Biography of John William Whalley

Whalley, John William, was born on the 28th of April, 1833. His ancestors on his father’s side had, for a long period, been yoemen residing at Dent in the West Reding of Yorkshire, England, who had migrated there from Norfolk, and belonged to the same family of which Edmund Whalley of the Cromwellian Army was a member. Many of the family held respectable positions, both in the church, the army and at the bar, the elder sons usually owning and managing the small estate of the family, the younger members making their living in some of the learned professions. On his mother’s side Mrs. Whalley’s “fore-elders,” as termed in Cheshire, were Welsh, and for more than 200 years occupied, under lease for that term, the estate of Overton Hall, owned by Lord Kenyon. This lease terminated in the life-time of Mr. William Jones, the grandfather of Mr. Whalley, who then with his family moved to Canada, and from thence to New York City, where he died and was buried in St. Paul’s churchyard on Broadway.

Mr. Whalley’s father, Rev. Francis Whalley, left England under an appointment from the society for the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts and was stationed in Annapolis, Nova Scotia, where the subject of this sketch was born. In 1835 the family returned to England, the father becoming rector of Rivington Parish, Cheshire, but was subsequently appointed Chaplain of Lancaster Castle, followed by service as rector of the parish at Churchtown, Lancashire, afterwards of New Hutton and then of Old Hutton, near Kendal in Westmoreland. Here amid the wild and grand scenery and beautiful lakes of the north, young Whalley lived until thirteen years of age, pursuing his studies under the guidance of his parents, both of whom were cultured and educated people. He not only at this age had received a good rudimentary education but even had acquired considerable knowledge of the classics, being able to read Caesar at nine and Ovid at ten.

The humble circumstances of Mr. Whalley’s parents, who, beside himself, had two sons and a daughter to provide for, made all hopes of their giving him a collegiate education impossible. This fact induced him, at the age of thirteen, to take service as an apprentice on board the merchantman ” Speed,” in which vessel he sailed from Liverpool for New York, in the year 1847. On arriving in New York, not liking the sea, he left the ship, and with an aunt visited his grand mother, who at that time was the widow of Dr. Adrian, of New Jersey, a man distinguished both in scientific and political circles. Meeting his uncle, Mr. Thomas Jones, author of an excellent treatise on bookkeeping, and a teacher of that science, young Whalley entered his office, remaining with him until March, 1848, and during that period acquired the rudiments of a fair mercantile education.

Mr. Jones in obedience to the command of young Whalley’s father sent him to England in 1848, where it was understood a situation in the Bank of England awaited him; but on arrival there it was found impossible to secure the situation, Being unable to obtain employment, and realizing that his native country offered few advantages to a person without pecuniary expectation and commanding little influence, young Whalley again determined to go to sea. He went to Liverpool in February, 1849, and bound himself as an apprentice on board the Antelope, then bound for San Francisco, California, at which point he arrived on the 17th of July, 1849, in the very height of the gold excitement. With other sailors young Whalley deserted, and began the life of a miner. During the winter of 1849 he worked in the mines on the south fork of the American River below Coloma, and in 1850 on the Middle Yuba. He followed a miner’s life, going through all the vicissitudes thereto, until the year 1858, at which time, being then located in Yreka, California, he determined to abandon mining, which had been unproductive, and to study for admission to the bar.

Being without means, and desiring more opportunity for studying than the occupation of mining had afforded, he procured the position of teacher in the school at Little Shasta, near Yreka. He pursued teaching with success, up to the year 1864, exclusive of the years 1861 and 1862, most of the time being employed in the public school at Yreka, the county seat. During the years 1861 and 1862, he filled the office of county superintendent of schools, in which position he served with great credit and to the entire satisfaction of the people.

From 1858 to 1861, Mr. Whalley was a frequent contributor to the local press of Siskiyou county and to the Hesperion magazine, published at San Francisco. Many poetical contributions to the latter periodical were extensively copied throughout the United States, evoking much favorable comment from the local press.

On the 21st of July, 1861, Mr. Whalley was married to Miss Lavina T. Kimzey, of Little Shasta, who had been one of his pupils. Seven children have been born to them, six daughters and one son. Five of the daughters are now living, one of whom is married to Mr. J. Frank Watson, of Portland, and another to Lieutenant Allison, Second Cavalry United States Army, now stationed at Walla Walla.

