Biography of Benton Killin

Benton Killin, one of Portland’s prominent citizens, was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on the 5th day of August, 1842. When only three years old his parents crossed the plains, and settled on the old homestead, on Butter Creek, Clackamas county, Oregon, in the spring of 1847. Here his aged mother still lives, enjoying, in the evening of life, a rest from the severe toils of her earlier years. On this farm the next twelve years of young Killin’s life was spent in the hard labors of a farmer’s boy. But while thus surrounded, with but little to arouse his ambition, he was planning something different and to his taste better.

When 16 years old he started out from home to fight life’s battle alone. During the summer he toiled faithfully on a farm and with the wages thus earned he entered the Willamette University, where he remained as a student until the spring of 1861, supporting himself in the meantime by working for farmers in the neighborhood during vacation, and employing himself at whatever his hands found to do on Saturdays.

In the spring of 1861, his health gave away. The tell-tale flush upon the cheek and the exasperating cough gave out the warning that consumption was fast taking hold on him. Abandoning his studies, he sought to renew his strength in the mountains and mines of Idaho, where he remained until January, 1862.

At this time his health being restored, his patriotism led him to the support of his endangered country, and for three years he served faithfully in the 1st Oregon Cavalry, enduring without murmur the dangers and hardships of a soldier’s life to serve the country he loved so well.

Peace being restored, he gladly laid down his arms, and resumed the work of obtaining an education. In the fall of 1865, he entered Pacific University at Forest Grove, where with untiring diligence he prosecuted his studies for one year, going over a two years’ course in that time.

After leaving school he commenced reading law, supporting himself in the meantime by teaching a winter term of school. In 1866, he was elected superintendent of schools for Clackamas county, serving out his term to the satisfaction of the people.

In the fall of 1867, he was admitted to practice law and at once opened an office in Oregon City. He was successful from the start, trying and winning in the first year of his practice, one of the most stubbornly contested actions for damage ever fought in the courts of Oregon, in which his client recovered $4,000.

In 1870, Hon. E. D. Shattuck offered him a place with Logan & Shattuck. On the first of January of that year the firm of Logan, Shattuck & Killin was formed; and to say what is the simple truth, that Mr. Killin fully sustained his part in that firm, is to give him a great compliment. The firm, which lasted for some four years, was one of the leading law firms in the State, and when it was dissolved, in 1874, by the retirement of Hon. David Logan, and the return of Hon. E. D. Shattuck to the bench, Mr. Killin’s position in the front rank of the Portland bar was fully established. This rank he has ever since maintained.

In July, 1873, he was married to Miss Harriet Burnett Hoover, a daughter of the late Jacob Hoover, of Washington county, one of Oregon’s earliest and most honored pioneers. Her brother, Hon. J. Hoover, ex-mayor of Spokane Falls, is now president of the Exchange National bank of that city, and one of her leading citizens. Mr. Killin and wife have two children, a boy and a girl, who are truly their parent’s joy and pride.

Mr. Killin is a land lawyer and to this branch of the law he has principally devoted himself. His opinions, always honestly given, carry with them a weight second only to the decisions of our highest courts. He has always shown his faith in the future of the city by investing his means, as fast as obtained, in real estate, and as a result he is now possessed of an ample fortune.

His judgment is good and his advice has been sought and followed in many of the larger transactions which have taken place in our city since he has been practicing his profession here.

In politics Mr. Killin is a democrat, but his independence will net allow him to be a strong partisan. He is nevertheless a quiet and effective member of his party and his executive ability causes his advice to be eagerly sought by his party associates.

He has never sought office but his friends, who are many, confidently expect to see him some day high in position.

Like all strong men he is a man of his own opinions, which he expresses fearlessly. He is firm and unyielding in his attachments and is always ready to assist his friends. While not in the ordinary sense a popular man yet in the circle of those to whom he gives his confidence, none has a warmer place than he. He is the soul of honor, and wherever known his word passes as current as coin of the realm.

In person Mr. Killin is a portly gentleman, of pleasing appearance, and though now only in the prime of life is thoroughly enjoying the fruits of his early years of toil. The honorable success he has achieved is sufficient attestation that his work has been done well.


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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