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

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National Bank of Union Springs, New York.

Mr. Backus' ancestry is directly traced to William Backus, of Norwich, England, who
tame to Saybrook, Connecticut, about 1633, and removed to Norwich in the land of steady
habits in 1659, being one of the original proprietors of that town and giving it the name
of his English birthplace. Manson Backus, great-great-grandfather married a direct
descendant of Stephen Hopkins, who came over in the Mayflower. Spencer. Stcbbins.
Downing, Baker and other names familiar in the annals of New England are numerous
among Mr. Backus' .\merican ancestors. His great-grandfather, John Backus, was one
of the soldiers who fought in the war of Independence. The family has always been
notable for its sturdy patriotism, derived directly from those who carved the nation out
of the wilderness.

Mr. Backus was born May 11, 1853, on a farm in South Livonia, New Vurk, where
his mother died while he was still an infant ; when three years old his father removed to
Lima, and in i860 to Union Springs in the same state. He went to the common schools
but spent the years 1863-1865 on the farm, where he claims to have imbibed what has
proved to be the most valuable part of his education. Going back to the town, he attended
Oakwood Seminary, an academy conducted by Friends, or Quakers, as they were formerly
often called. He was graduated from the academy in 187! ; then attended and was gradu-
ated from the Central New York Conference Seminar}', a Methodist institution, at Caze-
novia. Next he entered the bank of which his father was president, the First National
of Union Springs. Beginning at the bottom, he gradually worked his way through every
department of the bank, was elected cashier in 187.;, and continued in that position for
thirteen years.

Meantime. Mr. Backus had married Miss Emma Cornelia Yawger, who died in 1884.
leaving two children: Helen Irene, who died in 1907; and Leroy M., who is a director in
the bank of which his father is president, thus making three generations of the family in
direct line actively concerned in banking. In 1886 Mr. Backus married Miss Lue Adams,
of King Ferry, New York, who died in February, 1901. In June of the following year,
at Greens Farms, Connecticut, he was married to Miss Elisc Piutti.


While living at Union Springs Mr. Backus had become general manager of the Cayuga
Plaster Company, serving from 1875 to 1889. From 1881 to 1885, under appointment by
President Garfield, he served to the satisfaction of his community as the postmaster of
Union Springs. During this period of varied activity Mr. Backus, as if being cashier of
a bank, manager of an industrial plant and postmaster, were not enough occupation, took
up the study of law and was admitted to the bar at Buffalo in January, 1889.

Prior to that year, Mr. Backus had become acquainted with the late Edward O.
Graves, who had been chief of the bureau of engraving and printing of the United States
treasury department, and they became convinced that their best future lay in the west.
They made a tour of observation among the then promising western cities and decided
that Seattle offered the most opportunities for financial and other investment. Other
matters intervened and they postponed their departure until the momentuous year of the
great fire of 1889. In that year Mr. Backus and Mr. Graves organized the Washington
National Bank, of which the former became cashier. In 1896 Mr. Backus became vice
president, and from 1900 to 1906 he was president. In June of the latter year he was
elected, and has since continued, as president of the National Bank of Commerce, with
which the Washington National Bank was then amalgamated. This consolidation made
the National Bank of Commerce a financial institution in which the capital, surplus and
deposits were the largest of any in the state of Washington at that time. From that day
to this the remarkable success of the bank has been largely due to Mr. Backus' thorough
understanding of finance, his wide knowledge of liuman nature and his strong and power-
ful executive ability.

