L.A. LOOMIS. – This is the man who, perhaps more than any other, has opened up Pacific county to the business and pleasures of the interior. The southwest corner of Washington is by no means the least of her Western counties. It does not border upon the Sound; but three deep bays – Baker’s, Shoalwater and Gray’s Harbor – all give it inlets from the sea; and the peninsula extending twenty-one miles from Cape Hancock to the entrance of Shoalwater Bay, whose sea border is known s North Beach, will always be a popular seaside resort. The proximity of Shoalwater Bay on the eastern side, whose warm, quiet waters invite boating and bathing, and whose flats are deep with oysters and the delicious exotic clam, will always be attractive to those making a summer trip to the coast.
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Mr. Loomis was among the first, if not the very first, to conceive of the best way to make this delightful region accessible to the people of Portland and of the interior. His efforts in this line have moved with great precision; and the success of each movement has opened the way to the next. In 1873 he put a stage line on the route from Ilwaco to Oysterville. In 1874 he organized the Ilwaco Steam Navigation Company, which in 1875, built the staunch little steamer General Canby to connect with Ilwaco and Astoria. This company has since put upon this route the swift and commodious steamers General Miles and Dolphin. In 1881 Mr. Loomis organized the Shoalwater Bay Transportation Company, which built the Montesano, the first steamer of importance put on Gray’s Harbor. They have built since this the Garfield and the Governor Newell.
This company, however, dissolved in 1886, and sold off their steamers. From Astoria to the head of Gray’s harbor was now a steam route with the exception of the stage from Ilwaco to Oysterville. From five to ten thousand visitors were coming to the beach every summer; and the whole circuit had quite a respectable permanent traffic. The next step was to supply this “missing link” with steam. The Ilwaco Steam navigation Company therefore enlarged its powers, becoming the Ilwaco Railway & Navigation Company. A stretch of sixteen miles of rails north of Ilwaco was projected; and in 1888 five miles were completed. The rest is now also in running order. Mr. Loomis has been the leading spirit in this enterprise.
As might be expected, he is an old Oregonian. He first came to this coast in 1852 and mined on Bear river. Three years later he came to the place which has been successively called Pacific City, Unity and now Ilwaco, meeting a brother who had been living there five years. News of the rich mines on Lake Pend d’Oreille penetrated to that city and carried off nearly all the leading citizens, i.e., the two Loomises and a man named Caruthers. This move led them into a world of adventures. Putting themselves and their goods into that style of boat known in that part as a dinghy, they took the pathway of the waters up the Columbia, camping by night on the shore. Ten days of hard rowing brought them to The Dalles; and there buying ponies they pushed on across the great plains as far as Spokane Falls. Here word came to them simultaneously that the mines were a failure, and that the Indians were beginning a promiscuous killing of settlers and travelers.
This turned them about; and their trip back to the Des Chutes was amid sullen savages, whose only reason for not massacring them seemed to be the fact that they were unarmed, and had plenty of Indian trinkets which they offered for sale. The soldiers guarding the fords of the river informed them upon their arrival that they had been lucky to get through safe. At The Dalles they joined the mounted volunteers, just then organizing, and served through the war, participating in the battle at Walla Walla, which lasted four days, and being present at the capture and death of Peu-peu-mox-mox or Yellow Bird of the Walla Wallas.
After the war closed, Mr. Loomis was employed by the quartermaster in work on Fort Dalles and Fort Simcoe. In 1857 the death of his father in New York laid upon him the filial obligation of returning East, and caring for his mother. In 1864 he went South, and had charge of a construction car in building and repairing railroads for army movements. After the war he went to Michigan from his New York home. He remained in that state until 1872, engaged in business; but the spell of life on the Pacific coast had never withdrawn its influence; and in that year he returned to his home at Ilwaco, on Shoalwater Bay, Washington Territory, improving his farm and building a handsome residence, – deemed the finest place in the county, – and entered upon the enterprises which have made him influential and wealthy. He is a wide-awake man of sterling qualities, and who does not long live in a place without his presence being known.
The wife of Mr. Loomis is a daughter of Philip Glover of Marion county, Oregon. She is a lady well calculated to be the companion of her husband in his arduous undertakings, and to make happy his domestic life.