Biography of Parker Farnsworth Morey

Parker Farnsworth Morey, without great wealth, is one of the most successful men of Portland. As an organizer and conductor of successful enterprises he has no superior in this busy city. A man of untiring energy he possesses the patience to attend to the smallest details provided success depends on them. He has the ability and the courage to make successful those undertakings which a timid, a less confident or a richer man might not dare attempt. He has a genius for inventing. As a manager of men he has few superiors.

Mr. Morey comes of old New England stock. The energy repressed through several generations by the severe quiet of Maine has appeared in all the greater force in this later son. He was born October 16, 1847, at Calais, Maine.

While yet a child his parents moved to Machias, Maine, where his early boyhood was passed. At an early age he began to learn the trade of a machinist. He worked at Bangor and Portland, Maine, and at Boston, Massachusetts, until he was a competent machinist and mechanical engineer.

In 1866, he moved to Placerville, California, where he lived until 1870, being employed most of the time as mechanical engineer. But Placerville was too small a place for such an energetic nature as Mr. Morey’s, so in 1870 he moved to Sacramento and obtained employment there in the shops of the Central Pacific Railroad.

There is no better illustration of his inventive genius, and his ability to meet emergencies than his short experience at these railroad shops. In the year 1870 the C. P. R. R. Co. was confronted with the problem of a large surplus wheat crop to move and with but few freight cars with which to carry this crop to tide water. A machinist and a helper at these shops were able to turn out but nine car wheels a day. Mr. Morey, seeing the difficulty very soon made a machine fitted with appliances by which with a helper he, at first, turned out thirty-two car wheels a day. He continued to improve his apparatus until in a very few days he alone, having no need for a helper, turned out eighty car wheels each day. Still further improving his apparatus he, without assistance, turned out one hundred and nine car wheels each working day.

On leaving the service of the Central Pacific, Mr. Morey invented and patented an anti-friction journal bearing. He moved to Chicago and became a partner with A. V. Pitts, under the name of A. V. Pitts & Co., whose business was manufacturing these journal bearings. This invention is now used by the Pullman Car Company, in its palace cars. In the year 1876, Mr. Morey sold out his interest in A. V. Pitts & Co., and bought a number of patents which he took to California. These patents he improved. A steam pump served as a model which he converted into a dredging pump. It was the first dredging pump ever made. With this pump he was preparing to do extensive work in the mines of California, but the failure of W. C. Ralston and the Bank of California bankrupted Mr. Morey’s backers in this enterprise and he sold out.

He moved to Oakland and went into the employ of H. P. Gregory & Co., dealers in machinery. While in their employ he came to Portland on business for the firm. At Portland he entered into a contract to put in a hydraulic ram elevator. A large amount of money had been spent in a previous attempt to put in such an elevator, but without success owing to beds of gravel below the surface. After great difficulty Mr. Morey was successful on his contract, although the whole community had predicted failure. Seeing that Portland was not supplied with elevators and that he could be successful in such a business, he obtained sufficient backing and organized the Portland Hydraulic Elevator Company, for the particular purpose of supplying freight elevators. Mr. Morey has been, since the formation of this company, and is now its vice-president and manager. The success of this company is due almost wholly to inventions of Mr. Morey, making a now perfect hydraulic telescope ram elevator. This telescope elevator is necessary at Portland, owing to the fact that there are several successive layers of boulders and gravel lying beneath the surface. These layers of gravel make it extremely difficult to put in a hydraulic ram elevator unless it be of a telescope pattern.

Mr. Morey has at various times made many valuable inventions. Among his inventions is one for purifying coal screenings, which is completely successful. He and Bessemer, the inventor of the Bessemer steel process, filed caveats in the Patent Office at Washington about the same time. But Bessemer’s plan was not feasible and he abandoned it. Mr. Morey secured the patent which he now owns. He has also invented and patented a successful water engine, and a hydraulic pressure valve. The latter is the simplest and probably the most valuable of his inventions. Without springs, adjusted by a set screw, it is invaluable in a water works system for the reason that it acts automatically and allows a large pressure on one side with a smaller pressure on the other. This pressure valve was invented to enable Mr. Morey to operate successfully high pressure water works of which more is said further on.

Mr. Morey has much of the rare quality of inventive genius which has made famous Ericcson, Bessemer and Hoe. He seems to need only the difficulty to surmount it by his invention. Living at Portland his patents have not obtained universal use, as they undoubtedly would had not other matters engaged his attention. It is these other matters which have made Mr. Morey so well known at Portland and its vicinity.

