Biography of Hon. Philip A. Marquam

HON. P.A. MARQUAM. – Judge Marquam is one of our most substantial citizens, whose faith in the Pacific Northwest, and in Portland in particular, has been rewarded by a fourfold recompense. A genial gentleman, adding to his native force of will and business sagacity refined literary tastes and love of natural beauty, he is now, in his hale, ripe years, a man most delightful to meet, and whose acquaintance or friendship is a valuable possession. His further claims, which are numerous, upon the recognition of society and history, will appear as this sketch proceeds.

His father, Philip W. Marquam, a cabinet-maker, came from England at the age of twenty, and settled in Maryland, marrying Charlotte Mercer Poole, a daughter of the wealthy planter upon whose manor now stands Poolesville. It was near Baltimore that our subject was born, February 28, 1823. By sickness and financial misfortune the father was induced to seek a new home at the West, locating first in Ohio, but soon afterwards in Tippecanoe county, Indiana. There he entered an eighty-acre tract of government land, which was “just as God had made it,” – nowise despoiled of tree or bush. But father and mother and the ten children, of whom Philip was the eighth, went to work with vim and discretion, and pressed back the woods from about the cabin, bringing at length as much as half of the farm into cultivation.

As the children grew up they began to press out into the world, feeling after a career. The daughters, of whom there were six, received fine educations, married and settled near their old home and in adjoining states, and enjoy the reputations of being leaders both socially and morally in the respective communities in which they reside. Of the sons, William became a farmer in Missouri. Alfred learned chair-making and house-painting, and gradually worked westward, halting at Liberty, Missouri, but in 1845 crossed the plains and made a home in Oregon, in Clackamas county, at the place now known as Marquams, where he died in 1887. Henry P., who was robust, was designed for a scholar, and became a physician of note.

Philip being the youngest son, and very rugged, was reserved as a sort of home guard to run the farm and take care of the parents and other members of the family. But in him the fires of ambition and the love of a broader life burned no less than in the others. Without repudiating his home duties, he contrived the way while performing them to gain mental training, and to unlock the stores of the world’s thought. He followed the plan of studying and working at home, by a regular system, being laborer an hour, and then transforming himself into a student for an hour, keeping up the two lines of effort alternately the whole day. In time he found that he was doing as much farm work as a good “and,” and as much studying as any pupil in the schools. And he is a strong advocate of the system of combining labor with study as the true method of education. In this manner he acquired a good English education, and made such progress as to readily translate Latin phrases, and to gain a considerable view of general literature, which he found to be of inestimable value to him in his law studies.

He was early attracted towards the legal profession; and his spare money he saved up to purchase a library of elementary works, and began reading while still driving the plow. He followed a regular three-year course at home, under the direction of the late Honorable G.S. Orth, for many years a member of the United States Congress, and at one time minister to Russia. The savings of his labor now enabled young Marquam to attend the law school at Bloomington, Indiana, from which he passed his examination, and was admitted to practice before the bar of that state. He first located at Wabashtown, but after some months removed to the county-seat of Jasper county, and there gathered up a very considerable practice, remaining until the spring of 1849.

But the attraction to the gold fields of California had now become sufficient to lure him away from the quiet life of the old West; and with three comrades he set out across the plains with an ox-team. After a hot and fatiguing trip, the little squad of dusty and sun-burnt hoosiers found themselves upon the west slopes of the Sierra, looking back upon the snow-capped mountains that swam in the summer haze, appearing wonderfully distant and to them inexpressibly strange. The clear, inviting waters of the Sacramento, by which they were soon traveling, the mellow airs, the softness and luxuriousness of the climate and scenery, and the strong mountain peaks, were much at variance with the climate and scenery of the Mississippi country, making them feel that they had entered into a new world.

The details of the journey to the mines and the adventures in connection with gold-digging, particularly some sharp skirmishes with the Indians, although of great interest, must here be passed by with this bare hint of their occurrence.

Repairing early in the spring of 1850 to Frémont, then the county-seat of Yolo county, Mr. Marquam resumed the practice of his profession, and the same spring, at the first election under the new state constitution, was nominated for judge, and was elected. Much labor fell upon the county officers in organizing the counties; and in this, an din the work of state organization following, the judge rendered important service.

In August of 1851 he began to think of returning to his Eastern home, but, desiring to see his brother then in Oregon, sailed up to Portland. He was much impressed with the freshness, verdure and beauty of our state, insomuch that he determined to make it his permanent residence. Returning in the autumn of the same year to settle up his business in California, he came back to Portland and engaged in the practice of his profession. He soon acquired a large and lucrative business. As he was furthered in this regard, and as opportunity offered, he invested his means in real estate, relying upon the future growth of the city. He acquired, among other properties, a Donation claim on the east side of the Willamette some four miles distant, and a block in Portland bounded by Morrison, Alder, Sixth and Seventh streets, upon which is now being erected the Marquam Grand Opera House, covering almost the entire block, and which for substantial construction and architectural beauty and design is unsurpassed by any edifice of like nature on the Pacific coast, and would be an ornament to any metropolis of the union. In 1858 he purchased three hundred and ninety acres on the hill south of Portland, which now bears his name. Upon a portion of this he resides, and is gradually improving it as his permanent home, cultivating some twenty-five acres.

He was early identified with public movements in the city, being known as an earnest supporter of schools. Throughout his entire life and period of activity here he has been known as a man of progressive ideas, of great energy, and one who pursues his objects with inflexible tenacity of purpose and clearness of view. In 1853 he was narrowly defeated by Doctor Ralph Wilcox as councilman to the Oregon territorial legislature from Washington county, then including Multnomah to the Willamette. In 1862 he was elected judge of Multnomah county, and, after having served out his term of four years, was re-elected. At the expiration of his second term he refused further nomination. Indeed, he has ever sought rather to avoid than to court political favor. During his judicial labors, he performed all duties with signal ability and fairness, dispatching business with celerity and exactitude. Formerly a Whig, he has been an earnest supporter of the Republican party since its organization, and in 1882 was elected on the Republican ticket to the popular branch of the state legislature. In that important position he proved himself earnest and active, advocating measures of importance to the state.

In his domestic relations he has been singularly fortunate. He was married in 1853 to Miss Emma, a daughter of the pioneer, William Kern, from Peoria, Illinois. She was a young lady of refinement and education, and has proved a true helpmate to her husband in every particular. He accords a large part of his prosperity due to her industry and economy, and her entire devotion to his interests and that of their family. Their union has been blest by a family of eleven children, as follows: Mary E.,; Philip Augustus, Jr.; William W.; Charlotte C.; Jessie L.; Sarah S.; U.S. Grant; Janie H.; Katie L.; Willametta, and Thomas Alfred. These have all been afforded the best of educational advantages, and have been trained also to labor. Several of the older ones are already holding responsible positions in the community.



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

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