Clarence Bagley.

History of Seattle from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 3) online

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cost about another hundred thousand dollars. These, together with all the other estimates
and costs, totaled quite a formidable amount of money, which, with the city charter fixing
an arbitrary debt limit of sixty thousand dollars, rendered the situation, to say the least,
quite appalling to those who were informed on the subject and especially to one-
who had to approve and sign all vouchers before warrants could be issued. But
the people had previously voted bonds for twenty thousand of this and the proceeds
had been used for building the Grant Street bridge, thus leaving but forty thousand
dollars of credit upon which to start the city on a new lease of life. Here again
Mr. Niesz proved his mettle and demonstrated that he was the right man in the right
place. With the same splendid courage with which he approached the replatting problem,
armed with the shibboleth that with the city, as with an individual, self-preservation is
the first law of nature and that necessity knows no law, he met the situation as he found
it. Street planking had always been- done from the general fund, but this was a time for
everybody to help everybody else, so property owners were induced to rebuild the streets,
the city to pay for them when its legal disability was removed. Five sites were secured
for fire engine houses' and buildings were erected thereon, partly on a similar basis. An
electric fire alarm system was installed on the basis of a lease, paying but little more
tlian interest on the cost until such time as the city was in position to pay for same, of
course providing for the right to purchase same when in financial condition to do so.
Fire apparatus was secured in similar manner and thus all along the line careful study,
pood judgment and strategy were required to get the city again started on the upward
path, to brace up the courage of the people and. as IMr. Niesz expresses it. "to keep out
of the penitentiary."

Perhaps the most embarrassing condition existing at the time of the fire and immedi-
ately thereafter was brought about by the water problem. When the fire came there was
no water to quench it and afterward there was none to prevent a recurrence of same
should the property owners again erect structures to feed the flames. This condition was
aggravated by measures taken some time before the fire, when the privately owned waler
company had. as the council viewed it. by artful deception secured an amendment to its
franchise which would greatly increase its revenues as well as its power over the city
and its citizens, which in turn compelled the city in self-defense to take the necessary
steps to install a water plant for and by the city. Surveys and estimates of cost had been
made for ten million gallons per day to be brought bv gravity from Rock Creek, together
with the distribution of same throughout the city. One million dollars of bonds for this


purpose had been voted by the people, but to install such a plant would take time, and
time was now a great desideratum. With the business district destroyed and its best
customers out of commission, the company did not feel justified in going to the expense
of reconstructing and extending its plant if the city was going to enter the field, so they
wanted the city to renounce its determination to install a plant of its own and to guaran-
tee them exclusive privileges for a longer period. But the fire had so thoroughly demon-
strated the inefficiency of their plant and its management that such a course lacked all
the elements which would inspire courage to rebuild. After much discussion and many
delays the water company finally offered to sell its plant to the city, with qualifications
that no private individual nor private corporation could buy it, for one million dollars;
that, though yet in its infancy, it was worth a great deal more than that. Yet they
recognized that this was the city of Seattle, hence they would accept the million dollars
of bonds voted by the people in payment for their plant. The whole matter was finally
referred to a special committee of the council to negotiate with the water company for
its plant or take other steps which might relieve the situation. Mr. Niesz was made the
chairman of this committee and here again he found the city charter blocking the way.
While it provided unlimited credit for erecting and maintaining a water plant, yet it
made no provision for purchasing a plant already erected, hence it was again a case of
the necessity which knows no law and the council must be a law unto itself. It was an
exigency that was unforeseen and the council must meet existing conditions and in so
doing must work for the future as well as the present. After much negotiation the
company made a new proposition to take eight hundred and forty thousand dollars, the
amount they claimed the net revenues would carry at six per cent, and finally came down
to six hundred thousand dollars if prompt action could be taken ; but with the city it
was not a question of what revenue the plant would yield but what it could be duplicated
for or what amount would build a better or more suitable plant. Hence the committee
had the council authorize the employment of some eminent hydraulic engineer of national
repute to appraise the physical plant and to elaborate the plans for the gravity system
to dovetail into it so far as possible for permanent use in case of purchase. To this end
Mr. Benizette Williams was employed. He appraised the physical plant and prepared the
plans upon which the present gravity system, of which the people are now so justly proud,
was finally founded, the committee appraising the company's real estate and equities in
the matter, and finally submitted their proposition to the company. This proposition with
few minor changes was accepted by the company and a contract entered into for the
purchase of the plant, which finally cleared the way for improvement. The contract called
for the city to pay three hundred and fifty-two thousand and odd dollars for the plant,
issuing a warrant for the two thousand and odd dollars to bind the company, the balance
to be paid when legal disabilities could be removed, at any time before January I, 1892.
In the meantime extensions to the plant were to be made according to the city's plans and
under city supervision.

