Biography of Hon. Allen Weir
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HON. ALLEN WEIR. – This universally known and universally respected maker of public opinion and founder of pioneer institutions in Washington Territory, of whom we present a portrait, was born in Los Angeles county, California, April 24, 1854, and is therefore in his thirty-sixth year. In 1860 the family removed from California to Puget Sound, arriving at Port Townsend June 1st of that year. They located on government land in the Dungeness river bottom in Clallam county, and there resided and “grew up with the country.” They were among the early pioneers of that section, moving in when there were but a few white families in the whole country. In such surroundings young Allen became accustomed to toil, and to that independent, self-reliant industry that overcomes natural obstacles and plants civilization where previously existed only a wilderness or an arid desert.
His father, John Weir, was a typical frontiersman. Born and raised in Missouri (his father before him was a hunter and trapper for the Missouri Fur Company) John Weir combined the sturdy qualities that impel men to push out into Western wilds. He crossed the plains with his family, journeying by ox-teams from Texas to California in 1853. Finding that the best lands about Los Angeles and Santa Barbara were owned in large Spanish grants, he pushed northward in 1858, going to the Frazer river gold mines. By the time he reached Victoria, however, the excitement had subsided; and he crossed Puget Sound and took up land at Dungeness, the family (four daughters and two sons) following two years afterwards. Mr. Weir was thoroughly identified with the best interests of the community in which he lived. In all the local Indian troubles, and when white vagabonds had to be driven out by vigilantes for the common public safety, he was one of the foremost in protecting lives and property. He enjoyed the respect and confidence of all who knew him. His father, the grandfather of our subject, William Weir, crossed the Rocky Mountains in charge of a small party of hunters and trapper in 1808, returning in 1809, four years after the Lewis and Clarke expedition. They passed the entire winter on the banks of the Columbia river, about where the city of Portland, Oregon, now stands. John Weir was the village blacksmith at Dungeness during the sixties; and his boys worked with him at the forge when not engaged in clearing the heavy growth of timber from the land.
In 1866 the elder of the two boys, Marion, died after a prolonged illness. The father had to seek employment at a neighboring sawmill; and Allen (then but twelve years old) was left to take charge of the little farm, which by that time had been cleared and was in cultivation. From that time until he was nineteen, he could not be spared from the work at home long enough to attend even one term of school. He had, however, an aptitude for books, and put in the long winter evenings studying. At nineteen he was “given his time” and a father’s blessing, and set out with no earthly possessions but the clothes he wore, to seek fame and fortune. His first object was to obtain an education; and to get the means it was necessary to work two years, which he did, the latter part of the time being occupied in driving a team in a logging camp. When finally the long-anticipated opportunity for schooling came, it was appreciated far more than such opportunities ever can be appreciated by the petted sons of luxury who never learn to work their way. During the two years when young Weir was attending school at the Olympia Collegiate Institute, no student could be found more industrious than he. With natural abilities long before noticed and commented upon, with a love for books that amounted to a passion, with a vigorous physical constitution capable of enduring the severest strain, with a fond instructor who saw and appreciated what there was in the young man, it is not remarkable that he accomplished more during those two years than is usually accomplished in five. Even though carrying half a dozen studies, and doing the janitor work in the academy building, he found time enough to ransack large libraries to which he had access, and to acquire a reputation in a local debating club conducted by grown-up college students.
Before his studies were half completed, he began to learn the printer’s trade and to fit himself for the practical duties of journalism. At the age of twenty-three, within two weeks from the time he left school, he was doing the editorial work for a daily newspaper in Olympia; and, before a month had elapsed, he had purchased the Puget Sound Argus newspaper and job-printing office at Port Townsend, where he immediately settled himself in business. There he forged his way steadily ahead from small beginnings until, at the end of twelve years, he sold out and retired from active business with a comfortable competence. It was in this newspaper field that he acquired most of his hard-earned fame in public affairs. With slender means at the start, he met obstacles which, to an ordinary person, would have been insurmountable. An ardent adherent of the Republican party, he had advocated its principles in season and out of season, and successfully, too, though the prevailing sentiment in his town was Democratic. Four opposition newspapers went down in succession before his energy ere a Democratic newspaper was finally established in the town.
Mr. Weir was also an enthusiastic temperance worker, and was active in church matters. neither of these proclivities added to his popularity in the dominant saloon element in his town; yet he was respected and extensively supported by the very class of people whose interests he most vigorously opposed. A member of the Methodist-Episcopal church, he had been licensed as a local preacher before he left school. After entering business, he served two years as secretary of the grand lodge of Good Templars for Washington and British Columbia, being subsequently elected presiding officer by acclamation.
At the territorial legislative session of 1879, he served as chief clerk of the council, performing the duties of the position so well that the completed record was filed with the territorial secretary sixteen hours after adjournment. Subsequently he was elected justice of the peace and police judge of Port Townsend, serving two full years. He served part of a term as regent of the Territorial University, and was at its expiration appointed a member of the Territorial Board of Health. In that capacity he served three full terms of two years each, being chairman of the board the last term. He was defeated for a seat in the territorial legislature by a mere scratch, owing to a failure of a full vote in one precinct, in1884. In 1888, however, he was elected a member of the upper house of the legislature by a majority of nearly a thousand in a district composed of seven counties. In both instances his opponents were excellent gentlemen. In the spring of 1889, upon preliminary steps being taken to organize a state government, Mr. Weir was elected a member of the constitutional convention, and was also one of three prominent candidates for the nomination of his party for member of Congress from the new state.
As a newspaper publisher and editorial writer, Allen Weir has long since occupied a place in the front ranks. The Argus under his management rapidly became one of the most prominent and widely quoted papers in the territory. Locally it was a power felt in the promotion of every public-spirited enterprise. In June, 1882, Mr. Weir began publishing a daily edition of the paper, being the first daily newspaper ever published in Port Townsend. It was successful from the start. Two years later he became secretary of the local Board of Trade; and in that capacity, as well as with his newspaper, he labored incessantly and effectively for the growth of the town.
His first entry in the field of territorial politics was in 1884, when he was chosen a member of the territorial Republican convention, and headed a large delegation in the interest of a leading congressional candidate. He took part in the campaign that followed; also in 1886 he was a member of the territorial convention, and canvassed over half the territory, delivering speeches that commanded attention everywhere. In 1888 he was again a member of the territorial Republican convention, and was elected its secretary without opposition. In the campaign that followed, he scored more than an ordinary victory. During the winter following, he was a member of a statehood convention called to meet at Ellensburgh. Mr. Weir possesses the graces of oratory, and never lacks the courage of his convictions. While yet a young man, his future part in public affairs may be estimated from the fruitful past.
He enjoys the benefit of a large circle of personal friends, and is happy in his domestic relations. He was married November, 1877, to Miss Ellen Davis of Dungeness, the fruits of the union being three bright children. Their home in Port Townsend, Washington, is distinguished for comfort and attractiveness.