Every occupation is subject to criticism from some quarter. There is extant an
impression that ice water and not blood flows in the veins of some bank presidents. No
man has a greater and wider responsibility in his community than a bank president. He
is very largely responsible to the public itself for the safety and security of its savings,
its money, its wealth. Naturally, therefore, he must be unusually cautious, prudent, saga-
cious, and it may perhaps even be said that he should be exceptionally guarded and perhaps
stern in his conduct of business. This necessary attitude sometimes gives the reputation of
being cold-blooded to some bankers whose blood runs as warm and red as that of anyone, and
whose hearts may glow with kindness under a seemingly chill exterior, which is entirely pro-
fessional in its assumption, like the steely deliberation of a tender-hearted surgeon. By those
who know him intimately Manson F. Backus is known to be kindly, charitable, with a strongly
developed aesthetic side, and with a quiet vein of humor. His gospel, however, is that of
work, hard, steady, constant work, without which he believes a man is more likely to break
down than not. His recreations are travel and motoring. He takes much pleasure in the
English poets and prose writers of the periods of Elizabeth. Anne and Victoria. He has
more than a casual acquaintance with writers like Milton and Shelley. His chief pleasure
is in print collecting, especially of the works of the great etchers from Rembrandt to
Whistler, a pleasure which he has in common with other bankers of the past who have
formed fine print collections, like Francis Calley Gray, who gave a great collection to
Harvard College ; James L. Claghorn. of Philadelphia, and Robert Garrett, of Baltimore.
On the intellectual side of his life Mr. Backus has also taken much interest in the welfare
of the University of Washington, of which he was appointed a regent in 1909.

When Seattle undertook the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, Mr. Backus became
one of the commissioners to the Orient and the Philippines and made a trip around the
world in the exposition's interest in 1907-1908. Again when Seattle undertook to erect the
splendid building of the Young Women's Christian Association, Mr. Backus was one of
the most active workers for and generous givers to that noble purpose.

Returning to the record of Mr. Backus' business achievements, during the panic of
1893 he was appointed by the United States circuit court to be receiver of two important
street railways and of a large lumber company. In that year he also served on the execu-
tive committee of the Seattle Clearing House, which successfully steered the clearing
house banks through that great panic without a single failure, an achievement without a
parallel. In 1896 he organized the banking house of Graves & Backus, at New Whatcom,
now the First National Bank of Bellingham, an institution which has become as successful
in the smaller field as the National Bank of Commerce is in Seattle.


Incidental to his work as a banker, Mr. Backus was one of the founders of the Seattle
Clearing House Association in 1889, became its president in 1902 and again in 1914 and in
191 5. He served as president of the Washington State Bankers Association in 1906, and
as vice president for the state of Washington of the American Bankers Association. When
the federal reserve organization committee held its hearing in Seattle in 1914, Mr. Backus
was appointed chairman of the joint committee of the clearing house and the Chamber of
Commerce to present the city's claim for the location of one of the federal reserve banks.
At the outbreak of the great European war he was selected as president of the National
Currency Association of Washington, formed to enable member banks to take out emer-
gency circulation under the provisions of the so-called Aldrich-Vreeland act. He was a
founder and first treasurer of the Metropolitan Building Company and an organizer of the
Washington Savings & Loan Association. At the present time he is president of the
National Bank of Commerce, director of the Seattle Trust. Company, of the International
Timber Company, the Lake Chelan Land Company and of other large enterprises.

Mr. Backus' present social activities include membership in the Chamber of Com-
merce, Commercial Club, the Highlands, Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants,
Washington Society of Sons of the Revolution, Rainier, Athletic, Press, Automobile, Golf
and other clubs. In politics Mr. Backus supports the principles of the republican party.
Such is the baldest possible narration of a few of the leading events in the life of a man
who has proved himself to be one of the most useful and constructive citizens of his day
in the upbuilding of the city to wliich he has devoted his mature life.


H. P. Beem, who since 1901 has conducted Inisiness under the name of the Beem Sign
Company, established this undertaking on a small scale but has developed it to one of large
proportions, making it one of the important productive industries of the city. The width
of the continent separates him from his birthplace, for he is a native of Machias, Maine.
Born on the 20th of May, 1869, he is a son of Thomas and Harriett (Dennison) Beem,
who were also natives of the Pine Tree state. The father died in 1899, at the age of fifty-
three years, and the mother, who was born in Cutler, Maine, is now living at Waltham,
Massachusetts, at the age of seventy-seven years.