Fortunately the constitutional convention was in session during Seattle's most critical
times and three important cities of the territory having but recently been devastated by
fire made it far more tractable to the possible needs of a municipality. When their com-
mittee had decided to fix the debt limit of the municipalities of the coming state to conform
with the congressional act for the municipalities of the territories of the United States,
namely at four per cent of the assessed value of the property of such municipality accord-
ing to the last previous assessment roll, a wire to the mayor asking if Seattle could get
through on that amount quickly prompted his appointment of Mr. Niesz to appear before
that committee, where by a showing of the estimated cost of rehabilitating the burned
district, of Seattle's situation as to water and possible light works for the comfort, con-
venience and health of the community, which are in the nature of an investment and yield
revenues, and of a possible condition as to sewers for the preservation of health, which at
times become almost a military necessity, by the method of gradual approach he readily
demonstrated that a municipality should have a little leeway, so the properly constituted
authorities could in case of emergency extend its credit without a vote of the people to the
extent of say one and one-half per cent of its assessed valuation ; that an additional amount,
say up to five per cent, might be extended for general municipal purposes by a vote of


three-fifths of the voters, voting at an election for that purpose; and that an additional
amount of say five per cent might be extended by a similar vote of the people for water
works, light works or for sewers — and such were the provisions finally adopted by the
convention and the people.

Mr. Niesz was also largely instrumental in securing provision in the state constitution
for the larger cities of the state to have the right to prepare their own charters. He was
also appointed as special representative of the city on this subject. His object was:
first, to secure local self-government for tlie larger cities ; second, to secure charters
adaptable to local conditions ; and third, to have the larger cities vie with each other in
promoting progress. The population was fixed at twenty thousand for cities of the first
class, which were permitted to prepare their own charters, in order to secure the votes of
King, Pierce and Spokane counties, Seattle then having about thirty thousand, with
Tacoma and Spokane near the twenty thousand mark. While the committee of the con-
stitution builders was at work on harbor and tide land provisions, Mr. Niesz was again
sent to Olympia to present the city's case. In replatting the business and shipping section
of the city, all streets ending on the water front were by ordinance projected out to deep
water, and Mr. Niesz had ideas on harbors and tide lands. He was in favor of the state
doing with the harbor cities as the United States does with the state, i. e., conserve them
for the future city to be turned over to it when it prepares and adopts its charter, the
harbor area to be inalienable in the interest of commerce, under control of a local com-
mission, and the tide lands to be handled by the same or another local commission for
the benefit of the port; and had this course been pursued Seattle and Tacoma might
today both have had permanent sea wall and concrete docks with ample means to make
them free ports.

