Biography of Hon. P. A. Marquam

Hon. P. A. Marquam was born near Baltimore, Maryland, February 28, 1823, and is the eighth child in a family of nine children of Philip Winchester and Charlotte Mercer (Poole), Marquam. His grandfather was a wealthy merchant of England, employing many ships in carrying on an extensive trade. His father was born in England but at the age of twenty came to America. His mother was a daughter of Henry Poole, a wealthy planter, on whose plantation now stands Poolville, Maryland. On account of sickness and financial misfortune the father of our subject soon after his marriage decided to leave Maryland with the hope of bettering his fortune, and to seek a new home in the west. With his family he first settled in Ohio, but shortly moved to Lafayette, Indiana. Here the family settled on unimproved government land, where a rude home was erected and pioneer life commenced. At the end of a few years, by the united labors of father and sons a greater portion of the wild tract upon which they had settled was cleared. By this time Mr. Marquam’s elder brothers had left home to seek their own fortunes, leaving him at home to assist in the support of the family. Being the youngest of the boys and naturally strong and vigorous he was naturally selected as the one to remain upon the farm. If, however, he cheerfully accepted his lot it was not without a strong determination to make of himself something more than the prospects held out to the average farmer’s boy in a new and undeveloped country. The circumstances which surrounded him were anything but encouraging. His father was not only unable to give him an education but needed his constant labor on the farm to maintain the family. To assist his parents and at the same time, by self application, to acquire an education was the double task which confronted young Marquam, but he undertook it with that same pertinacity of purpose that in later years brought him honorable position and the attainment of a large fortune. Day by day as he labored on the farm, and without neglecting his work he managed to devote considerable time to his studies. His evenings and odd times, when most boys would have been playing, or resting, he devoted to acquiring knowledge. When an opportunity offered he would take up his books and it was in this way that he not only gained a common English education, including some of the higher branches, but sufficient knowledge of the Latin language to be able to translate the Latin phrases found in law books. In the meantime he had saved sufficient money to buy a library of elementary law books sufficient to enable him to commence the study of law, to which he had determined to devote himself.

His preparation for his chosen profession was pursued in the same way that his elementary education had been gained-devoting alternate hours to work and study -a method he believes the only true way of gaining a proper mental and physical training. At the end of three years of such progress he had not only equipped him-self for entering, but had saved enough money to pay his tuition at the law school at Bloomington, Indiana. He had, however, previously made quite an advance in his legal studies by studying at home under the directions and guidance of Hon. Godlove S. Orths, an able lawyer of Indiana, and who at one time was a representative in Congress, and subsequently Minister to Russia. He completed the prescribed course at Bloomington, and in 1847 was admitted to practice in the courts of the State.

He began the practice of his profession at Wabash county, Indiana, where he remained but a few months when he located at Renselaer, Jasper county, in the same State. Here he acquired considerable business and remained until he left for the Pacific Coast.

The excitement caused in 1848 by the discovery of gold in California, induced Mr. Marquam, with three companions, in March, 1849, to start across the plains with ox teams in search of the “golden fleece.” The journey was filled with many incidents of interest, but finally three of them landed in the Sacramento Valley in September, 1849, after a trip of six months duration. After resting a few weeks Mr. Marquam proceeded up the Sacramento Valley to the Redding mines.

As soon as he arrived at his destination he went to work in the mines, and remained there during the winter of 1849 and until the spring of 1850, occasionally relieving the monotony of the pick and shovel by going on expeditions to expel the bands of marauding Indians, who in those days, were the mortal dread of the hard working miners. In these engagements he received several serious wounds, which laid him up for several weeks.

In the spring of 1850, still suffering from the injuries he had received Mr. Marquam, with others, left the mines and descending the Sacramento Valley, located in a small town called Fremont, at the junction of the Sacramento and Rio Del Plumas rivers, about twenty-five miles from Sacramento City. At this place, then the county seat of Yolo county, he commenced the practice of law, and at the first election held under the new State constitution of California, was elected county judge, practically without opposition. Many novel questions came up before the new judge, and he rendered important service in the organization of the county and State, which one incident will serve to illustrate. The legislature failed to name the amount of the bonds the county officers were to qualify in before the county judge. Judge Marquam thereupon fixed the amount for each county officer in Yolo county, and reported his action to the legislature, whereupon that body approved his course by adopting in the general laws of the State the sums he had affixed.

