HON. A.M. CANNON. – Mr. Cannon, like so many of our prominent men and large capitalists, began life on a farm, where his energies were devoted until he was twenty-one years old. His father was a farmer and a man of fine qualities, but had very limited means to devote to the education of his son. In 1858 he left Illinois, and started with two yoke of oxen for Pike’s Peak. At St. Joseph he was elected captain of a company of emigrants consisting of fifty-two souls, and succeeded in leading them safely across the plains through a dangerous Indian country, a large portion of which was desolate and waterless. When they reached the present site of Denver, half the townsite was offered to him for the sum of one thousand dollars, and that upon credit in the bargain.
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The Pike’s Peak excitement soon subsided; and Mr. Cannon returned to Chicago and ventured in the grain commission business. There he remained for thirteen years, making and losing several fortunes, as he was a daring operator. He was one of the first members of the board of trade of Chicago, which is now one of the grandest palaces of commerce in the world, though at that time an almost insignificant beginning, but was constituted of men of pluck, – the kind who made Spokane Falls. While still a resident of Chicago, Mr. Cannon in 1867 built a flouring mill in Kansas City, which operated extensively in wheat and flour, being the largest mill west of the Mississippi river. But this proved too tame a life for his restless and adventurous spirit; and he sold the mill and again crossed the plains and Rocky Mountains, this time to San Francisco. About this time the White Pine mining excitement took place in Nevada; and young Canon was soon induced to go to the mining camp, where he experienced all the vicissitudes of mining life, which were particularly marked at that place.
After another trip to Chicago in 1870, and a return to San Francisco a year later, he went to Portland, Oregon, and carried on a successful business until 1878. His health becoming greatly impaired, he resolved to go on a prospecting tour east of the Cascades, and started on the journey in a buggy. His explorations continued into Washington Territory; and, upon viewing the present site of the city of Spokane Falls, he determined, on account of its beautiful landscape and vast water-power, to make it his future home. With his indomitable energy, he accomplished a task which had before been deemed impossible, – that of bringing into service the swift waters of Spokane river as a means of transporting logs to the falls from lake Coeur d’ Alene, and building up a lumbering business and consequently enabling the starting of a town. The business has now assumed very large proportions, and has been incorporated under the title of the Spokane Mill Company, being one of the largest lumbering and manufacturing plants on the Pacific coast, and representing a capital of nearly $1,000,000. Mr. Cannon and his partner, E.J. Birdsell, practically own and control the great business.
The Bank of Spokane Falls, of which he is president and sole owner, is perhaps the largest of the eight banks now in that city. Among other large enterprises, the new Grand Opera House block deserves mention. it is a magnificent pressed brick and granite building 150 by 270 feet, fronting on Post street, and is five stories high. Its interior arrangement is patterned after the Broadway Theater in New York, the same architect having prepared the plans. Mr. Cannon has also in course of construction a massive and handsome bank building, 112 by 142 feet, situated on the corner of Riverside avenue and Mill street, the most valuable corner in the city. This building is to be exclusively of granite and iron, and will be six stories high, with a hydraulic elevator and all modern conveniences. The new and splendid Hotel Spokane just commenced, one of the most complete modern hotels in the United States, is largely a creation of Mr. Cannon’s enterprise and magnificence, being built by himself and associates. The Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway, now running its trains out of Spokane, is also largely indebted to Mr. Cannon’s supervision.
He is in a word the moving spirit of enterprise in Spokane, as the above numerous and grand improvements suggest; but while these are the largest they are by no means the only ventures of the restless genius of our subject. He is president of the Bank of Palouse City, vice-president of the Washington national Bank, vice-president of the Spokane Savings, Loan and Trust Company, and is connected with many other enterprises. He recently declined the United States senatorship on account of ill health. The entire state spoke as a unit in the demand that he should accept this important post; and it was the grateful and graceful acknowledgment of the many benefits the territory had reaped from his generous, open-handed spirit of enterprise, coupled with the conviction that no man could bring more knowledge of the needs of the new state, more intelligence as tot he appreciation thereof, and that, in rounding out a useful life filled with many deeds of generosity to his people, this would be a proper and fitting tribute. By honorable industry, Mr. Cannon has made a colossal fortune running into the millions. In the position of senator he would be one of the few men who could devote his entire time to the interest of the people without regard to his own; who could dispense the courtesy and preserve the dignity of his high office on a par with his colleagues without counting the cost. In closing this biography, there is expressed regret that the desire of the people cannot be fulfilled. Mr. Cannon was born near Monmouth, Warren county, Illinois, in 1837, and is now fifty-two years of age.