HENRY PERRY ISAACS. – Like many old settlers. Mr. Isaacs is so fully identified with Walla Walla, Washington, that the place would not be itself in his absence. In matters of public interest, such as schools, churches and general business enterprises, he has always had a leading part, and as the pioneer in the erection and operation of flour mills “East of the Mountains” deserves lengthy mention.
He was born in Philadelphia in 1822, of English and Scotch parentage. There he was educated, and absorbed with eagerness the great lessons of that time. he commence business when only seventeen years of age as an importing stationer; and in which he continued four years with success; when twenty-one he went out West to Indiana. As a thoughtful and impressible young man, he was deeply stirred by a great speech delivered by General Cass, at Fort Wayne, upon the opening of the Wabash and Erie Canal in 1843. Cass was one of the great spirits of the West; and he was among the first to foresee the gigantic strides soon to be made in our national development. He was acquainted personally with the Northwest; and he and Thos. H. Benton of the Senate were the foremost defenders of the American claim to Oregon. Young Isaacs must have gained from them much of the Western spirit.
In 1850 he went to Minnesota, but, not liking the climate, determined to push westward, even to the Pacific. In 1852, a year when gold hunters were going West in swarms, he crossed the plains, accomplishing the journey in ninety days, and made his first home near Salem. The “Webfoot” climate not precisely suiting him, and Indians bringing him glowing reports of gold mines in the interior, he started off the next year for the Upper Columbia. His trip was by canoe; and it is hardly necessary to add that he did not find the mines. The Indians deceived him or themselves, and knew nothing of precious metals. Being once in the country, however, and delighted with its climate, he determined to remain and await developments, establishing a trading-post meanwhile at The Dalles. He was successful, and continued in business until 1860.
That was the eventful year of his life; for it was then that he was married, his bride being Miss Lucie Fulton, daughter of Colonel James Fulton. He then went home to Philadelphia with the intention of settling down and remaining. But the West had gained too strong a hold upon his mind. The Eastern climate seemed to him unaccountably disagreeable. He came back to The Dalles in 1861, and in 1862 went to Walla Walla. There he put up a flouring mill, the second in the country, and opened a store. In these enterprises he has been successful. Like all the prominent business men of his section, he has multiplied his business, establishing himself at various distant points. In addition to the mill in Walla Walla, he built two others in Boise valley, and one in Colville valley, two hundred miles to the north. He also built the large mill at Prescott, in Walla Walla county, thus hastening the development of the country.
Mr. Isaacs is also a pioneer in the culture of grapes, and thinking that they can be grown with great success, even of as fine a quality as in California. He is enthusiastic in his praise of the climate in its beneficial effects upon bronchial troubles. He has seen many severely affected coming from abroad, who were cured simply by living at Walla Walla, breathing its healing air, and drinking only its pure, delicious water.
Of a fine and commanding figure, still erect and firm in his sixty-sixth year, and as able as ever for all active pursuits and business, Mr. Isaacs is one of the pillars of society in the city of his pride, and is regarded by all with the affection and esteem due one of such a worthy character and career. He has been selected for positions of public trust, being president of the Board of Trade for several years and a member of the legislative council in 1865, where he made himself known as strongly in favor of all public improvements, and as firmly in favor of woman’s suffrage and local option.