During the session of the first state legislature Mr. Niesz was again selected as special
representative of the city and had much to do with framing legislation to provide for the
city's needs. He was associated with Judge Parsons, who was employed by the committee
of one hundred at Tacoma, preparing the enabling act for cities of the first class to prepare
their own charters. They were to prepare the bill and to submit it to the cities before its
introduction in the legislature. Mr. Niesz, through experience in municipal work, sensed
the situation and aimed to give to cities all the power which the legislature could grant
without directly delegating its power to the cities, while Judge Parsons was trying to pre-
pare a charter with limitations on nearly every subject and in nearly every section. They
were known as the short bill and the long bill. Judge Parsons preparing the latter and Mr.
Niesz the former. The short bill was adopted and enacted into law and had not the one
short clause, "subject to the general laws of the state," been injected into the law, Wash-
ington's first-class cities might now enjoy local self-government and work out their own
destiny, bearing the same relation to the state as the state does to the nation. It may be
truly said the beneficial results accomplished for the city by Mr. Niesz have stamped their
impress deeply upon its growth and have had far-reaching effect, yet since leaving the city
council there has never been a time when he could be induced to accept another public
oflSce, though always interested in public affairs and willing to lend a helping hand and do
his part in public undertakings. Mr. Niesz has served three terms as a member of the
board of trustees of tlie Chamber of Commerce and has been a member of the Commercial
Club and of many improvement clubs. He has cleared more than four hundred acres of
land in and near Seattle and in platting land into city lots has always been mindful of the
future needs of a great city as well as the comfort and convenience of those who would
eventually use the property by providing liberally for public places, wide avenues, etc.
He donated to the city the site for the West Seattle Carnegie Public Library and offered
to donate the choice of several valuable sites for the Art Museum. He built several
business blocks in the city as well as several homes for himself and family and some houses
for sale. He took a leading part in the annexation of Seattle's various suburbs and in the
annexation of West Seattle he insisted on including all of the tide lands and the Duwamish
valley, contending that all this with the greatest possible amount of the drainage district
to the south, placed under the jurisdiction of the cit}-. would soon lead to the straightening
of the Duwamish river by building a waterway through the valley, which with an avenue
paralleling it at a proper distance on each side, of sufficient width to accommodate wagon.


street car and railroad traffic, would solve the manufacturing site problem and greatly
benefit the commercial interests of the city — and these things are now all under way.

Mr. Niesz has always been an ardent advocate of good roads, giving special attention
to arterial highways. At the present time he is much interested in the arterial highways
for West Seattle. In politics he has always been a republican. At the present time he is
devoting his attention largely to the supervision of improvements on his various property
interests, his holdings being now mostly in Seattle, West Seattle and between Seattle and
Tacoma, though he still holds his interest in the old homestead at Canton, Ohio. On the
whole it can be said that Mr. Niesz has been a useful citizen for Seattle and the state of
Washington, that his efforts have been constructive rather than speculative, that he has
done his part well in the upbuilding of the city and state and that he deserves all the good
fortune that has come to him. , ■ ,. ...


^\'hen Seattle was a small town Lewis Solomon Rowe became identified with its
business interests. At that time all trade interests centered around Front street and
the most farsighted would scarcely have dreamed that the city would extend out upon
and over the hills bordering the lake and that it would become a great metropolitan
center, with its ramifying trade interests reaching not only to all sections of this country
but to many foreign lands as well. For a number of years Mr. Rowe has engaged in no
active business, for his former success was sufficient to enable him to live retired. He
was born in Madison, Maine, August 31, 1831, and came of English and Scotch lineage,
earlier representatives of the name having lived in New Hampshire. His father, Solomon
Rowe, was born in that state and married Miss Betsey Richardson, of Maine, whose
ancestors were represented in the Revolutionary war. Mr. and Mrs. Rowe became parents
of ten children and the father provided for their support by carrying on general agricul-
tural pursuits. He had large tracts of land which in time were operated by his sons,
while he devoted his attention to the work of the ministry as a preacher of the Baptist
denomination. His life and example were a permeating influence for good wherever he
was known and wherever he went he gained many friends who deeply deplored his death
when at the age of sixty years he passed away. His wife was sixty-seven years of age
at the time of her demise.

