Biography of Van B. Delashmutt

Delashmutt, Van B., the present Mayor of Portland, was born in Burlington, Iowa, July 27, 1842. Ten years later the family came to the infant territory of Oregon, and settled on a farm in Polk county, in the Willamette Valley.

The monotonous life of a farmer’s boy illy suited the naturally adventuresome disposition of young DeLashmutt, and at the age of fifteen he went to Salem, where he secured employment in the office of the Salem Statesman, as an apprentice to learn the printers’ trade. With characteristic earnestness and energy the apprentice served three years, and at the end of that time came out a finished printer. Work in other offices occupied his time for the next year or more.

When the news that Fort Sumpter had been fired upon, in April 1861, and that President Lincoln had called for 100,000 troops, reached Oregon, young DeLashmutt determined to join the forces of the loyal North to suppress the rebellion. At that time the means of quick communication between the east and the Pacific coast were not very good, and in order more promptly to enlist in the cause, he went to San Francisco. Here, on the 28th of September, 1861, he became a member of Company G, Third Infantry California volunteers, commanded by Col. D. Edward Conner, afterwards promoted to General for gallant service at the battle of Bear River. The regiment was organized for service in the south, but to the great disappointment of the enthusiastic and patriotic volunteers, they were sent to Utah to guard the over-land route from the Nevada line to Julesburg. During its term of service, the regiment had many conflicts with the Indians and endured as much hardship and privation as most regiments at the front.

While stationed at Salt Lake City during the latter part of his enlistment, Mr. DeLashmutt and others of the command, began the publication of the Union Vidette, the first daily issued in the Mormon capital. It was issued for some years, and did good work in throwing hot shot into the camp of mormonism.

Some months after his discharge, Mr. DeLashmutt went to Nevada, lured there by the tales of sudden fortunes made in the recently discovered silver mines. He settled down in Washoe City and for a time was engaged in publishing the Washoe Times. In the winter of 1865-6 he returned to Oregon, and for two years held a printers’ case on the Oregonian. With the money he saved during this period, he embarked in the grocery business at the corner of First and Taylor streets. In 1869 he received H. B. Oatman as partner. The relationship continued for one year, when the business was sold, and Mr. DeLashmutt, for one year thereafter, engaged in the real estate business with G. C. Rider. In 1871, he opened a brokerage office with H. B. Oatman, his former partner. At this time, Mr. DeLashmutt, by prudent management, had gained a good foothold on the ladder of business success and was well prepared to take advantage of the general prosperity the inauguration of the railroad system in Oregon created, and from that time to the present he has been a positive force in the business community of Portland.

In September, 1882, with H. W. Scott, Judge W. W. Thayer and others, he incorporated the Metropolitan Savings Bank, with a capital of $150,000. The inception of this institution was beset with many difficulties, but Mr. DeLashmutt soon showed that he had a positive genius for financiering and he so managed the affairs of the bank that it became a prosperous institution. His success was indeed phenomenal, and established on a high plane his reputation as an able and shrewd financier.

On the foundation laid by the success of the Metropolitan Savings Bank, was organized, on June 7, 1886, the Oregon National Bank of Portland, with a capital of $100,000, which was later on increased to $200,000. Mr. DeLashmutt has been its president ever since its incorporation under whom its affairs have been so ably conducted, that an enormous business is being transacted, and a high standing in financial circles has been secured.

Perhaps Mr. DeLashmutt is best known outside of the city for his extensive mining enterprises. He was among the first to recognize the richness and value of the mines of the Coeur d’Alene region. Here he early made large investments and he now owns a controlling interest in five of the largest mines in that wonderfully rich quartz district, the Sierra Nevada, Stemwinder, Granite, California and the Inez. At their present value these mines are worth $2,000,000, and two of them have declared dividends amounting to $100,000. These mines will be a source of wealth for many years to come, and their productive capacity will be largely increased by their further development.

It was in connection with his mining enterprises that Mr. DeLashmutt rendered almost invaluable service to the city of Portland and the people of Oregon and Washington. With his usual sagacious foresight he saw that the joint lease of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company to the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific was especially inimical to the best interest of Portland as well as of the whole Northwest, and that the interest of this entire region was threatened with the stoppage of competitive transportation and the cessation of construction of much needed lines of railway. The danger was seen by many others but no one had the courage to try conclusions with three of the most powerful corporations in the United States. It was found that . an injunction suit was the only means of preventing the proposed consummation. While others indulged in protestation and argument Mr. DeLashmutt was the only man of means who had the courage to enter the lists against the corporations. He bravely brought the injunction suit. This alarmed the railroad magnates and they sent for some of Portland’s leading business men to come to New York to join them in a conference. Fair promises were made by the promoters of the joint lease scheme and every honorable means was employed to induce Mr. DeLashmutt to change his position and permit the consummation of the lease, but he stood firm and gave his final answer while en-route home when he wired from Chicago to Mr. Villard in New York City: “Whatever others may do I will not voluntarily dismiss the injunction suit.” This courageous stand had the effect of defeating the proposed action and for it Mr. DeLashmutt is entitled to the thanks of the people of Portland and the State of Oregon. With the O. R. & N. Co., unincumbered Portland can hold her own against all competitors. Already the good effects of Mr. DeLashmutt’s stand are apparent in the renewed activity of the O. R. & N. Co. to secure new territory and push its lines to Spokane Falls and the Coeur d’Alene mines.

In May, 1888, Mr. De Lashmutt was elected Mayor of  Portland by the City Council to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Gates, deceased, and two months later was re-elected by the people by the largest majority ever received by any Mayor. In this position he has now served for two years, and he has given the city an able administration of its affairs which has met the hearty approval of the people. He has the administrative and executive ability which admirably fits him for public life. He has vigilantly; guarded the interests of Portland, and within the sphere of his official authority has exercised the same care and good judgment which he has ever exhibited in his private business affairs.

Progressive and public spirited, Mr. De Lashmutt has borne a leading part in all the enterprises which for many years past have aided the general prosperity of Port-land. He is a large property holder here and all his interests are linked with the city’s welfare. As a business man he is especially noted for the quickness with which he grasps the most complicated details and the steadfastness which plans once determined upon are pursued. He possesses a certain boldness in his business methods which comes only to those who are complete masters of the work they intend to do and who have confidence in their own judgment. No one is more careful and conservative than he, but when he fully determines on a course of action he is as firm as a rock and has no lack of courage to face every consequence which may arise. He is now in the very prime and vigor of manhood, full of life, energy and enterprise, and, with abundant means to carry on his rapidly increasing enterprises and support his financial responsibilities, it is safe to presage that still greater emoluments and honors await him in the years to come.

He was married in Portland in 1869, to a daughter of Rev. Albert Kelly, who came to Oregon in 1850. The children of Mr. and Mrs. De Lashmutt are two sous and a daughter. The family home, situated at the corner of Twelfth and Columbia streets, is a beautiful one, and Mrs. De Lashmutt is well known among the deserving poor for charity and kindness.


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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top