After serving two years in the capacity of Judge, Mr. Marquam came to Oregon, in August, 1851, his principal object at the time being to visit his brother Alfred, who had come to Oregon in 1845, and settled in the southern part of Clackamas county, at a place now a village known as Marquam, where he died in February, 1887. After looking over the country he was so well pleased with it that he determined to locate here. With that end in view he returned to California, resigned his position as judge, settled up his business and in the latter part of 1851 moved to Portland, where he at once began the practice of his profession. He was very successful from the beginning and within a year had a large and lucrative practice. He saw that Portland was some day destined to be a metropolitan city, and with good judgment he invested in real estate all of the accumulations from his practice, above a sum sufficient to support his family. With the eye of a business man he looked around him and secured some of the most valuable property in Portland and the suburbs, a very large part of which he still owns. Among his large purchases was that of 298 acres, known as Marquam’s Hill, which is one of the finest residence sites in the city of Portland. Some of this large tract he has disposed of, but a large share he has retained for his own use and on which he has long resided.

In 1862 Mr. Marquam was elected county judge of Multnomah county. So highly satisfactory to the people was his discharge of the duties of this office, that after the expiration of a term of four years, he was re-elected for another term, by a very large majority. During the eight years he served in this office he was never absent but one day from any term of court, and that was occasioned by sickness in his family. At the expiration of his second term he returned to his law practice, which, with the management of his real estate and other private business demanded his attention.

He has recently completed a theatre building known as the Marquam Grand, which for elegance of appointments is not excelled on the coast, and which in connection with the store and office building he is now constructing will form the finest structure in Portland, and greatly add to the architectural appearance of the city.

Of late years Judge Marquam has been gradually relinquishing the practice of his profession, and at the present time has practically retired from legal work, his extensive private interests demanding all of his time and energies.

He has always taken an active part in whatever was for the best interest of the city and county. At an early day he endeavored, but without success, to have the Market and Park blocks, which had been donated to the city, improved, and thereby forever secured for public purposes, and also strongly advocated a free bridge across the Willamette, connecting Portland and East Portland. In furtherance of the latter project he prepared, had printed and circulated throughout the county, petitions to the county court asking that the county be authorized by general tax to build abridge across the river to be forever free to all travel. This petition, although signed very generally by the tax-paying portion of the community, failed to accomplish the object asked for. Although now a stockholder in the present Morrison street bridge he is still in favor of a free bridge.

In 1882 Judge Marquam was nominated as the republican candidate for the legislature from Multnomah county. Although he in no sense desired the office nor made the slightest effort to secure an election, he was elected, receiving a very flattering vote, at which term he rendered important service to the county and State. In politics he has always been a staunch republican, but has never been a seeker after public office. Positions he has been called upon to fill have come unsolicited,. and have been accepted in obedience to the clearly expressed desire of his fellow citizens that his services were needed. Duty to the public rather than his own inclination or personal interests has controlled his actions in this regard.

Judge Marquam was married May 8, 1853, to Miss Emma Kern, daughter of William Kern, a lady of culture and refinement, and admired for the many excellencies of her character, Their union has been one of singular congeniality and happiness. To the patience, fortitude, devotion and faith of his wife that never faltered as well as her untiring energy and attention to his interests, Judge Marquam accords the highest credit for whatever success he has attained. They have had eleven children, all of whom are living and enjoying the best of health.

Beginning the race of life without the bestowed advantages of education or riches, every step of Judge Marquam’s career has been one that shows the innate strength of his character-an iron will that no difficulties could daunt, and that failure only serves to render stronger. His struggle for an education, his life amid the hardships and danger of the frontiers, and the persistent patient labors of later years against many and great discouragements all show the mettle and unconquerable spirit of the man. Coming to Portland at an early period of its history, he at once displayed a belief in its future, as wonderful as it was unswerving. Through days of doubt, seasons of sunshine and storm; he never lost faith; and the city’s marvelous growth during the past few years has been but a fulfillment of what he always claimed was surely coming. His faith led him to make many investments in the city when most men doubted his wisdom in doing so, but the large fortune he now possesses as the result of these early investments has proven the correctness of his judgment. Judge Marquam has led a remarkably active life, but possesses a hearty and rugged constitution which no excesses have impaired, and to-day he enjoys the best of health, and presents the appearance of one much younger than his years. A man of direct methods and perfect integrity, he has ever maintained an unsullied record for business probity and as a high minded Christian gentleman. Secure in the confidence and respect of his fellow citizens, it is to be hoped that many years of peaceful comforts may be in store for this honored pioneer of Portland whose career is inseparably linked with the city’s growth and progress.


Biography, History,

Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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