Biography of Clinton P. Ferry

CLINTON P. FERRY. – Clinton P. Ferry was born at Fort Wayne, Indiana, May 24, 1836. Having lost his father, an uncle became his guardian to a great extent. At the age of seven years he removed to Indianapolis, where he attended a preparatory school and business college. For a short time, he engaged in learning the art of printing, and devoted his seventeenth and eighteenth years as a telegraph operator. He was a nephew of W.G.& G.W. Ewing, a firm then largely interested in trading posts on the then Western frontier of the United States. They had branches at Chicago, St. Louis, green Bay and Council Bluffs which gave employment to a large number of trappers and voyageurs. Gabriel Franchere, who had been a clerk in the employ of John Jacob Astor in his Pacific Fur Company enterprise, and who accompanied the expedition to the mouth of the Columbia river and remained on duty until Astor was betrayed by his North West Company partners, who sold out to that company, made his name famous by the fascinating narrative of that ill-fated expedition. He was an agent of Ferry’s uncle, G.W. Ewing.

Young Ferry was bent on “going West.” He desired to travel and seek adventure; and Franchere suggested Puget Sound as a future field, in which advice the uncle concurred. That uncle upon his leaving told young Ferry that as soon as he made a hundred dollars to put it into real estate wherever he located, and whenever he got as much as one hundred dollars to invest it in that way. Ferry arrived in Portland, Oregon, in 1858; he remembered his uncle’s advice, and invested at once seventy-five dollars in a block in Caruther’s Addition. Portland, for seventeen years, continued to be his home, though during that period he was absent at times for months. His first employment was as book-keeper for Henry W. Corbett, later the distinguished merchant and United States senator.

He continued in that service for about a year, when failing health occasioned his going to sea, his absence continuing for some six months or more, when he returned to Portland and entered the liquor house of Hamilton, Wilson & Co., of which he was for some time manager, and afterwards a partner. Giving up that business, he formed the partnership of Humiston & Ferry as brokers, and so continued until the death of Humiston dissolved the partnership. He was then treasurer of the city of Portland for four years, after which he started the real estate and insurance business.

In 1868 he visited Tacoma City, afterwards and long known as Old Tacoma, the town laid out by General McCarver, Lewis M. Starr and James Steele. Mr. Ferry was a son-in-law of General McCarver, and with his wife visited their relatives. He claims to have been the first passenger by sea ever landed at Tacoma. He had come to Victoria from Portland on the Fideliter, and thence took passage by way of the Strait and Puget Sound in the steamer Eliza Anderson from Victoria. At that time the regular route of the Sound steamers was by the more direct west passage, on the west side of Vashon Island, leaving Commencement Bay to the east some miles. Mr. Ferry was obliged to pay eighteen dollars extra for going off of the regular route traveled, and for landing himself and wife at Old Town.

At the so-called city was one cabin belonging to the late Job Carr. The family of General McCarver occupied a little cabin in Old Woman’s Gulch, abreast of the present end of the coal bunkers of the Northern Pacific Railroad. He spent some time on his visit, and looked out several locations for future investments, which he made in the early future. In the fall of 1873, upon the failure of Jay Cooke, Mr. Ferry removed to Tacoma, which had been selected as the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad on Puget Sound, and made it his residence. He was soon after employed as chief clerk and cashier of the land department of that company. In 1874 he had exclusive charge of the Tacoma offices, performing the duties also of cashier and clerk of the Tacoma Land Company.

Early in 1875 he went to San Francisco, engaging in the insurance business until 1879, when he again returned to Portland and engaged in the real estate and insurance business until 1882. His failing and insurance business until 1882. His failing health at that time necessitated his return to San Francisco. He continued to spend his time between Portland and San Francisco until 1887, when he came to Tacoma to look after his investments made in Tacoma in early days, which had now made him a man of wealth, and required personal attention. Here he built himself a beautiful residence in a sightly part of the town, and devoted himself to the management of his real estate.

In 1886 he again sought in travel the gratification of his early disposition. He started for a voyage around the globe, first visiting Paris. Governor Eugene Semple of Washington Territory having been advised of Ferry’s intention to be present at the Paris Exposition, appointed him commissioner to represent Washington Territory at that great international exhibition of the progress of the world.

Mr. Ferry is now in the prime of life, with a competent fortune. He is liberal, and is disposed to enjoy the best phases of life; with cultivated taste he is collecting about him paintings and works of art, of which he is a liberal patron. He had early faith in the great and early future of his adopted home, which he realizes as now assured. He claims also to have suggested the name of the city. Be that as it may, it cannot be denied that he has contributed largely to hastening its present claim to importance as a great and growing metropolis of the Northwest.



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

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