During the period of his residence in Seattle Mr. Beem has made steady progress
along business lines and is now at the head of a profitable and growing industry. In
1901 he organized the Beem Sign Company, establishing business in a small way with a
floor space ten by ten feet. Something of the growth of the business in the intervening
period of fifteen years is indicated in the fact that he now occupies three thousand square
feet of floor space and has a most extensive and important patronage. He does all the
work for the Empress, Orpheum and Pantages theatres, and in fact does all of the work
in his line for the Pantages and Empress circuits all over the coast and including the
territory between Seattle and Salt Lake. He likewise does the sign painting for the Bon
Marche, Grotc-Rankin, Bush Hotel, Grand Trunk, Hotel Waldorf, Hotel Barker, Hotel
Stevens and Hotel Waldon and has done practically all big roof work in Seattle. He is
sign painter for the Hotel Rector and the Oxford, for the Liberty and Mission theatres,
also for all depots, including the King street station, and the Great Northern and the
Northern Pacific signs. Some of these signs weigh as much as three tons. Gradually the
business has grown and developed until it is a very large enterprise, furnishing employ-
ment to a number of men.

In early manhood Mr. Beem was united in marriage to Miss Carrie S. Burrows, a
native of Connecticut and a representative of an old Cheseborough family who came to
America in the Mayflower, settling in Connecticut. Mr. and Mrs. Beem are the parents of
four children, as follows : Marguerite, who was born in Mystic, Connecticut, and gave her
hand in marriage to Clif Christianson of Seattle ; Aubrey, who was born in New Haven,
Connecticut, and graduated from the University of Washington in 1914: Beatrice, who


is a native of Boston and the wife of V. Clarence Kidwell of Kentucky; and John, whose
birth occurred in Mystic, Connecticut.

The parents hold membership in tlie Baptist church and guide their lives by its teach-
ings. In politics Mr. Beem follows an independent course, voting according to the dictates
of his judgment without regard to party ties. His life has been a busy and active one in
which he has recognized and utilized his opportunities. Along the legitimate lines of trade
he has worked his way upward and his energy and industry are the measure of the gratify-
ing success which has rewarded his efforts, making him one of the foremost representatives
in his field in the northwest.


A. W. Miller, of Seattle, is well known in lumber circles as the head of the Miller
Saw Mill Compan}', operating in Washington and Alaska in the conduct of a manufacturing
and exporting business. Throughout his entire life he has been connected with the lumber
trade and very early he discovered "that the young man who succeeds and gets along and
o-oes swiftly to the top in any line of business must not wait for work to be handed to him
but must hunt for things to do." To this early lesson which he mastered he has constantly
added others, gaining something from each experience that has been of large value to him
in the conduct of his individual business affairs in later years. For a long period now he
has given his attention to constructive effort, concentrating his energies upon administra-
tive direction and executive control of interests that are extensive and important.

Mr. Miller is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was born in February, iS66,
being one of the four children of Thomas L. and Katherine (Lane) Miller, who were also
natives of the Keystone state, the mother's birth having occurred in Pittsburgh. A. W.
Miller is a lineal descendant of John Knox, the great Scotch reformer and leader in
Protestantism, but for many generations his ancestors have lived in Pennsylvania. His
father, Thomas Lindsey Miller, of Pittsburgh, became one of the founders of the widely
known firm of Carnegie, Phipps & Company of that city. He was a steamboat man until
1866 and later was engaged in the steel business in connection with the aforementioned
corporation. He married Katherine Lane, a daughter of A. W. Lane, a representative of
a well known Pennsylvania family. Another prominent member of the family was James
T. Lane, father of James R. Lane, the distinguished western lawyer of Davenport, Iowa.
At the time of the Civil war Thomas L. Miller put aside all personal and business con-
siderations in the face of his country's need and did active duty at the front with the
Union army. At the close of the war, however, he returned to Pittsburgh to become a
prominent factor in the commercial and financial circles of that city. His death occurred

in 1892.

