Biography of Hon. James P. Stewart
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HON. JAMES P. STEWART. – In a notice of the Honorable James P. Stewart by the local press, when his name was presented for the suffrages of his fellow-citizens for a seat in the legislature of Washington Territory, it was most truthfully said: “he is a man of affairs, – a big, bronzed, broad-shouldered man, who moves about among his fellow-men with that quiet consciousness of strength that carries conviction and wins. He has been a winner all his life; and people applaud his winning. He has been as honest as he has been progressive.
Mr. Stewart is a native of the State of New York, and was born in Delaware county September 21, 1833. He lived on the farm of his parents, enjoying the customary opportunities for acquiring knowledge or education afforded the farm lads of the Middle states one-half century ago. Young Stewart, full of energy, made the best use of his opportunities, and at the age of nineteen left the parental home and engaged in teaching school, working on the farm through the summer, and devoting the winter to teaching. He migrated to Oregon in 1855, and settled at Corvallis. he remained there until April, 1859, when he removed to the Puyallup valley on the last day of that month, which has since been his home. During his residence at Corvallis he occupied his time in merchandising, teaching school, and served one official term as sheriff of Benton county.
In 1861 the people of Pierce count elected him judge of the probate court, which office he held for the term of four years, with great credit to himself and to the entire satisfaction of his fellow-citizens. He was unanimously nominated for re-election in 1864. But his business, which had become extensive, demanded his exclusive attention; and he declined. He was married that year to a daughter of Archibald McMillain, one of the most prominent of the old pioneer settlers, both of Thurston and Pierce counties.
In 1872 he accepted the unanimous nomination of the Republican conferees of Pierce and Mason counties for joint representative in the legislature; though the district was hopelessly Democratic, he made a vigorous canvass, and greatly reduced the usual party majority by his earnest efforts and personal popularity. As a recognition of his efficient service, unsolicited on his part, he wa proffered the appointment of United States Indian agent at the Makah Reservation, with the salary of fourteen hundred dollars per annum. He would not abandon his private business nor his residence and declined the appointment. Without his seeking, President Lincoln’s postmaster-general appointed him postmaster at Puyallup, which office he did accept, and served the public in that trying capacity – for which no adequate compensation was allowed – for eleven years.
In 1877-88 he served Pierce county in the house of representatives of the territory. His conservative course merited the hearty approval of his constituency, and made him prominent among the list of those from whom a nominee for delegate to Congress was selected in the election of 1888. It was conceded that, had it met Mr. Stewart’s approval, he would have received a generous if not unanimous support of his county delegation for the nomination. The truth, however, is that he has never been an office-seeker, has failed to attend nominating conventions, and, when nominations have been tendered, persuasion has been required to induce him to abandon business and accept office.
It is, however, as a merchant, successful hop-raiser, agriculturist and banker, that James P. Stewart has acquired his high standing in the community. In every enterprise to which he contributes, and in everything he undertakes, he brings to bear admirable judgement and indomitable energy. As a business man or operator, he is enterprising and fearless, far-seeing and sagacious. In the culture of raspberries he demonstrated the capabilities of the valley, and the profits of such a specialty. He has one of the largest and most profitable fruit orchards in Pierce county. He was third in rank, acreage and product in that long list of hop-growers in Puyallup valley. He gave an estimate of the average return of his hop-raising experience for the period of fifteen years, commencing with 1871, the year he entered the business. He sold his crops for the fifteen years at an average of twenty-one cents – three mills per pound. The product was an average of eighteen hundred pounds to the acre, making a net profit of over two hundred dollars per acre per annum.
He was one of the founders of the Pacific National Bank in the city of Tacoma, and has continued as director since its existence. At present he is a partner of Charles P. Masterson, the able president of that institution, in a banking business at Puyallup, under the firm name of Stewart & Masterson, of which he is manager. The firm is a strong one; and it has secured the entire confidence of the community in the so-called Puyallup Bank.
Whether as financier, farmer, merchant, legislator, probate judge, school teacher or citizen, James P. Stewart has always been a success. That success gives evidence of the truth of the old adage “Nothing is denied to well-directed instantly.” The man of purpose, self-reliant and consistent, must always succeed.