During the years Mr. Whalley passed in teaching, he continued reading law, and was admitted to practice, in 1861, before Judge Dangerfield in Siskiyou county, but deferred entering into active practice until 1861. He then went to Grant county, Oregon, and there opened a law office, meeting with good success in his profession. Mr. M. W. Fecheimer, who had studied law with Mr. Whalley, soon after being admitted to practice, opened an office in Portland, and it was through his solicitation that Mr. Whalley finally determined to come to Portland. He was led to this decision partly through a desire to reach a point where better facilities could be had for educating his children than could be found in Grant county. He arrived in 1868, and formed a co-partnership with Mr. Fecheimer, under the well remembered firm name of Whalley & Fecheimer. The firm soon acquired a lucrative practice. They made the bankrupt law of 1867 a specialty, and most of the business in that department of legal practice throughout the State came into their hands. This was an exceedingly profitable branch of practice in Oregon for some years after the establishment of the firm. The surplus earnings from their professional work, both members invested in business property in Portland and its rapid increase in value during recent years has secured for each a handsome fortune.

In 1870, Mr. Whalley was elected a member of the legislature from Multnomah county and served for one term, when he retired altogether from political life, preferring to devote his whole attention to his profession.

Mr. Whalley has been a prominent Odd Fellow for many years and, in 1870, represented the Grand Lodge of Oregon in the Grand Lodge of the United States, at its session in Baltimore.

Desiring to visit Europe, Mr. Whalley, in 1883, dissolved his legal co-partnership and with his daughter, now Mrs. Allison, made an extended tour of the Old World. He returned to Portland in 1884, and resumed the practice of law in connection with Mr. H. H. Northup and Mr. Paul R. Deady, under the firm name of Whalley,

Northup & Deady. A large practice was quickly obtained, the firm becoming especially prominent in important railway litigation. Judge E. C. Bronaugh was admitted as a member, in 1885, the firm name being changed to Whalley, Bronaugh, Northup & Deady. Mr. Deady subsequently retired, and the firm was thereafter known under the name of Whalley, Bronaugh & Northup. Having accumulated a large property, and the management of his own private business requiring more of his time than his legal practice permitted, Mr. Whalley retired from the firm and the active practice of the law in March, 1889.

Mr. Whalley has long held a place in the front rank of his profession. He has a well ordered mind and in his forensic encounters his legal forces are always under perfect control. His love of a “fine point” has become a subject of trite remark among his legal brethren throughout the State. He is remarkable for his tactical and strategic qualities. He avails himself of every opportunity for legal surprises and overlooks no means of legal defense. By many practitioners the weightier matters of the law are often sacrificed to these qualities, but such is not the case with Mr. Whalley. The care which he bestows upon the “critical niceties” of the law is due to his mental activity and to the habit of thoroughness in what he undertakes, and not to any neglect of any of the broad principles which make the study and practice of the law one of the most elevating and useful pursuits of mankind.

Mr. Whalley has a thorough contempt for the farces and shams of society, which with a combative temperament has led to a habit of speaking his mind about men and things with plain and piquant speech, and not infrequently with offense to those who find themselves, in the language of Bret Harte, “the individuals who happen to be meant.” He has a keen appreciation of the humorous, and this with his imitative faculties make him the best story teller and the most enjoyable companion at the bar.

He is an indefatigable sportsman and is a master of the science of casting a fly, or for that matter of making one; and he can talk to the professional angler in his own language. Every foot of that sportsman’s paradise from “Mock’s bottom” to “Charley Saline’s” is to him familiar ground. In illustration of the difficulty that men bent on pleasure sometimes have in leaving the cares of business behind them, it is related of him that he once made the trip of several miles to his favorite hunting preserve, absorbed by the question whether demurrer would lie to a particular complaint, only to find when his destination was reached that he had left his gun at home. The man in charge of the premises has always steadfastly refused to disclose the nature of the remarks which the occasion seems to have required.

For the last several years his fondness for shooting aquatic fowl has led to the partial abandonment of the pursuit of other classes of game birds. With a few chosen friends he controls the shooting privileges over about 1200 acres of lake and marsh land on Sauvie’s Island, which in season he visits once a week. He has taken a great interest in the preservation and protection of the game of the State, and urged with vigorous zeal the enactment by the Legislature of beneficial game laws. Largely through his efforts this was finally accomplished, the statute of the State to-day containing many laws of his own construction, regulating the taking of game which are susceptible of no misinterpretations. For a long time he was President of the Multnomah Rod and Gun Club of Portland, an organization which under his personal influence and endeavor accomplished much good in the line just indicated, and was especially vigilant in the detection of violation of game laws and active in the prosecution of the wrong doers. He was also chosen first President of the Sportsman’s Association of the Northwest, and at the expiration of his term was re-elected. This association, virtually an amalgamation of the different sportsman’s clubs of the northwest territory, had for its object the protection of the game of the entire northwest, and the promotion of that uniformity in legislation made desirable by the geographical location of the different States and Territories and the similarity in the kind and habits of the game found therein. This association is now in active existence, and is exerting an influence which will not fail to largely effect the course of legislation upon matters coming within the scope of its constitution.

Mr. Whalley is a man of alert mind, of great legal and literary erudition, has ready command of language, and speaks and writes with admirable force. He is at all times accessible, is steadfast in his friendships and has intellectual powers that would bring him to distinction in any situation.


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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