Reared in Pittsburgh, A. W. Miller entered its public schools and passed through
consecutive grades until he put aside his textbooks at the age of sixteen years and took his
initial step in the business world, becoming connected with the lumber trade at Galveston,
Texas. His first work was shoving lumber and unloading cars and his first executive
position was in managing a retail lumber business at Kirkman, Iowa, for the Green Bay
Lumber Company, with which he continued for three years. He learned all that was
possible in relation to the retail lumber business, looking after the stock, piling the lumber
and keeping the books. He remained at Kirkman from 1883 until 1886 and won promotion
when he was sent to Vail, Iowa, where he established a new yard for his company, there
continuing until 1888. This gave him an opportunity to use his originality. In the latter
year he was promoted to the position of manager at Audubon, Iowa, to care for the
company's most important yard. It was there that he learned another valuable lesson ot
life for there came to him the full realization of the fact that the man who owns a business
and not the employe is the one who succeeds. He never for a moment deviated from his
determination to engage in business for himself at the earliest possible opportunity. 'When
Oklahoma was first opened up to settlement he went to that state and founded a yard for
the Darlington-AIiller Company at Guthrie. The company also established yards at King-


fisher, El Reno, Perry and three or four other towns. In 1891 a removal was made to
Galveston, Texas, where was established a yard that was maintained until 1900, and during
Mr. Miller's operations in that state his company expanded their interests by opening yar(l^
at Alvin, Arcadia and North Galveston. In 1893 the Darlington-JMiller Lumber Company-
purchased a yard in St. Louis, Missouri, where they operated until 1895, when the business
was divided between the two owners, Messrs. Miller and Darlington, the former taking
over the Texas business, which he continued to control and operate until igoi, when he
sold his retail yards and concentrated his attention wholly upon shipping and manufacturing.
He has never entered other fields of business, giving tmdivided attention to the lumber
trade, which he found to be a field in which he could profitably operate. His interests
constantly grew and developed and he became president of the Miller & \''idor Lumlicr
Company, vice president and treasurer of the Galveston, Beaumont & Northeastern, the
Peach River & Gulf and the Riverside & Gulf Railway Companies of the "Peach River
Lines," established and operated for the benefit of the lumber trade. In 191 1, however,
he disposed of his interests in the south and came to Seattle, where he has since continued
in the same line under the name of the Miller Saw Mill Company, conducting operations
in Washington and Alaska. The firm manufactures and exports lumber and has built up
a business of substantial and gratifying proportions, the undertaking now occupying a
creditable position among the interests of this character in the northwest.

Mr. Miller was married at Port Perry, Ontario, Canada, to Miss Donella Campbell, a
native of that country, and they have become parents of two children, Darlington and
Katherine, both born in Galveston. In politics Mr. Miller entertains an independent course,
but is well known through lodge and club relationship, holding membership in Arcana
Lodge, No. 87, F. & A. M., the Seattle Golf Club and tlie Seattle Lumbermen's Club. He
is well known as an amateur golf player and maintains his membership in the Galveston
Golf and Country Club, also in the Gartenverein and the Aziola Club of Galveston, Texas.
He is also a member of the Westminster Presbyterian church and his life is in consistent
harmony with his professions, characterized at every point by high ideals, to which he
closely adheres. His life has never been self-centered. While he has attempted important
things and has accomplished what he has attempted, his success has never represented
another's losses, but has resulted from effort intelligently applied. He is a man of well
balanced mind, even temper and conservative habits and he possesses enterprise of the kind
that leads to great accomplishments.


Corwin Sheridan Shank, a Seattle attorney, was born in Wooster, Ohio, September
14, 1866, his parents being George Washington and Catherine (McEwen) Shank. His
paternal grandparents were German, while in the maternal line there are strains of French.
Welsh and Irish blood. George W. Shank served with distinction in the Civil war under
General Sherman and after the close of hostilities left Ohio with his family and, removing
westward, lived on the frontier until March, 1882. He then went to Oregon and continued
his farm life in the rich Willamette valley.