In 1883, through Mr. Morey’s efforts, after considerable opposition, Portland entered into a contract with the Elevator Company to furnish high pressure hydrants for the extinguishment of fires. It was these hydrants which saved Portland twice in one week from the fires at the Esmond Hotel and Coloma Dock. These fires were both of incendiary origin. But for the elevator hydrants either of these fires would undoubtedly have been more disastrous than the Seattle or Spokane Falls fires. The hydrants in extinguishing these fires more than paid the contract price for the whole term of ten years for which they were put in.

The success of the Portland Hydraulic Elevator Company, under Mr. Morey’s management, aroused the hostility of the Portland Water Company. This water company with its inefficient service and high rates are now merely matters of the past. For years it had defied public opinion and had escaped legislative and municipal control. It then determined to crush out the Elevator Company.

In 1885, learning of the plans of the Portland Water Co., Mr. Morey determined to carry the war into the enemy’s country. Within a very short period he had made a personal examination of the plan of bringing the waters of Bull Run river into Portland. He made his estimates and plans and proposed to the city of Portland for annual payments for twenty years to supply all water, at sufficient pressure to do away with fire engines, and for all municipal needs.

Immediately after the ordinance authorizing this contract had been duly passed and approved, the water company obtained a preliminary injunction from the United States Court restraining the city from entering into such a contract. Pending these legal proceedings a special session of the Legislature was called to elect a United States senator. Fifteen citizens of Portland, seeing the feasibility of Mr. Morey’s plan and that the water company had received its death blow from Mr. Morey, organized themselves into a water committee and obtained the necessary legislation to furnish Portland with water, as a part of the municipal authority of the city. The bill confirming this authority made it impossible for Mr. Morey’s plan to be carried out.

Mr. Morey’s plan was that the city should pay him $40,000 a year for twenty years. In return he was to furnish the city with water at sufficient pressure so that the fire engines would have been discarded and their places would have been taken by hose carriages. In addition the city was to have for twenty years, without extra compensation all the water necessary for all other purposes-sprinkling streets, flushing sewers, etc. At the end of twenty years all water for said municipal purposes was to be furnished free forever. The price of water to private consumers was made about half of the rates charged by the water company and the common council were given authority to reduce all rates so established. In addition the city was given the right to purchase, within five years from the date of the contract, all of the Morey Water Works by paying there-for the actual cost, together with an advance of but six per centum on such cost.

Had Mr. Morey’s plan been carried out Portland would now be supplied with water from Bull Run river. The water committee has done better than was thought it would or could do. Without disparagement to its management, which has been remarkably economical and efficient, still. the fact remains that sufficient time has elapsed to prove that Mr. Morey’s plan, under his management would have been far cheaper and efficient for the city and its inhabitants than the water committee’s will be even when Bull Run water is brought to Portland.

Without detracting from the praise due to the water committee it is but fair to say that undoubtedly but for Mr. Morey the Portland Water Company would still be the only means by which Portland would be supplied with water, and that the present abundant supply and low rates would not be in existence.

In 1883, Mr. Morey and others organized the U. S. Electric Lighting and Power Company of Portland, Oregon. With his indomitable energy he made this company successful under the most adverse circumstances. With a foresight, which is one of his strong characteristics, he saw the great future for electric lighting which even now is coming to pass. Stockholders might be discouraged and his financial backers despair of success; Mr. Morey neither became discouraged nor despaired-he succeeded. When the electric light company had become one of the best dividend paying corporations for its capital in the State, Mr. Morey saw that its success could not’ be continuous with the great Willamette Falls, distant twelve miles only from Portland. Finding his opportunity, he entered into negotiations with the syndicate controlling the water power at the falls. Getting the unanimous consent of the stockholders of the Electric Light Company to the measure, that company was merged into the Willamette Falls Electric Company, a new corporation which he assisted in organizing. This latter company, in addition to furnishing electric lights for lighting the streets of the city of Portland and for private purposes, controls the immense water power of the Willamette Falls, at Oregon City. Mr. Morey is the manager and one of the directors of the Willamette Falls Electric Company.

It is this company which will largely assist in making Portland a great and prosperous city. Its wires annihilate distance. It makes the power of the Willamette Falls at Portland as well as at Oregon City. Up to the present time the foundation and operations of this company are Mr. Morey’s greatest successes.

Mr. Morey is yet young. His successes are, it is believed, merely an earnest of what he will accomplish in the future. To a somewhat over cautious community he has shown what ability and energy can accomplish. Capital is often timid in carrying out the plans of such a man. Capital has sometimes given but half-hearted support to such an one-it has sometimes abandoned such a man after having promised full support to the end. But ability and energy-what in the West we call “push” will succeed and does succeed in spite of the timidity and sometimes the greed of mere money. Such men as Mr. Morey are the capital, the wealth of a community whether it be rich or poor. To the rich they mean a greater abundance, to the poor continuous prosperity.


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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