains of wagons and some excellent vehicles which were standing without teams to draw them. Reaching California, Mr. Stout was not long in the mines before he was taken sick; and his gold-digging aspirations were cut short. He took passage for Oregon with the hope of recovering his health, and at Astoria was fully restored.
But the Pacific coast did not fully satisfy him; and he returned East with the determination never to leave his old home again. He had not been long in Illinois before he was equally determined to get back, if possible, to Oregon; and in 1852 he crossed the plains once more, bringing his family, arriving in Portland in August of that year. His old Oregon acquaintances were astonished to see him back, but ready to welcome him; and in that city the following winter he did a remunerative business. In 1853 he went into Clackamas county, taking up a Donation claim some twelve miles from Oregon City, where he remained for five years. But his wife’s health failing, he removed to the city for the sake of being in reach of a physician; but within two years his companion departed this life.
Making his home then at Astoria, he married Miss Annie Gearhart of Clatsop Plains, and removed to Oysterville on Shoalwater Bay, engaging in a business then comparatively new, – that of oystering. He was fairly successful a number of years, but at length the high tide swept away his home and the whole property. That was a memorable flood. A full moon and a south wind occurring together, the waters were piled into the bay; and at this state the wind suddenly shifted to the southeast, blowing violently and driving the water upon the town, submerging it in the flood, and wrecking the buildings with the heavy swell.
In 1862 the collector of customs, W. L. Adams, reposing especial confidence in him, appointed him as customs inspector to look after the interest of the government at Shoalwater Bay. He held this office for several years, and discharged his duties to the entire satisfaction of the collector who appointed him. No smuggling was done at the port while Mr. Stout held the office.
Leaving the place of his misfortune, he now went to the head of Baker’s Bay and established a home. A number of houses grew up; and a postoffice was created, with Mr. Stout as postmaster. At the request of an old settler of the region, Mr. Pickernall, the place was named Unity. This was the original Ilwaco. Desiring to make of this something of a town, Mr. Stout erected a hotel which, at the suggestion of a friend, was christened “Bay View.” In 1871, finding eligible land yet untaken on the North Beach, by entry and purchase he acquired four hundred acres on the ocean shore. Its value was not fully appreciated at that time. Captain Simpson, the lumber-dealer and shipbuilder of Coos Bay and Astoria, made the remark to its owner soon after the acquisition, that four bits an acre was too much for it. It is now held at about six hundred dollars per acre; and when the climate, the nature of the soil, and other advantages are taken into consideration, it is probably the cheapest land in the Northwest.
This transformation in value has not been due to accident. Its proprietor began with a steadfast purpose to bring it to public notice. He built a hotel, and by liberal treatment attracted guests, and explained to them the advantage of the place as a summer resort, its proximity to the cape, to Shoalwater Bay, and its magnificent ocean beach. It is also a place of groves. As the site began to become known, he laid it off in lots, which he began selling some five years since at twenty-five dollars each. The year following he was able to command for them the sum of fifty dollars. Soon they ran up to one hundred dollars. Many reasons have conspired to make Sea View the favorite resort of the summer visitor; and its fame and attractiveness have fully established Long Beach or North Beach as a point of great importance on the coast. Mr. Stout was the first to put into operation, if not to conceive the plain, of drawing seaside travel to the North Beach; and he has succeeded admirably in his undertaking.
With the expansion of the country, he has reaped the reward of his industry and sagacity. Mr. Stout was inspector of customs for six years, and served as pilot commissioner of the Columbia river and bar for eight years.
Fortune has at last smiled on the old pioneer, and justly too; for none of all the long list of pioneers is more worthy of her smile.
Mr. Stout has four sons, Jonathan, Philip, Oliver and Chester, and a daughter, Miss Inez, all of whom may well feel proud of their father; for he has left them a name that will be remembered as long as Oregon and Washington exist, and one, too, that is respected by all; for it stands without a tarnish.