Biography of Henry H. Northup

Henry H. Northup, of Portland, was born in Berkshire, Massachusetts, February 27, 1839. His father was a farmer as were his ancestors for several generations. He attended the public schools, and when of sufficient age, which in those days was nine or ten years, was kept at home during the summer to assist in the work upon the farm. When he had reached the age of twelve years his father died, leaving, with slender property, a widow and three children of whom the subject of this sketch was the only son. From that time commenced a struggle for existence. His mother, a courageous and capable woman, descended from the Wilmarths, wished her son to follow some other vocation than that pursued by his father, and to this end was desirous that he should attend school and be educated. In this desire the boy shared. At the age of fourteen, that being before the era of public schools, he was sent to the Academy located in the town of Lenox, Berkshire, then the shire town of the county, remaining two years. By working outside of school hours he paid for his board, while his mother, by her efforts supplied his other needs. It was while attending this school he first formed the idea of following the law for a profession, never communicating the thought, however, as it was the wish of his mother that he should become a physician.

At the age of sixteen he commenced to teach, and for the next three years, he, in this way, provided, in the main, means for his own support and at the same time was enabled to attend school a sufficient period during each year so as to properly continue his education. At this time he was nearly prepared for college, and the question arose whether he should attempt a collegiate course, or be content with a less ambitious preparation for life. Some few years prior to this, a State Normal school had been established at Westfield, in his native State, and was then in successful operation. It was finally decided that he should attend here, and not without regret did he relinquish the cherished thought of a more extended course of study, a regret that, as he says, lingers with him to this day. Entering this institution in the spring term of 1858, he graduated upon his twenty-first birthday, in 1860, and immediately thereafter accepted a position as tutor in an institution known as the Western University, at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

At this time there was much written about the States bordering upon and beyond the Mississippi River. The Kansas excitement was at its height and there was a general desire to “go west.” Following this popular feeling, the young teacher, at the close of the school year, and against the desire of those connected with the University, resigned his position and pushed on to the State of Missouri. It was his expectation to obtain a position in some institution of learning, but he soon fund that the Normal teachers from the free State of Massachusetts, were not wanted at that time within the borders of that State, and he was compelled to seek the more congenial atmosphere of Iowa. Here he engaged in teaching, during the winter of 1860-61, in the town of Anamosa, and here he began the study of law, borrowing a “Blackstone” from the office of a lawyer friend, and spending his time in the office on Saturdays.

In April, 1861, at the close of the school year, he went to Dubuque, to engage as teacher in one of the public schools of that city. The attack on Fort Sumter had but recently occurred, and the first call for troops had just been made. The “Governor’s Grays,” a Dubuque militia company under the lead of Captain, afterward Major-General, Frank Herron, had volunteered. But many of the old members of the company could not go and recruits were wanted. The spirit of the times was -inspiring. The young teacher entered the ranks; became a member of the First Iowa Infantry, and in a few weeks, under the leadership of General Lyon, was again in Missouri, making the campaign of 1861 in that State, ending in the battle of Wilson’s Creek, the death of General Lyon and the retreat of the Federal forces on Rolla.

The period of enlistment of the First Iowa having expired, Mr. Northup returned to his Eastern home, somewhat broken in health, resulting from the hardships of the campaign, the troops having been put into the field without overcoats, rubber blankets or even the regulation uniform, and having under the skillful generalship of Lyon, been vigorously thrown against the enemy wherever opportunity offered. Teaching a private school in the winter of 1861-62, in his native town, in the spring of the latter year, he again entered the army, having obtained the reluctant consent of his mother, remaining until the fall of 1863, when he resumed teaching and desultory reading of the law.

In March, 1865, he was appointed to a clerkship in the Government service at Washington, and here, while attending to the duties of his position, resumed his legal studies, graduating from the Columbia College Law School in June, 1868, and being soon after admitted to the bar in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.

In May, 1871, Mr. Northup resigned his position at Washington and removed to Portland, Oregon, where he entered upon the practice of the law. Two years later a vacancy occurred in the office of Register of Bankruptcy for the District of Oregon, and he was appointed to that position, and satisfactorily performed the duties of the office until the repeal of the bankrupt law in 1878. Since then he has been engaged in a general practice, giving much attention to real estate and corporations. He is associated in business with Judge E. C. Bronaugh and the firm is in the enjoyment of an extensive practice.

Mr. Northup has taken no active part in politics and has always been known as an Independent Republican. In 1888, however, considering the importance of the election, he permitted his name to be used as a candidate for the House of Representatives in the Oregon Assembly from Multnomah county, and was elected. He took a prominent part in the political campaign of that year, which resulted in giving the largest Republican majority ever known in the State, and which did so much to forecast the presidential election in November following.

Mr. Northup’s legislative career was a very active one and met the Mg probation of his constituents. He was the introducer of the pilot bill, a measure intended to correct the abuses in the pilotage system on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers; also of the Soldiers’ Relief Bill, and had charge of the Consolidated Charter Bill for the consolidation of the cities of Portland, East Portland and Albina, a measure which passed the assembly but failed to become a law by reason of the Governor’s veto. He also took an active part in the discussion on the “Portland Water Bill” and the bill to regulate the shipping of seamen.

As a lawyer Mr. Northup possesses a high order of talent and has achieved well merited success in every branch of practice. In corporation law he is particularly well versed, and of late years his practice has largely pertained to litigation growing out of the complicated and conflicting questions relating thereto. A diligent student, his time and attention have been exclusively devoted to his profession to the exclusion of conflicting interests, which united to his natural love for his calling and a worthy ambition to excel, best explain the success he has attained. He has in an eminent degree the qualities which distinguish the well read lawyer, thoroughly familiar with the principles and practices of the law, from the showy barrister who depends upon his own brilliancy and finely worded appeals to passion or prejudice for success. He is practical and thorough in everything. He is not a brilliant speaker, but is noted for clearness of thought, concise perspicuity of expression and intense earnestness, qualities which have most weight in the Courts where simple wit or rhetoric are held in least esteem. His distinguishing traits as a lawyer are careful and thorough investigation of the law and fact of his cases and the methodical and accurate preparation of them for trial. In person he is of medium height and well proportioned, with pleasant features and keen, sparkling eyes. He is progressive in his ideas, has firm belief in the future of Portland and to the extent of his ability extends his aid to every project to advance and beautify the city. With a private and public life above reproach, a man of perfect integrity, of great sincerity of purpose and high sense of duty he possesses in a high degree the respect and confidence of his associates both in and out of his profession.


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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