Lewis S., Rowe was the youngest of their ten children and at the age of fourteen
years he put aside his textbooks and left the public schools in order to provide for his
own support. After walking a distance of fifty miles from his home to Bangor, Maine,
he entered upon an apprenticeship to the carriage maker's trade under John Wingate,
his pecuniary compensation being thirty dollars for the first year and sixty for the second.
He did not complete his apprenticeship, however, for feeling that he was not receiving
fair treatment, he left his employer and secured a situation in a locomotive factory,
where he received a dollar and a half per day. Two years later he heard and heeded the
call of the west, for he embarked on the Orizaba, an outward bound sailing vessel from
New York, the destination of which was San Francisco. He had gone aboard as a stow-
away, intending to work his passage, and during the voyage he washed dishes. Immedi-
ately after arriving in San Francisco he engaged in blacking boots, for which he was
sometimes paid a dollar, but he soon secured emplo>Tnent that offered better oppor-
tunities. He was ambitious and made good use of the advantages which came to him,
so that he steadily worked his way upward.

After returning to New Hampshire, in 1856, Mr. Rowe entered the employ of Abbott
& Downing, carriage manufacturers, with whom he remained for five years but in April,
1861, he was again in California, having landed from the steamer. North Star, which
sailed from New York. While en route a severe storm was encountered and, losing its
mast, the vessel was obliged to put into port for repairs. Mr. Rowe entered the employ
of Kilbourne & Bent, who were conducting a carriage manufacturing business at the
corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco. His wage was originally five


1 L\ i


dollars per day but a little later he was given piece work and put in charge of the shop,
so that his wages amounted to from sixty to seventy dollars per week. In 1862 he went
to Honolulu to take charge of a carriage shop, but not liking the island, he returned to
San Francisco after three months. Still later he went to Topeka, Kansas, and a year
afterward to Newton, Kansas, establishing the first store in that town, for which he
hauled the lumber a distance of thirty miles. He built up an extensive business there
and when the Santa Fe Railroad was built he shipped his goods by the carload. Con-
ditions became such, however, that he desired no longer to live in Newton. Drunken
Texas cowboys and railroad men, engaged in building the Santa Fe, were continually
fighting and during Mr. Rowe's residence in Newton thirty-seven men and one woman
were killed. Closing out his business, he removed to Pueblo, Colorado, where he remained
for two years and then again went to California.

In 1875 Mr. Rowe arrived in Seattle and opened a small store on Front avenue, at
the foot of Cherry street, his stock of groceries having cost him two hundred and thirty
dollars. Mr. Yesler erected a store building for him and for nine years he continued
successfully in the grocery trade, winning a large patronage. When city realty sold at
a very low figure he made investment in property and after an illness of two years, in
which he was unable to do active work, he turned his attention to his real estate. There
was a timber tract where the fine family residence now stands. He obtained five acres
for four hundred dollars and this property at Denny Way and Summit street is very
valuable. On Front street he erected si.x stores, which returned to him a good rental,
and he likewise engaged in the carriage business, having a large repository and selling
many carriages. He became a partner of Hon. C. P. Stone in this enterprise and success
attended their efforts in large measure, for they purchased their carriages by the car lot.
They controlled the output of several eastern factories and at length Mr. Rowe purchased
his partner's interest and remained in the business alone for several years but finally
retired from that field. He otherwise contributed to the upbuilding of the city by erecting
fifteen flats on Union street at a cost of over twenty thousand dollars. Mr. Rowe has
lived to see a remarkable rise in property values, some of his holdings increasing in
worth a hundredfold. He laid out and platted the Veneta addition to Port Orchard
and found a ready sale for the property and in 1893 he went to the Colville reservation
and located the Veneta gold mine, capitalized for seven hundred thousand dollars. His
investments have been carefully placed. He seems to readily recognize not only present
but future values and his business affairs have been so conducted that e.xcellent results
have attended his efforts, making him one of the prosperous residents of the northwest.

