Biography of Marion Francis Mulkey

MARION FRANCIS MULKEY.- This gentleman, the eldest son of Johnson Mulkey, and who took up, and conducted in the spirit, and to some extent in the method, the pioneer activities of his father, was born in Johnson county, Missouri, November 14, 1836. He was therefore but a boy of ten when, in 1847, he accompanied his father across the continent to Oregon. His, however, was one of those old heads on young shoulders; and so responsible was he, and so capable of affairs, that he was intrusted with the driving of oxen, and all work adapted to his strength, with the same confidence as a grown man. Upon arriving in Oregon and beginning life anew on the Donation claim in Benton county, he played his part in felling timber, breaking and fencing land, and erecting the frontiersman’s temporary buildings as vigorously as anyone in the family.

He early drew from his parents a desire for education, and after his first essays in learning at the log schoolhouse, under the tuition of such men as Senator J.H. Slater, and Honorable Philip Ritz, was eager to take advantage of the assistance furnished by his father to pursue higher studies at Forest Grove, under the guidance of the late Doctor S.H. Marsh. This assistance he supplemented by labor of his own, following the traditional method of the youth ambitious of self-improvement, -teaching school during vacations. It was while at school that the Indian war of 1856 broke out; and, although then but a boy of eighteen, young Mulkey saddled his pony and rode off to the seat of hostilities.

In 1858 he was able to consummate a purpose formed long before, that of going East and entering Yale College. As a companion in this undertaking he had J.W.J. Johnson, now president of the University of Oregon. Graduating in 1862, he returned to Portland, and read law with Judge E.D. Shattuck. For the legal profession he was found to have great aptitude on account of his naturally logical and accurate mind; and his acquisitions from the study of Latin and Greek gave him an understanding of the power of language, and a facility and directness in its use, which placed him early in the rank of old and leading attorneys. In 1863 he took time from his studies to act as assistant provost-marshal, and aided in making the enrollment of that year.

In 1864 he was admitted to the bar. He was soon thereafter intrusted with public duties, being elected in 1866 as prosecuting attorney for Portland, and was re-elected in 1873. Since that year and to the time of his death he was associated with Honorable J.F. Caples as attorney-at-law, and filled the responsible position of deputy during the three successive terms of his partner’s service as attorney for the district.

As a lawyer Mr. Mulkey had few superiors, and ranked with the ablest men of his profession in the state. As a speaker he was logical, and kept his point in constant view, compelling the attention of the jury, and convincing them to the full extent of his premises. While usually cool and unemotional, he was capable of breaking into passages of deep feeling and eloquence. A lawyer of Portland who knew him well says of him: “he was a man of tireless energy and perseverance, resolutely and patiently working until his object was accomplished. He had consistency of purpose, prudence and common sense to balance and guide the energy that impelled him. There was no frittering away of his powers upon alien pleasures or pursuits. In court he was a troublesome antagonist, and one to be feared; for if there was a weak point in the case, or a flaw in the logic, he would mercilessly expose it. I cannot recollect any act in the heat of conflict that left aught of bitterness behind.”

In business he was exact, and of accumulative turn of mind, consistently making acquisitions of property in and about Portland, which he subsequently improved with good edifices, such as the Mulkey Building, which will always stand as, in some sort, a memento of his purely business activities, and his conception of a property-owner’s duty to the city. As an early citizen of the state he had a love of an orderly and substantial society, free from the riotous and gambling spirit of a large portion of the West, which should grow by steady increment and natural business evolution and the development of the resources of the country. He, as much as anyone, carried this conception to its present practical dominance in our state.

He was united in marriage, in 1862, to Miss Mary E. Porter of New Haven, Connecticut, a New England lady of great intelligence and large culture, who has brought to bear, in the society and intellectual and moral life of Portland, much the same strong influence for the best things as was exercised by her husband in the professional, political and business fields. Of their two sons, Frank, an alumnus of the State University, will follow his father’s profession; while Fred, some years younger, is still at school.

The death of Mr. Mulkey, which occurred the 25th of February, 1889, was felt as a blow tot he community, and as a personal loss to very many throughout the state and the Pacific Northwest.



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

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