Biography of Hon. Theodore L. Stiles

HON. THEODORE L. STILES. – Honorable Theodore L. Stiles was born at Medway, Clarke county, Ohio, July 12, 1848, and was the only child of Daniel J. and Marie S. Stiles. His mother’s maiden name was Lamme; and she, too, was a native of the same county as her son. Mr. Stiles’ father was born of German and English parents, in Danplin county, Pennsylvania. His mother’s family were emigrants from Virginia in 1809. Until the age of sixteen, he remained at his birthplace, which was a small interior farming village. But, his mother having died in 1863, his father removed in 1865 to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he entered into mercantile business; and the young man was for a few months an assistant of his father’s firm. But although his father had not had the advantages of education, he was one of those who to the keenest degree realized its future importance to the young; and he, therefore, at great sacrifice to himself, opened to his son the use of his lifetime earnings.

The young man was fairly prepared for study, and chose at first to enter the Ohio University at Athens. There he spent two years, laying the foundation for admission to Amherst College, at Amherst, Massachusetts, where he entered as freshman September 10, 1867. After the usual college course of four years, he graduated in 1871, and at once entered upon the active study of law at the Columbia College Law School in the city of New York. Feeling as many young men at twenty-three do, that life was something to be mastered, he obtained the leave of the law school authorities to double the course, so as to get through in a little over one year instead of two; and he ended his student career in June, 1872. His admission to the bar followed within a few weeks, at Indianapolis, Indiana, where he immediately went to work to “lay out the world.” In the following December, however, friends in New York advised him to remove thither; and the idea of a metropolitan practice was too seductive to be overcome. He went, and soon afterwards became associated with Honorable Edward Jordan, late solicitor of the United States treasury, and Daniel G. Thompson, his junior in years, but who has since become one of the leading legal and literary men of New York. Mr. Stiles’ years thenceforward, until 1877, were occupied by the varied demands of time and labor made upon a young lawyer in New York, with some of the ups but rather more of the downs of life.

Seeing and believing the life of a lawyer to be brighter and clearer and success more assured on the Western side of the continent than at the East, he in that year resolved to follow the advice of the lamented Greeley and go West; and the fall of 1878 found him on the Union Pacific Railroad, bound for Oregon, where recent booming travelers had reported an El Dorado as famous as that of the Columbia discoveries. Arizona was then approachable from the east only by a stage journey of nine hundred miles from the Colorado terminus of the Santa Fe Railway; but its confines were touched by the Southern Pacific at Yuma. Therefore the subject of our sketch chose to journey via San Francisco and Los Angeles, the latter then a sleepy half Mexican town of no particular prospects. He went on by stage three hundred miles from Yuma to Tucson and landed there half dead for want of sleep and from an excess of dust, November 21, 1878. The mining fever was “on” in the country; and he endured its fortunes and the torrid heats of the country for nearly nine years.

In 1887, however, the proprieties which are represented by those rodents who are said to leave a sinking ship suggested to his mind that there must be a country where “booms” were fewer, and the path of life more certain than in the “sun-kissed” lands of the south. So, on the Fourth of July, 1887, on the day when Tacoma was celebrating her wedding with the empire to the eastward of the Cascades, through the completion of the “Switchback” over the Stampede Pass, the now matured lawyer of thirty-nine cast his lot with the City of Destiny and its pushing and prosperous people. Nearly two years of residence in Tacoma had passed, when Congress ordered an election in Washington of delegates to the convention for the framing of the new constitution of Washington. Mr. stiles was one of those delegates sent from the twenty-second district, the other two being P.C. Sullivan and Gavin Hicks.

In the convention he was chairman of the committee of county, township and municipal organization, and a member of the committee on rules, judiciary and public lands. The convention having adjourned, he was sent as a delegate from Pierce county to the Republican state convention at Walla Walla, and was chosen and served as the permanent chairman of that body. The business of the convention involved the nomination of five supreme court judges. It was deemed that Pierce county, as one of the largest counties of population was entitled to one of the five; and Mr. Stiles was nominated by the adoption of the vote of 256 of the 298 delegates present. The election followed October 1st; and with the rest of his party associates he was elected by a large majority.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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