Biography of Capt. Henry L. Tibbals, Sr.
CAPT. HENRY L. TIBBALS, Sr. – One of the most active men of whom Port Townsend, Washington, boasts is the captain whose name appears above. He has done much to make that city, and merits the recognition and wealth which its rapid growth awards him.
He was born in Middleton, Connecticut, on December 18, 1829. His parents were in good circumstances; but at the age of ten he took the responsibility of shipping as cabin boy on a brig, at seven dollars and a half per month. From that time forth, nearly half a century, his life has been spent upon the sea or salt water. At the age of twenty he was master of a brig on a voyage to the West Indies, and until 1849 was mate or master in active sailing. In that year he came around Cape Horn to San Francisco in charge of the sailing vessel Draco. Returning East, he came out in 1853 on another cruise, reaching San Francisco the next season, and thence went to Australia in charge of the bark What Cheer.
In 1856 he arrived at Puget Sound as sailing master of the revenue cutter Jeff Davis, and was stationed with her at Port Townsend one year. Then, leaving the water, he opened a hotel, and in 1858 built the Pioneer Hotel on the present site of the Cosmopolitan. He conducted this house greatly to the credit of the city, and with good pecuniary returns, for twelve years. Retiring from the hotel in 1871, he built the Union wharf and became agent for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. After six years he assumed control as general agent of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company for another term of six years, and was also pilot of the Straits. In 1888 he resigned those positions, and retired from active business. During all those years he was making opportune investments in city property, and is now one of the heaviest taxpayers in the county.
His political history dates back as early as 1863, when he was elected to the legislature, and in 1864, when he became sheriff of Jefferson county. Fifteen years he served as president of the board of county commissioners, and for years was postmaster of Port Townsend and a member of the city council. He is also a leading member of the Masonic order, being one of the three surviving charter members of Lodge No. 6, and has held all the offices within the gift of that body. In politics Captain Tibbals is a Democrat of strong views, and is in all respects a man of great power. His three-score years are belied by his rugged appearance; and, with his family of wife and seven children, he occupies a high position in the business, political and social world of the lower Sound.
The Captain has always been energetic in every work he has undertaken; and his energy has brought him work from prominent sources. It was he who tested the great iron diving-bells invented by Major Henry B. Sears, and constructed at West Point for the Havre de Grace bridge across the Susquehanna river. The bells were used in building the abutments, and faithfully fulfilled their mission.
He is now building a one-mile racecourse and park just tow and one-half miles from the head of his own wharf. He says of the racetrack, that “it will be one of the fastest in the world.”