Corwin S. Shank was at that time a youth of fifteen years. He continued his educa-
tion in the public schools of Oregon and in McMinnville College of that state, after which
he matriculated in Yale University and won the degree of LL. B. in 1891. In 1907 the
degree of LL. D. was conferred upon him by McMinnville College. Following his prepara-
tion for the bar he began the practice of law, being admitted upon examination at Seattle
on the 1st of September, 1891. He has also been admitted to practice in the United States
district and circuit courts and the supreme court of the United States and has been active
in all of these courts. His knowledge of the law is comprehensive and exact. In analyzing
a case he follows a logical course of reasoning back from effect to cause and is thus enabled
to untangle many a knotty problem. He numbers various important corporations among
his clients and is now general counsel for the State Bank of Seattle and a director of and


general counsel for the Seattle, Port Angeles & Western Railway Company and the Port
Townsend & Puget Sound Railway Company.

Mr. Shank is a republican and has studied broadly the significant and vital questions
of the day, bearing not only upon the political, but also upon the sociological and economic
conditions of the country. He is a member of the American Society for Judicial Settle-
ment of International Disputes and has given much thought and consideration to various
international questions. He is the father of the Washington State Reformatory and was
appointed by Governor Albert E. Mead as president of the board of managers, to which
position he was reappointed by Governor M. E. May, continuing to act in that capacity
until the spring of 1913. His reading and investigation have been broad along the subject
of criminology and sociolog>', with much time devoted to prison reform and kindred
subjects. He is now identified with the American Prison Association, in which connection
he has served as chairman of important committees. He believes that a knowledge of the
psychological processes of the criminal would aid in promoting a knowledge of how best
to treat those who do not hold themselves amenable to the law. He is guided at all times
by the spirit of belief of good in every individual and believes that the law should help to
redeem the wrongdoer. It is this that has led to his study of criminology and prison
reform and he is numbered among those who are making civilization serve the purpose of
aiding the perverted or subnormal as well as those who are found amid favorable sur-

On the 22d of December, 1892, at Hartland, Washington, Mr. Shank was united in
marriage to Miss Jennie Mable Baker, a daughter of the Rev. John C. and Nancy
(Blanchard) Baker, the former of whom was the first general superintendent of missions
of the Baptist denomination on the Pacific coast.

In Masonry Mr. Shank has attained high rank, being a thirty-second degree Con-
sistory Mason and a member of Nile Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Seattle. His name
is also on the membership rolls of the Rainier and Arctic Clubs, nor is he unmindful of
the opportunities for the development of man's moral nature. He is a member and is
serving as trustee of the Seattle First Baptist church, for ten consecutive years was presi-
dent of the Western Washington Baptist Convention and was vice president of the
Northern Baptist Convention of the United States for two years.


Everett S. and Milton E. Dam constitute the brokerage firm of Dam Brothers at Seattle
They are sons of Alton S. Dam, a representative of one of the old New England families
which became connected with the history of the middle west when Stephen S. Dam in i860
joined the great movement of the settlers to the undeveloped Mississippi valley and located
at Zumbrota, Minnesota, in Goodhue county, just south of St. Paul. There he engaged
in the manufacture of wagons and buggies and there the family resided for many years
until the death of Stephen S. Dam and his wife.

They were the parents of Alton S. Dam, who was born at Abbot, in Piscataquis county,
Maine, November 23, 1857, and died July 17, 191 1. On the 12th of March, 1882, he married
Anna Elizabeth Vreeland, who was born in Olmsted county, Minnesota, July 22, 1863.
Immediately after their marriage they left for what was then the western frontier, set-
tling in the new town of Frederick. South Dakota, where Alton S. Dam engaged in a
general hardware and farm implement business. As that district became settled up and
developed Mr. Dam, still imbued with the pioneer spirit, pushed further west and in the
year 1893 brought his family to the Yakima valley of Washington, settling at North
Yakima. Soon after his arrival there he induced Richard Olney, the third, nephew and
namesake of the then secretary of state under Grover Cleveland, to come out to Washington
and together they purchased and consolidated the different abstract companies of Yakima,
organizing the Yakima Abstract & Tile Company. Mr. Dam was a very prominent and
influential citizen of that region and took an active part in the development and settlement
of the '^'akima valley and the city of North Yakima, where for many years he served as

Online LibraryClarence BagleyHistory of Seattle from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 3) → online text (page 99 of 142)