In 1856 Mr. Rowe was united in marriage to Miss C>iithia Cliflford and they had a
daughter, Lizzie Ella, now the wife of C. F. Dean. For his second wife Mr. Rowe chose
Miss Miranda F. Hummell, and Vena, the daughter of this marriage, has become the
wife of Edwin Ma.xwell. Out of humble surroundings Mr. Rowe has risen to a position
of prominence, entering into important and extensive business relations. In his business
life he has been a persistent, resolute and energetic worker, possessing strong e-xecutive
powers, keeping his hand steadily upon the helm of his business, and he has been strictly
conscientious in his dealings with debtor and creditor alike. If a pen picture could
accurately delineate his business characteristics, it might be given in these words : a pro-
gressive spirit ruled by more than ordinary intelligence and good judgment; a deep
earnestness impelled and fostered by indomitable perseverance; a native justice expressing
itself in correct principle and practice.


Winfield R. Smith is a leading attorney of Seattle, where he has practiced his pro-
fession continuously for the past twenty-five years. He was born in Milwaukee, Wis-
consin, in 1866, his parents being Winfield and Sarah (Fellows) Smith, pioneers of that
city. Winfield Smith was the first white child born at Fort Howard, in northern Wis-
consin, where his father, an army officer, was stationed. He resided at Milwaukee for


over a half century, until his death in 1899, being actively engaged in the practice of law
until within the last few years of his life. He served as attorney general of Wisconsin
for two terms and also in other public positions.

Winfield R. Smith pursued his more advanced education in the University of Wis-
consin, from which he was graduated in 1889 with the degree of B. L. Subsequently he
attended the School of Law of Columbia University but completed his professional training
in Wisconsin, receiving the LL. B. degree in 1891. He began practice in the Badger state,
where he was married, and a short time later came to Seattle, opening an office here late
in 1891. During the intervening years to the present he has built up an extensive and lu-
crative clientage. His handling of his case is always full, comprehensive and correct, and
his analysis of the facts is clear and exhaustive; he sees without effort the relation' and
dependence of the facts and so groups lliem as to enable him to throw their combined force
upon the point they tend to prove.

In 1891 Mr. Smith was united in marriage to Miss Susie S. Wegg, a native of St.
Thomas, Ontario, who resided for a number of years in Milwaukee and subsequently in
Chicago, where the wedding ceremony was celebrated. They have two children. Airs.
Smith also pursued a college course in the University of Wisconsin and is active in many
directions and with various organizations. She took a leading part in organizing the Sunset
Club and was its president for the first three years, during which the club's development
was unique.

In politics Mr. Smith is an independent republican. He is a loyal and public-spirited
citizen who has always lent his aid in charitable and public work, but his attention has
been concentrated chiefly upon his profession and he has not sought political preferment.
His membership relations extend to various organizations, including the Rainier, Arctic
and Seattle Golf Clubs and the Chamber of Commerce. His social qualities have gained
him wide acquaintance and certain sterling traits of character which he possesses have won
for him the friendship of the many with whom he has been brought in contact.


Seattle finds an enthusiastic supporter in Dr. Naboth Allen, who took up his abode
in this city in 1914 and has since engaged in the practice of his profession, specializing in
obstetrics. He was born at Greens Pond, on Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland, December
14, 1871. His father, George Allen, was also a native of that place and devoted his early
life to the fishing industry but later was successfully engaged in mercantile lines. He
died at Greens Pond, July 23, 1914, when sixty-eight years of age. His wife, who bore
the maiden name of Elizabeth Ann Cave, was a native of Bay Roberts, on Conception Bay
in Newfoundland, and is still living. By her marriage she became the mother of nine

Online LibraryClarence BagleyHistory of Seattle from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 3) → online text (page 36 of 142)